Recently, I’ve been sorting through our endless travel photos and backing up our memories. Whilst doing this, I became inspired to write about what it’s like to be a traveller on a New Zealand dairy farm.
Have you ever thought about going travelling? It is hard to know how you would fund yourself after several months on the road isn’t it? I’d love this post to help you and inspire you. It is all well and good saving your heart out before you step foot on your first flight, but what happens when you are bitten by the travel bug? What happens when your savings start to dwindle, but you want to catch a flight to Fiji for some tropical paradise?
We were lucky enough to line up a job before we even set foot on New Zealand soil. We knew we wanted to travel a few countries before arriving in Auckland, so we spent a few days job hunting in Singapore using online resources. As we are a travel couple, it is difficult to find two jobs with the same employers. We found a job on a dairy farm and they required a nanny to care for their two little girls. They also required a dairy farmhand which was perfect for us! After a successful Skype interview the job was ours. We found these jobs on the New Zealand backpacker job board. This site is well worth a visit if you are looking for a temporary job (a few months or so).
After landing in Auckland, we explored the city for a few days and then flew south to Christchurch. Our new employers collected us from the city and took us back to the farm. This worked out really nicely. If you discuss your travel plans with your new employers, you will probably find they are very accommodating.
I won’t go into too much detail, but unfortunately this job did not work out for us. The issue with starting any new job is you never know who your employers actually are. You are interviewed and questioned, but you can’t really get to know who you are signing a contract with. It is very sad that some people take advantage of the term ‘backpacker’, and will not think twice at paying you $100 a week to be on call 24/7.
Please don’t be discouraged though, it is important to remember that this can happen in any job not just whilst backpacking. We moved on fairly swiftly as my mental health had severely plummeted. We checked the NZ backpacker job board again and found a perfect job for us further south. The listing required two backpackers, preferably a couple, to assist as relief milkers on another dairy farm. We sent them a detailed account of our farm work experience and a day later the job was ours.
Talking about experience, I think it is important to be honest when applying for farm roles. If you haven’t had any experience, make sure that you inform potential employers of this. Let them know that you are eager to learn new skills and have an interest in the role. At the end of the day, you don’t want to show up on your first day, having lied about your experience, and be thrown in the deep end.
We allowed ourselves a few days to travel south in our camper-van (Audrey). It was really refreshing to give ourselves a mini holiday before started our next role. We took a trip into the mountains, enjoyed a day on the snow and relaxed at several of our favourite free camping spots near Queenstown.
Upon arriving at our new job in Orepuki, Southland, we were welcomed into our new home. We were renting a 3 bedroom house which overlooked the breathtaking south coast and Fiordland National Park. We commented that we would probably never live in a house with a view like that ever again. It was spectacular. The house was outdated and needed renovating but it was comfortable and cosy. We had everything we needed and a nice fresh start.
We got stuck into our work and the months flew by. Our new employers were so kind to us. They frequently stocked our freezer with fresh meat, invited us to their place for meals and took us into the city for dinner. It was nice to find such lovely people to work for after our first New Zealand jobs had ended so badly.
Our roles on the new farm were identical. We each had our own tasks to complete daily to ensure the smooth running of the farm. We started work at around 4.30am and commenced the morning milk. I would round up the cows on the quad bike, whilst Alex prepared the milking shed. We were lucky to have a routine which included a couple of later mornings each week. On the days we started later, we were on the afternoon milk which meant we could start work between 8.30-9 am. Inbetween milks, we would feed calves, fix things around the farm, spray weeds in the paddocks and move and fit irrigation systems.
I will say that it was sometimes hard work, especially when the early mornings start to catch up with you. Although, imagine spending every day outside with nature. Imagine seeing the sunrise almost every day. Alex and I used to take it in turns to admire the sun rising over the milking shed, it was magnificent. I remember riding around on the quad bike through the paddocks, admiring the sensational views around me. My heart was so happy.
Dairy farming isn’t exactly very pretty, sometimes you literally have to “shovel shit”. If you try to seek out the positives in everything it can be one of the most rewarding jobs you will ever do.
We spent our evenings snuggled up by the fire enjoying delicious home cooked meals. Some nights we’d head to the beach with a couple of beers and watch the sunset. We even took the quad down to the beach for a spot of sea fishing!
We were so lucky to be live in that house overlooking the glorious Te Waewae Bay and Monkey Island Beach. The memories we created whilst working on farms are equally as special to us as the time we spent on the road.
If you’d like to know more about finding jobs whilst travelling, feel free to drop me a message, I’d love to have a chat.
Upon landing, we had no onward travel booked so we had to guess where to go. I was only 19 and, although I was well travelled, I felt out of my depth.
The train to the city centre doesn’t leave from Camipino Airport. Instead, the train was a 15 minute walk away or a 5 minute bus ride.
We made the decision to walk, the sun was shining and we thought it would be nice to stretch our legs after the 2hr30 min flight from London.
Once we stepped foot outside the airport, we found that we couldn’t read any of the signs as, rightly so, they were all in Italian. I stood wishing I’d learnt Italian at school (I still want to learn).
We English speakers have it too easy, don’t you think?
Most places we go the locals speak fluent English and, like me, a large percentage of native English speakers don’t know any other languages. I always feel so guilty going to explore another country and not knowing how to communicate in the local language. Do you wish you could speak another language, or is it just me?
Luckily, a short while later, we met Maria who was also trying to get to Termini (Rome’s central train station). We started chatting to her and decided we would get a bus together as she was also slightly confused. Maria could speak some Italian so she helped us figure out which bus to get.
Maria was Spanish and she was studying in Italy (and she could speak both English and Italian!). She told us all about how her boyfriend had flown over to see her for the first time in Italy. He had told her to meet him at Camipino Airport but had actually landed at an airport the other side of Rome!
Her boyfriend had got a train to Termini and she was on her way to meet him there. It was inspiring to hear about her life in Italy. We swapped contact details and said our goodbyes before hopping on a bus to our apartment.
We didn’t realise how warm it was going to be in Rome. There we were, in our stifling jeans, walking up and down the residential area trying to find our villa.
In the end, we found it tucked away down a little side street.
The villa had recently been converted into apartments and we had the top floor. The villa itself was surrounded by beautiful grapevines and luscious gardens.
We dropped our bags off and headed straight back out to get the tram into the city centre.
After a delicious baguette and a refreshing drink, we wandered around the busy roman streets. In those first few hours, powered by our adrenaline, we found the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. By the time the sun started to set our feet were sore.
As night fell, we returned to the Spanish Steps to find a restaurant. My friend had recommended the area for its romantic atmosphere. However, being young and naive, we unknowingly chose the most expensive restaurant in the square.
When our food came, two tiny plates of pasta, we couldn’t help but laugh. The pasta was nice but it was just in a simple tomato sauce nothing special if I’m honest.
We were seated in the corner and our table, which wobbled as we ate, was practically in a bush. Those tiny pasta dishes and two small cokes came to 50.00 €(£42.65)!
We left promptly, still hungry and headed to the nearest pizzeria. We ordered a pizza to go, grabbed a couple of beers and went to sit on top of the Spanish Steps.
We enjoyed our pizza in the moonlight, overlooking Rome, sipping our beers as the world passed by. When we had finished eating, we walked down a few steps and began to hear singing. Peering over a ledge, we found six or seven Nuns singing and dancing to the beat of a tambourine. We couldn’t help but sing along, finding ourselves lost in the moment. Others joined the dancing, total strangers coming together as one to create a memory that will last a lifetime.
A sentence in one song still sticks in my mind and I can still remember the tune as if it were yesterday. One of the most memorable evenings of my life.
After a few more days of exploring, eating gelato and dining in little independent cafes (rather than big expensive restaurants), our last day quickly rolled around.
We had to be out of the apartment by 10am so off we went, with our rucksacks, walking down the river Fiume towards the Vatican.
When we arrived at the Vatican, we were taken back by the amount of people we found. There were security checks being made and guards were everywhere.
We joined the crowd of people standing directly in front of the Vatican and watched the events unfold. We witnessed an entire ceremony in Italian. We struggled to understand what was happening but stayed to soak in the atmosphere. Beautiful songs continued to be sung, bringing tears to my eyes and raising the hairs across my body.
All of a sudden, the Pope appeared at the entrance to the Vatican. Cameras live-streamed the event to the large screens situated around the enormous square and the Pope began to speak. It was such a surreal experience. The entire crowd stood in total silence as he spoke. All eyes watched him intently.
Then everything stopped. I looked around at the people closest to me, wondering what had just happened. People suddenly began to turn and embraced those closest to them. An Italian man turned and shook our hands joyfully. Completely taken back, we copied others and began to spread the joy through the crowd. Smiles painted peoples faces. We felt so completely blessed to be there experiencing this unique moment in Italian history and, to think, it was all by chance.
The service recommenced and the Pope walked down into the crowd. He climbed onto a float which proceeded to bring him through the crowds.
