How to see Rome in 3 days & with £300

Surely Not?

Now you may think that 3 days could not possibly be long enough to explore the beautiful, ancient city of Rome. You may similarly hold the view that £300 is far from enough without having to fly at ungodly hours and sleep in a bedbug infested hostel or something.

Well I am happy to announce, if that is your opinion, you are in fact (no offence intended): wrong.

To prove this, you will find on this post a timeline and a budget overview of my time in Rome. Of course you can argue that there is more to see and other luxuries worthy of financial indulgence. But my testimony proves that you can have a great trip without scraping your savings or selling a kidney.

Timeline – Day 1

7:15 -We all meet at chez moi

10ish – We arrive at Stanstead airport

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16:55 – We are in Rome! (We bus to Termini)

17:45 – 10 minute walk to the hotel

17:55 – We explore our hotel

Our Hotel in Rome from Naomi Armstrong on Vimeo.

20:30 – Dinner outside @ a nearby restaurant

22:00 – TREVI FOUNTAIN

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23:00 – Cocktails @  Piazza Della Republica

00:30 – Goodnight!

Timeline – Day 2

8:00 – Continental breakfast @ the hotel

8:45 – Walk to & explore ROMAN FORUM

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12:00 – Lunch time! @ Hostaria de Nerone

13:00 – THE COLOSSEUM

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15:00 – Siesta back @ hotel

17:00 – THE SPANISH STEPS…but

20:00 – Our fanciest dinner @ Alla Rampa 

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23:00 – drinks @ the hotel

01:00 – Zzzzzzz

Photo timeline – Day 3

Seeing as Day 3 consisted of a walking tour & then an afternoon spent in Travestere, I thought it would make more sense to simply show you our timeline of events in a photographic slideshow.

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Day 4 – Ciao

We depart from the airport at 11:15 after our hotel staff kindly booked us a taxi. This meant we were back in London for around 13:00 with serious holiday blues.

Budget

After conducting a poll on this site not long ago, I can see that many of you expect Rome to be pretty pricey. For example, you can see that most people thought a meal would cost between 12 and 16 euros. But I only once spent more than 10 on a whole meal.

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You can also see a rough budget below. Some figures are estimates as I didn’t keep a tight record of spending. And I know it goes over £300 but many of these options (eg. taxi to London, the hotel, flight times) were not the very cheapest options available.

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Extra Cheeky Spends

I admit, that I did also buy an extremely lovely leather journal with my left over spending money in Travestere and a couple of little souvenirs for my family but I am not including these in my Budget sheet as they were unessential. It is also worth noting that many of the meals we ate were not the cheapest items on the menu & we sometimes indulged in street food & gelato when we were in no way hungry.

So my point is: your budget is massively adaptable.

If you don’t believe me…

So if you’re at all doubting me, here is my friend Shreena who came with me to Rome telling you a little bit about what she thought.

Convinced?

If you’re reading this and I haven’t convinced you that city breaks don’t have to break your bank then maybe these bloggers that travelled to similar locations and under a similar budget may help (click on the photo below to find my Storify):

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Oh and if you do make it to Rome…

Don’t forget to make a wish.

The Trevi from Naomi Armstrong on Vimeo.

ps. Been on a similar adventure? Let me know in the comments!

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A to B in Zimbabwe

During my time in Zimbabwe, I experienced a range of transport. I thought I would share some of my relatively humorous stories both to hopefully entertain you and to help anyone considering a trip to Sub-Saharan Africa (which I encourage by the way).

The Kombi

Now I would imagine that this word is brand new to most of you. Basically a kombi is a very old Toyota minibus. If it has a door you hit the jackpot. If you have a spare seat next to you then you should count your blessings.

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This was quite possibly the nicest Kombi in existence

Kombis have routes all over Harare and the rest of Zimbabwe and so are your first port of call for getting places quickly and cheaply (usually around 20 cents).

Sometimes the unexpected happens on a kombi. My fondest memory would have to be when we were waiting for the kombi to fill up (they park up until they reach a certain number of passengers) when suddenly a young man hopped on and begged me to marry him. Of course, this provided much entertainment for everyone else on board but at the time I wasn’t too impressed!

Taxis

So taxis are probably more relatable for most of you. And in fact Zimbabwean taxis are pretty much the same. However, I advise that you pay much closer attention to whether drivers have a license. Ours didn’t. He spent most of the journey texting.

However, the journey wasn’t all bad! We spent most of it singing together which is a memory I’m sure I’ll never lose.

It may be a good idea to ask your travel agency or check out online info before heading off to Africa just to get the numbers of reliable taxi services or to know what to be looking out for. For example this article from Hip Africa on Nigeria is very useful.

