At the start of this year, like previous years, I was determined I was going to stay on top of editing my photos and sharing my adventures on my blog. Suffice to say, I’ve not stuck to that goal, and my photo archive is just getting bigger and bigger.
As part of the London Writer’s Salon’s #final100daysofwriting challenge, I decided to share something from our Tickles travels adventures each day for the remaining days of this year – 23 September to 31 December 2022.
I’m not ready to look forward and hope for brighter times ahead, so I’m going to take a nostalgic look back on the fun times of the past five years or so. They say a picture paints a thousand words, and looking at one photo can immediately take me back to the time and place, so I hope you enjoy coming on a virtual adventure with me. Let’s get lost!
You can see all the photos over on Instagram as I post them by following the hashtag #100daysofticklestravels, but I’ll also share them here on this blog post, I just can’t guarantee it will be updated daily.
Day 1/100: Snowdonia
Two years ago today we were on holiday in north Wales, our first escape from London since we went into lockdown.
We’d been to Portmerion for the day (thoroughly recommended!) and were weaving our way through Snowdonia back to Llandudno where we were staying.
We were generally really lucky with the weather on that trip, and driving through the amazing countryside there were so many places we wanted to pull over so we could take in the scenery. If I had my way it would’ve taken us a lot longer to get anywhere!
I’m a city girl at heart, but there’s something about the fresh air and space of the countryside that always beckons. I’ve been visiting Wales regularly for most of my life, but it’s only when I’ve got out on the road and properly explored that I’ve realised what a beautiful country it is – and there’s still lots more of it for me to explore.
Day 2/100: Covent Garden, but not that one…
Our first ever Tickles travels adventure was a ‘mini break’ to Cambridge. Somehow neither of us had ever been before so it was somewhere new for both of us to explore.
Obviously the city centre with the university buildings and the river Cam was great to wander around, but I always love exploring slightly out of the centre, the more residential areas, the places that tourists don’t always venture to.
This Covent Garden, just down the road from where we were staying and not a million miles from the main rail station, couldn’t have been more different from the central London tourist attraction. It was made up of cute little terraced houses and in the nearby streets we found proper boozers.
To this day I’m baffled how we ended up never getting charged for the hotel. I booked online to, I thought, pay on arrival but at no point during our stay did payment come up. That made me think we must’ve already paid, but my bank statements didn’t show that to be the case. That just meant that money could go to a future adventure.
Day 3/100: Cheese please
As I was frying some mushrooms for breakfast this morning, I was reminded of the most delicious fried mushrooms I had for breakfast at our B and B in St Ives back in June. I should’ve asked what herbs they used as they were the best fried mushrooms I’ve ever had.
We ate really well on that holiday. From the chicken burgers on the first night, to the famous Philps pasties sitting on a bench by the sea and of course plenty of fish and chips, we definitely indulged.
Normally we aren’t planners when it comes to eating out, but having been warned by our host when we booked that we’d probably need to book any restaurants we wanted to eat at in St Ives, we made two bookings ahead of our holiday. Regularly seeing people turned away from places throughout the week made me glad we took his advice.
One of the places we booked was a little bistro in St Ives where we had a delicious three course meal. Of course I opted for the cheese plate over pudding (I generally favour savoury over sweet) even though I probably didn’t really need it. But if you can’t overindulge when on holiday when can you?!
Day 4/100: The Chicago L train
I love exploring a new city using their public transport system. Not only can it be the quickest way to get around, but it’s often the heartbeat of the city helping the locals get around their day to day lives and it’s a fab place for some people spotting.
The Chicago L train network fascinated me. While parts of it are underground, there are also elevated tracks that run directly above the roads. It’s one of those things that just feels so American to me. So many American films use the rattling sounds of the trains going above to build the city atmosphere.
The underground stations like this one were more interesting architecturally, but there is something about travelling above the city, especially with the cityscape views from the train as you venture around some areas.
I’ve had a few hiccups on public transport while on holiday in the past, but with the likes of Citymapper these days, it’s so much easier to find out the best routes to get around. The option to buy a Ventra card, that allows you unlimited travel, also meant we didn’t have to think about getting tickets each time, even if getting the card in the first place wasn’t as easy as you’d expect it to be. We certainly made the most of it though, travelling to the north and south of the city, as well as a trip out to the suburbs to see a very different side of Chicago.
