The stories behind The Gap Year Edit’s twelve top Instagram pictures of 2016

Yup, it’s that time of year again … where I share the stories behind the scenes from your twelve most-liked 2016 pictures from The Gap Year Edit’s Instagram account.

#12. Bamburgh, Northumberland, England

The beautiful beach at Bamburgh, Northumberland - The Gap Year Edit instagram pictures 2016

The beautiful beach at Bamburgh, Northumberland

I got my feet wet taking this picture in May – the beach at Bamburgh, Northumberland. Miles and miles of sandy wonderfulness, with a medieval castle overseeing it all. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone about it!

#11. The Sage Gateshead, Tyne & Wear, England

Sage Gateshead - The Gap Year Edit Instagram pictures 2016

The very shiny Sage Gateshead

This picture from July was taken from the top of The Baltic arts centre, looking out over the banks of the River Tyne. Gateshead – and the iconic Sage Gateshead – sits on the left; the vibrant city of Newcastle on the right. The Sage opened in 2004 and is a celebrated concert and live music venue.

#10. Berlin, Germany

Berlin architecture Karl-Marx Allee - The Gap Year Edit Instagram pictures 2016

uniformly incredible apartments on Karl-Marx Allee

I loved this pic, taken on a July city break to Berlin. It’s of Karl-Marx-Allee, the example of Berlin architecture that made me wonder if Communist-era apartment blocks could actually be the epitome of cool. I wrote about this and other cool Berlin buildings here.

#9. Beningbrough Hall, near York, North Yorkshire, England

photogenic tree at Beningbrough Hall - The Gap Year Edit Instagram pictures 2016

photogenic trees abound in Beningbrough Hall’s parkland

This rather fine specimen of a tree can be found in the grounds of Beningbrough Hall, a red-bricked Georgian mansion 9 miles north of York. Beningbrough makes for a rather fine day out from York by bike, as we discovered in June.

#8. Fountains Abbey, near Ripon, North Yorkshire, England

Fountains Abbey Cisterian monastery - The Gap Year Edit instagram pictures 2016

Ecclesiastical symmetry at Fountains Abbey

Your 8th most liked photo was from my April visit to Fountains Abbey, a former Cisterian monastery located near Ripon in North Yorkshire. There are some rather lovely walks through the gardens, but it was the former abbey itself that got my attention: gotta love a bit of ecclesiastical symmetry!

#7. Berlin, Germany

Berlin panorama Victory Tower views photos - The Gap Year Edit Instagram pictures 2016

Gorgeous uninterrupted views from the Victory Tower

Another shot from Berlin – this time a rather fine view from the Victory Tower, aka the Siegessäule. Try saying that after a few beers! (Confession: I may have been drinking wine in one of the Tiergarten beer gardens before schlepping up the steps to the top of this tower and taking this photo).

#6. Comala, Colima, Mexico

Comala Mexico sunset - The Gap Year Edit instagram pictures 2016

Sunset over Comala, Mexico – magic!

Mexico, god I love Mexico. The sky bestowed upon us the full hue of colourful delights whilst staying in the “Pueblo Mágico” (magical town) of Comala back in October. Pinky swear I’ll finally get round to writing about our trip there in the New Year 🙂

#5. Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire, England

Roseberry Topping Yorkshire - The Gap Year Edit instagram pictures 2016

Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire, complete with a very keen runner!

If you step on it, you can climb Roseberry Topping from car park to summit in nineteen minutes; as Andrew and I discovered in October. You will be knackered by the time you reach the summit, though! The reward all around is stupendous views: this one’s looking back up to Roseberry Topping from one of the many footpaths that criss-cross this northern-most part of the North Yorkshire Moors.

#4. Saltaire, near Bradford, West Yorkshire, England

Saltaire canal reflections - The Gap Year Edit instagram pictures 2016

reflections in the Leeds-Liverpool canal at Saltaire, West Yorkshire

Reflections ahoy in the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, which flows aside the former industrial mill town of Saltaire, near Bradford. The mills that thrived during the Victorian era and beyond are now home to offices and (on the opposite side of the canal out of shot) the wonderful Salts Mill, complete with David Hockney exhibits. We visited on a rather chilly March day.

#3. Fountains Abbey, near Ripon, North Yorkshire, England

Fountains Abbey undercroft - The Gap Year Edit instagram pictures 2016

The undercroft at Fountains Abbey

I had a lot of fun snapping pictures here, the undercroft of Fountains Abbey. Another shot from my April visit, it was quite a feat to capture this scene without hoards of visitors wandering through.

