Asking a travel fanatic where is their favourite place in the world is a bit of a tricky question – but if I had to answer, then I would say Jökulsárlón. Jökulsárlón is a glacial lagoon located in South Eastern Iceland and is quite possibly the most beautiful sight I have ever seen in my life (and I have had the pleasure of seeing it twice!).
Please click on the above image for a larger version
I only had my old Canon point and shoot camera with me but I think I still managed to capture the breathtaking beauty of this area of Iceland.
The second time I visited Jökulsárlón it was a gray and miserable day – however I still think the lagoon looks as stunning as ever, albeit slightly more eerie.
Please please please go visit! Even Leonardo Di Caprio likes to pose in front of it! :)
Now it’s time for me to get back to my many assignments, instead of fantasising about future Iceland trips.
We all have some form of travel bucket list, even if only in our minds. I absolutely love writing lists and then crossing things off (I have notebooks filled with actioned lists, it is so satisfying!) and decided writing down some travel dreams were a good way of keeping oneself accountable and to give me something to work towards. Naturally I want to visit nearly every place on this earth, so as not to bore you, here are some highlights of my list.
♥ See the midnight sun rolling over the horizon in Nordkapp, Norway
I actually tried to see this back in June 2007. However the weather had other ideas and I soon found myself in blizzard conditions (in the middle of summer! Humf!)
What I was meant to see (Image source)
What I actually saw – ripped off!
♥ Visit Lake Bled in Slovenia
Breathtakingly beautiful, I cannot wait to see Lake Bled for myself and explore Slovenia.
♥ Go on a yoga retreat somewhere, anywhere.
I’ve been practicing yoga for several years now and would love to escape for a few weeks on a yoga retreat to focus on myself and my practice.
♥ Explore the Balkans
I have seen a LOT of Europe, however I am yet to visit this part of Europe including Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania etc.
♥ Visit China and see sights such as the Great Wall of China, the Terracotta Warriors and the Forbidden City
♥ See the Northern Lights in Iceland
Both times I have been to Iceland were in the summer, when the Northern Lights aren’t visible. Next time!
♥ Stay overnight in a Buddhist temple on Mount Koya in Japan
Staying in a temple alongside Buddhist monks sounds like an amazing experience.
♥ Visit the salt flats of Bolivia
I am yet to set foot in South America, there are so many sights to see and the salt flats of Bolivia is high up there!
♥ Visit Greenland
I am so fascinated by this isolated and gorgeous country and its people.
This list could go on and on but this is just a taster of what I hope to experience sometime in the (hopefully) near future. Now I just need to win the lottery and clear my schedule for next year! ;)
What is on your travel bucket list?
A group of friends and I recently went to Orange for a weekend of nice wine, food and chats. It’s around a 4 hour drive from Sydney and yes, you do have to stop on the way and eat McDonalds (the only time I permit such a thing!) We arrived late on a Friday night to be graciously met with cheese and wine by our lovely friend Kat. Soon our tiredness got the best of us and we turned in for a good night’s sleep in preparation for lots of eating and drinking tomorrow.
We piled into 2 cars the next morning and set off for brunch at Tonic in Millthorpe, a 20 minute drive from Orange.
Tonic is located at 30 Victoria St, Millthorpe NSW 2798. The coffee was great and the range of foods tasted was delicious. Since I can never make up my mind I chose the sweetcorn cakes and pizza and shared with a friend.
Sweetcorn cakes with mascarpone and prosciutto, $16
Ham, bocconcini, egg and pesto pizza with rocket and parmesan salad, $16
Then we set off to explore Milthorpe. First stop, Galvanised (17 Pym Street, Millthorpe), a converted century old galvanised iron shed that sells everything from homewares and lollies to birdcages and coffee supplies.
The boys preferred eating their sherbert they bought from Galvanised instead of our next stop, the antique store!
Peppertree (23 Pym Street, Millthorpe) had a lovely assortment of antiques, homewares and modern furniture. I had my eyes on this pink and white floral tea set.
Our next stop on our tour of Millthorpe was Tomolly (7 Blake Street, Millthorpe), a store filled with cute gifts, homewares and stationery. The owner was lovely and very excited I was featuring her store on my blog!
It was well into the afternoon now and therefore a suitable time to commence wine tastings! Our first winery was Mayfield Vineyard (954 Icely Road, Orange NSW 2800).
Now, I am no wine expert so don’t expect me to go on about the heady aromas and nuances of blackberry or whatever. But the wine was tasty and affordable, the lady extremely friendly and helpful and we purchased quite a few bottles.
We returned to “downtown Orange” for some coffee and yet more shopping at Hawkes General Store (46 Sale St, Orange). The store was filled with gorgeous homewares and gifts. I loved the Paris gift tags.