We definitely couldn’t have done Chicago on foot, though we still managed to walk 55 miles during our six days in the city.
Day 5/100: The Little Museum of Dublin
If we had known when we ventured to Dublin in February 2020 that it was going to be the last foreign holiday we’d have for a while thanks to covid, we probably would’ve gone somewhere further afield. But my Gran was Irish and my dad has a huge collection of Guinness memorabilia, so I feel a strong affinity to all things Irish.
I’d been to Dublin a couple of times before (thinking about it, this was the first time I’d gone without there being a car incident), but I’d never really done much of the touristy stuff before. We made up for that this trip, including paying a visit to the Little Museum of Dublin.
Based in a row of Georgian terraced houses on St Stephen’s Green, it tells the story of Dublin and the people that have lived there over the past century. Entry includes a guided tour around the various rooms chocked full of historical objects and paraphernalia. Our tour guide was fantastic and it was fascinating learning more about how the city has changed over the years. We wouldn’t normally opt to go on a guided tour but without it we certainly wouldn’t have got as much out of the place. I even got to hang out with Bono in a room dedicated to one of Ireland’s most famous exports, U2.
Day 6/100: Fotoautomatica
The fact we all carry a camera round in our pocket these days means that we can take photos anytime and anywhere. Despite this, I’m pleased that there is still a market for old school photo booths, and I’m always excited when I spot one on my travels.
With digital photography, you can take as many photos as you like, immediately seeing the result and deleting it if you don’t like it. Even though most photo booths are also digital these days, it’ll cost you each time you pose for a strip of four silly photos.
While in Florence back in 2017, our first overseas holiday together, we saw a number of vintage style booths on street corners. I only managed to drag Adam into a couple, but I’m so glad we did. When travelling as a couple you either only get photos of one person taken by the other or selfies, which often should just be deleted. Photo booths are a great way of capturing a memory of a time and place.
Unlike all my digital photos that are stored on devices and rarely looked at, the photo strips from Florence, along with ones from other adventures we’ve had since, hang above my desk, easy for me to flick through when I need a smile.
Day 7/100: Centre Pompidou
The first conversation Adam and I had was me telling him to go to the Centre Pompidou in Paris. He went but he wasn’t impressed. Turns out we have very different tastes in architecture – his interests are more medieval whereas I’m more modernist.
Our first ‘date’ was almost in Paris, but it ended up taking us two years to visit the city together. Of course we went by the Pompidou, in fact we were staying very nearby, as it then felt we’d gone full circle visiting the first place we’d ever spoken about. We didn’t go in though as I knew the building was not his kinda place.
It’s weird that he isn’t a fan though as it was co-designed by Renzo Piano, the architect behind one of Adam’s favourite London buildings – the Shard. Richard Rogers, his co-designer, designed one of my favourite London buildings, Lloyds of London.
I’d been inside the building previously, on a trip to Paris with my mother, but it’s really the outside the fascinates me. Not only is it more colourful than most buildings – you can easily spot it when looking out over Paris from outside the Sacre Coeur – but I love the way that Rogers doesn’t hide the internal elements of a building, with the escalators, among other aspects, on clear show from the outside. If you haven’t been, it’s worth a look when in Paris, and if you’re interested in modern art it’s certainly worth seeing what exhibitions are on inside.
Day 8/100: Wild River
I love being able to go to foreign lands and far flung places, but sometimes you can’t beat the great British seaside.
I’d never been on any of the rides on Brighton Pier until Adam and I went there for a weekend. I will never go on the Turbo coaster again as it was a hideous experience; we got thrown around far more than it felt we should on a roller coaster and it felt like my ear was going to get ripped when my earring got trapped.
The Wild River log fume though was another story. I was petrified the first time we went on it but we went on a second time to get this photo. I promise I was enjoying it more than it looks like I was. We did get rather wet though.
There’s a time for exploring new places, taking in the culture and the history of somewhere. There’s also a time for letting your hair down and just have some old fashioned fun at the fair.
