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since 25/11/2001


Wroclaw (Poland) 30/04/2008

Velcome to Vrotswav

Wroclaw (Poland) I've been living in Poland since the start of this year, in a small town about 80 kilometres from Wrocław. I've grown to really like the city and all the people who have visited me there have liked it as well. It's the fourth largest city in Poland but many people have never heard of it. Many British people who go to Poland only spend time in Krakow, but personally I prefer Wrocław as there are fewer tourists, it's cheaper and feels more authentically Polish. By the way, you pronounce it "Vrotswaf"..Polish letters can be fiendishly difficult, even the airline crew often pronounce it wrong. If you're going to be getting taxis, I would recommend writing down the name of where you are going, as it's unlikely the taxi driver will understand you, unless you know the Polish alphabet. * How to get there: The cheapest way to get to Wrocław from the UK is to fly with Ryanair from East Midlands, Stansted or Liverpool airport. If you book at the right time you can get tickets for £10 one way, including tax. You can also travel by coach, but I wouldn't recommend it. Wrocław airport is named after Copernicus and is about 10km from the city centre. A taxi into the city costs about 40-50 zloty (around £10), but the cheapest way is to take the airport bus, number 406, for 2 zloty. * What to see: The Rynek (market square) is beautiful. It is lined with tall houses in many different colours, bars and restaurants with outside seating, and the ...

Dhoula Hostel, Prague 09/11/2007

A bird's eye view across the rooftops of Prague.

Dhoula Hostel, Prague After booking some cheap flights to Prague, I was left with the task of finding some accommodation. As three young women, our main priority was to be in the city centre, close to attractions and night life. We wanted somewhere cheap but not a hostel where we would have to sleep in bunkbeds or share a bathroom, we are past that now! We found the Dlouha apartments on the internet, at I booked it simply by sending an email via the website. The apartments are on the top floor of a block which is made up of the Travellers Hostel, and some private flats. There is a nightclub in the basement (Roxys Music Club) but we didn't hear any noise at all. In fact it was very peaceful. To get to the apartments from the airport, we got into one of the many airport minibuses, got off at Nam Republiky (Republic Square) and it was a 10-minute walk from there. It cost around £3 each, much cheaper than getting a taxi. Our first impression of the accommodation was not great, because you have to check in at the Travellers Hostel desk, which you enter via a slightly grotty passage way, but the staff are friendly and gave us some free maps of the city. To get up to the top floor, there is a lift (thankfully!). It may seem a bit of a faff to be on the top floor, but the views and peace and quiet make up for it. We had a fantastic view over the rooftops of the Old Town. Our apartment was very pleasant. It was made up of ...

Granada (Spain) 08/11/2007

A world away from the Costa Del Sol

Granada (Spain) Many Brits heading for Spain go straight for the well-established tourist spots of Barcelona and further south, the resorts of the Costa Del Sol. But just an hour's drive from the popular resorts of Malaga and Torremolinos, there is a unique city which offers thousands of years of history and a laid-back atmosphere. Granada is a million miles away from the Brit-infested karaoke bars and heaving beaches Spain is often associated with. I visited in October 2006 with few expectations, as I was just passing through for a few days, but found myself falling in love with its unique ambience and fresh air. The city is situated at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains and is one of the most culturally mixed places in Spain. It is also well known for its lively nightlife and is an ideal city for a weekend break with a difference. The highlight of a trip to Granada is undoubtedly a day at the Islamic palace of Alhambra, which looms over the whole city on a hilltop. Tickets, which cost 10 Euros, are limited, so it's best to book beforehand on the internet or over the phone. A visit is worth at least half a day. Visitors are given a time slot in which they have to arrive at the site, but once inside can stay as long as they choose. I went first thing in the morning to miss the crowds and wandered through the magnificent gardens, courtyards and rooms alone, as the sun came up. The old Arab quarter of the city, Albayzin has been designated as a World Heritage ...

