Oh Romania, how I love you so. It’s funny how a three week visit to a country I previously knew nothing about last summer left me falling so head over heels for a place. I may have been biased, but I still want to go back and visit the beautiful country again and again.

Being that I travelled around the country in the summer of 2017, I got to see a fair bit (though not enough!) of Romania, inspiring me to create this post of some of the most beautiful and most instagrammable spots around the country.

Note – these are just some of many, many beautiful spots in Romania. I have no doubt I’ll be creating a second list in the near future.

Formidable Joy | UK Lifestyle Blog | Travel | 6 of the most Instagrammable places in Romania | Romania | Bran Castle | Brasov

BRAN CASTLE, BRASOV
Bran Castle is a beautiful little place that looks like it’s straight out of a book (which it kinda is) or fairytale. What makes it unique is that it doesn’t necessarily fit into the usual norm’s of a castle. With copper coloured stone tiles and wooden beams, the fortress boasts an oldy-wordly look about it. Despite the fact that it’s famous for being the home of Dracula, you can’t visit this site and not be blown away from its beauty. In summer, it’s stunning but seeing it in the snow is said to be breathtaking.

TURDA SALT MINE, TURDA
Ever been in an underground salt mine that also doubles up as an amusement park?! No, not many people have, which is why this is the prime opportunity for a ‘been there, done that’ Instagram shot. Inside, you’ll find six different mines and an underground lake. Amongst these mines, tourists can find a spa treatment room, a bowling alley, a Ferris wheel, mini golf and much more. As well as all these fun attractions, there’s also the added benefit of their surroundings and the fact that all of this takes place deep underground in a salt mine…

HOIA BACIU FOREST, CLUJ-NAPOCA
I’m never one to shy away from anything creepy, so a visit to Hoia Baciu Forest has been on my bucket list for a while now. However, as well as being dubbed as one of the worlds scariest forests, Hoia Baciu Forest is also perfect for some beautiful – and edgy – photography. It’s said to be a hub of supernatural occurrences, but the strange phenomenon of the unnatural twisted trees is what causes tourists to gather here and snap away.

TRANSFAGARASAN 
As it goes, there are many spots along this famous road that can serve as a total instagram gem. The slow and twisting drive up throughout the mountains – think stone bridges and plus green trees – is exciting enough, with many opportunities to stop and take in the view. At the very top, the view that overlooks the mountains and the road you’re about to crawl back down is a rewarding sight. The entire drive itself isn’t easy, so to make it to the top in one piece is certainly something to be proud of! Finally, on the way back down, you’ll find yourself passing by the beautiful Balea Lake – in winter, you’ll find an ice hotel here too.

PELES CASTLE
If you’re one of those people who became obsessed with A Christmas Prince on Netflix this Christmas just gone (let’s face it, who isn’t?!) then a visit to Peles Castle, where the film was shot, is a must do. The castle is beautiful in it’s own right and I dare anyone to visit and not pose in front of any of the scenery or castle that appears in the movie. As a bonus, if you do plan to visit Transfagarasan and Bran Castle in Brasov, Peleș Castle is the perfect pit stop between the two.

CLUJ-NAPOCA
Cluj is a charming little place which is oozed in history. The city boats many museums – Bánffy Palace and the National Museum of Transylvanian History are popular choices – plus the beautiful St. Michael’s Church – a perfect Instagram set up. As well as plenty of history to soak up, there’s also a fabulous nightlife with tons of chic cocktail bars and many music festivals are held there too.

Have you ever been to Romania? Are you tempted after reading this post and seeing these beautiful places? Let me know!

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Berlin is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a few years now, so when a deal popped up on Wowcher recently, I knew I had to book it for my time off work in January. The deal would allow me 36(ish) hours in Berlin, as well as entry into Tropical Islands – an awesome indoor beach/water park in a giant airplane hanger south of Berlin.

The kicker is that I almost didn’t go. The deal was booked for my ex boyfriend and I (long story there), but he dropped out a few days beforehand. However, since I sort of travelled to Mexico alone, I knew a short break in Berlin would be pretty easy compared to that. So even though I was a little scared and not feeling in the mood, I made the decision to go anyway, which saw me getting up at the early hour of 3am on Wednesday morning (to catch a 4am train to catch an 8am flight).

