Sunday, 31 August 2014

InterRailing adventures - Hostels 2014

This is my second post about our InterRail adventure and I am dedicating it solely to our hostel accommodation (for an overview check here).  We booked our hostels in advance (deposit online and then the rest paid for whilst we were there - in cash as cards were issued a charge).  We booked before so that we had a decent choice and for piece of mind but also, as we are a couple, we wanted a double private room and as these can be limited it was good to book.  In three of the four places we also had ensuite rooms, so as I mentioned in my last post we didn't do a budget holiday but this was our personal choice and all the other rooms I managed to glimpse at our hostels looked great.   

We booked and selected the hostels through hostelworld.com and I would use them again.  It was super easy to see what the hostels offered, where they were and the reviews were very helpful.  It was straight forward to book and they even sent us a PDF with helpful information for the countries we were booking the hostels for.  Every hostel we stayed in was fab! We had Wifi in our room and the hostel (which is handy when you are checking train times/looking up how to get to places), some provided a breakfast for low money, they were clean and tidy and all the staff were helpful and friendly. 

In Berlin we stayed at East Seven Hostel, this was a little out of the main part of the city but was right near a metro line (again pretty cheap) and the area itself had shops and restaurants.  This hostel was particularly good because it gave information daily about the different activities that were on that day - markets, walking tours, swimming, bar crawls and a lot of things started at the hostel/had pick ups from there which was super handy.  Our double room was large and airy, there was a wardrobe and shelves to store bits.  This was the only place where we had a shared bathroom.  This was constantly clean and there were around 2 bathrooms on each floor so you could move around if the one on yours was busy.  The shower was large and worked well and there was a hairdryer (quite a decent one) in the bathroom.  The hostel sold drinks and had a large kitchen if you fancied cooking.  Breakfast was around 4.00 euros and consisted of cereals and toast with a range of spreads.  It was a brilliant place with 24 hour access and we met and spoke to a range of people there. 

In Prague we stayed in Hostel Mango, another fantastic hostel that reminded us more of a hotel.  We didn't have as much information here but it was on the castle side and around a 30 second walk from the Charles Bridge.  The staff were helpful and had great wifi connection again.  Our double ensuite room was at the top of the hostel with cute d├ęcor and a sloping ceiling.  Again it had a wardrobe, bedside cabinets and the ensuite was equipped with a hairdryer (although this one was a little weak).  They had an out door area which was a little noisy at night however it is expected with hostels and a basement lounge with kitchen, however we didn't really spend a lot of time here.  The staff were helpful and there was leaflets at the front desk which was manned 24/7.  I would definitely stay here again. 

 
 
In Vienna we stayed at Wombat - The Lounge Hostel.  This was a larger hostel than the others and one of two Wombat hostels in Vienna.  They had some information about the area but it wasn't as well displayed as the East Seven Berlin hostel.  One of the things that was great about this place was the breakfast (3.90 Euro with a selection of cereals, meat, cheese, fruit, toast, spreads and drinks), we also loved their bar downstairs, great value and with a free pool table it was easy to have fun in the evening if we weren't going out.  Again the double room was huge with a wardrobe and fan and the ensuite was again HUGE!  The area that the hostel was in was right next to a metro station so it was easy to get around and there was no noise at night.   

Finally in Budapest we stayed in Bazar Hostel.  This hostel seemed more lively in the fact that there were always people around, cooking, chatting etc.  Although it did get a little loud at night and our room was right near the lounge area so we heard a lot of the noise late at night.  Again the location and size of the room and ensuite were perfect and the staff were super helpful.  They gave us lots of information, had a range of leaflets and maps and were always ready to answer questions. 

We didn't spend a lot of time in the hostels really but they helped to make the trip great and were a clean and comfortable base after a jam packed day. 

Jen xx
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Thursday, 28 August 2014

InterRail Adventures - an overview 2014

For our holiday Jon and I decided that we would like to visit several areas in Europe and decided to purchase an InterRail ticket.  This post is an overview of our InterRail experience to offer advance to any people who may read, I will post about the hostels and places individually another day, otherwise this will be too long!   

