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Interview with @Mega.Aviation


I was approached by Pav, an aspiring pilot with a brilliant idea; creating a space online where pilots flying various aircraft can share their experience and advice to those wanting to follow in their footsteps. You can find my original interview here, alongside other pilot's stories about thier route to 37,000ft!

1. Tell us what made you want to become a pilot
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to fly. I still vividly remember a conversation I had with my Dad whilst I was still young enough to be having bedtime stories about flying airliners and travelling the World. As I grew older, I would watch the gliders soaring over my home just outside of Newcastle. The club eventually let me join when I was 11 years old after pestering them for a year, and after my first flight in a Puchacz glider I really caught the ‘flying bug!’. My time at the gliding club (and later the Air Cadets) made me realise that I didn’t just love flying, I enjoyed working as part of a team, meeting new people and sharing experiences with those with similar interests to mine. I still feel unbelievably lucky that my job enables me to experience all those things daily!

2. Where did you train and describe your experience training there
I was originally meant to study in Ireland, but unfortunately the company went into liquidation before I had the chance to start. During this time, the Irish Aviation Authority contacted CAE Oxford Aviation Academy and I started shortly after was originally planned, with Oxford honouring my initial entrance exam and deposit with the previous school. I decided an Integrated course was the best way for me to study, and I sat my ATPL Ground School exams in Oxford before going on to do my Multi Engine CPL in Phoenix, Arizona. The final part of my Frozen ATPL took place back in Oxford, where I flew multi-engined aircraft using only its instruments for my Instrument Rating. 

3. What aircraft did you fly during your initial training?
As mentioned previously, I started flying gliders, and then I went on to fly Piper Tomahawks in the North West of England. At the time I could use a percentage of gliding hours towards a PPL, but I decided to go the Integrated route for my full Commercial Pilot’s Licence. At Oxford my course were one of the first to fly their brand new Piper Archers, with glass cockpits with Garmin 1000 instruments. We then went back to basics flying multiengine Piper Senecas, with conventional instruments. I believe that Oxford now have an all glass fleet, but I love that I got the chance to fly both! 

4. What was your hardest part of training?
As I had previous flying experience, I found the ground school the hardest. Although I’ve always been conscious that maths is important for becoming a pilot, it’s never came naturally to me and I found wrapping my head around a couple of maths heavy subjects such as General Navigation challenging. The ground school was intense, with school exams as well as the 14 ATPL exams adding up to a total of 39 exams in about 6 months. If I didn’t understand a certain subject, I couldn’t focus too much time on it as then the other subjects would suffer. It was definitely a huge lesson in time management, and I had to change my way of learning things as I used to waste time writing pages and pages of notes! 


5. What advice would you give to aspiring pilots?
Honestly, becoming a pilot is a huge financial commitment. Ensure you are aware of all the costs involved, the initial flight training, the type rating, any extra exam or flight fees. The company I initially chose to train with went bust, never ever give a flight school the full sum of money at once, and ensure you know exactly who you are giving your money to! 
Apart from the financial side, enjoy the flight training, ensure you are prepared and be ready for your whole life to revolve around getting that pilot’s licence; it certainly isn’t easy but you’ll meet some amazing people and have some incredible experiences along the way. 

6. What has been your best moment in the air?
It’s hard to choose, there are a few moments flying that I look back on fondly! I was lucky enough to fly 14,000ft in the Canadian Rockies before I was old enough to fly solo in a Duo Discus, which was a whole different league of glider that I was flying back at home. 
As part of my flight training at Oxford I had 3 flights Upset Recovery Training in an Extra 300, with an F16 pilot as an instructor. As well as learning new flying skills, I had the opportunity to learn some aerobatics which I’m not sure I’ll ever have the chance to do again, including inverted spins and Lomcováks, as well as flying in formation with @pilot_shi and his instructor (who used to be an astronaut!).
The first time I flew the 737 is a favourite memory too; it was such an incredible feeling advancing those thrust levers for the first time and knowing that all the hard work was worth it! 