#2. Whitby, North Yorkshire, England

199 steps Whitby - The Gap Year Edit instagram pictures 2016

On the 199 steps in Whitby, North Yorkshire

There’s something magical about the North Yorkshire coast. Whitby’s old town, for example, looms under the shadow of a graveyard and a ruined Benedictine abbey, both inspiration for Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. Dress up here in blood-drenched clothing on one of the twice-yearly Goth Weekends and no-one will bat an eyelid. Or, on a brisk March day, take photos looking back down the 199 steps (count ‘em) to the Abbey.

And your favourite Gap Year Edit Instagram picture of 2016 was …

#1. Whitby, North Yorkshire, England

Whitby at Golden Hour - The Gap Year Edit Instagram pictures 2016

Gorgeous Whitby at Golden Hour, your favourite 2016 picture

Yes, Whitby again! The red-tinged daylight of golden hour, just before sunset, had Andrew and I running ‘round Whitby like demons (or Dracula!) possessed. This picture, taken at the bottom of the 199 steps up to the Abbey, captured the moment perfectly.

There you have it. Why not have a read of last years’ favourites? Follow along on The Gap Year Edit’s Instagram for pictures of my mildly adventurous travels from both UK shores and further afield.

Have you ever visited somewhere having only seen a photo? Did it live up to the pictures?

Best Berlin view: TV Tower or Victory Tower?

Which towering landmark offers the best Berlin viewpoint experience? I road-tested the Berlin TV Tower (Fernsehturm) and the Victory Tower (Siegessäule) and rated them on: best workout, best bar, best for being on a budget and best photo opportunities. Here’s what I found out …

I love climbing towers. The bring out the big kid in me – those feelings of exhilaration and of not being quite sure what you’ll find when you reach the top.

Fortunately, there are Berlin landmarks that allowed me to fulfil my urge to ascend. Both the Berlin TV Tower and the Victory Tower could be winners in a “Best Berlin View” competition, but which one did I rate best?

Which Berlin view gives you the best gym workout?

The iconic 1960s Berlin TV Tower stands at a massive 368 metres, with the indoor observation deck at 207 metres. Even though I love a challenge of Julie vs Stairs – I was glad there was a lift.

There’s a fair number of spiral stairs to ascend in the 67-metre high Victory Tower; and they’ll certainly give your legs a good workout. Luckily there’s a viewing platform part-way up for a breather.

Best Berlin view Victory Tower stairs

The spiral staircase (never-ending!) of the Victory Tower

Verdict: If stairs are your thing, the Victory Tower is a winner for a workout.

Best bar?

Best Berlin view TV Tower bar Berlini

Enjoying a Berlini

The TV Tower has a rather fine bar, serving some wonderful cocktails. Try the Berlini – refreshing! The downside: it’s busy. Put on / adopt a British queuing approach and you’ll get yourself a place at the bar – eventually!

The Victory Tower’s top viewing platform is tiny, but “having a bar” wasn’t an architectural priority for a monument built in the 1870s to commemorate victory in the Danish-Prussian war. Head instead to one of the nearby Tiergarten beer gardens.

Verdict: The Berlin TV tower’s bar wins hand down.

Best Berlin view TV Tower cool bar

Yes, the bar at the TV Tower really does look this cool

Which Berlin viewpoint is best for being on a budget?

The TV Tower isn’t cheap, with tickets starting at €13 for adults (about £11/$15). They’re best bought in advance online to skip the queues.

If you want to eat at the TV Tower restaurant – which is a floor above the general viewing platform – book waaaaaaaay ahead.

The Victory Tower is a rather more budget-friendly €3. Though getting to the top means going under your own steam.

Best Berlin view Victory Tower best for a budget

A victory for the Victory Tower in the “best for a budget” category

Verdict: If cost is your only factor, The Victory Tower is – of the two – your best Berlin viewpoint for a budget.

Which Berlin view will give you the best photos?

The TV Tower gives full 360-degree urban views of Berlin and you can amble around its circumference to your hearts’ content, snapping away. The only downside is that you may have some glare on your photos, as you’ll be taking pics through the glass of the inside observation deck.

Best Berlin view TV Tower photos

Fab views from the TV Tower, but with window-glare

The Victory Tower also offers 360-degree views of Berlin, but this time with the lush greens (season-depending!) of the Tiergarten in the foreground. It’s easier to get a good holiday snap from here, though you may have to elbow someone out of the way on the top lookout point to get it! The lower tier viewing platform is a better bet.

Best Berlin view Victory Tower views photos

Gorgeous uninterrupted views from the Victory Tower

Verdict: The views of Berlin from the Victory Tower were better for me. My photo skills weren’t enough to overcome the glare from the glass in the TV Tower. Pro photographers may do better!

 

[box type=”info”]I stayed in an Airbnb apartment in Berlin (££ discount off your first Airbnb stay with this link) and used the Lonely Planet Pocket Guide to Berlin for my trip. Help the site by using these links, at no extra cost to you.[/box]

A summary: TV Tower or Victory Tower for the best overall Berlin viewpoint experience?

