Tag Archive | travel blog

Pros and Cons about Sydney, Aus

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I’m always writing about places on the otherside of the world and saw a video of someone doing the pros and cons of Sydney so I thought that I would do my own! For those who don’t know, I am born and raised in Sydney so let me run you through the list about Sydney.

Pros

  • Weather: For one, we can see blue skies. We have a very mild winter (day temperature around the 16C mark and nights around 8C) so for most of the year, our temperature is generally around the 20C mark. Our summers stretch usually over 3 months and we do get the occasional +35C but luckily, there are not that many.
  • Multicultural: One thing I do miss when I go travelling is the multiculturism (is that even a word?) of the society that I have grown up in. Depending where you stay/visit in Sydney, there are ethnic groups dotted around in the suburbs but generally, you can find just about every cuisine from every culture in Sydney. It is safe to say that many Australians have grown up eating Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Lebanese and Greek food (plus many more).
  • Beaches: I have yet to go to a beach overseas and thought “Hey, this is better than the beaches back home”. Actual soft sand, clear waters and views of the infinite ocean is what Australia is all about. Bondi, Manly, Coogee, Maroubra…..take your pick!
  • Harbour: It’s not everyday that you can roll into a train station such as Circular Quay and get a view of the iconic Harbour Bridge with clear waters glistening under it, or take a ferry to the north side of the city or be sitting in an office near the harbour and looking out to see water (if you’re a lucky duck!).
  • Flora and Fauna: Being so far from other countries means that we’ve been able to keep our native animals and plants just to Australia. Kangaroos, Koalas, Echidnas, Kookaburras and our assorted deadly spiders and snakes are all a must see whilst you’re here.
  • Food and drinks: There are many bars, dessert places and restaurants to try all over the city and in the suburbs and of any cuisine you wish. Despite there not being many “real Australian” foods, there are many others you can enjoy.

Cons

  • Expensive: You will hear that Sydney is expensive again and again because guess what? it’s true! $4 aud for a cup of coffee, $10 for lunch, $20 for a movie ticket, $10 for one train ticket, the list goes on and on. Once you step outside your expensive house or expensively rented room, money will start to fly from your wallet you don’t know where it all went. Of course, there are cost saving ways but living in Sydney is expensive stuff.
  • Transport: Forget about the Paris, London and Hong Kong metro systems, we travel by train, buses, ferry or cars here. All transport run to a timetable so your journey is pretty much set. As Sydney’s metropolitan area is HUGE (spanning some 50km from the city centre), it takes ages to get anywhere. A train ride from Central to the Blue Mountains will take approximately 2 hours and buses from the beach to the city centre will be likely to take at least 30 minutes (if there is no traffic). ALSO, they are all slow.
  • Everything is so spread out: Following on from the previous point, most people live in houses so the Sydney area is huge. Forget about being able to walk 5-10 minutes to the grocery store (some exceptions of course), it is likely to be a 5-10 minutes drive instead. If you’re lucky to live near a train station, lucky you!, if not- a slow bus plus a slow train will make your journey exceed 1 hour easily.
  • Traffic: I guess this is a problem in every major city and it is not different here. If you fancy sitting on a motorway-turned-parking-lot, take your pick of any of the motorways in peak hour and you’ll find it. There is also human traffic. Go to any of the major festivals running in Sydney and you will know what I mean. Queuing up 1 hour to get some food at the Night Noodle Market? Done.
  • Lack of green: This is something that I wished our city would have more of. Greenery! More parks and trees in streets. More bike routes, more eco-friendly consumables, ban on plastic bags (Ok, this is getting too opinionated).

So that’s my list, if you have been to/live in Sydney, do you agree or disagree with my list? Linke me your pros and cons of your city!

-S.

 

Visiting London

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London is always on everyone’s list so I eventually added it to mine to see what the fuss is all about. As a long-term British accent and tea lover, I was also keen to see whether there would be any big differences culturally between there and Australia. We are after all, a colony of England. I booked a private room at an Airbnb house and mentally prepared myself for how expensive this week would be. To give you an estimate, it’s about 0.45 Australian cents to 1 pound!

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One of the first things I did a walking tour to tick off all the main sights. I chose Sandemann’s Free Walking Tour which brought us to Trafalgar square, Buckingham palace and Westminister were covered on the tour (free walking Sandemann’s). Also on my list were the British Museum, Natural History Museum, V&A, Oxford St and Borough markets (to try the chorizo burger from Brindisa, it was delicious!).

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What I didn’t expect, for some weird reason, was how many people there were everywhere at any given time. I was told to avoid the tube during peak hour and from what I’ve heard, you don’t want to be there at that time anyway. Even out of these hours, I found tube stations FULL of people. This picture above was taken at the Natural History Museum and the line to see the dinosaur exhibition! I was also pleasantly surprised by how many parks there were within the city centre. Sydney also has a Hyde Park but is miniscule compared to the London Hyde Park! Near Buckingham Palace were also Green and St Jame’s Park which were both a scene of autumn colours. Ahh, it was so pretty!

