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Beijing, China; A Review by Hannah Fitzgibbon

Beijing is a city of surprises. It has traditional market areas where it feels like life hasn’t changed for centuries, with tiny old women selling crickets for sale in tiny wicker cages, or a stooped man pulling a cart full of plants at absurdly cheap prices. It also has skyscrapers with rooftop bars and the world’s leading mixologists who will serve you their latest creation with a view across the whole city (pollution permitting). Wander down any of the hutongs (ancient alleyways) and you might be rewarded by a local restaurant selling surely the best duck you’ll ever taste, or a hidden bar with a surprisingly vibrant DJ set on until the following morning.

I recommend any of the following places to make your trip memorable, but even if you choose to instead just start walking round the city, you would never get bored. The only essential thing to remember in Beijing is to have a good attitude. A smile goes a long way, as does a phrasebook (surprisingly few people speak English). Sometimes it can get frustrating, especially when it comes to getting people to understand you, but why come to China if you expect things to be the same as at home? If you want a familiar and entirely easy destination, Beijing is not for you. If, however, you want to experience a city of contrasts and improbable situations, Beijing could well be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding places you’ll ever visit.

Beijing Street at Night

Beijing Street at Night

Typical Tourist Places:

-Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City (where you can also see Chairman Mao’s body)

-Summer Palace (absolutely huge – could never do it all in one day)

-Yuanmingyuan Ruins aka the Old Summer Palace (before the Europeans came and stole everything) – my recommendation.

-Temple of Heaven

Other Destinations:

-798 art district (a bit further out but full of free galleries, cafes and art installations. Also where Ai WeiWei’s studio is)

-Pearl Market/Silk Market (full of ‘designer’ goods which you can bargain down to almost nothing. Electronics, clothes, trainers, watches, luggage etc. Always start your bidding at most 10% of their original offer. Be prepared to walk away and also to get insulted if you don’t agree to their deal. All part of the fun)

-Sanlitun (shopping area. Good for general wandering, eating and nightlife)

-China World Summit Tower (highest building in Beijing. Get the lift to the top for spectacular views and a cocktail at Atmosphere Bar. Not so cheap)

Summer Palace

Summer Palace

Forbidden City

Forbidden City

Food:

-Siji Minfu peking duck restaurant (32 Dengshikou West st). Best duck in Beijing

-Great Leap Brewery (homemade beers and ridiculously good burgers and brunch. Several destinations)

-Mr Shi’s dumplings (really cheap and delicious dumplings, either boiled or fried. Pick as many as you want and get some beers)

-Literally walk into any restaurant and pick something off the menu. You will end up with either something odd but a good photo opportunity; or some of the tastiest and cheapest food you’ll ever try. And if you don’t like it- you can afford to walk down the road and find somewhere else)

-Ramo (Fangjia Hutong) Mediterranean food with good value pizzas, salads and wine. Good location on a street with a few bars.

Noodle Bar

Noodle Bar

Going out:

-Heaven’s Supermarket (you can buy alcohol by the bottle at Duty Free prices [think 7 quid for a big bottle of Smirnoff], with mixer, cups etc and then you drink in the bar. Really good pre-drink destination before heading out to one of the many, many nearby clubs, bars or pubs in Sanlitun)

-MaoMaoChong (hidden bar down some winding hutongs but worth the confusion. Really creative and original cocktails and on Wednesday they’re half price)

-Cheers (wine importer – £3 ‘champagne’ which you can drink in store. Several destinations all over the city, perfect for picking up decent wine which isn’t abundant in China)

-Hot Cat (small bar on the same Hutong as Ramo restaurant. Go on a Wednesday to watch the free comedy open mic)

-Wudaokou (student area in NW Beijing. Plenty of cheap and tacky bars and some clubs. Go on pretty much any weekday for some sort of deal somewhere (Ladies’ night, student night etc) and usually to drink free.

Looking over the town of Jasper, AB from Mount Whistler

Looking over the town of Jasper, AB from Mount Whistler

 

My Canadian Experience by Esther Newman

Lake Louise

Lake Louise

This past July I was lucky enough to visit Canada for two weeks with my family. I’m still in awe of the sheer beauty – rugged, wild, imposing, and breath taking.

Going from the winding country lanes and meadows of England, to the jagged mountains, pine forests, and mirror-like lakes was an experience I’ll never forget. I was, and still am, so inspired by this trip and these stunning views.

There’s just something about mountains – their sheer size and enormity, and the sense of insignificance in relation – that sparks creativity. It may be centuries old, but the theory of the Sublime stands true; as John Muir remarked, “wildness is a necessity”. While the hotspots are great, and definitely merit their attention, there is a certain thrill in ‘discovering’ something off the beaten track.

If you’ve seen Lake Louise (it’s hard to believe the acid blue of the water until you see it in real life) and the Columbia Icefields (experience a winter chill in the middle of summer), then take a trek up to Mount Whistler for incredible views. Another hidden gem is Lake Agnes tea house. A short hike up from Lake Louise, this tea house has no running water or electricity – everything has to be brought up by the waiting staff and owners each day.

Driving through the Rockies

Driving through the Rockies

Italy by Fran Pepe

Last Summer I decided to breakaway from the typical clubbing holiday of Ibiza, Magaluf etc that the high school me had loved, and attempted to broaden my horizons through the means of inter-railing. Luckily enough two of my closest friends I had made at university were as keen as me to travel; we wasted no time in buying the inter-railing pass that allowed you to travel to five different countries within a ten-day span. After much conversing and compromising we agreed on Amsterdam, France, Italy and Croatia, choosing Italy and Croatia as our main destinations to explore.
I’m half Italian and proud, however I had never set foot in the country I refer to as my ‘homeland’, so I seized the chance and convinced the girls this had to be incorporated along the way. We settled on visiting Milan, Rome, and of course, the city of love, (despite travelling as three, sadly single, at the time, friends), Venice!
Our stay in Milan was brief as we only had the pleasure of the city for one night and half a day, however we ensured to make the most of our time there by devouring as much pasta as was physically possible for our bellies and having a simple stroll around the centre before the night was up.
After a torturously hot and overcrowded train journey, we had made it to Rome! Once again, our stay here was only a short two days, nonetheless we took the challenge of exploring as much as possible head on and headed straight for the colosseum; a breathtakingly beautiful building that oozed historical excitement for us all and left us in awe. In the evening, after pigging out on the Italian cuisine for a second time, we visited the Vatican City; although relatively quiet when there, we were still able to appreciate the significance of such a small place being regarded so highly as a city of its own right.

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Our final stop on our Italian travels was Venice, a place I had dreamed about for so long! We did the typical tourist attractions such as hiring a gondola – something I cannot recommend highly enough, even if you were single, independent ladies like us – as it allowed you to take in the sights without having to move. I would not, however doing as we did, walk round the alleys unaided with a map, or you face being lost in the blistering heat for hours, being mocked by the Italians who are used to watching tourists walk round the labyrinth styled streets; although we did benefit by discovering the hidden Venetian mask shops.
As well as the city, we visited Venice beach, a nice change from the city style of holiday we had embarked on since entering Venice. The beach was always busy, giving off a fun in the sun style of holiday – the perfect end to the perfect trip spent exploring Italy!

 

I’d highly recommend travelling the city via the use of public transport whether it be the gondola, bus, train or water bus as it made for cheap and quick trips and of course, to try and eat as much food as you can manage because no food compares to Italy’s!

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