Category Archives: Travel

Florentinian at Heart

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Every day I dream of Florence. I dream about walking down ancient cobbled stone streets in my Birkenstock sandals. I dream of lazily sampling every flavour of gelato, while looking across the Arno. I dream of shopping up a storm, admiring art, discovering new delights and even the smell of Italian cigarette smoke. I dream of the strong aroma of coffee that meets your nose around every corner, and the thrill of hearing gorgeous Italian words every minute.

I dream of going out for late night dinners, and passing out, exhausted, into bed. Only to wake up and do it all again the next day.

Until we meet again Firenze.style10fun

Top – Forever New (old)  |  sandals – Birkenstock (or Cape Town – Andhee Comfort Shoes)  |  Skirt – Mr Price (old)

You can see my previous posts about my outfits in Florence, as well as the best meal I’ve ever eaten in Florence by following the links.

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Hahei Away

I’m sorry. I just had to call the post that because it rhymed and I thought it was sweet. But really, in real life, The Coromandel is no laughing matter. I mean, you can laugh when you’re there, it’s not like the laughing police are out to get you. Okay. I’m getting so sidetracked. Basically, this is Heaven on Earth, and my absolute favourite area in New Zealand that I’ve discovered so far (although I’ve only explored Auckland and a bit of the Coromandel, so I’m not so sure I can be trusted). But if you’re nosey like me, and like to look at other peoples’ holiday photos, or want a little visitors guide to the area, then this will be just your cup of tea.

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Like the look of these images? Then click below to continue reading about, and looking at photos from, our amazing little 3 night getaway to Hahei, in the Coromandel! A haven for those who love sandy toes, hot hot hot weather and a totally chilled out time!

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Tasteful Tuesday: Dream Dinner Destination

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As many of you know, I spent an incredible Summer in Europe in 2013. (Can you believe that it’ll be 2 years ago soon!)… You can read about my adventures on my Contiki Tour, or see some of my travel outfits, or learn about a couple of my European Summer packing tips.

One of my most favourite cities that I was lucky enough to explore, was Florence. I had been learning about it since I was old enough to pronounce “Michelangelo”, had been oohing and aaahing over David since forever, and obviously have a very deep love affair with Italian food. Not only does FLorence offer up a plethora of art galleries and buildings – it feels alive with secrets and history. Knowing the exact streets you walk upon were once graced with the feet of those such as Dante Alighieri and Boticelli. The Arno river flows straight through the city, the Duomo sticks up above the rest of the red roofs, every hundred meters is another piazza encircled by over priced restaurants and local gelato makers who shout offers and flavours to you as you pass by, with thick, deep Italian accents. It’s simply marvelous.

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It was while spending about 5 days in this magical city in Tuscany that my mother and I decided to treat ourselves one night. We were on a backpackers budget – mostly baguettes, cheese and ham. And possibly a shared pizza or pasta here or there. But we had heard of the famous Florentinian steaks, and decided to go in search of a place to try them out. We meandered lazily through the cobbled streets, passing homes once owned by the famous Medici family, stopping here and there to gaze at the incredible architecture that adorns the city. We came across a tiny, understated entrance with a sign reading, “Little David”. Starving from a day spent wandering galleries and lying under the hot Italian sun in beautiful rose gardens, we popped inside, and ended up having what can only be described as one of the most amazing meals of our lives.

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Little David is a restaurant, wine bar and museum, run by an Italian man who is heavily passionate about what he does. You might notice that his website is entirely in Italian, and has absolutely no options to change the words to English! It’s lucky that we stumbled onto it while looking for somewhere to eat in person, and that we didn’t google search first – it may have possibly put us off from going here. We wouldn’t have had the time to ask a local to help us transcribe the words, and would simply have looked for something easier to understand. This is definitely where some international websites fail – really, they should accommodate their holiday making patrons and have the option to turn the site into english (or at least important aspects like menus, directions and contact details). Thank goodness for Little David’s Trip Advisor page!