Tyrella Hotel, Margate 30/10/2007

The worst hotel in the UK? Possibly.

Tyrella Hotel, Margate Picture the scene. I'm going to the seaside with my sister. I can't wait to get away from the bustling city and relax, breathing in the fresh sea air while eating fish and chips. I imagine a quaint little seaside town with cobbled streets and homely B&B's run by a jolly lady with rosy cheeks. Flowery curtains and a steaming pot of tea to wake me up. Ahhh, bliss. We didn't book anywhere to stay in Margate because we imagined it would be easy to find a room. How wrong and silly we were. Upon arriving in the time warped town of Margate in Kent, a journey which took four hours to go 50 miles, we were tired and hungry. We found ourselves on the Canterbury road, a busy street leading to the seafront and lined with places to stay. We visited several B&B's all of which were full. We were getting rather desperate and faint in the 25 degrees sun, carrying our heavy bags, so walked straight up to the next place with a vacancy sign. This was the private Tyrella hotel, a three storey Georgian white house, 5 minutes from the beach. The basement was an Indian restaurant which looked quite trendy. After ringing the bell several times, we were greeted by an unenthusiastic man with no shoes on who carried a distinctive whiff of curry and sweat about him. Several small children scurried at his feet. He appeared to have a very poor grasp of the English language and the displayed prices mysteriously increased. Any normal person would have major alarm bells ringing by now and would ...

Marhaba Tour Khalef, Sousse 30/10/2007

Hot spot for temptresses hunting Tunisan toy boys

Marhaba Tour Khalef, Sousse (By the way I wasn't on the hunt for a toy boy as I'm only 24!) I've just returned from a cheap all inclusive winter break to Tunisia. My friend and I stayed at the Tour Khalef hotel which is about 2 miles from the centre of Sousse, the third biggest city in Tunisia. The Tour Khalef is part of a complex of three hotels and guests can use facilities at the other hotels such as gym and pools as well. We were all inclusive, which cost £235 for a week, and speaking to other people half board was around £190. The reception area and bar is very grand, it's huge with archways and mosaics on the ceilings. Lots of comfortable seating and a nice place to enjoy a drink. There wasn't much going on in the day though, no music played. There was a big TV screen on which they showed football matches but it was a bit dull in the daytime. There are three floors to the hotel but it is huge and must have hundreds of rooms. We were on the third floor and it was quite a mission to get to our room. Although there were lifts there were quite a lot of stairs around to get to the dining room so it would not be a suitable place for a wheelchair user. The room was large and well equipped, although as it is supposed to be four star, it would be nice to have a hairdryer. To get a remote control for the TV you had to pay a 30 dinar deposit, but we didn't bother as there was only one English channel (BBC world). Maids cleaned the room every day and made the beds. We had a ...

Sarajevo (Bosnia-Herzegovina) 30/10/2007

Welcome back to Sarajevo

Sarajevo (Bosnia-Herzegovina) My announcement that I would be spending my summer in Bosnia met with bemused silences. "But why?", they asked - "Be careful" or "Good for you". My neighbour told me "be sure to take a headscarf with you, it's a Muslim country y'know." So many concerned family members asked me if it was safe, that I began to have doubts. After watching the film "Welcome to Sarajevo" and reading graphic books about the conflict in an attempt at researching this forgotten corner of Europe, I felt even more unsure. My worries were to prove unfounded. The hijab I didn't pack proved to be unnecessary, and ironically, I felt safer in Bosnia than I do at home in Birmingham. I discover a country that is simultaneously familiar and foreign. Glamorous young people frequent the city bars, but one Bosnian girl tells me "we can only afford one coffee, which we chat over for hours." Internet cafes have become common, but connections are snail- slow, and the Cyrillic keyboards confuse me. I find a country recovering from its wounds from the Balkan conflict of the mid nineties. "Yes, there was a war, but we don't want to talk about it all the time, it is the past", one young student tells me. Sarajevo is a beautiful city, surrounded by mountains which played host to the 1984 Winter Olympics. "Come skiing in Sarajevo this winter", tour guide Sunny encourages. "We have world class facilities, you just have to slalom between the landmines." Bosnia has a real need for tourism, to attract ...

