All posts by carolemscott

Travel is part of my DNA and with it comes a love of photography. I share a bit of both on Footsteps and Photos. I write fiction, so expect musings about the writing process to appear on that blog too. My first novel is available on Amazon: The Broken Heart Repair Plan.

Practical Travel Tip: Revolut’s pre-paid card has transformed my holiday money

Paris. Café By MilStan on Flickr Creative Commons.

A few weeks’ ago, I went to Paris for the weekend for the first time in 15 years. I got a Post Office pre-paid currency card because I had no idea how much I would spend and didn’t want to keep going to an ATM because the fees rack up if taking relatively modest amounts out at a time.

I was pretty disappointed with the Post Office cards, on a number of fronts. The app took days (two – three) to show transactions, so it was difficult to keep track of what I was spending. Worse still, living in the UK, where contactless payment is everywhere, I was stunned by how many shops, cafés and even restaurants refused to take cards of any kind (forget contactless!) and still operated cash only. This meant that I had to keep nipping to the ATM. Sadly, the Post Office charges for taking cash out just like banks do and quite a hefty fee per ATM visit at that.

A couple of weeks’ ago, I was gearing up for a long weekend in Stockholm. I didn’t want to buy Swedish Krona cash, as I didn’t know how much I would want (or need) to spend. Equally, I didn’t want to rack up bank or credit card charges for transactions and cash withdrawals.

Thanks to (where I was looking for Monzo, highly recommended on the site but not going to arrive in time), I found Revolut, an app-driven pre-paid Mastercard that allows you to withdraw up to £200 equivalent with no fee, charges no fees on transactions, and uses live international FX rates for changing from your native currency* into a foreign one.

I paid £12 to get it delivered in a hurry, as I wasn’t organised in time. Normally it would be £5 but this is the only charge you pay.

It was amazing. I rarely rave about a company or product, as I’m naturally cynical, but as an experienced and frequent traveller, I like to share ground-breaking tips. This app and card are amazing. Seriously, get one!

Topping up is fast and instant (apart from in Heathrow, where the internet seemed to block doing a secure transaction and where my 4G signal was bad). When it’s time to exchange your GBP* into foreign currency, you see the Interbank rate changing in real time, so you can decide when to hit the ‘exchange’ button to get the best rate. As the Revolut blurb explains, the Interbank exchange rate is the “top-level foreign exchange market where banks exchange currencies. It’s a wholesale market through which most currency transactions are channelled and therefore offers the best exchange rate available.”

The Revolut app makes it all so easy. On the left, my SEK transactions, split by category. In the middle, my first exchange, showing exact exchange rate. And on the right, my GBP ‘account’.

The number one advantage of the card was that as soon as I hit ‘enter’ on a card machine, a notification bounced through to my phone immediately – and I really do mean immediately. My fingers would still be hovering above the pinpad when I heard the ping!

This makes it easy and accurate to track money spent and money left. I particularly like the fact that each currency on the card is a held as a separate ‘account’, with transactions recorded in each one rather than in one lump.

As far as I’m concerned, unless I’m going to a cash-driven country, I’ll be using Revolut for every trip from now on. I’m going to the States with my closest friend in a few weeks’ time and it’s going to be great. I will need cash there, as tips are important and best paid in dollar bills, but as there is no withdrawal fee up to £200, I can take out relatively small amounts for each days’ tip needs.

Another advantage for those of us who aren’t brilliant at separately saving up our holiday spending money – top up each money when you get paid. You can see your holiday fund grow but it’s still in £££s in case you do need access to it before the holiday (thanks to Sarah Barlow of Scrumptious Catering for that one!).

*By ‘native’ currency, I mean the one you top up in – this is limited, so do check first whether yours is one of them but it definitely includes GBP, USD and Euros.

Seven days of nature photography: last day

And so I come to the end of seven days of nature photography. It’s been huge fun. It is good to wade through the back catalogue every now and again, to remember gorgeous moments outdoors, whether at home or in an exotic location.

I might just have to set myself a new project next month – maybe my ‘best of the best’ and maybe even doing it for the entire month. Now, there’s a thought!

For my last day, there is no contest. It has to be one of my many gelada monkey photos from the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia. These are astonishing animals, who have zero fear of the trekkers that come through their territory and so it’s possible to get up close.

One evening, we walked out to a viewpoint near our campsite and couldn’t believe our luck when we saw this group huddled together, looking like a family trying to shield each other from the elements. The strange this is that it wasn’t yet dark and not yet cold.


Seven days of nature photography: day six

Day six of seven days of nature photography and today, I’m back in Cuba. It was my second visit and I had arrived in Trinidad ahead of some Cuban and Australian friends. So I decided to do a walk from the centre of this gorgeous music-filled town to a waterfall.

I had time a-plenty (that’s the one big advantage of being alone) and so snapped every little detail that caught my eye. My favourite photo of the day was this up close detail of a vibrant green leaf.

I just love the colours and the sunlight shining through. It’s both abstract and recognisable, all in one glorious green macro.


Seven days of nature photography: Day Five

When I think of ‘nature photography’, I tend to think of wildlife on a big scale – photos from an african safari or pictures of birds taken by people with super long lenses. Looking through my photos to pick seven, I don’t have many of those. I’m a happy amateur who has standard lenses and doesn’t see much big, rare wildlife (although I will end with Ethiopian wildlife).

But nature is everywhere.  Weeds grow in the cracks of concrete paving slabs, birds twitter in the street and cats prowl – everywhere, toomuchwhere!

I think it’s a minor miracle that even in an urban space, we still see bees. This photo was taken in the rooftop garden of the Queen Elizabeth Hall of London’s South Bank. I was so chuffed that I managed to get it in focus (ish!) with it’s tongue in the flower.