Formidable Joy | UK Lifestyle Blog | Travel | 36(ish) hours in Berlin | Berlin | Germany | Berliner Dom

WEDNESDAY
Still, eventually I found my way to my hotel early Wednesday afternoon, throwing my stuff in my room and napping for an hour whilst my phone charged. I stayed at Days Inn South Berlin in the Neukölln district, which was a little way outside of Berlin but was in a perfect location. It was pretty much across the road from a subway stop (meaning I could get into the centre of Berlin in around five or so minutes), as well as a giant supermarket. I was also told that the area of Neukölln was really trendy and had I had more time, I would have loved to explore some of the nearby bars. Though it was only a three star hotel, Days Inn South Berlin was actually really nice and I’d definitely stay there again.

I discovered that Berlin has it’s own dungeons (as in the London Dungeons but in Berlin obviously!), and you can take English led tours there, so of course that was on my first agenda. The Berlin Dungeons was fun – as always, the set’s were really cool and the history was great to learn, but I felt some sets/rooms were not as great as the others. For example, some of the actors had a sense of humour that I guess wasn’t very British (though being in Berlin, I can’t really complain!) so some parts were quite corny or just didn’t work. It was fun overall though.

Following this, I took some time to walk around that part of the city. I headed over to Museum Island just as it was getting dark. I strolled around the outside of a few of them, and gazed in awe at how pretty Berliner Dom is. It’s definitely one of the most stunning buildings I’ve ever laid eyes on.

Formidable Joy | UK Lifestyle Blog | Travel | 36(ish) hours in Berlin | Berlin | Germany | La Stella Nera | Vegan Food

I then headed to vegan restaurant La Stella Nera for tasty pizza. I chose a salami pizza (though the salami was more like sausage than pepperoni) with vegan cheese and herbs and a really tasty but doughy base (the crust was delicious). I also had a pate bruschetta which was yummy also.

Having had such a long day, I then headed off back to the hotel for the evening.

THURSDAY
When I woke up on Thursday, the weather was grey and dreary with a bit of rain. Once getting up, I headed straight to a shop to stock up on some snacks, then headed into town to grab a ride on the City Sightseeing Traditional Tour. I love these open top bus tours (though because of the rain it was covered obviously), and having had these tours in both Amsterdam and York before, I knew it would be a great way to see the city.

Whilst I was waiting for the bus to arrive, I had a look around one of the most famous department stores in the city (I was told celebrities often shop there), and I took the lift to the top floor (I think there were seven floors altogether!) which housed tons of mini food courts. I visited a cute cupcake place and bought a tiny but very luxurious Oreo cupcake for later, then headed back down to start the tour.

The next hour or so I got to see all around the city, snacking away in comfort. We drove past remnants of the Berlin wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the TV tower, the The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and lots of historic buildings too. It was really interesting, and I stayed on an extra two stops after the full tour so I could jump off and visit Topography of Terror, a museum all about Hitler’s reign and the terror he caused. This exhibition in particular was very eye opening and sad. The museum also has a large part of the Berlin wall on it’s site too.

I spent some more time walking around Berlin afterwards, visiting a small museum right by Checkpoint Charlie, then headed back to the hotel to grab my backpack and set off towards Tropical Islands.

Tropical Islands is an amazing indoor beach south of Berlin. It is set in a giant airplane hanger and because of the way it’s built, it’s actually really warm inside. It also has a mini rainforest, a spa, a waterfall, waterslides, hot air balloon rides and outdoor activities and rapids too. It’s a place I’ve wanted to visit for so many years, but unfortunately I did not make it there.

When I bought the deal on Wowcher, the page failed to mention that the deal only included entry to the Tropical Island’s evening excursion which was four hours long. Still, an evening entry is better than nothing so I still wanted to go. The site itself was super complicated to get to, with over an hours journey and problems with one of the trains. When I ended up at a really rundown station to catch my second train but simply couldn’t understand or find out where to board, I kind of gave up. I didn’t feel safe being at that station alone, and after struggling to find wherever I had to board, I was running late. I did catch my first train back to another busier station, but had the same issue. The train I was supposed to get didn’t run very frequently, so even if I had managed to catch it, at this point I would have made around a two hour journey for, well, only about two hours there with how late it was getting.

It didn’t seem worth it to me so I turned back and have decided to try and go again later in the year – in the day, this time!

