Friday, January 23, 2015

A list of the many, many, many places I want to go to in Colombia

I have may have said it before but Colombia has a bit of everything: sun, sea, desert, jungle, mountains, you name it, Colombia has just about everything.

Valle de Cocora and Cartagena Old Town, Colombia | Todd's Travels Travel Blog
Guatapé and La Guajira, Colombia | Todd's Travels Travel Blog

Last time round, I didn't do a huge amount of exploring, although what I did see was incredible: the statuesque wax palm trees and lush greenery that went on and on and on at Valle de Cocora, whiled hours away wandering around Cartagena, travelled to the end of the world, or at least ventured to South America's northern-most point La Guajira and marvelled at the view from the top in Guatapé.

And this time round, I have no concrete travel plans but I have a few ideas about the places I could go to, this time around.

Well I say a few, it's a pretty ambitious, long list of all the places I want to go to in Colombia.

I have 6 months, I most definitely won't have time to see everything but as one of my new year's resolution was to go to three new destinations in Colombia, I should hopefully succeed in achieving at least one of my resolutions (for once).

So, where's on my must-do list in Colombia?


Chocó Pacific Coast, Colombia | Todd's Travels Travel Blog
Image via Matthew Fuentes

Chocó had never been on my radar until one of my friends told me about his trip there and the fact he got to see humpback whales.

Ever since then, I have seen more and more about Chocó and I just know I have to go.

Bahía Solano features on many a 10 places you must go to in Colombia and its beaches aren't the only reason to visit Chocó, there are nature spotting opportunities aplenty too.

It seems like a mini Costa Rica, with a whole lot Colombia thrown in to boot.

San Agustín

San Agustín Archeological Park, Colombia | Todd's Travels Travel Blog
Image via Marco Carvajal

I've seen and heard a lot about these imposing pre-Columbian statues and as Colombia's biggest archealogical site, it's surprising I haven't made it to San Agustín before.

Despite the amount of time I've spent in Colombia, I know little about its actual history so I can use the guise of an 'educational' trip as an excuse to go.


Bogotá Street Art | Todd's Travels Travel Blog
Image via Guache 

I have been to Bogotá before but always in transit. In total, I've spent a whole afternoon right at the end of my stay last time when I had a massive bowl of ajiaco and hot chocolate with cheese.

Surprise, surprise, I ate myself into a food coma and returned home to have a massive nap.

Because I've spent most of my time in Medellín, my opinion previously has been swayed by my lovely albeit slightly biased paisa friends so it's probably about time I gave Bogotá a chance - although the British-style weather does not help to change my opinion.

But I think Bogotá needs time to fully appreciate it.

It has amazing street art, raucous night life and if the mood takes me, there's a whole lot of culture to make myself feel clever and be able to answer a University Challenge question or two as well.

To be honest, I don't know why I haven't given Bogotá a chance before.

El Cocuy

El Cocuy National Park, Colombia | Todd's Travels Travel Blog

Slap bang in the middle of the Sierra Nevada, El Cocuy is one hell of a place to explore. 

It look like it requires a bit of effort and perseverance to get there ie. plenty of moaning and complaining on my behalf, but to be awfully clichéd, the view from the top would be worth it.


Image via Pedro Szekely

Out of all of the pueblos in Antioquia I have yet to explore (of which there are many) for some reason Jardín stands out.

I don't know why exactly but the above photo of lush green scenery must play into it and I'm told the town is beautiful, so it'd be the perfect reprieve from the hustle and bustle in Medellín.


Santander, Colombia | Todd's Travels Travel Blog
Image via Sergio Fabara Muñoz

More lush green scenery can be found in Santander, as well as Colombia's reportedly most beautiful pueblo, Barichara. But the real reason I want to go to Santander is San Gil, the adventure sport's capital.

There you can do white water rafting, paragliding, caving, rapelling and trekking. It sounds right up my street.


Providencia, Colombia | Todd's Travels Travel Blog
Image via lcrf

Give me white sand and clear blue sea any day. Providencia is San Andés' younger and shyer little brother.

And whilst the Mar de los Siete Colores sounds amazing, San Andrés seems to have more of a honeymoon vibe. Providencia, on the other hand, seems to be a bit less newly-wed bliss and a bit more all-encompassing.