7. What is your favourite destination to fly to?
I love flying home into Newcastle over the coast past St Mary’s lighthouse, hearing the familiar accent on the other end of the radio, and then departing past the gliding club I learned how to fly. 
Apart from home, Lisbon has to be a favourite as I love the approach over the suspension bridge, and I love flying into island destinations with their bright blue waters and sunshine! 


8. What is the biggest misconception people have about your job?
A lot of passengers still believe that women are unable to become pilots; British Airways’ studies showed that 20% of those questioned thought that women can only become cabin crew. Their study continued to show that girls didn't think of flying as a career due to a lack of visible role models, and because they were told it “was a man’s job”. 
Often passengers initially think I’m cabin crew, and in the last week alone I’ve had 3 passengers comment on the fact that I was flying the plane. I’m hoping that by the end of my career that it’s commonplace for women to fly planes too! 


9. Was there something you wish you did prior to starting your flight training that would be beneficial for aspiring pilots to do?
I feel lucky that I’ve wanted to become a pilot from such a young age; I don’t think I would have done anything differently! spent my summer in the year before taking my GCSEs writing to every airline I could think of asking for career advice, and I was always very focused on the end goal of a career in aviation. I feel that gliding was a fantastic way to start, and I gained a lot of useful experience from my time in the UK’s Air Training Corps too. 
I was unlucky with the flight school I was initially going to use going into liquidation, and looking back I was naive in believing that after achieving my frozen ATPL I wouldn’t have to invest more money to achieve that end goal. There were hidden costs along the way from the beginning, and it’s rare for an airline now to pay your type rating. Advice I received was from a different generation of pilots, and I hope current pilots will be honest talking those aspiring to fly about the financial side of things! 


If you have any other questions about my route to becoming an airline pilot, check out my original posts about my route to 37,000ft, and feel free to post below or on my Instagram! 




Fear of Flying - A Pilot's Guide to Turbulence


There are different types of turbulence, mainly from rapid changes in wind direction and strength, which make the aeroplane accelerate, decelerate, or move side to side. It’s these movements, sometimes several at once, that can be uncomfortable whilst flying as a passenger, make it harder to drink your gin and tonic, read your magazine, or from my end - do my inflight paperwork! 

An aircraft is designed to be stable, meaning if turbulence forces the plane from its original path, it is designed to return to its previous straight, level flight without any positive control from the pilots. For most of the duration of the flight, the autopilot is flying the aircraft, and its job to keep the aircraft flying the way the pilots have commanded it to, even after being disrupted by any turbulent air. The main sensation during turbulence is the aircraft climbing or descending, potentially resulting in a feeling in your stomach similar to that you get from driving over a hidden dip in the road. 

IF YOU DISLIKE THE SENSATION OF FLYING DURING TURBULENCE, SIT OVER THE WINGS OF THE AIRCRAFT.

The feeling of climbing or descending initially is the result of the turbulence, followed by the opposing direction as the aircraft reacts to it. These changes feel more drastic when sitting at the rear of the aircraft, as whilst the aircraft begins to climb, the tail moves downward and you will have the unusual sensation of being pulled out of your seat. If you sit over the wing, the aircraft pitches around its centre axis, resulting in a smaller sensation of movement as a passenger.

The aircraft will rarely change altitude by any more than 50 feet, which honestly is insignificant in proportion to its cruising level of around 37,000ft. Although to some it may feel that way, I promise that the aircraft isn't falling out of the air, and the change of wind direction is never great enough to result in the aeroplane to stop generating its lift that it creates to fly!


Hoi An Full Moon Festival


I stumbled across Hoi An's Full Moon Festival by chance, as I had originally planned to spend longer in Saigon, and then continue to do a whistle stop tour of Da Nang and Hoi An whilst en route to the North of Vietnam. However, after the chaos of Bangkok and a busy few days in Chiang Mai, I decided that I wanted to experience a different side of South East Asia, rather than spending my entire trip travelling its big cities! Looking back, changing my initial plans was one of the best decisions of my trip; Hoi An deserves more than one night, and the town looks even more magical during its famous Full Moon Festival.

Hoi An holds its Lantern Festival on the 14th of every lunar month, with the focus on celebrating and honouring Vietnamese ancestors with the hope of prosperity and good luck. Locals fill the town with offerings of flowers and fruit, fires fuelled by fake money, and candle lit ceremonies, with the festivities by the river involving releasing lanterns out onto the water. 