But rest assured, website aside this is a brilliant place to go and experience some first hand flavoursome Italian food. We ordered a pretty large steak, and finished every single mouthful. The owner was quite surprised that we, two petite ladies, had managed to scoff down so much food. Florentinian steak is served rare as rare can be (which is just my style, but if you’re not into that, I’d suggest changing your order to something else. The Italians will change for no one – and why should they when they do everything so perfectly!). We got a short history lesson, while I sipped away on a glass of soft, velvet chianti, about the restaurant owner’s love of wine. He even gave us free samples to try. An interesting aspect to his wine making skills, is that he has successfully copied the exact recipes that would have been used in ancient Pompeii – vases unearthed still had traces of wine in them, that were analyzed. The owner of Little David then took it upon himself to, using these ingredients that were pinpointed, re-create the exact wines that would have been drunk by those who were covered in volcanic ash. It really is amazing.

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I was reading Dan Brown’s Inferno while I was in Venice, and had just been in Florence, so to be able to think back on every details of his book and know what it looked like in person was just incredible. There is so much of that city that I have yet to go back and discover. The gelato is sweet, the locals helpful, and the food is simply magical.

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This was our incredible view every morning from our hostel – sparrows swooped and flew over the Tuscan rooftops, and we looked at mamas hanging out the days washing to dry.RoseView

This view is from a beautiful rose garden that is situated just below the beautiful Piazza di Michelangelo. It has a wondrous view of the city, beautiful gardens to stroll through, shade to rest your weary walked-out legs and most importantly, it’s totally free.David

David’s bum is something that is never given the recognition it deserves. I sneakily took a photo while no one was looking. (But seriously, those calves though!)

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Packing for a camping trip

Anyone remember when I created this epic (if I do say myself) packing list for Europe, and styled 40 outfits out of it? (Dude, I know  – 40 freaking outfits. And I printed them out, took them with me and showed them to Ben on the first day – he fell in love and was weirded out, in equal amounts.)

Well, I’ve done it again for this little 9 day camping trip that Ben and I are going on. I’ve chosen 18 simple items from H&M, Forever21, Miss Selfridge, Topshop and River Island that are currently for sale online. You can find links to each of them below. To top that off, I’ve styled 9 fun Summer outfits that are just perfect for all sorts of eating-marshmallows-round-the-fire-after-a-beach-day camping related activities. Enjoy!

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five | six | seven

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eight | nine | ten

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eleven | twelve | thirteen | fourteen

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fifteen | sixteen | seventeen | eighteen

I always find that I need to be able to see outfits on paper because I can’t imagine what to do with all the (inevitably) creased clothes that are lying in my bag. It’s hard when you don’t have a hotel cupboard to hang your clothes up inside. But for only a couple of days I can definitely Iive with it! Often what I do, is just before I pack my clothes into a bag, I arrange them into a couple of outfits and snap them with my iPhone – that way I can scroll through my images and see what potential outfits I could wear, and once I’ve decided, simply pull out the according pieces. Voila! It’s like having a mini personal stylist on holiday with you!

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Camp-tastic

As you might already know, I am a lover of traveling, and so is Ben. (Contiki, Paris, Pamplona, Rome, Greece… looking forward to adding Auckland to that list very very soon!). I’m currently in the UK until August, and am absolutely loving exploring different places. In two weeks time, Ben and I are off to Norfolk for a spot of camping. We have yet to buy any equipment, but we should hopefully be getting to that on friday.

The place that we’re staying at directly overlooks the beach – it’s called Overstrand Campsite and seems to have some great reviews. Although I camped all over Europe for about a month last year, I’m not sure how I’ll fair if it starts to rain and our tent leaks or something. I’m a bit of a miserable lump if I’m wet. Even more so if my belongings are wet. Here’s hoping it’s only ever sunshine and seashores for us. That’s a picture of Norfolk beach below. Ohh yeeeah!norfolk201358image via

I’ve been searching the internet for ideas to make our trip just a little more special, but have really been struggling to find creative ways to make an adults camping trip feel exciting. I’ve scoured pintrest, and Google images, but all I can really find is suggestions for children’s parties, weddings and ‘clamping’ (which just totally defeats the point of camping!). The closest I’ve come to seeing something camping inspired and unique was on A Cup of Jo – she wrote a post about Shelter Co. who have a super awesome camping service. In my mind, I imagine camping to be like the images on their site – strategically planned and dry. I know that neither of those things are feasible, but I like to keep my hopes up, especially about the weather (did I mention my hatred of rain?).

