Monthly Archives

March 2017

Life, Share The Love

Share The Love | March 2017 Edition

March 30, 2017

Share The Love March 2017 Edition

March’s edition of share the love is a week earlier than I would normally do it but next Thursday I will be raving about how happy I am that my dissertation has been handed in!

My dissertation hand in date is next Monday so March has obviously been filled with a lot of work, and playing LEGO games on the Playstation with Daz as a way to chill out. Also, my furry little kitty cat moved in with us this month because he was missing me too much. I thought he would prefer to stay at my Mum’s because there’s loads of open space at the back of her house but there isn’t much here in comparison. He missed me too much though and we’re super happy to have him living with us / taking over the sofa.

 

BLOG – Not So Quiet Grrl

I feel like Nadia’s blog is exactly what I want to read at the moment. Not So Quiet Grrl covers being cruelty free, vegan, minimalism and her adventures into becoming zero waste. Her photos are stunning but what I love most of all is the way she writes because it feels like you’re having a conversation with her.

My favourite recent blog post of hers is about being a vegan advocate, but not one people back away from for fear they’ll be abused for their dietary choices, but one of education, encouragement and, most importantly, no judgement. I thought that blog post was a breath of fresh air and what some people could do with understanding. I get that people are passionate about things they believe in but making people feel bad that they’re not trying hard enough isn’t fair when everyone’s journey is personal and everyone has their own hurdles to jump.

 

LINKS

 

LISTENING TO

I went to see All Time Low earlier this month so they’ve featured heavily in this month’s playlist (I am loving their new stuff), along with Lindsay Ell. I saw Lindsay support The Band Perry about three years ago (I wrote about that here) and I am so excited that she’s finally put an EP out. If you’re missing Taylor Swift’s country-pop then I really think Lindsay can do a great job of filling that gap. Listen to Criminal and tell me it doesn’t sound like it fits in perfectly with Red. I dare you.

 

WATCHING / PLAYING

I watched Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things on Netflix last weekend and really enjoyed it. If you want to find out more about minimalism, it’s a great starting point. Mostly, we’ve been playing LEGO Jurassic Park and Harry Potter this month.

 

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Travel

Renting a car abroad for the first time: 11 things to do

March 28, 2017

11 things to do when you're hiring a car abroad for the first time

Renting a car for the first time while traveling (or even at home) can be a little daunting. We’ve all heard horror stories of people get stung by rental companies, but if you know what to look for you can make sure you’re covered.

This blog post began life almost a year ago, when I was planning my first trip to Canada. I knew I wanted to get to a lot of different places and while Banff and Jasper have good public transport, it wasn’t quite going to be able to cut what I wanted to do.

Back then I had never hired a car before or driven on the ‘other side’ of the road. Both of those things were really scary to me, and in addition to that I was worried I would get ripped off somewhere. It all turned out perfectly fine though, so I wanted to share a few tips that helped me when I was looking to hire a car for the first time.

 

1. Read the terms and conditions

How many times have you wondered, “When does anyone ever actually read the full terms and conditions?” This is one of those times that you need to read the Ts & Cs. I only discovered in some companies Ts & Cs that under 25s wouldn’t actually be covered by their CDW, despite their website saying I would be covered with it when I asked for a quote and even included my age. I think that’s pretty bad practice and very sneaky, but you will be the one who gets stung if you have an accident.

Luckily, the Ts & Cs are not actually that long anyway and most of them were pretty well broken up, so it’s not a huge chore.

 

2. Will you be charged for crossing state or international borders?

Something I also discovered in the Ts & Cs was that some companies will charge you extra to take a car out of state, province, or crossing an international border. I know, it seems ridiculous, but the last thing you want is either an unexpected charge when you return the car or being pulled over by the Police and arrested because technically you’re driving the car somewhere without the rental companies permission.

If you plan on driving into another country, state, or province, check with the hire company first to make sure they will allow it and find out about any charges.