Due to Jon's work we could only have two weeks for travelling and so this limited the number of countries or cities we could go to and their distance from each other - in the end two weeks was the perfect time for us. 

Deciding the countries and cities was a little tricky to start with as we had loads of places we wanted to go including Poland, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Hungary to name a few!  After looking on the InterRail website and establishing which countries were close to each other, and the time it would take to travel by train between cities, we were soon able to narrow down our selection.  We also thought that some cities and countries (Italy and Switzerland) could be visited on other holidays and might require more that 3-4 days when visiting.  We wanted a few days in each place to really get a feel for the areas, I wouldn't have felt like I had really visited a place if I only went for 1 day.  

Jon was really keen to visit Berlin, I had never been to Germany before and so was more than happy to go there for our first stop.  Jon was also keen on Prague and as it was just under a 5 hour train journey from Berlin we confirmed that as our next stop.  Vienna was somewhere I was keen to visit for a few days and so this was our third and finally Budapest (somewhere I had really wanted to visit) became our last stop and boy was it a good one!  These cities had great train connections and linked really well for our trip.  Something to note is also the train station you are arriving or departing from, as some of the cities have more than one and they can be a long way from your accommodation. 

Berlin
Berlin
Berlin
 
Now most InterRail/gap year travelling stories I have heard are pretty laid back and most people just book their train ticket and then travel between places whenever they feel like it, change their route if their fancy and arrive in a city looking for accommodation or maybe booking the night before.  Our holiday was certainly not like this!  Being the organised and worrisome person I am I was keen to book hostels in advance, plan our route and look up train times before.  I'm really pleased we did as it made me less stressed during the trip and things ran rather smoothly.  There was still a lot of freedom when we were in the countries themselves, I'm not that regimented! 

Prague
Prague
 
The InterRail website is super helpful and has a train timetable on the website which was very accurate.  Before our travels I looked up and printed off the train times which helped us a lot and allowed us to plan what we were going to do with our day.  It was also really helpful that Jon researched the countries before we went so we had some idea of the dos and don'ts and knew some attractions and restaurants we wanted to visit. 

Vienna
Budapest
Budapest
When travelling between the countries we chose to get early trains (around half 8 in the morning) as it meant we had a but more of a day in the next place.  We did arrive at the stations pretty early before the train was due, but each station was clean and had places for us to pick up some breakfast/lunch for the train.  Luckily we managed the find seats on the first three trains without a reservation and had room for our suitcases.  We managed to get unreserved seats that were near the doors.  This may have been because we were travelling so early that meant that we could get unreserved seats, it might not have been the same if we travelled later.  In fact travelling from Vienna to Budapest was trickier, the train that we aimed to get (10 something as this was one of the earliest) only allowed people with reservations on (something they announced about 15minutes before the train arrived!) as all the seats had been booked along the journey and they wouldn't allow standing.  This meant that we had to wait 2 hours for the next train at 12.  We decided it would be best to reserve this train and I'm glad we did as again it was packed.  The reservation was only 3.50 Euros each so wasn't a huge unexpected pay out.  I think if it was around mid morning I would probably book reservations next time, although it may have just been that Vienna to Budapest is a popular route.

Overall I would really recommend InterRailing if you are keen to travel to a few places and I would highly recommend the cities we went to if you like history, culture and a night life.  The website is clear and informative and when we were away it was super easy and smooth to travel to where we needed too.  Maybe next time we will try a sleeper train!

Have you been to these countries or InterRailing?

Jen xx
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Sunday, 24 August 2014

No7 Make Up Brush Cleanser: spot cleaning




You may have seen from my previous haul that I picked up the No7 brush cleanser using my voucher and their buy one get one half price offer.  At the moment I deep cleanse my brushes using a BareMinerals brush conditioning shampoo that I picked up ages ago from Feelunique.  On a side note I love it, it cleanses the brushes well, lasts ages and leaves them feeling soft.

However deep cleansing brushes can be a faff and so when I saw this product I thought I would give it a go mainly to help spot clean my eye brushes so that they can be used next time for a different eye look.  I have used this for a little while now and, after the initial problems with the pump (it wouldn't work and then worked too well - sprays of liquid across the room), I really like it and find it very useful and hassle free for a quick fix. 