The centre of the festivities is at the heart of the UNESCO old town, where the use of electricity is banned for the evening, and the streets are lit with thousands of multicoloured lanterns and candles. The busy streets which are normally dominated by scooters are closed completely to bicycles and motorised vehicles; although the festival is popular with both tourists and locals, so the streets certainly aren't quiet! 


The festival starts at dusk and continues on until about 10pm, with the party continuing onto the other side of the river in An Hoi. I headed down to the river as nightfall began, and gradually the water began to fill with candlelit lanterns as the festivities developed. Locals sell lanterns offering 'good luck and prosperity' along the riverbank for 5,000 VND (20 cents); but it didn't feel like an original part of the festivities as I couldn't help notice that the vendors were only talking to tourists! I headed slightly away from the action to find a quieter part of the river to watch the World go by and take some photographs as the evening became busier, or if you wanted to escape onto the water Sampan boat rides started at around 100,000 VND (€4) to travel alongside the lanterns.
As you wander alongside the river, there's no shortages of offers of boat trips, lanterns or flowers, but I loved the atmosphere and enjoyed watching the world go by. I wish I had headed down a little earlier and got a table with a view in one of the coffee shops or bars to take in the atmosphere with a glass of wine or local beer! 

If you want to explore Hoi An's Full Moon Festival this year, check out the dates below:

8th June
7th July
5th August
4th September
3rd October
2nd November
1st December

Exploring Thailand - 4 Days in Chiang Mai


Chiang Mai was my second stop during my travels around South East Asia, and a wonderful contrast to the chaos of Bangkok. Although it's referred to the capital of the North, Chiang Mai's atmosphere is more laid-back and a perfect place to relax and 'go with the flow'. Although it still has the hustle and bustle of the city (it's the largest city in North Thailand), it's easy to retreat to the surrounding national parks and countryside for a breath of fresh air. Whilst arriving from Bangkok, I was instantly captivated by the beautiful scenery surrounding the city; I was lucky enough to land at sunset and was spoiled with a spectacular approach from my window seat as the sun disappeared behind the mountains.

Here's my guide to a few days relaxing and exploring the 'Rose of the North', Chiang Mai!

Flying With LogTen Pro


As a pilot, it's important to keep track of the hours we fly. There are various rules and regulations regarding the amount of time we can operate monthly and annually, and once we reach a certain amount of total hours our employers may decide that we are qualified to land the aircraft in stronger winds, or be ready for an upgrade to the left-hand seat and to become a Captain. 

For the last year, I've been useless at keeping my paper logbook up to date, and although I'm always aware that the hours I'm flying are legal, I've let my logbook get so out of date that it's ended up becoming a big job to add up the total amount of hours I've completed. Coradine state that their LogTen Pro app is the 'world's most advanced pilot logbook software', so I tried it for a month and here's my opinion...

Chiang Mai Flower Festival


I was lucky enough to visit Chiang Mai during its 41st Flower Festival, a celebration held every year during the first week of February. The city, also affectionately nicknamed 'Rose of the North', lives up its name and is transformed to showcase local flowers and beautiful plants, especially a variety of the Damask Rose, which is only found in Chiang Mai!

24 Hours in Bangkok




Bangkok has recently become the most visited city in the world; so chances are if you’re visiting Thailand, your first stop will be the City of Angels. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of things to see and do, with the contrast between the serene temples and the crazy hustle and bustle making it feel like you’re in two different locations at once. Although there’s an endless amount of culture and tourism in Bangkok, I felt that 24 hours was more than enough time for the city to make a grand impression. Here’s my guide to a short stay in Thailand’s capital!

Preflight Checklist - Essentials for Travelling Abroad


1 - Check Your Passport & Visa 

Some countries require your passport to be at least 6 months outside its expiry date. Double check your passport is valid, as well as applying for any visas you may need. There's lots of information online, but if you're not unsure of a country's visa requirements, you can always call their embassy! It's always a good idea to keep a copy of your passport too, which leads to my next point...

2 - Store Everything Important Online

Although initially I didn't want to risk losing my phone abroad, your smartphone is a great tool to backup all your important documents, itineraries, insurance, and boarding passes. If you're planning to fly with a low-cost airline whilst on your travels, use the airline's app to check in to prevent carrying around lots of paper boarding passes that are easily lost or damaged, as well as preventing last minute stress because you can't find a printer in the middle of Thailand or Vietnam!
You can also save regions on Google Maps to access whilst offline, as well as enabling you to save important locations like as your hotel. This might end up proving useful whilst you're struggling with a language barrier between you and your taxi driver, just open the app and point to where you need to be!

3 - Vaccinations

Although maybe not relevant if you're staying within Europe, often vaccinations are required if you're travelling further afield. A nurse can often recommend what you need, or the NHS have a really useful website that breaks down the necessary and recommended vaccinations for destinations all over the World. The vaccinations I needed to travel to South East Asia had to be given 6 weeks in advance, so make sure you look into the time you have before booking a last minute trip away! 
Whilst getting your vaccinations the nurse can also give you some tips and tricks for your destination too, such as being careful eating fresh fruit and vegetables (they are often washed with the tap water that you avoid drinking), or not ordering a drink with ice for the same reason. 

4 - Banking

Always ensure you let your bank know that you're going abroad, otherwise you may end up in an awkward situation where your card is declined and you're stuck with no way to pay for a meal or a hotel room. Most banks enable you to do this online, which is so much easier than trying to contact customer service from the other side of the World! Some actual cash is also handy to have before leaving for your travels, but ensure you separate your money throughout your bag as you don't want to be carrying it all in one place. Normally exchanging money at home works out the cheapest, but some destinations have lower commission rates. Check websites like tripadvisor.com for other travellers' advice on your destination! 

5 - A Postive Attitude!

Chances are if you're planning a big trip, everything you've planned isn't going to go smoothly. Learn from the occasions where things don't work out, take it as part of the experience, and focus on the positives of the rest of your holiday! 



My Route to 37,000ft - Flight Training & Beyond


My adventure towards achieving my Frozen ATPL started in Oxford, where I would spend two years studying everything you could possibly think of related to aviation. I had decided on taking an integrated course, which although is more expensive, I felt was more suited towards what I wanted to achieve. I liked the idea of studying full time, with my flying and exams at the same training centre. If you’re interested in flight training, you also have the option of a modular course, which involves self-study and flight hours achieved at your own pace. The choice is certainly a personal one, with no right or wrong answer. Although it's a controversial topic, I believe that irrespective of any rumours that you may hear, employers don't favour one or the other. I personally don’t know a great deal about the details of a modular option, so if you’re interested give @pilotmaria’s blog post about her training a read here! 


Before I could be let loose in an aircraft, I first had to pass my theoretical exams. I found the subjects I was studying interesting, but the Ground School phase was the most difficult and intense part of my whole training.
The course was split into 2 phases, with school exams and then the all important EASA exams at the end. I thought the amount of information we were given to start off with was a lot, but the workload increases as you progress, with 39 exams in a period of six months. 
Although I found the course content challenging, the instructors at Oxford were fantastic, with some great stories from their previous careers (often with the RAF), and an obvious interest in how you were progressing. Every single one of my instructors were more than happy to give up their breaks and explain something that you didn’t quite understand yet. 

Honestly, I struggled at first to find a way to learn that worked best for me, whilst keeping up with the fast pace and sheer amount of information involved. I have always found Maths challenging, and it sometimes takes me a long time to wrap my head around a subject, which can be difficult when you’re learning multiple subjects that require various equations and mathematical thinking! However, I always believe that anything worth doing isn’t always going to be easy, and every single minute of those late night study sessions were worthwhile as I can now get paid to do what I love. There were times when I felt overwhelmed with the amount of information I still didn’t quite understand, or I was frustrated after still being unable understand a subject after studying it all day, but I knew that this was the most difficult part of my journey to achieving what I’ve always wanted to do, and I simply had to get on with it and keep working as hard as I could. Everyone has an aspect of their training that they find challenging, but you simply have to push through and keep thinking of your goal and final result!