The Big Bus

After staying at an orphanage for a few days in the Eastern Highlands, we had to return to Harare by bus. Now this was an experience.

The bus was rammed. Only costing $4 however for a four hour journey, we didn’t object. The first 10 minutes before departure consisted of people trying to sell me fruit through the window. The next 2 hours I had a woman’s head asleep on my shoulder.

Here’s the journey we took on the bus:

Sound off-putting?

Although I may have made all of that sound quite unappealing, I actually wouldn’t turn down doing it all again for anything! I can’t stress enough how exciting embracing culture feels when it is so contrasted to your own.

However of course I do advise that you take necessary precautions. For example, don’t get on a kombi on your own if there aren’t many people on board. And don’t ever let drivers put luggage on the roof of the bus or kombi.

Thankfully, you don’t have to rely on my opinion. Here is an interview with my friend Marina who came with me sharing her thoughts…

Want more generic advice for getting around in Africa? Check these guys out (click the photo to take you to my Storify):

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My favourite places

It would be wrong of me to tell you how to get around without showing you some of my number one stops though, right?

(In slideshow: Avondale Market, Doon Estate, Mukuvisi Woodland, Jacobs Well, Nyanga)

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Also here is a Twitter Moment I created so you can see a few photos and tips from other people that have visited Zimbabwe.

And as a leaving note… maybe I wouldn’t advise getting from A to B quite like this…

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ps. Got a few tips for transport in Africa, or in fact anywhere else? Please let me know in the comments or tweet me @na0ms_

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The Perks of Being a Hyperlinker.

The Pros and Cons of Hyperlinking

I would be truly impressed if you could find an online news article posted in the last 6 months that does not contain at least one hyperlink (seriously if you find one, please comment). But not everyone is of the opinion that they are actually worthwhile and useful. So here’s a little breakdown of the main + and -.

  • PRO – You allow your readers to gain deeper knowledge about your topic without having to explain it all yourself. This means the experts or regular readers don’t have to drown in stuff they already know whilst the newbies don’t feel like fish out of water.
  • CON – Linking to an external site means readers are directed away from your page and may not return if they are more enticed by a link or advert on the other page. BUT – I would personally recommend having the link ‘open in a new tab’ so that the reader can easily return to your site without having to wait for the page to reload. (Not everyone shares this opinion though.)
  • PRO – You prove you know what you’re on about. Showing your sources of information offers transparency that exceeds the limitations of objectivity. You may also just simply wish to corroborate your evidence which will strengthen your plausibility.
  • CON – Too many links can simply look messy and be a little distracting for the reader. Think about the aesthetics & imagine yourself as a reader – do you want to feel like you need to be clicking on links in every second sentence?
  • PRO & CON – Hyperlinks can be used to increase SEO. This, in my opinion, is an advantage for a writer as you can cleverly link words and phrases to attract readers. However, this can be disadvantageous for a reader as many sites will only link words that increase SEO and hence avoid linking to things that may actually be useful.

I could go on, but I think the point is made clear. Personally, I think links are great when used in moderation and preferably when they can be opened in a new tab. But I am a novice at best, so please let me know your opinions. All help is very gratefully received!

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Oxford Road: Officially Restricted. 

So Europe’s busiest bus route, Oxford Road, Manchester is currently littered with roadworks. Like literally, they’re everywhere.

As a keen believer in walking as a mode of both transport and fitness, you would think I would be little effected by such issues. You would be wrong.

On my regular walk to Fallowfield, I have been forced to walk between  temporary metal walls that reach high above my head as well as being diverted down junctions that add minutes to my journey that I would rather spend doing frankly anything else.

Not only this, but when my schedule means I do not have time to walk and must succumb to public transport, I have been diverted onto much longer routes which have made me late, or caused me to run from the bus stop to my destination on multiple occasions. (However I am in no way complaining about the bus service – magic buses are £1 and hence a financial life-saver).

Here is evidence of this madness from just a stones throw away from my halls.

It’s safe to say myself, and most likely every other student in Manchester will be found rejoicing when this disruption ends.

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Tell me what you think. (Please).

So sometime in the near future I will be writing about my experience in Rome and sharing my budgeting tips. But before I do that I would really like to know your opinions so I can hopefully break a few common misconceptions that I once held myself.

Thanks in advance!

PS. Please answer honestly!

 

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Shine Bright(on). The little sea-side London?

So, I know I’m sorta cheating here because Brighton is not abroad, but seeing as my bank balance seriously isn’t allowing me to leave the country for a while I thought I’d share about my recent trip to my favourite UK city.

