Toni authors “Reclaiming my Future”.
She’s somewhat of a travel junkie as well.
So a little bit about me.
I never know where to begin with these things so excuse me whilst I fumble around my Mary Poppin’s bag for some ideas on introductions.
This is me…
My name’s Toni, ‘hi’ *waving*, I’m 23, live in Torquay, Devon, am an only child and I’ve just moved back home to my mum’s after almost 5 years which is taking some getting used to. A couple of months ago I broke up with my boyfriend (A) who I had been with for 4.5 years because I came to the realisation that I didn’t love him anymore. There were a lot of reasons for it but I had also grown up too fast…we had a mortgaged apartment, I’d had to cope with him being made redundant twice and the mother-in-law was planning my life away.
By pure chance I met a man (about a month after A and I broke up) that I thought I could have spent the rest of my life with but he turned out to be another frog I had to kiss to find a prince (which I’m still looking for…suggestions on a postcard please).
I’m a medical secretary at the local hospital and I work with my mum. That’s right, mum and I not only work together but now live together too – good job we get on (most of the time). I’ve worked at the hospital for the past 2.5 years and before that worked at Blockbusters for 2.5 years (which were some of the best years of my life until the end). That being said, the girls I work with now are a giggle (and it seems that you have to be a little mad to work there) and the job is a source of endless entertainment if you have the right sense of humour.
I have 3 aunties, 2 uncles and 5 cousins; I’m god-mum to my 11 year old cousin, Zoe and my name was the second word she ever said. Though, granted, she called me ‘noni’ because she couldn’t pronounce the ‘T’ which was highly embarrassing walking around Mothercare at the age of 13 with a 2 year old screaming ‘noni, woni, macaroni’ at the top of her voice!
Despite being a confident, outgoing and fun person, I don’t have many friends as I have the innate ability to pick the only bad friend out in a crowd. They’re not bad in the sense that they get me into trouble, they’re bad in the sense that I don’t rate very highly on their priorities. I’m the arrangement which can be cancelled or ignored completely. Seriously, would a 10 second text to say ‘hi’ really take up much of their time? There is an exception to the rule though – Lady T…she’s my girl.
My dad lives in Spain and his mother died a couple of months ago; he’s close to bankruptcy and I’m pretty sure he’s suicidal. My relationship with him is not normal by any stretch of the imagination as I have spent my entire childhood half scared of him and half being the ‘mum’. If ever there was a person that defined the phrase ‘act your age not your shoe size’ it would be him.
So my reasons for traveling you ask? My real reason is not something I feel comfortable sharing just yet but I will say that I’ve had the travel bug for as long as I can remember. I was actually born in Jersey, Channel Islands (the place I always consider home) and lived there until I was 4 years old and my parents divorced. Dad stayed on the island for another 14 years so from the age of 6 I used to fly over and see him by myself. My mum would hand me over to the airline stewards who would help me board, the air hostess’ would then look after me (extremely well) and then the air stewards the other end would hand me over to my dad. I loved it. I felt so mature and brave, all the time carrying my favourite teddy ‘Cherry’…she still has a place in my bed at the age of 23.
Since then, I have had the fortune of travelling to the Florida, New York, France, Spain, Italy, Cyprus and the Dominican Republic which I will no doubt share on here.
Until then, sit back, relax and enjoy the build up to my 3 months of finding who the real ‘me’ is…
Travel hints and tips…
Tip 1: Plan like you’ve never planned before!
The biggest mistake people make is not planning things as much as possible and wasting valuable time, money and, no doubt, Metro tickets. Get yourself online before you go and check out a map to see where everything is so you only need to visit the area once instead of going back. For instance, after we had been to the Notre Dame, we sauntered over to the Louvre, popped in for a quick chat and bite to eat with Mona (Lisa that is lol), walked through the gardens, past Place de le Concorde and ended at the Arc di Triomphe (a walk not for the feint hearted…seriously, it’s about 7 miles!). Once you’ve arrived, maps are plentiful everywhere you look from the airport to restaurants and most hotels (which usually have a big red dot for where you are staying) so you’ve got no excuses for getting lost unless you’re crap at navigation!
Tip 2: Plan your stops
Check out the Metro map before you head off. See where the nearest metro station is to your accommodation and work around it. The best pass is a ‘carnet’ (book of 10 single tickets) which costs around 11 euros at the time of writing this. Granted it’s only 5 return journeys but to be honest, everything is within walking distance to a certain degree so you shouldn’t struggle too much. We only used one carnet each for the whole weekend so it’s ‘doable’. The Metro works using numbers and colours though this can bit a little confusing at first. The line numbers don’t change according to direction i.e. line 1 (yellow) stretches from La Defense to Chateau de Vincennes so before you navigate yourself underground, see which direction you need to travel in and follow the signs for the terminating stop. It sounds confusing but it really isn’t and there are signs everywhere just like the Subway/Underground.
Tip 3: Shop around and haggle
This tip holds itself on two levels. First, shop around for flights to get there. Check out local airlines as well as more national companies to see who offers the cheapest deal though don’t be fooled. Travelling for 50 miles for that ‘cheap deal’ may be lost if you’re spending £40 on fuel to get there. Shop around for hotels/hostels using different methods…has anyone you know been there? Have a place they can recommend? We usedHostel Bookers and ended up staying in 3* Hotel Mondia which was perfectly placed and a bargain at £30 a night! Check out TripAdvisor for reviews but don’t let them be the be all and end all as personal taste accounts for a lot! Haggle in markets (but not too much, they have to make a living too) such as Monmarte when you want an original piece of Parisian artwork painted whilst you watch (expect to pain anywhere in the region of 25-100 Euros) or attempt to immerse yourself completely with the locals and head to the famous St Ouen flea market.
Tip 4: Try and speak the language
You’ll never need to have an entire conversation but stringing together a sentence or two goes a long way in appreciation. Granted, most Parisians who work in the restaurants etc can speak a large amount of English and will invariably ask you for your order in English but even if you try to pronounce that 7 word chocolate dessert (it’s a tongue twister but you know it’s worth it) they will appreciate it. It doesn’t take a lot to say the obvious such as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and you will leave a shop/restaurant with a smile on yours and your servers’ faces.
Tip 5: Enjoy yourself!
Many people forget on city breaks (due to the pace of seeing everything) that they are there for a holiday and should relax. Paris is not a laid back city by any stretch of the imagination but there are pockets where you can stop, sit back and take in the beauty of the city. Jardins de Luxenbourg is the biggest and most popular park in Paris for picnics with the family or just city workers needing a time out. When the over-crowding gets too much, go somewhere different for that feeling of relaxation. One evening we headed to Tour de Montparnasse which is an office tower you are allowed up on the roof; it allows you to watch the city be engulfed by the night and light up with it’s array of street lights and neon signs giving you your own ‘little piece of Paris’.