San Diego: an unexpected gem

San Diego had never been on my radar as a city to visit. But now? I wish I had gone a lot sooner.

I didn’t know quite what to expect when going to San Diego, a city close to the Mexican border, in Southern California. A few had said about how much of a nice city that it was but I didn’t have much expectation. But the expectations that I did have were well exceeded from the moment I set foot in the city.

We started off at the resort city of Coronado, which itself is full of shops, restaurants and hotels. The seafront has superb views of the San Diego skyline and the city has a nice, relaxed vibe, accessed by a large bridge from San Diego.

The neighbouring city is a gem. Yachts are frequently parked up on the seafront, which itself has plenty of attractions for you to visit, with little independent shops and cafes lining the route. The city is home to armed forces personnel and if that history interests you, there’s the USS Midway to visit. A museum aircraft carrier which has plenty of exhibits on the flight deck and the hangar deck, it’s sure to be a fascinating visit.

The Gaslamp District offers trendy restaurants, lively bars and a relaxed atmosphere, offering a good spot for a bit of nightlife or just a nice brunch out with friends. If you fancy a trip to the beach, then the wonderful Mission Beach is just down the road, offering miles of sand and sea, along with an amusement park.

But the real beauty of San Diego lies in Balboa Park, home to the popular San Diego Zoo, which also has many other attractions to go visit. The zoo itself is fantastic, an enormous area and one for all the family to enjoy. But Balboa has plenty of hidden gems, with its beautiful buildings, bridges and gardens for you to explore. The Japanese Friendship Garden in particular is stunning and well worth a visit. If nature isn’t so much for you, then there are plenty of museums for you to enjoy, such as the San Diego Natural History Museum. You could easily spend two days at Balboa Park; one at the zoo and the other just looking around the rest of it.

I fell in love with San Diego, a city that I had no real expectations of, but it was a place that was soon one of my favourites. If only I had known sooner…

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It really is a GRAND view

Words cannot describe just incredible the area is. Pictures don’t do it justice at all. But I suppose that’s why the Grand Canyon is called the Grand Canyon, right?

It is been on my bucket list since forever to go to the Grand Canyon, situated in the state of Arizona, carved out by the Colorado River. But I’d never had the chance to go, despite being close in Las Vegas before, many years ago. So whilst planning out a 5-week long trip to travel around the States, I made it a priority to visit.

That moment, seeing the Canyon for the very first time in front of you, is indescribable. With its jaggered red rocks, freckled with different shades, is stunning. All different sizes of rock cover the landscape, spanning as far as the eye can see, as you stare out in wonder. The scenery is beautiful, the red rocks blending in with shades of green from trees and plants, as well as all the different wildfire that you come across.

The size of the Grand Canyon is enormous, 277km long to be precise; if you decide to take a helicopter tour, you’ll still only see about a third of the Canyon itself. It’s impossible to really comprehend just how big the Canyon is or even just how small you are.

Staying in the national park as well was a truly incredible experience. Situated just a one mile walk from the South Rim, the Yavapai Lodge is the perfect place to stay. Comfortable rooms and a general store nearby – complete with very tasty pizza from the store’s market – all make for a great stay. Just be prepared to be off the grid whilst in the national park; phone signal is non existent and WiFi is very limited. But sometimes being off the grid is exactly what you need.

If you’re staying overnight in the Grand Canyon, then be sure to set your alarm early and catch the sunrise; it’s unlike any sunrise you’ll ever see. Watching the sun’s first light peek over the different shapes of rock, beautiful strong colours covering the entire sky, is mind-blowing. The early wake-up call is well worth it for the sight you’ll see.

Being in the Canyon and seeing the national beauty that the world has to offer is really one of the great wonders.

It’s not called the Grand Canyon for just any reason after all.

A city like no other: Amsterdam

I’m going to start off with a little story, back from when I was at the end of primary school, at around the age of 10.

I had just finished reading the Diary of Anne Frank. I love to read and I was reading a lot of books at that age, but this was the first book that really hit a nerve. It stuck with me, reading her story not just for how terrifying that must have been for her and her family in hiding, but it was incredibly humbling. Ever since finishing her diary, going to the Anne Frank House had been high on my bucket list.

Fifteen years later and there I was, looking in awe at the bookcase that concealed the entrance to the secret annexe.

Aside from wanting to visit the Anne Frank House, I’d also wanted to come to Amsterdam for the beauty of the city. The picturesque canals, the small side streets, the quirkiness. Everyone I knew who had visited would rave about how amazing Amsterdam is and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Once we had dropped our bags off near Centraal Station – Drop&Go is situated right by the station and is only 5 Euros in cost for a small suitcase – we set off to explore. At first, the smell of weed everywhere took a little while to get used to, as well as seeing ladies in red lit windows from 12pm, but as we wandered around the canals, you see how beautiful the city is. Peaceful in parts, there is no shortage of canals and bridges to look at or walk over. The buildings that line the streets are uniquely Amsterdam; tall, narrow with big beautiful windows and sometimes have a bright lick of paint on the outside. It frames the canals perfectly.

