I am very, very bad at keeping secrets, especially exciting ones! So when Sophie and I planned months ago, to take Ronnie to Paris for her birthday, I was sure I would accidentally blab. BUT I DIDN’T AND I’M SO PROUD.
We had the most wonderful two days in the City of Light (as you will have seen if you follow me on Instagram or Snapchat), and I decided to make a little video to bring you along with us. We meandered around the beautiful cobbled streets (Monmartre is my favourite!) marvelling at the architecture, eating croissants, crepes and macarons, and spilling Prosecco nearly everytime we ordered some!
When you decide to book a holiday, what’s the first thing you do? You probably figure out if you want to go lie on a beach, explore a new city or throw yourselves wholeheartedly into some kind of action/ adventure sports trip. Next, you might want to know how the weather is at the time of year you plan to travel. Then you’ll probably look up what the local food is like, research the must-sees and investigate all the popular sites to decide if they sound like something you’d enjoy…
But what if I told you you could go on a holiday that you knew nothing about until two hours before take off!? Well, that’s exactly what Gareth and I did last weekend!
Surprisetrips.co.uk is a new concept from the people behind Expedia.co.uk. How it works is you tell them your preferred departure airport, send them a short list of places you don’t want to visit (maybe you’ve already been there or you just don’t fancy it) and they book you a completely surprise European holiday!
They currently offer 77 weekend destinations in Europe and the service is open to all UK, IE, CA, AUS, NZ and US passport holders (all flights depart from the UK or Ireland). All flights are at convenient times (we flew out at 9am and back at 8pm) and are under 3 and a half hours.
When I heard about the concept I was excited, if not a little bit nervous. I’m not an over-planner when it comes to travelling, but I do like to do a little basic research so I know what to expect of a new place. Not least of all, I like to know beforehand how I’m going to get to my hotel from the airport!
The anticipation of where we might end up was definitely one of the best parts of this whole experience and everyone I told about it was like “Wow that’s so cool, I’d love to do that!” Once you book, Surprise Trips emails you a link which tells you which airport and terminal to go to and what time you need to arrive. Then, a couple of days before the trip they email you again with a weather report from your destination so you have some idea of what to pack. Ours told us it was going to be 26-30°C so we were kind of expecting that we might end up on a beach somewhere… But as you can see, that couldn’t have been further from what happened!
Now I’m no YouTuber, but I thought it might be fun to make a little travel video so you can see what we got up to. Enjoy!
For most people, only one thing springs to mind when they hear the name ‘Hiroshima’. As the first ever city to suffer a nuclear attack, it has a sad history for sure, but today’s Hiroshima is far from a depressing place.
I had no idea what to expect when we hopped on the 90 minute train from Osaka, but what greeted us was a lively city with some of the friendliest people (and wildlife!) ever. They also have great food (make sure you try Okinomiyaki, a local speciality which is a fried cabbage, egg, meat and noodle dish) and fantastic scenery. We spent 48 hours here at the end of our time in Japan.
Here’s how we filled it:
The Atomic Bomb Dome and Peace Memorial
Our first stop was the Atomic Bomb Dome, one of very few structures left standing after the nuclear attack. The iconic ruin is a natural place to start your visit as from here you can walk down the river to the Peace Memorial Park and museum.
This was an emotional morning, especially because we’d both completely fallen in love with Japan and the people who live here. Just the thought of what it must have been like during the aftermath of the bombing is unfathomable.
After all the stress and excitement of the wedding is over, your honeymoon is the perfect chance for you to kick back and relax. But what if the idea of lying on the beach in the Bahamas sounds frightfully dull? Don’t you worry, my friends from Patchwork, an online alternative gift registry and honeymoon fund, are here to share their top five 2016 honeymoon destinations!
For this article I’m handing over to Patchwork founder Olivia Knight.
Speed through stunning Japan: Two weeks sightseeing on the bullet train
We’ve got tons of couples using Patchwork to plan and fund honeymoons to Japan this year. I know you’ve just been there Kat (always bang on trend) so you’ll appreciate what an incredible culture trip it is. From the bright lights of Tokyo to the ancient temples of Kyoto and the paradise island of Miyajima, there’s so much to see and do. And thanks to the speeding bullet trains it’s actually possible to experience it all in a two-week break.