So after waiting for a train from Eastbourne for what felt like forever (thanks a lot to all of those striking conductors & drivers), I finally reached Brighton accompanied by my grandma and best friend. I had been before but my friend had not so I had a little plan to ensure she saw all of my favourite spots so I thought I’d give you a similar little online tour…

The Lanes

So firstly, and perhaps most famously, there are the Lanes. Despite having moseyed around on around five separate occasions, I still manage to get lost every single time. But I honestly think that may be part of the charm. To be able to wind around dainty cobbled streets and window shop to your heart’s content is something I could do for days. My personal favourite is the shop that sells an impressive collection of outfits for small dogs. I don’t have a dog, and if I did I wouldn’t dress it – but I will still go in every time.

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Image: Brighton – The Lanes – Sept 2009 – James Brown Graffiti, Gareth1953, Flickr.com, Licensed under CC 2.0

 

Ben’s Cookies

I can honestly say that I am utterly and truly in love with whoever this Ben guy is. His cookies are well worth me ignoring my lactose and egg intolerances. This photo does not even do justice the marvellous creations that are on offer. My personal favourite is the white chocolate cookie. They are almost always still warm and the chocolate is a little melted mound of heaven in the middle.

The Pier

Usually the Pier is somewhere that steals a minimum half hour of my trip. But on this occasion, the weather was so appalling that we decided to run to the seafront, take a cheeky snapchat, and then run back to shelter where my Grandma was eagerly awaiting hot coffee to which we did not protest. But I heavily suggest exploring the Pier on a brighter day – nothing says British culture quite like it.

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Image: Brighton Pier sign, Marcus D, Flickr.com, Licensed under CC 2.0

The Music Shops

Now, I’ll be honest, I can’t remember the street or shop names (other than the one in the image below!) but I certainly do remember thinking Brighton had an ace collection of music shops with ridiculously good guitar collections. And I know this won’t appeal to everyone but I couldn’t not mention it. I also love how most of these stores are independently owned and take real care in their instruments and customers. So maybe think about picking up a ukulele at least?

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Big Yellow Shop Drum Cavern, Dominic’s Pics, Flickr.com, Licensed under CC 2.0

So in short, if you haven’t been: go. And if you have been: let me know your favourite spots for when I next venture down South!

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WhatsAppening: How journalists are using social media sites.

I think it can be agreed that social media is of great, perhaps even dangerous power. We know of an event often seconds after its occurrence. We also know what our Dad’s best-friend’s babysitter had for dinner. But the point is – news travels fast.

And who likes fast travelling news more than journalists?

In recent years journalists have had to succumb to Twitter character limits and competing for the most Facebook shares. But even more recently, many have found a new audience from Instagram.

Instagram, if it were a country, would be the fourth biggest in the world. Now that would be one big audience to miss out on. However many journalists have been apprehensive because, as can be seen from the icon, Instagram’s primary purpose is to post photos.

The Guardian however, for example, are using this to their advantage. Their account features exciting and unusual photos with short captions to tell followers the very basics of unusual, intriguing and often international news stories. This therefore reaches an audience of those who are more likely to be stimulated by a photo than a headline. And with 463 thousand followers, you could say they must be doing something right.

Neil Shea and Jeff Sharlet have also used Instagram to their advantage but in slightly different ways. Neil Shea (@NeilShea13) is a writer for National Geographic but also writes short stories on Instagram. Many of his photos show of his travels around the globe and are accompanied by stories – which are longer than the standard Instagram caption -but paint a captivating picture of his experiences. Somehow he finds the perfect balance between description and brevity. Jeff Sharlet’s posts (@JeffSharlet) are rather similar yet they focus more on profiles and individual stories that you would rarely find making the papers. His captions are also long, which raises the question: do people read them to the end? But I guess the same can be said for a story in a newspaper. And I personally find his style of writing easy to get lost in.

Though not only is Instagram used for sharing, it is also used for finding stories. Many journalists use sites like this to find photos or short video clips of dramatic events. They may also look on Instagram to find the talent of budding photographers and journalists. Some also use the site Contibly to collate images posted by the public into a collage that can be used for a story. In other words, as the website puts it, it ‘transform[s] your audience into contributors’.

WhatsApp is another site that has a user base just too large to ignore with 1 in 7 people having the messaging app. With WhatsApp being no more than a private messaging tool, it does not hold the same potential as sites such as Twitter and Instagram, but it certainly has its uses.

For example, BuzzFeed writer Rossalyn Warren, used the app to connect with a Syrian Refugee during his journey across oceans. After finding her source on a Facebook group and exchanging numbers, the Turkish young man would send updates and photos of his struggles and his adventures and they would converse often.

But my main question here is: why Whatsapp? Could it not be argued that the conversation could have just continued on Facebook messenger where they met? Does that not do near enough the exact same thing? I suppose either way, this is a new way to find sources that budding journalists should bear in mind. It certainly offers a more insightful and personal slant that I reckon readers are looking for.

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