Archive for Author Megan

The Great Ocean Road Trip

So I just got back from a little place called The Great Ocean Road. And it was pretty darn Great.

A windy day on the Great Ocean Road

Me and my fellow road trip buddies set off in our rented car late Friday afternoon all bushy-tailed and bright eyed, equipped with camping gear – albeit limited camping gear – snacks and more importantly, a cheeky bottle(s) of wine.

With darkness approaching, we found a campsite in Anglesea and set up for the night. We all piled into one tent and sat around our piles of snacks and wine munching away and gradually getting sleepier by the minute. We retreated to our respective tents and squeezed inside and fell asleep listening to the sound of the wind and the sea and in my case, the sounds of some pretty hefty snores coming from my tent buddy. Just adding to the camping experience…..Beaches on the Great Ocean Road

We awoke the next morning ready and excited for the day.

But then we looked at the sky.

The grey grey sky stretching for miles which threatened rain and oozed general misery. Fab. What a good start.

We set off and alas, the rain came. Our first few stops comprised of soggy views and soggy feet but to be fair, if in the rain the views looked like they did, can you imagine what it would look like with blue skies and dazzling sunshine? We decided to see the silver lining of the rainy situation – I mean we are road tripping down the Great Ocean Road. We shouldn’t really complain. There are worse things we could be doing.

12 apostles We gradually made our way up to the 12 Apostles and by that time, the rain had stopped and the skies had cleared up oh so slightly. The 12 Apostles are a defining feature of the Great Ocean Road’s landscape so of course some obligatory tourist photos were in order. Because if you don’t take photos and put it on social media, did you even go there?

Rather than setting up camp there, we decided to start driving back down to Apollo Bay so that we would have more time in the morning to check out the things we missed at the start of the Road because of the rain. Upon arriving at Apollo Bay, we took our tired and freezing limbs to a local pub where we enjoyed a well deserved beer and some pizza. That went down very well, I’ll tell you that for nothing.

beach at sunsetWe found a cheap campsite and quickly set up our tents like the camping pros we are before retreating to the car to drink wine and eat crisps and talk about life. And of course scare ourselves silly by looking into the darkened trees and convincing ourselves there were people standing in them. Thanks for that Beth. We eventually admitted defeat and took ourselves to our tents and settled down listening to the fierce sounds of the waves which honestly felt like they were about to rip through the tent walls. Rather cosy sounds though, the sounds of waves is one of my favourite sounds. See? Silver lining.

 

We left bright and early the next morning eager to check out the areas we missed out on before we had to return the car. stones on the beachWe were happy to see that the sun had decided to make an appearance and there was even a sprinkling of blue skies peeking out between the clouds. We set off happy and excited and marvelled at the beautiful beautiful beaches which looked like they had come straight from a holiday catalogue. After a brief stop for breakfast in a cute little cafe by the Wye River to fuel up and prepare for more Ocean Road antics, we continued on our journey.

We caught up on the Erskine waterfall, more amazing beaches, the Great Ocean Road sign and a trip to the golf course in Anglesea to see the kangaroos. The kangaroos which were oh so laid back but also rather menacing at the same time.

kangaroos at AngleseaThe Great Ocean Road is definitely worth a trip. With great company, amazing views, good music and sufficient wine and food, there’s not a lot that can go wrong. Even if it does rain and the skies are grey, there’s still some stunning views which are pretty hard to forget.

Can we go again please???

image

 

 

Brunching in Balaclava

Sunday mornings call for a spot of brunch and a good cup of coffee. Which is exactly what my Sunday morning consisted of.image

Aftet extensive research into good Melbourne brunch spots and a vigorous scroll through Instagram, we finally, finally decided on a local St Kilda place called Lava in Balaclava.

Firstly we ordered coffee which arrived almost instantly and we casually eyed the menu, as we enjoyed our caffeine hit. There was a lot of menu choice – from muesli and yoghurt to pancakes with fresh berries to bacon and eggs. And that was just the breakfast options…

Lava in Balaclava, as well as offering all day breakfast, also offer a huge number of lunch and dinner options and even fresh smoothies and juices. Situated on Carlisle Street in St Kilda, this is a great local place and only a short five minute walk away from where I live. The staff were all attentive and food service was surprisingly quick despite the busy-ness of the place. They even do a delivery service which is potentially dangerous news for two people who enjoying eating food as much as me and my flatmate.Lava in Balaclava

Since leaving the UK, I have lived without bacon and eggs. It’s been tough living without but today at Lava in Balaclava, I finally got the opportunity to indulge in my favourite fatty friends. Bacon and fried eggs with croissant French toast and a small dish of maple syrup. If I’m having brunch, I’m going to go all out.

