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How to Spend a Weekend in Margate

I recently took my first visit to the little seaside town of Margate. To say I enjoyed it would be an understatement, I’ve been checking RightMove for Margate properties since I got back (pretty cheap, if you’re asking). It’s just an hour and a half from London, easy to get around and full of fun things to do. Here’s my 2 night, 3 day itinerary

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The beach

Friday

Get the train from London Victoria, booked early so got a return for around £25. Drink some tinnies on the train there. At Margate station we can’t get a cab and there’s no Uber. So we walk to our AirBnb which takes about 15 minutes.

Our Airbnb in the Cliftonville area is lovely and has sea views. The host gives us some insider tips to Margate including a restaurant suggestion Roost, which we make a booking for that evening.

There’s an Aldi supermarket round the corner so we get some provisions for the weekend. Wine and beer and bagels, eggs, salmon and avocado for breakfast. And snacks of course.

Visit some local pubs including The Lighthouse which is a really cute little place, although I think it must’ve been bought out by BrewDog as that’s the only beer they serve.

Explore the town a bit before getting dinner at Roost. The service here is great and we go for a whole lobster with all the trimming and some local beer. The lobster is DELICIOUS and I could eat 3 more. Still hungry/greedy so get some whitebait too. Finish off with a naughty Knickerbocker Glory. Meal comes to £50 for two people with drinks. Well worth it.

End the night getting pissed in our AirBnB and enjoying the view.

Saturday

Get up early to visit the Tidal Swimming Pool at Walpole Bay as suggested by our host. It’s a 5 minute walk from our place and empty at this time of day. The water is freezing but swimming around is super fun and certainly wakes us up for the day.

Head into Margate for an al fresco lunch at The Greedy Cow which is located in a charming little square. We have a delicious burger and beers.

 

Do a spot of shopping. Transmission Records is great independent record shop where we listen to some old jazz. Haeckel’s is a Margate-based skincare brand which is stocked in Liberty and Selfridges and has a shop on our street. Everything is made from locally sourced seaweed and we slap some testers on our skin. There are lots of vintage clothing and furniture shops – and skate shops too. The hipsters have really made their mark on Margate.

Head to Dreamland, the funfair. It’s much bigger than I expected with loads of rides. We decide to do the rollercoaster – it’s not too big. £5 each. You have to get a card to top up before using any rides. We then get a beer and sit in the outside bit of Dreamland. After that we play old-fashioned arcade games.

Head to the penny arcades to play MarioKart and air hockey, there’s a few arcades opposite the main beach.

We eat dinner and The Buoy and Oyster which overlooks the sea. This restaurant is a bit pricier than yesterday’s. We have a cocktail each which aren’t that good. The oysters are sublime though, really amazing. For mains we have the lamb which is okay, and the catch of the day which is lovely. Skip dessert. £65 for two people.

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Walk along the seafront and as we’re pretty pooped we decide to have a night in. Grab some dessert and wine from the supermarket on the way home.

Sunday

It’s our last day, so we have a leisurely breakfast in bed while watching Broad City (AKA the finniest show ever).

Visit the Turner Contemporary galley which is a 10-minute walk from our AirBnB. We leave our suitcases there for free as our train home isn’t for a few hours yet. Love the Michael Armitage exhibition – he’s a Kenyan artist whose large bark canvases are beautiful, if a little dark. I buy a framed print as a souvenir.

Have a beer on the beach – it’s really hot and the beach is packed. There are steps that lead into the sea to sit on of you’re not into sand.

We go for a drink on the strip of bars that lead to the lighthouse as we haven’t explored up there yet. Sit in the sun playing cards.

We have lunch at a little seaside shack. Have the catch of the day and chips for £6. Simple. It’s really delicious too.

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Pick up the bags fro the gallery and walk to the station to get the train home to London. Back at home by 6.30pm.

NOTES

Our Airbnb cost £210 for 2 nights but was more expensive as bank holiday weekend

Train cost around £25 return each

No transport needed in Margate

We cut costs by buying food at the supermarket and eating breakfast at the AirBnB.

Click HERE to see what I was wearing in Margate…

Your Guide to Agonda, Goa

Agonda was the perfect place for me to end my trip to Goa, India. It’s definitely a restful place, so if you want parties and action then nearby Palolem might be more your bag. I really wanted to RELAX on my holiday – something that I don’t usually do while I’m away. So Agonda was ideal because there’s no temptation – the pace of life is so slow and there’s a huge yoga community, so it’s hard not to get caught up in the healthy lifestyle while you’re here.