The hard work was definitely worth it, as passing my exams meant a trip to Phoenix, Arizona to learn how to fly single and multi-engined aircraft. CAE Oxford Aviation is now based at Falcon Field airport, where I initially flew brand new Piper Archer TXs with a glass cockpit, and then progressed to fly Senecas before achieving my Commercial Pilot's Licence. After 6 months of being stuck behind a desk intensively studying, it was great getting behind the controls of an aeroplane again! 
I loved learning how to fly in America, and although the training definitely wasn’t easy, I found the learning curve wasn’t as steep as the Ground School. Getting up at 3 am to check the weather forecast and complete the necessary paperwork was something I looked forward to, and I was often rewarded with an incredible sunrise whilst spending an hour or two doing what I love. It was incredible to finally be up in the air, and although at times the heat was unbearable, flying over the desert was beautiful and so much fun! 
The days I wasn't flying, I spent hours studying checklists, memory items, and standard operating procedures (SOPs), as well as technical information about the aircraft, local Air Law, and Air Traffic Control airspace. As these topics weren't as intense as earlier in the course, most of this could be read around the pool in the sunshine, with my course mates and I enjoying some well deserved trips to San Diego, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. 
Eventually, after 14 hours practicing general handling and lots of 'Touch and Goes' in small airports, I achieved my first solo in a powered aircraft. It's an incredible feeling flying alone for the first time, and as I taxiied back after landing, it's impossible not to feel a sense of pride and achievement! After my first solo, I continued to progress with more circuits, navigation training, cross country and night flights, both solo and with an instructor. Every new area learned was then evaluated with a progress test, with the fourth and final progress test assessing the fundamentals of flying using only the instruments and holding procedures. 

After the final progress test, I then transferred the skills I learned in the single-engine Archer to the multi-engined Seneca, the aircraft that I would fly during my Commercial Pilot Licence assessment. The basics were obviously the same, however everything happens so much quicker when you're using two turbocharged engines! I also spent time learning how to deal with simulated engine failures and fires, as well becoming confident at flying circuits and navigating whilst flying at a faster airspeed. 
My time in Arizona came to an end with my CPL exam, which was a practical evaluation in the Seneca which tested everything that I had learned on both the single engine and multi-engine aircraft. 


From there, I headed back to Oxford to learn how to fly the Seneca using only its instruments, which is how passenger airliners operate everyday. Although initially it seems a bit scary knowing that pilots don't often look out the windows whilst flying, the systems that are used in the flight deck are more accurate than just 'eyeballing' where we need to be, as well as providing us a safe way to make an approach and even land in marginal visibility. Learning to fly using instruments seems daunting at first, as it feels like you have to be looking at a million things at once, and a loss of concentration can easily end up in an unwanted climb or a turn! However, after using both the simulator and flying more hours in the trusty Seneca, I completed my Instrument Rating and was one step closer my dream job. 

Although I was fully qualified to fly an aircraft alone, I had no skills regarding working in a multi-pilot environment like I would be doing for an airline. To combat this, my time at Oxford concluded with a Multi-Crew Coordination and Jet Orientation Course (known as MCC/JOC). I spent 40 hours in a Boeing 737 simulator, learning Crew Resource Management (CRM), and how to fly the aircraft whilst using all available resources, information, equipment and people to achieve a safe and efficient flight. The MCC was an excellent introduction to what it's like to be an airline pilot, as interpersonal skills and teamwork are just as important as the flight training I had completed earlier on. I got on well with my flight partner, and we had so much fun learning how to work together and how to fly a jet! 

That was the final chapter of my training, and I was now the proud owner of a frozen ATPL. I immediately started applying for jobs as a First Officer, and I was luckily enough to receive a job interview a few months after leaving Oxford. The rest, they say, is history! I hope my posts are a tiny bit useful if you're aspiring to fly, and I apologise that they've ended up becoming so long. If you have any other questions that I can help out with, feel free to comment below and I'll answer what I can. The journey to becoming a pilot certainly isn't an easy one, but I've always believed that anything can be possible for those that work hard for it! 

