Nine Things To Do In: Vienna

1.  Attend a Recital/Ballet/Opera. We were lucky enough to attend a Mozart and Strauss concert in a beautiful old building.

2. Visit the art galleries, such as the Leopold Museum. I was lucky enough to see a great Van Gogh exhibition. I also got to visit the The Museum of Art History (Kunsthistorisches Museum).

3. Visit the  ‘Prater’ Amusement park, called “Wurstelprater” is the oldest amusement park in the world. We never made it as we kept running out of time and it closed in the evening. Now apparently it’s open 24 hours!

4. See the Royal Palace, aka the Hopfburg Palace. An easy walking tour can take in the Statue of Maria Theresa, the palaces, the famous balconies, an array of statues and sculptures and the Spanish Riding School.

5. Shop downtown, along ‘The Graben’ and ‘Kärntner Straße’–  Vienna’s main shopping streets. I think I had my first experience at European H&M along this route!

6. Sightsee at the Old Church located on the main pedestrian mall and square ‘Stephansplatz’. The beautiful church is called St Stephen’s Cathedral.

7. Pay tribute to Mozart by visiting his statue and Treble Clef garden in Burggarten – the Imperial Palace Gardens. An easy walk from downtown and the other major attractions

8. Visit the Natural History Museum. Vienna has some amazing museums, and the Natural History Museum is a great place to explore for an hour or two. Don’t miss the famous ‘Venus of Willendorf’, one of the world’s oldest statues.

9. Explore the Viennese nightlife. Vienna has some great bars, restaurants and clubs. Make sure you have a local schnitzel, visit a schnapps museum (with free tasting), try a local beer called a ‘Zwickel’ and even find a Irish pub or two. We found a funky night club and ended up being photographed for the club’s website!

Travel Momento… Prague Jewellery

When backpacking in Eastern Europe for 5 weeks, souvenir shopping was limited. Besides some practical goodies (a new towel to replace the one I had lost), some new summer dresses to wear in the 40 degree heat, the rest of my souvenirs were jewellery.

On the Charles Bridge in Prague we checked out the various stalls selling gifts and homemade wares. I love picking up pieces of jewellery that I haven’t seen anywhere else. This handmade set of earrings and necklace were perfect, in slate colours and olive green stones, with a hint of bronze. I think the set was about 40 euros (which was quite a bit on my backpacker budget at the time!)

The young fellow selling the jewellery was selling the items on behalf of his father who creates the pieces. A strong whiff of weed drifted down the bridge, despite being a Sunday full of tourists and policemen. We asked the young guy about the weed smell, which he proudly admitted was his and showed us his joint. Enough said.

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

Photo of the Day – Croatia

Flashback to my Croatian cruise – Split to Dubrovnik and back in August 2007. Glorious weather, with plenty of sunbaking, swimming and sailing, interspersed with wandering around gorgeous little towns and eating all sorts of Mediterranean / Greek / Adriatic inspired food.

096 Zlatni Rat - one of croatia's most famous beaches

Croatia has to be one of my favourite countries, I had very little knowledge of the country or the specific places I was going to visit before landing in Split on a balmy Tuesday night, around 35 degrees Celsius at 9pm. Sometimes its best when you know little, you then usually have a fantastic experience.

Especially one that starts with climbing 5 storeys to stay in some old lady’s attic with UK Michael and American ‘Reckless Maggie’ who then take you on a 2 km bar hopping adventure, wading in the ocean at 10pm and having drinks with random Croatian strangers…

But that night is a tale for another day!

Photo of the Day – Istanbul

This month’s edition of SHOP TILL YOU DROP featured 2 photo shoots set in Turkey, one in Istanbul and one in Bodrum. I love when fashion and travel combine!

 

4.Kath's mosque at Ortakoy, fishing village

When I visited Istanbul in 2007, my friend was living and teaching there (she still does actually!). This was her favourite mosque, in the fishing town of Ortaköy. A place you probably wouldn’t see as a regular tourist, with great views out over the Bosphorus and the bridge.

 

London Days

For someone who has visited London twice and lived there for 9 months, I have hardly any travel photos. It seems I have lots of photos of me and other people (including some random strangers) and many are from some crazy night out in the West End or (god forbid) the Shebu Walkie.

It wasn’t till after my 9 month living-working-in-London-travel-round-Europe phase that I really started to get into photography and take photos for a different purpose than simply catching me standing dorkily or derangedly in front of the famous monuments of the world.

So this is a selection of my very limited photo collection of (selfie-free) shots of England’s capital and one of my favourite cities in the world – London. It was hard not to like it when you live in Notting Hill around the corner from Portobello Markets and Sienna Miller (true story). The food scene in London is amazing, with heaps of cusines on offer, so many neighbourhoods to explore (eg: shops to seek!)