 

I f*cking glowed after a few days here. Seriously, my skin was radiant, I was well-rested, I developed triceps after the most intense vinyasa classes I’ve ever tried. And the beach is wonderful; quiet and full of adorable cows that I took to feeding each evening. In fact, I had quite the menagerie of animals: two dogs that slept under my sun lounger each day, a drunken white horse (for real), kittens and, of course, a herd of cows of various shapes and sizes. Anyway, read on to see my top travel tips for Agonda, Goa…

GETTING THERE

I got a taxi for Palolem which cost me 500IR (£6). You can probably find cheaper ways but it’s not bad. It took about 30-40 minutes.

GALAXY’S BEACH HUTS

I chose to stay here because it was pretty cheap, I initially booked a couple of nights, thinking I’d upgrade but after scanning the beach and booking.com, I realised that I had a really good deal. The bed alone justified the price, it was so comfortable, and my hut was large with a veranda and very clean. The owners were super nice and helpful. The only bad thing was that the view form the road was a sh*t-tip. So when I arrived I was ready to leave. But for 1200IR a night it’s great and it’s on the beach so you can hear the waves at night and roll out of bed and go for a morning swim.

COLA BEACH

This is one of my top 5 beaches ever (the other 4 are probably all in Bali, or maybe Koh Tao). It’s definitely the best beach I visited in Goa. To get to it from Agonda is easy-ish. We got a taxi (500IR each way) and I’m so glad I didn’t drive there on a moped because the road is treacherous to say the least. It takes about 25 mins to get there each way.
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Anyhoo, when you arrive the view of Cola beach and the Blue lagoon is breath taking, there’s a very secluded part and then the main beach which is basically empty. I felt like I had my own private beach. There’s one restaurant open to the public which is so cheap. It was 80IR for a beer and we had a delicious fish tikka and chips for 250IR.

Take a couple of beach towels are there are no sun loungers here unless you’re in one of the exclusive resorts. You can buy water from the restaurant but I’d take a bottle. I just had the most divine day here, reading, swimming (beware the current here is so strong and there’s lots of waves) and tanning.

SAMPOORNA YOGA

This is a yoga teacher training school but they do offer drop in classes at 8.30am and 4pm everyday. These classes are the full 90 mins, not the 45 min classes you sometimes get in London. Classes cost 400IR per session or 1500IR for 5, which is an absolute bargain (about £18 for 5 classes, I pay that for one class in London). The ‘shala’ or outdoor studio is peaceful calm and serene and all of the teachers I had were really good. My ONLY issue with this place was that everyone in the classes was a thin, white, blonde woman… there was even less diversity than in my class in Primrose Hill. But, apart from that I highly recommend dong classes here. Mats are provided, but I’d take water and a towel.

There’s also a great café, which I can’t remember the name of, right next to the entrance of Sampoorna. They did great gluten-free, vegan cakes. The masala chai was made with coconut milk and was delicious. Also the banana bread was great and this place is super-instagrammable.

TIP: Hand in your completed 5-class card to reception and you get a free tote bag, which is actually really good quality with a zip and everything.

ZEST CAFÉ

This organic café is the pace to go for juices, smoothies, snmootie bowls and raw food. The juices were all great and their green goddess smoothie was super tasty. Also the veggie breakfast was really good. As was the turmeric latte. And they give you free water. Bonus. There’s also a branch of this café in Palolem, but it was crap compared to this one. Make sure to sit in the sunken sating area with lots of colourful cushions.

INDAH DESA

This restaurant/beach hut is next door but one to Galaxy’s where I stayed and I used their sun-loungers everyday. The staff here are SO nice and will bring you out complimentary iced water and watch your stuff. The food here is expensive but not in comparison to English prices. I treated myself to a huge steak and chips one night because I had an insatiable craving for red meat, having not eaten any my entire holiday. It was the best steak I’ve ever had and only cost about £8 – it was huge too. They also have live music here on Friday nights.

SHOPPING

I preferred shopping here than in the famous Anjuna flea market – the souvenirs seemed a little higher quality and artisanal. Plus, there are some fantastic shops that sell ad make silver jewellery and gem stones. It was fascinating learning about all the different stones and what they mean – I came away with some beautiful silver rings that I love. But, as always in India, haggle HARD.

THE CHEAPEST DOSAS!

Again, I can’t remember the name of this place but it’s right opposite Agonda church so it’s easy to find. Anyway this place is soooooooooo cheap. It’s outrageous. My friend and I had dinner there. A main each, side, 2 beers and water and the bill came to 265IR. That’s like £3. The special Dosa here is so, so good and only costs 50IR. Bargain. You have to visit this place.

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Overall I really loved Agonda, there’s a lovely sense of community here since a lot of people do their 200 or 300 hour yoga teacher training here, so stay a while. There was a woman called Gail who would always give me a saddle on the back of her motorbike when I was late for yoga in the mornings – thanks. And you bump into the same people over and over again because it’s so small. I particularly loved swimming alone on the ocean at sunset – I felt like I was on LSD or something, I was so ‘at one’ with everything. Haha.