Day 9/100: Home from home
We stayed in a lovely little Airbnb property while in Edinburgh. I always get a bit nervous when booking accommodation online as you never know if it’s going to live up to the pictures and reviews, but there was no need to worry with this place. It was right in the heart of the old town, a stone’s throw from the Royal Mile, so was centrally located to easily explore all parts of the city, and we could see people walking on Arthur’s Seat from the living room window.
The owner lived next door, and was very friendly. Other than seeing him when we arrived, he didn’t intrude and fortunately there was no need for us to contact him during our stay.
The downside was that it was on the top floor of the building (the one with the yellow door), which meant walking up three flights of stairs at the end of each day after lots of walking. That would’ve been fine if we were coming down hill from the Royal Mile, but often we found ourselves coming home from the south of the city, which meant yet more steps before we even got to the building.
That aside, it was the perfect little flat for two and a great base for our mini Scottish adventure. I’d been to Edinburgh a couple of times before, the first time staying in a hostel on a girls weekend many years ago, and more recently in a hotel for a work trip. This place definitely trumped both of them!
Day 10/100: Chauffeur
We were in Prague for my birthday, and Adam booked a vintage car tour of the city. There was a slight issue when Adam forgot to confirm the booking, but he managed to reschedule it which actually worked better as we had time after breakfast for a wander before being collected.
We were picked up from our hotel and could choose where to be dropped off which made it really easy and convenient. Our fabulous driver shared so much knowledge about the history of Prague and the Czech Republic as he drove us around the city.
Fortunately the weather stayed dry as we whizzed around with the wind in my hair. He even parked up outside the palace to take a photo of us in the car. He dropped us off in Letna Park where we took in the views of the city and slowly mooched back down into the old town.
This probably isn’t the sort of thing I’d do in a lot of places, but it was recommended by a friend. I think we got really lucky with our driver as it felt more personal than the average tour where they are reading from a script. It’s just a shame you don’t know who you’re going to get when booking an experience like this.
Day 11/100: The Savoy
I always thought that Edinburgh was the Scottish city to visit and fall in love with. Yes it’s beautiful and has a lot of history, but when we went to Glasgow last year I realised that was my preferred city of the two.
It felt more real, a place where people lived and less of a tourist destination. It also had quite a lot of street art and brutalism, including this building that was just round the corner from our hotel, both of which made me very happy. We stayed right in the city centre, but our explorations took us all over the city to get a proper flavour of the place, primarily guided by pubs.
I’d read the book Concretopia not long before we went, and I was sad that some of the mid 20th century concrete gems that used to exist are no more, but fortunately they were still some great concrete buildings to discover and appreciate. We even ventured way out of the city to look at some water towers that looked like aliens spaceships that had landed from out of space.
Like most UK cities, parts of Glasgow has gone under a lot of redevelopment. I saw a lot of brutal buildings from the past that are probably waiting for their turn to be replaced with something modern and ugly, but they are holding out to maintain their place in the architectural history of this city and I hope that sanity prevails and they aren’t all thrown on the scrapheap.
Day 12/100: Beer and travel
One of our favourite things about exploring new places is trying a new beer or two, and of course a good drinking establishment. I’ve been to Valencia many times over the years since my dad moved there, but I really enjoyed taking Adam there for the first time and introducing him to the city, taking him to some of my favourite places and discovering some new ones together.
I know that the Spanish sunshine means a lager might feel in order, but there’s so much more to beer than lager. Other beers can be equally as refreshing and it’s so good to have something other than Mahou or Estrella, two of the most common Spanish beers on tap. Fortunately there are a growing number of place in Valencia to try something different, this being one of them.
We were in the city for Fallas, which meant the place was pretty busy (hence the plastic glasses) but we were lucky to be there early enough in the day before it got too crazy and there was no room in any of the bars. In fact we managed to fit in quite a substantial pub crawl while soaking up the Fallas atmosphere on the same day that many were drinking a pint or two of Guinness in honour of St Patrick.
Dungeness has got to be one of the most intriguing places I’ve ever visited. Barren and almost desert like, the shingle beaches along the coast didn’t feel like the kind of beaches you would go to for a spot of sunbathing. And it’s all so flat.
It was the perfect start to a mini adventure around the Kent coast. The sun shone as we blew the cobwebs away with walks along the coast, explored the gardens of Derek Jarman’s home Prospect Cottage (which I’ve recently heard has opened for a limited number of visitors to see inside) and went up the lighthouse.