I have some great memories of my time in London, seeing as I was fortunate to live there at a time with 10 other friends. Oh the good old days.

Places I love in London: Notting Hill (obviously!), Brick Lane  (had my first real Indian food experience and have never looked back), Spitafields Markets, Greenwich, Kensington Palace, Oxford St for High Street shopping, West End and the many many theatres, Camden for the funky markets, Hyde Park for serious green time, Pall Mall and the Palace to say hi to Liz, Knightsbridge and Harrods, Portobello Rd Markets, The amazing museums on the river, National Gallery, Picadilly Circus for people watching, The many Thames bridges, Fulham and Putney for the pub on the river scene, Marble Arch, Bakeries in Liverpool St Station, Canada Waters, Northern African Food round Bayswater… just to name a few!

Prague, Czech Republic (with some manky dorm occupants)

Prague is a beautiful city, with many sites to see including Charles Bridge with the gargoyles and market stalls, the Astronomical Clock, Prague Castle with the stained glass windows, St Vitus Cathedral, St Wenceslas Square and visiting a theatre for some classical music or ballet.  Stay classy as a backpacker and see a ballet in jeans and thongs!

But, like most European cities, Prague is not nice at 7am on a Sunday in the rain. We had travelled from Poland on an overnight train and arrived in Prague at around 6am. Weary from a night on the train and in need of a hot shower we made our way to our hostel (along with a fellow backpacker who hadn’t booked somewhere yet who shared our cabin on the overnight train). Of course we can’t check in at 7am! Especially in a less than 10 pounds hostel that looked like an office block transformed into some random dorms. So there we were, 3 dirty, hungry backpackers stomping around a dreary, sleepy wet Prague at 7am. Not fun.

Sometimes it pays to be cheap backpackers, sometimes it backfires on you. We managed to find something to eat and spent about 6 hours site seeing (getting more and more weary) before getting to check in around 2pm.

Our beds were in a dorm of ten, a room approx 4m square. I took one look at some of the clothing and expressed ‘we have some manky looking roommates’. My travel buddy didn’t seem to mind, seeing as we didn’t look too good ourselves. She was desperate for a nap, me a shower. I wandered down the office style hall to the communal showers. Afterwards I had that all too familiar task of trying to get dry and dressed in a shower cubicle where every surface is wet. Assuming we had the dorm to ourselves on a Monday at 2pm I decided to sneak back to our room in a towel to dry and get dressed there. You can imagine my surprise when I opened the door to find 4 twenty-something french lads. My travel buddy was sitting up in her bunk, awoken from her nap and looking quite annoyed. I shrieked, closed the door and ran back down to the shower to finish getting dressed. Talk about awkward.

Upon returning to the dorm, where my friend was even more annoyed, I found the French boys rolling the biggest joint I’d ever seen. They were literally about to light the thing when we asked ‘surely you’re not going to smoke that in here?’ They agreed to go and light up in the car park. After they left I did the ‘I told you we had manky roommates’ spiel, to which they then returned, high as the astronomical clock itself and decided to jump on the bunks and throw balls around.

Clearly we weren’t getting anymore nap time.

Disclaimer: I have never desired to be a cheap backpacker, give me a nice hotel any day. But seeing as I was being unpaid for 6 weeks whilst living in London I had no choice but to stretch the funds out while travelling and live on about 20 pounds a day! Oh god, the backpacker/dorm life is not for me!

Glacier Hike, Iceland

With only 2 full days in Iceland, and a half day with a quick stop at the Blue Lagoon we had to maximise our time in the Island’s capital Reykjavik and see some of the majestic sites. We decided on a full day ‘Golden Circle‘ tour, seeing the great Geysir area, Gullfoss waterfall and Þingvellir national park,  scene of the separating tectonic plates, along with a full day glacier hike.

Our glacier hike involved attaching ‘cramp ons’ to your shoes, grabbing some spikes/sticks/poles and walking up  the frozen glacial tongue that is the Sólheimajökull Glacier on Iceland’s South Coast.

We had a small group, approximately 8-10 people and a very informed guide (who we were trusting to rescue us should we fall in a crevasse. Or crevice). After some quick instructions we were on the ice, heading somewhere upwards towards the Mt Hekla Volcano. This was 2007, two years before it erupted. “Oh we expect it to erupt any day now, we’ve been waiting,” the locals told me nonchalantly. Consequently I spent the next few hours looking over my shoulder expecting to see lava flowing down the glacier tongue and sweeping us out to sea. Dramatic? Me?

Despite the lack of volcanic explosions we thoroughly enjoyed our glacier hike and no one was lost inside a giant crack in the ice, swirling down below, Ice Age style. If you only have a few days in Iceland, a glacier hike is definitely a recommendation!