You should definitely come here unless you hate animals (there are a lot) or yoga (it’s pretty yoga-centric here). Oh and to get to Goa airport from here cost me 1800IR and took 2 hours.

Cinque Terre Travel Guide

Planning a Trip to Cinque Terre?

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Italy has too many beauty spots to choose from, but if you like quaint villages and stunning sea views then the Cinque Terre is a must visit place. Read on for tips on visiting Italy’s Cinque Terre.

Which village should I stay in?

I can only speak from my experience, but having spoken to other people while I was there, I’m pretty confident I made the right decision when I chose to use Monterosso as my base. Monterosso is probably the most happening of the five villages and has the biggest beach – which is stunning! It’s also super easy to get around, it’s so small you can get everywhere on foot.

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How do I get there?

I flew to Pisa for a wedding in Tuscany, then got the train from Pisa. My flights cost £65 form London and then the trains were only about £30 return for a first class ticket. I urge you to get the trains in Italy – if you’re British the cleanliness, punctuality and cost will be a highlight of your trip. Seriously, how the f**k are trains in the UK soooo expensive?

What are the other villages like?

Kind of samey to be honest. But worth visiting. You can get a hop-on-hop-off ferry which is around £30 for the day (but well worth the cost) which allows you to visit ant village you want. plus the view from the boat is amazing and it’s just fun zipping around on the ocean.

We stopped at Portovenere which is a bit more glam than Monterosso and great for souvenir shopping. There are some really cool cafes and restaurants there.

We also got off the boat at Manorola as I saw people cliff jumping there and wanted to get in on the action. this was definitely a highlight of the trip. There’s a kind of natural swimming pool there, surrounded by rocks and it just looks so cool. Like something out of Game of Thrones. And yes, I did jump off a cliff, and yes I did almost crap my pants. But it was exhilarating.

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What should I eat?

The pasta in Cinque Terre didn’t blow my mind, I’ll be honest with you, but boy oh boy they know how to make a pizza. The wine on offer is quite limited, they have the regional wine which is quite dry so if you’re not into that then just drink more to forget about the taste. I also loved the Lambrusco there – that is a drink made by the Gods. Flipping delicious. Obviously you must try all the gelato flavours you can too. If you’re vegan then I suggest not visiting as I ate my own bodyweight in cured meats each day. The Italians apparently eat cake for breakfast too, so be prepared for some holiday weight gain.

Any final tips?

If you’re looking for a party, you won’t find it on the Cinque Terre. It’s a very relaxed sleepy place, which was great for me as I wanted to relax, read and rejuvenate. It’s not the cheapest place, but, then again, there’s only so long you’d want to stay here as it really is tiny. Seriously though, this place is so stunning that you just need to visit.

How I Saved Enough Money to Travel

Let me start by saying I started at zero, well, less than zero. I had literally no savings at all – I’d never had any. I also had a few outstanding debts, nothing major, and a period of unemployment after quitting my job. So all the methods I used to save money were legit and off my own back. I am just not a natural saver at all, I’m pretty bad with money so it was really hard, I admit, but I did it.

Temp Work

This is something a lot of people do throughout their studies or as graduates, I had never done any temporary work but I signed up to a few agencies after starting and quitting a permanent job with people that I literally hated, and soon found temporary admin and reception work. I must say working in dull, lifeless offices was quite a shock after my years working in fashion in London.

One office I worked in was so like ‘The Office’ from the comedy show I thought I was being Punked. While it was very, very, very boring, it was also incredibly easy. In fact there was so little to do that I was allowed to read a book or magazine all day, and I used all my free office hours to research my trip, blog and do a few freelance jobs too (as well as finish off one or two blockbuster novels).

The good thing about temporary work is that you don’t have to keep your travel plans a secret, you don’t get sucked into another career or job, and the pay is quite good for the level of work you’ll do. I wish I’d signed up with a temp agency more quickly as they found me work almost immediately. It’s definitely worth seeing agencies in your area.

Blogging

I’ve run a fashion blog since 2010, and while it will never be a raging success, I have made a small sum of money from blogging for the past few years (seriously, a very small sum). If you have a blog there are several ways to monetise it, and while you won’t see big returns unless you have a huge readership, every penny counts.

Affiliate programmes are probably the easiest way to make money – sign up to RewardStyle or Affiliate Window and you will receive a small commission on items sold through your blog (typically 2% – 10% of the total sale).  You can also monetise your Instagram photos by signing up to Like.to.Know.it which again means you need a hell of a lot of followers to make real money but it’s worth a try – I think I’ve made about £20 in total from my Instagram but it’s better than nothing!