Sometimes we strike gold on Airbnb and this was one of those cases. We stayed in a little holiday cottage that someone had built in their back garden. Sitting out on the patio at the back, we looked over the track for the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway and then there was nothing for what felt like miles. It was so peaceful and quiet, and a very welcome break from the hustle and bustle of London. The walk home from the local pub along the train tracks was a great way to wind down at the end of a day of exploration. Who needs to go to the other side of the world when such fascinating places exist just a couple of hours away from London?!
Day 14/100: The Peak District
We had intended to go to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on the way home after a week exploring in and around Manchester. Sadly the weather forecast suggested it wasn’t the day for that, so we headed to Sheffield for a brief bit of city exploration instead.
The drive across the Peak District was possibly one of the scariest driving experiences I’ve ever had. As well as the rain pouring down, there was a very low mist which meant visibility was appalling. To top it off we were driving behind this orange cab that was driving dangerously slowly while flashing their hazard lights. I had no idea if this was them warning us of something ahead or whether they were having a problem and were suggesting we went past them.
Needless to say it was a very slow drive and I was so pleased when we got back onto more urban streets. Despite growing up and learning to drive in the countryside, I’m much more of a town and city driver these days. That said, put me behind the wheel and I’m in one of my happy places. I don’t drive often so when I get the chance I relish it and love the freedom of going wherever the wind takes you.
Just in case you’re wondering, I didn’t take this photo and don’t encourage doing so while driving.
Day 15/100: The creative quarter
Last July we escaped the city for a much needed break by the sea. It was a super hot weekend and our first night away from home in a very long time.
Neither of us had been to Folkestone before so it was the perfect spot for a bit of exploration. I’d heard it was a creative place but I wasn’t quite prepared for how creative and colourful it was! With the sun shining we did of course see it at it’s best.
I’ve discovered as we’ve explored the coast more over recent years how these seaside towns often come with steep hills to walk up and down. Folkestone was no exception. The mooch up the old high street, looking in a few shops, was worth the steep hill though – especially as we could reward ourselves with a refreshing beer in Kipps’ Alehouse at the top.
We may have only been there for one night but we made the most of it with walks along the coast, the harbour arm and through the town, as well as sampling some delicious food and drink. We’ve seen a fair bit of the Kent coast now but Folkestone is definitely a place I can see myself returning to time and time again.
Day 16/100: This way to the brewery
Anywhere that has a proper street sign directing you to a brewery is my kind of place! I’ve still got to sort through all my photos from our recent visit to Bruges, but needless to say we made the most of one of Belgium’s greatest exports.
It was a wonderful city to get lost in too as whichever street you go down, at some point you’ll come back to a street you’ve walked down before. We stayed in a great hotel, a stone’s throw from the main square, which meant that wherever we went it was never a long walk back home.
I’m pretty sure we walked every street in the city during our stay there and I loved being able to piece all the different parts of the city together. The benefit of being there for more than a couple of days meant we got to feel at home and we had time to tick off most of the places on our list.
I’ve become a real advocate for train travel over flying, partly because of covid but mainly because I find it a far more civilised way of travelling. Knowing how easy it is to get to Belgium from London, and how good the trains are there, I can see many more Belgium adventures in our future. Afterall, we hardly scratched the surface of Belgian beers available.
Day 17/100: Dreamland
In August 2017, I had the most amazing day at Dreamland in Margate with a group of colour lovers, and knew I needed to go back with Adam.
After operating as a funfair under various guises for over 100 years, it closed down in the early noughties and it wasn’t until 2015 that it reopened, after a long-running campaign by local residents. Brought back to life with the help of design legend Wayne Hemingway, it was modernised, with new additions including a roller disco, but it kept the vintage feel and rides of a mid-century funfair.
Sadly when we stopped off in the town for a couple of nights on our Kent coast adventure, Dreamland was not open. It was mid-week and off season when it only opened at the weekend. Piss poor planning on my part! Fortunately the arcade at the front was open, so we were able to have a go on the 2p machines, one of our favourite British seaside pastimes.
