Thursday, 30 June 2016

REVIEW // Luxury stay at Harbour Edge Apartments

Everyone loves a little bit of luxury now and again, and in most cases, a lot more of the 'now' then the 'again', am I right guys? I'm right.

Whilst you may be thinking backpacking and luxury don't quite go hand in hand, you are (almost) entirely correct and it's all very upsetting because dorms filled with smelly males who snore really isn't something I'm a massive fan yet the budget requires that I get used to it. Damn money meaning I can't get what I want all the time, it's all very selfish really isn't it.


Always. Chatting. Irrelevant. Drivel.


What I was going to say before being distracted by complaining (shock) about male humans (shock x2) is that despite currently backpacking in South Africa, and living the dorm life to the full, it can all get a little much at times so when a possibility arose that we could perhaps escape for a couple of days, we rid ourselves of our backpacks and oh boy, we escaped.

To this absolute palace of a hotel room.

*Let's pause and take a moment to appreciate a room of furniture because of course, people don't have lives to lead or anything*

Did you pause? Totally bet you didn't pause.

Harbouredge Apartments is a luxury 4 star hotel, offering stunning rooms with views over Cape Town's skyline. Situated minutes away from the V&A Waterfront and the city centre, the apartments are in an ideal location to explore the city, grab a bite to eat or relax with friends for drinks, with safe walking routes and parking facilities available.

The apartments rooms themselves, are gorgeous and we really did feel like the ultimate queens whilst staying there (move over, Lizzy). Equipped with fantastic kitchen facilities, which lead to an open plan living room and dining area, a huge balcony which can be lit at night as well as two bedrooms and two bathrooms, it really the ultimate luxury place to be based at whilst staying in Cape Town.

Aside from all that though, the most important thing that absolutely must be spoken about because it really was just the most thrilling thing to feast my eyes on as we excitedly ran about the place 'oohing' and 'aahing' is the fact that the apartment actual real life BATHTUB.

What a time to be alive.

Our stay at Harbouredge Apartments was practically perfect. Aside from a very eager cleaner who popped in pretty early in the morning (and no that's not me being a typical lazy twenty something, it was before 9am!), it really was great and whilst sitting back with a glass of wine on the balcony one evening, I thought to myself:

Life really doesn't get much better than this.

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Friday, 24 June 2016

I'll miss EU

This morning, I woke up in South Africa to the news that the United Kingdom had left the European Union and I am completely and utterly devastated. It's not just feelings of devastation though, it's sadness at what our country is turning into, anger at those who've benefitted from a system their entire lives closing the ladder behind them, and fear at what happens next.

It's difficult to put into words the shock that many across the UK, and across the world, felt this morning as they woke to the news, news that so many of us never wanted to hear. It's difficult to begin to understand how our incredible, welcoming, kind, caring country appears to have become increasingly intolerant, increasingly selfish, increasingly hateful of those different to ourselves. It's just difficult, difficult to listen the older generations gush at the news of leaving a union that they've fundamentally, wholeheartedly benefitted from for their entire lives because what now?

We're entering a long period of uncertainty and for what? Because we've allowed a nasty side of the media and an opportunistic handful of politicians to spread fear mongering lies? Is that what the younger generations deserve? A period of time where nothing is certain, where no one knows what lies ahead?

What about the young people who have just graduated and are desperately trying to get a job? What about the students who have just finished their first year of university and have no idea if there will even be a job at the end of it? What about the people who rely on working within the European Union to put a roof over their heads?

It's difficult not to be angry, isn't it. To continuously hear your generation described as 'lazy', as 'soft', as 'pretty much useless', yet we don't appear to be so lazy and soft and useless when we pick up the pieces of the previous generations mistakes once again.

It's difficult not to be bitter, isn't it. To think that the 75% of 18-24 year olds who voted to remain within the EU, have lost the right to work, study, live and love in 27 European countries, countries that beautiful and loving, that wanted us to stay.

The maddening thing, the ironic thing, in fact is that as people across the UK have become so scared that immigrants will ruin our economy, we've actually managed to do it ourselves. As the value of the pound tanks and as the stock market falls, as we watch our prime minister resign and politicians squabble between themselves, is this what we want? Was it worth it? Was taking our free movement away really, truly worth it?

I hope in years to come, I'm proven wrong and it is. I hope with all my heart that I'm fundamentally wrong, that I can look back at this blog post and think 'you didn't need to worry, look at England now!'. But as Scotland bids to leave the UK, as political parties such as UKIP increase in popularity, as Islamophobia continues to rise, it's currently hard to look at it optimistically.

I'm, usually, so proud to be British. But I want the Britain back that's forward facing, that's tolerant and kind, compassionate and caring. I want the Britain back that could never turn their back on those in need, that would never shout 'we're full' at people who migrate to the country and contribute significantly to society, to the economy, to the multi-cultural Britain that we should be so proud to be.

Today, I'm angry and I'm sad. Maybe tomorrow will be different. All I know is that hate will not win, fear mongering cannot win and love and tolerance and the acceptance of others, eventually, conquers all.


Saturday, 18 June 2016

Backpacker budgeting: South Africa

Two of the most frequently asked questions I've received from people at home, people who read this blog (big love to you, you little diamonds) and people who I've met so far whilst travelling is, 'how are you affording to travel for a year?' and 'how are you budgeting for the different countries you're going too?'

I like to think, I'm pretty good with money and when I was first asked about budgets, I didn't really know what to reply because I just...made one? (So helpful...) But apparently, according to my BFF who I'm travelling with, the budget I've worked out for each country is perhaps not something that everyone does. 

It's probably a tad more...specific. And what I mean by specific is that I pretty much know down to the exact penny what I have spent, and what I have left to spend. Some people may not particularly like that way of doing it, or may not see the need too, but for me, I want to get the most out of my experience whilst ensuring there are no nasty surprises waiting for me upon logging into my bank account to check my remaining balance. 

So! With that, I've decided to do a series of posts called 'backpacker budgeting', whereby I'll break down my budget for each country I travel too, how I've created it, how I ensure I stick to it as well as the types of pricing you can expect for tourist attractions, restaurants, bars etc. 

The first country in this series, will be South Africa. If you haven't read my itinerary post (and if you haven't, you really are a naughty little sausage), I'm spending two months in South Africa, including six weeks in Cape Town, 8 days travelling along the Garden Route and 4 days in Johannesburg.

It goes without saying that it's pretty impossible to budget for anything, not just travel, when you have nothing to budget with, and due to the unfortunate fact that money does not grow on trees, (pesky, damn things) the ability to travel for a year requires saving. And a lot of it, at that. 

From what I've read and heard, it is possible to travel around South East Asia with a budget of £1,000 a month, and this monthly amount is also suitable for backpacking around South Africa too. 

The South African currency is the rand and, fortunately for those of us lucky enough to be travelling from England, the pound to rand exchange rate is extremely strong, making the country a very affordable place to spend time and travel in. At the time of writing this post, £1 is the equivalent of 22 rand and to put that into some kind of perspective, the average price for a glass of wine in a normal bar or restaurant is around 30 rand. 


Less than £1.50 for a glass of wine. RIP me.



So, I went old school to write out my budget with pen and paper, with £1000 to be spent for the first month between 18th May (the day we arrived in Cape Town) to the 18th June. 

Whilst it's a lot less interesting than drinking in bars, swimming with sharks and chilling out on beaches, accommodation is the most important thing to book and organise first (FYI, I'm not including the international flight from England to South Africa in this £1,000 budget). 

We decided to start out in a 3 bed female dorm, at The Backpacker, which is leaning towards the more expensive end in regards to other hostels in Cape Town however we wanted to know we were going to somewhere safe and secure and with a good reputation where we would be able to settle in to the travelling life. On arrival, we needed to pay £268 for our two week stay from 18 June - 1 June, including breakfast.

// Now, as I'm harping on about how good I am with money, I do need to admit that my friend and I made the painfully stupid mistake of checking out a day early from our first hostel, and only realised our error once we'd arrived at our next hostel. Painful. Don't do that. Always double check your bookings. //

Our next hostel, is much more affordable, although we are in an 8 bed dorm this time which is, at times...somewhat intense. From 1 June - 18 June, Atlantic Point Backpackers cost £175 (also including breakfast!) which is pretty crazy really, particularly as this place won 'best hostel in Africa 2015'. 