I also publish content which brands and companies pay for; this could be a video, an outfit post featuring their product or any kind of editorial post. These, depending on the brand and the size and popularity of your blog, can pay anything from nothing to thousands of pounds (for the record I have never made thousands, tragically). These collaborations are few and far between so make friends with some PRs and work your contact list.

Another way I made money off my blog was to sell the freebies I got sent – this is a taboo subject and I know a blogger who had a slanderous email sent to all the PRs in London about how she would sell all her blogger freebies on eBay. Let me just say this; as a very small blogger who isn’t that popular, even I get overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I get sent. Some of it is for review, some is just gifted, some is lovely and some is crap. I treat anything that is given to me as mine, and I often sell my other clothes on eBay or Depop – just because something was gifted to me it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t sell it. If I didn’t I would literally be a hoarder and they’d make a TV show about it. Anyway, I hold my hands up, I do sell things I get gifted – not all of them, and it’s not a big money making scheme but just the ones I would sell even if I’d bought them.

eBay and Depop

I had a LOT of clothes – you can read my ultimate guide to eBaying HERE.

Online Content Writing

There are loads of sites that pay writers for generic content; I have worked as a copywriter for many years so this seemed like an attractive prospect for me. I looked into it (while at my temp job) and found a website called Great Content which is for any English writers, you can use it worldwide but the default language is US or UK English (although it’s a German company – go figure).

To be accepted to the site you have to submit a short, original piece of writing and a couple of links to already published pieces which is then appraised and either declined or accepted by great Content. If accepted as a writer you will also be rated from 2 to 6. You can accept writing orders from anything at your level or below, so if you’re a 5 (like me) you can accept texts rated 2, 3 ,4 and 5.

I found that there were always quite a lot of orders, most at level 4 or above, I’ve never seen anything at a level 2 or 3. Rates ranged from £1.18 for 30 words to £7.40 for 200 words, some more specialist texts pay upwards of £38 for 1500 words, which is low, but if you’ve worked as a copywriter you can probably knock out most of the shorter texts in 10 minutes or so.

I would hasten to say, if you have no professional experience writing content or copywriting then you may find the texts on this site difficult to master. If you’ve done product copywrting or category pages for fashion then you’re in luck because they have loads of those.

You can access your account from any computer with an internet connection, so I plan to pick up a bit of work while travelling when I can. Payments are made twice a month via Paypal, providing you have more than £25 in your Great Content account. I found that I was paid within a week of requesting payment.

The only drawback of this is there are limits on the amount of work you can do – some clients will only let you work on 5 texts at a time, and until Great Content have accepted them you can’t accept any more. Once you start working on texts your limits do get raised though you will only ever be allowed to work on 20 or so jobs at a time, which was annoying on days when I could have knocked out lots of texts.

I would say it would be very realistic to make £100 a month which would only take a few hours. It’s a shame about the limits but, hey, it’s an easy way to supplement your income and they’re they’re to stop you overestimating your work rate. In my first week of using the site I’d earned about £300 quite easily but this is because I was temping at the time and wrote texts while at my very quiet office job (sneaky).

Bar Work

I really didn’t want to do any bar work, I’d worked in clubs and pubs and even a strip club (behind the bar, don’t worry) in my teens and early twenties and promised myself I’d never work a sh*t job again, ditto retail. I had to eat my words, swallow a bit of humble pie and get some bar work towards the end of my saving period. Bar work is easy to pick up, the hours mean you can work around a day job and the tips can be good – it’s also more fun and sociable than an office job and learning how to pull a pint before you go travelling isn’t a bad idea – you might have to pick up bar work abroad, you never know.

Christmas and Birthday Money

Okay, this is a bit of a cheat, but wevs. My Birthday is on Boxing day so I get a double whammy in December. I knew that my family and friends would probably, and very kindly, bestow some cash money gifts upon me. Luckily my trip would start at the beginning of February so this last minute cash injection was extremely welcome.

Don’t forget the other expenses

There are many little, sneaky costs to travel, aside from flights, transport and y’know food and water. Firstly there are things like factoring travel to the airport in your home country. I had to fly from Heathrow so that meant travelling by train to London which can cost up to £100 if you don’t book in advance. By making not of this I was able to bag a cheap ticket.  Then there are injections and Visas which can vary wildly in cost.

To be honest it’s crazy how much it costs before you even get to the basic stuff. I shelled out £4000 on flights, taxes, injections, visas and insurance before I even left the country. Make sure you really get to grip with your finances, write them all down, shop around for the best prices and work out your budget per day (roughly). In Southeast Asia it’s not unrealistic to live on £15 a day if you’re staying in hostels and lounging on the beach whereas Australia, New Zealand and America will be very costly. Try and average it out at a rate that suits you, so whether that’s £20 or £40 per day.