The food arrived quickly and it really was delicious. My brunch buddy ordered the Eggs Benedict with salmon and I hear that that too, was also rather tasty. We greedily scoffed our food – the sweet maple syrup against the salty bacon and fried eggs really was something else and mopping it up with the French toast just added to the taste sensation.

Pushing our plates away, we agreed that brunch at Lava in Balaclava was definitely a good Sunday treat and definitely worth spending money on. Even though we are not supposed to be spending money. And I’m supposed to be eating healthily. But who can say no to brunch? Sod the diet. I want my bacon and eggs dammit.image

But anyway, Sunday calories don’t count right?

 

Rococo, Acland Street

Rococo restaurant St KildaI may have mentioned that Melbourne is jam-packed full of delicious looking food. It’s everywhere. There’s literally no escape. I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I should probably say bad because I seem to be eating it all but at the same time, come on, who am I to say no?

As I’ve said, I have decided to settle in St Kilda for a few months before I can even think about being able to afford to travel up the East Coast. I say that like I will be able to afford it after a few months but with the amount of money I’m spending on rent paired with my inability to say “no” to food, it looks like I’ll be heading home poor and slightly on the chubbier side. I’m choosing to think positively that maybe I’ll start to get sick of all the cakes and the donuts and the brownies and the burgers and the paella and the noodles. Doesn’t seem likely though.

Anyway, I am going greatly off topic……….

Whilst settling down for a few months has given me a chance to relax and unpack my bags, it also means there’s not much travelling for me to write about on this so called “travel blog.” Therefore today will be a post on a delicious meal out at a local St Kilda restaurant that I’m still dreaming about.

My fellow travel buddies parents were in town and they decided to treat us on a meal out in St Kilda. Having walked past on many an occasion and commenting on how nice it looked, we made a bee-line for Rococo, an Italian restaurant on my favourite street of them all, Cakeland Street. Ahem, I mean Acland Street.

St Kilda Rococo

Inside it was lively and busy with windows opened onto the people-clogged streets outside. Despite the business of the restaurant, the atmosphere was great. Lots of people – friends, family, co-workers, couples – talking animatedly and enjoying their meals as tasty smells wafted from the kitchens.

It took some time to decide what we all wanted to eat. There was seriously a lot of choice and making a decision on what to eat is always a tough one for me. It’s up there with deciding what University to attend and what I should be doing with the rest of my life. Don’t want to make a wrong decision and then be jealous of everyone else’s meal. Don’t lie, you do it too. We decided on a starter of mixed dips with fresh bread which was divine and definitely warmed our stomachs up for the big event: main course. Washing our starters down with fresh, crisp white wine, we all (finally) decided what we wanted to indulge in next.St KIlda Rococo 2

I went for the pumpkin and caramelised onion risotto. And my God, I don’t mean to brag, but it really was one of my best decisions. I’m fascinated with Australia’s love for pumpkins. It’s everywhere here. Unless I’ve just been completely oblivious to it in the UK, the only dish I know of that has pumpkins in is pumpkin pie. But here, it’s all over the place – I see it advertised in literally every place I walk past. Where are all these pumpkins coming from? Are they even in season? Is the vegetable of Australia..the pumpkin? I should do some research on the matter.

Anyway, this pumpkin risotto was literally perfection. It was flavorsome and gooey and all kinds of yummy. I tried to take my time and savour every mouthful but it was hard to do that when the food is as good at this pumpkin risotto.

Too full for puddings, we regrettably finished our wine and pushed our cleared plates away from us, each of us repeatedly claiming how delicious our dishes were.

Rococo is a lovely little place for a nice dinner with family and friends. The staff are so friendly and know a lot about their wines – I was tempted to apply for a job there but thought I wouldn’t get very far into the process due to my only knowledge on the subject of wine is where to get the cheapest ones. (Aldi – $5. Bloody delicious. You’re welcome).