Instead I went back to another vegan restaurant I wanted to try; Chaostheorie Berlin. The tiny eatery is popular for serving vegan junk food and delicious vegan cocktails. When I visited, there was a set menu and I tried a vegan kebab with chips. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever eaten – how they re-created a kebab as vegan I’ll have no idea but I kind of wished I had longer in Berlin so I could have gone back again and again. The low-lighting and steady pace of house music suggested that this place turns into a popular location for after-work drinks too, so next time I’m in Berlin I’ll certainly be making another visit.

Formidable Joy | UK Lifestyle Blog | Travel | 36(ish) hours in Berlin | Berlin | Germany

FRIDAY
On my last day in Berlin, I didn’t actually do much. I planned to go to Beelitz-Heilstatten – a creepy abandoned bunch of run down old buildings which include a hospital where Hitler was once treated. I love anything weird and creepy so I was super excited for this, but my Google maps took me the wrong way entirely, and then I got kicked off the train for not having a right ticket (even though it was checked previously with no trouble), then I got off the train and tried to buy a new one at a tiny station but the machine wasn’t working, then I got confused with everything being in German and missed my next two trains which were FOURTY MINUTES apart, so I spent at least a good three hours just getting on and off of trains and slowly freezing, ha. After an almost breakdown and a tearful phone call to my ex where I all but screamed at him ‘THIS IS YOUR FAULT, IF YOU HAD COME WITH ME I WOULDN’T BE LOST RIGHT NOW’, I eventually made it back to the original station, popped into Aldi for some snacks and got the correct train back into Berlin.

So my last day was a fail, but I managed to do a bit of clothes shopping until I had to get to the airport, so at least it wasn’t a complete fail.

Overall though, apart from the places I didn’t get to go, and the evenings where I had nothing to do, it was a good few days away. Berlin is a really great place with lots to do and see and it’s fairly cheap too, so I’d love to go back, perhaps in the summer so that I can benefit from some of it’s beautiful parks. I definitely felt that there were a lot of things I didn’t have time to do, but all in all, I did enough for my short break away and enjoyed my time travelling alone.

Have you ever been to Berlin? Let me know!

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A new year brings anticipation for the year ahead and January is certainly the time to start looking towards any travel plans or holidays for the year. Just after Christmas is the best time to start researching, mapping out any savings plans and, quite possibly, booking up any deals that may be discounted. I’ve thought a lot about my travel adventures in 2018 lately and although I’m still looking for some inspiration, here’s what I’m set on.

Formidable Joy | UK Lifestyle Blog | Travel  | 2018 Adventures | Berlin | Iceland | Romania | Europe | Adventures

BERLIN
Much like many other travel bloggers, I have plans to cut back and budget my money/travelling better this year by doing lots of smaller short breaks if possible. First up is Berlin at the end of the month which is already booked thanks to a cheap deal discovered on Wowcher. It’s somewhere I’ve wanted to go for around a year now but when I saw the deal included entry into Tropical Islands – an amazing indoor faux beach with real sand and summer-like temperatures, I was sold. I’ve wanted to go to Tropical Islands for years now, so that’ll be another thing booked off my bucket list within the first month of 2018!

ICELAND
Iceland seems doable this year if I budget right. I haven’t researched a lot into this but I know I definitely want to visit Blue Lagoon and, if travelling in a couple, I’d like to pencil in a couple of nights in one of the transparent igloos in the hope of spotting the Northern Lights.

ROMANIA
Being that my week off at the end of the month was meant to be spent in Romania (now that I’m no longer going, I booked Berlin instead!), I still really want to go, perhaps in the summer. I’ll be sad to miss visiting the beautiful country in the snow, but after our adventures there last year, I feel like I know enough to navigate the cities alone. We saw a taster of a lot of places in the summer of 2017, so this year I might split it up and fly out two times a year for long weekends in a different city each time. LuckyTrip has tons of recommendations, but from past experiences I’d love to visit Bran and Cluj-Napoca again.

UP NORTH
Vague, I know! Although I’m in no rush to visit my old uni town particularly again (since myself and a friend visited a couple of summers ago), there is a lot I’d like to see and re-visit ‘up north’ and in Tyne and Wear/surrounding areas. I’d like to spend a little longer in Newcastle and spend some time in Durham, as well as fit in a visit to Alnwick Castle again. I’d really like to visit Beamish too, and The Forbidden Corner, as both of these places I wanted to visit when I was studying in Sunderland but never got the chance to.

