Archive for Travel

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).

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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?

Am I overthinking things?

Hands up who has no idea what they want to do with their life?

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Honestly, sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in a universe where I’m walking blindfolded through life, where I’m the only person who has no idea where they should be in the world. But of course, I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. I think everyone feels a little lost sometimes, right?

I graduated from university this summer and like many recent graduates, I am well and truly confused. The real world is big and scary and it’s a daunting thought trying to figure out where you fit in it. I had a lecturer who once said “when you leave here, you’re all going to have an identity crisis”. Everyone laughed of his comment, the thought of leaving the safe haven of uni so far away. But here I am, a new graduate, booking a plane ticket to the other side of the world to get me away from making decisions.

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My problem is – I worry too much. I overthink to the point where I talk myself out of doing things, where I make myself believe that I can’t do it, that I won’t be able to. Which is stupid, because really how can you think that, when you’ve never even tried? I have interest in a few different career options but everytime I talk myself into something, I talk myself out of it. It’s a vicious circle of self doubt and lack of confidence that I should probably start to work on. I spend too much time comparing myself to other people, looking at their lives and wondering how they have it all together. I spend far too much time worrying that I’m letting people down, if me being so unprepared is disappointing my family, that unlike my sisters who seem to have it all together, I’m the one letting the family down. Which is stupid. Because everyone is different and no one is perfectly content with their lives – the grass is always greener so to speak. And everyone, everyone has the same doubts, the same worries that I do. I’m not the only one who feels this way. We are all just kids in adult clothing trying to make our way through life.

Am I overthinking?

However, despite my uncertain future, I can’t help but feel a little happy that I have no career plans. It gives me a chance to travel, to explore the world, do something I love. When I finally decide what I want to do, I want it to be the right decision, I don’t want to rush into something and regret it as soon as I’m there. I’m thankful for this time where I can work in my average, minimum wage job, go home and not worry about it until the next day; where I can relax a bit and not be bogged down with responsibilities and commitments; where I can book a one way ticket to Australia and have the trip of a life time. Of course, being a worrier, I worry that me moving to Australia for a year is just another divergent technique to get out of making the tough decisions, of escaping “real life”. But then again, “real life” is right now. I have the rest of my life to find a career but right now, at this point in my life, I want to experience life. I want to explore the world, and be indecisive; I want to be able to pick up my life and move it to the opposite end of the world and I want not to have to worry about things for a little while.

I guess what I’m saying is this – I don’t think one person in the world knows what they’re doing. You could be the happiest, richest,most confident person but still feel like something is missing, that you have no idea who you are and everyone else is doing it better. Everyone compares themselves to the people around them and everyone puts themselves down.5-live-the-life

Not knowing who you are is part of growing up. And part of growing up is pretending you have it all figured out when you really, really don’t. So I’m learning – well trying to – to chill a little. To stop worrying so much about the little things, to stop worrying so much about my future when I have so much to look forward to right now. Like moving to Australia for a year and having a pretty good time.

So you are not alone. It’s about time we all admitted how uncertain we all really are. It’s about time we stopped living up to other people’s expectations, to stop thinking we should have it all together and learn to embrace life and live a little. You know, like that famous Boyzone philosopher said: “life is a roller coaster, you’ve just gotta ride it.”

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BRB, just off to Australia

So, it is officially less than 100 days until I leave for Australia.

Like many university graduates, I have no plan for the future. I have no “proper” job, I have no “proper” plans and I have no “real” commitments. Therefore, why not buy a one way ticket to the other side of the world? What’s the worst that could happen?

Well aside from the hundreds of killer spiders, killer snakes and intolerable heat that Bill Bryson talks of so lovingly, Australia doesn’t seem like the worst place in the world to try and get my life together.

So how did this plan come together? Not very smoothly to say the least. And possibly not with the most planning in the world. A old school friend and I decided to head out there together, both unsure of our futures and both wanting to escape the UK for a bit. We eagerly bought our working holiday visas and after a minor blip and a major dent in the savings due to a required hospital appointment, my visa was finally accepted. Things were looking real. The next scary part was deciding when to go. Buying the ticket was possibly the scariest thing I’ve ever done – I mean paying a huge sum of money for one flight to another country when you have no idea how things are going to turn out is pretty daunting. But in the spirit of “you only live once”, the tickets were paid for and we were officially going to Australia. JUST IN TIME FOR NEW YEARS EVE IN SYDNEY. This New Years Eve is going to be kick ass.

So with less than 100 days to go, I am completely terrified but at the same time insanely excited. The fact that I’m moving halfway across the world with no set plan or any ideas about what could happen is scary but at the same time, isn’t that the funnest part? The not knowing? The fact that anything could happen? And isn’t this the best time in my life to do something like this?

I’ve never been one for knowing what I want to do with my life so putting that decision off for (another) year is the best decision that I’ve ever made. I’m hoping that the endless hours of work in a job that is far from my dream job will be totally worth it when I get off that plane and set my feet down in a new and exciting country. Although, who knows, I could hate it and come back home within a few months with my tail between my legs and in desperate need of tea and cake.

Australia, I’m all yours. Any suggestions on where to go/what to do are welcome!

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