Sunday, 30 December 2018

It's The End of the Year, But Seriously, What The Bleepin Heck Was 2018?

Hi y’all. It’s been a gosh darn minute and for some reason I now have a Southern twang. 

I’m going to be honest and say that 2018 was absolute trash. I don’t think I’ve had a year where I just needed it to end and be wiped from my memory. Permanently. I tossed up whether it was even necessary to write some kind of 2018 wrap up but ultimately, I wanted to step into the New Year with a brighter and more positive outlook on life. There were things I was grateful for in 2018 (the entire year wasn’t terrible) and rather than focusing on all the bad I want to recognise the good to remind myself that being thankful is necessary in life. 

I am grateful for the privilege to travel


In May this year I jetted off to Europe alone and had a blast. Honestly, it was the highlight of my year! I was blogging about it until I disappeared, but I promise I’m going to finish it off in the new year. Read the first post here

To me, travelling is a privilege. I recognise that I am in a very fortunate situation to be able to afford to and have the ability to visit so many different places in the world. Travelling has rapidly become one of my passions, being able to see the beauty in various countries and experiencing their cultures. However, I quickly became aware of how lucky I am, in that my parents never had this luxury when they were young and even now there are people in poorer countries that struggle to even survive let alone see the wonders of the world. 

I am grateful for the people in my life


I’m the type of person that places a lot of importance in relationships with friends and family. My overambitious ass tries to stay in contact with every single individual that I’ve come across and has somehow made an impact in my life. Which was why it was incredible that during my travels to Europe I got to catch up with the friends I made during my exchange trip in South Korea, 2015. Three years on and it was so nice just to reminisce, have a laugh and make new memories. Along my adventures through Europe I also made some new friendships, which I find is always the best part in travelling solo. In 2018 I also learnt to surround myself with people who make my life better, will lift me up and support me and be honest. The phrase ‘quality over quantity’ is insanely accurate when you apply it to the relationships in your life. You could have 500 different people you call friends but not one of them is honest or loyal to you, or you could have a handful of friends who know you better than you do. It’s your life, you get to choose. 

I am grateful for the basic necessities I have


Don’t mistake this as me trying to scrape the bottom of the barrel for things I’m grateful for this year. I know there wasn’t much, but truly, being able to enjoy great tasting food, have access to technology such as the laptop I’m using right now and internet connection and overall cleanliness and health is something we should all be grateful for. Every day of our lives. It’s easy to take it all for granted. I mean we were born into it, we never had to witness the struggles and hard work that granted us all this. But I am thankful that I have a roof over my head, a car to travel to and from, and clothes - even though I do find myself constantly complaining about not having anything to wear. It’s worth reminding yourself to be thankful for having a comfortable and enjoyable life. 

I think when I do ever look back on 2018, the rollercoaster ride that it was, is still a ride that is probably what I needed. It gave me a jolt. I do feel as though I was just coasting along and although yes, I did have goals and plans, I have never implemented anything and followed through. Throwing me into the deep end has now geared me up to drive towards my aspirations. I am so incredibly happy, or maybe it’s relieved, to say goodbye to 2018. It’s done, it’s over. Onwards and upwards, they say.

How Was 2018 For You?


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Sunday, 22 July 2018

Travel Diary: Speeding Through Scandinavia


These are a series of posts covering my 5 weeks in Europe, and each country I see in bite sizes. Or as my best friend likes to say, “speed touristing.” I visited most places for 4 days, with the exception of Germany and some day trips. This is my way of taking you guys on my adventures through Europe, giving you guys my thoughts on each place and any tips I’ve picked up!

Speeding Through Scandinavia


Stockholm and Copenhagen were small enough to walk through and take a look in one day each! It was rushed but I also felt like I saw what I needed to see - although not do everything I wanted to do. Both cities are beautiful in warm, sunny weather, as the cities have rivers flowing through them. You only have to sit back on the steps at the riverside or smaller parks and just sunbathe to have a great time. 

Stockholm


Accomodation:
I stayed at this cosy and super cute Airbnb in Sodermalm. It's a short train ride away from the city centre, and home to various bars and clubs - perfect for the night life.

Places I Visited:
Gamla Stan
Stockholm's Old Town

I opted to check this out only because of the history behind this ship and how they managed to rescue it from the depths of the sea in it's entirety to be put on show.

Food:
Brunch
Vasterlanggatan 9, Stockholm - located in Gamla Stan
Nytorget 6, 116 40, Stockholm 
This place was a short walk away from my Airbnb and I highly recommend it! I had "The Vanja"and it was such a unique dish to try out.