My Route to 37,000ft - Part 1


I can almost guarantee that if you talk to anyone who flies for a living , they will have had an epiphany moment in their lives where they fell in love with aviation. My first ‘lightbulb’ moment was when I was young enough to still have a bedtime story in the evenings, where my Dad mentioned that when he was my age he had always wanted to become a pilot. From that moment, I became obsessed with fulfilling my dream, and spent my childhood dreaming of flights to tropical destinations.

I feel lucky that I discovered aviation at such a young age, and I spent my childhood trying to do everything I could to ensure I would eventually be able to achieve my dream. Before my GCSE exams, I spent hours sending letters to every airline I could find an address for asking for advice regarding options and the best subjects to study, as well as talking to a female easyJet pilot who gave me wonderful advice regarding what aviation recruitment look for. I was very aware that leadership and teamwork skills are important, and I participated in every opportunity I could, from being part of my local football team, teaching dance to younger students, and signing up for any other extracurricular activity possible at school.

I eventually had my first flight in May 2005, at my local glider club, shortly after turning 11. At the time I was the club’s youngest member, with 5 years to wait before my first solo flight, but I just couldn’t wait to get up in the air! After that first flight at the controls of an aircraft, the ‘aviation bug’ had definitely settled in to stay.


Gliding was a fantastic way of beginning to learn how to fly, with the same principles of flight that I use today in a Boeing 737. Gliding is cheaper than learning to fly a powered aircraft, but I learned the same basic stick and rudder techniques that I would go on to finesse in a powered aircraft during my commercial pilot training. Although I didn’t quite realise it whilst I was 11 and engrossed with learning how to fly, I developed other skills which I’ve gone on to use as a commercial pilot too. Gliders fly in a similar manner to birds, using warm rising air, with no engine to depend on to give you the height you need to get back to your airfield. Therefore good decision making skills are vital, otherwise you’re definitely landing in a farmer’s field somewhere!

Whilst I was progressing towards my first solo at the gliding club, I joined my local Air Cadet squadron shortly after turning 14. I was intrigued by the opportunity of free flying, and I was eventually lucky enough to receive a gliding scholarship at RAF Topcliffe, where I went solo in a Vigilant motor glider (also known as a Grob 109B). As well as the flying, the structure of cadets provides fantastic leadership and teamwork skills, as well as a way to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try something that most 14 year olds couldn’t dream of. I spent weekends meeting new people, learning how to navigate and map read, hiking in the Lake District, learning and then going on to teach interview technique, practicing firing a semi automatic rifle, and studying subjects I would need for my ATPL such as propulsion and principles of flight. The highlight of my time in the Air Cadets was a trip to Hong Kong, where I took part in an International Air Cadet Exchange and had the chance to explore China with the local Air Cadets, as well as a trip up the Air Traffic Control tower at Chek Lap Kok Airport. I was aware that airlines require more than just good handling skills, and I even talked about my achievements in cadets during my interview for my current job.

Around this time, I graduated high school, and knew that University wasn’t the right choice for me. I felt ready to start my flight training, so I started working in retail full time, whilst looking into the financial side of things and the courses available out there.
I eventually decided on a pilot training college in Ireland, and attended an assessment day in Edinburgh. The day consisted of an interview, logical reasoning and a COMPASS test, which is computerised and assesses hand/eye coordination, mulit-tasking ability, mathematics and verbal reasoning. I passed the interview, and planned to start in August 2012. However, things weren’t meant to work out that way. Shortly before I was supposed to start my course, the college stopped operating and went bankrupt. I was devastated, and initially I had no idea what was going to happen with the money that I had paid as a deposit. Luckily, the Irish Aviation Authority contacted various other flight schools, and CAE Oxford Aviation Academy agreed to take on the students that had been affected, without having to pay Oxford’s initial deposit. Unfortunately there were students who started Oxford with me who ended up losing money, so if you’re looking into beginning your flight training, I would strongly advise to never pay all the money for your course upfront!

After almost 8 years after my first ever flight, I moved to Oxford in November 2012 to start the long journey towards earning my Air Transport Licence. Although I was unbelievably nervous, it felt that I was a little closer to fulfilling my childhood dream, and I couldn't wait to start studying something that I have always been passionate about!