General: Bosnia-Herzegovina 30/10/2007

The forgotten corner of Europe

General: Bosnia-Herzegovina The war ended more than 10 years ago, yet there is still a common misconception of Bosnia as some sort of dangerous, dusty, battle zone. So when I applied to be part of a project in Bosnia in the summer of 2004, I had some worries myself. When my departure date came closer, I started to wonder if I was just a little bit crazy to be travelling there alone. Would I have to cover my head in public? Did they hate English people? Was I going to step on a landmine? I was in Bosnia for three weeks and I'm glad to say that the answer to all of those questions was a resounding no. I discovered an incredibly beautiful country, recovering from the scars of war, with lots to offer visitors. Bosnia and Hercegovina is in Eastern Europe, South-East of Italy, bordering Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro. It has a population of approximately 4 million people. The landscape varies from rolling valleys to dramatic mountains and rushing rivers. Bosnia and Hercegovina as it is known today was created in 1995 following the Dayton Peace Agreement. It is divided up into the Federation, and Republika Sprska (RS, the majority Serb part). I spent most of my time in Banja Luka, the capital of RS, but also stayed in Sarajevo and Travnik, as well as some places in the countryside. The aim of the project I was working on was to create an alternative travel guide to Bosnia. This enabled me to meet many local people, talk to them about important issues, to visit many places, and hopefully ...

Dubrovnik (Croatia) 30/10/2007

Glittering Jewel of the Balkans

Dubrovnik (Croatia) My sister and I arrived in Dubrovnik after a 24 hour long ferry trip in the summer of 2004. It wasn't the best introduction we could have had to the historic town. Cobbled streets, sunburned shoulders and heavy luggage don't mix well. Luckily though, the Croatians we came across while searching for our accommodation were welcoming and helpful. We must have heard the phrase "enjoy your stay in Dubrovnik" a hundred times in our short stay. Unsurprising considering that tourism is now the city's foremost form of income. Following the break up of Yugoslavia and the Balkan conflict, people have been flooding back into Dubrovnik to appreciate all it has to offer. Before the war, Croatia was a popular holiday resort, famed for its beautiful coastline and cheap prices. George Bernard Shaw, Prince Charles, and Margaret Thatcher have all holidayed there (but don't let that put you off!) I stayed there for four days with my sister, en route to Bosnia. We took a long route to get there: we flew from Stansted to Trieste in Italy on a cheap flight. We then took a bus to Rijeka in Croatia, where we caught a ferry which took us down the coast all the way to Dubrovnik. If you have the time, are short on money, and want to enjoy the beautiful views the ferry offers you, I would recommend travelling the same way. The flight to Italy was around £25, the bus was around £5 and the ferry was £20 for deck space only. Otherwise, it is possible to fly direct to Dubrovnik airport but ...

Las Vegas 30/10/2007

Why Vegas Sucks

Las Vegas Why is there such hype surrounding Las Vegas? I don't see the attraction myself. Having stayed there in the summer of 2003, I hope to never return. Here's why. Vegas is in its own little bubble. It's a heaven for consumerism, obesity, greed, and tack. First of all, the heat overwhelmed me. It made it impossible to go outside for any longer than a few minutes at a time. The air is thick, heavy with the desert heat. It makes people there very lazy, as the whole system is set up so you don't have to walk far. There is a mini train in Vegas that takes people only around 100 metres. Large fans line the sidewalks to blast passers by with freezing cold air. Sunglasses are an absolute necessity, without them you will be squinting constantly (day and night!) I didn't hate everything about the city. I'll get the positives out of the way first. The best thing about Vegas was the drive there from Los Angeles. It was beautiful and probably one of the best drives I have have been on. The scenery went from mountains to desert. Halfway, we were struck by a storm, which subsided to reveal rainbows over the sand dunes. The sky went through every possible colour and seemed so vast. The other good things about Vegas are the cheap prices, and the food. My first night there, I ate like a princess: dishes I had never tried before, such as crab, monkfish, authentic sushi. The best all you can eat buffet is undoubtably the Bellagio (that's the casino/resort with the dancing ...