Despite not being able to enjoy the scenic railway rollercoaster or take a ride on Born Slippy, the colourful six-lane slide, we had a lovely two days in Margate. We again struck gold with our Airbnb which looked right out over the sea. Adam woke up at 5am to the most amazing sunrise which I slightly regret not getting up for.
Margate is definitely a changing town, not least due to the surge of Londoners that have relocated to the seaside town over the past decade or so, but for me it delivers so much of what you expect from a proper seaside town. Next time we visit I’ll make sure Dreamland is fully open.
Day 18/100: Cimetière de Montmartre
After we met, we quickly discovered that both Adam and I have a fascination with cemeteries. I find them such peaceful places and remember since I was a child enjoying exploring them, though when I was younger there was definitely more of a fascination with the spooky side of them.
On our first trip to Paris together we went to Père Lachaise Cemetery, somewhere we’d both been before, so on our trip this year we headed to Montmartre Cemetery, the third largest necropolis in Paris (Montparnasse Cemetery is the second largest so I’ll have to check that out next time).
Even though it’s not my main reason for going, it’s always interesting to know which famous people are buried in any cemetery. In Montmartre’s case we came across the graves of the artist Degas and composer Hector Berlioz, whose Symphonie Fantastique gives me the shivers ever since I heard it in the film Sleeping With The Enemy.
Whilst there’s always a lot of standard graces, I love coming across something more individual and I found plenty of unique graves. One of my favourites was a colourful mosaic grave with, with what looked like a poem on it. I also love the tombs with windows that you peak in or, in the case of the one pictured, where the door is open. It was a beautiful sunny day so the stained glass cast colourful reflections on the stones.
There’s never enough time to explore the whole cemetery, so I’m sure this is one I’ll go back to. It’s in a part of Paris that I always flock to so now I know where it is, it’ll always be on my list for a wander – even if only to escape the crowds.
Day 19/100: Viewpoint
I suffer from vertigo. Adam loves a viewpoint from the top of a tall building. In fact it was his photos of views of London from rooftops that originally caught my eye on Instagram. Some might say this was not a good combination, but actually it has encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and do something I wouldn’t choose to do otherwise. When we were in Florence there was no question that we would climb up the Campanile and the Duomo.
You can buy a ticket for both that lasts a couple of days, so we didn’t have to do them both on the same day – I don’t think I’d be able to walk if we did all 861 steps in one day! – but we did have to book a slot for the Duomo.
We went up the Campanile on our first full day when we were full of energy and excited about exploring. The climb wasn’t the most enjoyable experience, but at least there were levels to stop off at to get your breath back. I also got the opportunity to face one of my other fears and stand on a glass floor. Climbing up the tower was one thing but stepping onto that glass floor was another story! I did manage it, though only by my sweaty hand gripping Adam’s hand tight.
The views from the top were worth it, and we chose the right time to do it as later in the day the heavens opened; I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be out on a rooftop terrace 85m above ground with the rain pouring down. Of course, what goes up must come down, and one of the things I’ve learned over the years of us climbing up tall buildings is that the walk down is in some ways less enjoyable than the climb up!
When we bought our tickets I handed them to Adam for safe keeping. On the way to the Duomo I asked him if he had them, to which he said no. After a moment of panic, I carried on to join the queue while he rushed back to our apartment (which fortunately wasn’t too far away) to grab them. Waiting for him to join me felt like eternity, wondering if he’d make it back in time. Watching others try, and fail, to get in without their ticket, I was so relieved I remembered when I did.
Not only were there a lot of steps to climb, the higher we got the narrower the staircase got, and right near the top even I had to duck to avoid hitting my head. Even if we didn’t want to go right to the top and out onto the roof, as you walk around the dome and towards the last section of steps to the summit you get to enjoy the ceiling painting which is worth the walk alone. It was another sunny, and toasty, day in Florence so it was perfect for enjoying the view across the city from the top, before once again having to deal with the descent back to ground level.
It’s the sort of thing that now I’ve done it, I don’t feel the need to do it again if I find myself back in Florence again, but I’m definitely pleased that I didn’t let the heat or the number of steps put me off.
Day 20/100: Halloween
I’m not a big fan of Halloween. It was never something I got into as a child, and as a teen I just remember being scared to go out in case I got egged. These days I just don’t understand how an American tradition has become such a big deal here in the UK.