The main point of our trip was for a gig on our second night but that didn’t stop us from exploring as much as we could. Free beer was drank at the Heineken Experience, had a picture of the infamous sign outside the Rijksmuseum and a great tour of the Amsterdam ArenA was also completed. I’m no art expert but the museums are a must; in particular the Van Gogh Museum. It is wonderfully laid out, with plenty of his best work on his display and you find out so much more about the man himself. As much as the Rijksmuseum is grand and impressive, the Van Gogh Museum was my favourite and definitely worth a visit.

But the Anne Frank House for me was a moment that I could finally say I’d been there. It is very well preserved and it will tug on your heartstrings, from the height markings on the wall, to the narrow staircase. It’s so humbling and sad, particularly if you know what the fate of the family is.

Amsterdam is a city like no other. Just a 50-minute flight from the UK, it is the perfect place for a short break away and trust me; once you leave, you’ll be aching to go back.

SNAPSHOT: Olympic Park

I went exploring around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park a couple of weeks ago, the scene of many memorable moments at the London 2012 Olympics & Paralympics. Managed to get some shots of the park & Olympic Stadium (now home to West Ham United) with a beautiful winter sunset. 

Snapshot: SORRENTO

I have just been away for ten days in the beautiful town of Sorrento, which lies in the south of Italy. It’ll be a place that will forever stick to my mind, and one of absolute beauty. Here are some photographs I took to share with you all:

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All photos were taken with a Canon 100D and edited in VSCO Cam.

New York, New York

There’s something a bit comforting when you hear taxis blaring their horn at 4am in the morning, when jetlag is keeping you awake. Originally I’d be further annoyed but not when I’m in New York. After all, this is the city that never sleeps.

I’d first made the trip over to the Big Apple on an university trip back in 2012 and it was love at first sight. For the past four years, I longed to return to what had become my favourite city in the entire world, without hesitation. And at long last, here I was again on Boxing Day, marvelling at the bright lights of Times Square. 

December in New York is cold. Armed with thick coats, wooly scarfs and big boots, we were ready to tackle the elements and started with the enormous Central Park. Although there were no leaves on the trees and the sky was a murky grey, it’s a stunning site, a place of peace in a very busy city. You just about hear the sirens and horns but the further you delve into Central Park, the quieter it becomes. 

On the other end of the spectrum, visits to Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building are musts. Both with equally stunning views, I recommend you go up one during the day and the other at night. We went up the Top of the Rock on a clear sunny day, with which you could see miles of the concrete jungle and get a perfect view of Central Park. Up the Empire State however was a simply magical experience and also incredibly lucky. As we reached the 86th observation deck, we were greeted with falling snow. Although it would partly obscure our view, you really can’t beat some snow, which did stop to reveal the stunning night views. 

An attraction that I hadn’t done last time was visiting ol’ Libby – the Statue of Liberty that is. Perhaps the tourist spot in New York, it is a must see when you visit, purely so you can say that you have done. The ferry over gives you some tremendous views of Manhattan, a different perspective on the bustling island, as well as a chance to get away from the busy crowds if you so wish.

An unexpected activity we undertook was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge; I recommend doing this if you are visiting the 9/11 Memorial, with the start of the Bridge not far away. With great views of Manhattan one side and the hipster Brooklyn the other, it’s a must.

If you can, also be sure to catch a sports game, whether this is Basketball, American Football, Soccer… the Americans certainly know how to create an atmosphere and this is no different with New Yorkers. A trip over to the Barclays Center to see the New York Islanders in an Ice Hockey match was a fun experience, as we got drawn into the atmosphere, chanting along the faithful Islanders fans. 

One thing with the tourist attractions; pre-book before you go. Understandably security is tight everywhere so rather than queuing to go through security and then again to purchase your tickets, have them ready to go. The Statue of Liberty is particularly an attraction to have your tickets already purchased, otherwise you’ll be there a long time. 

We left before the infamous ball drop in Times Square which, although it is a bucket-list item for many, was extremely busy and a bit mad around the area beforehand. For the sake of seeing a ball drop from afar, it’s not high up on my own list. 

Again I left the Big Apple yearning to return as soon as I could, having fallen back in love and rest ensured, I shan’t be leaving it four years to go back. If you love big bustling cities with so much to see, then New York is the city for you. 

World Photo Day

In aid of #WorldPhotoDay, here are some of my favourite images that I have captured through a camera lens. Photography has become one of the biggest passions in life and I find it fascinating how powerful an image can be.

These are all my own images, therefore please don’t use without permission.

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Snapshot: DUBROVNIK

Here are some more photos I took during my time in Dubrovnik last summer – a truly wonderful city.