The entire ceremony lasted over two hours, we had no water with us and the sun was beating down the entire time. By the time it was over we were pretty thirsty. The adrenaline rush had left us exhausted. We joined the sea of people trying to leave Vatican city.
I managed to find a newspaper with the event on the front page. We worked out that the previous Pope had blessed the new Pope after he’d received recent death threats.
It was a truly breathtaking experience. Despite the unfortunate reason for the ceremony, I’m so grateful to have been there to experience the historic moment.
I cannot put into words how great our trip was. We stumbled upon two truly magnificent experiences and for both, we just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
You will not regret spending any amount of time in Italy. Even if you only have a few days, get yourself on that plane (when we are able to again)!
My advice to you, don’t plan to much, let Rome guide you.
Oh and make sure you eat lots of pizza and pasta, enjoy the carb overload and worry about the holiday weight afterwards!
Now for the essential travel guide stuff…
Once you get to Termini Station, you will be able to purchase various tickets to get you around the city. Depending how long you are in the city, you can pick up a 24, 48 or 72 hour pass which will provide unlimited travel on the metro, buses and train travel within Rome.
During our trip we purchased a RomaPass for 72 hours and this provides you with free entry to 2 museums or archaeological sites, free public transport throughout Rome, discounts around the city and reserved access to the Colosseum. A 72 hour pass is 52.00 € or alternatively a 48 hour pass is only 32.00 € and trust me, it is well worth the purchase!
You can find more info on this at the RomaPass website here.
During our stay in Rome we had an apartment, in Gianicolense district, called Residenza Maxima which has since been completely renovated. A night here in a 1 bedroom apartment is approximately 107.00 € and is situated approximately 2.5 miles from the city centre.
To give you an idea of the prices closer to Rome city centre, I have provided estimated prices below for one night based on two adults sharing and close to the city centre: –
A double room with a private bathroom is approx. 35.00 €
2 bunks in a hostel dorm with breakfast and shared bathroom is approx.29.00 €
An entire apartment near the Trevi District is approx. 187.00 €
Okay, so day to day here’s what your looking at for the cost of refreshments: –
A bottle of water 1.50€ A coffee in a café 4.00€ A casual café lunch for two 15.00€ Pizza from a Pizzeria 10-12.00€ One course in a restaurant for two with drinks 50.00€
Of course, you can make it cheaper by buying food at supermarkets and cooking at your accommodation, but if you’re only in the city for a few days, why not splurge a little?
As ever, if you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch.
As we stepped off the bus the sun was shining brightly. There was a single whispery cloud hugging the peak of Mount Ngauruhoe.
“Beautiful day for it” exclaimed our coach driver in his thick Kiwi accent, “no problems with the weather for you guys today!”
We gathered our belongings and the coach pulled away, leaving the three of us behind. Alex, Seth and I made our way across the track that weaved its way through the bush land at the base of Mount Ngauruhoe. We admired the ever changing sky above us.
We begun our uphill climb. The track was steep and loose rocks made it unsteady under our feet. I could feel the heat rising beneath my layers of clothing. By this point, I’d already tied my long blonde hair back behind my ears and I took off my thick leggings, coats and hoodie. My shorts and t-shirt revealed the bare tanned skin of my arms and legs.
My heart was beating fast. Blood rushed to my face and I could feel the veins throbbing under my skin. The hike upwards was tough but I was determined to continue.
Seth had soldiered onward and by this point he was much further ahead of us. Alex and I didn’t attempt to catch him but rather took each step at our own pace.
The air temperature around us began to drop; I could feel the cold breeze on my bare skin. Concentrating on our footing, we failed to notice the thick black cloud that hung above us. That was until everything began to seem dark and bleak.
Rain drops began to fall, slow at first and then all at once. I reached around into my backpack for my rain coat and slipped it on.
Goose pimples stood up on my legs, we followed others who also climbed higher and higher, all of us hoping the icy rain would eventually cease.
It did not. The wind became increasingly harsh as it swirled around us.
Seth, still ahead of us, but now in sight, had stopped. “What should we do?” he asked as we grew closer, “turn back?”
I looked around us. Visibility had dropped significantly and I could now only see roughly five metres ahead of me. We were cocooned from the world on the side of this mountain.
We continued on.
The wind blew hard, the rain poured down. We pushed on.
A powerful gust of wind almost knocked us off our feet, “We need to get down!” Alex shouted through the noise. We fell to our knees and clambered uphill, grabbing the biggest rocks we could find to pull ourselves along. The wind, so powerful, it could blow us over the edge.
Rain continued to beat down on us, stinging our faces with its icy cold droplets. We sought shelter behind a large boulder and took a moment to catch our breath.
We stayed here for a while, unsure whether to laugh or cry. We checked our phones for signal but all three had turned themselves off in the cold temperatures.
We left the boulder behind and kept low, hugging rocks and holding on to each other.
Before long, the track started to descend.
The famous blue tarns, we so desperately wanted to see with the amazing backdrop we’d seen on other travellers photos, were completely covered by the fog and we could not see the breathtaking views we came for.
Visibility still poor but the mountain, now behind us, acted as a shelter from the fierce rain and wind.
By this point, we were soaked through. With every step our soggy socks and feet squelched in our boots, our clothes rubbing against our skin.
The track opened out into a big open rocky plain. A thick fog surround us, we almost couldn’t see our own hands in front of our faces. It was as if we were walking across the moon.
Before long, the track began to climb again but as we emerged over the ridge, at the top, we were greeted by a beautiful clear view of the valley beneath us and the promise of blue skies ahead.
I felt the warm sun on my cold and wet skin. We laughed as we trudged along in our soggy boots.
“Was it all a dream?” I thought to myself, “How could the weather change so much in a matter of moments?”
All that I did know is that we had another wild, and incredibly adventurous, story to tell.
What better place to start than Victoria? Friendly people, amazing destinations and an amazing coffee culture!
I have to say, Melbourne is my favourite Australian City. ,I think my love for coffee really blossomed here. Melbourne has taken all the best bits of the European coffee culture and lined its laneways with delightful cafés.
Melbourne isn’t just for coffee addicts though, foodies will love the Italian and Greek Quarters and, of course, it’s authentic Chinatown.
It really is a special city. It’s actually a city I can imagine myself living in ( and I’m not a city gal!).
Make sure you check out Flinders Street Station and its striking architecture. You will find Federation Square just across the road. There is always something happening in the square, whether it be a market or live music, there is never a boring day in Melbourne!
Whilst you’re at Flinders Street, head toward the Yarra River on the same side as the station and take the steps down to the bank. Continue straight and you will come to our favourite restaurant/bar in Melbs, the Arbory! Oh my, their cheese burger may not sound like much but wait til you try it! Enjoy music, sunshine and drinks, from the banks of the Yarra, in this open air restaurant!
You can get the free tram around the CBD (Central Business District) and this will take you on a circular tour of the city in an old fashioned tram.
There are always free events around the city so be sure to check out what’s on ahead of your visit (you don’t want to miss out!).
During the winter months, head down the the docklands on a Friday night (yes every friday) for a spectacular free firework display courtesy of the city of Melbourne!
Bourke Street Mall is a fab place to get your shop on! Treat yourself to some new clothes for your backpack or purchase some new reading material for your next journey!
The Eureka Skydeck is also another great place to visit, if you aren’t scared of heights? Take the super fast lift to the top and be greeted by panoramic views of Melbourne and the Peninsula. If you are feeling extra adventurous take a step out onto “The Edge” and don’t forget to look down!
CALLING ALL HISTORY LOVERS…
The Shrine of Remembrance is a short walk from the city centre or a speedy tram ride and should definitely be on your to do list. The shrine was built in memory of the fallen during the war. You can book onto a tour or wander around on your own, either way you will be amazed with the history and the stories behind the creation of the shrine. Head there at 5pm for the lowering of the flag and a moments silence, the atmosphere will leave you with goosebumps.
There is also a pretty good view of the city from the top!
Whilst you’re in the city head to Fitzroy Gardens and take a wander around Cook’s Cottage. This beautiful cottage was originally built in Great Ayton, North Yorkshire in 1755, by the parents of the famous navigator Captain James Cook, and was moved to Melbourne in 1934 after it was purchased it for £800. It was deconstructed, brought to Australia and re-built. This little cottage contains an abundance of history.
We found that it was always best to stay just outside of the city and grab a train or tram into the CBD. Our favourite place to stay was the Hotel Claremont Guesthousein South Yarra.
Here you can grab a twin room with bunk beds, super clean shared bathrooms and an amazing free breakfast for approx $42 per person. We stayed here almost every time we were in the city! The train station is just a two minute walk from the guesthouse.
You can totally rely on the amazing trams and trains to get around Melbourne and the surrounding suburbs.
Grab yourself a “Myki” card and just top it up with some $$ to get going.
You can get these cards at train stations around the city and in some 7/11’s. There is a small charge for the card but once you have one it’s yours. 10 bucks will get you around Melbourne for the day for sure! You can also buy one day unlimited travel cards.