Back in the car, we head off to another vineyard – the Philip Shaw vineyard (45 Caldwell Lane, Orange NSW). The views of vineyards on the way there were superb.
Philip Shaw has produced a line of wines called “The Character Series” with titles such as The Dreamer Viognier and The Wire Walker Pinot Noir. I adored the illustrations on each bottle.
The vineyard also had a lovely dog who wanted to play ball!
Our third and final vineyard for the day was Hedberg Hill (701 The Escort Way (Forbes Road), Orange). This vineyard had come highly recommended by my father who is quite a wine buff and personal friend of the owner, Peter Hedberg. We were greeted by more beautiful scenic views of vineyards on the way there.
Peter was a lovely host and we learned (and tasted) a lot. His Riesling and Viognier were delicious! We ended up buying about 3 cases of wine I think! Ooops…
The views from his cellar door was breathtaking, particularly as the sun started to set and cast a yellow glow over the landscape.
Then it was home time for a power nap before dinner!
We went to Bistro Ceello (179 Anson Street, Orange). The food was delicious, the service unfortunately not great. I think we must have gotten the new girl as she made quite a few rookie mistakes – not knowing what the specials were, failing to change glasses between wines, pouring the champagne into a wine glass (!!) etc etc. Nothing to ruin our evening but anyway… Here are a few samples of what was eaten.
House cured ocean trout gravlax, potato pancake, cucumber spaghetti and dill cream, $20 entree
Venison shank sausage, parmesan pudding, roasted tomato and balsamic reduction, $20 entree
Twice cooked pork belly, roasted root vegetables and fennel mustard, $32 main – I swear I could eat this everyday.
Beef sirloin, caponata, creamy polenta with veal jus, $32 main
We were all completely stuffed to the gills, but you know I am never one to miss dessert! We settled on 2 tasting plates and shared them.
Dessert tasting plate featuring lemon cheesecake, nougat ice-cream and choc cake terrine, frangelico panna cotta and steamed marmalade pudding, $30
The next morning we arose and cooked 1kg of bacon. I do not have a photograph of this as we don’t need a reminder. Oh god.
Then we drove off to Totally Local (426 Mitchell Highway, Orange) in search of MORE food. It has an amazing array of locally produced honey, cheese, olive oil and more.
And then we sadly bid adieu to Orange and started the 4 hour drive back to Sydney. What a lovely weekend away!
One of the (many) things I loved about Japan was the “Purikura” or photo sticker booths that were everywhere! They cost 400 YEN (around AUD$5) and are so so much fun. They enlarge your eyes, smooth your skin, let you add makeup as well as random accessories like bows and hearts. I successfully dragged my boyfriend into 3 Purikuras whilst in Japan (and then 1 more time back in Sydney for good measure).
The advertising for the photo booths involve heavily made-up and Photoshopped girls and are usually marketed at either groups of friends or couples.
Our first photo booth we experienced (that’s right, it’s an “experience”) was love themed.
The computer advised us on what poses to strike and then let us add tasteful decorations at the end such as “Best Couple”, hearts and squiggles.
Oh the corniness and creepiness is simply wonderful!
Occasionally the computer shouts at you in Japanese and you have no idea what’s going on – thus this awkward and confused photo.
The next time we went to a Purikura, it was my birthday! Naturally a birthday themed photo shoot was chosen.
We added birthday paraphernalia and cat faces cause I freakin’ love cats. Party tonight!!!!
This particular photo captures the sheer delight we were experiencing.
Followed by a moment of calmness and self reflection. And bows.
Our third trip to the Purikura was the trippiest yet – it featured sheep and hatching chickens. But we LOST. THEM. Fortunately we had a few snaps of the actual computer screen.
Chin shelf yeh.
Sheep! In hats! What!?
Before we finally got to be hatching chickens. My life is now complete.
Naturally, upon returning to Sydney I went in search of more Purikura. I was hooked. We found some near Chinatown in Sydney – they are 2-3 times the price and don’t seem to doll you up as much but still are a fun time!
We went to town on the sparkles, blush and hair accessories.
And then had a fight whilst wearing fake glasses.
I hope I have sufficiently amused and/or traumatised you on this Thursday afternoon. For more whacky things to do in Japan check out my post on Cat Cafes.
Over the past few months I have been writing travel guides based on my own personal journeys and research around the world. They are focused on the female demographic aged 18-40 but anyone can enjoy them. They feature my own photography and include a selection of hotels in each city with budget, mid-range and high-end options, sightseeing (and tourist traps to avoid), shopping, transport and most importantly EATING (each guide has a specific sweets section of course!) I so far have written guides on New York, Melbourne and San Francisco. I am planning on writing my next 3 guides soon but wanted YOUR input on what cities I should focus on next.