Tijuana (Mexico) 30/10/2007

Tequila and table dancing in Tijuana, Mexico

Tijuana (Mexico) I spent the summer of 2003 working in California and during that time, I paid several visits across the border to Tijuana. When I told my work colleagues I was planning a trip, I was greeted with various, mostly negative reactions. "I hope they let you back into the states" "The police are corrupt, they'll arrest you for anything and take bribes". Tijuana is notorious for trouble and has a bad reputation amongst lots of Americans, who will no doubt have a story about "a friend of a friend who was arrested for crossing the street and has never been seen again" but my opinion is that, it is fine to visit as long as you are sensible. * Passport/visa information * Americans do not require a passport to cross the mexican border, but should take id such as a current driving licence. Visitors of other nationalities should take passport and/or visa, and be prepared for questioning at the border control when re-entering the usa. The US authorities are understandably, very security conscious. The border at Tijuana is said to be the busiest in the world, and illegal immigration is a big problem so be prepared for a wait! My experiences at the border was that when entering Mexico there are no controls whatsoever. When leaving Mexico, on one visit, we waited for 2 hours before we went through. At other times, which were very early mornings, we near enough walked through. Immigration are likely to ask if you bought anything, may check your bags, and want to know ...

Israel: General 30/10/2007

Guns, Sea, Sand and Shabbat

Israel: General I spent two weeks in Israel over Christmas and New Year 2004/05. I lost count of the times people thanked me for going there at a time when so many are afraid. There really isn't any need to be afraid. The last suicide bomb attack in Israeli territory was in September, and nearly all cases of violence break out in isolated areas which are easy to avoid as a traveller. A trip to Israel can take in Egypt and Jordan as day trips, although with an Israeli stamp in your passport you will be barred entry from most other Arabic countries. Apparently you can ask immigration officials to not stamp your passport, but I arrived bleary eyed and hungover at 5am and the stamp was dry before I registered that anything had happened. You will more than likely be flying El Al from the UK to Israel. Get to the airport early, be prepared to be questioned, and don't take it personally. El Al are known for being the most security conscious airline in the world, understandably given the current climate. At least you know you will be safe flying with them. Israel boasts incredible history and is home to numerous religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, the secret Druze faith and Ba'haism. It has beautiful Meditteranian beaches, dramatic mountains, and scorched deserts, all within a few hours drive of each other. There is a variety of accommodation available in Israel, from budget hostels, to mid range Kibbitzniks, to top of the range international hotel chains. ...

Journalism 14/05/2006

Rat-like cunning and a little literary ability

Journalism I've been working as a reporter on a weekly newspaper for 3 months now. I have wanted to go into journalism since I was 17. I knew what a competitive industry it is and had quite a detailed action plan to help me get started. While at university I carried out numerous unpaid work experience placement, on magazines, national and local newspapers, websites and even overseas. These proved invaluable in building up contacts and getting my name into print. I saved everything I wrote to keep in my portfolio. I'm quite sure I would not be where I am now without those placements. In my final year of university I looked into the opportunities at getting into journalism. Most people who enter journalism nowadays are graduates, and have done an NCTJ course. There are a few newspaper groups that run their own training course but due to the cost of these, many are being cut back. For instance, Trinity Mirror run a course in Newcastle, but this has not been taking trainees on for some time. I applied for an in house training scheme with Midland News Association (which publishes the Express and Star, Shropshire Star and many weekly newspapers across the Midlands and Shropshire). I didn't expect to be sucessful as it was a tough selection process. After a one hour interview plus tests and a long wait, I found out I had won a place and a 3 year contract with the company. In September last year I began a a 5 month training course which taught the basics of ...

