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One of my favourite things about living in Europe is being able to travel to a new country within a one hours plane ride of London. So this weekend -after a stressful week working on tons of projects - I hopped on a plane from London Stanstead to travel to Santander in the Cantabria region of North Spain, and here's why I think you should consider Cantabria as your next weekend break!

Where is Cantabria?

Cantabria is a historic Spanish community with Santander as its capital city. It is bordered on the east by the Basque Country, and on the north by the Cantabrian Sea. Cantabria belongs to Green Spain, the name given to the strip of land between the Bay of Biscay and the Cantabrian Mountains, so called because of its particularly lush vegetation, due to the wet and moderate oceanic climate. 

 

It is around a one hour flight from Barcelona, but also only a one hour and 30 minute flight from London Stansted. 

Things to do and see in Cantabria

It truly is surprising how much you can do in Cantabria in just one weekend, here are some of the things I loved doing the most (yes, in just 48 hours).

 

- MOUNTAINS, more precisely the European Peaks (Picos de Europa) located a few hours from Santander. Here you will see some of the most stunning scenery anywhere in Spain and your lungs will thank you for all the fresh air they give you. Take the cable car up and then take a walk along the peaks - if you're feeling adventurous there are tons of walks and hiking routes you can take, but if you are short on time you can just walk around the top, stop for a coffee and then come back down. To find out the best hiking trails in Pico de Europa check out this article here.

 

- Town hopping, although that may not be an official term, one of the best things to do in Cantabria is to hire a car and drive through all the cute towns the region has to offer. We stumbled across awesome markets and great views doing this. My favourite small town was La Hermida which is also home to one of Spains most famous spa hotels 

 

- Santander, yes, the name of the bank, and (of course) where the founders of the bank are from. A booming town full of culture, fashion and food, you could spend your whole weekend just getting lost in the small streets and tapas bars here, so do that! There are also many tourist attractions to visit in Santander such as Museo de Bellas Artes the art gallery and also Museo de Altamira a museum celebrates all aspects of the Cave of Altamira.

 

- Caves are famous in Santander due to their interesting artefacts and paintings found inside, some up to 46,000 years old. While many of them are closed to the public now you can still enter El Castillo a Unesco World Heritage–listed cave and perhaps the most interesting cave in the region.

Food in Cantabria
Locally made cheese, olives and Spanish wine!

Like many regions in Spain Cantabria has its own unique cusines alongside it's countries classics. Food and drink is a big part of the Spanish culture and must be embraced when you are visiting. I have to be honest - as a vegetarian who also doesn't eat fish I did feel like I was missing out a bit on some meals. A large part of the Cantabria cuisine is meat and fish based, and while it looked delicious I'm not into eating animals and still managed to eat some delicious veggie dished.

 

Pintxos - like tapas - is huge in Santander and people flood into the streets at night to enjoy little bites of seafood and meaty snacks as well as wine and beer. Some of the best places to go and eat are:

 

CAÑADΊO

Overlooking the atmospheric plaza of the same name, Cañadίo is a classy restaurant, lively tapas eatery and bar in one. 

 

BODEGA DEL RIOJANO 

A very traditional bar with old wooden beams and exposed brick work filled with traditional wine barrels and legs of ham hanging from the bar. 

Where to stay in Cantabria

The best place to stay if you are only visiting for a weekend is in Santander itself so you have everything you need around you. I stayed at Hotel Chiqui right on the beach looking over beautiful Santander, but you can take a search below to see which hotel fits your budget.

How to get to Cantabria

You can get to Santander from UK 2 ways

 

Direct flights from Stansted to Santander with Ryan Air every day

Ferry to Santander from Portsmouth or Plymouth 4 times a week.

Check out my full 48 hours in Cantabria in this video below

Thanks to Cantabria tourism board for hosting this trip and Traverse for organising it! 

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Lots have people have asked me about hiring a car in Mexico after seeing my Instagram stories of my solo road trip in Yucatan, so I figured I'd write a post on it for other solo female travellers looking to hire a car in Mexico and the things you need to watch out for. Please note this information is only valid for the Yucatan region, I'm not sure if things are different in different parts of Mexico. 

Is it safe to drive in Mexico?

It's funny, because I never even considered it wouldn't be until so many people asked me if it was safe. I guess some people had heard stories I hadn't, but either way, I was completely safe driving in Mexico - and I drove down some pretty notorious routes alone. But then again, I am used to the solo travel life now, and know when to keep my wits about me.