Both Hertz and Avis told me they wouldn’t charge me extra to drive from Alberta into British Columbia if I was returning the car to the same location.

 

3. Are you going on a ferry?

I actually discovered this a few weeks back when we booked our hire car for this summer. If you are going on a ferry you may need to let your rental company know. We’ve rented with Hertz who told us we need to tell them when we pick the car up and that there’s no extra charge for it. It’s probably worth contacting your hire company before you book to find out how you need to let them know in case you need to tell them before you pick it up.

 

11 things you should do before hiring a car when you travel. Icefields Parkway, Canada.

4. Young driver surcharges

If you are under 25 years old, you will probably find yourself having to pay extra for being so darn youthful. Most quotes I saw were about $25-30CAD per day for under 25s.

Be careful when you’re looking at prices because it seemed that most companies would give you a price to reserve / pay for the car in advance, but the young driver surcharge is an additional cost (like adding an extra driver, or hiring a GPS) which won’t be included in that price and you can’t pay for it until you pick your car up. 

There isn’t a way around this charge (apart from getting older). If you’re traveling with other people and want to save money, speak to the other people you’re traveling with and see how they feel about you not driving. It will be more cost effective if an under 25 doesn’t drive, but if you’re covering long distances it might be worth the additional cost.

 

5. Does the Loss Damage Waiver actually cover you?

As I mentioned earlier on, at least one rental company’s website quotes will allow you to say that you are 24 or younger and will say LDW has been included in the price of your quote, and yet when you read the fine print, you aren’t covered. I emailed Budget to try and clarify this and they got back to me saying that I wouldn’t actually be covered and would be responsible for the first $5,000CAD in damage.

Read the fine print, email or call the company and get clarification if you are unsure because you don’t need a horrible surprise like that.

 

6. Fuel options

There are usually two fuel options; full to full or pre-paid. Full to full simply means that when you return the car you need to make sure the petrol tank is full. To compensate for that you should find that the car has a full \ almost full tank of fuel when you pick the car up.

The pre-paid option means that you pay for whatever fuel is in the tank when you pick it up, and it’s best if you drop it off with as little fuel in as possible. However, you will probably find your rental company will charge more per litre than a petrol station will.

Rental Cars has a useful guide to help you figure out what is best for you because there are advantages and disadvantages to both depending on what you’re doing.

Handy tip: Do your research beforehand to find out where the closest fuel station is to the airport. Some airports have petrol stations, some do not. We discovered this the hard way because I’ve been away with friends before who have hired cars and the airports had petrol stations at them. Since Calgary International is a huge airport, I thought there would be a petrol station there. There is not. We had to hurriedly drive around trying to find one.

 

11 important and simple things to do when renting a car abroad. Icefields Parkway, Canada.

7. The cheapest isn’t always best

When I started doing my research I found some prices seemed way too cheap to be true and that’s because they were. The initial price looked great but they’d not included the costs of other things (like CDW and LDW) that other hire companies include in their quote price. So, by the time these things were added on it wasn’t cheaper at all.

You also don’t need me to tell you that the cheapest company isn’t always the best. Make sure you do some research or use a comparison website which has ratings and reviews from customers.

 

8. Have you got a credit card?

Oh, this one really annoyed me. I don’t think this is standard the world over (because I’m sure a friend hired with a debit card before) but in Canada you cannot hire a car without a credit card. Some companies will let you book or pre-pay with a debit card but you must have a credit card when you pick the car up so they can hold money on it.

I had never had a credit card and didn’t ever want one, but I had to take one out so that I could hire a car. I went into the bank, explained exactly what I wanted one for, and got the most basic one I could.

While it is annoying to have to get a credit card specifically for hiring a car, it was useful in a way. The rental company will put a certain amount of money on hold in your account, which means you can’t get at it and it can sometimes take a couple of weeks for you to be able to access that money. Therefore, it’s useful for you to have a different card for them to hold money on, allowing you to actually use your debit card.