One of things that wasn’t initially on my list was London Tower: the old fort looking onto the Thames. It wasn’t until I was walking past after my tower bridge walk that I stood outside and thought ” hey, this is pretty cool” and that I would pay to go in. I highly recommend the free tour that they run every 30mins with the beefeaters. It’s the perfect place to entertain young kids and anyone who is interested in forts and medieval times.

Other activities that I ended up doing were booking tickets to see 2 musicals. Coming from Sydney where there is usually only 1 major musical on at a time, I had a field day trying to decide what to see. I ended up picking Billy Eliot and Wicked. I preferred Wicked which had excellent staging and costuming. Plus, who can pass up an opportunity to hear Defying Gravity live?! I got my tickets from TKTS which is located in Leicester Square and they offer discount tickets too.

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I’m happy to have checked London off my list but to be completely honest, London wasn’t really for me. I found it too similar culturally to what I know and what I know is not what I want to experience away from home. It is definitely a place to check out, I think the number of bars out number the number of shops sometimes! By the way, the public transport there is amazing. However, the road traffic is not.

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Is London on your list? What did you like and/or not like about London? Let me know in the comments!

-S.

Sights around Paris

 

 

 

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Paris. Swoon. Paris is one of my favourite cities and how can it not be, just LOOK at the buildings! This was my third time in Paris and I still had things to see. On the list this time were Musee D’Orsay, Musee d’Orangerie, Versaille and to go into Printemps and Galeries Lafayette.

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My favourite of my main attractions list was Musee D’Orsay which is housed in an old train station. The museum has some great paintings as well as other things such as sculptures and furniture but the paintings were my favourite. The line is long so you should think about pre-purchasing tickets online OR go to Musee d’Orangerie first and buy a combo ticket (and can be used on 2 consecutive days).

The attraction that I found the most frustrating was Versaille! My tip is to go early. And then go earlier. By the time I arrived at 10:30am, there was already a gigantic entry line to pass security. By gigantic, I mean it took me 1.5 hours to make it inside which put me in a bad place to really get to enjoy the palace. The trip to Versaille is a whole day out. The gardens are magnificent but be warned, it is really big so bring some good comfortable shoes.

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This picture above is from the Palais de Justice (where you can also buy a combined ticket for Saint Chapelle located next door). I found this pretty meh. It was where Marie Antoinette was held in her last days but the original prison cell no longer exists. It give you a peep into a handful of cells for the different types of socio-classes. I would say to save this for the bottom of the Paris list. Saint Chapelle however, is gorgeous. I imagine it would be spectacular on a sunny day with light pouring inside across the mosaic windows which are ceiling to floor high.

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This last picture is the interiors of Galeries Lafayette which is in great contrast to the seemingly ordinary exterior. I just went in for a wonder and to shelter from the rain.

Have you been to any of these places and what are your thoughts about them? I’d love to hear about them.

Day trip around the French Riviera from Nice, France

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Wanting to see more of the Cote d’Azur than I could do alone, I decided to book a day trip around the French Riviera.

Our first town on this trip was Cannes, famously known for the annual Cannes Film Festival. We made the obligatory stop outside the Cannes Theatre and unfortunately, the red carpet was not rolled out on this morning for us. Right next to it are some bars/restaurants with their own little section of beach (with sand!) and across the road, every designer brand you could ever want. For me, I don’t think I would personally base myself in this town as compared to Nice, Cannes is tiny.

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Our next town was Antibes. This tiny town but bustling morning food markets, Picasso museum and some streets of the old town could easily consume you for half a day. A lovely walled old city, you can also marvel at the million dollar boats in the marina.

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Next stop and the one i was MOST looking forward to, was Monaco.

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This is where you can get a glimpse into the lifestyle of the rich and the famous. The country of no tax for it’s residence, to move here you will need a bank deposit of a few hundred thousand to begin with. The city centre has a complete driving speed of 50km/hr and has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Bordering on non-existent.

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We also stopped briefly at Monte Carlo to have a look at the casino and as many lambourgini’s in a day than you would see over a 2 year period.

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Our final town was Eze. Like most small towns perched ontop of a hill, you can climb and climb to reach a garden at the top which will give you amazing views however, there is an entry free (I thought quite expensive!) and still a nice viewing area outside the church in town. Eze was very touristy and much like every other small town in the south of France, housed much of the same stores. The windy rocky streets however are such a charm and something I will never get sick of!

I really would have loved to have spent more time in Monaco but due to time constaints, I couldn’t go myself for the day. There’s an aquarium on the cliff edge as well as the royal palace to check out which I really would’ve liked to see!

Have you been to any of these towns and if so, which one did you like and why?

-S.

A day trip around Provence from Avignon, France

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Travelling in the south of France is easier if you hire a car but for those who prefer not to, a tour will get you around.  I decided to join Provence Reservation for their All Provence in one day tour to get a snapshot of the area and because of my time limit. I was promptly picked up in the morning from the Avignon Tourist Office and then whisked away to our first stop: The Lavender Museum. The museum is run by the Lincele family who have a ‘real’ lavender farm in Vaucluse high up in the mountains. This museum is geared towards visitors and included a short film about how lavender oils are extracted, museum featuring antique distilling equipment and a store selling their products. I thought it was a great museum that was easy to navigate and was informative.