In total, for a month, accommodation cost £443, leaving a total of £557 to spend. Now, some may leave it as that, and have that amount to spend for those four weeks or you can break it down further, which I did.

Rounding up to £560, because I'm utterly wild, leaves you £140 a week, and £20 a day, which in South Africa, is 100% doable.

For example, this is what £20 can get you in Cape Town:

 - Ride on the Cape Town Red Bus (which takes you all over the city/coast with a full day pass, valid on all 3 routes - equivalent of £8.75
- Lunch at Shift coffee consisting of a drink and baguette - equivalent of £3.75
- Tea at Hudson's restaurant consisting of main meal and alcoholic drink (v popular in CT) - equivalent of £5.30 

Of course there will be days where you spend more, particularly with activities such as wine tasting in Stellenbosch, paragliding and swimming with sharks however there will also be days where you barely spend £10. It's all about balance.

'But I want to drink every night and it will cost me way more than £20?'

Will it though?

Because you can get a glass of (good quality) wine for around R25, basically £1.10, beer/cider for between R20-30 and even cocktails are around R50-60. Whilst I've been here and possibly sampled a few beverages on a night or too (...), I've never spent more than R200 and that includes both the cheaper and more upmarket areas so if you are partial to a drink or five, there aren't many places more affordable than South Africa at the moment.

After a month here, I can absolutely confirm that a budget of £1000 for a month here in Cape Town is extremely doable, and if anything, I think you could do it for even less. Even though food and wine are the absolute lights of my life, and we've packed a lot in to our first month here, I have actually underspent by £100 although what my bank account has gained in pounds, so too has my body... But really, do calories even count when you're overseas? I don't think it's scientifically proven that they do is it...

Wow, so this was an absolute monster of a post, and I hope that someone, somewhere, finds it slightly useful. I'm aware I've been quite general here, but if you do have any questions about specific costs of certain activities, areas etc, feel free to comment down below or message me on social media.

p.s I haven't included anything about the Garden Route as this will have it's very own post all to it's self very soon :)

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Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Diary entry #4 - Wine, wine and a little more wine

If this past week had been any more relaxed, I think I would've stopped breathing. Thankfully for us all, I'm still alive and well (because what would you do without these incredibly insightful posts?) but yep, we've really settled into the Cape Town life well.

Almost too well.

You see, we're leaving in two weeks and I just don't want to go. I'm perhaps being incredibly greedy as I've been lucky enough to be able to stay in Cape Town for 6 weeks and really, depending on how the EU referendum goes back home, this place could perhaps become my new home...


The start of last week consisted of a full day wine tour. Mmmhmm, you read that right - they actually allowed me on a full day...of drinking wine and as you can imagine, it ended super well.

Visiting four different wine estates throughout the day in the area of Stellenbosch, our first stop was Spiel Wine Farm, where we were able to choose five different wines to 10am. Whilst it seemed somewhat strange to be sipping on a Chardonnay that early in the morning, somehow, I managed to quickly get into the swing of things which is a real surprise to us all, isn't it. A real shocker.

I know I should be able to tell you about all the different wines I tried, that they smelt like the fields of Cape Town and are most suitable with a rare steak on a summers day...but I can't.

I tried to smell them like the lovely staff member was telling us too but...I just smelt wine. I tried to swill it round and do whatever you have to do to air it but...I ended up almost spilling it all over the table.

Sorry, is that every single wine estate in Stellenbosch calling to ban me from ever returning for being so fundamentally uncultured?

As anyone would after trying 11 wines by 12pm, the third stop was brandy and honestly, the less said about that the better, particularly the 12 year old one we tried. I have actual shudders shooting down my spine at the thought of it.

After lunching with my new four-legged friend, trying another few wines, beers, cheese and ice cream, it's safe to say I was perhaps the least bikini body ready human in Cape Town and subsequently...