Your Guide to 2 Weeks in Panama: Part. 3 Bocas Del Toro

Bocas Del Toro is definitely a party town, I loved the vibe, it felt very Caribbean and just fun. It’s really close to Costa Rico and is so lush, green and tropical. Bocas is comprised of four main islands: Isla Colon, Isla Carenero, Isla Bastimentos, and Isla Solarte, and you get about by getting water taxis everywhere (so fun).

How to get there

We flew from Panama city ($100). It was such a good flight, very minimal security, it took about 5 mins to get in the airport and the flight is around 40mins.

Where to stay

Bambuda Lodge is amazing. It’s a completely off-the-grid ecolodge. All the water is filtered rainwater, the electricity is solar-powered and there’s no plastic straws (haha). It really is stunning, set in lush greenery with gasp-worthy views and a giant waterside. We paid approx $50 per night for a private room but they also have dorms. There’s a great and free jungle trail right next to the lodge which takes about an hour and ends in this cool lagoon thing. They lend you wellies as it’s pretty muddy. Also, everyone eats dinner together ‘family style’ so it’s a super sociable place. fab for solo travellers.

Red Frog Beach

This beach is really beautiful and has some great bars on it. We got a cabana for the day ($20) outside Nacho Mamas. We were waited on hand and foot by the lovely Jeremy, who said I had ‘the perfect body’ so he got a massive tip. We ate dinner here, $12 for a huuuge lobster, and the margaritas were great. Delish. This is a private beach so you have to pay $5 entry but it’s worth it as on the ten min walk from boat to beach we saw an alligator, turtle, baby ‘gator and a SLOTH!

Bocas Town

The main town is full of really colourful shops and bars and it’s easy to organise a day trip to one of the many areas of natural beauty. Hire a bike and see it that way.

Filthy Fridays

This, as the name suggests, is on a Friday, and it’s like an epic bar crawl on sea. Tickets are $35 which gets you a tee, entry to three bars and the boat travel between them. This from the outside reminded me of one of those horrible student piss ups… and it kind of was but as it’s in one of the most beautiful places in the world in the sun and there’s REGGAETON, it was actually lit and I had the best time.

Your Guide to 2 Weeks in Panama: Part. 2 San Blas Islands

Let me first say… this was the best travel experience of my entire life. Despite being a copywriter, very wordy and verbose, it’s really hard to put into words just how wonderful the San Blas Islands are. There are many ways to visit these islands between Panama and Columbia but we chose to push the boat out (there’s a pun in there) and charter a private boat. This was really expensive BUT ultimately so worth it and it made our 5 days very, very special.

A brief history of San Blas (Guna Yala): They are 350+ small islands off the coast of Panama and Columbia. There are indigenous people called Guna who inhabit about 49 of the islands, who originally came from Columbia 100s of years ago, the Guna worship a god named Erragon and their currency used to be coconuts so you’re not allowed to touch any coconuts in San Blas. It’s an area of outstanding natural beauty with pristine waters.

We arranged everything via a company called I Travel by Boat who were really helpful and I would recommend them. We booked 4 nights on a private boat which cost about $1500 for two people and they organised travel to and from the boat for us (at an extra cost).

Getting to San Blas from Panama City

We got a taxi to the San Blas port which took about 2.5hrs and cost $50 (return). If you get car sick, be warned, there are some winding roads. San Blas or Guna Yala is an independent state, so you’re actually leaving Panama and you have to show your passport and pay $20 entry. At the port, which is nothing to look at, we waited for our taxi boat which took about 1 hour to take us to our island pick up point, where our captain John (lovely Venezuelan man) took us by dingy to our new boat home.

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Living on a boat

I took to boat life so quickly. I adored it. Luckily I’ve never suffered from sea sickness and I felt fine the whole time. The boat was small but as there was only Sinead, the captain and I it never felt cramped. The best part was not having a mirror to look in and not having to wear shoes lol, and also the peace and quiet, the worst part was not having a proper shower – there was a fresh water one off the back but I didn’t have a properrrr wash the whole time. Actually I kinda liked it haha.

Our captain cooked all our meals and we had fresh fish, lobster and meat. He was a great cook. All food and drink was included so we would have a beer or wine with dinner too.

The San Blas Islands

Now, the reason I’m so glad we chose to get a private boat and not do a day trip or get the ‘party boat’ is that we had a truly personal experience. Each day our captain John would dock in between some islands and we would either swim or kayak over to them. We visited the most remote islands and most of the time would be the ONLY people on them. So it was like a true castaway experience… so magical and peaceful. Sometimes we met the Guna people who were very chill and friendly, and a couple of islands also had a handful of tourists on them but mostly it was just us and the sea.