I mean how could you go wrong with unspoilt beaches and crystal-clear sea? I suppose a cheeky cold beer wouldn't be bad either.

I had better stop there before I add even more Colombian destinations to my list.

I already have enough destination inspiration to last me a good few trips.

Where would you like to go in Colombia? Are there any destinations, outside of Colombia, you want to go to?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

How to Deal with Pre-Departure Jitters

About to go off travelling? Nervous? How about these tips to keep the pre-departure nerves at bay.

You'd think preparing to go away would get easier with experience. That those sneaky pre-departure jitters would be a thing of the past.

That I would just nonchalantly say, "What, I'm just casually jetting off to Colombia for 6 months, that's all." *said in painfully pretentious Gap Yah-esque voice*

But time and time again, the anxiety and anticipation gets too much.

Even though I'm going back to Colombia (I'M GOING BACK TO COLOMBIA) and I'm going back to Medellín, both places I am very, very familiar with, have friends there and know what the deal is.

It is still exactly the same routine.

I lose sleep.

I become an uber bitch.

And when I'm normally able to keep cool(ish) as a cucumber, I'm a big, massive neurotic mess before I'm about to jet off somewhere new.

I can't exactly stop the nerves - that's completely natural and to be honest, if I was completely blasé about going off to the opposite side of the world, that would be a little bit weird.

But stressing out and losing my cool, on the other hand, is not making pre-departure prep any easier and whilst I'm still no expert on staying calm whilst preparing to go abroad, I've learned doing certain things help me keep my cool before I jet off to pastures new.

So here are my tips to get rid of pre-departure nerves:

Keep Busy

This is quite an easy one to do seeing as there will be plenty of things to do and sort out before you go away. No doubt, you will be busy at work, trying to make as much last minute pennies as possible, have plenty of social engagements and be making the most of your precious time left with your lovely family and friends.

Have a plan for your first few days away

It's the anticipation, the fear of the unknown that is so nerve-wracking before you go, so sort out a plan before you go for the first few days: have an idea of what immigration and customs is like, sort out your airport transfer, arrange accommodation (hell, maybe even treat yourself for the first night you get there) and if you already have some friends or acquaintances, make contact and see if you can meet up. You can't control everything but at least having an idea of what you've got for the first few plans will put your mind more at ease.

Make a to-do list of all the things you want to do before you go

Make plans with your friends, take your granny out for the day, go to that place you've always been meaning to go to and make sure you do it. You're obviously excited about your foreign adventures that are just around the corner, but making the most of your time at home, whilst they won't make the goodbyes any easier, will make your time at home all the more enjoyable as well as taking your mind off your travel anxiety.

Keep moving, moving

Exercise, for me, is the number one stress buster. Whether it's a massive long run, a leisurely swim or walk or even a cheeky bit of yoga, I find all the lovely feel-good endorphins do wonders to controlling my mood swings. I really try to keep as active as possible as when I haven't exercised in a while, to say I'm a mardy so-and-so is a bit of an understatement.

Don't bottle it up

Keeping your worry and angst bottled up inside is going to do you no favours, so as clichéd as it sounds, talk about it or at least write it down. It is completely natural to feel this way and before you go, the last thing you want to do is self-implode before you set off travelling.

Get ready, get set, GO!

Do not, I repeat, do not leave all of your preparation to the last minute. Leave yourself plenty of time to make sure you've got all the necessary vaccinations, anti-malarials, sort out your travel insurance, print off and get hold of official documents, check your passport has not expired, check if you need any visas and the worst thing of all: packing. Do it slowly but surely and fingers crossed, you won't have any last-minute dramas thanks to your (read:my) diabolical disorganisation.

Being nervous before you go off galavanting around the world is pretty much inevitable but you can make the last few precious days before you all the more easier by using a bit of foresight,organisation and keeping yourself occupied.

All that is left to say is good luck, safe travels and enjoy!

How do you get rid of your travel nerves? Do you have any advice yourself?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Parisian Street Art: All in the Detail

Parisian Street Art: All in the Detail. Todd's Travels Travel Blog - A little bit out of the ordinary.

I originally had plans to publish this post on Friday and throughout this weekend I've ummed and ahhed about posting this blog, following the recent tragic events.