If you’re after a quintessential Berlin experience, then the TV Tower is a good option. The fact that cocktails are on hand is just another bonus.

If I returned, though, I’d go back to the Victory Tower. The satisfaction from all that stair-climbing was tricky to beat!

Have you visited either of these two Berlin viewpoints? Which was your favourite and why? Do you know of  any other views of Berlin that shouldn’t be missed?

What to see on a self-guided Berlin architecture walk

Wow, Berlin’s got a tonne of fantastic buildings! Here’s my self-guided Berlin architecture walk that shows off the city’s eclectic side. There’s a load of glass, brick and render out there …

1. Modern Berlin architecture at the Hauptbahnhof

A homage to glass, the multi-storey central train station (Hauptbahnhof) combines style and function and has itself become a Berlin landmark since opening in 2006. Wander amongst its many levels, try not to get lost by mixing up your S-Bahn with your U-Bahn (or was that just me?), and admire the precision of its sleek design as well as its punctual train departures.

Berlin architecture walk Hauptbahnhof

Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof (central train station), a homage to glass

From the Hauptbahnhof, walk south for 2km through Tiergarten to Potsdamer Platz, where you’ll find the very cool Spy Museum, some Berlin wall remnants, and another next piece of fancy Berlin architecture, the Sony Center.

2. The Sony Center’s wondrous glass roof

The Sony Center is home to a wondrous glass roof that reflects and refracts in the multitudinous glass edifices below.

It inspires lot of staring upwards. And plenty of picture-taking.

The Sony Center is also home several places to eat, some funky big screens, and a random pond.

Berlin architecture walk Sony Center eating

Plenty of places to eat and admire the roof

Enough of the glass, the next stop is one of Berlin’s rapidly changing neighbourhoods, Prenzlauer Berg. It’s a good hour away from the Sony Center on foot, so you can let the train take the strain for this next stretch of Berlin architecture, by hopping on U-bahn (Underground) line U2 from Potsdamer Platz to Eberswalder Straße.

3. Prenzlauer Berg

Part shabby chic, part gentrified, Prenzlauer Berg isn’t big on major Berlin landmarks, but it IS the place to go for renovated 19th century Berlin architecture. Think a fusion of pastel-painted facades, and you’re there.

Berlin architecture walk Prenzlauer Berg

It’s painted. It’s pastel. It’s in Prenzlauer Berg!

One building that’s escaped the swooping of the paintbrush is the red-bricked Kulturbrauerei, a former brewery turned arts/museum/cultural complex.

Berlin architecture walk Kulturbrauerei Liebe

Wir lieben Berlin!

The Kulturbrauerei also houses a Sunday street food market. Yum.

Plus, there’s this rather convenient Liebe (love) sign. Now if that’s not an invitation for a self-timer photo, I don’t know what is 🙂

Comfy shoes at the ready for this next bit … the next part of your Berlin architecture walk takes you 3km south and east of the Kulturbrauerei through Prenzlauer Berg, via the Volkspark Friedrichshain, to the boulevard of Karl-Marx Allee.

4. Karl-Marx Allee, Friedrichshain

Karl-Marx-Allee is the example of Berlin architecture that made me decide Communist-era apartment blocks were the epitomy of cool. OK, maybe not ALL Communist-era apartment blocks, but definitely these.

The first seven- and eight-storey apartment buildings went up in a matter of months in the 1950s, a feat of labour-intensity designed to show Communist engineering and construction prowess.

Berlin architecture walk Karl-Marx Allee

uniformly incredible apartments on Karl-Marx Allee

The grandeur and uniformity of this 2.3km tree-lined boulevard has stood the test of time, and the high-ceilinged apartments are as much in demand now as they were back in the 1950s. A tenancy on Stalin Boulevard (as Karl-Marx Allee was then known) in that era signified you as a mover and a shaker in the former East Berlin.

Berlin architecture walk Frankfurter Tor

Frankfurter Tor – there are two identical blocks on either side of Karl-Marx Allee

Karl-Marx Allee ends at  Frankfurter Tor. If you’re hungry by now (I know I was!), walk right from here into the bustling streets of Friedrichshain, with cafes, bookstores and bike shops galore. I can recommend Fine Bagels at the Shakespeare & Sons bookstore on Warshauer Strasse.

Keep heading towards the river for the final stop on this Berlin architecture walk – the Oberbaumbrücke, East Side Gallery and surrounds.

5. Oberbaumbrücke and surrounds

The Oberbaumbrücke over the River Spree is another red brick wonder of Berlin architecture. Walk across the bridge under its uniform arches, ride over it on a bright yellow U-Bahn train (yup, that is an oxymoron), or under it on a river cruise.

Berlin architecture walk Oberbaumbrücke

the double-decker red brick Oberbaumbrücke

Back when Berlin was divided, the bridge marked a checkpoint between East and West. Nearby is the longest stretch of remaining Berlin wall, now the East Side Gallery arts project.