EUROPE, IN GENERAL
Another vague one, but I’d like to visit some more places in Europe like Dublin, Budapest, Amsterdam etc. I’m set on visiting Edinburgh for next New Year’s Eve, but I’m hoping if I can budget probably I can maybe do a little bit of interrailing, if not this summer then next.

I’ve gone for the more cheaper ideas for 2018 and haven’t even thought about a ‘proper’ summer holiday, as I think smaller city breaks are going to be ideal for me this year. I think I’ll get some sun when I visit Romania but as a whole, smaller and budget adventures are appealing to me a lot more right now, as opposed to lavish beach holidays! Still, I am keeping my eye out on anymore TrekAmerica tours too!

What are your travel plans for 2018? Let me know!

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I’ve always wanted to travel and earlier this year, during my first time travelling in Mexico, I knew that that trip wouldn’t be the last one. I fell in love with discovering new cultures, exploring thousands of years of history and travelling different landscapes, from sandy white beaches to plush green jungles. 

During my trip, I travelled with a backpack I’d hastily ordered from Amazon just a week before. I wasn’t sure what type of luggage to go with and although I loved my backpack, I do wish I’d picked something more ideal for travel. It was a good size for my day-to-day activities – as I also brought a suitcase – but wouldn’t have cut it for long term travel. One of the straps also broke within the last few days of my trip too.
So I was delighted when CabinZero got in touch recently and asked me if I’d like to try out one of their specialized travel bags (how ideal would this opportunity have been back in April!). I had a look at the brand before choosing my bag and was overwhelmed with how ideal this company is when it comes to what they’re selling.

Formidable Joy - UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Travel | CabinZero's Classic Travel Bag Review | CabinZero | Travel

CabinZero are actually avid fans of travelling – just one look at their blog will tell you that. Posts range from their favourite travel instagrammers to guest blogs about America’s best cities for fall travel. Basically, they know exactly what they’re talking about and what exactly a travel bag or backpack needs.
I picked the Classic CabinZero which is ideal for zero-hassle travel – perfect for a new traveller like me! I ordered it in Lipe Blue and the website states that backpack’s colour is inspired by the sea’s reflection of the last rays of a stunning Thai sunset – how inspiring is that?
My first impression of the bag is that the colour is beautiful. It’s bright and eye catching, meaning there’s little chance of it getting lost, but the colour is also slightly subtle too. It’s not too bright or in your face and I think it’ll go with anything.

Formidable Joy - UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Travel | CabinZero's Classic Travel Bag Review | CabinZero | Travel
Formidable Joy - UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Travel | CabinZero's Classic Travel Bag Review | CabinZero | Travel

The bag is super spacious inside with smaller zipped compartments for things like toiletries and important documents, and another large elasticated section which fits my laptop nicely. On the front of the bag there’s also a zipped area which works for bits that need to be accessed quickly.

It’s also very sturdy and a good size. It’s more square than anything, which works really well, and as well as a zip to get inside, there’s also four clips you can use to be extra safe if you so choose. My favourite part, however, is that there’s also a handle down the left side of the bag. This means you can wear it as a backpack as normal, or you can carry it as you would a briefcase.

Formidable Joy - UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Travel | CabinZero's Classic Travel Bag Review | CabinZero | Travel

This is such a genius idea and one I haven’t seen before. I’m used to backpacks with one small handle at the top and I always worry the handle will break with how much I’ve overpacked. So with a larger and more sturdy handle on the side, it also means when you pick it up you’re lifting where most of the weight is, rather than the empty area/gap at the top of your luggage/items if you haven’t packed to the brim.
I have yet to ‘travel’ with this bag (but keep an eye out as we’re heading back to Romania after Christmas!), but so far, I use it when travelling between my boyfriend’s flat and home. Normally I shove all my stuff into my day to day bag (which I take to work with me), which means it’s heavy and weighs me down, or just in a plastic bag with my laptop in its separate bag.