I was in bed asleep by 8. Not kidding, moving on.

The rest of the week was pretty chilled, and after one last day spent on the beach, South Africa's winter seems to have set in with a whole lot of wind and rain coming down on Cape Town which basically means a tour of some of this city's best coffee shops has begun.

It's a really hard life.

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Friday, 10 June 2016

50 amazing things to do in Cape Town

Upon arriving in Cape Town and meeting new people, the question that, quite obviously, popped up the most frequently was 'how long are you spending here?' and so too, was the surprise when we replied with 'six weeks'.

'But...are you sure there's enough to actually do in Cape Town for that amount of time? Won't you get bored?'

At the beginning of our trip, to be honest, both my friend and I were a little unsure. Maybe there wasn't enough to do here? Maybe we would end up getting bored and wishing we'd moved on to somewhere else a little quicker?

Hmm, yeah, after three weeks, we've quickly come to discover that if anything, we could spend even more time here because, let's face it, this place is pretty epic. Not only is it completely and utterly stunning, with views of Table Mountain never ever getting old, but the city is also rich in culture and history, dripping with fantastic places to eat and drink and bursting with activities to and places to see.

Cape Town really is, one of a kind and so with that, I thought I'd put together 50 amazing things to do in this amazing city...

1. Hike Table Mountain
2. Ride on the Cape Town Red bus
3. Relax in Hout Bay
4. Have coffee and shop at the Watershed
5. Take a photo of yourself in the Table Mountain frame at the Waterfront

6. Try tapas at Fork on Long Street
7. Eat sushi at Sevruga
8. Take a walk along the canopy walkway above freetops of Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
9. Visit World of Birds and Monkey Jungle
10.  Eat and drink at the Waterfront
11. Sunbathe & have cocktails at Camps Bay

12. Eat and drink at Asoka on Tuesday’s jazz night
13. Visit Robben Island
14. Go on a (responsible) township tour of Langa
15. Eat and drink at Cape Town Fish Market
16. Sing karaoke at Mitchells Brewery on Tuesdays

17. Go on the SA Forest Adventures zipline
18. Go on a walking tour of Bo-Kaap
19. Go to Museum Mile
20. Drink coffee at Truth Coffee
21. Ride on the Cape Town big wheel

22. Play mini golf on Seaport’s seafront
23. Watch the sunset at Camps Bay
24. Surf, or learn how to, on the Cape shores
25. Paraglide off Signal Hill
26. Go swimming with sharks

27. Spend a Saturday at Neighbourgoods market in Woodstock and eat everything
28. Go wine tasting in Stellenbosch
29. Visit Cape Point
30. Go to see the penguins chilling out on Boulders beach
31. Visit Kalk bay

32. Chill out on Clifton beach
33. Visit the South African Jewish Museum
34. Visit District 6 museum
35. Relax on Muizenberg beach
36. Visit the Cheetah Outreach centre

37. Go on a safari day tour
38. Treat yourself at Honest chocolate cafe
39. Have a laugh at Cape Town Comedy Club
40. Eat a 14 course African set menu at Gold restaurant
41. Watch penguin and turtle feeding times at Two Oceans Aquarium

42. Explore Rhodes memorial and the abandoned zoo at the foot of Devil's Peak in Table Mountain National Park
43. Fly over Cape Town and look at the stunning views by helicopter
44. Have a night out on Long Street
45. Watch the sunrise/sunset Lions Head
46. Abseil down Table Mountain

47. Hire a bike and explore the city's trails
48. Enrich yourself in culture on First Thursdays
49. Visit the Bay Harbour weekend market in Hout Bay
50. Go shopping at the V&A Waterfront shopping centre

Can you think of anything else to do in Cape Town? You can? How fabulous - be sure to leave it in a comment down below or tweet me @CharlotteHallx

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Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Diary entry #3 - Karaoke, hostel change & whole lotta history

This Wednesday marks three weeks since we touched down in Cape Town and to be honest, it feels like about three years, in a good way of course. I really feel like the last few weeks have been in slow motion, and whilst we've done so much in the time we've been here, with never a dull moment in sight, we seem to have settled here really quickly. Always a good sign...