I tend to squirt it onto a small cotton pad and for a standard blush brush this size works well.  For eye brushes two can be used on one cotton pad. 


 
The product is very watery and has a much lighter nail polish remover smell to it.  It is not sticky and therefore leaves brushes clean and smooth although they do tend to have a different texture to the touch after, although this might be something that happens with all spot cleaners and I'm sure that a deep cleanse will sort this right out!

The only other thing I have found is that the bristles on the brushes seem to stand out/apart more than they did before or compared to when I use the BareMinerals product.  So I'm hoping that this doesn't affect the performance of them. 

Have you tried this or any other brush cleaners?

Jen xx

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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The Work Bag - ZARA Soft Shopper

It took me a while to find the perfect work/school bag.  I had many different bags but this one from Zara is super.  I could only find the blue colour on the website (which I actually really like for summer) and it is reduced now too. 




What I love about this bag is the shape, length of straps and compartments.  The most handy part of the bag is the removable middle pouch.  This is a soft material and I find it handy to store my personal and smaller items e.g. phone, purse, lip balm, tissues, camera etc.  The fact that it is zipped adds to it's handiness. 

As I take this bag to school (where I work) I keep my notepads and mark book etc to one side of the pouch and water and snacks to the other side.  Sometimes I do overfill it and some items can fall under the pouch but on the most part it is not a problem, as long as I am organised enough.

It is a great size, I can fit my laptop in it, but is also suitable for shopping etc as becomes floppy when not over packed. 

I suppose my most perfect and dream bag would have a few more compartments but this bag is great and I am happy to use it for the foreseeable future, great job Zara. 

Jen xx

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Friday, 1 August 2014

Boots Holiday Haul

In a few days Jon and I will be going on our travels around a few countries in Europe.  I'm excited and a little nervous as this is the first time we are not staying in one place and need to negotiate trains and hostel bookings.

In the lead up I have been looking in my stash for travel toiletries to take (thank you Christmas gifts) but found there were a few things I was still needing and as always a trip to boots leads to some unnecessary (not holiday related) purchases.





I'm not sure if the travel size section is worth the money but having little samples of products is suitcase and handbag friendly and, let's be honest, totally cute.

I've really been enjoying my full sized Simple Kind to Skin Soothing Facial Toner but the lid, which is a flip cap, could open easily during travels causing stressful leakages so I decided to pick up the smaller bottle (which has a much more secure screw lid).  I also picked up a travel version of the Batiste Dry Shampoo.  Again a lot simpler than carrying a full sized version of my preferred TRESemme one and the scent of this one (tropical - coconut and exotic) is delicious. 

As it was 3 for 2 I also picked up the TRESemme heat defence styling spray as hair care is important even on holiday and if it's hot and humid I will need all the help I can get!!

I wan't going to take the toner with me but my skin hasn't been great recently and so I thought two weeks without anything would make it even worse.  This led me to my next purchase the Montagne Jeunesse Black Seaweed Peel Off Mask.  I thought this would be a good shout as I can put it on in the room we are staying in and rather than having to go to the bathroom to wash (which is shared in some places) I can conveniently peel it off in the room without walking down the corridor like some sea creature!  These were £1 and I'm interested to see what they are like, I'm hoping they will be beneficial to my skin in the city atmospheres we will be in. 


I also picked up some flipflops to use in the shared bathroom and possibly any spas we go to (Budapest I'm looking at you!).  I love the jazzy colour of these and at half price (£3.50) I don't think I can go wrong. 

The last purchases are not fully holiday related but as I had a No7 voucher I thought now was a prime time to try their brush cleanser.  This is a spot cleaner rather than a deep clean and is so useful to quickly clean a blending brush so it is ready for the next time it is needed.  Although be careful with the over excited pump, I seem to have cleaned my trousers in the process (although this could just be my bottle). 
No7 were having a buy one get one half price so I also picked up the brush case for £4.00 which I will be taking on holiday, it is a classic black with a crocodile skin-esque pattern and fits a lot of brushes. 

I'm very happy with my haul.  Have you been buying anything recently?

Jen xx

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