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Can you even deal with how gorgeous these are?! I mean, I’m not one to glamp, but daaaamn. I guess when I thinking of glamping, I think of a girly backyard sleepover. Or manicures in a tent. But this style of camping by Shelter Co. – I could definitely do it!

So I’ve decided to try and come up with some creative ways to make our camping trip a little more special… It’d also Ben”s birthday while we’re away, which aside from French toast for breakfast on the 16th, means it needs to be extra extra special. 26 is a big deal!

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Perfect Picnic: Hadleigh Castle

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Ben and I really love going on picnics. We pick a spot, pop into Marks & Spencer on the way there to buy a couple of supplies, and head out with our trusty blanket that we bought in Dublin.

On the train we catch to London, we often look out the window just as we’re passing Leigh-on-Sea, and look at the beautiful old ruins of Hadleigh Castle. It has an incredibly interesting history, and is open to the public, so we decided to visit the spot this past weekend. We certainly weren’t disappointed – it was absolutely gorgeous up there! The ruins that were once the castle are based on a hill over-looking the gorgeous coastal landscape, and the place itself is only a short walk from Hadleigh.

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It was a gorgeous day out, the sun was shining (Summer is slowly creeping closer to the UK!) and we spent a glorious couple of hours lying on our blanket, meeting new furry dog friends and gobbling down our yummy snacks. There were loads of families with children playing games and many people had brought their dogs with them for the day.

Where: Hadleigh Castle, Essex (London)

How to get there: 
Bus Service: Arriva service 1 & 5 (We used this to get to Hadleigh and then walked a short way from the bus stop near a little church.)
Train Service: Catch a train from Fenchurch street in London to Leigh-on-Sea (about 45 minutes). From there it’s 1 & a half miles by a footpath.
On Foot: Walk down from A13 (See map below)

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Fun Facts: 
• Hadleigh Castle was built by King John in 1215
• 100 Years later, Edward III was the first king to see the strategic importance of Hadleigh Castle – it was ideally situated as a base for defending the Thames estuary against French raids during the Hundred Years War.
• After King Edward died, his successors took little interest in it.
• In 1551 it was sold to Lord Riche, who sold it off as building materials. He built a hearth in the middle of the great hall to melt down the valuable lead windows.
• William Booth purchased Hadleigh Castle and its surrounding site in 1891 for the use of the Salvation Army. In fact, you still walk through the Salvation Army farm to get to the castle – look out for the biggest sheep you’ve ever seen.
• The Salvation Army gave the castle to the Ministry of Works in 1948, and it is now owned by English Heritage, classed as a scheduled monument and a Grade 1 listed building.

What we brought along: 
• Mexican Style chicken slices
• Italian Deli Antipasti selection
• Hand Cooked Vegetable chips
• Deli Piquillo Pepper Dip
• Box of Assorted crackers
• Crispy Unsmoked bacon strips
• British Cheddar cheese
• Cheese stuffed with cranberries
• Goat’s cheese
• General Baybel cheese

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Aztec Amalfi

While I was scanning through all of my photos from the amazing trip that I took with my mother last year, I came across an outfit that I hadn’t shared yet! This aztec dress is one of my favourites for traveling.
These photos were taken the day we spent exploring the towns along the Amalfi Coast. An area of Italy that is very close to Sorrento and The Isle of Capri. It was the first time we had managed to spend a day on the beach, and we couldn’t believe the rocks and pebbles lining the shore. I’m aware that that’s what most European beach are like, having been to Greece before, but coming from Cape Town with our white sandy stretches of seaside heaven, it always surprises me. But when in Amalfi, one must do as the Italians do – so we ate gelato, explored the cobbled streets and lay in the sunshine all day long.

