David Shillinglaw street art, Krakow

A Tour of Krakow’s Street Art

On my last day in Krakow, I awoke to torrential rain. The weather forecast had been predicting it all week, but it was still disappointing to open my curtains and see the water bouncing off the pavements, streaming down the gutters in mini rivers. I pulled on my very un-waterproof shoes, grabbed my umbrella and headed out towards Kazimierz, accepting that I would be flying home feeling very soggy.

I could have headed for cover – spent the day in a museum or watched the world go by from a cafe. But today was the day of the street art tour I had been looking forward to since I arrived in Krakow, and I wasn’t about to miss it because of a little rain. It’s always seemed odd to me how rarely street art is mentioned in guidebooks – while cathedrals and galleries take pride of place in city break itineraries, this living expression of a city’s culture and identity is always strangely absent. Maybe its transient nature makes it hard to record in books, but it makes it hard to track down and understand without a guide.

Luckily Krakow has a fantastic street art tour run by freewalkingtour.com, which meets by the old Synagogue and takes you on a 2-hour walk around Kazimierz and Podgórze. Our guide Alicija was so informative, and handed out a great Krakow guide that was packed with tips I wish I’d had when I arrived. Here are some of my favourite art pieces from the walk, and the stories behind them. Continue reading

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The Essential Krakow City Break Guide

When I was searching for a city break earlier this year Krakow never even crossed my mind until several friends recommended it to me, but it ticked all my boxes and I fell completely in love. It was cheap, safe, compact enough to walk everywhere, and packed with beautiful sights and cool little cafes that made it a perfect weekend break for me.

I love planning my holidays almost as much as I enjoy doing them, so while I did leave my research a little late, by the time I arrived in Krakow I had several big lists of things to do, see and eat while I was there. This is my ultimate guide to experiencing the best this city has to offer. Continue reading

Casa particular in Vinales, Cuba

Top Tips For Staying in a Casa Particular

Throughout my Cuba trip I stayed exclusively in casa particulars, and I cannot recommend it enough. While hotels are impersonal and relatively expensive for Cuba, casa particulars are basically homestays where you stay with locals and get to benefit from their knowledge and advice. It’s also a great choice for responsible tourism, as your money is going directly to locals instead of large hotel corporations.

While we’re talking money, staying in a casa particular is also cheap! We paid around 30 CUC a night (roughly £20) for a double/twin room with private bathroom and air conditioning, and a generous breakfast is added on for 3-5 CUC per day (£2-4). Included in this price are, in our experience at least, beautiful Cuban homes to stay in and amazing hosts who will go above and beyond to help you with anything you need, and see you off to your next city with a big hug! Continue reading

Statue in Plaza del Carmen, Camaguey, Cuba

3 Ridiculous Stories From Travelling As a Woman in Cuba

I’ve always been fairly lucky as a a female traveller. I’ve rarely encountered hostility or harassment as a result of being a woman with the audacity to travel without a male chaperone, and while women shouldn’t have to feel grateful for being left alone to go about their business…that’s not the world we live in. So I have always appreciated my good fortune.

But in Cuba, things were a little different. For a start, there was the catcalling. This happened to varying degrees depending on which city we were in, but at its worst it seemed that every corner we turned there was a new shout, and we hated feeling forced to look at the ground, to pull our jackets across our chests and make ourselves smaller. But there were also the more subtle things – the men in bars who would not take a hint, the unsolicited advice, the slightly incredulous “So it’s just the two of you?” comments. It wasn’t the majority by a long shot, but more so than anywhere else I’ve been I encountered men (‘not all men!’) who just didn’t seem to want to believe that two adult women could travel around without any help. For the first time in my life, I felt like travelling was a feminist act.

If you’re still not convinced, let me tell you a few little stories about my experience as a woman backpacking in Cuba. Cringes guaranteed. Continue reading

Convent of St Francis of Assisi in Trinidad, Cuba

Two Weeks in Cuba: The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful

Way back in April, I jetted off to Cuba for a two-week adventure around a country that has been on my bucket list for years. With no solid plans in place beyond three nights of accommodation in Havana, one of my best travel buddies and I improvised our way around Cuba with no internet for a whole fortnight, staying in casa particulares arranged by our host in Havana and car sharing between towns in ancient collectivos (if you don’t know what either of those terms mean, check out my know-before-you-go guide to Cuba). Once we’d subtracted flying time we had thirteen full days to see as much as we could – this is how we chose to spend our time.

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Street in Havana, Cuba

The Know-Before-You-Go Guide to Cuba

When I was planning my trip to Cuba, I found that there was an infuriating lack of information available online. While I’m used to being able to find basic information about transport, visas and things to do on official websites, Cuba is annoyingly lacking in these and I ended up piecing together most of what I wanted to know from various blogs that often contradicted each other or were quite obviously out of date.

So I’ve put together my own ‘know before you go’ guide to let you know what I learned while planning my trip, and while living it! Cuba is chaotic and unpredictable and full of surprises, but we found that it was quite easy to get by once you’ve picked up a few key facts. Here are the important things you need to know…

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Street in Ljubljana, Slovenia

City Break Destinations I Fell in Love With

Ever arrived in a city and felt immediately at ease, confident that you’re absolutely in the right place? I hope you have. All famous cities are famous for a reason and have amazing things to do, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and everybody has their own places that they love the most, that fit them perfectly. I’m lucky enough to have found more than one of my ‘soulmate cites’; these are the weekend break destinations that are most special to me. Continue reading