Is it easy to drive in Mexico?
enjoying life in Tulum

Yucatan is super easy to drive in, especially around Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Mahahual and Xcalack. It is seriously all just one straight road with hardly any traffic. You'll never get stuck in a traffic jam on this side of Mexico. I never came across any hard roads to drive. Make sure you have Google maps on at all time and screen shot any routes you think you will lose signal on. 

Do you need to hire a car in Mexico?

To be honest, yes. It is a lot easier to get around with a car and gives you the freedom to go where you please. It's easy and cheap, so really why not. Before I hired a car I couldn't see what an advantage it would be, but as soon as I did it really improved my travel experience. For example a lot of the cenotes in Tulum are far a part and having a car allows you to go to the ones that the busses don't. There are also some destinations busses and collectives don't go to. And if you want to get of the tourist traps and off the beaten path, cars are really the only way to go.

How much should a rental car cost in Mexico?

You will see prices online for as low as $5 a day for rental cars. THIS IS NOT THE RIGHT PRICE. That doesn't include insurance which they will hit you hard for when you go and pick up your car. Car insurance is compulsory in Mexico and they WON'T accept your insurance you have from your own country. You have to take there's. So look for prices which include insurance. I rented a car in Tulum for $25 (550 pesos) a day, and an average/normal price is anywhere up to $40 a day.

Where should I rent a car from in Mexico?

It doesn't really matter where you rent a car as long as you rent one with insurance, never be tempted by the ridiculously cheap rentals, you'll get burnt on extra insurance. I rented my car from Tulum - there are tons of car rental places all offering around the same price, if you can rent a car when you are actually in your destination you'll be able to haggle the price. Remember, 600 pesos is a normal/good price per day, you shouldn't have to pay more than that for a basic car. 700 for a bigger car.

 

If you want to book online before you go book through these companies

 

lastminute.com

Things to remember when renting a car in Mexico
I ran out of gas... in the middle of Mexico
  • You have to take their insurance, so rent a car where the price includes insurance
  • Make sure you fill up a full tank of gas before you go anywhere. Some roads don't have many gas stations, especially the road from Tulum to Xcalak/Mahahual (3 hours to the next gas station)
  • When filling up gas make sure you watch the amount of $ on the screen going to the amount you asked for. Some gas station workers have been known to scam tourists by not putting the full amount in. Make sure you also check the amount you are handing over and the change they give you.
  • Mexicans drive how they want - stay alert. The rules are whatever they make up on the day
Have fun on your Mexican road trips!
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Pictured: Regi Domingo, ocean activist and conservationist

You need to be a better human, I need to be a better human, we all need to be better human. And it's not an option anymore. We are killing our world, our oceans, and everything inside it.

 

You don't need to read this article, but you need to be a better fucking human - so read this article. Because if not you, then who?

Stop using plastic. Now

Plastic; made from fossil fuels with a huge carbon footprint, a material that will still be here in hundreds of years. Something that so many talk about being 'recycled' yet it has been PROVEN only a tiny percent of it actually is. Leaches toxins into food and drinks, causes hormone disruptions and cancers. Pollutes our oceans, kills the marine life and birds. Enters our food chain and goes into our bodies.

 

So why exactly are we still using plastic? Give a shit about the world? Join A Waste Free World to find ways of living without plastic.

We asked nicely ;) #awastefreeworld

A post shared by A Waste Free World (@awastefreeworld) on May 15, 2018 at 2:15pm PDT

Stop eating meat and fish to excess

Excessive meat-eating is partly responsible for an epidemic of obesity — now one of the most costly social burdens. Over-consumption of red and processed meat is contributing to the rise in diseases such as heart disease, type-2 diabetes and certain cancers.

 

What’s more, this pattern of excess is a key driver of environmental damage and a serious drain on water and land. The livestock sector accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, roughly the same share as every car, truck, plane, train and ship put together

 

I'm not saying you should totally give up meat and fish, just be conscience of how much of it you are eating and where it actually comes from. Is the fish you are eating sustainable?

 

Finding it hard to give up or cut down? Seek inspiration in Paul McCartney "Meat-free Mondays" or check out this TEDtalk about being a weekday vegetarian.