But watching the marches yesterdays, Paris is defiant. Whilst what happened last week is never going to be forgotten and we will be picking up the pieces of what happened for years to come, Parisians (and the world), for now, have united, regardless of their differences, to condemn the attacks and protect freedom of speech.

Paris nor Parisians have never been ones to cower in the corner.

And neither has its street art.

Street art serves as the ultimate social commentary: hard-hitting, brutally honest with a dash of humour to boot.

Paris Street Art Mural near Centre Pompidou

Paris does it pretty well and whilst its murals like the above are stunning, I think where Paris really comes into play, are the little, blink-and-you-miss-it pieces.

Invader Space Invader Street Art Paris
Invader work Street Art Paris

Like that of probably one of France's most famous street artists: Invader. He found his fame putting up mosaics of those cheeky little critters - Space Invaders. He has since went on to install mosaics in 60 cities in 30 countries and has turned his hand to doing mosaics of Star Wars, Pac-man, Spiderman and Pink Panther among others.

Parisian Street Art in Le Marais
Paris Street Art on Rue Mouffetard, 6th arrondissement
Just Do Art Le Marais Paris Street Art
L'amour est mort street art in Le Marais, Paris
"Love is dead" "Except with a condom"

You may discover street art when you drop something on the ground, you may spot street art when you find yourself lost for the umpteenth time and you may see street art if you only remember to look up (motivation to detach yourself from your phone).

That's the beauty of Paris' street art.

Mannequin street art on Rue Mouffetard, 6th arrondissement, Paris
"Souriez vous êtes filmés" street art in Le Marais, Paris
"Smile, you're on camera."
Miss Tic "Les Actes Gratuits, ont-ils un prix?" street on Rue Mouffetard, 6th Arrondissement, Paris
"Free acts, do they come at a price?" by Miss Tic
"Reconnaissons le féminicide" Street Art in Paris
"Let's acknowledge femicide"

They are everywhere, and these pieces are merely a small selection of the many hidden treasures you could come across.

You only have to look up, or look down, or just have a quick glance sideways to discover it.

Which is your favourite Parisian street art piece?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Playing Tourist in Paris

Playing Tourist in Paris | Todd's Travels Travel Blog

Shock, horror, I am finally doing a post to do with some actual travelling.

And it's a cracker.

After almost two years away, I finally made a cheeky return to Paris in December.

And it was so, so, so good to be back.

I've always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Paris.

But as the train pulled into Gare du Nord, the anticipation and excitement was almost too much to bear and all the memories came flooding back.

Some of them I'd much rather forget - being started on by a toothless hobo on the metro traumatically comes to mind - but most of them reminded me of much of an incredible, brilliant and yes, I'm going there, life-changing experience interning in Paris was.

I mean I got the chance to intern in Paris for 6 months and a lot of it was funded by the EU, my student loan, my overdraft. You really count your blessings when you realise that you don't get that opportunity every day.

But I can save this whole spiel for another day.

I returned to Paris to be greeted with typically grim and grey weather. I wasn't getting my hopes up and I was expecting more of the same for the duration of my stay.

But I completely underestimated Paris (or to be more exact, the meteorological conditions that happened to coincide with my stay) and on the Saturday, we woke up to the winter day of all winter days:

Crisp cold, glorious sunshine and clear blue skies.

Paris, you've outdone yourself.

It was perfect weather to play tourist for the day and explore Paris for the day.

And rather luckily as my lovely friend Emma was able to put me up for the weekend, we were rather conveniently on Rue Mouffetard (one of my favourite Paris streets ever) so the places we wanted to go to were within half a hour's walking distance.

That's the way I roll.

We got some much needed energy in the form of a pain au chocolat aux amandes (the heavenly combination of an almond croissant and a pain au chocolat) and we set off.
Pain au chocolat aux amandes, Paris | Todd's Travels Travel Blog

A wander along the Seine was the first stop.
River Seine, Paris | Todd's Travels Travel Blog
Side profile Notre Dame, Paris | Todd's Travels Travel Blog
Notre Dame Cathedral from below, Paris | Todd's Travels Travel Blog

Then we headed to the Louvre. Shockingly, I've never been inside it but I think the Louvre from the outside is just as impressive.