Japan is an expensive country to visit, especially if you want to see all the sites and travel in style! So if this is your dream honeymoon, it makes sense to ask friends and family for cash gifts to help make it happen.
Experience bohemian Berlin: One week living on a houseboat
If you’re planning a summer honeymoon and want a city break that’s full of culture, colour, music and art, Berlin is where you need to be. If you want to experience the city’s bohemian delights avoid hotels and live like a local in one of the many unique homes available to rent. My favourite place right now is a super stylish houseboat on lake Rummelsburg that offers a romantic and secluded escape for honeymooners with excellent access to the city.
I think the best way to experience Berlin is just to take your time to wander the East side, stopping off at the food stalls, pop up bars, flea markets and random arts events that all spill out onto the streets in the summer. But there are a few essential tourist-y things to include in your Berlin patchwork too: Dinner up the TV tower for £50, U-bahn tickets for £20, a guided tour of the Berlin wall for £40 and zwei bier for a fiver.
An epic adventure in Peru: For couples who can take some serious time out
One of the things I was most looking forward to on our recent trip to Japan was that we were going to take the Shinkansen (bullet train) to a few different cities. The transport in Japan is so fast and reliable and it really wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. (I wrote about our itinerary and all the ins and outs of getting the bullet train in my Japan 101 article.)
After Tokyo, the next city on our tour was Kyoto which is less than a three hour journey away. We opted to spend five nights, and although it was beautiful and peaceful, any longer and I think we would have struggled to fill our time. I must prefer to be busy and occupied when I travel. I’m terrible, I know, I literally do not know how to switch off!
There are way more people in traditional clothing in Kyoto which was so cool to see. These colours!
If you enjoy history, castles, palaces, gardens and museums, you’re going to LOVE it in Kyoto.
Castles and shrines
Being an older city there are plenty of castles (many of which have been converted into museums) for you to explore. Doing touristy things really isn’t my idea of a brilliant time, but Gareth particularly enjoyed our visits to Nijo Castle, the Silver Pavillion and Osaka Castle (which is in Osaka, obviously! More on that below). The Golden Pavilion, which unlike its silver counterpart is actually covered in gold, was also on our list, but we were feeling a bit Pavilion-ed out by the time we came to visit so we gave it a miss.
There are also SO MANY shrines in Kyoto. It’s hardly surprising that the city’s nickname is ‘the city of ten thousand shrines’! I’m pretty sure that’s literal too. Nearly every corner you turn its like “Oh hey, there’s another one!”
The movie Bright Lights, Big City may be about New York, but I think the concept is much more suited to Tokyo. I’ve been very lucky to have travelled a lot over the past few years, every time falling in love with new places, but nowhere has my heart quite like Japan’s capital.
I am 100% a city girl. I love the hustle and bustle, that fact that everything’s open super late, and that you never know who you might meet or what whirlwind adventure you might end up on next. However Tokyo is unlike any other city I’ve ever been because of one major thing – the people.
I don’t think I can adequately express just how much I adore the Japanese. Although Tokyo is one of the busiest places on the planet (with a population of THIRTEEN MILLION), unlike other big cities, it never feels rushed. People just don’t hurry like they do in New York, they’re not rude like they can be in London, and they don’t push and shove you as they cram onto the subway (and we went on it during rush hour! There were white-gloved attendants stuffing people on to the train and everything!) Yes, its hectic, but I never felt uncomfortably claustrophobic like I can do in London… maybe it’s because I’m easily a foot taller than everyone else there? HA!
People say “please”, “thank you very much” and “excuse me” all the time. They smile, they nod, they offer to help you with your bags down the steps. Even at Shibuya Crossing, the busiest cross-walk on the planet, the sea of people felt almost calming, not intimidating. I really don’t think I can explain how much I love this place to you properly unless you just go! I really hope you will too because there is literally no place else like it.
OK, OK, enough gushing! What I really want to share with you today is some fun things to do in Tokyo. As I mentioned in last week’s post, we were only there for two days this time (sob) and we’d been there before so we did most of the major touristy things that time. You definitely have to visit Odaiba Island, Tsukiji fish market, Tokyo Tower, the Imperial Palace, the ancient Sensō-ji Temple and Ueno Park. You should also try to take part in a traditional tea ceremony or a cooking or origami class if you can. But if you’re looking for some more out-of-the-box ideas for your visit, then this is the article for you!