I’ve been incredibly fortunate throughout my life to have had the privilege to experience many things in the world, perhaps more so than some 23 year olds (and less so than others). As a child, my parents took me on multiple ‘holidays’ a year, from little weekends away, to week long holidays over the summer. This was in a time before parents could be fined before removing their children from school, and when adventure and experience were seen as just as important as books and tests. Through them, I experienced most of the English (and Welsh) landscape, and as I grew older, I furthered my horizons to foreign lands, both with them, and without. I have much to thank my parents for, and I can only hope that I can provide such a rich and colourful childhood to my own children one day.
Today, I’d like to share five of my favourite places to go, some in the UK, and some in other countries. They’re full of opportunities, and chances for discovery, and I hope you get the chance to visit them one day.
1. Switzerland – Canton of Bern
When I eleven, I was offered an incredible opportunity through the Girl Guides; to go to Switzerland for two weeks, and visit the heart of Girl Guiding; Our Chalet, part of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, set in the beautiful Swiss village of Adelboden. It was an unbelievable experience, and one that I will never forget. It was also my first time abroad (minus a trip to Spain in my mother’s womb, which we won’t count). I would recommend the Canton of Bern to anybody (and, probably, the rest of Switzerland, but this is the only place I have experience of). Key areas of interest are Bern, the country’s official capital, home of the bears; Jungfrau, an impressive mountain, reached by train, and home to a museum of ice sculptures; the lake town, Thun, a charming, historic town full of beautiful architecture and shopping opportunities; and the area’s picturesque, awe inspiring views and landscapes, filled with waterfalls and walking paths. One of my favourite places to go, and I can’t wait to go back and explore again one day.
2. Madeira – Funchal
Another favourite abroad, Funchal is a stunning city set in the heart of the Portuguese island of Madeira. Famous for its gardens and stunning landscape, this is the perfect holiday for relaxing, eating, and walking. The only thing about Madeira that you need to be aware of is the roads; the drivers are unbelievable, and it can be scary to get on a bus! I’d advise making a pretty solid will before you attempt it, because you will be fearing for your life. You can also go for a trip through the mountains, and off roading, which is equally as heart stopping. The food in Funchal is fresh, flavoursome and intriguing; I’d recommend trying the espatada, a skewered meat dish cooked in garlic and bay, along with the popular dish, milho frito, deep fried cubes of corn. My favourite place to go was the Monte Palace Tropical Garden, an oasis of calm just a cable car ride up from the city, full of giant, seemingly prehistoric plants and flowers just bursting with colour. If you visit, before you go, make sure you have a tomato! I ate the best tomatoes I’ve ever eaten whilst there, they’ve never tasted the same since.
3. North Wales – Barmouth Bay
Back to the UK now, and on to one of my favourite places on the planet, let alone for an adventure. I’ve decided that I am going to live near here one day, no matter what it takes. It’s the place where, when I’m asked to go to my safe space, or picture my happiest moment, I visualise in my head. Barmouth is a seaside town in North Wales, situated beside the estuary of the River Mawddach and Cardigan Bay. It has golden sands, deep blue sea, and beautiful, fairytale-esque buildings and shops dotting the coast line. It isn’t just Barmouth itself that I adore though; all around the town are public footpaths, including one across the bridge, providing stunning views of the inland mountains, in stark contrast to the sea. Barmouth is a contradiction of landscapes, and I love it with all of my heart. Nearby is the town of Tywyn (no, not Tywin Lannister, move on Game of Thrones fans…), home of the Talyllyn Railway. It was through this railway that I found of my ultimate havens; the Dolgoch falls, which, in all honesty, I can’t describe in English, let alone words, so let’s not attempt it. Just trust me when I say; go. Explore. Experience. It’s just that incredible. One day, I will move there, find myself a little community job in CAMHS nursing, and live happily ever after… I hope.
4. England – City of York
York is somewhere I’ve been visiting since I was a small child; it’s a historic city, with sublime architecture, rich heritage and culture, such as art, music, and religion. York Minster is prominent on the skyline, being my second favourite piece of architecture in the country (the first being Lincoln Cathedral… more on that shortly). Up until recently, I’d only ever really visited York for the day, roaming about the shambles, grabbing a spot of lunch, then heading home on the train with ease. Last year, however, my mum and I went for the night, stopping in the absolutely charming Lamb & Lion, a quintessentially British pub and hotel, featuring beer garden and live music. It was such a lovely place to head for a city break, and I highly recommend it to anybody looking for something unique out of their holiday.
5. England – Lincoln
Last but not least… my one time home of four years, Lincoln. I’ve been to so many places in the world, and have been so, so fortunate, but no matter what, this will always be one of my favourite places to go. Every time I visit now, having moved away, I feel as if I’m being welcomed home into familiar arms. Everything about this tiny city draws you in; the busy, buzzing high street, the bustling old town, full of independent stores and cosy cafes, the sparkling marina and waterfront, and the university, small but steadily growing, both in size and popularity. I feel an affiliation with this place, a closeness such that my heart only really feels whole when I come back. I know that I don’t want to live here forever, but I’d love to go back, just for a bit, to eventually leave on my own terms, rather than for educational, career developing responsibilities. I highly recommend The Angel Coffee Shop, an old favourite of mine that keeps getting better and better, as well as Roly’s Fudge Pantry, at the top of the hill. Finally, the cathedral. A stunning example of medieval architecture, I graduated in this very building from my first degree at Lincoln University. A quiet and peaceful place, it is a place of calm, worship, and tranquility, and although not religious, I find myself returning to it year on year.
Adelboden Summer © Switzerland Tourism
Monte Palace Tropical Garden © Madeira Seekers
Barmouth Bridge © Visit Wales
Jorvik: Discovering York © Ian Ashworth
Lincoln Bargate © Visit Lincoln