Travel Spotter

Seeing the sites, One spot at a time

Spotted! Sleeping Giant Island in Ireland

On my seven day road trip around Ireland we drove around the Dingle peninsula. After stopping for lunch and a stop of shopping (scarves and deep fried mars bars) we cruised around the cliffs through the green rolling hills and misty fog. Our guide pointed out sleeping giant island, which is an island that looks like a giant laying down. So literally, sleeping giant island.

Also spotted:

Three rock shapes jutting out from the cliff, Ireland’s answer to the three sisters

A shark fin, swimming ominously around the bay.

Rolling mist, literally rolling down the hills and over the landscape

The home of Dolores O’Riordan, lead singer of The Cranberries

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Nine Things to Do In: Shanghai

1.  Eat awesome dumplings! I am not a huge dumpling fan, I find them a bit slimy in texture, but we had pan fried dumplings at Yang’s Dumplings, and they were awesome! Worth the wait and the queue.

2. Catch the Maglev, the magnetic levitating train from the airport to the city, which gets to speeds of over 400km an hour! We caught it from the city and back just for fun.

3. Take a night cruise on the Huangpu River to see the spectacular skylines all lit up. On one side is the modern Pudong district with its skyscrapers, the other is the bund with its colonial style buildings and hotels.

4. Go up the Jin Mao Tower. There are a few high rise viewing platforms to visit in Shanghai, but the views from the Jin Mao Tower are pretty cool on a clear day (pray for smog free – not for me unfortunately!)

5. Visit the Yu gardens, yes they are touristy but you can get some awesome souvenirs, eat more dumplings and other great food and have a traditional tea ceremony.

6. Walk The Bund, the waterfront boardwalk, offering awesome views day or night.

7. Go fancy in posh hotels, even if you can’t afford to stay the night, the lobbies, shops, toilets and cafes/bars of the ritzy hotels along The Bund are worth a visit. Bonus points if you swag your way onto a rooftop for views!

8. Visit the Shanghai Museum for free to see many amazing Chinese artefacts, artworks and furniture as well as admire the cool shape of the building

9. Shop, shop shop! Whether its for clothing, souvenirs, food or panda shaped bread rolls, you’ll find it in Shanghai!


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Travel Quote… Somewhere New


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Photo of the Day… Trees


We drove through this gorgeous temperate rainforest at Depot Beach on the NSW South Coast. We had a picnic right on the beach, complete with kangaroos and had the whole place to ourselves! Complete with bird calls and winter sunshine it was a perfect lunch spot.

I wandered back into the forest to capture the light sparkling in through the gum trees. Peaceful!

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San Clementes, California

The artist and I spent a gorgeous two nights staying in a little motel in San Clemente, Orange County, California. We lazed by the beach, slept in and ate bread (due to both of us suffering from a bad stomach bug – so romantic).

When we felt a little better we walked along the pier and even swam in the ocean. I was fascinated by the train that goes past, right on the sand. Oh and sunsets. You know how I like my sunsets.


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Travel Quote… Switching Off

trsvel switching off

My job can be all consuming, a lot of my free time is also spent thinking about work and doing things for work. To get a complete physical and mental break I have to travel! I can’t do anything about work whilst exploring some foreign country or bushland wilderness, so I can thoroughly switch off!


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Travel Essentials… Beauty Products on the Plane


These are my absolute necessary beauty items and toiletries for a long haul flight. Sydney to Los Angeles can be 14 hours, even longer to Dallas and heading to Europe is usually TWO long haul flights. Urgh.

Now some people want to pack most of their make up so they arrive looking ‘made up’ but I can’t really be bothered with all that. Some concealer on the eyes, sunnies and a hat can hold me over till I get to my accommodation for a good shower and to put proper make up on. On the flight I just want some basics for my face and body that can be in a tote bag at my feet. Often the lip balm and serum is in a little pouch with my eye mask and ear plugs that goes in the pouch in the back of the chair in front of me.

Deodorant: A small aerosol that can get through security. I like Dove or Nivea the best.

Cuticle Balm: I am recently on a mission to have better cuticles and I am trying to rub in this Burts Bee’s cuticle balm everyday, sometimes 3 times a day! Sitting on a plane (bored) is a great opportunity to work on my cuticles, especially as your hands dry out so much on long flights.

Moisturiser: This is an absolute must, especially for your face. I love the Nivea Soft for travel as it can be used on face, body and hands. It’s the only moisturiser I take travelling except for a SPF 30+ one for my face.

BB Cream: At the end of the flight I apply some BB cream/tinted moisturiser as a bit of coverage for my blotchy skin. This Natio BB cream is my favourite, gives quite a bit of colour, blends well and has SPF in it. It’s a great travel product as it can be worn alone without needing extra foundation.

Dry Shampoo: I have to carry this at all times as my hair is super thin and gets limp and oily at the scalp in about half a day (regular day or travel day!). The Batiste travel minis are the best. Just make sure you don’t lose the lid, or security will confiscate it.

