Barcelona Day One: Airports and Beaches

Today I set off for the East coast Spanish city of Barcelona. I have been before, but when I was a kid so I was looking forward to returning and exploring more. I am here just for few days during my spring break from university. I am travelling with Alex who like me, lives in Brighton but spent her childhood in Barcelona.

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Like any good holiday we spent our morning consuming overpriced food at the airport, loosing track of time and running to our gate. Although we were the last to board the plane, we made it in time to sit onboard as our flight got more and more delayed.

Finally we were off and after watching copious amount of Parks and Rec we landed. Travelling with someone who has spent half their life in Barcelona made travelling from the airport to the city centre stress free. This was helped by the constant stream of reasonably priced airport shuttle buses.

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An aerial shot of Las Ramblas

It was a 30 minute bus ride into the centre and then a 5 minute walk to the apartment we were staying in. By the time we had refreshed and unpacked it was early evening. So we decided on a walk along the beach and some food. To get to the beach we had to stroll down the most famous street in Barcelona; Las Ramblas. Its a palm tree-lined avenue leading from the centre of town down to the beach. As I remembered from when I was a child it was filled with tourists and stalls selling everything from souvenirs to flamenco show tickets. If visiting it’s a good idea to keep your belongings close as pick pockets operate in this area.

The beach was beautifully serene and quiet with the sun setting behind it. The only danger here is getting hit by what felt like hundreds of skateboarders- all way cooler than I’ll ever be.

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Walking along the beach built up our appetite so we dipped into a side street for some tapas from a recommended restaurant. This was the first tapas I have ever had and it didn’t disappoint. The only negative I can think of, is the broken unisex toilet door which led me to seeing a man in a rather uncompromising position…

With full stomachs a good night sleep was needed so we headed back here to the apartment. Tomorrow we have a full day planned so stay tuned..

 

 

 

 

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Being Detained by Immigration Police

The day I’ve been dreading finally arrived- flying back home to the UK. I have fallen in love with the culture of Bangladesh and have made some great friends who I am very sad to be leaving behind. But I do believe once one adventure ends the next one begins and I will definitely return to Bangladesh in the future.

So after saying long goodbyes me and the rest of my team headed for the airport. We arrived 2 hours early and checked our bags in no problem. The airport wasn’t too busy and we were all looking forward to spending our leftover change on some snacks for the 14 hour journey.

The distance between Heathrow and Dhaka airport.

We headed through immigration thinking we would be there for a matter of seconds while they stamped our passports. But when I handed mine over it became very clear very quickly there was a problem. The guard called over 3 other guards and there was a lot of discussion.  Without saying anything in English they then escorted our whole group to a room filled with more guards. After 5 minutes an english-speaking police officer arrived to explain we had outstayed our visa’s. This was a complete shock to us as our visa’s said they expired on the day we were leaving. It turns out you have to leave before that date, not on it. The next shock came when they demanded 58,000 taka (around $700). Having exchanged all our money back to english pounds and packed it in our suitcases we had no money on us.

After explaining this they said they would ask their boss if they could either lower the fine or let it go. After an anxious 5 minute wait the guard came back and in perfect english said ‘No mercy’. We quickly made the decision to call our colleague who had dropped us off at the airport to come back. After half an hour we managed to meet up with him, and he had been in contact with our NGO who said they would pay the fine on our behalf as it was their mistake. But another problem was that half the money they provided was english pounds so we had to race to get it exchanged as they refused to accept pounds.

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Exchanging the money 

After what felt like a lifetime the money was exchanged, handed over and documents were filed. But we now had only 20 minutes till our flight, so after this catastrophe we were then escorted by police onto the plane- lets just say we got some very odd/suspicious looks from the other passengers. Thankfully the rest of the journey was less eventful and we landed safely in London…

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Bangladesh Travel Diary: Taking Off

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Taking Off

As you read this (delay permitting) I should be in the air flying to Bangladesh! I will be living in there for 3 months and using this blog to document my adventures and the people I meet. I will be staying in the capital Dhaka for a week before heading north where I will be living in a village. Both electricity and wi-fi will not be consistent but I will be updating the blog when I can and shooting film when I can’t. I have packed over 20 35mm films- I hope this will be enough!

Hit follow on this blog and over on Instagram (@madisonbeachphotos) to follow the adventure.

Photographing Planes (it’s cooler than you think)

Admittedly I was a bit skeptical when a friend told me he heads to West London most weekends to plane spot. But with a free day I decided to splash £1.50 on the bus and head to Hatton Cross Station (apparently the place to be).  The suburban area was littered with green spaces, many filled with horses. It was a long wait for the first plane but it was worth it, they fly so close overhead you feel like you could touch the wheels. After an hour I had seen two planes but the english weather had got the better of me, but I’ll definitely be back to photograph the planes against a sunny blue sky (hopefully).