The last week has been pretty chilled (not that any of them have been a particular hardship so far) and   having started the week off at the Two Oceans Aquarium, I can now safely say that I will spend the next 3 weeks finding any excuse ever to be created in the entire world so that I don't have to go swimming with sharks because oh my lord, the ones we saw in that place were practically tadpoles compared to the great whites I'm having the unfortunate pleasure of spending time with. I particularly enjoy someone explaining to me a few days ago to make sure my feet stay within the cage because 'it's easy for them to slip out and who knows what will happen'. Thank you, for that. 

The Aquarium is a nice place to go and spend a few hours, with a penguin enclosure, loads of, and they even have a sassy turtle who only plays ball and comes into view when there's the chance of food, girl after my own heart right there.

An innocent trip to the Aquarium, somehow came to result in us finding ourselves in a karaoke bar at 11pm at night and, unfortunately for those around me, prosecco (and some gentle persuasion from Rosie) led us to be singing my all time fave song, Crazy in Love by Queen B, in front of around 30-40 people, which is perhaps the least me thing to do on this entire planet, apart from like, choosing to eat a salad. But it happened, and the most frightening thing was that I couldn't hear a single note of what I was singing, so, you're welcome Cape Town, you are truly welcome.

On Wednesday, we changed hostels from The Backpack to Atlantic Point and to be honest, we were so so glad to leave. It was a really strange vibe, with it seeming to be confused whether it wants to be a hostel or a hotel and so eager to leave, we actually managed to somehow check out an entire day too early.

Yay for our brains and organisation.

After a particularly chilled out Thursday, we decided to tick a few more things we wanted to do off the list, including visiting the District 6 museum, which works to remember those who were forcibly removed from the area in the apartheid era. It seems incomprehensible that just 50 years ago, that area, and many others, was declared a 'white area', with those that were not white (around 60,000 in District 6), banished from the district and sent to completely start over, some with just a suitcase of belonging, out on the Cape Flats, with their whole community flattened. The museum is currently campaigning for the South African government to declare District 6 a National Heritage Site and I really hope they become recognised as this as it's a really interesting memorial, with accessible and easy to understand information for all ages.

From one place rich in history, to another, we then walked through the city, to the colourful area of Bo-Kaap. Situated at the foot of Signal Hill above the city centre, the former township is home to Cape Town's Muslim community, and is now known for its stunning brightly coloured buildings. We went on a walking tour around the area, in order to gain actual real life knowledge about the history of the community, instead of just walking round taking photos of the colourful buildings, incredible as they may be.

But I mean, learning is thirsty work, so the only thing to do after visiting both District 6 and Bo-Kaap was to grab a coffee at a chocolate cafe. Mmmhhmm, an actual chocolate coffee. Is there anything that could sound more perfect? Apart from if Harry Styles was permanently in the chocolate cafe? Nope, didn't think so.

After exploring a little more around the city centre, we decided that with it being such a stunning day, we'd head to the coast, have a cheeky lil game of crazy golf and watch the sunset. We really worked for that sunset though because you know Seapoint needs more of? Bars. We practically walked miles, and I'm not even exaggerating (okay maybe a tad) to find some kind of establishment that sells alcohol...  My feet were almost burning and I know for a fact, you feel extremely sorry for me. Particularly when the walk consisted and concluded with these views...

Saturday saw us visit Woodstock, for the Neighbourgoods Market at The Old Biscuit Mill which consists of the best looking and smelling food you could ever wish for. Ever, ever, ever. I do wonder on a daily basis why weight isn't practically dropping off me in a) warm weather and b) with the amount of time not sat down in front of a laptop screen like I would be in the UK... and then I remember that I constantly surround myself with food that would basically be a crime if it was left untouched. I mean, LOOK AT THESE RIBS (maybe don't if you're a vegetarian)... Ribs > weight loss.

As if this week hadn't been relaxing enough, Sunday's weather called for a day sunbathing on Camps Bay beach and I'm now aware that everyone wants to poke me in the eyes so I'll stop there...

p.s it was v relaxing.

p.p.s sorry

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