Having been to the US in October a couple of times, I do find it fascinating seeing the effort Americans go to for the celebrations, with decorations out well ahead of the big day.
We headed down to Navy Pier on the second day of our trip to Chicago, and came across the first ever Pier Pumpkin Lights display. It may have been fall, but the sun was shining on a fairly warm day, so in some ways the pumpkin sculptures of various shapes and sizes felt a little out of place. They were impressive though, and I’m always in awe of the pumpkin carving that people are able to do. I just know I’d be rubbish.
I guess if we’d gone back one evening we would have had a very different experience. Looking back I’m surprised we didn’t as I do love a light display, but Chicago is a big place and there were lots of other parts of the city to explore.
Day 21/100: Abergele
I have never watched I’m a celebrity… get me out of here! Having today heard some of the names being announced for this year’s series, I don’t see that changing. They are really scraping the bottom of the barrel with disgraced politician Matt Hancock, who I can confirm from first hand experience is a personality free zone.
As I’m not a fan, it wasn’t the reason that we went to Abergele during our north Wales adventures. In fact I’m not entirely sure when I realised that Gwrych Castle, just outside the town, was going to be the home for the show during lockdown when travelling to Australia was not an option.
Rest assured, once in the town there was no escaping it – the local residents were clearly excited that Ant, Dec and a bunch of Z list celebrities would be soon putting their small Welsh town on the map. The shops, pubs and estate agents had all decked their windows with decorations and displays to welcome the show.
We didn’t spend too long in the town, but we had an enjoyable little mooch. We took shelter in the delightful Peculiar Gallery while it attempted to rain and had lunch in the Harp Inn, which fortunately wasn’t out of beer, before continuing along the coast. Sadly the town’s time in the spotlight is over as the ‘celebrities’ are heading back to the Australian jungle this year.
Day 22/100: Illusions
It’s always good fun exploring the streets and taking in the history of a city, but sometimes you just need to go and do something silly – and that’s exactly what Edinburgh’s Camera Obscura and World of Illusions allows you to do.
Located on the Royal Mile, it’s apparently Edinburgh’s oldest tourist attraction. What started out as an observatory open to the public in the 1850s, now contains five floors of illusions and entertainment for all ages. Magic mirrors, thermal cameras, and light tricks galore made for an entertaining couple of hours. I remember the Vortex Tunnel being a bit too much for my vertigo though! I’m just relieved that it didn’t turn my stomach as it clearly had done for another visitor.
Of course it was also entertaining watching others interact with the various displays. The Ladder to Australia caused quite a bit of confusion to a group of young women. The accompanying sign read:
“Almost directly opposite Edinburgh on a world map is Australia. To save time we have tunnelled through the earth and connected the two with a ladder.”
After reading it one of the women said “does that really go to Australia?”
(Spoiler: no it doesn’t, it’s an illusion with light and mirrors so there is probably only one real step on the ‘ladder’)
At the top there is a roof terrace where you can look out over the city and up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle. You’ll probably spot a theme with our adventures.
Day 23/100: Alleyways
I love a good alleyway. I also love coloured glass. So during an evening stroll around the town my mum has made home, I was drawn down this street.
As a child, I had a lot of holidays in Normandy, France and have fond memories of those trips. In March, nearly two years later than planned, I was able to take Adam to visit my mum and introduce him to the French countryside and explore a different part of Normandy.
It was a very different type of holiday for us in many ways. We’re used to staying in the heart of a city and the evenings being times to make the most of the local eating and drinking establishments. On this holiday, we spent the days exploring and being tourists – thanks to our fabulous tour guides (aka my mum and step dad) – and the evenings were spent relaxing at their house.
Fortunately they don’t live somewhere quite as rural as our old holiday home, so there was the opportunity for a bit of evening exploration on foot around the little town of Doudeville. It’s difficult to know whether it’s always as quiet as we found it on a weekday evening, or whether it’s the fall out from life in lockdown, but it made quite a change from evenings in a bustling city.
We came across two or three bars on our mooches, but unusually for us we didn’t pop in. Not only are they far brighter and less cosy looking, they would’ve immediately sensed we weren’t local and neither of us speak French well enough to be able to converse. Walking into a small town bar in France would definitely be different to walking into a little village pub in the UK.