Dinner
Nytorgsgatan 30, Sodermalm
You haven't gone to Sweden if you don't eat meatballs!

Copenhagen



Places I Visited:
Tourist Sites

Located in the Christianshavn area, Free Town is a small anarchist district within Copenhagen, relatively well-known for its open cannabis trade. It has its own rules and regulations, independent of the government, although still in communications with the State. It is such a creative space, filled with so  many buildings of different designs, stalls and communal spaces. An absolutely gorgeous place. 

Food:
Brunch
Moller - Kaffe & Kokken
Norrebrogade 160 2200, Copenhagen
The concept here is that you get a variety of categories on the menu with smaller dishes so you can pick and choose to make the perfect brunch meal! Loved it!

Refshalevej 167A, 1432 Copenhagen K
Is this super cool outdoor food market, where there are different zones with containers of a variety of cuisines. Best yet is the brewery, Mikkeller, located just near the riverside. Great beer and great views!


Transport Tips

Stockholm 
From the Airport
There are loads of options, but the cheapest is the bus. However, it is also the longest option and you could possibly be stuck in traffic if your flight times are around peak hour so keep that in mind. Otherwise the metro/underground is also a relatively affordable option. 
Around the City
As I was staying outside of the city centre a little I had to rely on trains, which were easy to navigate and not expensive either. I was lucky to have an underground station right next to my Airbnb as well!

Copenhagen
From the Airport
Travelling to and from the airport is so easy in Copenhagen because of how small the city is. There is only one train stop, and the S-train can take you to the main station where there are a number of buses to take around the city as well. 
Around the City
You definitely don't need public transport to make your way around Copenhagen. Everything is easily accessible by walking, and biking is the predominant mode of transport. 

Currency
Both countries use their own currency though so keep that in mind! 
Swedish Krona (SEK) or Danish Krona (DKK) 
The conversion rate is currently
1SEK = 0.15AUD
1DKK = 0.20AUD
They're not cheap countries - just a warning

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Sunday, 8 July 2018

Most Exciting Releases For The Last Half of 2018

We're now in the last half of 2018, which is insane, but also super exciting as we've already had some great releases in the first half and now we're making way for some more!

Wow I have a new video up? Is it too late to say new year new me? I list the top 5 books I'm anticipating the most for the rest of this year!




Other Releases In The Year






The Looking Glass - Janet McNally
August 14th
YA Contemporary
Julia Blake, Sylvia’s older sister, disappears leaving Sylvia to continue her legacy at the prestigious National Ballet Theatre Academy. But when Julia sends Sylvia a copy of their favourite childhood fairy tale book, renamed as Girls in Trouble by Julia, Sylvia begins to almost magically see Julia everywhere she looks. Sylvia decides to embark on a road trip with her best friends brother to find Julia.





The Towering sky (The Thousandth Floor #3) - Katharine McGee
August 28th
YA Sci-Fi
The third instalment to McGee's series that's been referred to as having futuristic Gossip Girl, set in a dystopian world within a thousand story tower in the middle of New York City.






Sadie - Courtney Summers
September 4th
YA Mystery
Sadie’s sister, Mattie is found dead. Determined, Sadie follows clues in an effort to discover how Mattie died, with the police being no help. Her investigation leads to a podcast being started by West McCray, tracking Sadie’s journey as she hopefully finds answers.






Two Dark Reigns (Three Dark Crowns #3) - Kendare Blake
September 4th
YA Fantasy 
Third instalment to Three Dark Crowns series, following three sisters and their battle for the throne, each with different powers.








The Dark Descent of Elizabeth - Kirsten White
September 25th
YA Retelling
Retelling of Frankenstein through Elizabeth’s perspective, with a chilling twist to it - what if Elizabeth was never happy living with Victor and what if he posed as a danger to her? I am a huge fan of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley so am super intrigued to see what it was like.



What If It's Us - Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
October 9th
YA LGBTQ+
I told myself I'd read more diverse books, and I stumbled upon this one revolving around Ben and Arthur and their not so easy romance.








Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass #7) - Sarah J. Maas
October 23rd
YA Fantasy 
I can't believe we've already reached the 7th instalment to Throne of Glass, and to be quite honest I'm still excited about this series and revisiting the world and its characters.