The San Blas wildlife

There were so many animals here, we snorkelled a lot and saw loads of fishes and starfishes galore – giant ones at that. Plus there were pelicans, they were huge and watching them catch fish is epic. We also saw dolphins and stingrays. It was wild.

Final thoughts and tips

I would say 4-5 days is the perfect amount of time to appreciate this stunning part of the world. Lean into the quiet and being present in the moment. Take a hat, the sun is bloody hot. Take a waterproof bag so you can swim with your phone to the islands. Try not to cry when you leave.

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Read my Panama City travel guide

Your Guide to 2 Weeks in Panama: Part. 1 Panama City

Full disclosure, I did minimal research before traveling to Panama… in fact i wanted to go to Peru or Columbia but the flights to Panama were cheaper. I’m so glad I ended up in this latin paradise, and I’m baffled as to why it’s not a more popular travel destination. Truly one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been, here is my guide to 2 weeks in Panama…

Panama City

I flew from London to Panama City via Madrid which took about 13 hours all in all. The flights cost roughly £530 return with Air Iberia. Getting a taxi outside the airport is easy and it’s about $30 to the city centre.

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Panama City looks WILD. I had no idea there were so many skyscrapers – it looks so modern! It really is an impressive skyline and as it’s right on the ocean, it just looks so cool.

I stayed in a place called Selina which I found on booking.com, I thought it was a design hotel but it was actually a really nice hostel. A private room was about $45 a night and the hostel was really stunning. Great rooftop pool and Taco restaurant. Avoid the breakfast downstairs though (vile).

 

Selina is located in the old town of Panama City Cusco Viejo which has beautiful colonial style buildings and a hip, Shoreditch vibe. There are loads of nice bars and restaurants. Warning: Panama City is really expensive, it was pretty much London prices, which shocked me, but the GBP is worth nothing right now. Thanks Brexit.

I spent 2 days in Panama City, from there my travel partner Sinead and I went to the GORGEOUS San Blas Islands. Stay tuned…

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Read my other travel guides

#50booksin2018 August & September

This year I set myself a challenge to read 50 books, and I though it would be a breeze and I’d read way more. But it hasn’t been. Keeping a diary of my reads has been great as I can see how my reading peaks and troughs over the year. Some months I’m a real book worm, others, life takes over or I simply don’t feel like it. This month is actually two combined as I’ve had a busy one. Anyway, here’s what I’ve read in August and September…

Valley of The Dolls
This was a Ladies Lit Squad read and it was unanimously well received – this never happens. I loved this fast-paced Hollywood tale, and while I laughed at some of the seriously dated references (a ‘sleeping cure’ for weight loss? Please.), the characters did resonate with me. This is a classic for a reason.

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller
I was really looking forward to reading this tale of a historian staying in an old country pile with only a bohemian couple for company, but I found that the plot dragged along for the first 50%. It was very atmospheric though and I enjoyed the descriptions to the mansion they’re all staying in. The book really picks up towards the end and actually becomes quite chilling but it didn’t make up for the slow start. weirdly I’d still recommend it.

Ordinary People by Sally Rooney
This book is astounding. It’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year, if not ever. I cried when it finished – not because it’s sad, but because it was so well written and insightful. And I would LOVE to write like Rooney, I mean, what a talent. Ordinary People is about a girl and a boy and their relationship, spanning from their teen years to their twenties. Plot-wise, not much happens, but nothing needs to. the way Rooney writes about those deep, dark internal feelings, miscommunications, thoughts left unsaid… it’s just stunning. Go and buy it right now.

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
The sequel to Crazy Rich Asians was just as good as the original, I read it just before I went to see the HILARIOUS film. Not much to say except this is a pacy, trashy romp through Singapore and China society. I wolfed this down in about 4 hours!

The House of Impossible Beauties
I read this on holiday and as a huge LGBTQ ally, lover of gay culture and the ballroom scene, I really enjoyed this. A tale of a Puerto Rican ‘House’ of queens. The language is really raw and works well to tell the tale of these young kids facing prejudice and violence every day. Not a classic but definitely interesting.

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay
After reading this, which literally took one evening, I immediately wanted to go round to my local hospital with a bag of croissants and administer a hug to each and every junior doctor. Everyone is raving about this book and for good reason. Go and read it, because we all use the NHS.