 

9. Don’t pay extra for GPS

One of the biggest fears when you’re driving somewhere new can be “how are we going to get from A to B without GPS?” Of course, you’ve got good old maps but if that’s not your thing there are some other ways to navigate without paying a hefty extra cost.

If you already have a SatNav find out if it has maps for your destination. In the UK it’s quite common for SatNavs to come with maps for the UK and Europe, and some may also include faraway destinations such as the US or Canada as standard. If they don’t cover your destination, find out if you can download maps for your SatNav. We have a Mio and you can rent Canadian maps for 30 days for €20, much cheaper than hiring a SatNav off a rental company.

If that isn’t an option, download Google Maps offline before you go. Google Maps is free and as long as you do it before you go, or while connected to wifi, you won’t get hit by roaming data costs. PC Advisor has an article explaining how to do this.

You may also find that the place you’re going is so well sign-posted that you don’t need maps. We found that Banff and Jasper was so well sign-posted we only used the SatNav two or three times, and I think one of those was from the airport and the other was too the airport. Though, we didn’t really need it then either.

 

10. Local road rules & weather

Is there anything about the place you’re visiting which requires you to be extra careful, take out extra cover, or have specific things in your car?

  • In Iceland, it’s wise to cover your car against gravel, sand, and ash because of the road and weather conditions.
  • If you’re going somewhere very snowy, make sure you know where you can find information on roads that might be closed due to avalanche risks.
  • In general, know where you can find local traffic and weather information.
  • Find out about any driving laws that might differ from your home country, for example some European countries require you to carry a first aid kit or a fire extinguisher. The AA has road rule guides for over 40 EU countries, but you will easily be able to find road rules for whichever country you’re going with a Google anyway.
  • Find out about any events that might result in road closures.
  • Try to find out if you will drive on any toll roads and how you can pay for those so you have change or your card handy.

 

11. When you pick the car up

The person on the desk will more than likely try to sell you something else, some other kind of cover like “OMG IT’S WEDNESDAY COVER! This cover protects you against Wednesdays.” (They have cover for everything.) Before you pick the car up, make sure you understand exactly what you’re covered against and what you’re not. If you’re worried that you’re not completely covered you can take out zero excess insurance in your own country before you go that will cover you completely, and will probably be cheaper.

Make sure you give the vehicle a good checking over before you go and ensure all damage to the vehicle is noted on the contract and take photos of all sides of the car before you go. Similarly, do the same thing when you drop the car back so you can provide you haven’t caused any damage.

 

Have you ever taken a road trip?

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Canada, Photography, Travel

Athabasca Glacier & climate change

March 21, 2017

The edge of the Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park

Today I’m not just going to show you pretty pictures of the Athabasca Glacier and talk about how wonderful it is; I need to get something off my chest and have a little rant about climate change.

About two-thirds of the way up the Icefields Parkway, you reach the Athabasca Glacier. Neither of us had seen a glacier before (apart from on TV) so this was one of our “must see” stops on the road.

Before we went we were kind of confused about access to the glacier. Everything we read made it sound like you had to pay for a trip out onto the glacier on some kind of evil looking off-roading vehicle, but you can actually walk almost up to the edge of it for absolutely nothing.

Pool near the Athabasca Glacier

Athabasca Glacier Jasper National Park

It was quite warm by the time we parked up near the glacier, and it’s kind of weird seeing a huge chunk of ice when it feels so warm. It’s a novelty I didn’t quite get used to while we were in Canada.

What hit me hard was little markers on the path up to the glacier, which showed how far the glacier had retreated in recent years. What you noticed quite quickly was how the speed it had retreated at changed. At the first few markers, the glacier didn’t seem to have been retreating that fast, but then you really noticed how much things had stepped up when you crept towards the present day. In 2014, a conservation manager for Jasper’s National Park said the glacier was retreating five metres per year

The path up to the Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park

I’m currently taking the University of Alberta’s online Mountains 101 course (highly recommend it by the way), and one of the topics covered is glaciers. It’s astonishing how fast they’re retreating, and some icefields are already considered to be beyond saving. It really saddens me to hear things like that; that we’ve done so much damage to our environment that things are beyond help. Another added “bonus” of human pollution is that as glaciers and icefields begin to melt, they are re-releasing harmful chemicals into the environment that we used historically and were then trapped in the ice, as well as contributing to global warming.