If you’re arriving from the airport, head out to arrivals and hop on the Skybus for a 30 minute ride to the CBD for just under $20 one way – there’s free wifi onboard so you can let the fam know you’ve arrived safely! The bus will drop you at Southern Cross Station and from here you can access trams, buses and rural train lines.
I’ll be covering more of the epic sights this state has to offer in a later travel guide so keep a look out!
As ever, if any questions arise from this article, please get in touch and I’d be happy to have a chat with you!
As it’s Easter, I thought I’d share with you my most memorable Easter ever.
Let me set the scene a little bit…
… I was Au Pairing on a farm in rural Victoria, Australia, for the family who would later become our very own adopted Aussie family.
The farm was approximately 22,000 acres. Lets say that the farm was split into 4 sections, on 3 of those sections there were 3 large homesteads. In each lived one of three brothers, who owned the farm, with their wives and children.
I moved around each homestead helping out with the children and the housekeeping. I also helped out on the farm and joined Alex, my partner, in splitting wood ready for winter, feeding out to the livestock and general farm duties including driving the tractors!
Alex worked on the farm full time and we were lucky enough to have our very own little cottage to live in. The cottage was nicknamed “Paris”. We were incredibly happy here. We knew we were exactly where we were supposed to be. We had a glimpse into another life which was completely foreign to our own.
We were employed by one of the families in particular, to help the mother in the day to day running of the family home.
She’d not long given birth to a beautiful baby girl, had two older inquisitive boys and a big farmhouse to run whilst her husband was out on the farm. I spent the majority of my time with this family and our cottage was situated not to far from the main farmhouse.
Every morning I’d walk into the farmhouse and my senses would be filled with the most delicious smells. There would always be a cake in the oven in readiness for morning tea.
I’d drop my bag by the door and make my way through the long hallways, following the sounds of children’s laughter.
I’d often find all three children buried deep in the Lego table, their imaginations running wild with endless possibilities. I’d sit with them, helping them to build and making sure the baby girl didn’t try to eat any of the tiny pieces.
Sometimes I’d find the children sitting by the fire, in their pajamas, reading their books or magazines. Their clothes neatly laid out next to them ready for the day.
I’d always be greeted with beautiful smiles and happy faces.
I had no idea how we’d gotten so lucky to find this wonderful place.
It was 2016, we’d only been working at the farm for a month or so by Easter. I remember helping prepare for a day of guests and excitement!
There was a freshly baked cake sitting on the kitchen bench ready for morning coffee’s with the farmers. Alex loved coming in for his little break and a piece of the mother’s delicious freshly baked cake.
By lunch time, we were all ready for the guests to arrive. Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins slowly began to arrive and we all headed outside to the deck in readiness for the traditional Easter hunt!
The children began running around the grounds in search of delicious chocolatey goodness.
There was a substantial area to cover, from the large fenced of garden to the vast wooded area to the front of the farmhouse.
Sounds of joy filled the farm as the children began to build their pile of chocolate eggs and bunnies.
Once they’d finished searching, the pile of eggs was bigger than the children themselves. Blue, red, green and golden eggs laid on the deck.
The treasure pile was divided between the children and off they went with smiling faces, content and happy.
The magic of Easter shared between us all.
Thank you for reading everybody.
Happy Easter to you and your family. I hope that, wherever you are in the world right now, you are safe and happy. Lets keep the magic alive in this time of darkness.
Although our trip to Paris was some years ago, this beautiful place has so much character and so much to see that I wanted to share my memories of this romantic city.
We visited Paris after I surprised my partner, Alex, with a trip to the magnificent city for the weekend. We left our home town in England shortly after I handed him a little gold key chain of the Eiffel Tower. “Are we going to Paris?” he exclaimed with a little childish giggle.
We, excitedly, drove to Dover where we boarded the ferry to take us across the English Channel.
Upon arriving in Calais we drove into a town on the outskirts of Paris called Cergy. A beautiful, idyllic town with a marina, surrounded by shops and restaurants. It was only a 30 minute drive into central Paris from here.
The next day we drove into Paris and made our way through a vintage car show outside the Louvre. Frustrated traffic wardens were whistling at pedestrians who were oblivious to the oncoming traffic.
After snapping a few photos of the vintage cars, we followed the River Seine until we reached the bottom of the Eiffel Tower.
I, of course, had to climb it (I never let an opportunity pass!) so we queued for 40 minutes. When we finally reached the ticket gate, Alex left me to climb this magnificent structure alone. He is severely afraid of heights and didn’t fancy the 674 steps to the top!
Even my legs turned to mush for the first part of the climb, but after getting to level 1 and seeing the views, I just wanted to climb higher and set my eyes on more panoramic views. I reached the top after a short queue for the lift to the top (you have to take this up the last part of the tower).
Standing at the top, looking over Paris, I couldn’t help but think about my parents coming here whilst my mother was pregnant with me. My father had done the same thing as I had just done, climbed the tower alone, leaving my mum at the bottom, just as I had Alex. I wondered whether he thought the same things as I did as he rose higher and higher in the iron tower.
I also thought of my brother, who had proposed to his wife at the top of the tower when he was just 18 years old. A romantic tale to be told for years to come.
After taking far too many pictures, I made my way down the tower to reunite with Alex.
We took our selfies with the tower in the background before heading off to get some lunch. We didn’t know what kind of food we were looking for so we just wandered through the rustic Parisian streets. We walked through the Palais de Chaillot and absorbed the beauty of its gardens and fountains. With the Eiffel tower just opposite, it was the perfect spot to sit down, relax and take in some views.
After we had some lunch, from a lovely little Patisserie, we found ourselves at the Arc de Triumph. Alex decided he would climb this one with me and we reached the top in no time at all and he loved every minute of it. The views were stunning and we just couldn’t get enough of the perfectly straight roads surrounding this 214 year old building. The traffic continued to curl around us, the sounds of car horns and engines roaring added to the moment.
We continued our walk along the River Siene towards Notradame and the street markets. Walkways filled with wooden stalls containing second-hand books and handmade gifts, I was in complete heaven.
Notredame was fabulous and looked just like it does in my favourite childhood movie, ‘The Hunchback of Notredame’, complete with the gargoles. We were hypnotised by it’s beauty and so caught in the moment, we had to sit and take it in.
We continued our walk to the Padlock Bridge. We placed our padlock, signed and dated, on the bridge with thousands of others. A band played softly along the river banks as we threw our key into the river.
From here we headed to the Louvre and wandered through the parks surrounding it. Another facinating building you just have to take in for a while. Streams of water run around the base of the structure which make it a perfect spot to sit and rest your feet.
Before the day was over, I had another surprise for Alex up my sleeve, a river cruise along the River Seine, so off we went again back to the base of the Eiffel Tower to hop on board our cruise. The sun was setting over Pairs as we glided along the twinkling river Seine. The Eiffel tower sparkling in the distance. It was a brilliant way to end our busy day in Paris.
By the time we got back to the hotel, our feet were throbbing and our skin a sore shade of pink from the Parisian sun. All signs of a fabulous day. We went to sleep dreaming of what the next day had in store.
I’d seen Montmatre from the top of the Eiffel Tower and thought how stunningly beautiful it was. It turns out that Montmatre is the hill on which the building, Sacre-Coeur, sits. Sacre-Coeur is a Roman-Catholic Church.
We wandered the church grounds and were able to have a peak inside. We paid for a pass which allowed us to climb to the top of Sacre-Coeur via a winding staircase. As we wound our way to the top, it felt like the staircases would never end but eventually e emerged to breathtaking views over Paris.
We wandered the town surrounding Montmarte and enjoyed the stunning traditional Parisian streets. Our trip to Paris was short, but oh so sweet.
Accommodation is highly dependent on your personal budget and the duration of your trip. As ever, if you are only in the city for a short time, I’d suggest staying in a hostel or treat yourself to a hotel room. However, if you are staying for an extended trip, perhaps look into rending a studio apartment or a house share.
An apartment close to the city centre is currently pricing at £168 based on 2 people sharing.
A double room with private bathroom in a hotel 200m from the city centre is currently pricing at £97 based on 2 people sharing.
A bed in a hostel dorm room with shared bathroom, 1 mile from the city centre, is currently pricing at £36 based on one person.
Couch surfing is a thing in Paris – check out couchsurfing.com or take a look at their app in your app store for another budget friendly option.
(Prices sourced from Booking.com -prices are likely to rise once the Covid-19 pandemic is over)
Getting to France:
A return flight from London Gatwick is currently pricing at £62 per person.
A return journey on foot via the Eurostar is currently pricing at £29 (lowest fair available) per person.
A return journey on foot via the ferry from Dover to Calais is currently pricing at £50 per person.
(Based on travelling from UK – prices are likely to rise once the Covid-19 pandemic is over)
Getting around the city:
The travel options you have in the city centre are, the good old fashioned bus, the traditional trams, the Metro (underground) or the RER (suburban express trains). The most efficient way to get around the city is the Metro.
You can purchase the Paris Visite Pass is valid for either 1, 2, 3 or 5 days’ unlimited use on métro, suburban trains, trams and buses. Of course, the price will up depending on how many days you choose. You can by passes which cover Zone 1 to Zone 3 or Zone 1 to Zone 6. Zone 1 to 6 will get you to Disneyland Resort if you fancied a visit (I didn’t go to Disneyland so I’m unable to comment- sorry!).
If you are staying for an extended period of time, it may be worth getting a “Navigo” yearly pass or the “Carte Navigo” pass which can either be monthly or weekly.
If you’re staying for a while, why not get yourself a scooter or bicycle to ride around like a local?
I wouldn’t advise going to France if you don’t like snails and frogs legs…
…JUST KIDDING! These are mostly only served in the posh restaurants in Paris.
As I sit and type this I’m tucking into a delicious warm croissant and sipping on a luxurious freshly brewed coffee.
Of course, during any visit to France’s capital city you have to try some local delicacies.
Let me be real with you, as with most places across the globe nowadays, you can pretty much find whatever food you are craving.
That being said, please, please, please try some of the local foods and eateries. For lunch, why not head to a patisserie? Have a freshly baked baguette and a french coffee whilst you sit by the street and watch passers-by?
Enjoy a french onion soup with a side of warm freshly baked bread. Try a Croque Monsieur (a ham and french cheese toasty) or a Monte Cristo Sandwich.
Of course, for breakfast you have to have a mouthwatering freshly baked croissant or Pain au Chocolat.
Be sure to stop in and buy some macaroons during your day in the city as a quick snack. You could also stop at one of the many ice cream and/or crêpe stalls.
To give you an idea on food budgeting, a meal in a restaurant will cost you around 15 € per person. A beer will be around 6 €, a coffee around 3.50 €. and a bottle of water is around 2 €.
A meal at Mcdonalds (very backpacker friendly budget) will be around 9 €.
I think this covers almost everything but if you would like some more advice or would like to discuss anything within this travel guide, please reach out, I’d love to help!
I have to be honest, I have no idea where to start with summarising this amazing country. I guess the best place to start is the place we first touched down…
Whilst I’m being honest, I have to say that Sydney is not my favourite city in Australia. If I were to go back tomorrow, I’d probably skip it but we have spent a lot of time here and have seen everything we wanted to see. My advice to you is that you should go, after all Sydney Harbour is one of the most popular icons of Australia!
Sydney’s CBD (central business district) is great for a day of shopping and wandering around. Many of the hostels are situated near George Street which is where it is all happening, right in the city centre. The CBD comprises of mostly new buildings as the majority of the city was rebuilt and modernised.
There are some great spots within easy reach of the city and my recommendations are: –
Sydney Harbour and the rocks
Check out Sydney Harbour, the famous Sydney Opera House and Harbour bridge. You can even climb the Harbour Bridge now if you don’t mind spending a fair few $$$$.
Whilst your here head to “The Rocks” for a little dose of history, independent shops and café lined cobbold streets. I have a fantastic memory here of sitting in a french inspired café with my family who were visiting from England.
Top Tip: Check out “Wok on Inn”whilst you are in the area. Delicious street food and at a reasonable price!
Manly ferry and Manly
The Manly ferry is a great way to have a trip over the Harbour. You can see the house the Royal Family use when visiting Sydney, the beautiful beaches that line the Harbour and of course a fantastic view of the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House!
I enjoyed many runs along Manly Beach and this place will always hold a special spot in my heart. A must do if you are in Sydney!
Top Tip: Head to the Manly Wharf in the evening and enjoy a nice drink overlooking the harbour.
A great place to stay it you want to be away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, however Bondi can get very busy so to get ready to fight for a spot on this popular surf beach!
One time we were here and “Bondi Rescue” came and shot Alex (my partner) for the popular Aussie show! I was most upset that I wasn’t the “chosen one”!
Another time a shark was spotted by a surfer as it lept up and slid over his board!
There are some lovely shops, restaurants and places to stay in Bondi, check out Airbnb to get your hands on a little house rental near the coast!
Top Tip: Head down to Bondi for the sunrise, you will have the place to yourselves, aside from the odd runner!
Coogee beachand Little Bay
These beaches are a little quieter than the main Sydney beaches, especially Little Bay. You can walk along the rocks here and explore this fabulous rocky coastline. We hired a car and made a day of finding the various little hidden bays along the coats.
Top Tip: Take a nice picnic with you and stay for sunset!
If your in Sydney, why not get the train up into the mountains? Six bucks for a scenic two hour train ride into the mountains, how can you say no? Once you arrive in Katoomba, hop on a bus to see the three sisters. From here you can also head over to the steepest passenger train in the world and experience the mountains in a unique way.
Top tip: If you prefer to be away from the crowds, perhaps don’t stay at the Three Sisters for long and rather head out for a bush walk.
If surfing is your jam, definitely look into doing a surf camp. We did the Spot-X camp at Arrawarra with Mojosurf and stayed for a week in a shipping container; surfing, eating and chilling. It was unforgettable – though tough of the abs!
Top Tip: Take a wander down the beach here and check out the rock pools at low tide. Sometimes you will spot stingrays which have gathered in the rock pools waiting for the high tide to head back out into the ocean.
Byron Bay and Nimbin
We had a great time in Byron Bay. Alex is a fan of “The Inbetweeners” so we stayed at The Arts Factory, famous for being where the boys stayed in the Inbetweeners movie!
As you can see below we hired bikes and explored the beautiful Byron Coastline. We also took a trip to the town of Nimbin. A funky little town west of Byron. I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to this hippy inspired destination. You are able to buy “magic cookies” here if you know what I mean. It is highly overlooked in this little hideaway!
Top Tip: Enjoy but stay safe and go in a group!
We loved “Brissie”. We called it Melbourne’s younger sibling. Not as big as Melbourne but just as vibrant!
There is always lots happening on South bank with it’s beautiful subtropical parklands and man-made beach. A great escape on a hot summer’s day in the CBD!
We hiked up to Mt Coot-tha to get a better vantage point of the city and it did not disappoint! Stop at the top for a delicious ice cream looking over the city skyline.
Top Tip: Check out the South Bank Market
Noosa is popular among Australians. Thousands flock here for their summer holidays. Situated on the beautiful Sunshine Coast, Noosa is considered to be a millionaires playground these days. It used to be a tiny village but it grew and grew!
We very much enjoyed our time in Noosa, we didn’t have a very good hostel mind you but we made the most of it. We swam in the beautiful ocean, laid on the beach and hiked Noosa Heads and the stunning Noosa National Park. Get yourself there if you have the time. You will love the beautiful views but you may not love the high prices so much…
Top Tip: Don’t go hiking in the National Park without sufficient water… we spontaneously decided to go for a walk and ran out of water. It was not pleasant!
Oh wow. Fraser Island is probably the biggest must do in this travel guide. We had a great time driving around in our 4×4 “Harry”,along long stretches of beaches and camping in the wilderness. Watch out for the dingo’s though!
My favourite memory of Fraser is when we took off from the beach in an old propeller plane. Not everyday you use a beach as your runway! Incredible memories from this outstanding island.
Top Tip: Listen to your guides when they tell you not to wander off on your own!
Airle Beach and Whitsundays
Head to Airle Beach and book onto a live aboard Whitsundays adventure. Enjoy a BBQ on board with a beautiful sunset backdrop, snorkeling and jumping into the ocean from the yacht. Check out Whitehaven beach, with its stingrays and lemon sharks. Admire the gorgeous Hill inlet and a hike through the rainforest. If you really feel like treating yourself, book a hotel on Hamilton Island and live in a little slice of luxury for a few days.
Top Tip: Careful when swimming, I did get stung by a jelly fish here… (don’t let that stop you though!)
Further up the coast you will find Townsville. It’s here you get the ferry over to Magnetic Island, “Maggie Island”. We booked a hostel on the island and hired an open top Suzuki Vatara. We spent our days exploring the island, finding hidden beaches and enjoying the perfect island life. MAGGIE IS A MUST!
Top Tip: The rental companies can be a bit dodgy so take pictures of your rental before you take it off their hands to make sure you can’t be accused of any “damage” on return!
Most backpackers end their East Coast adventure here.
Cairns has some good nightlife and a fab fresh food market.
Cairns is a great place to take a trip to the Great Barrier Reef for some scuba diving. I’d highly recommend trying scuba diving here if you are a beginner.
I found the clarity of the water when snorkelling the reef was so much better than when we did our scuba. Perhaps something for you to think about? If money is a little tight, you could skip the scuba and just have a day of snorkelling. These reef trips usually include all your gear and a yummy lunch, trust me, you need it after all that swimming!
Top tip: Head to the market in the mornings to try the various fresh tropical fruits on offer. It makes a free delicious healthy breakfast!
This is more of a luxury holiday destination but is fabulous if you fancy a few days of laying by a pool, on a beach and just generally relaxing. We stayed here, with family, in a beautiful villa on a golf course with a private pool. We visited the Great Barrier Islands for a snorkelling adventure. Yet another unforgettable experience!
Top Tip: Head into town and try to Irish Pub (there is always an Irish Pub wherever you go!), they do great backpacker priced meals in this expensive town!
If you can afford to go just that little bit further up the East Coast, do it, you won’t regret it! The Daintree Rainforest is outstanding. We had our very own treehouse cabin and it was a superb way to experience Cape Trib.
Don’t miss ziplining through the Daintree Rainforest with Jungle Surfing – we even got my mum going upside down on the ziplines!
Top tip: Only swim where the locals advise you too and don’t go too near the shore, crocodiles are no joke!
As ever, accommodation depends on how you are travelling.
If you are travelling as a couple, it pays to look into how much a double room is compared to a dorm room in a hostel. On the most part we found, for a few extra bucks, we could enjoy a room to ourselves!
If you are travelling in a group, definitely check out Airbnb. You can split the cost of an entire place between you and end up paying less than you would for a hostel!
Top tip: I can’t stress how much it pays to check out Tripadvisor reviews before you book a place. Honestly, there is nothing better than finding out what other travellers thought of the place before you spend your valuable money on a bed for the night. You don’t want a fright when you arrive after an uncomfortable overnight coach journey!
Here is a breakdown of a tight daily budget for one person: –
Breakfast $5 – cereal at the hostel
Lunch $5 – supermarket sandwich and snacks
Dinner $15 – meal at a backpacker friendly pub or hostel restaurant
Entire place – $188 (six people sharing = $31.33 each)
There are several coach companies which offer hop on, hop off travel on the East Coast.
You have the more luxury Greyhound bus costing from $469 Sydney – Cairns or the more budget coaches at Premier Motor Servicefrom $330 Sydney – Cairns (valid for 3 months).
We used Premier Motor Service and found them to be perfectly fine. A few of our friends used Greyhound and benefited from in-seat screens, charging points and more comfortable chairs.
We didn’t feel we needed all these extras but the choice is totally yours!
Other options include: –
Buy your own camper/car (difficult to budget, you’d need tax, servicing and of course the cost of the vehicle itself)
Rent a car/camper – an expensive option but still an option!
Top tip: We planned our travel to take place overnight and we’d sleep on the coach to save money on accommodation!
This is a difficult area to budget. It really depends on how much you want to do. Are you the type to want to do everything or are you the type to do a couple of bits and then just enjoy the simple things like beach hunting and waterfall chasing?
I have summarised a few activities a below to give you an idea on the cost of these: –
Live aboard Whitsundays trip – $399 (2 days, 1 night)
Zip lining in the Daintree – £109 (Canopy tour)
This is just a few of the activities available on the East Coast, as you can tell it could end up costing you quite a bit!
Top Tip: Wait until you arrive in places to book activities where possible. You may be able to bag a bargain! For example, on Fraser we headed to the beach as the Scenic Flights landed and had a chat with the pilot, he took us up for 15 minutes for 60 bucks each!
I hope this helps with your planning guys, let me know if you have any more questions about anything and I’ll do my best to help you out!
I’ll be working on more Aussie travel guides shortly. This amazing country is too big to fit into one travel guide!
Lots of friends have been reaching out to me over the last few months asking where to start with planning the trip of a lifetime.
In these uncertain times, it may be hard to pin point when your trip will happen but if you are self isolating/working from home and need a little break from the constant news reports, why not start planning your trip for when this is all over and we can press the un-pause button on our lives again!
It takes a heap of organising and a large dash of courage to commit to a big adventure. Lots of people quit their jobs or leave uni to be able to travel and we did just that. Back in 2015, both of us were working full time (and overtime) to save every penny we could. We had enough money to put down a deposit on a house and in early 2015 we decided that we would spend it on a year long once in a lifetime trip instead.
That same trip ended up lasting four outstanding years. You could say we were bitten by the travel bug.
Anyway, you have decided to go on a trip. You may already have a list of all the countries you want to visit or you may not.
My honest opinion is that if you plan too much you actually end up depriving yourself of other opportunities. As we made our way from place to place, country to country, we added numerous places to our list just by chatting with other travellers and sharing stories with the amazing people we met along the way.
So, with that in mind…
…grab a pen and paper!
Step one – Where to go
Figure out your starting point. Which country is at the top of your bucket list? Which country is the closest to you right now and en route to where you want to end up? For example, we started in Thailand as we could hop there after a brief stop in Dubai before continuing on to Australia.
StEP TWO – FLIGHTS
Book your flights.
If you are a “travel virgin” you may feel safer booking with an travel agent. Or you may just wish to plan your flight route for now and book them a little bit further down the line.
Once you have booked your flights you should probably look into some good gap year insurance for example, True Traveller Backpacker Insurance. You can get cover for up to two years and then renew it after that if you decide to continue your journey on like we did!
STEP Three – visasand vaccinations
You need to research into visas for the country/countries you want to visit. Some countries you may not need one but it is best to triple check before stepping on the plane.
You can check the government website in your home country (the UK website is .gov.uk) for up to date information on the visa requirements for countries.
You also need to think about whether or not you need any vaccinations for your chosen countries, for example against Yellow Fever or Rabies. This information is also available on your home countries government website. Sometimes you can go to your GP for these travel vaccinations but others you may have to go privately.
STEP four – planning
Once you have your flight plan in place it is time to start thinking about your first week. When we initially left home we had only booked a week of accommodation and travel plans.
That first flight out of your home country is going to be hard, especially if you are going for an extended length of time. We sat in the airport, after waving goodbye to our families, wondering if we’d made a huge mistake.
The flight was long and uncomfortable. We didn’t know what we had gotten ourselves into and then we landed…
…we immediately felt free and happy.
Bangkok, what a place to begin. Tuk Tuk’s fly past you, hooting and the drivers yelling. Music comes from every direction and blends into one confusing melody. People stop you in the street to offer you food, massages and drinks.
We spent our first week on Thaintro. We got to see so much of Thailand during this first week. We had a night in the bustling city of Bangkok, we took an overnight train to Kao Sok National park and slept in floating bungalows. We visited Koh Pang Yan and bathed elephants. All of this before heading to the Phi Phi Islands for the second week of our trip and then on to Chang Mai to hike a mountain and stay with a mountain tribe. We had over a month in Thailand for our first stop.
This group travel experience is great if you are new to the “travel scene” and gives you a great spring board into the travel lifestyle.
Now, you have your first week sorted and your flights are booked (or planned), it’s time to get excited!
You of course need to start budgeting. Before embarking on any chapter in our trip we’d always do some research into the location and seek other travellers opinions on how to budget for that specific country.
Check out my individual travel guides for information on the cost of living in each country. These will give you an idea of what you are looking at for the cost of day to day living e.g. food, travel, excursions and accommodation.
step six – working/volunteering
If you are flying directly to a country and are hoping to find work straightaway to fund your onward travel, start hitting up the backpacker job boards such as: –
Small bottle of sun cream – you are bound to need this at some point
Hat – both a sunhat and a beanie…TRUST ME!
Reusable Water bottle – SAVE THE PLANET
Camera of some sort – even if it is just your phone, you are gonna want to take pics!
Thongs – no not those kind of thongs…flip flops silly!
Hairbands – it can get hot and sticky hiking those mountains and volcanoes
Torch – you won’t need it all the time but when you do you will be grateful for it
Laptop – to stay connected and it is also great for movie days if the weather is bad
Day Bag – essential for hiking and day to day travel life
First aid kit – with only the essentials – E.G. Anti-diarrhoea tablets, painkillers, plasters, anti-histamines etc.
Shampoo, conditioner and soap – unless you plan to buy it overseas
All electronic chargers
Hand Gel – water and soap isn’t always available
Eye patch to sleep with in hostels – trust me on this one!
Be strict on yourself here, honestly you won’t need half the clothes you think you do. We packed so much the first time around and regretted it. I was forever throwing things out in an attempt to make my bag lighter. It became a competition between my partner and I to see who’s bag was lighter on the airport check in scales!
Tops/Vests x 5
Couple of Dresses
Underwear x7 (enough to get you through a week without having to do laundry)
Hiking socks x2
Socks x5 – you will probably find you are barefoot for most of your adventure
PJ’s – essential especially if you are staying in hostels!
Raincoat – you’ll need this in the tropic too!
Warm coat – if you are headed somewhere cold
Pair of casual trainers/shoes
Journal – keep a note of your adventures, you will adore reading back on the amazing moments of your life
Lightweight yoga mat – if you are likely to continue your yoga journey during your trip
Polaroid camera – nothing better than an old fashioned Polaroid!
Make up – I hardly wore any makeup throughout our travels but you may want to take a little
Book or Kindle – my partner got me a Kindle for Christmas one year during our trip and it was the best thing he could have brought – lightweight and all my books in one place! Get on Amazon now and order yours, you won’t regret it!
Snorkel – we found so many beautiful oceans to explore
JUST BEFORE YOU GO
Be sure to notify your bank that you will be travelling overseas so they don’t block your card if they find your purchase history to be unsual. There is nothing worse than being stuck in a strange country with no access to funds!
You can load up a travel card with money if you wish. The post office in the UK provide one and most travel agents offer some sort of travel money card. We didn’t bother in the end as we just opened up a bank account in the country that we settled in for several months. We had one in both New Zealand and Australia for working purposes and used these when we travelled overseas to places like Fiji and Indonesia.
Before you head to the airport, each and every time, make sure you give someone your flight details and let them know you will be travelling. Better to be safe than sorry!
Anyway, to summarise your to do list: –
Decide on at least your first destination
Book or plan to book your flights
Get travel insurance!
Research Visas for each country
Plan your first week at least, book accommodation or book an Intro Travel tour and let them sort it for you!
Find out if you need any travel vaccinations
If you’d rather work/volunteer straight away – explore opportunities ahead of stepping on the plane
Could there be a better time to start writing about this delightfully picturesque place other than right now? You see, I’m actually here in the Lake District National Park at this very moment.
I just woke from the most delicious nap I’ve had in years. Our “cosy cabin” is warm and toasty, the logs glowing a golden orange in the wood burner. The hand built cabin is solely lit by hundreds of twinkling fairy lights. Sheep graze in the paddock below the mountain we can see from our window. A single lamb has been born, leaping and bounding beside its mother. A bird in a nearby tree hust began chirping its beautiful song. This place is perfect.
Let me just refill my G&T…
…Ahh that’s better (sorry, not sorry).
We spent the morning exploring, but regrettably, our visit has timed in with Storm Dennis hitting the UK, just one week after Storm Ciara. We did manage to visit our first “lake” here in the Lake District, that being Coniston Water, the 5th largest body of water in the national park.
As the harsh wind began to slow and the rain began to ease, we wound our way along the winding single track country lanes. In the distance we spotted a racing waterfall and had to find it. We drove straight through the town, eyes on our prize at the end of the waterfall. We found a, rather muddy, spot to ditch our car (poor Whinne! (that’s her name)) and we chucked on our boots. We found a gate which led into a small boggy paddock and followed the sound of rushing water. We had to stop when our path was interrupted by a locked gate. Of course, it didn’t stop us, “we’ll have to hop it”, Alex asserted, leading the way. We emerged from a group of trees and sure enough, we found the bottom of this tremendous waterfall. It flowed rapidly into a stream which we followed right down to Coniston Water. We followed the path by the shoreline for a while, the rain started falling heavily again and the wind forced small waves against the shore. We watched as the ducks and swans rode the waves by the ‘Bluebird Café’.
We sought shelter in the café for a while. We had a spot of lunch and a cuppa to warm up from the storm outside. Alex, predictably, had the gourmet burger and I had a warming brie and cranberry toasty. The food was lovely but I was a little disappointed to find that it wasn’t barista made coffee, they had one of the automated machines which can make any coffee the customer desires. It was a very busy café, so I can see why they use these, but I think it would really compliment the superb location of this café to have freshly made coffee onsite. With that being said, do visit the Bluebird Café for a quick bite after a morning of waterfall chasing or walking through the fells. They have a wide menu and lots of delicious homemade cakes to choose from.
We took a slight detour on the way home, instead of following the main road, we decided to take a super steep road up on to a mountain. The view was incredible. Sometimes we find it is totally worth going off the main track to find something superb for yourself. We followed the little road and, as it turned out, it ended up looping back around and sending us home anyway (rather handy!).
I then took my delicious nap, falling asleep to the pitter patter of raindrops on the roof, the wind howling around us. Alex is now taking a bath in the free-standing tub we have here at the cabin. We have decided we NEED one in our house when we finally get one!
I enjoyed the bath last night after we had unpacked for our stay and had eaten some beef stew I’d prepared earlier that day. I heated some freshly baked rolls in the wood burner and we dipped them in our hot stew. Delish. I read some of my new book, “Postscript” by Ceila Ahern, which I’m actually going to go and read some of now.
Moral of today; be spontaneous, explore where you ordinarily wouldn’t and go find something magical!
This morning I woke naturally to the sound of a bird chirping outside the little window in “hobbit hole”.
Alex laid next to me, still snoozing away. I rose quietly, grabbed my book and a cuppa and headed outside onto the veranda. I sat there, watching the same little lamb I’d watched yesterday, enjoyed my hot cup of English Breakfast Tea and read my little heart away. It wasn’t raining and the air was cold. The wind slowly began to pick up and before long my hands were getting cold. I decided to sneak back into the cabin and hop back into the warm bed!
After breakfast we got ourselves ready for the day, loaded the fire and headed out the door. Our first stop was the largest lake here in the national park Windermere. We navigated our way through floods of water in the roads. The east side of the national park had had a lot more rain than we had received in the west.
Upon arriving in Windermere, we were greeting by hundreds of other tourists, a little off putting but we continued on. I’d found a walk called “Orrest Head” and we were determined to do a few walks this trip despite the cold wintery weather! We left the car in a lay-by we found along the main road (A591 ), a little way up from the Windermere Hotel, and walked back towards the footpath.
You initially start in a grassy, yet muddy, paddock. Climb the hill right to the top (don’t forget to look behind you a few times, the view is lovely!), keep to the left by the fence line, you will come to a gate leading into a forested area. Follow this track, if there has been rain recently, this track can turn into a stream of running water so go prepared (wear your walking boots!). You will come to a turning gate and at this point you want to turn left and head up the mossy wall, rather than following the track straight. Keep following the wall until the track starts to decline. Here you will be greeted with another lovely view of Windermere. You will see another track leading further up the hill. You will know once you have reached the top. Beautiful panoramic views across lake Windermere with Scarfell pike, Bowfell and various other peaks in the backdrop. Rather nice if you ask me.
This is a great walk if you have small children, dogs or you are just bringing the family along after a morning shopping in town. It probably took us around 40 minutes there and back I’d say, maybe a bit more if you included stopping to take pictures and admiring the view.
The wind was very intense on our way down but the sun had also begun to shine so we were enjoying ourselves. We stopped at the top of the big hill and tried to let the wind catch us as we leant back into the strong gusts. It was great fun, our little “5 year old moment” as Miranda Hart would say!
From Windermere, we drove north to Ambleside, parked the car and took to exploring the little town. There are many shops, cafés and restaurants here. Our main reason for being here was to visit a waterfall I’d found on googlemaps. We had no idea what it looked like but thought ‘hey, why not?’.
We sneaked into the cosy Ambleside Tavern for a gravy dinner to warm our bones for another chilly walk! The food was good, it was busy but a nice retreat away from the bitter wind outside. After we’d finished lunch, and our cheeky beverages, we headed toward the waterfall track. There are some lay-bys here to park in but your best bet is to just park in a pay and display car park as you only get an hour in the laybys. To park in these you also need a special disk from one of the shops or hotels (I think they are free but not worth it if you aren’t there for very long!). To find the walk, head into the town centre and find the signposted public toilets. From here you will find yourself on ‘Cheapside Road’, follow the single track road up the hill and follow the “waterfalls this way” signs. You can’t really get lost from here!
We loved this waterfall and the fact that you could walk around the entire thing and cross the bridge at the very top was a bonus! The waterfall itself was racing, I think the recent rain storm helped!
I think this walk took us around an hour at a very leisurely pace, another good one for families but do remember your walking boots! We saw some people bringing their children in brand new white trainers – not ideal on this muddy track!
A big storm cloud had crept its way over us whilst we had been beneath the trees. Spots of rain began to fall so we took that as our cue to be heading back to the car. After we nipped into Tesco to top up our supplies, we followed our instincts along the little cobbold streets back towards the car. On the way I spotted a “proper” coffee machine inside Café Ghandi, so I snuck in for a sneaky coffee to enjoy on the way home. MY FIRST REAL COFFEE OF THE TRIP! It was very enjoyable and I must say the food in Café Ghandi smelt absolutely delicious. It is a vegan and vegetarian café, serving meals, coffee and delicious homemade cakes! A real little treat hidden away down a street called “The Slack” in Ambleside.
The rain really started to come down as we ran towards the car. We had done a complete circuit of Windermere up to Ambelside and were now headed back towards Coniston Water. The roads are really exciting but you have to keep your wits about you as you never know what is around the bend!
As we drove, the sun was setting and the rain in the distance was causing a strange yellow haze across the sky. It was an almost ‘end of the world’ type of scene. We drove onwards, towards the farm and as we did so a huge ominous cloud hung over us. Ahead though, all we could see was a beautiful blue sky and the sun starting to set over a mountain in the distance. When we arrived at the gate of the farm, Alex turned to me, “Shall we go up there?”, he pointed to the mountain that stood tall next to us. I looked and shrugged my shoulders, “Why not?”.
We followed the winding single track as it twirled up the mountain side. Eventually we found a spot to abandon the car. We ran across the road, which was flowing with fresh rainwater, and ran up to the peak. It wasn’t a huge mountain but it was big enough. We could see the west coastline, the mountains in the distance and the sun was still just peaking behind them.
It was incredible. The wind howled around us, Alex almost lost his beanie. We giggled like little kids and grinned until our cheeks ached. It felt so liberating. This is what we live for, moments just like this. Spontaneous and exiting. Breathtaking and beautiful.
During our travels around the world, we did things like this almost everyday.
It is hard to describe the yearning we feel. It’s like our minds are trapped in another moment, another life.
We crave exploration. Our bodies and minds need that freedom. It is almost as if we are grieving for the past 4 years. Those moments are gone. Those days are over. I won’t lie, it is really difficult to deal with emotionally.
Having said that, it was there, on that mountain top as we watched the sun disappear, that we realised we still have so many more memories to make. So many more moments to capture. We have so many dreams and so many plans. We need to stop being sad that the past 4 years are over and start looking to the future. Start planning our next adventures. Start getting excited about what is to come, rather than wishing we could go back to those wonderful moments in our past.
That moment left us feeling so grateful for the future and that we have each other.
As the night sky drew in, we drove back to the farm, the smile still painted on our faces. We just felt so happy.
We woke to the sounds of the birds outside our window again. Alex turned to me “Happy Anniversary!”.
Seven years together, four of which were spent living constantly on the road in each others pockets every day. It must be love, ha!
We had breakfast and got out earlier today. We were headed back to Coniston Water to climb ” The Old Man of Coniston”. The drive was so peaceful (everybody must have been in bed) as we glided around those country lanes. It was oddly relaxing and therapeutic. So much so we didn’t want to stop driving once we’d arrived. We just wanted to carry on driving, have you ever felt that way before?
We parked the car in the lower Walna Scar (click the link for a google map) carpark, pulled on our boots and started the climb. It was an almost vertical track right from the word go. We made our way up, slowly, taking in the sound of the stream which ran beside us. We found a little cave and stopped to have a peek!
Once you reach the top of the hill you come to a stile, hop over and continue through the paddock, shutting any gates behind you (sheep graze these fields). Eventually, you will come to a little stream with a bridge across it, very picturesque. The track is rugged and muddy. It will lead you around the side of hill/mountain that over looks the town of Coniston.
You will come to a road but we continued on the muddy track which led up and over another hill towards “The Old Man of Coniston”. On our approach we noticed that a dark cloud was hugging the entire peak. Despite this, we continued on.
The track begins to climb again and the wind started to pick up. You will meet another track which also leads to the summit. Keep following it up, you can’t go wrong.
The higher you get, the more slate you will start to see. The track becomes rough and the slate is loose under your feet (careful you don’t slip on the way back down).
You meet the old slate mine about half way up. The iron machinery looks as though it has just been left in a hurry. Sad really, what we have done to our planet.
We found an awesome tunnel though. We were so tempted to go inside but decided against it as the weather wasn’t really our friend today. Further up, if you come off the trail a little you will come across a big cave. You can see it was made from an explosion by how the rocks are situated. We did have a little wander through this, we couldn’t help ourselves, curiosity took over.
I always find it amazing how nature finds a way in these dark caves. Beautiful green plants grew on the side of the rocks creating a beautiful image.
We continued our journey upwards. The weather getting increasingly worse. The wind at this point was powerful. The clouds rushed past us. Alex almost lost his beanie AGAIN.
We stopped along the way to chat to fellow hikers. One man warned us not to go to the summit. He said he had to literally hold his dog down so that he didn’t fly off the edge. He told us that there was no visibility from the top and it was simply dangerous to be up there. We’ve had a similar experience before in New Zealand, during the Tongariro Apline Crossing, but that’s a story for another day!
We were determined to at least reach the tarn near the peak so we continued on. The weather deteriorating further the higher we climbed. The wind blew us every which way but we made it. The view was totally worth it. We sat behind a rock to shelter from the extreme wind and soaked up the view whilst having a little snack. We managed to sit here for around 3 minutes before got too cold and had to get moving again. We spotted some snow a few feet away. Yep, it was that cold!
We looked above us and the dark cloud looked even worse, we thought it was best we turned around and started heading down. We didn’t fancy a repeat of Tongariro.
Of course it is always nice to reach the summit but, if it isn’t safe, is it really worth it? We’ve climbed many mountains and I’m sure we will climb many more, it didn’t matter that we didn’t reach the top today. We still thoroughly enjoyed our walk in the mountains.
When we got back to our cosy little cabin, we had a yummy Whittard Hot Chocolate stick with marshmallows and a cheeky pot noodle (camping fave) to warm us up. This sent us into a kind of warm coma and we ended up having an afternoon nap. Living the life of luxury this trip aren’t we!
Of course, being our anniversary, we headed out to a local pub for dinner later that evening. We actually went back into Coniston to the Yewdale Inn. It was nice and relaxing. The food was just okay but it was nice to not have to cook. I did try some delicious gin though. Distilled in the Lake District, The Lakes Gin is definitely worth a try if you are in the area!
Our final day, boo!
We had to set an alarm this morning but even so, laid there for an extra 30 minutes, not wanting to leave the warm cosy bed behind.
I ended up getting up first, Alex continued to snooze for another 45 minutes, whilst I made a cuppa and sat outside reading again.
I couldn’t concentrate on my book much, I just kept looking at the wonderful view and wishing we could stay!
Once we’d got dressed and packed up, we made our last breakfast in the Cabin. Delicious bacon and eggs – yes please!
Time flew by and before long it was 11am and we had to check out.
We are a little weird and always say goodbye to the places we stay (it’s become a habit!), so we said our goodbyes and drove away.
Deciding to head out of the national park a different way, we drove up the other side of the mountain which overlooked the farm and enjoyed the glorious views one last time.
A last minute decision took us to Bowness-on-Windermere and this is when the rain started to hammer down. This rain was the worst we’d had all weekend! We had a quick look around, I managed to get a beautiful card to send to the farm we worked on in Australia and we got a drink for the road! There are lots of shops, cafés and even arcades here, so plenty to keep you busy!
The journey home took us 9 hours because we got stuck in standstill traffic on the A1. Luckily, we had the podcast, Casefile, to keep us busy! Definitely worth a listen guys, we are addicted to these true crime cases.
If you have any questions about the places mentioned in this post, please contact me on here or on Instagram @love.travel.and.coffee, I’d love to hear from you.
In 2015, when we initially left the UK, Thailand was our first destination.
We landed in the craziness of Bangkok and immediately felt free and happy. What a place to begin. Tuk Tuk’s flying past you, hooting their horns and the drivers yelling in a language foreign to your ears. Music coming from every direction, blending into one confusing melody.
If this is also your first trip to Thailand, I’d thoroughly recommend the Thaintro experience, especially if you are travelling alone to begin with. It is a great way to meet like-minded people and see the beautiful parts of Thailand.
We are still in touch with many of the people we met on our first visit to Thailand, some of which we have gone on to meet up with in various other countries around the world.
Head over to theIntro Travel website to view their itineraries.
If that beach life is your jam, get on the train to Hua Hin. You can pick up a ticket for next to nothing from Bangkok station and you will be at the beach in under two hours. We got ourselves a sweet hostel (I’ll mention it in the accommodation section below) in the mountains. They organised scooter hire for us and we zipped around on that for days. We took ourselves off to secluded beaches, hiked up to Buddhist temples in the hills and found some amazing food markets. Our time in Hua Hin was kind of like our “holiday within a holiday”. We wanted to relax and enjoy ourselves without rushing on to the next place. We ate pretty cheaply to be honest. We ate from the local markets, found little restaurants and the hostel sometimes did homemade pizza.
If you are in Hua Hin, I’d give the “Venice of Thailand” a miss at Venezia Hua Hin. I mean it is fine, it makes a good visit but it is kind of a waste of money.
I’d definitely pay a visit to Rajabhakti Park. The park honours the past Thai kings from the Sukhothai period to the current royal house of Chakri. It is pretty impressive. Ladies, make sure you wear something below the knee and take a sarong to cover your shoulders. It is a really open place and there isn’t a lot of shade so take plenty of suncream, water and make sure you have a hat!
Don’t miss the beach at Khao Tao. Monks walk along the beach here and it is a truly peaceful place. If you go a little further, down a strange little dirt track and follow your google maps for Pak Nam Pran beach, you can also find a Buddhist temple in the hills from here. Park your bike in the alley by the beach, turn left and then walk along the coast line. You will come across a strange wooden mermaid statue and beyond this there is a pathway leading up into the hills. Follow the path and you will emerge at the temple with a huge gold statue of Buddha.
Whilst you are in Khao Tao, grab dinner at Remember café (click the link for a google map to the café). We had such a friendly welcome, a delicious meal and bonus, we got to pet some beautiful kittens!
Lastly, please check out this new café called Ninepun Café, Hua Hin. Western style coffee’s and cake in a tropical paradise. Perfect for those days that you just need a little slice of home (we all have them!).
Koh Pha Ngan
We adored the little island of Koh Pha Ngan. Intro Travel own a resort on the island and you can stay here in your own little bungalow with an infinity pool right on the beach. After a few weeks of “roughing it” in dorm rooms and on overnight trains, you will love this little break on a tropical island. It was magical for us.
Spend your days swimming in the ocean, bathing elephants, riding around in the back of a truck to explore the island and generally soaking in your surroundings.
Koh Pha Ngan is the home of the famous Thai Full Moon Parties. Don’t panic if your trip doesn’t tie in with the full moon, the island hold half moon parties and all other type of party they can think of. You won’t miss out on the buckets of various spirits and fire dancing – DON’T WORRY!
If you choose to use Thai Intro, the resort has a delicious menu for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacking. They also have a fabulous stock of cocktails for those lazy afternoons hanging around in the hammocks at the beach.
Go on, treat yourself to a visit to this superb island.
Khao Sok National Park
As we emerged sleepily off of the overnight train from Bangkok, we had no idea were we were heading. We were shuttled onto a bus, then onto a boat, half way during which, we were told we could plunge into the deep waters of the Khao Sok National Park. I have to admit this was pretty fun. I remember, every one was climbing up this little island, scrabbling up to the top of a tree and then jumping in.
I have to say I was much larger back in 2015. I had very little confidence in myself (body and mind) and then I had this profound moment, I thought to myself, “I am here right now, I have this opportunity to be whoever I want to be, transform into that person I dream of being, just do it!”. So, I did it and it was the most freeing moment of my life. We only have this one life, live it!
From here, the boat took us to the foating bungalows. We each had our own floating bungalow which was nothing more than a mattress on a wooden floor, but to us it was perfect. You open your bungalow door and all you can see ahead of you is sparkling water, limestone cliffs and palm trees. I mean, does it get any better than that?
We had our meals in a communal hut and then we had a “pool party”, alcohol was flowing around the group and there may have been a bit of skinny dipping in this private slice of paradise (shh! It’s all part of the experience!)
Get yourself out there, experience Khao Sok and all of its magnificent beauty for yourself.
Phi Phi and “the beach”
Next on the list is the Phi Phi Islands. I have mixed reviews about these islands. Upon arriving you are charged a “clean up fee”, however, after stepping foot on the island it was clear that this fee is not used to clean up the island. This was in 2015, all these years later they may have managed to clean the place up however, it was heart breaking to us to see the main island in a mess.
Make sure that you hike up to the view point at the top of Phi Phi Island. It is a pretty special view. We spent hours up there waiting for the sun to set, taking in the incredible views, feelings as though we were the only two people in the world.
The surrounding islands, from what we saw, were beautiful. They had those beautiful crystal clear waters you dream of and the golden sand from the postcards. We visited a few of the islands on a day trip. There are many trips and islands to choose from ranging from half a day, full day and up to several days.
Our highlight for the Phi Phi Islands was visiting the beach on which they filmed the Leonardo Dicaprio movie “the beach” (one of my favourites, I have to admit, don’t judge me!). The real name of this place is ‘Maya Bay’. At this time the bay was open to the public but, I believe now, in order to preserve this slice of paradise they have closed this off.
We had the absolute pleasure of doing a sleep aboard trip. We arrived in the mid afternoon, enjoyed the sunshine, some snorkeling with reef sharks and then, as all the other tours left the beach, we took kayak’s to the shore. We had the entire beach to ourselves. We built a little camp fire, the BBQ was fired up and we all dipped our toes in those magnificent waters.
When the sun had set on that fabulous day in December, after a delicious Thai BBQ, we headed back through the trees and onto the beach. Here we were treated to a lovely show of light under the water. Plankton live in these waters, they glow brightly once the sun has disappeared and the water sparkles beautifully. You may recall in the movie “The Beach” there is a romantic scene in which they show the plankton. I mean, it isn’t as magical as they make it out to be in the movie but in real life it is still an pretty amazing experience.
Well. I have to say Chiang Mai was probably th best part of our first trip to Thailand in 2015. You see, here, you can really see the traditional side of Thailand. Not too many tourists venture up to the north. It was here that we discovered getting off the beaten track really is worth it.
We met one of our closest backpacker friends (Helen) in the airport upon landing here. The airline had lost her backpack, she took it on the chin (she is amazing!) and we made sure she was okay after we got to the hostel. We also met several other people in our hostel who made our trip that little bit more special.
Before long we were all set to hike up in the mountains together, Alex, Helen, our new friends and myself. We hiked up one day, stayed overnight in a little traditional Thai mountain village and then after breakfast with the villagers the next day we headed back down. As you can imagine, this was a life changing experience and I still think about how it made me feel today.
On the way up, our guide made us bamboo cups and chop sticks to eat our rice and chicken with for lunch. This was all served in a bamboo leaf (cool right?). I won’t lie to you, it was a tough hike. I started at the back but before long I was at the front with Helen (our new friend) and we were chatting away as we walked through the tall tree’s and crossed rivers on fallen tree trunks. We were greeted by the village upon arrival and assigned our mattresses for the night. We all slept in one hut but there were curtains to give us a little privacy. We had a wonderful dinner with the people who lived in the village and our guide told us stories around the fire.
When we arose, from a rather chilly slumber, the fire was still smouldering. One of the women in the village poked the fire and I watched as the warm embers floated into the sky. She popped a cast iron kettle on top and we waiting for it to boil. We had rice for breakfast and a cup of Thai Tea. After this, we gathered our belongings and began heading down the mountain. We did not walk the same way back as we did there. Along the way we were treated to some waterfalls and the pleasure of visiting another village. Alex and I asked if it was okay to give our hiking sweets to the children. Their faces lit up with complete and utter happiness. It was a magical moment. The hike down was long and tough on the knees but we made it. The van collected us and returned us to the city.
If you like the sound of this absolutely amazing experience, I recommend it highly. It is a truly eye opening experience. My brother once told me, “people don’t want to hear about how you stayed in a 5* hotel. They want to hear about how you trekked a mountain, didn’t shower for a week and walked into a casino in clothes you’d worn for your entire trip”, or words to that effect. My brother did those exact things on his trek to Base Camp Everest during his charity expedition for the British Heart Foundation. So there you go, push outside of your comfort zone and go an experience something incredible!
Lastly, you should spend time getting your Padi diving qualification in Kao Tao. Friends of ours did this and we highly wish we had too. You can do it here for one of the cheapest prices in the world. Then, you can dive your way around the world during the rest of your trip!
Food and drink is very cheap in most parts of Thailand. I would be careful of the street food/market food, but do try some, just be smart about which stalls you go too. Hua Hin has a fabulous market called the “Cicada Market”, this is a fabulous place to get a cheap meal with a great atmosphere.
During guided hikes, your guide will often cook meals for you in bamboo leaves. Our guide in Chiang Mai even made us bamboo cups and chopsticks for our meal. We used these throughout the rest of our overnight hike in the mountains.
If you fancy trying some different foods, why not try scorpion? I ate a scorpion claw. As you can see it took a lot of guts (and alcohol) but I did it. It tasted similar to bacon to be fair to you. Try it my loves, as I’ve said before, you only live once!
The cheapest alcohol you can get is probably good ol “Chang” . It is a very refreshing beer and accompanies a Pad Thai extremely well!
Transport, trips and excursions
People will always try to sell you additions to your trip and sometimes over charge you. Shop around and get a feel for the going prices. You can always barter the price down for most things. We found the easiest way to explore Asian Countries was by moped. Hire one for around 120 Baht a day (£3.00) and a tank of fuel is as cheap as chips. Again, use common sense here, go for a shop with relatively new bikes so that you know it isn’t going to conk out on you half way down a bumpy dirt track as you attempt to get to a secluded beach an hour from the city.
In Thailand you will find most of the places you stay in will be “Guest Houses”. To be fair to you, Thailand is cheap enough that you can splash out on a double room with an en suite and still be within your accommodation budget.
The best site we found for Thailand is my trusty favourite booking.com. We occasionally used Trivago and Expedia as well. We found the hostel in Hua Hin, The Bike Loft, on booking.com and I have to say it was probably one of the best we have ever stayed in. A really lovely family run hostel. The owners would honestly do anything for you. We wanted to live there!
The most important tip I can give you is, before booking any hotel, Tripadvisor it first. It really pays to check out the reviews of other travellers. You can see photos of the property from the perspective of other guests (not just the hotels staged photos!). Tripadvisor is also really good for restaurant and tour reviews. We use it so much during our travels. It was SO HELPFUL!
So, what are you waiting for? Get planning your dream adventure to THAILAND!