Stop smoking. For the ocean
Picture by Surfrider Foundation
Get scuba dive certifed

I truly believe to realise the scale of the problem you need to see it with your own eyes. One of the most beautiful things you can ever learn to do is to learn to scuba dive and to experience the ocean yourself. Being face-to-face with fish, from big to small, young to old, endangered to, well.. even more endangered, will open your heart and allow you to recognise what the oceans would be like if we keep mistreating them. The first time you see plastic in the ocean, the first time you see fishing nets, the first time you see a shark without its fin left to die, will be the last time you don't do anything about it. Lose your heart to the ocean and commit to making a change.

Look after animals, they can't speak for themselves
Speak out

Be angry, ask for help, tell others you are confused. Don't ignore the problem. Use your voice to make a change because you CAN make a change.

 

Start a petition

Start a social media page to encourage change

Talk to goverments

Attend confrences

Listen to TEDtalks. Share them

 

However it is you do it. SPEAK. 

 

Be nice to people. Tell them they are awesome

Because since when did we become so un-empathetic? Why are telling people our feelings so damn hard? If you think someone is awesome TELL THEM, what will happen to them if you TELL THEM? As humans, we need confirmation, affirmation. We need to know we are doing something good. If you aren't telling someone they are awesome - and they are - then who IS telling them? What if no one is telling them. Tell that person you've always thought is awesome that they are. Tell your inspiration that they are truly that. 

 

Be nice to people, everyone is fighting their own battles. Give people more time, allow yourself to see the best in them.

 

Don't shame others for not being perfect, congratulate them for trying their best. You never know who might be the next person to change the world - and maybe they just need your words of encouragement to spark the change.

BELIEVE

"Those who don't believe in magic will never find it"

 

We CAN change the world, we WILL change the world. We just need to be better, we need to work together, we need to believe it's not too late.

* sorry for swearing, but it got your attention didn't it

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Living the dream and flying high with Thai Airways

It's not every day you get to fly business class to Bali so I couldn't help but share my experience with you all in a review! Thai Airways fly direct from London to Bangkok with its state of the art Airbus A380-800, departing lunchtime from London and overnight from Bangkok and I got to fly "Royal silk class" both ways! This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, and something I'd never done before, and I was quite simply blown away at how incredible it felt to fly like this!

Priority check in

If you're anything like me you get to the airport as late as possible to avoid any extra travel hours, and being able to checkin without a que certainly made all the difference. No que equals more time for coffee after checkin!

Lounge Access 

While Thai Airways don't have a lounge at London Heathrow we got to relax and use the amenities of the lounge between our flight from Bangkok to Bali. Being able to wind-down in a lounge between flights really makes all the difference - I've spent many a layover sitting in uncomfortable chairs or no chairs at all. While you are in the lounge you can snack on local and international foods, have some drinks, use the WiFi or watch T.V. Layovers fly by in Thai Airways lounges!

Photo by travelupdate.boardingarea.com

Royal Silk Class

From the moment you step onboard you are treated like royalty. The Airbus A380-800 has 60 Royal Silk Class seats, however they are so spacious you barely notice anyone around you. Handed a glass of fresh juice or champagne you are in luxury comfort straight away and the reclining chair is your lounge, office and bed all in one - all above the clouds.

THAI's Airbus A380s and newly modelled Boeing 777s and 787s, chairs can transform to 180-degree fully flat beds - unlike many other airlines business class. With a fully flat bed there is no difference between being in your own or being onboard - I slept so well, I woke up so surprised I was still on the flight and not in my hotel bed.

Lunch starter on board Thai Airways Business class to Bangkok

As soon as we sat down we got presented with a menu and choices of lunch. I chose the veggie option which wasn't far off like having dinner in a restaurant. A restaurant in the sky! Once I'd finished my lunch I was almost immediately asleep in my comfy chair and the hours whizzed away. In my hours awake I watched some of the 1,000 hours of movies available and drank champagne! My 11 1/2 hour flight went so fast and I wasn't even ready to leave once we'd landed in Bangkok, so lucky for us we still had another flight in business class to Bali!

Should you fly Thai Airways Royal Silk?

OF COURSE! I found the whole experience simply incredible; like a hotel in the sky! Flying can be tough - especially long-haul flights so having the luxury of business class can really make your trip a whole different experience. I will most certainly be flying Royal Silk with Thai Airways again - see you there?

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