All of this leads me to right now. Right now one of, if not the, most powerful country in the world has a president who doesn’t believe in climate change and doesn’t give a rats ass about protecting it. Just five days into 2017, London had already broken it’s annual air pollution target for the year. The most recent UK budget didn’t even mention climate change. In general, it feels like protecting the environment isn’t being taken seriously in a lot of countries.

Things like that make me angry, but also inspire me. Things might be about to get a lil’ cheesy now, but we can force change. We can make changes in our own lives, we can put pressure on our favourite companies who are still using packaging which is not recyclable (Quorn, I’m looking at you; make your nugget packaging recyclable!), we can annoy our MPs by writing to them, and websites like 36 Degrees and Change have shown that we can force change by bombarding the people who can actually make decisions with our views. And on a more personal note, it’s this that makes me want to go into environmental research; I want to play my part in protecting our home and every thing that lives on it.

Feel free to chip in and ramble.

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Iceland, Travel

11 fun, free things to do in Reykjavik

March 14, 2017

11 fun and free things to do in Reykjavik, Iceland

It’s true; Reykjavik is an expensive city (especially if you’re British because the exchange rate is so bad for us). Luckily, there are plenty of free things you can do while exploring Iceland’s capital city.

 

Reykjavik street art magic rainbow unicorn

Admire some weird and wonderful street art [Read: 10 pieces of Reykjavik street art you need to see & where to find it]

Reykjavik has a reputation for it’s street art. It’s plentiful and it is all kinds of weird and beautiful.

You really don’t have to look far to find it either because you’ll find some of it adorning shop fronts down Laugavegur, you’ll catch glimpses of it down side streets, and if you go wandering you’ll find it decorating neighbourhoods.

Reykjavik street art I miss you, I miss the smell of your hair

My personal favourite was this really simple but powerful piece. I saw it and these whole waves of the feels hit me.

 

 

Reykjavik Harpa

See the city from Harpa

Impossible to miss, Harpa is Reykjavik’s concert and exhibition hall. While the events are ticketed, anyone can wander into the building, and up the stairs to see the city from a height.

The building itself is really pretty, with oddly shaped windows, some of which are tinted, which make for a nice pattern against the city.

 

Reykjavik sea wall at sunrise

Walk along the sea wall

Once you’ve visited Harpa, take a left out of the building and walk along the seawall where you can let the crisp air hit your face and take in views of Mount Esja.

 

 

Sun voyager, Reykjavik

Photograph sun voyager

This sculpture on the seawall is one of the most touristy spots in the city. I mean, it’s easy to see why; it’s a beautiful sculpture depicting a ship with the sea and Mt Esja in the background. And if you go down at sunrise or sunset, your bound to get a brilliant photo. Though you might have to wait your turn because everyone wants a photo in front of it.

 

Reykjavik walking tour Tjornin

Take a free walking tour [Read: Discover Reykjavik on a free walking tour from CityWalks]

CityWalks offer a very popular two-hour walking tour around Reykjavik, covering the history of the city and the Icelandic culture. From personal experience I can tell you that this tour is absolutely worth it and is a brilliant way to see and learn about the city.

This tour is listed as free, as it doesn’t have any kind of ticket price, and you basically pay what you think the tour is worth. Technically, it’s free as you don’t have to pay your guide anything. But if you do pay your guide, it’s probably one of the cheapest activities you can do in Reykjavik and is certainly worth it.

 

Reykjavik snowy Tjornin

Stroll around Tjornin

Tjornin is the park next to city hall, where you can take a nice leisurely stroll around a lake and enjoy looking at the nice neighbourhoods around it.