I ended up writing more than I thought initially, so I'll talk about my initial flight training in Sunday's post rather than boring you with one long essay! If I can help answer any questions, feel free to comment below. 

Plaisirs d'Hiver - Brussels



Although I love the sunshine and relaxing in the Summer, Christmas time is without any doubt my favourite time of the year! Every year it’s become a tradition of mine to visit somewhere new in December; buy a new bauble for the Christmas tree, and generally eat, drink and be merry. 
Initially we were overwhelmed with the amount of choice of Christmas markets around Europe - a quick Google provides countless articles and lists claiming a different city with the Number 1 spot to visit! Eventually we settled on a trip to Brussels, although it’s definitely not the cheapest city in Europe, the flights were ridiculously inexpensive. The fact that Belgium is famous for its french fries, chocolate, and beer helped with the final decision too! 
Brussels is capital of Belgium, as well as the administrative capital of the European Union, and is home to World famous french fries, beer, and of course chocolate. The iconic Grand Place, or De Grote Markt serves as the city’s centre, and attracts ten of thousands of tourists every year, with carpets of flowers in the summer and a spectacular light show at Christmas. Although the cobblestone square appears to be hidden initially, the square eventually reveals itself whilst approaching from one of six alleys. Lonely Planet recommends Rue de Harengs as the best initial impression, however the spired 15th Century town hall looks incredible from every side of the square!
Although initially it’s tempting to opt for the cheaper option and stay outside the main tourist areas, I definitely recommend paying a little extra and staying close to the Grand Place. I searched websites like Booking.com, Tripadvisor, Expedia and Last Minute to try and find a good deal for a nice hotel near to the centre. We ended up finding a great deal for an apart-hotel, a concept which I had never tried before, but the price and the location were both fantastic. I was glad that we were nearby after a busy day walking around the Christmas markets, especially after all the food and mulled wine! 
We stayed in B-aparthotel Grand Place, which was a 3 minute walk from the Grand Place square, and a 5 minute walk from the train station. As it is an ‘apart-hotel’, rather than your standard hotel, we were given a code to access the building, and then another code to access a safe with the keys to your room and helpful information. The room had everything that we needed, and as it was advertised as an apartment we had access to a microwave and a fridge too - which would be great if you were wanting to travel whilst not spending lots of money! 
The food in Brussels however, is definitely too good to miss. The first thing I noticed when walking from the train station was just how good Brussels smells, everywhere you go smells of chocolate! Every single street we passed featured at least one chocolate shop, with handmade delicacies, hot chocolate stands in their front doors, and waffle stands drizzled with toppings like Nutella and strawberries. We actually only sat down in a restaurant for one meal the two days we were there, as we spent all day nibbling on waffles, German bratwursts, french fries and chocolate. It definitely wasn’t the healthiest of trips, but it’s hard to resist when wandering the Christmas markets with a glass of mulled wine! 
There was certainly an abundance of food and mulled wine stalls too, with Brussels' Plaisirs d’Hiver event organising 240 wooden chalets, each one with local food, Christmas trinkets, and handmade gifts. The Place Sainte Catherine featured the most food stalls, including some of a Japanese variety. Every half an hour you could view a beautiful light show whilst enjoying your lunch too, as the Church of Sainte Catherine displays impressive images of contemporary and traditional Japan, with blossoming cherry trees and origami which appeared almost 3D. 


However, in my opinion, the most impressive light show was about a 10 minute walk away at the Grand Place. Every 15 minutes the Guild Halls and spires around the square lit up in time with a melody from the Belgian artist, Lost Frequencies. Although Christmas songs would have been nice, I still felt festive whilst sitting watching the Place illuminate whilst I sipped on a glass or two of wine. As the show plays often, it was worthwhile going back the next night to see the square from a slightly different angle too, and I spent a while appreciating the ambiance and watching fellow tourists’ faces light up whilst watching the lights for their first time. 
I only spent 2 days in Brussels before the chaos prior the Christmas truly began, but I fell in love with the beautiful architecture, incredible food and friendly people. I would happily put Plaisirs d’Hiver on the top of my list of Christmas markets in Europe to visit, and I will definitely be visiting again!