Concealer: I have rosacea and pigmentation, not to mention dark circles under the eyes. A spot of concealer helps cover all this. I apply this Benefit one after my BB cream. A bonus is a little concealer with a little mirror so you can do it in your seat.

Lip Balm: So crucial for flying. I think I put on lip balm every hour, my lips get so dry on planes. These Burt’s Bees one are the best, very hydrating and with a little bit of colour.

Face Wipes: A travel pack of wipes is perfect for removing make up etc from your face before you have your inflight ‘sleep’ (ha! I wish!), also to clean hands and face after meals, visiting the bathroom etc.

Serum: I always pack a sample size face serum in to apply to my skin under my moisturiser to help keep my face from drying out too much on long trips.

Optional extras – if room allows I will also pop in some mascara, eye brow gel, hand sanitiser, lip/cheek stain.

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Temple of Heaven, Beijing


After two days of smog, fog and rain in Beijing we were pleasantly surprised to wake up on our third and final day to sunshine and (gasp!) blue skies. We spent the morning at the Temple of Heaven, a park and temple complex used by the Beijing locals for recreation and originally used only by the Ming and Qing Emperors (and those they deemed worthy enough).

It was a lovely morning spent wandering around the park, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, which must be almost unheard of in Beijing. People were out playing* badmington, more like dancing badmington really. There was also group aerobic dancing, Tai Chi, dancing with fans, partner dancing, hacky sack. It was always a laugh when we went and joined in.

Dotted through out the park are the various temples and other buildings used by the emperors for different types of ceremony and worship. The round temple in the centre – ‘The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests’ was a stand out, as was the ‘Imperial Vault of Heaven’ and the echo wall that surrounds it.

We also saw rows and rows of people sitting in the park with signs on the ground in front of them, often with pictures of people. Our guide explained that parents of single young adults come to the park (or pay someone else to come) and ‘advertise’ their child as a possible suitor for others to marry, or for another parent to choose as a match. A modern, park-based dating service. I had so many questions as I read the advertisements that described appearance but also education and employment. Sometimes the parents organise a sort of blind date / random meet up for the two young people, who may not even be aware that someone is sitting in the park all day promoting them. Crazy! You have to admire the commitment of the parents to spend their time waiting and hoping to find the perfect match for their sons and daughters.

After spending the morning at the Temple of Heaven we wandered across the road from the east gate to Hongqiao Market, also known as the pearl market for some shopping, bargaining (be resilient but friendly!) and yummy lunch.

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Photo of the Day… Sunset


I am such a sucker for a good sunset (who isn’t?). Especially one over the ocean. Especially one with interesting cloud patterns and multiple colours. Ahhhhh.

But this one was a bit different; sure the clouds and colours were there, looming over the silhouettes of cranes and construction at the Port of Los Angeles. Somehow the two elements just worked so well together.

This was taken from the decks of the Queen Mary, docked at Long Beach, California.

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Travel Essentials … Sweat Pants


Sweatpants, sweats, tracksuit pants, yoga pants, trackies, no matter what you call them they can be a very handy item to pack for travel. Never been a big fan of the tracksuit / workout look myself, until I bought the H&M blue  pair featured above. So soft. Loose around the top but tight around the calf, almost a blend of sweatpants and leggings. But they allow you to expose your bottom. Because of course I still subscribe to the thought, leggings are NOT pants. But trackies? Awesome pants.

I think the key is with wearing these while travelling (unless working out while travelling) is to dress them up slightly in a sports luxe kind of way so you don’t look like your traipsing around Europe en route to a swim team meet up.

Sneakers can work, especially casual numbers like converse, or flats. Adventurous types even pair their sweat pants with heels, but heels aren’t always appropriate for travel.

Worn with a cotton stretch blazer or denim jacket over a striped tank or tee, or a shirt or chambray, keeps it casual but not a gym wear outfit.

I tend to prefer leggings over tracksuit pants, as they can be dressed up a lot more. But fleecy or thicker pants are warmer than leggings so they can be more useful especially if travelling in colder climates. Plus it eliminates legging-pants-butt-action.


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Travel Quote of the Day… Patience


Tomorrow I am off again to the USA. A 90 minute flight followed by a 90 minute stop over and then a 14 hour flight. Throw in checking in time, waiting at gates, immigration and collecting baggage means about a 24 hour ‘transiting’ period.

I have done over 100 flights in my life, plus a 28 day bus tour, 10 overnight trains, 3 all day train trips, a 7 day bus tour, 2 overnight buses and a few daytime commuting bus trips.

All that equates to a lot of sitting around time. I learnt early on in my first overseas backpacking adventure that transiting and waiting is a huge part of travel (well until we can invent apparition a la Harry Potter).

Not to mention the extra waiting around that occurs when planes are late, trains are cancelled, buses break down.