 

Map of Iceland in Reykjavik city hall

Get up close with Iceland…and a vagina?

Ok, so I’m going to start on the one that caught your attention here; the vagina. So, Iceland’s mayor decided that the best way to celebrate 100 years of women being allowed to vote in Iceland was to unveil some artwork depicting a vagina. It’s not immensely obscene and to be honest I probably wouldn’t have realised what it was had I not been told.

I mean, I kinda see the major’s idea; people don’t say the word ‘vagina’ all that often and look you’ve read it four times in the last minute! On the other hand, it doesn’t seem like the most progressive way to stop sexism but Reykajvik does also have a penis museum, so I guess it balances out. Plus, it is a very liberal city.

Once you’ve gotten over that, take a look at the huge 3D map of Iceland.

 

Get a panoramic view at the Perlan

The viewing deck of the Perlan offers 360 degree views of the surrounding area, making it a perfect place to get a really good view of the city. (The best place is probably Hallgrimskirkja right in the city, but that’s not free.) It’s completely free to get to the viewing deck, but there is a restaurant and a cafe if you fancy a bite to eat.

 

Reykjavik Hallgrimskirkja

Admire Hallgrimskirkja

While it will cost you to get up to the top of Hallgrimskirkja, walking around it and admiring the church is completely free. You can also go inside the church for free. If you do want to get up to the top, get there early or prepare to queue.

 

Seeing the northern lights in Reykjavik

See the northern lights

If the conditions are right, it’s possible to see lady aurora from the city. We headed down to the sea wall on a clear night, when good solar activity was forecast (you’ll find the aurora forecast website handy), and we were rewarded with a patch of green in the sky.

It was hard to spot at first, and to begin with I wasn’t sure if it was a cloud and my brain was playing tricks on me and turning it green. But no. The green got stronger and we saw it for about 10 minutes. Unfortunately, I had broken my tri-pod the day before so my photos were not great (as you can see).

When it comes to the lights, it really is about having the perfect weather conditions, especially if you’re in a city where light pollution can make them even harder to see.

If you’re a keen photographer and want to head out of the city on a trip to see the lights, I cannot recommend Arctic Shots enough & you can read about my experience on their northern lights tour here.

 

Spot the Yule Lads

If you’re visiting Reykjavik during the festive period, make sure to keep your eye out for the Yule Lads being projected onto buildings.

The Yule Lads are part of Icelandic folklore. There are 13 of them and 13 days before Christmas, one comes into town each night.

Over Christmas, the Yule Lads can be seen projected onto buildings, which makes a pretty fun kinda treasure hunt; especially if you’ve got kids.

 

Would you add anything else to the list?

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Life, Share The Love

Share The Love | February 2017 edition

March 9, 2017

Share The Love February 2017 edition

I’m a week late, sorry! Last week I was so wrapped up in writing a huge chunk of my dissertation that the week flew by and I completely forgot to finish this post off.

University work was the overwhelming theme for February really; I’ve finished my practical work off now so it’s just a case of the write up now. Is it really sad to admit that I have looked forward to writing my dissertation for so long? The great thing about doing NaNoWriMo for the past few years is that 10,000 words is absolutely nothing at all in comparison to writing 50,000 in a month.

It wasn’t all university work though, I managed to find a fairly good work/life balance for most of the month, which was nice. I took a trip to the Natural History Museum with university, and it took me all of 10 seconds to remember why I hate busy cities. February also saw Pancake Day and Daz made some delicious and excellent pancakes, and I discovered I am not a very good tosser; at least that’s what my Nan told me anyway.

Pokemon Go also released Gen 2 pokemon in February, so Daz and I have been getting out a bit more trying to hunt down some Gen 2 that isn’t Swinub (our town is just Swinub and Drowzees…), and I’ve been trying to catch some things he doesn’t have (which is hard, because he plays it all the time) to try and make myself feel marginally better about the fact he is way ahead of me.

