Archives for January 2015
One of the most scenic places I have ever been in the world just so happens to be in my back garden of the South Island in New Zealand. Having never been to the South Island until 2012 (I know I’m a bad kiwi) I was totally blown away by the scenery, I always expected it to be good but after leaving Christchurch and driving south to Lake Tekapo and then on to Queenstown I managed to see some of the most rugged but beautiful landscape in the world.
After leaving rainy Christchurch we headed south towards Lake Tekapo. On the way to Tekapo there were mountains, rolling hills, trickles of snow and literally no cars in sight. With a quick pit stop in Ashburton on the way it was an easy three and a half hour journey to Lake Tekapo.
Approaching Lake Tekapo was one of my favourite parts of the journey as it had just started to snow and it was all foggy, not great driving conditions but knowing that a beautiful lake and snow capped mountains awaiting me I couldn’t wait to get there.
After spending the night in Lake Tekapo we got back on the road and headed south for our final destination of Queenstown. With the Southern Alps close by it was always going to be a stunning journey, after meeting a girl in Fiji a couple of weeks before she told us we had to go to the clay cliffs somewhere in the south island. We didn’t think anything of it until we saw a tiny sign post for the clay cliffs, we did some off road driving for about 30 minutes to finally find them (we think). It was such an eerie location and again with no cars in sight we quickly got back on the road before we got stuck in the mud. These strange structures are like nothing I had seen before but it is well worth the pit stop on the way but maybe research it better than I did!
There were crystal clear water in the lakes and snow capped mountains as far as the eye could see. To be honest there were just too many spots to stop and take pictures we had to stop as we were spending so much time stopping to get those iconic images of New Zealand’s rugged landscape.
The landscape became more rugged as we hit the area leading up to Cadrona, Wanaka and finally Queenstown. The fog was overwhelming and the rolling hills were never ending, the cars were becoming more frequent which meant we were definitely on the right track to Queenstown (phew).
Before we knew it we were in the picturesque town of Wanaka where in the winter months ski and snowboarders flock to and in the summer months water sports are the main attraction. Along with brilliant walks and incredible views Wanaka is a great little spot if Queenstown gets too much.
The final stop before Queenstown was the iconic Cardrona Hotel, it is iconic for us kiwis but probably unrecognisable for anyone else. The Cadrona Hotel was used for advertising purposes for the kiwi beer Speights and there are also replicas of the building in Auckland that are now pubs. Cardrona was a gold rush town back in the 1860’s but is now more of a stop off point as it is just 40 minutes from Queenstown.
The final descend to Queenstown is nothing short of magnificent as you can see in the pictures below. The snowy mountains, the rolling hills mean that Lord of the Rings scenes coming flashing into your brain and you soon realise why New Zealand was the only place to truly bring the masterpiece to life.
They say it’s about the journey not the destination but in this instance I was pretty happy with both!
Have you done the scenic drive from Christchurch to Queenstown?
We came to Hamburg via train from Cologne. The train journey was a breeze and with first class tickets it was certainly one of the better train journeys I have taken. We got to the main station and with a quick chat at the information desk we were on our way to our hostel Superbude in St Georg. After a 20 minute walk from the station I was very puzzled, I hadn’t seen an old town, I had seen a lot of factory type buildings and I was walking along a highway, I feared I was in the wrong place but sure enough the hostel appeared and we checked in to one of the coolest places I have ever stayed (more on this place to come).
We met our friends in the common room and after a catch up we were told to hit the shops as everything was about to close….for the next three days! We couldn’t believe it and after a mad dash at the super market and being shouted at in German multiple times we had stocked up on booze, crackers, cheese and pretzels, it was always going to be an interesting Christmas.
Once all of our group via New York, London and Abu Dhabi arrived we headed straight for the Christmas markets only to find EVERYTHING was closed! We couldn’t believe it but luckily we did find a tiny little shack selling gluhwein and in cute little boot cups too. We stopped and had our drinks before heading back to the hostel for a good old Christmas Eve knees up!
We played a hilarious game for secret santa. Basically you bring three gifts along and place them all on a table. There are two dice circulating and every time someone rolls a six you get to take a gift from the middle. This goes on until all the gifts are taken from the middle, at this point everyone had a gift BUT the next part of the game is the really fun part. There is a timer set for five minutes, during this time if you roll a six you get to steal some one else’s gift. We kind of took over the common room with this game, there was a lot of shouting, laughing and gift stealing going on but it was so much fun and I was the lucky one who ended up with five gifts! Good haul indeed.
We then spent the time opening our gifts and laughing at the hilarious secret santa presents. Ranging from a lovely packet of penis pasta to a mug and hot chocolate set. I was lucky enough to score a hat, an everlasting gob stopper, a cigar, a panda lunchbox and the mug. Once the gift giving was over and it was party time! Hamburg hostel style.
Once Christmas day rolled around we were all a little worse for wear, we had a table booked for 2pm for Christmas lunch. This was a restaurant called Frau Moeller in St Georg area and was kindly booked for us by the hostel. We all ate a range of meals for Christmas lunch and shared stories of the previous nights antics. Christmas evening was spent at the hostel in our Xmas jumpers drinking and eating before all retiring.
The following day we all headed out for a walk around Hamburg because at this point all we had seen was the inside of the hostel mainly! So we strolled for a good few hours around the city and through the lovely park of Planten un Blomen. The place was pretty much deserted but it was a beautifully clear day and the sun was shining.
The river was frozen too which was to all of us kiwis amazement!