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Our first town was Gordes for their Tuesday markets. As you may have already guessed, these small towns thrive on tourism (as well as farming) but are not packed with tourists. There were cheese stalls, clothes stalls, nougat stores and of course soap. This market was excellent for those looking for gifts or some nibbles. Go behind the buildings following down-hill paths to get views of the surrounding area.

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Next stop, the town of Roussillion perched on a red rock. The redness comes about due to the presence of ocre in the surrounding lands is quite a contrast from Gordes which is approximately a 15 minute drive away. One major street in the city will take you up to the church and sweeping panoramic views of the surrounding area.

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Our last town was Les Baux de Provence which was my favourite town. This town felt bigger than Gordes and Roussillon and is perched on a white rock. There is a castle remain at the very top however, due to time constraints, I didn’t get to visit it. There were many stores and cafes around on every winding street and only one entrance and exit to the town so, impossible to get lost. There were more options here in terms of gifts as well (soap, Provence specialty foods, jewellery and ceramics).

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Our last stop of the day was the old roman aqueduct Pont du Gard. This three tier bridge was beautiful and paths on either side allow every angle of this bridge imaginable. Level 1 is a pedestrian bridge and allows you to cross to the other side. There are parking lots on both sides of the bridge. Can you believe this bridge use to be open to cars?!

This 10-hour day trip was worth the money as it included entry into the Lavender Museum plus audio guides and into the Pont du Gard site. You need some sturdy shoes as these towns existing ontop of rock formations are of course, rocky and include a lot of uphill and downhill walking. These towns are gems in the Provence region and I would highly recommend a tour if you’re not driving. Time wise, we spent about 1 hour in each town, it’s enough to see everything but not loiter and I would have really liked to have seen the castle ruins in Les Baux. There is always next time!

Do you have any recommendations for other towns in Provence? What did you like about them?

A bientot,

-S.

In pictures: Toulouse, France

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The best pistachio and raspberry tart probably in the world. Find it at the cafe O The Divin.

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I like these blue shutters!

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The interiors of the convent

Day trip to Ronda in pictures

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Zahara de la Sierra

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Main street in Zahara de la Sierra

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Impressed by Barcelona, Spain

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Barcelona. Wow! is the one word that sums it up for me. I don’t know about you but when other people get excited about a town and tell me about it, I’m excited for them and with them but don’t have the feeling for the town because, obviously I haven’t been there. Let me tell you about it! The public transport system is easy to navigate and there are nice tourist day passes or 10-trip cards that make buying tickets so much easier. A metro every 3 minutes? Yes please!

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Of course, if you’re in Barcelona, a MUST SEE (clichéd “must sees” but really, it’s a must see) is the Sagrada Familia. Designed by Gaudi and even though currently still under construction, this towering cathedral will leave you gobsmacked. I expected it to be big but in person, it’s enormous. And fascinatingly, the yet to be built tallest tower is going to be even taller than the existing ones. I paid for the audio guide and also to go up the nativity tower but I think if you don’t want to go up the tower, you’re not missing out on much except city views. I’m not sure why but I was expecting great interior architecture inside the tower….obviously I do not study architecture.

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A quick metro ride away is Barcelona beach. Well, it’s a strip of beaches but they’re each called different names. Fun fact that I learnt, the beaches are man-made and the sand has been shipped from Egypt. The water is really nice and if it’s not windy, would be such a nice day outside!

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During my few days (too short!) in Barcelona, the annual La Merce festival was on. There were many events happening around the city and one that I did catch was the Correfoc or ‘fire run’. People dressed as devils with fireworks were going through the streets dancing to different rhythmic drumming groups (set course not running through every street) and was suppose to turn this part of the city into hell for the duration of the event. What an event! I didn’t take part as I wasn’t well dressed (you get small holes in your clothes) but from observing everyone who did, they seemed to be having a great time. It was great to see because an event like this in Australia would not exist due to how “dangerous” this event would be classified as.

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There are plenty of tours around as well to see the city and surrounding mountains. On this trip I look a free walking tour and a Gaudi tour. These modernists buildings are hidden around the city and some even on small streets that you may not even find! Modernism is just a part of Barcelona.

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One of my favourite parts of this city was La Boqueria market on the Rambla. Fresh fruit and vegetables, seafood, meat, cheese and ready to go fruit containers (my favourite) are what this market is about. The fresh fruit containers and fresh fruit juices seemed to be very popular. I found the prices here cheaper than the supermarket and more fresh so definitely put it on your list.

I didn’t expect to like Barcelona this much but everyone was very friendly and even though it was quite touristy, I got the sense that the Catalans pride themselves in their city and what they can offer. Let us now get into a discussion about Spain and Barcelona. It’s such a liveable city that once was not, so it was great to see what a bustling city it is now.

Have you visited Barcelona? What do you think about it? Let me know in the comments!

-S.