So with a lively ambience, gentle chatter filling the room, helpful and friendly staff and great company, this restaurant is one that I will definitely be attending again. There were some pretty good pastas I was eyeing up….and those puddings….

Till next time Rococo.

A special thanks to Christine and Nigel for wining and dining us two lowly travellers. Very much appreciated!

Making Memories in Melbourne

So things are finally looking up here in Melbourne. My fellow travel buddy and I have both found jobs and a place to rest our heads on a more permenant basis. Albeit a slightly expensive place to live but still, a place to live. And it’s in Australia. Right by the sea. So, whatever. In other good news, I haven’t got horrifically scarred by the rays of the sun in, I don’t know, at least a week. And I’ve even taken up jogging and reduced my Tim Tam intake. I don’t know who I’ve become.

It’s been a few weeks since we arrived in Melbourne and we have decided to settle in St Kilda – a sea side city just out of Melbourne CBD. It’s a place that is literally a 10 minute walk from the ocean where we can go in the evenings to watch beautifully magical sunsets and then promptly spam everyone’s Instagram with pictures. But pictures don’t really do the milky skies and purple velvet sea justice. Not at all. I mean, come on…. image image

Home in St Kilda

St Kilda is a truly lovely place to live. There is always something going on – from festivals to Sunday markets to strolls along the beach, it’s hard to be stuck for something to do. And as mentioned above, living by the sea is pretty damn awesome.  There’s a huge amount of cafes and bars overlooking the sea and one of my favourites is The Boardwalk – a place we found on one of our first days here and which we’ve frequented for breakfast on many occasion.

image

St Kilda pier offers some incredible views of the city and is also home to some dapper little penguins. We headed there after the sunset one day and managed to catch a glimpse of the little guys waddling around and making some pretty terrifying noises. Other than that, they were adorable.

 

imageAnd then of course, there’s Acland Street. Or Cakeland street as I like to call it. It’s lined with deliciously tempting bakeries and cake shops all with colourful displays which call you in and practically force you to buy a slice of something sweet.

So apart from sunset gazing and penguin watching, we have been exploring as much as we can of Melbourne and its surroundings. Here’s a few of my highlights so far…

Queen Victoria Night Market

Being a huge foodie, the Queen Victoria Night Market was first on the agenda. Having heard rave reviews about this place, we thought it was definitely worth a visit. And my God, was it worth a visit. With live music, a lively atmosphere and endless amounts of food, this place is literally my idea of Heaven. All food is made fresh meaning the air is filled with different exotic aromas, making the decision of what to eat all the more difficult. From Thai to Indian, burgers to calamari, Spanish to Greek, the market basically has it all. And having gone three weeks in a row, I am well on my way to tasting it all..

Beachin’ it at Brighton

Brighton Beach – a short ten minute train journey from St Kilda and the perfect way to spend a sunny weekend afternoon. Golden sands and sparkling seas, this is another of Australia’s gorgeous coast lines that just had to be checked out. With rainbow coloured beach houses each with their own unique design lining the beach, this place is the stuff of dreams. Who doesn’t want their own beach house overlooking an endless ocean? Although I bet the beach house painted with the Australian flag is regretting their decision due to the array of tourists who come to take their photo with it….(yes of course I was one of them…)

image image

Melbourne CBD 

Melbourne is a vibrant city filled with character and liveliness. There’s not a street you can go down which doesn’t have some sort of street artist on performing music or doing tricks. The city is covered in incredible street art making for colourful alleyways telling vibrant stories.

image

There’s a huge supply of great rooftop bars and eateries meaning that this is a great city to have on your doorstep. Not if you’re trying to be good and healthy though because there seems to be Nutella donuts and giant slices of cake around every corner as well. I really need to stop following Melbourne food accounts on Instagram – it’s making my life a misery.

There always seems to be something going on in Melbourne – from Australian Open, to the White Night to exciting festivals, Melbourne is a city which is rarely still. And come on, look at it..

st kilda by night image

I don’t know how I could possibly live here for another 6 months…

 

Little Cupcakes, Melbourne

So as I may have mentioned, there are a lot of temptations in the form of food over here in Melbourne. Lots of temptations in the form of cakes and pastries and donuts and cakes and more cakes….it’s playing havoc with my waist line that’s for sure. But the diet starts on Monday. Maybe. Probably not.