These guides will soon be printed and for sale on my blog – there will also be a cheaper downloadable PDF option available too.
You’ve just been on an amazing trip of a lifetime which of course is never long enough and then suddenly you are back home. All the excitement and thrills and new experiences of the past few weeks seem long forgotten as you face the prospect of returning to normal life. I know I have been guilty on numerous occasions of complaining “Sydney is so boring! We’re so far away from everything FUN” “Gosh the architecture and culture in Australia leaves a lot to be desired, you know in Paris they….” etc etc. Coupled with the fact you are probably jet lagged and about to return to work, the aftermath of a great trip can be rather depressing.
However, the last time I returned home from an amazing 5 week holiday I suffered none of the above general grouchiness. I was GLAD to be home. One of the things I love about travel is that it really does make you appreciate what you have and where you live. So here are a few tips that I followed to ease back into normal life:
♥ Do all the things you missed when you were away. I found myself missing/craving the strangest things whilst I was away and it’s great to have things to look forward to when you get back! Catching up with my girlfriends at my favourite cafe, eating amazing Thai and Indian food that you just can’t seem to find in Europe, and drinking tea and hanging out with my cat (yes, simple pleasures)
♥ Get back into a routine. Don’t spend the next few days moping around the house (or worse, sleeping at the wrong times due to jetlag). As soon as you arrive home try to re-establish your routine again. Many international flights arrive in Sydney in the wee hours of the morning which means you are forced to try and keep yourself awake all day to get back to a regular sleeping routine. Have a cup of tea, go for a walk (fresh air and sunshine are great for waking you up and helping readjust your body clock) and unpack your suitcase (boring I know, but it will keep you awake!)
♥ Don’t push yourself. You’ve probably just completed a 30 day whirlwind Europe tour that involved far too much booze and naughty food and not enough sleep. Please, for the love of god don’t try and go back to work the next day! Not only do you run the risk of getting sick but you will probably be pretty useless at your job that day. I flew in from the USA on a Sunday once and arrived for work the next day severely jet lagged and barely slept. After making countless mistakes and feeling like death, my boss ordered me to go home – I was doing more harm than good!
♥ Plan another holiday. Ok ok bear with me, I know you have probably arrived home in a lot of debt and financially speaking another holiday sounds ludicrous. But you can at least start researching and planning! I always need a holiday looming in my future to keep me inspired and happy – even if it’s a year away it’s still a great motivator!
I hope these tips help ease the pain you may suffer from the post-holiday blues. Do you have any more tips to add?
I’ve always wanted to visit Neuschwanstein Castle, ever since I was young and discovered it was the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle! I’ve been to Germany twice before but never had the time to make it down that far south. Finally the time came. I was in Munich, it was winter, and just before Christmas – a perfect atmosphere for castle viewing!
We decided to join a group tour for our trip to Neuschwanstein, as getting there by public transport alone was a bit tricky – it involved multiple trains and buses and in the dead of winter this didn’t seem ideal!
Our tour began in the old-world town of Fussen, which lies in the foot hills of the Alps. The town was charming, with gorgeous snow-covered Bavarian houses (I’m sure Nubby Twiglet would love it!)
The lake at Fussen was beautiful… and freezing!
We then went to Hohenschwangau Castle, a magnificent neo-Gothic castle located in the village of Hohenschwangau.
After some lunch we commenced our climb to Neuschwanstein castle along a steep, slippery, snow covered path (make sure you wear a good pair of shoes/boots!). There are horse drawn carriage rides up the mountain if you so choose, but they looked overpriced and tacky.
We were all huffing and puffing and slipping around after a while, but the first sighting of Neuschwanstein castle in the distance spurred us on.
Finally we arrive at the entrance to Neuschwanstein!
Inside the grounds of the castle, it was eerily beautiful.
We were disappointed we couldn’t see the classic view of Neuschwanstein that you often see in the postcards… Rumour has it there was a secret way to get the best viewpoint of Neuschwanstein – so a naughty group of us decided to go trespassing. We climbed over 3 fences that said Danger Ahead! Um, for the record I don’t condone illegal fence climbing behaviour. If you fall off the edge don’t blame me!
The path wasn’t as straightforward as initially planned. I thought we were going to get lost and die until we finally got to this view of the lake and Hohenschwangau Castle. WORTH IT.
A close up of Hohenschwangau Castle from the mountain.
We walked a little further and then…. DING DING DING! WE HAVE A WINNER! Yes! The view I was looking for.
Let’s have one more shot for good measure.
We posed briefly on the rickety bridge (I was clinging to the handrail) before I jumped off hastily. No 100m plunges to my death, thank you!