The Louvre, Paris | Todd's Travels Travel Blog
The Louvre, Paris, France | Todd's Travels Travel Blog
Louvre Pyramid, Paris | Todd's Travels Travel Blog

A cheeky wander around the Tuileries conveniently was next on the list. Because of the lovely weather, it almost felt summery with the crowds and blazing sun.

Tuileries, Paris | Todd's Travels Travel Blog
Tuileries Statue, Paris | Todd's Travels Travel Blog
Tuileries Big Wheel, Paris | Todd's Travels Travel Blog

And to round off the day, we decided to get in the Christmas spirit by heading to Printemps and Galeries Lafayette before going to the Champs-Elysées Christmas market. The Printemps window displays had some sinister mannequins which looked a bit like Punch and Judy puppets but just look at the Galeries Lafayette upside down Christmas tree.

Galeries Lafayette Upside Down Christmas Tree, Paris | Todd's Travels Travel Blog

And whilst we're on the subject of Printemps, forget the Eiffel Tower, come here for one of the best views of Paris. Panoramic 360 views with all the sights: the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, Opéra you name it and here's the best bit, it's free.

View of Opéra and Paris from Printemps Terrasse | Todd's Travels Travel Blog
View of Sacre Coeur and Paris | Todd's Travels Travel Blog
View of Eiffel Tower and Paris | Todd's Travels Travel Blog

The next day sadly the weather returned to the usual grim grey Parisian hue but the one day in the sun managed to make me reconsider my stance on Paris.

Yes, it is expensive, yes, it takes a while to crack its icy exterior and yes, it is not exactly a city known for having the warmest welcome.

But, when it comes to cities and when it comes to character and personality, you've got to hand it to Paris. It's certainly a city that leaves its mark.

Maybe I should give Paris a second chance.

Have you been to all the sights in Paris? Where is your favourite spot in Paris?

Friday, January 2, 2015

2015 New Year's Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions 2015 | Todd's Travels Travel Blog
Image modified via Derek Key

Happy New Year 2015!

And it was a corker.

But now it's time for a new year, a new start and of course a new year, new me/you/the whole self-improvement shebang.

I love the beginning of the year and strangely, I love January. I may be a dreamer but I love the fact that this year could be the year I finally sort out my finances, tone up, be a generally kinder, better person, learn SEO, progress umpteen amounts in my career and it could also be the year I SORT OUT MY ORGANISATION SKILLS.

And whilst I am a major culprit of setting the bar way too high, every year without fail I set myself New Year's Resolutions - apart from one year when I set myself the resolution of not setting myself a resolution (so edgy).

So what do I plan to do in 2015?

Go to three different places in Colombia
2015 seems pretty set on being a year of adventure so I may as well commit to it (not as begrudgingly as it it sounds). Last time in Colombia, I wasn't very good at doing the whole getting out and about bit. What I saw merely scraped the surface of all the beautiful and diverse landscapes there is to explore in Colombia so I'm sure this is a resolution that will be easily kept.

Write more on pen and paper
Yes, a slightly sappy one but writing in its true form is something I seldom do. When I actually do it, I find it helps me plan out my articles and writing better and when I put some time and effort into it, it looks quite pretty too. Writing a letter is something I love doing, plus it gives me all sorts of warm fuzzies sending my granny a handwritten letter (because I am the best granddaughter ever).

Sort the blog out
This has been on the to-do list for far too long but I really want to shake up the blog. Learning how to nail SEO (read above) has been a wistful goal but I still have a lot to learn as well as photography, engagement, content, blah, blah, blah.

Document more
I have avoided being in photos for far too long and even though I will never cure my less than photogenic self, it's about time I actually took photos of myself in all the amazing places I am lucky enough to go to. It's pretty likely I'm at my peak of looking good so I might as well get a few photos of it before everything goes south.

Set a monthly challenge
I love a challenge and I'm stubborn as anything so the above resolution should be fun (dare I say it). This month is all about operation bikini body before my departure to Colombia, but the monthly challenges could be anything from saving a certain amount of money, improving my Spanish accent, sending more than X amount of pitches. Should be an interesting new's year resolution, to say the least.

So, those are my aims and goals for 2015. There's a high possibility they will be long forgotten by the time 2016 rolls around but I'm sure I'll have fun giving it a go for a good three weeks (before giving up and going back to my usual). But, there's plenty in store for 2015 so I will be kept busy.

So, now it's your turn - what are your new year's resolutions?