Anyway, we are slowly but surely testing out a few places on the food bucket list and a rainy Thursday afternoon definitely called for cupcakes and coffee.
cupcakesLittle Cupcakes is a deliciously divine little store selling well, you guessed it, little cupcakes. Very appropriately named I think. They also do a great range of coffees and hot chocolate – something we definitely needed after feeling our first windy chill since we left the UK.

We edged inside the small store, our eyes widening with glee at the array of rainbow cupcakes on offer. We “oohed” and we “ahhed” for a good ten minutes before finally settling on a mini red velvet and a mini salted caramel. They’re mini so the calories don’t count, right? RIGHT? With our respective lattes and Belgium hot chocolate (I mean, I may as well go all out), we settled down and dived right in.

Cupcakes are scrumptious at the best of times. But mini? With that perfect ratio of icing to sponge? With red velvet and salted caramel? Mmm. As I greedily wolfed my two halves down, I eyed the counter and saw that they do boxes of cupcakes – boxes of 6, boxes of 12, boxes of 24 – can I just box up the whole shop? Man, I love cupcakes. Can you tell?

With various stores around Melbourne, I am bound to make this place my second home over the next few months. A cupcake for any occasion – actually thinking about it, it’s my birthday in March. Maybe I can buy myself a box of cupcakes or five.

Little Cupcakes – full of all things nice and all things that make you want to smash the glass counter they are kept so lovingly in and stuff every one in your face (I wouldn’t really do that. Obviously. I’m a lady) – is the perfect way to treat yourself on a not so sunny afternoon.

Although treat day seems to be every day for me recently…..

 

 

 

Making a life in Melbourne

MelbourneI’m officially unemployed in Australia. I don’t know what’s worse – the fact that I have blisters all over my feet from walking around job-hunting all day, the fact that I’m probably going to be permanently sunburnt from being in the sun all day, the fact that I’m getting ill again a WEEK after just getting over the last cold, or the fact that I’m unemployed and surrounded by all kinds of amazing food?  I imagine Hell to be a big old Nutella donut or chunky piece of carrot cake with creamy frosted icing sitting on a plate in from of you and you’re sitting there not being able to eat it. Seriously. Everything just looks incredible. Burgers, Thai, Chinese, sandwiches, cupcakes, pastries….Fitzroy Garcens Melbourne

We have started to make a bucket list of places we need to visit, before we leave Melbourne, which is growing steadily by the day. We’ve also stated on a number of occasions that “Ooh we’ll have to go there to celebrate once we finally get a job.” But we’ve just started going anyway to cushion the blow of being unemployed on the other side of the world. You know, “treat yourself” and all that…

There have been many a time where we have stood outside a cake shop window staring longingly at the food like Oliver Twist waiting for scraps, wondering whether we really should spend money on “treating ourselves” when we don’t have a steady income….The answer is always yes of course. I’m being slightly dramatic – we have our savings of course. It’s not like we came all the way to Australia with a pair of sunglasses and a knotted hankie but you know, there’s that feeling of guilt when you know you shouldn’t be spending your money on something but you just HAVE too….

City Heights melbourne

I’m complaining, but I guess there are worst places in the world to be unemployed. I mean, at least in Melbourne I can sit at a rooftop bar at 2.30 in the afternoon and enjoy a glass of Pimms, or sit down by the river, taking in the view and people watching or spend an afternoon sitting in the sun (read shade) in some gardens and read a book. Yeah, I shouldn’t complain really.

So fingers crossed for us two sunburnt Welsh girls trying to make it on the opposite side of the world. Please, employers of Melbourne, take pity on us.

We’re really good, honest.

A Farewell to Sydney

My time in Sydney is coming to an end and whilst I am excited to move on to Melbourne and continue my Australian adventure, I will be sad to say goodbye to this amazing city. 

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Two weeks in Sydney felt like a long time when we were in the planning stages of our trip, but now I am glad that we spent a longer time here. The first few days were filled with jet lag and tiredness, waking early and sleepwalking around the city, attempting to get our bearings. It was good that we had extra time to properly see Sydney and do everything we wanted to do.