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Dress – Mr Price (old)  |  sandals – Birkenstock (or Cape Town – Andhee Comfort Shoes)

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Contiki part 10 … the final chapter

Munich you absolute beauty of a city!

I’m friends with a fabulous girl from Munich who I was lucky enough to study with last year. Barbra is just wonderful, so I had a feeling that I might like her hometown of Munich just as much as I like her, and I was absolutely right!

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On the way to Munich from Prague, we stopped off at Dechau concentration camp – a sad place where the hurt and anguish literally hangs in the air.

Onwards to our campsite – the first of many that we had to pay for hot water! You can imagine my fury… We headed into town to Marienplatz, and then on to Hofbrauhouse for a delicious dinner of pork, beer and pretzels! And what delicious beer it was!! Wilandri and I both ordered Weise beers, and were not disappointed – they’re a must try!

We headed out to a club that evening but I wasn’t really feeling very well, so we headed back to the campsite and snuggled down for the night.

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We went into town early the next morning, and went on a bike tour (I got to ride a beautiful pink bicycle with a basket – total hipster!) we stopped at a number of prominent sites, and also saw a group of people surfing in a river! The strangest thing ever!!

We headed back to Hofbrauhouse for an unbelievable lunch of goulash, more pretzels and of course… More beer!! We stopped by the BMW museum for a visit, which was more interesting than I’d like to admit!

We did a spot of shopping (zara zara zara) and after watching the glockenspiel play it’s hourly tune, went back to our campsite, where we shivered in our tents from the ICE cold weather!

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IMG_3635 IMG_3640 IMG_3661 IMG_3678 We went back to the campsite and I ended up relaxing in the toasty warm bathroom to escape the cold outside. When I finally dragged my frozen ass to bed, I huddled up in as many warm clothes as I could find and tried to keep warm. That was honestly the coldest night on the entire tour.

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Left Munich behind, and headed for Switzerland. On the way we stopped in Vaduz, Lichtenstein, a tiny country where you can pay 2 euros for them to stamp your passport. Ha, fat chance! I bought Lindt chocolate instead.

We began our Swiss experience in the city of Lucerne, where we saw the beautiful lion carving in the rock, created as a dedication to the Swiss Guard who died protecting the French royal family in the french revolution. We also walked along the Chapel Bridge, and went to a store that sells watches and army knives – two things the Swiss are famous for.

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We carried on along our merry way and ended up in Lauterbrunnen, a brilliant little Swiss town where Contiki have one of their amazing ‘Contiki Villages’. Our campsite was directly in front of a magnificent waterfall and surrounded by gorgeous snowy peaks. Ben and I took a very romantic walk up to the waterfall – you can actually walk right behind it. We ended the evening going to bed early-ish, and decided to rest our bodies in preparation for the following night’s ‘Swisco Disco’.

The next morning, those of us who had signed up for the Jangfrau optional extra, headed towards the railway station, where we caught a beautifully quaint train, and changed onto a perfect little cog railway further up the mountains. The views were exquisite, and there were cows with bells around their necks! Unbelievable!

It was freezing on top of Jungfrau (which is the highest railway station in Europe). I literally froze, even with two pairs of pants on, and a mass of jackets. We took loads of photos, as it was my first time seeing snow. It was so much…. wetter and harder than I thought it would be! I think I had thought it was going to be soft!

We headed back down, after looking around the viewing station and watching some of our group snow boarding and skiing. Back down in the town of Lauterbrunnen it was a boiling hot day, and I ended up grabbing a pie to eat and posting 2 postcards to my family in SA (somehow they never arrived). I love Lauterbrunnen!!!

That night was the Swisco Disco, and needless to say, it was freezing cold walking to Contiki’s underground bunker, but I don’t remember the walk home. I absolutely loved the little bar. It’s a bit dingy, but it’s so full of 20 somethings dressed up in red and white. The next I was feeling slightly worse for wear, but didn’t regret a thing. Go BIG in the Contiki bunker bar – it’s awesome!