How She Died, How I Lived - Mary Crockett
November 13th
YA Contemporary
The story follows a girl, who is one of five girls Kyle texted. Only Jamie, a girl too nice to ignore him, responded and it got her killed. A year after the incident, the girl is angry and wants answers. She wants to know why Jamie died and she didn’t. Except she’s beginning to be drawn to Jamie’s boyfriend, Charlie, which makes it even harder to deal with.






The Reckoning of Noah Shaw (The Shaw Confessions #2) - Michelle Hodkin
November 13th
YA Paranormal
I'm still obsessed with the Mara Dyer series and anything to do with Noah Shaw so this was a must add to the list.






What Are You Excited For In The Last Half of 2018?


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Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Travel Diary: A List Do's and Don'ts of Ibiza, As Experienced By Yours Truly

These are a series of posts covering my 5 weeks in Europe, and each country I see in bite sizes. Or as my best friend likes to say, “speed touristing.” I visited most places for 4 days, with the exception of Germany and some day trips. This is my way of taking you guys on my adventures through Europe, giving you guys my thoughts on each place and any tips I’ve picked up! 

A List of Do's and Don'ts of Ibiza, As Experienced By Yours Truly



Do research a little on where you want to stay. Ibiza is actually quite big and there are two areas that you can look into staying at - San Antonio and Playa d’en Bossa. San Antonio is on the side closer to Barcelona, accessible by ferry between the two. Playa d’en Bossa is a 25 minute drive on the other side of the island, closer to the Airport. Both places have very well-known venues/parties, so take a look and pick your place! 
Accomodation: Ryans Ibiza Apartment

Don't just limit yourself to the area you’re in! Ibiza has a lot more to offer than just partying. Formentera, one of Spain’s smaller islands, is a short ferry ride away. I’ve also heard the Old Town, Dalt Vila is beautiful to visit. Find a local Spanish restaurant for a taste of some authentic cuisine or hire a Quad Bike/Scooter and get around the island at your own pace. 

Do have cash. It makes it a lot easier, especially when you’ll most likely be catching Taxis rather than buses. Not all taxis are fitted with EFTPOS machines. Also means you’re not pulling out your card at multiple times throughout the night, increasing the chances of losing it.

Don't rely on getting wasted at clubs/events. Drinks are insanely expensive. At one point I paid 65 euros for a voucher of 5 cocktails - that’s basically $100AUD. Instead, there are heaps of supermarkets that sell alcohol or bars where drinks are a little cheaper. Pre-drink is all I say!

Do plan your day ahead. By this, I mean look up events you want to attend as most places will be selling tickets prior and is a lot cheaper when you purchase beforehand. I used the website Ibiza Spotilght, which breaks down months, venues and days for easier viewing. Also meant I could skip certain queues.

Don't, in any circumstance, leave your mobile phone in the bathroom and then proceed to lose the people you are with, in a club that is immensely big. For instance, Pacha. The experience is not fun, stumbling around flights of stairs trying to remember which bathroom you went to or where you might find your friends again, as Fat Boy Slim hypes up the crowd.

Do make sure you have Find my iPhone, or any other tracking service your device offers turned on, so that you can track to see where it has gone. Turn on lost mode to ensure no one can use your device. If and when you do find it, either give your phone a ring or have something identifiable that you can point out to let the cloak room ladies know it’s yours. For me, it was a Polaroid photo on the back. (Yes, I did get my phone back).

Don’t freak out if you lose it. Enjoy your day. Ibiza is THE place to distract yourself from real life. Find a day party to forget that you did something so stupid, such as hitting up Ushuaia. The venue is an incredible open club, seeing some pretty big names during the Summer. As soon as party season starts the you’ll see the likes of David Guetta, Robin Schulz and Hardwell headlining. Get ready to party all day long!

Do have an amazing time in general. Regardless of what happens during Ibiza I can guarantee it will be memorable and you’ll look back and have a good laugh. I do, at the very least, when I recount my weekend in Ibiza. Honestly though, how the hell did I get my phone back after misplacing it for 24 hours?!


What Was One Thing I Should've Done in Ibiza?

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Sunday, 1 July 2018

Why You'll Love "One Of Us Is Lying"

Title: One of Us Is Lying
Author: Karen M. McManus
Publication Date: May 30th, 2017
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention. 
Browyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. 
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High's notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn't an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he'd planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four them suspects in his murder.

Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who's still on the loose? Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Review


Another 2017 read, guys please bear with me while I get through my last few reviews of 2017! 

