A Snow Day in Sheffield

Sometimes, you don’t have to travel any further than outside your own front door to have a wonderful experience. This morning in Sheffield, I woke to snow falling and settling on the ground, pure, white, and just waiting for footprints to be crunched through it. So armed with my camera, I pulled on my boots and headed out into a winter wonderland. What is it about snow that is so magical? I think it’s the quiet. Snow falls silently, muffles the noises of city life, and keeps cars from roaring down the roads. The pedestrians out and about were concentrating on placing one foot in front of the other without skidding down the hill. The only sound was the creaking and crunching of the snow beneath my boots. By the time I reached Weston Park, the snow was increasingly blizzard-like, whipped about by the wind, and covering me head to toe. It was a whiteout, the snow carpeting the landscape. Taking photos was near-impossible; the lens was covered in fat flakes the moment it was exposed to the elements. But it created a lot of fun effects, leading to some abstract, ethereal pictures. I made my way towards the university, treading carefully until I reached the shelter of the concourse, and yet another moment of snow magic was revealed. From beneath the heavy, concrete bridge, the blizzard was kept at a safe distance, appearing like a snow globe all around me. The Student Union building, with its colour-changing lights and sharp, angular architecture, appeared like a mirage beyond the veil of white. Down in the centre of Sheffield, the...

The Charms and Quirks of Budapest

It was a less than serene start to our first morning in Budapest. We’d overslept, owing to blackout curtains and a non-functioning alarm, and had therefore jumped out of bed, into some clothes and out onto the streets of the city before being fully awake. We were on the hunt for a hot, caffeinated beverage, but the city seemed strangely shut down and deserted. It was after 9 on a Monday morning – most capitals would be buzzing. Finally, we found a cafe open for business – after walking for 15 minutes. Soon, we were revitalised and ready to face the day – and slowly, Budapest began to rouse for the day. That first quirk of Budapest was quickly followed by its first charm: the glorious Basilica San Esteban, or St. Stephen’s Basilica. Named in honour of Hungary’s first King and patron saint, it is impressive enough on the outside, with its classical pillars and domed roof, but inside it is something else. I don’ t think I have ever been into such an ornate Church – it seems to be more or less gold-plated. Feeling satisfied that we’d sampled our first bit of Budapest culture (The California Coffee Company cafe can’t really count!) we bought tickets for a hop-on-hop-off bus tour. A sales rep along one of the main streets had told us we could have them more cheaply than the face value suggested, so my friends nominated me to go and haggle with the woman selling the tickets. I was ready to protest, but she merrily sold them at the reduced price of 4,000 ft (about £12),...

Triadic

All good things come in threes – and Riccardo Di Capua came up with the title Triadic for Iain Mallory’s photo. That leaves just one more – you. Submit a photo which captures the theme Triadic and you could be our next Photo of the Week. Simply submit your pic to katy@starryeyedtravels(dot)com by Thursday 5th January and yours may become our featured photo! For more details about Photo of the Week, click...

Winter in Languedoc-Roussillon

It was the start of November and Perpignan, my temporary hometown in the South of France, was still balmy and warm. Women, trying to copy the latest fashions from Paris, sweltered in their chic coats and chunky scarves – only the die-hard fashionistas kept them on for more than five minutes. We had a sneaking suspicion that the heating in our charming, if somewhat ramshackle, house might not be entirely functioning, but that didn’t matter. It was still summer weather, as far as we were concerned. My mum phoned that evening. “So, just checking,” she said, “Rory and I don’t need to pack many warm clothes, do we?” “No, none!” I replied breezily. “A light jumper and jacket will be fine.” The following day, there seemed to be a bit of a chill to the air, and by the time my dear, trusting family members arrived that evening, it was positively arctic. The streets were unusually empty as I hurried to meet them – everyone had retreated inside, windows glowing warmly. It seemed that my Mum and brother had brought the British weather to the South of France. As I led our chilly little troupe into the hotel, the owner greeted me warmly. “The weather’s changed! It’s the first time we’ve had the heating on all year!” He said cheerily. Feeling the glowering looks from my Mum and brother, I left them to get settled in, full of hope that the weather would warm up again the next day. But it was not to be. The following morning, my housemates and I tried to get the radiators to work,...

The Calm of Beijing Before Chinese New Year

Spring Festival (Chinese New Year to you and me) is a huge celebration in China, akin to our Christmas festivities. It is the largest mass migration of people in the world as the hordes of migrant workers travel home to be with family. As a tourist this is actually one of the most difficult times to travel because with so many people on the go, securing a train ticket can be practically impossible. Thankfully, my friend and I left for Beijing a few days before the mad rush actually started. Something to keep in mind: if you visit Beijing in January, it is freezing! No matter how many layers you have on, you will still be cold. Nevertheless, my Starry-Eyed Travel experience was so good because it was freezing. It started with an overnight train journey, sharing a bottle of wine and strawberries with a good friend. The train pulled into the railway station at 6 am giving us an early start in Beijing. Our first stop was the Summer Palace. This is where Chinese royalty used to holiday in the summer to escape the heat of the inner city. Being freezing cold, the huge lake surrounding the palace buildings was frozen over, so much so that people were walking across it. As it was off-peak season the palace grounds were not busy, populated mostly by local people, particularly retirees who can take advantage of the free entry in Chinese parks. Wandering around the grounds was relaxing and breathtakingly beautiful; a sun low in the sky sent beams of light glistening off the lake and shining out from behind...
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