I can’t get over this beautiful harbour city – everytime I see the opera house or the harbour bridge, I feel like I am seeing them for the first time. And I have probably seen them from every possible angle….. even from atop of the Harbour Bridge after a climb up. Perhaps the Megan Carr and Beth Harringtonthing I am most impressed by however, are the trains. I’m in awe, seriously. I’m used to delayed services and noisy, cramped cabins but these trains are something else. They are spacious, quiet and so so clean. And the system is so much better too – a quick swipe of a card and you’re in. No waiting in long queues to buy a ridiculously over-priced ticket, but a simple swipe for cheap travel. I’m so easily pleased. Here I am, in Sydney and I’m talking of how impressed I am by public transport…….giraffe in Sydney Zoo

So, apart from the trains I am of course impressed with other aspects of Sydney. It’s a great starting point for my year in Australia. Spending a year on the other side of the world is quite daunting to me but I am slowly getting more and more organised…bank accounts have been opened, money has been transferred and jobs have been researched. The thing I am most concerned about is winding up unemployed and homeless in Melbourne. Hopefully that won’t be the case but with my luck, who knows what could happen.Megan Blue Mountains

So with one more day left in Sydney and currently lying in bed after spending the day as a hungover sloth, I can look back on my two weeks and feel satisfied with what I have accomplished. I have seen most of what Sydney has to offer – I have seen it in the pouring down rain and in the sparkling sunshine. I have climbed a bridge, travelled to the Blue mountains, ambled around the beautiful botanical gardens and the Chinese Garden of Friendship, I have been to the zoo and held a Huntsman Spider in a jar (dear God, if I ever come across one of those, I will cry and come home)….. Blue MountainsBondi BeachI have sunbathed in parks and on beaches and gotten horrifically sun-burnt in the process despite having used nearly a bottle and a half of Factor 50 (might have to Google where I can buy in bulk here…), I have created a bank account and of course, Pancakes on the RocksI have watched the famous New Year Fireworks and barely been able to keep my eyes open due to a sad case of jet lag. (Hmmm, probably not the best day in the world to pick to travel to Australia.) And last but not least, I’ve eaten the most amazing pancakes at Pancakes on the Rocks!

It really has been a jam packed couple of weeks. But good things must come to an end and adventures must be had else where. Melbourne, I’m coming for you….

(PS: We are staying at Wake Up! which is apparently ‘Sydney’s best backpackers’ accommodation’. It’s fun, clean, good-value, no queues for the shower and smack bang in the middle of what’s got to be one of the best cities on earth! Sorted!)

Ahhh, Sydney

So, I am finally here in Sydney. And it’s awesome.received_10153712665956041

After months and months of working and earning money and dreaming of Australia, it feels so good to finally be here and relax and explore Sydney.received_10153712665736041

After nearly falling asleep during the famous Sydney New Years Eve fireworks due to a severe case of jet lag, we are finally feeling on top form again and are truly loving this city and what it has to offer.received_10153712666076041 Although I’m not too fussed on the intense sun burn I am currently sporting. I think my skin is allergic to suncream. Copious use of the factor 50 and I still look like I’ve been living on the sun for 5 days. Sigh. Curse my pale skin.received_10153712666306041

However, we have had a break from sunshine here in these past few days and instead have been dealing with torrential rainfall. Which I suppose my poor sunburnt skin is grateful for.received_10153712666141041

Here’s a few pictures of what I’ve been up to so far including standard tourist photos outside the opera house, chilling in Darling Harbour, ambling around Royal Botanical Gardens and The Chinese Garden of Friendship, the Sydney Aquarium, marvelling at the Harbour Bridge at Campbell Cove and generally sunbathing in Hyde Park (oh so maybe that’s why I’m so sunburnt. Oops).

received_10153712666361041

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of these views.

Next few days holds adventures including a trip to the Blue Mountains, sunning ourselves on Bondi Beach and a climb up the Sydney Harbour Bridge…..

Sydney, I love you.