You can catch me on Instagram @madisonbeachphotos or over on my website 

36 Hours In Venice

My Venice adventure began with an evening flight from Gatwick. The flight went without a hitch apart from spending the two hours next to a 30-something man who looked like he was dreading his return to Italy, spending the whole flight with his head in his hands and sighing at regular intervals.

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We arrived around 9pm local time and hopped on a bus to take us from mainland Italy to the edge of the Venetian waters. The ticket machine was incredibly easy to use, not one of those touch screen ones where you have to put your fist through the screen in order to select every letter of your destination station which inevitably hasn’t appeared on the start up screen. The bus dropped us off at the main terminus Piazzale Roma, where buses meet water buses. We boarded a boat. Well tried to.

We had previously purchased 48 hour boat/bus passes which included the airport transfer. We used it to go into a boat shelter to wait for our selected boat. We soon realised we were waiting for the wrong one but having already scanned our tickets once they didn’t allow the barriers to open to let us out. After loosing our dignity crawling under the long barriers we found the right place to board. The boat was packed leaving my view for the 15 minutes as the back of a fellow British travelers’ head and hearing the sound of a loved-up couple seemingly unable to stop kissing for the duration of the journey.

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Arriving claustrophobic and unusually seasick  we found our hotel easier than my internal compass normally allows. Checking in to the hotel with the night manager was quick and friendly. But upon opening the door of our allocated room we realised we had been given a double bed opposed to a twin room which we had booked and double checked via email before arriving. We spoke to the previously welcoming night manager who told us sternly that the hotel was fully booked and nothing could be done. Not the end of the world and tired enough to sleep for a week we hit the hay.

The bed was incredibly comfortable and the daylight view of Venice from our 3rd floor room was breathtaking. Having first visited 10 years ago when I was 11 I soon remembered why I’ve been yearning to return.

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The right-side view from the bedroom window

Weaving through the car-less streets and bridges that makes Venice so stunning and unique we reached the water bus stop to take us across the 300m stretch of water to the island of Murano. Murano is famous for its high quality island-made glass products. Guidebook-free and exploring the island by foot we stumbled upon a queue of excited tourists, spotting a sign reading ‘free’ without checking what exactly was free, we jumped onto the back of the queue. After witnessing two couples arguing, one women leaving her husband behind with all the kids we reached the front of the queue. Ushered to a viewing area it became clear we were about to see a glassblower show us how it’s done. Feeling like my eyebrows were slowly being singed by the heat of the furnaces, the ease with which the man moulded a wine glass and then a horse was mind-blowing (pardon the pun). The demonstration was 10 minutes long, more than enough time to witness the astounding skill needed to perfect the art.

The Free Demonstration 

It was then time for lunch, pizza. After a surprising amount of menus omitting pizza we found a buzzing  pizzeria with a garden. We had to stand in the busy foyer for 15 minutes with every waiter that walked passed avoiding eye contact before we had to ask to be seated at an empty table we could see. Granted it was a Saturday but the restaurant was either busier than they expected or just under-staffed. None of this mattered by the time my classic Margherita arrived as it was one of the best I’ve tasted and I’ve tasted a lot in my 21 years.

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A Murano Bridge

After mastering the water bus boat system second time round we headed to the more tourist heavy area of San Marco, home of the famous St.Marks square. With fame comes tourists and very expensive cafes but that’s part of the charm. The excitement of seeing the architecture of the Basilica and Doge’s Palace has everyone glossing over the incredibly high chance of getting hit by a ‘selfie-stick’ or stung by the restaurant prices. There was also added excitement as last minute constructions were taking place getting ready for the Venice marathon the next day. After some obligatory people watching and scoffing my face with the most over-priced hot chocolate I will ever consume we headed out to do some photography as the sun set.

Before & After

Having already been to Venice I was more relaxed about what I saw and enjoyed strolling through the streets taking photographs rather than rushing between the must-see sights. Venice is a place I will never tire of visiting. There’s endless islands and museums to explore which I will be back for again. If you’re in Venice for a short time I would definitely recommend the 24/48 boat/bus passes as it allows you to see as much as you can fit in to your day without queuing for individual tickets and can be a real money saver.

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On the train to Verona with the marathon in sight

Look out for my next post ’48 Hours in Verona’ along with both digital & film photographs from the trip. Thanks for reading.

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Japan Diary: Day 023 & 024 (Our Last Day)

Day 023 & 024 

Tokyo & Flying Home 
Our flight home to England (via Dubai) was at 9pm so we planned to spend the day with our friend Shiori, as she lives in Tokyo it was a sure thing we would find where and how to get the train for the airport.