This was a killer read - pardon the pun. I love a good mystery that’s well set out to lead to a shocking ending alongside having characters that I can invest in. One of Us Is Lying is exactly that. I was on edge for most of the story and knew that I couldn’t put it down until I finished. It’s a fairly short read that delivers an immense amount of impact, not only from the mystery itself but from McManus exploring diversity, acceptance and other social issues that crop up within high school as well.

McManus delivers a clever and surprising plot twist, which took the book from a 4 stars to 5.&nbspThere was no way I could’ve suspected that was the resolution to the novel, but it was well thought out and explained, that I wasn’t questioning how ludicrous it seemed to be. The plot was fast paced and suspenseful, being an absolute page turner.

I didn’t expect to see such strong character developments or feel attached to them either. The personalities introduced are somewhat cliches to novels set in high school however, they have a lot more depth to them that is revealed and explored as the plot progresses. Each character will come across as relatable, with issues that most of us have dealt with or are dealing with currently. Honestly, I didn’t expect to like them that much but they were pretty much all flawed characters and I am a sucker for that.

Throughout all the crime solving and character development is another aspect that made One of Us Is Lying an engaging read. McManus addresses social issues that have been and continue to be discussed amongst our social sphere. Trigger warnings for bullying, school shootings, suicide, abusive relationships, mental health, discrimination against LGBQT+ community. As much as I love a gripping read, nothing is more satisfying than reading a novel that engages me with real life concerns that gets me thinking and is challenging.

Bottom line. You should read it.


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Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Travel Diary: Everything I Loved About Amsterdam

These are a series of posts covering my 5 weeks in Europe, and each country I see in bite sizes. Or as my best friend likes to say, “speed touristing.” I visited most places for 4 days, with the exception of Germany and some day trips. This is my way of taking you guys on my adventures through Europe, giving you guys my thoughts on each place and any tips I’ve picked up!

Everything I Loved About Amsterdam


Amsterdam was without a doubt one of my favourite places I visited - such a highlight to my trip. The city has these chilled vibes and the weather was so nice that it was fun just ambling around in the streets. I am well aware that people visit Amsterdam because weed is legal there, but being someone who doesn’t dabble in that area, I still thoroughly enjoyed my time and will 110% go back. It was only one of 3 place I stayed at for more than 3 days.



Accomodation

Well worth the stay! The Flying Pig is a really homely hostel, and I felt so comfortable staying here. I met some awesome people as well, who were friendly and open to get to know one another. It’s a 5 minute walk from Central Station and is located within close proximity to majority of the tourist attractions including the IAmsterdam sign, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank Museum and Vondelpark. 

Being A Tourist


Amsterdam is set out so you can knock out a lot of tourist attractions in a day or two. The rest of my days I spent enjoying the weather - I had a day in a park just reading and another pedal boating around the canals, or heading out at night with some friends to discover what Amsterdam's night life was like.


I ticked off the Anne Frank museum the first day I got there, and was one of the favourite things I did that week. It is such an intuitive experience, with each person having their own audio guide synced to the required language. When you’re walking through the house there are numbers to scan and the audio guide starts - everyone is listening to and experiencing the same things, but in different languages. 
Tip: Pre-book your ticket! This is very important!

Another thing I surprisingly loved was visiting Spa Zuiver - a spa and sauna centre 25 minutes away from Amsterdam. It’s actually attached to a hotel if you want to stay away from the city for a day or two! The place is decked out with an indoor and outdoor pool, multiple saunas, steam room, jacuzzis (both indoor and outdoor), aroma bath - the list goes on! There’s also a restaurant and bar. Do note though, that this place is usually a naked spa but Tuesdays and Thursdays are bathing suit days if you’re not super comfortable being in the nude. Highly recommend!

Surprise, surprise I did a walk through Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light district. I can definitely understand the fascination behind it amongst tourists, but didn’t feel like I wanted to revisit it every night. I also visited the I Amsterdam Sign, Moco Museum and Westerpark. The Moco Museum had two exhibitions on - Roy Lichtenstein and Banksy.

Places To Eat


I’m fairly sure I brunched at least once in every country I visited, and hey I’m not complaining. Bakers and Roasters are known for eggs. They have an abundance of different egg dishes you can choose from, and my choice was salmon and hollandaise sauce. You can sit outside right next to the canals, super cute!

If you love meat, and having a huge steak, hit up this place. It isn’t cheap though so do expect to be paying a bit, but well worth it. 

De 3 Graefjes
Yes, this is another brunch place. Don’t judge me.

Satellite Sports Cafe
Oh wow, I just realised my pattern in eating. Again, meat lovers, you want to eat all that you can in ribs go and find this place. We paid 12 euros, but after 10PM its 10 euros! 


Gartine is a really cute cafe that serves high tea, which is exactly what we ordered. We kind of splurged a little and went for the set that encompassed everything high tea could offer, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

This restaurant was recommended by a local for authentic Dutch food. It’s semi fancy and there was a line when we got there, but I thought ahead and made a reservation. To be quite honest, we didn’t really know what to order so just chose somewhat randomly, including Dutch Hodgepodge. 

Quick Tips


You don’t really need to catch public transport in Amsterdam because everything is so easy to walk to. However, you will see, and fairly sure everyone knows this, a ton of bikes. Both locals and tourists fill the roads with bikes and is most likely the easiest way to see the entire city. 

If you’re trying to make your way to Amsterdam from London, Paris or somewhere nearby, definitely look at booking a train ticket because it makes it way easier to get right into the city. I booked a seat with Thalys from Paris to Amsterdam and it was only 3 hours.

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Sunday, 24 June 2018

"The Ocean at the End of the Lane" Is A MUST Read

Author: Neil Gaiman
Publication Date: June 18th, 2013

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

Review


The Ocean at the End of the Lane will hold onto and drag you into the dark depths of its mysterious tale. There’s no other way to explain Gaiman’s novel other than being a modern day myth or fairytale of some sort. I didn’t expect it to be a short story, but as it unfolded I realised I was hooked on one single plot line that seemed so simple but kept taking turns and twists, I had no idea where it was heading. 

The story came to life through Gaiman’s writing - he is an absolute genius at creating an engrossing tale with vivid imagery and such real characters. It was a such a strange read that I couldn’t stop reading. I finished it within two hours. The story is suppose to be a mystery but Gaiman weaves magic and life lessons, leaving me quite emotionally drained from being so invested. It’s madness and creativity and ingenuity all in one, which is insane that it worked so well together. Be sure to pay close attention while reading, because there’s a complex layer underneath the plot and even now I want to go back and re-read to see if I’ve missed anything. 

Honestly, I read this at the end of last year, but The Ocean at the End of the Lane was such a unique and intense read it took me awhile to process how I felt about it in words. Such an impressionable read and has further made me love Gaiman’s works! One of my favourite reads last year.

That's the trouble with living things. Don't last very long, Kittens one day, old cats the next. And then just memories. And the memories fade and blend and smudge together.

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Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Travel Diary: Falling For Paris (Literally)


These are a series of posts covering my 5 weeks in Europe, and each country I see in bite sizes. Or as my best friend likes to say, “speed touristing.” I visited most places for 4 days, with the exception of Germany and some day trips. This is my way of taking you guys on my adventures through Europe, giving you guys my thoughts on each place and any tips I’ve picked up! 

Falling For Paris


My trip to Paris was pretty much almost a blur and to be quite honest, I barely did anything at all. You can thank my unstable ankle for that, as I rolled it whilst walking in the city (hence the title haha).When people say Paris is the city of love, they’re not wrong. The city itself has a very romantic vibe, mostly because of its beautiful buildings and monuments. That's really what I fell in love with, how picturesque the city is. There are definitely a million spots that are instagrammable. However, because of that I felt like it wasn't the best place to travel alone and wouldn't do it again unless I had someone with me.

I caught the EuroStar from London to Paris, a 2 hour train ride that made it easier to get right into the city. From there, I made my way to Hotel Vendome Saint-Germain. It’s a cute, modern place that was close to a number of train stations and walking distance to some tourist attractions. The Notre Dame Cathedral, Fontaine Saint-Michel and Shakespeare & Company Book store were all nearby! 

Address: 8 Rue d'Arras, 75005, Paris

What I Saw

The Lourve | Arc de Triomphe | Eiffel Tower
I went to three major tourist attractions, which really is somewhat of a poor effort. 

The Lourve is insanely big, and you can spend hours and hours in it. The main attraction is the one and only Mona Lisa, and that’s where you’ll find majority of the people.


If you really want a photo with the Eiffel Tower in the background, do not head to the actual site - unless you’re planning to climb it. Instead, find a park nearby to get it in its entirety. 

TIP: Definitely pre-book tickets to the places you want to head to. It makes it so much easier and skipping lines is a plus. You can also download the app “Duck The Line” to skip the queue at the Notre Dame Cathedral

Activities


Really, the only activity I did in Paris was sign up for the Paris Bar Crawl. The guide takes you to three different bars around Montmarte, with free shots at each and the last one lands you near the Moulin Rouge. I met some really friendly people and had an enjoyable night! The next day wasn’t so fun though.