Our group dwindled later that day so to keep our spirits up (and our toes warm) we went to Hofbraeuhaus so the boys could get their stein and pork knuckle fix. Only then did I really feel like I was in Germany (what a tourist). The surroundings were made to feel like a beer hall in Munich and the music was hilarious. Most of the boys got pork knuckle and a stein, I opted for half a chicken and a smaller beer. All the meals were good from all accounts and the beer gave us the courage to venture outside again and to the Christmas markets.
Our favourite market was the one along the lake, we got there and went straight for the gluwhein and eggnog to warm our tummies. At this point it was pretty freezing! After all of the drinkies we jumped into a cab and headed for the Reeperbahn.
The Reeperbahn is the red light district in Hamburg and I personally hated it! It was dirty, full of nasty looking people and crappy bars. But it has a fair bit of history with the Beatles playing over 300 gigs here! We had a quick drink on the main strip before finding a much cooler bar closer by.
On our final day we headed firstly to the Photography Museum which had an excellent exhibition titled ‘Eyes Wide Open’ which was a celebration of 100 years of Leica. There was some incredibly iconic pieces in the exhibition and it was a real joy to see. My friend Jess blogged about it here. Next it was on to the Warehouse District ‘Speicherstadt’ which is located in the port of Hamburg. The area has recently been redeveloped and I really enjoyed walking around and looking at these unique buildings. A lot of the buildings reminded me of St Pancras station in London. We stopped at the lovely restaurant of Schones Lebeen for lunch and everything that we ordered was delicious.
Our last stop was a cute little coffee shop called Lohas Coffee for breakfast near our hostel. I chose to have one more hot chocolate before leaving as the Germans really do know how to make a good one!
Before we knew it it was time to go home. Even though most things were closed during our stay in Hamburg and the big Christmas market in the main square didn’t even open whilst we were there, we had a very festive and fun break with our friends.
Dusseldorf was a great little day trip that we took from Cologne, it was only a 20 minute train journey from the main station in Cologne. Once there the main town is about a 15 minute walk from the station. On first glance I realised that Dusseldorf was already a much bigger place than Cologne and when we found the main shopping street it was big brands the whole way – Gucci, LV, Chanel you name it they were all there.
Eager to get off the main street we found a Christmas market quickly and went in to grab some food, I had a nutella and banana crepe (my first of the trip) and it was so good! It was much colder in Dusseldorf and we soon found out why as the Rhine was very close by and we went to check it out.
The houses on the other side of the river were cute pastel colours and oddly there was a whole bunch of sheep grazing there as well. The whole area along the river was dead when we were there but I can imagine in the summer months it is absolutely buzzing as there are open air bars all along the river.
There were a few Christmas markets in Dusseldorf but they had nothing on the ones in Cologne! We spent a lot of time just walking around the old town but because it was so cold we were in desperate need of a bar to stop and have a drink at. We finally found the street where all the bars were located!
We found ourselves at a great little Irish pub called Fatty’s where we spent the afternoon warming up with Guinness and Magner’s Cider. The boys also had burgers from Beef Brother’s which was a burger joint in both Dusseldorf and Cologne. The lads were happy with their burgers and they could sit in the pub and wait whilst the burgers were being cooked. We really wanted to go to a German beer hall but most of them were seated restaurants with a small drinking area that all were full up. After sinking a few pints we decided to head back to Cologne, at the train station we were informed that we could actually purchase a group return train ticket that was actually cheaper than the single tickets were purchased on the way out. So sometimes it does pay to check at the information counter rather than going straight to the ticket machine.
We all enjoyed our day trip to Dusseldorf and I would love to see what this place is like during the summer months.
Hello lovely people
I thought I would update you all on a few changes that are happening on this little blog of mine over the next few months.
First of all I am finally making the move from blogger to wordpress. I feel like it is the right time for me to move over as blogger has been great but it’s time to move on to bigger and hopefully better things! I can’t even discuss the move as so far it has been awful, I suck at computers! But soon enough it will be all done.
The month of February will be all about the places I travelled to before I started this blog back in 2010. I lived in Thailand for a year and also travelled throughout South East Asia and I never got to share these adventures so look out for all of these in February.
In May it will be my five year London anniversary! I can’t quite believe it myself, so during the month of May I will be sharing my best London memories. There have been so many and I can’t wait to write about them and share with you.
I thought I would also try something new on the blog – guest posts! So if you think you could write a post about a trip you took in South East Asia or would like to share one of your favourite London memories please get in touch with me via email, I would love to hear from you! email@example.com
I look forward to all the new changes and I hope you all do too. I am loving blogging at the moment and it is all down to you lovely readers who tweet, message and comment so thank you!
I visited beautiful Barcelona in April 2013 and totally fell in love with the place. I love the tapas, sangria and Gaudi but most of all I loved the La Sagrada Familia. This has to be seen to be believed, although it is unfinished and there are cranes literally everywhere it is a sight to behold.
La Sagrada is a UNESCO world heritage site and was designed by the famous Gaudi. Construction of the La Sagrada Familia church began in 1882 and it is now expected to be finished in 2026 which will be 100 years after Gaudi’s death.
If you think it is impressive from the outside you haven’t seen anything yet! The inside is just so spectacular. After spending about half an hour just looking up at the amazing church we decided to go up it. For the price of €18.50 we went inside and to the top of the La Sagrada Familia and I am so pleased we did we the view was gorgeous over Barcelona.
We caught a lift to the top and walked down via the stairs to get this view. The contrast between the blue ocean from Barceloneta beach and the bright orange views was so interesting and it was really good to see the sprawling city of Barcelona from above. If you are in Barcelona first of all go inside the church and if you can get up to the top as the view really is brilliant!
There is more information on La Sagrada Familia’s website and I would recommend pre booking during peak summer as the lines were very long.
Next weeks ‘View from the top’ comes from Nice in France. The view over the French Riviera town is super spectacular.
Previous posts in this series: