Travel

How to use Airbnb

I am a massive fan of Airbnb.  I initially stumbled upon it when I was trying to find a place to stay in Cinque Terre and all of the hotels were either fully booked or exorbitant prices.  Now, whenever I’m going on holiday, one of the first places I look is Airbnb.  I’m going to be staying in another one when I go to Seville in September.  Here are some things you should know about Airbnb before booking (and a link for £25 off your first stay!):

1. It lets you live like a local. I love being able to wake up in a non-touristy area, and wander around local bakeries for breakfast, getting a smile and a ‘good morning’ in the local language,  instead of elbowing my way through a busy street, or eating warm cheese at the hotel breakfast.

2. It’s usually a lot cheaper than staying in a hotel. Sure, you don’t have room service, or reception, or someone to make your bed every day.  But, if you’re not bothered about any of that (and I always feel bad knowing that I haven’t made my bed up to standards, and someone has redone it for me), then this is a good option.  Sometimes, it can be as cheap, if not cheaper, than a hostel, depending on which city you’re staying in.

3. There are a lot of decently priced options close to tourist attractions. If you’re not bothered about staying in a local area, then you could stay near the ‘main attractions’ of the city.  Personally, I haven’t done this.  I prefer the locally areas, or areas that are near public transport.  Maybe in the future, though!

4. I’m a bit of an introvert, so being able to get the keys from the owner, and then not have to interact with anyone when I enter and leave the apartment is really nice. I’m useless at small talk.

5. You can cook your own food. Most of the Airbnb’s have kitchens so, if you’re not in the mood for eating at a restaurant, or you want to heat up some pizza you’ve bought by the slice, then you have this option.

6. You get the option of having an entire place to yourself, or to rent a room in someone’s house. I’ve only ever booked the entire place (again, crap at small talk), but if you’re a bit more extroverted, it might be nice to speak to the owner regularly.

Copyright airbnb.com

7. You have a lot of options. You can choose how many bedrooms you want, if you want wireless internet (always!), if there’s a hairdryer, towels, etc.

8. It’s great for group travellers. Have you ever tried to book more than 4 people into a hotel?  It can cost a fortune.  Airbnb’s are great as you can book an entire house for your group for a really reasonable price.  I stayed in one recently for my friend’s hen do in Aviemore, and there were 11 of us in a lovely little house – with a hot tub!  And it only cost around £100 altogether per person for the 3 nights we were there.

Copyright airbnb.com

9. If you apply for an apartment that is not an instant book, the owner has the option of rejecting you. This happened to me when I was going to Verona.  I applied for 3 different Airbnb’s and not one accepted (it probably had something to do with the fact that I was only staying for one night).  Eventually, I booked a hotel (it was really lovely, but a bit more expensive than I was looking for).  Luckily, you have the option of choosing apartments that have the ‘instant book’ option.  This cuts out the worry of the owner saying no.

10. Check the reviews. Sometimes, I’ll read a story about someone being scammed on Airbnb, so I always check to make sure the place I’m interested in has reviews, and that they’re decent.  I know that new hosts won’t have many (if any reviews), but you can usually tell who’s genuine and who’s not.

11. This is probably the most important one – ALWAYS conduct your transactions through Airbnb. If a host asks you to do a bank transfer, this is most likely a scam, and you will not be protected through Airbnb, so always, ALWAYS make sure to go through Airbnb.  Also, if a host tries this on you, report them to Airbnb and they will deal with it.

For those of you interested in staying in an Airbnb, if you sign up using this link, you’ll get £25 off of your first stay!  How amazing is that?!

Things to do in Funchal, Madeira

You’ve probably noticed that the title of this post is ‘Things to do in Funchal, Madeira’, as opposed to ’10/15/etc Things to do in Funchal, Madeira’.  This is because, as I mentioned in my last post, I live here now, and so this list will probably be regularly updated as I find more and more things to do.

1. Cathedral

This cathedral is so cute and small and really opulent inside.  Definitely worth a look.

2. CR7 hotel and museum

This is for those of you who like football.  Since Cristiano Ronaldo was born in Madeira, he has his own hotel named after him.  Shake hands with the statue of Ronaldo outside that looks nothing like him – imagination goes a long way!

3. Cable car to Monte

This is a really nice ride above Funchal.  It takes around 15 minutes, so plenty of opportunity to take photos!

4. Tropical Gardens

If there’s one garden that you see in Madeira, make it the tropical gardens.  They’re consistently named as some of the most beautiful gardens in the world and they’re stunning.  My particular favourite (which has nothing to do with plants) is the geode room.  I’ve never seen so many in one place before – or ones that are so big!

5. Toboggan

Imagine a sledge but without the snow.  That’s pretty much what this is – but so much faster.  You go down 2 km in around 5 minutes.  I loved it, it was so much fun! (The one in the picture looks pretty battered – the ones you go down in are much better condition!)

6. Casino

As well as being a casino (obviously), you can have dinner with a show here.  The singers have incredible voices!

7. Presidential Gardens

Only 1 euro and when I visited, there were parrots!  (I don’t know if the parrots are always there or not…)

8. Santa Maria Street

The street of painted doors.  I have spent many a night wandering around the bars here 😉

9. Municipal Gardens

Slap-bang in the middle of town, these gardens are a nice place to go to relax and pretend you’re not in the middle of a city.

10. Santa Catarina Park

My favourite park (after the tropical gardens).  I love just sitting and looking down at the marina, or at the pond, where there are usually lots of swans!

Moving to Madeira

So, I’ve been AWOL for a bit.  But I have the best excuse!  I’ve just started working as a holiday rep with TUI and I now live in Madeira!  I just got here on Monday, but I love it so far.  You guys can expect lots of posts about Madeira in the future, but, to tide you over just now, I’m going to post these lovely photos  🙂

Disneyland Paris

You guys.  You have no idea how excited I get at anything to do with Disney.  If there’s a bunch of films on TV and one of them is Disney, then it’s on.  I have so many Disney teddies (and I just bought a couple more at Disneyland).  I think I took around 400-odd photos on this trip to Disneyland, but I’m only going to share a couple dozen, or so (otherwise, we’ll be here all day!)


I need to show a close-up of this guy’s face.  It’s amazing:


“Ha!  Peasants.”

17 Things to do in Paris

I visited Paris for the first time almost 9 years ago, and completely fell in love (not as much as I am with Venice, but still a lot).  So this year, I finally got the chance to go back!  Here’s a list of my Top 17 things to do in Paris 🙂

1. Palace of Versailles

I have wanted to visit the Palace of Versailles for so long now.  I finally got the chance to see it and it is so much more impressive than I thought it would be – the gardens even have their own bus service, they’re so huge!  I’m going to have a whole post dedicated to it, as I have so many photos to share.

2. Disneyland Paris

I love Disney so much.  Disneyland is always great (even though I’ve only visited Disneyworld once – and it was ten years ago – and visited Disneyland Paris once before – and that was nine years ago!).  Like Versailles, I have so many photos that I am going to have a post dedicated to Disneyland.  But I will say, the new floats for their 25th anniversary are amazing!

3. Shakespeare and Company

Admittedly, not as impressive as the Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice (and I didn’t see any cats!), but Shakespeare and Company is still very cute.  I’m a huge bookworm, so anywhere with books makes me happy.

4. Notre Dame

Notre Dame is gorgeous.  Definitely see the back of it – it’s so much more impressive than the front.

5. Galeries Lafayette ceiling, and the view from the roof

The ceiling in this place is gorgeous – so much better than the ones in Aberdeen’s department stores.  And the view from the roof is incredible – and free!

6. Sacre-Coeur

The view from the church is so worth all the stairs and hills that you’ll climb to get to it.  Be aware of men trying to put string on your wrists – this happened to my friend and I so many times!  They were really charming, but as soon as they realised we weren’t interested, they turned really aggresive.  Just be firm with them!

7. Eiffel Tower

Be there for 9pm – it sparkles!  But only for 5 minutes, then you have to wait another hour…

8. Defender of Time

This clock is amazing.  It wasn’t working when I saw it – or maybe it was, but it was showing the wrong time?

9. The Louvre

A trip to Paris is not complete without a trip to the Louvre.  It’s home to my favourite statue – the Winged Victory of Samothrace (picture above 🙂 )

10. Musee D’Orsay

If you are a huge fan of Van Gogh (like me!), then this is a must – plus the inside is so pretty!

11. Palais Royal

I’m not really sure what the inside is like, as I haven’t seen it.  But the outside is really pretty.  (And, totally unrelated, my friend and I saw this old man acting strangely and dipping a huge stick into the fountain.  Then, fully dressed in a suit, he climbed into the fountain, sat down, and peed!  We didn’t know what to do.  It was very strange…)

12. Arc de Triomphe

This is a nice easy climb (I say that, but it’s still a couple hundred stairs or so), and it has a nice view (although, I’d still recommend Galeries Lafayette because it’s free, and is nowhere near as busy).

13. Sainte-Chapelle

As you can probably tell from the abundance of photos. the Sainte-Chapelle was definitely a highlight of mine.  I love stained glass windows, so I was in heaven.

14. The Conciergerie

I’ve always found prisons fascinating, and this is the one where Marie Antoinette was held, so I would definitely recommend.

15. St Etienne du Mont

This church is adorable and so worth a look.

16. The Catacombs

(Sorry the photo is blurry, I couldn’t really get my camera to focus, as it was really dark).  I have a morbid fascination with anything to do with skeletons.  I think this was one of my favourite things to do in Paris.  The walk through the tunnels to the Catacombs was creepier than the actual Catacombs, as there was no one but my friend and me, and it was so quiet.  Once we reached the skeletons, we found more people, so it was a bit less creepy.  Over 6 million people are buried (or, rather, stacked) down here!

17. Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Get here before 5pm, as it closes at 6pm!!  My friend and I made the mistake of showing up aroudn 5.40 and we had to leave before we got a chance to see anyone famous – it gives me an excuse to go back to Paris, so that I can see the graves of Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf and Chopin (not that I need an excuse to go back to Paris!)