During the time of my visit (July 2016), one side of the wall had a tear-inducing temporary exhibition on Syria, featuring powerful images and stories from a land blighted by war.

Berlin architecture walk Syria exhibition

powerful images of Syria in this temporary Berlin Wall exhibition

The area either side of the Berlin Wall was once a no-mans land, but is now a property developers dream.

With fancy new apartment blocks, a new music arena under construction, and a bright turquoise office building, it’s all going on in this part of town.

Berlin architecture walk turquoise building

turquoise office? Check. Crane? Check? This must be Berlin …

If you’re the kind of person who likes to take pics of cranes criss-crossing the skyline, this is where you need to be.

[box type=”info”]I stayed in an Airbnb apartment in Berlin (££ discount off your first Airbnb stay with this link) and used the Lonely Planet Pocket Guide to Berlin for my trip. Help the site by using these links, at no extra cost to you.[/box]

Berlin architecture summed up: diverse

There’s seemingly a gazillion architectural styles and projects in Berlin. The forthcoming Humboldt Forum promises to be another exciting development, which means only one thing: I’ll need to go back!

Which are your favourite examples of Berlin architecture? Share your know-how below 🙂

Revealed: My travel plans for Summer and Autumn 2016

If “where can I go next?” is normally the first question on your mind the minute you arrive home after a holiday, you’re not alone!

where to go next? Travel plans 2016

Where to go next??

After much flight-price-stalking, saving up and work-contract planning; my travel plans for the rest of 2016 are fixed. “Next” is now just around the corner. Can’t wait!

First up, it’s Berlin!

A July city break of culture, history and wurst awaits.

Travel plans 2016 Berlin | The Gap Year Edit

Berlin, baby! Image licensed from fotolia.com

My schoolgirl German will be getting a dusting down after (cough cough) years as we explore the historical WWII sites and the Berlin Wall, get under the skin of the city arts scene, and have an obligatory cocktail atop the Fernsehturm (TV tower).

Why Berlin?

Berlin appeals for several reasons: its artsy reputation, the opportunity to learn something more about our recent history, and – I can’t lie about this – a new FlyBe route from the catchily-named Doncaster Sheffield Robin Hood airport, which has made it far more affordable to get to from Yorkshire.

The fact I’ll be there (almost) for my birthday and that I can wax lyrical about a “hat that has three corners” in the native lingo has absolutely nothing to do with it 😉

My Berlin travel style

Cheap flight (around £80 return), a nice central apartment (approx. £75 per night) so we can come and go as we please, a few meals out, the occasional cocktail, and not forgetting the wurst! We won’t be crazy big spenders, but we’re not scrimping either.

Back to Mexico!

I’m beyond excited about going back to Mexico. Since travelling there for six weeks in 2007 and a further two weeks in 2009, I’ve been longing to return and see the bits I didn’t get chance to visit first and second times around.

The Copper Canyon (Barranco del Cobre) is top of the list. How amaze-balls does it look?

The Copper Canyon Mexico: travel plans 2016

The incredible Copper Canyon. Image licensed from fotolia.com

Longer and deeper than the Grand Canyon (yup, really!), the Copper Canyon has been on my “things I MUST do” list for what seems like FOREVER. We’ll be catching the train from Los Mochis to Creel before hiking, biking and – possibly – horseback riding our way into the canyons’ depths.

Flights are booked for October, and the Copper Canyon will be just part of our three-week trip.

Why Mexico?

I love it! And … did I mention I love it? The vibe, the food, that it’s easy to travel around and get talking to local people, the history, the culture, the crafts. Have I sold you on Mexico yet?

Our itinerary is pretty flexible, but looks something like: Mexico CityGuadalajaraColima (including volcanoes) – Mazatlán – Los MochisCreel (for the Copper Canyon) – Chihuahua – ending in Mexico City for Day of the Dead (Dia del Muertos).

Day of the Dead, Mexico travel plans

We’ll be in Mexico City for Day of the Dead on 2 November. Image licensed from fotolia.com

The challenge is narrowing down where to go. It’s easy to spend weeks if not months traversing Mexico!

Mexico travel style

A mix of outdoorsy and city, travelling independently and staying in simple B&B/Airbnb-style accommodation. Buses and possibly the odd cheap flight will be the norm. We may take one or two organised trips in the canyon, or to the volcanoes near Colima.

We’re budgeting around £1700 each for a three-week trip. This includes our transatlantic flights (which we found through Skyscanner) from the UK, plus all food, accommodation, transport, insurance and activities.

I’d love if you could take a moment to share your top tips for Berlin, the Copper Canyon and Guadalajara. Which sites can’t I miss? Where does the best wurst? Spill the (Mexican) beans below …