Seven days of nature photography: Day four – have a koala

Day four of seven days of nature photography. Have a koala. Taken in Brisbane way, way back in 2011. I wouldn’t want to hold one but they sure look cute curled up! This one is in black and white, as it emphasises the textures, whereas colour distracts a little from that.


Seven days of nature photography: Day Three

Day three of my seven days of nature photography challenge set by Moth Clark, I dug out my one and only true sunrise photo. I was in Myanmar on a boat trip along the Irrawaddy River and the sunset had been spectacular the night before. But the dawn was even better. I took many shots and waited for this fisherman to float right into the beams of the sun across the water.


Seven days of nature photography: day one

Today I was nominated by my friend Moth Clark to take part in a ‘flood Facebook with beauty’ tag game. He challenged me to post seven nature photographs over the course of seven days.

Moth is one of the best unpaid nature photographers I know. His photos of birds, in particular, are stunning, so I recommend you follow him on Twitter, where he’s just begun to share his pictures publicly.

In the meantime, here’s my first photograph. It’s nice to flick back through albums and be reminded of photos I love. I’m not a particularly good photographer of the natural environment, as I don’t have special lenses or even a tripod, but I manage okay and I do love this close up of a ladybird, with its shallow depth of field.


Going gaga on GoGo – in the Simien Mountains

Day three in the Simien Mountains was a day of expanding joy. It took us higher than the first two and the views were astounding. In the lead up to the trip, when I had been day-dreaming of being in the mountains of Ethiopia, these were just the views I had envisaged.

I jumped for joy up there.


Here are my best pictures from the morning. I don’t really have the right lens for wildlife or birds but I think I’ve done okay.

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We had a long trek ahead of us in the afternoon, so I had a wee ride on the mule for a while (we had to hire one for medical reasons in the morning). I have always been quite sniffy about riding on a mule; as I gave myself a rest and gently plodded along, I began to shift my view on that. So restful!

Alas, we reached a point where the mule had to go back to its village and there was no escaping the long, hot path uphill.

There were more lovely views up there and every now and again, our guide pointed into the far, far distance and claimed our campsite was in view. He promised us a shower when we got there – with hot water. As the afternoon wore on, he urged us to speed up but we didn’t really understand why. But we did our best and as we clambered the final long push downhill, we found ourselves singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ for some bizarre reason.

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Eventually, we arrived at camp. To our huge disappointment, all the hot water had been used. All of a sudden, we twigged why our guide had been urging us to hurry. There was a limited supply of water in the tank. Instead, we had bowls of water – not quite the same but at least we got clean.

A lammergeier was floating overhead, so I had to race to get dressed again and grab my camera.


Feeling slightly disgruntled for about 10 minutes in that weird way that comes with the privilege of having running water back home, we took ourselves off for a stroll to look at the view on the other side of the road. We lucked out – first, a great big old Ibex strolled into camp just as we were about to leave and then, when we crossed to the viewpoint, three gelada monkeys were huddled together on the cliff edge, giving me one of my favourite gelada shots of the whole holiday.

The perfect end to a perfect day.



Ethiopia: Further into the Simien Mountains

A year ago, I had a month to go before travelling to Ethiopia. I was bouncy with anticipation and eager to get going. There were mountains to hike in, wildlife to see, coffee to drink.

I don’t know what happened when I returned; I failed to blog about the trip beyond my arrival and initial sight-seeing (Gonder) and my first day in the Simien Mountains. It wasn’t through a lack of enthusiasm. I had a truly fantastic time and one that I want to remember forever.

I’ve decided that it’s never too late to blog about a travel experience. There could be someone gearing up for a trip to this magical country now and who will find my posts useful. Or maybe someone just fancies looking at some cracking photos of Gelada Monkeys for a few minutes. You may simply enjoy travel blogs and stories. Whoever you are and however you have arrived here, you’ll find me blogging about Ethiopia for a while so that I capture the memories before a whole year goes by.

In this episode, we join our intrepid writer as she begins her second day in the Simien Mountains. I’d like to remind readers of our wonderful guide, as I’d like to think that he might get enquiries. Eshete Berju of Travel Simien really was a star.


It was cold and barely light. Sunrise in the Simiens comes slowly. The ridges on the other side of the gorge were hiding the sun but the light was changing. Gold was beginning to light the grass and I bent down to capture the moment with a few photos. The air was so, so pure.

On our second day in the mountains we hiked for about 14km. It doesn’t sound much but when you’re tackling some steep uphill sections and still acclimatising, it’s tough! Tight chest, short breaths, pumping heart. It’s a vile feeling, as I felt as if I were a wimp and unfit but the minute I got onto the flat or downhill, I was right as rain. But it’s worth it for the views, the seclusion, the wildlife.

In the morning we saw buzzards and a young lammergaier.

It was hot that day. Or hot enough to make us very glad indeed to find out that our lunch spot was by a river. Tempted though I was to jump in, I resisted and instead, stuck my head under a miniature waterfall – half a metre of delicious, cold water.

Happily we saw more gelada monkeys. It’s a fantastic daily occurrence up there.

The afternoon was tough and when we reached our second camp – Gich – we had reached 3,650m. It was still early when we got to camp but as it was near a village, there was a good deal of people watching to be done. Locals gathered and children played on the high open high. It was easy to sit and watch, taking shot after shot as the light changed. Here’s a selection.

Here are the best photos from that second day.

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The next day was spectacular. We went up to Mount Gogo and experienced the views we had dreamt of before we set off. More about that tomorrow!