It is absolutely pointless stressing or getting upset with the waiting around time. I have accepted that it is a necessary part of travel and the only way to get through it is to be patient and mellow. Its even harder when you are alone and have to spend this wait time solo.

Grab a magazine, a coffee, your iPad, a crossword, have a snooze, knit, draw, read a book, type an email, write in your travel journal, view and edit your photos, window shop, stretch, do a sudoku, play a card game… there are many ways to keep busy while waiting around in trains, airports and bus stations.

I have found that all these transiting, commuting, waiting around moments (usually alone) have enabled me to be more patient and accepting of things in my life in general. Especially things outside of my control. Because what can you do? Pacing, stressing and complaining won’t make the train go any faster. Better off to rest up and enjoy the down time.

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Staying in a Monastery, Emei Mountain, China

Part of our tour of China included a stay in a Monastery at Emei Shan. A real life monastery with monks! On one of China’s sacred mountains of Buddhism! I was very excited!

This is what I was expecting:

Bhutan trip June 2011, Tiger's Nest Monastery

Image courtesy of Michael Folley @ Flickr

Oh yes I had visions of mist, tranquil mountains and a deserted, peaceful monastery with ‘rustic’ features, a retreat from the hustle and bustle of China.

Ha! Nowhere is quiet on the eve of the National Holiday in a country of a billion people. Our bus took a long time to drive to Baoguo, one of the little towns at the base of Emei Mountain. We seemed to only go a kilometre every ten minutes thanks to the endless traffic and pedestrians. I kept thinking – boy we still have a long way to go to get to the misty lush top of the mountain! In amidst of traffic and crowds our mini bus stopped and our guide said ‘We’re here!’

Huh? All I could see were ‘Chinese looking buildings’ (educated response, I know) , tourists and cars. Surely the peaceful monastery isn’t around here?

Well yes, we are staying in this busy complex of buildings that is a working monastery and did we mention it’s also a tourist attraction? That opens at 7am… The Baoguo Temple to be exact.

I did get some funny looks walking through the grounds of the temple to the public toilets (and our  accommodation’s amenities for 2 nights) in my pyjama’s with toothbrush in hand. Sure I feature in some Chinese photo albums now too.

So yes we were woken to the sound of monks chanting at 5am, but we never got to engage or see the monks really. We did get to share the monastery with hordes of Chinese tourists there at 7am. Was it peaceful and quiet – uh no! Late at night when the tourists had gone it was quieter but the building itself is right near town at a busy spot at the base of Emei Mountain, and for China’s National Day it was pretty packed.

Rooms were dorm like for those not in a couple, 4-5 beds in one room, hard beds (like all of China) and minimal furniture. The toilets and sinks were the ones the public visitors used so late in the afternoon they were pretty bad, and not western of course. The showers were communal, with no doors (MacGyver style scarf shower curtain needed!). I still think it was pretty cool to go to the toilets one morning with 4 monks there with me in the other cubicles. That doesn’t happen very often!

It certainly didn’t live up to my expectations (oh… we’re not staying on top of the mountain…) but it was a good base for exploring the many hikes and paths of Emei Shan.

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Spotted! Elephant seal giving birth, California

Driving the Pacific Coast Highway took us past the elephant seal colony at San Simeon, where hundreds of elephant seals beach themselves for about a month each December/January. On a sunny New Years Day, we visited the beach and wandered up and down the boardwalk observing these interesting creatures.

I spotted:

– A calf giving birth to an elephant seal pup. Wow, what a rare sight. A lady who had been there for an hour pointed out this calf that was about to give birth and was having contractions. Sure enough, as I watched she continued the contractions and then pop! Out came a small, dark baby seal. The gulls went berserk, fighting over the placenta that they gobbled down like a pack of, well seagulls. Then the mother and pup make these sounds to bond with each other.

– The large, unattractive males with their proboscis noses honking and shuffling around the sand. They stay on the beach for about a month, losing half of their body weight in that time.

– Tiny, dark baby seals cuddling up to their mothers and suckling on their teats. The mothers constantly throw sand on themselves, possibly to keep the heat at bay.

– Another fine west coast sunset. Glorious!

– And then a mile down the road a field of zebras. Zebras! In California. Sure why not…

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Travel Quote of the Day… Coming Home

coming home

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Photo of the Day… Golden Gate

san francisco golden gate bridge

A friend of mine does these jumping style photos when she travels in front of many famous places. She took an awesome one on the Great Wall of China with no one else in the shot! Rare…

Anyway, we visited the Golden Gate Bridge (we actually drove across it too – cool) whilst on our recent trip to San Francisco. We drove to the end of the Crissy Field promenade in the Presidio to a little wharf that juts out right in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was extremely windy and the wind was pure ice. So cold. I decided to do a jumping shot in honour of my friend. After 3 goes, nailed it!

Love the results… it’s all about the leg placement! I could get use to taking these… now to just convince The Artist to be my patient photographer each time…



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