Formidable Joy - UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Travel | CabinZero's Classic Travel Bag Review

Lately, I’ve been able to keep everything in CabinZero’s classic travel bag and it’s perfect for that use. Of course it will obviously be perfect for travel – weekend, week or longer – but for the meantime, I’ve been getting plenty of use out of it.
Additionally, the bag is water resistant, designed to be the perfect cabin size, has a ten year warranty and has a lost and found tag built in – how nifty is that?!
Overall, I don’t think I would pick anything else for a travel bag now. It’s light but durable, it has all the compartments you need, it’s got extra safety additions and it’s really bloody stylish too.

What do you think? Would you benefit from a CabinZero Classic Travel Bag on your adventures? Let me know!

P.S Interested in purchasing your own CabinZero bag? You can use promo code CZLOUISEJOY for 10% off your entire order until 7th Jan!

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It seems so long ago that I went on my trip around Mexico with TrekAmerica; my first time travelling, my first proper adventure and my first tour with Trek America. I’d wanted to travel with them for a long time so when I finally got the guts to take my much awaited Mexican trip, there was no doubt I’d go with TrekAmerica.

TrekAmerica offers many other tours though – including road trips – to and around places like the USA, Canada, Central & South America. In fact, there’s almost too many tours to choose from, many more varied then the last.
Since I’m looking ahead to my travels and adventures next year, I thought I’d compile a list of TrekAmerica tours I’d like to try.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Travel | 5 TrekAmerica tours I want to try | TrekAmerica | Adventure | Mexican BLT | Mountie | Best Of The East | Hawaii Big Island | Mexico City To Playa Del Carmen BOLT | The Great 48

MOUNTIE
I’m not a huge fan of the outdoors but I could definitely wear in my walking boots if it involves a trip like this. This eleven day tour involves exploring British Columbia and Alberta in the Canadian Rockies – can you even imagine the photos and views you’ll end up with?! Highlights include a stay at a rustic guest ranch, relaxing in hot springs and a visit to Lake Louise – well, visiting this lake has always been on my bucket list (a lake named after me, ha!). Let’s not forget the amazing alpine scenery and entry to national parks too.

BEST OF THE EAST
This tour offers an in depth look at the East Coast, with travels to New York, Nashville, Chicago and Niagara Falls to name just a few. Each visit to New York is different too, with the tour leader sharing their favourite places – recommendations straight from a local! Highlights include a bike tour of Chicago’s highlights and a visit to Mammoth Cave National Park. So though you’ll be visiting a lot of cities, there’s some nature and outdoorsy stuff thrown in too just to keep it varied.

HAWAII BIG ISLAND
For those of you who like your adventures short and sweet, Hawaii Big Island is a big favourite. This tour mixes the right amount of plush scenery and adventure; it offers an island cruise and snorkelling, hiking trails at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and camping by remote beaches. If you’re new to the idea of travelling – or looking for your first TrekAmerica tour – perhaps this is it. It’s not too long and isn’t too much to take on for the first time.

MEXICO CITY TO PLAYA DEL CARMEN BOLT

I’ve obviously done a Mexican tour with TrekAmerica – and cannot recommend it enough – but when I chose to do that tour, it was actually a close choice between the Mexican BLT and this one. Mexico City to Playa Del Carmen involves seeing more of a range of Mexico and includes a visit to Mexico city of course. The tours are quite similar in content, but this one includes a visit to a Mexican market and San Cristobal de las Casas. If I were to do another Mexican tour, it would be this one to coincide with visiting Mexico city during the famous Day Of The Dead celebrations.
THE GREAT 48
And, of course, I can’t not mention The Great 48. Anyone who is anyone has a full American road trip on their bucket list – myself included – and this tour makes that dream a reality. Visiting 48 of America’s 50 states (you’ll have to look for yourself to see which two are missed off!), this tour offers pretty much everything. The highlights are amazing: a party bus tour of Las Vegas, seeing the famous faces of the presidents at Mount Rushmore, watching the sun set over the Grand Canyon…need I go on?

If you’ve ever felt tempted by the idea of travelling, I can only recommend a tour with TrekAmerica. They’re perfect for first time travellers or adventures wanting to really get a feel of a place – and the tours are so varied too.

Would you ever (or have you ever?!) gone on a tour with TrekAmerica? Let me know!

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If you’re considering booking a tour with TrekAmerica after reading my recommendations, you can visit their website to see the full variety of tours on offer.

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