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Wilandri literally had to shake me awake the next morning, and aside from running really late on our last morning in Prague, it was the first time we’d literally been the very last to take our tent down. I think I had turned off my alarm about 5 million times… Still, #NoRegrets!!

We had a quick breakfast, and then headed out of Switzerland, back into Germany. We stopped in the gorgeous student town of Heidelberg. I walked around for ages by myself, looking at the people and of course, popping into Starbcuks for a yummy chai latté and a bit of internet usage.

We carried on driving, and ended up at our campsite where we could upgrade! Yay! Ben and I got a little wooden cabin, and we relaxed outside that evening with the rest of the group. It was the first time that we realized that our amazing trip was so close to ending. It had been 26 days of absolute fun for some of us, and those who were on the big chill had been traveling for 46 days in total! That was the last night that Kesh would be cooking dinner for us because our first night in Amsterdam we had to find our own dinner, and the second night was an organized final dinner, so she went all out and bought wine, beers and made a brilliant starter (melon covered in parma ham) and curry for main course. We went to bed early, and felt super rested the next morning.

On the way out of Germany, we stopped in a town that sold Cuckoo clocks, beer steins and most importantly – Birkenstock shoes for a fraction of the price!! Happiness! I bought a pair for myself and a pair for my mom. They are beyond comfortable, fantastic shoes, and I don’t know what I would have worn for the second half of my trip if I hadn’t bought these.

We made it to Amsterdam and set up our tents, before quickly jumping back onto our bus and heading into the city. At this point I was feeling very ill – pneumonia ill. But I more than likely had bronchitis. We walked around the city, into the red light district which was a bit uncomfortable, because I feel strongly about human trafficking and women’s rights, and I think that just because you legalize something like prostitution, doesn’t make it okay or ‘safe’ for the girls doing the work.

We ended up going to a sex show, and then Wilandri and I grabbed chips from a place that was supposed to sell “the best chips in The Netherlands” … personally, I’ve had better. I went home with the bus, along with Ben. I was feeling horrid by this time, and he was lovely enough to come back with me and have an early night.

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The next morning, it turned out that some had had crazier nights than others of us. To be frank, a few too many people swallowed things they shouldn’t have and ended up as poster children for bad decisions. We left them behind, and went on an optional extra to Edam, where we took a bike ride to see the dykes and windmills and a cheese and clog making demo. Very interesting!

We spent the rest of the day in the city centre, and I walked around with Blake, seeing the outside of Anne Frank’s house (the line was WAY too long. next time.) and the inside of the Van Gogh museum, which was very inspiring. We ate strop wafels (a must!!), took photos next to the IAMsterdam sign and lay on the grass outside the gallery, while I coughed and spluttered. I was mega sick. We headed back to the campsite, and I sat in my tent packing my bag for the final bus journey to London the following day. Went to bed early, and could;t believe that this was the last night and I wasn’t even well enough to go out… dammit. But it was a better decision to stay home, and Ben stayed with me. It was wonderful to spend a final night together, as I wouldn’t be seeing him for another few weeks.

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We departed the next morning, dropping a couple of our group, including Wilandri, off at the airport in Amsterdam. It was so sad, as our time together had ended so soon.. it felt sort of like trying to remember a dream, or like trying to hold onto sand that slips through your hands. But I wouldn’t trade a single thing for the world. We spent all of that day driving through Belgium, where we stopped briefly at a McDonalds (Hallelujah!! French fries and tomato sauce!). We headed across the border into France, and caught the ferry across to Dover. Into London we drove, with each kilometer feeling like it was going by faster and faster… I felt as if I didn’t have enough time to say goodbye. We stopped at the The Royal National Hotel (here’s a tip, book a room for your first night back. You generally drive late and you’re exhausted and sick.). I said goodbye, a slightly teary one to Ben… and headed to my room. I ended up having dinner with my cousin, Marc, in Soho, but headed home early to get some sleep before my 7am flight from Gatwick to Rome the next day, to meet my mom.