Everything that starts with G ... 26/04/2006

Why I love my scooter

Everything that starts with G ... INCREASING congestion, rising parking charges, soaring petrol prices: it's not a motorists world these days and buses that come once an hour aren't the answer for many. After several expensive and unsuccessful years spent trying to pass my driving test, I was fed up with public transport. Especially since moving to Wolverhampton, where there is only one bus every half an hour to my house. Following a visit to the International Motorcycle and Scooter Show, I was inspired to invest in a scooter. To get going on a scooter or motorbike, you have to take compulsory basic training (CBT) which is a one day instruction course. The course cost £89 which included scooter hire for the day. The certificate lasts for two years and allows you to ride with L plates. Holders of L plates are not allowed on motorways or to carry pillion passengers. It has been one of the most sensible decisions I have ever made. I have a blue peugeot vivacity 100cc Riding a scooter or motorbike works out to be very easy on the pocket. Basic models (50cc) start from around £800 new while second hand vehicles are on offer from a few hundred pounds. Add on a helmet, gloves, and a decent windproof jacket, and the initial cost can be a little pricey. However, the bike will soon pay for itself, thanks to free parking and minimal fuel costs. Motorcyclists enjoy free parking in most towns and cities and many have special parking areas with rails to lock your bike to. Thanks ...

CCUSA (Camp Counselors USA) 07/02/2006


CCUSA (Camp Counselors USA) Last summer was probably the best of my life so far. I spent 3 months in rural Southern California, living on a ranch, riding horses and going to the beach. I was also able to visit New York City, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Tijuana in Mexico. (There was also a bit of hard work involved!) Not bad for a skint student from Birmingham, and an experience I will remember all my life. I travelled to the USA with an organisation called CCUSA which stands for Camp Counselors USA. CCUSA was established 16 years ago and is now a US government supported initiative. It is best described as an agency which sets up young people from all over the world with work and travel opportunities. CCUSA have a website at which gives lots of information about all their programmes. They do programmes not only to the USA, but also to Australia, New Zealand and also Croatia and Russia. If you want to find out more about those programmes, you can check the website and order information packs. The programme I took part in was Camp Counselors USA. There are a number of agencies which place young people in summer camps in the USA, the others being Camp America, probably the best known one, and BUNAC. The reason I chose to apply to CCUSA was firstly, because they pay a better wage than the other two companies, and secondly, a friend went to the USA with them and recommended them. To work on a summer camp in the USA, you have to apply through one of these agencies, as ...

Everything from 0-9 13/03/2005

I'm the woman behind 888

Everything from 0-9 This challenge was created by laura.mclean, so if you have a go at it please leave her a message in her guestbook. 1. Where do you work? I work for ITV Central, a TV station in Birmingham city centre. 2. What is your job title? Subtitler 3. What does your job entail? To edit and upload subtitles for the news into the system. This means that people are able to press 888 on teletext and the words that the newsreader is speaking will appear at the bottom of the screen. This is especially useful for deaf/hard of hearing people, or those who want to watch TV but not make a noise, for example, if someone is asleep in the same room. I have to liase with the newsreaders, the production team and the director, to ensure everything is accurate. I use a system called WinAmps to input the subtitles. I currently just do the news, but am going to be trained to do longer programmes, such as Central Newsweek. 4. How long have you been in your current job? I started a month ago. 5. Are you happy at work? I like this job a lot, as it gives me an insight into how TV news is produced and allows me to meet interesting people. The work is not overly challenging but I do have to use a bit of brain power. I can also have as much tea and coffee as I like, and don't have to wear any particular clothes. I can also watch TV in between doing tasks. Did you ever realise how much make up news readers wear? It's quite shocking, they look a bit like plastic ...
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