Places To Shop


Paris is THE number one place to shop. Or France at least. It was a shame that I couldn’t get to all the places I wanted to go to. 

Le Grande Epicerie de Paris
Have you ever seen a luxury grocery food store, because this is it. I was on the hunt for some Foie Gras to bring home for my parents but really could’ve bought everything - from the cheese to the charcuterie. I settled for pastries instead, and the croissant was to die for.

Paris Lourve Duty-Free KAMS 1960 
It’s not as big as I thought it’d be, but they’re all about giving you good deals on top of claiming back VAT. I grabbed a couple of items for my mum, including some Lancome creams and a Chanel perfume and the amount was a whole lot cheaper than at home.

Other places I wanted to check out were: Nose, Fragonard Boutique, Parle Moi De Parfum and Galeries Lafeyette.

Where I Ate

I was very underwhelmed with food in Paris. But I also think I was daunted by not being able to comprehend the menu and the fact that I didn’t entirely enjoy the first meal I had. I do regret though, not eating all the pastries I could.

Le Relais de L’Entreconte
This is one of the more well known restaurants in Paris. People queue up as soon as it opens to grab a table. They’re famous for steaks and fries, with pepper sauce. I wouldn’t say I loved it but that’s because steak in Australia is already so good and I couldn’t stop comparing the two.

Foyer Mon Vietnam
Safe to say after the pub crawl I needed some comfort food, so I searched for a nearby Vietnamese restaurant and had Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio.

Matsumi 
Can you tell I gave up finding French foods? My friends took me to Matsumi, a sushi train restaurant, which I thoroughly enjoyed!

Strada Cafe
The last morning I was there, I found this gem across the road and loved it! The place does brunch differently every week, and the day I was in they were offering a “hot dish” that had eggs, some kind of thick sauce and grounded concoction. The taste was so good, because there were so many elements and flavours. Definitely recommend trying it out!

Transportation 

Public Transport is easily accessible, with the option of bulk purchasing tickets beforehand. You can buy 10 tickets in one go, which is convenient. In Paris there are a number of public transport options including Metro, RER and the bus, which all use the same tickets. 

Uber is also readily available, and I had to rely on that quite a bit after rolling my ankle and couldn’t walk as much. Rides were quite cheap seeing as it isn’t as far to get from one place to another.

Have You Been To Paris? What Was Your Favourite Thing To Do Or See?


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Thursday, 14 June 2018

Travel Diary: London in Three Days

These are a series of posts covering my 5 weeks in Europe, and each country I see in bite sizes. Or as my best friend likes to say, “speed touristing.” I visited most places for 4 days, with the exception of Germany and some day trips. This is my way of taking you guys on my adventures through Europe, giving you guys my thoughts on each place and any tips I’ve picked up! 

London in Three Days


I sped through London in three days and loved every moment of it! Out of all the cities, I’m fairly sure I did the most touristy things here. Navigating through the city was super easy and I didn’t have to rely on public transport too much. London really turned it up for me, being super sunny and warm, so I took full advantage of it and walked pretty much everywhere. 

Places I Visited




Hampstead Heath
I spent my first day lazing around at Hampstead Heath, just one of the many parks London has to offer. It’s insane how people swarm to parks, not just in the U.K but pretty much everywhere in Europe as soon as the sun comes out. I guess coming from a country like Australia where we sometimes do take advantage of the weather we get, it really shocked me how much people loved being outdoors as soon as it was nice and warm. My cousin, who’s just migrated over there, told me that London’s weather is never like how it was when I was there. I was getting 27-28 degrees days, which suited me plenty.

Tower of London and London Bridge
I did a quick walk around the Tower of London before deciding it wasn’t necessary to actually go inside. I will say I am a huge history buff and the Tudor era is one of my favourite periods in history to learn about. However, as a tourist, I’m not one to venture further than what I consider necessary. The tower was impressive to look at but I wasn’t very keen on spending almost $50AUD for a ticket into the place. Instead, I walked along the river and saw the bridge before crossing it.  



I did opt to take up the William Shakespeare Globe Tour, and was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. My tour guide was a very enthusiastic girl who made the whole tour really exciting and fun to listen to. Even better, they handed us free tickets to watch the Twelfth Night that was currently being performed. That was enjoyable for about 30 minutes until standing right underneath the sun became a bit too much. 

St. Paul’s Cathedral
I ended the day by walking over to St. Paul’s Cathedral and seeing how grand it was followed with doing a quick walk down Oxford St. 

King’s Cross Station (Platform 9 3/4)
I got there to the iconic Platform 9 3/4 platform for a photo at 9:30-10:00AM and there was already a line, so be sure to get there early or it’ll just get busier! Bless the girl in the line behind me who was alone as well - she took a killer photo. They have a person to help stage the photo and props available. 


Buckingham Palace and Harrod's
Then it was more sightseeing with Buckingham Palace my next stop. I actually didn’t realise that 11:00AM is when the guards change their posts and there were so many people. I was trying to side step someone to see what was happening but had a police officer tell me off for overstepping the boundaries. Oops. In all honesty, I got kind of bored so I began to walk to Harrod’s instead. Harrod’s is a huge department store with very fancy interior and exterior. I popped in to buy some Harrod’s tea and then went to the other side of the street to shop some more. 

Favourite Things I Did


Les Miserable
I bought tickets to Les Miserable one afternoon and it was by far my favourite thing I did in London. The musical was playing at Queens Theatre and was so magical. Hands down, Les Miserable has topped my list of favourite musicals - it is a must watch! 



Tottenham vs. Newcastle
Then it was a mad dash to Wembley Stadium to see Tottenham versus Newcastle, which was also super fun. I watched football, or as we Australians like to call it, soccer, when I was younger, but to actually be in the atmosphere and see what the crowd is like was incredible. 


What To Eat

Please, please do yourself a favour and head to one of the Dishoom restaurants in London. I went there for breakfast and was so sad that I was by myself because I couldn’t order everything on the menu! As soon as you take a bite from the dish you’re just overwhelmed with all the different spices and elements that come together to create an amazing taste. Really, I would go everyday just to make my way through all Dishoom has to offer.

If you’re a fan of food stalls/trucks take a stroll through Borough Market and try to decide what you want to eat the most. There are so many options it took me forever to decide! But I felt like the best choice was fish and chips considering I was in London after all. 


This Michelin star restaurant was well worth the money. There’s a set menu you can order, which includes entree, main and dessert and complimentary cocktail. Loved the entree and the dessert was amazing. There are a few options for mains and my cousin and I shared ours so we could taste both. 



I couldn't not eat brunch, and after heaps of research I hunted down Granger & Co for some acai. I also found out a fellow Aussie set up this place so I knew it would be good!

Quick Tips


Transport from the Airport to the City
I took the Underground, which was immensely cheaper than the Airport Express option, which the airport has so many signs for. Don’t be fooled! It’s different to the local trains that London has so read your signs carefully. The only thing is taking trains underground means there is no reception so make sure you’ve plotted your trip beforehand to know which stations to get off and if you need to transfer. 

Accessing Public Transport
Super easy! If you’re only there for a few days there’s no need to purchase an Opal card. Instead, you can just tap your debit/credit card at each station and on the bus and that’s it. I relied on Google Maps to know which trains and buses to take and it was pretty successful. It was also kind of exciting to be on a double decker bus - I know, super cheesy.

You could definitely say I had a very “English” experience, and ultimately I did fall in love with London. The weather really did help in my case but I loved that it reminded me of Melbourne but had much more history in its buildings, giving the city a more whimsical feel. 


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Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Travel Diary: A Weekend In Tuscany

These are a series of posts covering my 5 weeks in Europe, and each country I see in bite sizes. Or as my best friend likes to say, “speed touristing.” I'm in most places for 3 to 4 days, with some exceptions and I wanted to bring you guys along! Follow me on my adventure to see what I love and don't love, and tips and tricks I might pick up on the way

A Weekend In Tuscany


Starting off in Italy was such a great way to immerse myself in European culture. Instead of heading to the more well-known areas, I opted to join my cousin and her friends on a girl’s weekend to Tuscany and Verona for 3 nights. We spent majority of our time in Tuscany, and did lunch stops in two places - Bologna and Sirmione.

Bologna

Bologna is, and I honestly don’t know why I didn’t believe this in the first place, famous for Bolognese. I know right? We stopped between our drive from the airport to our destination to have lunch whilst seeing what Bologna had to offer. It’s not a small town, but not as big as Verona either. There isn’t a whole lot to see but when we arrived there was a market with cheap clothing and the town square was lively. We were adamant on trying bolognese based pasta before leaving. The restaurant we ate at offered a variety of pastas famous within Bologna. Between the two that I tried - Tortellini Bolognese and Pappardelle Della Nona - the pappardelle actually won out. The pasta was thick and just the right texture, the sauce so flavoursome and fresh. It was my first taste of authentic Italian pasta and I was impressed.


Tuscany


Our main destination was Villa Campestri Olive Oil Resort, located in Vicchio. The place sits high on a hill away from any other towns, offering some peace and quiet, perfect for an R&R session. There's also a pool available for nicer weather, just on the edge of the hill, overlooking a number of small towns. Alongside that are activities that can be undertaken, including cooking classes, spa session and truffle hunting when in season.


We decided on doing a Wine Tour (surprise, surprise), which gave us the option of visiting multiple wineries or just one. The resort organised transportation to and from the place and we set off to Frascole farm, a short drive from the resort to learn about wine production and try the variations that came from Tuscany. Frascole is located in Dicomano and the scenery was so lush and green. We were actually expecting the weather to be absolutely horrible, but it was warm and sunny thankfully. The owner of the winery was a lovely gentlemen, who is meticulous in his wine production and treats his different wines as his babies. During the tasting we were also given a light lunch of cheese, Italian meats and bread, which was amazing. It was a really pleasant afternoon and we felt so welcomed and comfortable by the end of it. There is an option to purchase the wines after tasting with a courier service if there’s no way to transport it home.

When we were at the Resort, the staff were super accommodating and friendly, catering to our needs - or in our case, endless amount of wine and prosecco orders. We took full advantage of the weekend to try wines after wines after wines, along with constant pizza and pasta dishes. The Resort had free all-you-can-eat breakfast, with fresh oranges and grapefruits that can be placed in a squeezer for juice. That was amazing!! Both mornings there were slight variations in meats, cheeses and pastries available. In the evening there is a 3 course dinner if you decide to dine in. I chose a Grilled Octopus starter, Spaghetti for the main and Tiramisu for dessert. The starter was beautiful but I wasn’t crazy about the main or dessert.


Sirmione


We left early Sunday morning to drive to Sirmione, a resort town south of Lake Gada. Sirmione was stunning. It’s really hard to express how pretty the place is unless you head there yourself. It is quite touristy, but doesn’t lose its cultural aspect. We were lucky enough to have really warm weather so we sat in the sun during lunch sipping on Aperol Spritz, whilst eating, yes, pasta and pizza. I’ve noticed Aperol Spritz is a huge thing in Italy, or at the very least in Sirmione and Verona. Back at home it’s just begun to pick up and pretty much only in Summer when the Australian Open is on. If you’re after blue skies and cute cobblestone alleyways, this is the place to be.

Verona


Verona was exactly what I imagined Europe to be like. It’s famous for being the setting of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and they definitely take advantage of that by having a balcony, known as “Juliet’s Balcony,” for tourists to visit. It’s really just a balcony. The town square is bustling with market stalls selling trinkets and the vendors are all dressed up in historical costume. There’s quiet a bit to see so take a walk through the smaller streets, towards the lake and back around. During the warmer weather it’s no surprise to see cafe tables filled up outside as both tourist and locals sit around to chat and day drink. We had our last meal at a really cute restaurant, with tables set up in the alleyway and fairy lights, which admittedly caught our attention. We shared a number of starters and each had a pasta dish. The Pappardelle and Truffle pasta I had was nice, but I think I would’ve liked another element to the dish rather than just truffle. I know, stupid, considering I ordered it knowing it was just truffles. 

I’d have to say the weekend in Italy was amazing. I’m a little sad I’m not doing more of Italy after seeing a part of it, but would highly recommend Villa Campestri if you want to treat yourself whilst on holiday. It is a very quiet area though, and most of the guests are couples of smaller families who are looking to get away, so if you want big nights and crowds this isn’t the place. Verona was great as well, not too big but had a lot to offer. 

Travelling There

Driving to the Villa was roughly 3 hours from Verona airport. From the Resort to Sirmione was 2 and a half hours and Sirmione to Verona was only 45 minutes. We decided driving was the ideal option as there were 7 of us and hiring a minivan was more cost effective. Make sure you get insurance if you do hire, and be prepared to see some pretty crazy driving. The roads aren’t hard to navigate, but driving through the highway and using toll roads weren’t really cheap. There are multiple airports to fly into though, if you want to head to Tuscany, and accessible public transport. One of the girls flew to Piza and took a train to a station close to the Resort, calling ahead to make sure the Resort organised transportation from the train to the Resort for her. Average prices of food for the places we went to were roughly 10 euros for plate of pasta and alcohol was 4 to 5 euros. 


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