BOOKS READ SO FAR

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Under The Sun by Lottie Moggach
Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney
Dietland by Sarai Walker
Postcards from The Edge by Carrie Fisher
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The F Word by Liza Palmer
Silence by Natasha Preston
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
Trying by Emily Phillips
How To Stop Time by Matt Haig
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Dead Girls by Abigail Tarttelin
I’ll Be Gone in The Dark by Michelle McNamara
Kismet by Luke Tredget
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
The Pisces by Melissa Broder
Ponti by Sharlene Tao
In The Dark by Cara Hunter
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
Fat Chance by Nick Spalding
Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
Riders by Jilly Cooper
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton
The Cows by Dawn O’Porter
Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch
The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
The Child by Fiona Barton
The Widow by Fiona Barton
Circe by Madeline Miller
Fierce by Gin Phillips
Valley of The Dolls
Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller
Ordinary People by Sally Rooney
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
The House of Impossible Beauties
This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

42/50

Every Book Ladies lit Squad Have Read So Far!

Here is a list of every book my book club Ladies lit Squad have read so far! So if you want to read along with us you can get going. All books are written by women (of course).

How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell
Living The Dream by Lauren Berry
The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray Browne
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara
Dead Girls by Abigail Tarttelin
Riders by Jilly Cooper
Circe by Madeline Miller
Valley of The Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

How to Murder Your Life

Cat Marnell is a polarising character, by that I don’t mean your either love her or you hate her. I mean she changes your own mind about her several times in one paragraph. To give this context, Cat, is a drug addict. Her memoir How to Murder Your Life was written, we presume, under the influence so it’s raw, erratic and sometimes hard to read (she’s a fan of a !!!!!!!!!!!). On the flipside it’s this honesty and vulnerability that makes her so likeable.
Cat takes us through her very privileged upbringing, boarding school and then to the hallowed halls of Conde Nast where she was a beauty editor at Lucky magazine. So far, so good – but her parents are distant, damaged phycologists who put her on Adderall as a kid (to which she soon becomes addicted), at boarding school she’s high, has a failed relationship and traumatic abortion, and her years in New York are a crack-fest of mishaps, loneliness and tragedy.

As enviable as her life from the outside is, Cat is careful to let readers know the truth of it. On the surface she was a successful, rich woman with a glamorous job. But scratch the surface and she was conning shrinks into prescribing her drugs and slowly losing her mind.

Cat-Marnell-Lipstick

The author

The most interesting parts of the book are just how she continued to get away with such awful behavior and being strung out on drugs at work. In our book club, we briefly discussed whether her experience would have been the same as a WOC (we thought not). Her ‘best friend’ Marco is also a large part of the story, and without wanting to spoil it – he is the friend from HELL. A real Machiavellian character that makes you feel truly sorry for Marnell.

With cameos by Nev Shulman, Eva Chen and The Fat Jew, How to Murder Your Life is a glam and glossy look at Manhattan life. Cat’s drug addiction is a welcome antidote (a literary antidote, not that I’m saying it’s a good thing) to all the glitz.

I was definitely intrigued by Cat Marnell and did a lot of further reading, especially of her Vice column and New York Times interview. Although the subject matter is a little dark, Cat Marnell is funny, genuinely funny. And self-aware – she’s the first person to point out her privilege and her manipulation of people. What’s interesting is that she’s unapologetic about it.

Read about Ladies Lit Squad book club HERE

living the dream

Living The Dream by Lauren Berry

This was the book we read for our second Ladies Lit Squad book club and we were also lucky enough to have the author come and talk about the book. Living The Dream is a tongue in cheek title that will be a familiar refrain to those of us who headed to the bright lights of London for a career in fashion, media or, like the lead character in this novel, work in advertising. There’s a constant pressure in life, especially in London, to have it all. And this book is about not quite getting there. A great read for twenty-somethings who don’t have it all figured out yet.

Buy it HERE

the upstairs room

The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne

Ladies Lit Squad read this for our third meeting and this modern-day ghost tale really resonated with the group. It’s the tale of Richard, Eleanor and their two children and Zoe, their ‘mercurial’ 27-year-old lodger. The couple buy a bargain house in London Fields, only to find that it may very well be haunted. This isn’t really a ghost story – it’s more about the relationships between the characters, who are all multi-layered and well rounded. I read this in a day, it’s fast-paced and perfect for a cold Sunday indoors.

Buy it HERE

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Okay, warning, this book made me cry – no, weep. It is the saddest book in the history of all the world and just amazing. This isn’t actually a new book for me, I first read it a couple of years ago and knew that I’d have to revisit it. The book is a beast, it’s so long, but unsurprising when the writer lovingly chronicles almost the entire lives of the four main characters. Jude is the star of the book and you’ll keep reading to find out just what happened in his past. Read once and you’ll never forget this amazing book.