And then we had to somehow find our way down the mountain and find our tour group! Thankfully our beautiful surroundings kept us occupied as we skidded for 30 minutes down the mountain.
We made it down safe and sound, joined our tour group and made our way back to Munich. It was a long and tiring day (around 10 hours for the trip) but absolutely worth it. That’s another experience I can cross off my travel bucket list :)
I was recently contacted by MyCityCuisine - a new Wiki project designed to create a free and up-to-date guide to help travellers discover local foods from all over the world.
I think this is a fantastic idea! Food is an integral part of experiencing the local culture and until now there has been no single comprehensive source of information. MyCityCuisine is currently looking for contributors, so if you are an avid foodie and traveller – please share your knowledge with the world!
How To Contribute
At the heart of this project are food lovers from around the world. You can contribute to this project in the following ways:
- Write a new dish description
- Expand an existing dish description
- Correct mistakes in an existing dish description
- Suggest a new dish to be included
- Upload a new dish photo
Keep a watchful eye:
- Report vandalized pages
- Report inappropriate photos
- Report broken links
Improve the grammar and spelling:
- Many of the dish descriptions on this site are written by contributors whose native language is not English, so the grammar and spelling sometimes requires editing.
I am definitely keen to contribute and I hope you are too. For more information on how to contribute go here.
Otherwise if you are planning a trip abroad, definitely bookmark this site so you know which local foods you should try!
When I was planning for my Japan adventure last year I stumbled across the concept of a “Cat Cafe”. These are hugely popular in Japan and they are essentially themed cafes where patrons pay a cover fee to hang out and play with cats. Many apartments in Japan forbid pets so this is a way for people to essentially “rent-a-cat” for relaxation and companionship.
Naturally I was curious and DYING to visit one of these. It happened to be my birthday in Tokyo and what better way to celebrate than hanging out at a cat cafe! (I am a crazy cat lady after all).
After some research I decided to visit “Ja La La”, in Akihabara.
The door handle was a cat paw! Eeeee!
Upon arrival we were presented with a “menu of cats” that featured a picture of the kitty along with its breed, date of birth and a little about me section.
I purchased some cat food (for an additional fee) and soon was getting a lot of kitty attention.
This was La La, yes who the cafe is named after! She isn’t here very often and we were very lucky to have met her (apparently). She was very bossy, constantly jumping up on our knees demanding food.
Most of the kitties were keen to play and eat except this guy, who looked like a lion. He just snoozed.
There were several other Japanese people in the cafe who I think had been there for a LONG time (we only paid for a 1/2 hour visit).
I must admit I was initially concerned about the cat cafe, wondering if the cats were mistreated or overworked. But I was pleasantly surprised when I got there – the cats all seemed very happy and were in excellent health. The staff all looked after them well and had a genuine interest in cats. There was also a long list of rules including washing your hands with antibacterial soup before and after hanging out with the cats and not bothering them if they were asleep.
I left the cat cafe with a huge smile on my face. But that smile only got bigger when I got home and checked the Ja La La website (www.nekojalala.com)….. each kitty at the cafe has it’s OWN PERSONAL EMAIL ADDRESS.
Oh how I would love to read the emails crazy cat people send to the kitties.
When doing your research on a country’s accommodation, sightseeing and transport don’t forget to research an important thing – etiquette. I can’t emphasise enough the importance of researching a country’s culture and customs before you leave to ensure you don’t accidently insult a local or worse, get in serious trouble.
♥ In Japan it is considered rude to put makeup on or talk on your mobile on the train (2 things I often do and certainly avoided when I was there!). Always bow when meeting somebody and take your shoes off when entering a room (generally a person’s home but I also removed my shoes at some cafes and restaurants).
♥ In Thailand never touch a Thai person on their head, as this is seen as the most important part of the body and is therefore disrespectful. Also never shake hands with your left hand as this is considered the “unclean” hand (this is also the case in many SE Asian and Muslim countries).
♥ In the UAE public nudity is a criminal offence (not that I expect you to start streaking down the street!) but did you know even a kiss on the cheek can get you on the wrong side of the law?!
♥ In Singapore you can be fined for smoking in public, littering and even for not flushing the toilet!
♥ In Muslim countries you should always be mindful of the way you dress and your public behaviour. Always dress modestly (a woman’s dress should fall at least below the knee and women and men should cover their shoulders) and when entering a mosque shoes should be removed and a women should cover their heads with a scarf. It is also best to avoid public displays of affection.
These examples should not cause alarm or worry, they are merely meant to remind you to fully prepare for your next adventure and have a worry-free time! For more information on travel etiquette overseas check out www.traveletiquette.co.uk
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