Our last day summed up our experience in Tokyo. We battled our way through the busiest train station in the world, followed by the busiest street crossing in the world. But as usual it’s all worth it to see the temples, the stunning scenery and meeting the lovely (99% of the time) locals.


Shiori took us all around Shibuya and Harajuku showing us all the cool stuff we didn’t know existed or missed the first time.


Shiori then took us to Harajuku park, it was filled with people playing volleyball, singing and having picnics. It seemed like a perfect time to sit down and take it all in before we left Japan. Both being illustration students Juna and Shiori drew and I took some photos (which I’m sure will be on this blog once I get over the jet lag).


With 23 hours worth of traveling ahead of us we knew we were going to need energy and food. So we opted for over-the-top crepes. It’s apparently very fashionable to walk down the main fashion lane in Harajuku eating a crepè. I ordered a chocolate brownie, banana and whipped cream crepè. It was delicious although the majority was whipped cream so I consumed my weeks calories in one go.


After a sad goodbye to Shiori and her pointing us in the direction of our first of four trains we went down to the platform. Just as the train approached Juna started stamping madly, the kind of stamping you do when you have pins and needles. Only this was triggered by her feeling a bug in her shoe. She panicked thinking it might bite her, sat down on the platform and whipped her shoe off. Luckily it was an ant. But by the time this discovery was made our train had been and gone.


To make up lost time we got on the airport express train which although a little more expensive is as informative as you can get. It tells you which terminal your flight is and the easiest route to the gate.


After a very long wait to check-in which included Juna’s bag breaking we made it to our flight. I optimistically took my shoes off and buried myself under the complementary blanket and planned what films to watch. But we then experienced the emergency lighting as the electrics failed, this repeated 3 times until Nelly Fertardo blared across the speakers letting us know the electric was back up and running again. We then took off, everyone was a bit nervous but we were assured the issue was solved and sure enough we arrived in Dubai safe and sound at 3am.



We then had a five hour wait till our connecting flight home. Thankfully we got given a free meal voucher to spend at the airport, so we splashed out on a McDonalds. But as we kept flying through different time zones this ended up being our 3rd breakfast.


We then failed to catch up on sleep in some very uncomfortable chairs, looked through all our photos from the last 24 days and boarded the 7 hour flight home. After watching Deadpool, Spectre and The search for freedom the time seemed to fly by (no pun intended).

I was then gratefully picked up by my mum and Nan from the airport and managed to last till 7pm. I then slept for a solid 12 hours.
As much as I am happy to see all my family and friends I already miss Japan. I would recommend it to anyone who hasn’t been. We met all kinds of brilliant people; young, old, on their own, with friends, with family and Japan had something different to offer all of them.

I am currently editing the first of two films which I made during my time in Japan. They will posted up on this blog along with photos from my trip within the next couple of weeks.
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Japan Diary: Day 001 

Day 001:

London to Tokyo (Via Dubai)

I am writing this after having 3 hours sleep in the last 2 days and am currently on the top bunk in a capsule hostel. Hopefully I’ll be able to get my words together.


My bed for the night, complete with squashed croissant which I stole from the plane

The adventure started at Gatwick where after a 40 minute delay we got going. I knew it was going to be a fun flight when the people in front reclined their seats within 30 seconds of take off allowing me next to nothing on the leg room front. Severe turbulence then kicked in, but luckily I had the first series of the Night Manager to re-watch and Juna had Tangled to take our minds off it. We then finally flew into Dubai just minutes after the sun set allowing us a night time view of the man-made landscape. It was beautiful and something I look forward to seeing in daylight when we fly home.

The view of Dubai

After a 2 hour stopover at Dubai we boarded our 3am flight. I was already so tired I fell asleep on the shuttle bus to the plane. As we boarded the plane irony kicked in, playing over the tannoy was Flying Without Wings but it was then swiftly followed by I believe I Can Fly just to reassure any nervous passengers I assume. We both managed to get a couple of hours sleep before we were woken for ‘dinner’ at 5am. Although I can think of worse ways to eat your dinner then watching the sun rise over the earth.
Before we got to Gatwick I had done my fair share of research including how to get to the first hostel and what train to get. Turns out my map was faulty and our train was cancelled. But although it took us quadruple the time it should have to find the hostel we were helped by hundreds of Japanese locals and more knowledgeable tourists than us (not too hard to find), they were all extremely friendly and went out of their way to help. Often spotting our confused faces from afar and running up with google maps already loaded on their phones to help.
We are staying for just one night in this hostel in Asakusa before we head further into the centre of Tokyo for a few days. So we decided although we were jet lagged we didn’t want the evening to go to waste and went on a quick walk around the area with our cameras and newly purchased Japanese drinks of which we have no idea of the ingredients. Am now looking forward to sleep and more traveling tomorrow!

Asakusa Temple

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