Dead Girls by Abigail Tarttelin

I was a little dubious at first when reading this. The subject matter is pretty dark, but the narrator is an eleven-year-old girl and most of the characters are primary school age – so it’s a little jarring. But I guess that’s the point and it’s really refreshing to read children portrayed in this way, rather than angel-faced innocents. After a friend dies, Thera takes it upon herself to find the killer with… unexpected results. I don’t want to spoil this book but after I finished reading I literally had the face of Kevin from Home Alone for about 30 minutes.

Riders by Jilly Cooper

This was set for my book club as recently we’ve been reading lots of heavy books about murder, rape, you name it. So a bit of Jilly was needed as a palate cleanser – and believe it or not, I’d never read any JC books before. At 900+ pages and with a cast of characters to rival any soap, Riders is a beast, but I enjoyed it so much. It’s hilarious, especially RCB’s off-colour quips. I even found the horsey stuff riveting and I will be reading sequel Rivals ASAP.

Circe by Madeline Miller

This was the book for my Ladies Lit Squad book club and was definitely up there as one of our fave reads. Circe is sort of a retelling of Homer’s Odyssey but from a female perspective, that of the goddess Circe. You’ll know if you studied classics that female voices and perspectives are all to often overlooked, so this book was so refreshing. In the Odyssey Circe is ridiculed but Madeline Miller chips away at the surface of a woman who has known great tragedy, a horrible family and suffered being cast out alone – and still managed to become powerful, independent and make a life for herself. The novel spans centuries (Circe is immortal after all) and I loved the guest appearances from Greek gods and legends. A must read.

#50booksin2018 July

A little late but better than never. I started a new job this month, so I’ve been busy busy busy. Still found time to squeeze in a few books though, so here they are…

The Cows by Dawn O’Porter

I love DOP, as far as I’m concerned she’s a British institution (although I believe she now lives in LA with her superstar husband Chris O’Dowd) so, surprisingly, this is the first book of hers I’ve read. The Cows is the story of a woman who gets caught masturbating on public transport, admittedly far-fetched, but it’s more a comment on the shaming that comes after. I really liked the characters in this and found them all well-rounded, interesting women. A great beach read.

Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch

A part memoir part comment on race in Britain by journalist and broadcaster Afua Hirsch, who is mixed English and Ghanaian. I enjoyed this because it turns racial stereotypes on their head. Afua is middle class and went to Cambridge, yet people assume she’s working class – such is the extent that race and social class are inextricably linked in the UK. It’s a personal look at the subject but well-researched.

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

Another Jon Ronson book, this time about the test that all hospitals, prisons and therapists use to tell if someone is a psychopath. As usual his writing strikes the balance between personal and factual and it’s properly interesting. You’ll definitely be wondering if someone in your office is one… and if you’re wondering if you’re a psycho, well, you’re not.

The Child by Fiona Barton

I think this was a 99p Amazon Kindle number but I loved it – I absolutely whizzed though this. It’s a police/journo drama that’s fast-paced and thrilling. The mystery at the heart of it concerns the unearthed remains of a baby and who the baby belongs to. I must admit I, er, solved the mystery quite early on but it’s a great read. If you like Martina Cole you’ll love this.

The Widow Fiona Barton

Based on the previous book, I downloaded The Widow by the same author. This book wasn’t quite as gripping, but I loved the protagonist and her icy exterior.

Circe by Madeline Miller

This was the book for my Ladies Lit Squad book club and was definitely up there as one of our fave reads. Circe is sort of a retelling of Homer’s Odyssey but from a female perspective, that of the goddess Circe. You’ll know if you studied classics that female voices and perspectives are all to often overlooked, so this book was so refreshing. In the Odyssey Circe is ridiculed but Madeline Miller chips away at the surface of a woman who has known great tragedy, a horrible family and suffered being cast out alone – and still managed to become powerful, independent and make a life for herself. The novel spans centuries (Circe is immortal after all) and I loved the guest appearances from Greek gods and legends. A must read.

BOOKS READ SO FAR

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Under The Sun by Lottie Moggach
Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney
Dietland by Sarai Walker
Postcards from The Edge by Carrie Fisher
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The F Word by Liza Palmer
Silence by Natasha Preston
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
Trying by Emily Phillips
How To Stop Time by Matt Haig
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Dead Girls by Abigail Tarttelin
I’ll Be Gone in The Dark by Michelle McNamara
Kismet by Luke Tredget
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
The Pisces by Melissa Broder
Ponti by Sharlene Tao
In The Dark by Cara Hunter
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
Fat Chance by Nick Spalding
Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
Riders by Jilly Cooper
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton
The Cows by Dawn O’Porter
Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch
The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
The Child by Fiona Barton
The Widow by Fiona Barton
Circe by Madeline Miller

36/50