Naxos, Greek Islands

A travel documentary on television tonight made me reminisce of the fun times I had on Naxos in 2007. Not as infamous as your Santorini, Mykonos or Ios, Naxos is a big island that still has lots of attractions.

We docked our yacht right in town, literally you walked off the gang plank onto the seafront boulevard with shops and restaurants everywhere. For sunset we walked up to the Temple of Apollion ruins. A delicious local taverna served us dinner, then we wandered around the shops looking at lots of gemstones, jewellery and coral, munching on ice creams and baklava.

The next day took us on a whole day adventure riding quad bikes around the  island. We saw ruins, views, villages, local beaches where we stopped for a spot of swimming, dinner in the affectionately named ‘Mama’s kitchen’ – where Mama just serves up a dish for anyone in the village – no menu here! Not even any roads for cars; this village was so old, you just park at the top and walk down. More swimming at little fishing villages, then chasing the sun on the road back to town, for more Greek food and ice cream. What a lovely time!

To buy the featured image, click here

 

Causeway Coast

Our road trip to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Island meandered along the spectacular Causeway coast. The weather was outstanding, we could see all the way out to the puffin home of Rathlin Island, sadly not seeing any puffins though. We stopped in at Ballycastle after driving up from Dublin for picnic supplies. I choose a punnet of strawberries – the tastiest I have ever eaten.

First stop was the Carrick-A-rede Rope Bridge, swaying off the coast above the North Atlantic Ocean. Then onto the Giant’s Causeway, the strange hexagonal rock formations, the result of some weird geological activity or some weird giant activity, I can never remember which.

 

Sorry that some of these photographs are a little blurry, I had to copy them (highly compressed too) from the internet after my camera was stolen on one of my Europe trips.

Luckily I had been uploading my thousands of photos so I still could access them and have my memories, the downside is the quality was reduced.

Carcassone

Exploring a medieval walled city in 2005. Dam those bus trips and tour guides, no where near enough time spent at the South of France glory that is Carcassone. How can I fit site seeing, photo taking, eating and shopping in 1 hour!

Grabbed the world’s best meringues though. Living the fairy tale I tell you.

Love that the Kate Mosse book ‘Labyrinth’ is set in Carcassone in the 1200s!  It was a great book to read on the 20 hour flight back to Australia from Europe too.

Oh god, just discovered they’ve made a mini series of the book, straight to to the ‘to watch’ list!

Amorgos – Greece

Lesser known of the Greek Islands, but just as stunning as Santorini, Mykonos, Paros and the others. Amorgos is mainly famous for being the setting of the 1988 Movie “The Big Blue” .  Visit a taverna in town and it’s likely to be playing the movie or have retro posters on the walls.

Take a bus trip (precarious, eyes closed) to see the 1200 AD monastery built high into the cliff face. Cool down on one of the pretty pebbly beaches. As Amorgos doesn’t have an airport, the best way to visit is to sail in on a yacht, like I had the pleasure of doing.

Lake Bled – Slovenia

I was grateful for the suggestion from another seasoned traveller to take the train from Ljubljana out to Lake Bled. In the heat of summer the picturesque lake is turned into an outdoorsy playground, grass slopes, swimming, boat rides, bike riding, swan spotting and just snoozing lakeside in the sun. A very enjoyable day trip!

Rose Valley – Cappadocia, Turkey

There are memorable days while travelling. The day I hiked through Rose Valley, in the Cappadocia region of Central Turkey was one of them.

In summary:

I awoke at 4am in a cave hotel. By 5am I was in a hot air balloon rising over the valley of rock formations. By 8am I was back at the hotel having breakfast, then by 9am onto a day tour. 10am walking the Rose Valley, through fields, over rocks, between crevices, in caves. Lunchtime climbing a rocky hill full of abandoned cave dwellings and houses. 1pm buying evil eye jewellery. By 2pm descending 9 levels underground in an underground city. 4pm hanging with hashish smoking French Canadians Boys . 5pm riding a motorbike across the valley to see the sun set (with said French Canadians). 6pm crashing said motorbike and injuring leg. 7pm on overnight bus to Istanbul, nursing swollen and bruised injured leg where I meet another solo traveller that I randomly met again and partied with in Berlin 3 months later.

Those are the days you live for. Ahh travel. Double Ahh for solo travel…

Eiffel Tower – Paris, France

The first glimpse from the bus, still a few kilometres out of Paris, was like seeing Santa Claus in the flesh. Excitement isn’t even the word. I’d spent 26 years on the planet, with probably about 20 of them yearning for Paris. The Louvre, Arc De Triomphe, The tower.

I blame a project in year 4, where I painstakingly created red white and blue headings and borders with mini flags and croissants. Cutting pictures of famous sites out of travel brochures.

Then I was there, for a mere 2 days, then gone, vowing to return to my beloved Paris. In 2007, I did. Still swooning when I saw the tower for a second time.