(Began this post on the 9th of September 2013)

South Africans VS the UK visitors visa application

I would actually like to name this post:
“Applying for a UK visitors visa when it feels like the UK border agency is conspiring against you”

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Anyone from South Africa knows the absolute sheer pain and torment of attempting to obtain a visa to travel in Europe or the United Kingdom (or most countries in the world who take our buy-one-on-your-local-corner attitude towards passport control more seriously than our own government do.) Having travelled quite extensively through Europe, and visited London a couple of times, I know all about this. Hundreds of supporting documents to show that you really and truly just want to go on holiday kind of take the spring out of your step. And even when you do succeed against all the odds that are stacked against you, you get re-questioned at the borders of different countries as though you’re on Interpol’s most wanted list. (I’ve been whisked away for questioning at more borders than I care to reflect back on. Dingy rooms with bad-smelling men asking my flat mate and I what our fathers’ names are… really?)

The worst part is that the process of applying for a British visa makes you feel like you’re a criminal – like they are desperately trying to catch you out – cross questioning (“Is this passport yours, prove that it’s yours by stating your date of birth and full name, is this photograph of you, how long ago was it taken…?”) before you’ve even gotten inside to actually make your application. Finger prints, extra photographs, bank statements, proof of employment and a sweet R1600 for all of this – a price that’s risen dramatically in the last 2 years. The most laughable request is that they actually ask people in the official form “Are you or have you ever been involved in acts of terrorism?” oh yes – because Al Qaeda fills out these forms honestly. All I want to do is come on holiday!!!! This is bullshit. Plain and simple. But until South Africa’s government pull themselves together we’re only going to see stricter and stricter rules when it comes to international border crossings. Personally I would like to campaign for government officials to have to go through civilian visa processes and not be allowed instant access to other countries. Oh hey, Jacob Zuma, where’s your proof of income? Oh right, of course. That would prove that you actually couldn’t afford  the Nkandla upgrades yourself.

I’ve gone through the UK visa process 4 times now. One of those times being declined for my 6 month holiday visa, due to insufficient supporting documentation (I had listed my cousin as my source of accommodation, but had failed to prove how I was related to her. Dude…. seriously?) however the other 3 have gone smoothly, or as smoothly as you can go when you’re scrambling around getting 80 pages of evidence together. I’m about to apply for another one – I’m taking a little trip up to London in April. Shoe shopping, art gallery hopping and Starbucks drinking – the usual. Now the Visa 4 UK service in South Africa doesn’t really help when it comes to explaining the supporting documentation that you need. So I thought I would go through what I have used in the past and plan on using for my visa application this time around.

|| Please note, I am by no means a travel agent, visa specialist or UK border crossing guru. The things I’ve listed below are simply a guideline – they’re what has worked for me, in my situations.  I am not going to take responsibility for anyone who has had their visa rejected and they think it’s my fault. Don’t hate me, hate the system. Thanks.

Important UK Visa links:
Start you application process
Read more about the UK visitors visa
Supporting documentation as suggested on their site

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Step one | Online application – Fill in your personal and travel details, book your appointment and pay R1600 online

Step two | Physical appointment at your nearest visa office. Here you hand in your supporting documentation and have you biometric details taken – fingers prints, photos etc.

Step three | You passport is sent to the British embassy in Pretoria, where they decided on the outcome of your application. You can check the progress of your application online, or opt for SMS notification for an extra R20 (payable by card at the visa office)

Step four | Collect your passport and hopefully your 6 month travel visa. You can also pay for a courier service to bring it directly to you. Upon collection you must produce your South African ID book as well as your visa receipt, which you get upon applying.

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Pamplona Princess

 

Pamplona seemed a little sleepy, which might have had something to do with the fact that we arrived 2 weeks after Running of the Bulls had finished, and the town was still deep in siesta mode. I still managed to do some great shopping, and even grabbed a photo opportunity to pose with a couple of friendlier bulls! I can’t wait to go back one day for the festival, any opportunity to drink sangria is good with me!

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Dress – Zara  |  sandals – Birkenstock (or Cape Town – Andhee Comfort Shoes)006_portrait