 

BLOG: Brittany Thiessen

I discovered Britanny’s blog just before Christmas and every time I see one of her posts, I know I’m in for a good read that’s going to leave me full of wanderlust. As a Canadian, she’s got a lot of posts about Canada (which I love!), she’s currently documenting her trip to Guatemala (and now I want to go), and she also talks about veganism, and traveling and living sustainably. One of my favourite blog posts she’s written recently is about what she’s learned after eating vegan for a month.

If you want to read a travel and sustainability blog, you really can’t go wrong with Brittany’s blog.

 

BLOG POSTS

As always, I like to share a handful of blog posts I’ve read during the month that I really enjoyed.

 

LISTENING TO

I created a new playlist in February, so it’s been a mixture of Green Day, All Time Low, Paramore, old school Avril Lavigne, PVRIS, Fall Out Boy, oh and Lorde’s new single. I’ve obviously heard music from her first album but it didn’t ever hook me, but I am loving Green Light; I suspect it’s because of the quite clear T-Swift 1989 vibes.

 

WATCHING / PLAYING

In February we started watching A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix, and watched a lot of Pokemon. We’ve also got a serious problem with the LEGO games and I’m hooked on LEGO Jurassic Park at the moment.

 

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How was February for you? What have you been up to lately?

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Mwnt, Wales, Photography, Travel, UK

Why Llangrannog should be on your list of Welsh beaches to visit

March 7, 2017

Beach house overlooking Llangrannog beach

When you think about Welsh beaches, you probably think of Aberystwyth or Barmouth, but let me stop you there; because you want to be pointing yourself towards Llangrannog.

I love Llangrannog; it’s fun to try and say (go on, I promise it’s fun), the beach is stunning, the town is charming, the views are amazing, and there are delicious treats to be had.

Prepare yourself for a lot of fangirling about a beach, because you’re gonna be packing your bucket and spade by the time I’m done with you.

 

The beach is beautiful & has caves

Nestled in a little cove, with hills either side of it, Llangrannog beach is my idea of the perfect beach. It’s fairly small, there’s a decent amount of sand for making sandcastles in (very important), and it has a little cave you can go and explore.

It’s not a huge cave but how often do you get the chance to wander into a cave?

Also, at low tide you can walk around the rocks on the right hand side of the beach to get to another little cove. At high tide, you can follow the coastal path over and down to it, but do be careful because the handrails are pretty dodgy – as Daz discovered when he put his hand on one and it just kinda flopped about and wasn’t attached to anything on the other end.

Llangrannog beach

 

The town is adorable

If you’re looking for an “Instagram worthy” seaside town, Llangrannog has got you covered with is multi-coloured buildings.

It’s a fairly small town and has everything you’d need for a day at the seaside, though I do recommend getting there early or avoiding busy periods if you want to park right by the beach because the car park is quite small, and the narrow roads are easier to navigate when there’s less traffic.

Llangrannog beach

 

Perfect for swimming, surfing, or body boarding

I can’t tell you how many days and hours I must have spent here body boarding when I was a kid. The waves are perfect for it, the sea is nice and clear, there’s no rubbish floating about it in (always nice), and it’s not as cold as it looks if you’ve got a wetsuit on.

Llangrannog beach

 

The views

Since it’s nestled between two hills, there are amazing views to be seen either side of the beach. The Cardigan Coastal Path runs right through Llagrannog, so if you fancy a spot of walking while taking in breathtaking views, you just can’t go wrong here.

View over Llangrannog beach

 

ICE CREAM

No trip to the seaside is complete without an unhealthy amount of ice cream. Caffi Patio is right on the edge of the beach and has a delicious selection of ice cream.

 

It’s beautiful

Did I already mention Llangrannog beach is beautiful? Oh, I did? Well it deserves another mention, because look:

Stormy skies over Llangrannog beach

Where’s your favourite beach?

 

Why you need to visit Llangrannog

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