A Winter Trip To Bavaria

After my last trip to Germany – a disastrous few days in Berlin – I was really excited to visit the country again. And at Christmas time as well; what more could a girl want? If I wasn’t in the mood for Christmas before, after my few days in Bavaria, I definitely am now…

Flying with Flybe

As I may have mentioned a couple of times, Cardiff is a pretty great city. And we are lucky enough to have our own airport which is really up and coming, offering flights to here, there and everywhere or as they like to call it, “Wales to the World.” Which has a pretty nice ring to it. My flight to Munich was with Flybe; my first time flying with this particular company and I would 100% fly with them again. Cheap flights, great staff, and good on-board service, it’s all you need. The best thing about Flybe is their ability to offer super cheap direct flights to different destinations including Paris, Verona, Algarve and wait for it…GERMANY! I mean being able to fly to these gorgeous European cities for cheap, literally straight from my doorstep? Now that’s what I call easy travelling.

flybe

Due to the windy weather, the flight down into Munich was a tad bumpy. However, the views from the plane definitely made up for it. With German countryside peeping through the layers of clouds, a patchwork landscape of fields, rivers and housing suddenly became clear.

Before heading off to our first stop, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, it was necessary to indulge in some proper German grub. Therefore a visit to Airbrau – the world’s only airport brewery – was in order. Pigging out on meats and cheeses and washing it down with some freshly brewed cider is definitely the best way to say “Guten Tag” to Germany.

Munich Airport is less like an airport, more like a country. It’s huge. And it’s got everything. Best of all, it’s got a Christmas Market, or more precisely a Weihnachtsmarkt. And there’s an icerink. Seriously. If the airport was anything to go by, Bavaria was going to be awesome. Due to the pretty ferocious winds, the Christmas Market was unfortunately closed so after a nasty incident involving a smashed mug blowing away in the winds (yes, it was that strong), we jumped in the car and made haste to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

The two hour drive to Garmisch allowed us to catch some stunning slights of the Alps, in all their glory. A milky, colourful sunset behind the prominence of the Alps was simply magical.

 

2015-11-30 13.36.50

Garmisch-Partenkirchen – a film-set city

Garmisch is one of those cities, that Germany is full of, that just doesn’t seem real. That look like film sets – all colourful buildings with cobbled streets and sloping roofs. After a quick walk around the place, familiarising ourselves with its charm, a visit to the Christmas Market was in order. My first, proper German Market was everything I expected. Full of twinkling lights, festive music, sizzling smells and chatting locals, it was easy to amble around and feel right at home.

2015-12-01 10.40.41 2015-12-01 09.40.44

After dinner at a local restaurant, it was time to head back to the hotel for an early night and preparations for the next day. And can I just say that, the view from my hotel room was pretty spectacular. All purple haze and soft snowy mountains in the distance. I don’t get views like that at home, I’ll tell you that for nothing.

2015-11-30 16.56.37

A visit to Garmisch of course isn’t complete without a trip up the Zugspitze, or the “top of Germany”. At 2962m, Zugspitze is Germany’s highest mountain and given the right conditions, you can see 4 different countries from the summit. Of course, the day I went was not that day. It is me, after all, and bad luck seems to follow me around. This is the girl who went all the way to Hong Kong to go up Victoria Peak and ended up seeing not the promised spectacular view but a thick, dense fog.

A 40 minute cable car takes you to the first “stage” of the mountain, and the guides are more than happy to fill you in with its history along the way. The cable car was built in 1928 and took only 2 years to finish – considering that they had to dig a tunnel through a honking great mountain, that is damn impressive. We jumped out of the cable car at 2600m and were instantly greeted by a face full of snow. Now, as a resident of Britain, which gets the bare minimum of snow, this was pretty exciting. Although, my decision to wear fingerless gloves was possibly not my smartest move ever.

2015-12-01 14.15.272015-12-01 14.39.41

We then headed up to the summit after a quick mug of steaming hot chocolate to warm up my shivering frame. Being at the top of the mountain, it was of course absolutely freezing. Due to the ferocious winds and thickening snow, there was no view at all which was highly disappointing but I guess gives me a reason to head back there when the weather is all blue skies and sparkling sunshines….

Lunch was had in Sonnelpannel, a cosy restaurant which was bustling with people and had snowy views of…well you couldn’t really see anything because of the fog but I can imagine that it’s a cracking view when the weather is good. A warm, hearty goulash equipped with a cold, hearty lager was definitely needed and was definitely appreciated. Ahhh, what a way to end my experience at the “top of Germany.”

Oberammergau

Our next port of call was Oberammergau – which is famous for three things – its painted buildings, its history of passion plays and its landmark industry, woodcarving and nativity sets. Similar to Garmisch, the buildings are all perfectly quaint and covered in colourful paintings.

The architecture in both Oberammergau and Garmisch is full of history and interesting stories. For example, the “Pilathaus” was once in discussions to be developed into a supermarket which would have completely changed Oberammergau’s quaint and peaceful streets. This kind of proposition did not go down well with the locals and soon there was a petition with the leading slogan “drink two beers less a year” to save Oberammergau. This caused every villager to spare themselves of a couple beers and instead put their money towards the restoration of the building instead. Such a great little story of community spirit and determination.

So after a brief tour of Oberammergau, we had a little peek into a Christmas shop which had been calling out to me since we passed it. And by God, does Oberammergau know how to do Christmas. It was literally like Christmas threw up. Choc-a-bloc filled with decorations, music, colour, lights, twinkles and shine….it was the perfect little Santa’s Grotto and a great place to pick up some tree decorations for folks back home.

As I mentioned earlier, Oberammergau is also famous for its woodcarving and you can tell this by looking in every window of every shop which proudly show off beautifully carved nativity sets. Having read “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey” every single Christmas Eve since I was three, I was extremely excited to see a wood carver in action. And it is extraordinary. He had a block of wood and then all of a sudden it was a face. I attempted to have a go myself,  and I’d like to say I found my calling in life and created a masterpiece but I basically just made a hole and then carved off a few slices of wood. Hm. Maybe wood carving isn’t for me then. It was very therapeutic though, I think they should consider having wood carving as part of anger management classes. That would be a great idea.

2015-12-02 06.39.27

2015-12-01 18.01.53

Auf Wiedersehen

The next day meant it was time to say “goodbye” to Bavaria. I woke up horrifically early (5.30am) and could not, no matter how hard I tried, get back to sleep – which was slightly annoying but meant that I was up and ready for the day. After a light breakfast with a view of a sleepy Oberammergau, it was time to check-out and get on with the day’s activities.

With blue skies but a thick fog settling around us, we drove to our next destination – Linderhof Palace. Linderhof is one of the three palaces owned and built by King Ludwig – a man who the people of Bavaria at the time, did not like. They thought that he was selfish spending money on doing up castles when there was such poverty in his district. Ludwig spent a lot of time alone and the design of the castle reflects this – for example each room had a small room before it which the servants had to stand in and wait until they were called. The castle itself was incredible. Ludwig was inspired by history, so much of the design has taken influence from previous decades. A very extravagant place, full of colour and knick-knacks and I’ve got to say, a bloody massive bed. Honestly, it was huge. It was basically the size of a small house.

After spending a short time at the Palace and marveling at other people’s fortunes and wondering what the heck I was doing with my life, it was time to head back to Munich airport. After check-in, there was some time to have a wander around the Christmas Market before boarding the plane. Wandering around a Christmas Market has got to be my favourite way to wait for a flight. Perfect end to a perfect, Christmassy trip.

2015-12-02 09.37.37 2015-12-02 13.56.48 2015-12-02 14.21.07

 

So, flying back to Cardiff equipped with my Kindle, a cup of tea and a four finger KitKat (luxurious, I know), I was sad to say goodbye to the bright blue wintery skies of Bavaria and the land of Christmas. Honestly, of all days, why did the weather decide to perk up when I’m leaving? This was possibly the best weather for a trip to the Zugspitze! Oh well, maybe next year…

 

 

Some Wonders of Wales

Wales is a beautiful country and definitely one worth a visit. I’m being completely and utterly biased here of course having lived here my entire life, but honestly, Wales is stunning. When I went travelling the first time on a three month trip, I was so excited to leave Wales and explore some of the world, I was sure that I wouldn’t miss it at all. But I did; I missed the green countryside, the vast mountains, the humdrum of Cardiff. It was strange, but the place I spent the longest in, New Zealand, reminded me so much of home. Maybe that’s why I loved it so much, a home away from home on the opposite end of the world. Similar weather, similar vast, green spaces and of course, the sheep. Lots and lots of sheep.

Living in Cardiff, I have access to lots of great places. I’m a 20 minute drive away from Cardiff city centre and a 40 minute drive from the Brecon Beacons. Not too shabby really. From city to country, I pretty much have it all. I mean come on, there’s an actual Castell Coch literally right on my doorstep.

I’m going to share with you some of my favourite places in South Wales. Not sure if anyone will care that greatly but hey, I’m feeling the need to write something and this was the best I could come up with.

Exploring Southerndown

Number 1 is Southerndown beach. A typical Welsh beach situated in Ogmore, near Bridgend and about a 40 minute drive from where I live. A pebble beach with satin seas, surrounded by steep, jagged cliffs, this is a beautiful place for a walk. You can walk along the cliff tops, taking in the view and listen to the waves crashing against the shoreline (possibly one of my favourite sounds ever). There’s even the remains of a castle, Dunraven Castle, which you can explore – what a great location for a castle, someone chose wisely there. I’m not sure why I love it here so much, but everytime I go, I just feel slightly more relaxed, like I’m blowing the cobwebs away.

southerndown, wales 2015-10-25 15.27.39

Pen Y Fan, Brecon Beacons

A second favourite of mine is Pen Y Fan. Situated in the Brecon Beacons, it is one of Wales’ highest peaks. The drive alone, is incredible. With panoramic views and winding roads, it’s definitely a sight to remember. The walk up Pen Y Fan is pretty memorable as well and it is always teeming with happy walkers and joggers. Hikers are very happy people who always smile and say “hello”; I always think that if everyone treated each other the way hikers treat each other, the world would be a much nicer place. The views from this mountain are stunning and stretch for miles. Never ending greenery, rolling hills and fresh water lakes, it’s just amazing when/if you get to the top and are able to take it all in.

pen y fan, brecon, walespen y fan, brecon, wales

pen y fan, brecon, wales

The Garth, Gwaelod-y-Garth

The Garth is a firm favourite of mine. A mountain, about ten minutes from where I live which overlooks the whole of Cardiff – from Cardiff Bay to the Millenium Stadium and even a cheeky spot of Flat Holme and Steep Holme. Whilst these views might not be quite as magnificent as from Pen y Fan, the Garth is a place which I love to go. It’s a relatively gentle mountain and not too steep a climb and there’s plenty of points along the way where you can sit down and appreciate the view. Located just outside of Cardiff, near Pentrych and Gwaelod-y-Garth, this is the perfect place to come for an outer city experience.

Sidenote: this mountain also played a lead role in a film starring Hugh Grant!

Garth, Cardiff 2015-04-05 15.47.57

Wales, the land of castles

Now, Wales is known for its castles. Its glorious and grand castles, full of vibrant history and interesting stories. I mean, there’s even one in Cardiff City Centre, standing grand amongst the modern shops and busy commuters.

Whilst Wales is full of beautiful castles, one of my favourites has got to be Castell Coch. A castle which is conveniently located on my doorstep. Okay, so not quite on my doorstep but I’m pretty sure I can see it from my house. Hiding amongst the trees, peeping out over the village of Tongwynlais and very much visable from the majority of surrounding roads, this is a 19th century castle with a rich history. Now an interesting tourist destination, you can wander around the inside and learn about its former occupants.

There’s also some great walks to be had around this area – beautiful woods and even a small tea rooms to reward yourself with afterwards.

So there you have it. A few of my favourite places in my home country. This of course, is only a small part of what’s on offer – there is so much more going on in the rest of Wales. Snowdonia, in North Wales, is definitely a place I would like to explore. Having been there once on a Geography school trip which consisted of studying rocks and then getting drunk in the accommodation, I didn’t see or appreciate as much as I would’ve liked. There’s all sorts up there now – even a zipwire – the longest in Europe – soaring across the mountain, I’m sure offering some pretty surreal views. Now that’s one for the bucket list…

Whilst the world is huge and there’s a lot to explore, sometimes taking a look around your home country is a good substitute for curing that travel bug. What’s your favourite places in your home city?

« Older Entries Recent Entries »