Wanderlist: Island hopping in Indonesia

23rd June 2016

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So you wanna go island hopping in Asia and the Pacific? Well, Malaysia may seem an obvious choice, or possibly French Polynesia if you can afford it, but Indonesia is really where it’s at – mainly because I know they do mean bami and nasi.

Bali is ridiculously popular, but I would love to see the dozens of hidden islands around it. Who knew an hour-long plane flight could transport you to a whole different world? Heading there and booking on the fly is the adventurous route, but it’s smarter to at least book ahead some hotels and flights, check Traveloka for flights between the different islands.

Now – time for my Indonesia island hopping wanderlist…

Experience the closest thing that comes to Jurassic Park meets Game of Thrones at The Komodo National Park, which is home to the Komodo dragon, the world’s largest lizard. This dragon breathes no fire, but is 4 meters long and only found in wild in this very spot. They look way better than the computer generated dragons on TV too, though I’m not sure they’d be happy letting you ride them around a la Khaleesi. It’s apparently also an excellent diving spot, which could be a possible escape route if the dragons get a bit too hungry…

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Bali is obviously for sun, sea, surfing and trying to find yourself. But I would love to be there around Galungan, which is a Balinese holiday celebrating the victory of good over evil which marks the time when the ancestral spirits head down for their version of spring break on Earth. The last day of the celebration is Kuningan, when they return. The festival occurs every 210 days and lasts for 10 days. During the festival, people of Bali decorate a tall bamboo pole outside their houses and evil spirits are driven off by spells and fire crackers. It’s something that seems so Bosnian I want to see it up close.

After Bali, Yogyakarta is other big popular international tourist destination in Indonesia. And you know what? This is the place to be to get your ‘Tomb Raider’ on, so don some sunglasses, adventure gear and head in for your own historical adventures. First stop should be the world’s largest Bhudist temple, then the royal palace and finishing off with Unesco world heritage site temple.

Head to Mount Kelimutu in Kelimutu National Park and see its unique natural phenomenon – aka a super Instagram worthy spot. We’re talking volcanoes. Now this one is called Kelimutu and has three crater lakes with each a different colour: dark green, teal and grey. What’s maybe even more special the fact that the lakes have changed colour several times over the years. It is said that these changes are caused by the neglected ancestral souls, but scientifically the colours are caused by high-concentration of volcanic gases mixing with the minerals in the lakes. I know which story I prefer.

Have you been to Indonesia? Do you have any spots I’ve missed?

Wanderlist: England’s Very Own Wonderlands

16th June 2016

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You don’t have to go abroad for adventure, right here in England we have our very own natural wonderlands that are just waiting to be explored. To celebrate the release of Disney’s Alice through the Looking Glass, in cinemas now, Visit England put together a list of our very own weird and wonderful wonderlands to explore this summer and you never know you might even meet the Mad Hatter along the way!

Take in the wonder-land of Shanklin Chine, Isle of Wight
Explore the route from Shanklin Old Village to the sandy beach and esplanade far below, and see The Isle of Wight’s oldest attraction Shanklin Chine carved over the course of 10,000 years. After the arrival of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert the popularity of the Chine grew, and was frequented by European Royalty, becoming a ‘must’ on every Victorian’s itinerary. Perhaps Underland’s very own White Queen has paid the Chine a visit? For a truly magical experience see Chine Lumiere at night across the summer where hundreds of lights will illuminate the narrow paths, streams and waterfalls of the gorge making a spectacular for all those who visit.

The dramatic quarry at Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens, Northumberland
The beautiful Belsay Hall holds hidden secrets in its dramatic quarry garden, complete with ravines, pinnacles and exotic plants. Belsay Hall has been in the same family since the 13th century – owned by gardening enthusiast, Sir Charles Monck and his grandson Sir Arthur Middleton. The grade I registered heritage garden in Belsay Hall’s extensive grounds has been restored with a real attention to detail. Seasonal trees, shrubs, and flowers ensure brilliant colour throughout the year.

Discover the magic of Puzzle Wood in the enchanting Forest of Dean
Get lost in the unique and enchanting 14 acre ancient wonderland of Puzzle Wood in the Forest of Dean; a maze of meandering pathways, gulleys of mossy rocks, twisted roots of yew trees and fantastic rock formations. Reputed to have inspired JRR Tolkien’s fabled forests of Middle Earth and used as a location for Dr Who, Merlin and Atlantis, it’s a wood unlike any other.

A garden delight, Acorn Bank, Cumbria
Best known for its incredible herb garden with over 250 varieties of herbs, vegetable patches and traditional fruit orchards, Acorn Bank would make the perfect setting for a Mad Hatters Tea Party. The 17th-century walls of this tranquil haven shelter the National Trust’s largest collection of medicinal and culinary plants in our fascinating herb garden; the traditional orchards are carpeted with wildflowers and surrounded by herbaceous borders. A series of small linked gardens celebrates continuous development and adaption over at least 350 years with the first brick-lined walls date from around 1650.Wander along the Crowdundle Beck to the partially restored watermill, enjoying wildlife in the woods on the way, and discover more about the history of gypsum mining on the estate. Enjoy the views across the Eden Valley to the Lake District from the magnificent backdrop of the sandstone house.

‘Lost’ Village of Wiltshire, Salisbury Plain
Located in the heart of Wiltshire in the Salisbury Plains is the ‘lost’ village of ‘Imber’. Once a rural village, the small community was evacuated during WW2 and taken over as a military base. These days the ‘lost’ village is perfect for idyllic walks, spotting wildlife and seeing the almost forgotten buildings, such as St Giles Church.

A Tropical garden paradise, The Isles of Scilly – Tresco Abbey Gardens
Located on the island of Tresco in the Isles of Scilly, the gardens were established by the nineteenth-century proprietor of the islands, Augustus Smith. One of England’s most outstanding sights and one of the world’s most remarkable sub-tropical gardens, Tresco Abbey Gardens contains a unique collection of plants, many of which are too tender for outdoor cultivation on the British mainland. The plants are mainly from the southern hemisphere and flourish in the warm Gulf Stream climate and are regarded by botanists as one of the most interesting and varied botanical experiments in the world.

Immerse yourselves in Myths and Legends, Tintagel, Cornwall
The civil parish and village of Tintagel sits on the Atlantic coast of Cornwall and is said to be the birthplace of Britain’s legendary leader, King Arthur. He was supposedly born in Tintagel castle, whilst magical wizard, Merlin, lived in a cave below the fortress. The stunning coastline and dramatic castle has fired the imaginations of writers and artists for centuries. Whilst exploring the castle ruins, you can imagine a time of chivalrous knights or the Red Queens’ playing card armies and heroic battles upon the windswept Cornish cliff.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall
Once an aristocratic estate, the grounds were abandoned after the Second World War and fell into a state of decay. But after one of the largest garden restoration programmes in Europe, there are now more than 200 acres of luscious land to explore. Marvel at the mini jungle, with its banana plantations, towering bamboo and giant rhubarbs and meander across the ancient woodland and lost valley. Come spring, you’ll be surrounded by a carpet of bluebells. Watch out for those pesky rabbit holes or you might end up on an unexpected trip to Underland.

Explore the winding passages of The Shell Grotto, Margate
Discovered in 1835, Margate’s Shell Grotto is an astonishing find – its winding passages are decorated with 4.6 million shells and the unique walls are covered with images of gods and goddesses, trees of life and patterns of whelks, mussels and oysters. Local legend says Margate’s Shell Grotto was discovered by chance 180 years ago, when in 1835 Mr James Newlove lowered his young son Joshua into a hole in the ground that had appeared during the digging of a duck pond. Joshua emerged describing tunnels covered with shells. Its origins remain unexplained today. In this remarkable subterranean enclave, winding tunnels snake beside 2000 sq ft of magnificent symbol mosaics, made out of cockle, whelk, mussel and oyster shells. Nobody can explain who built this amazing place, or why, but since its accidental discovery visitors from all over the world have been intrigued by the beautiful mosaic and the unsolved mystery.

A natural amphitheatre, Malham Cove, Yorkshire Dales
The white-walled limestone amphitheatre of Malham Cove rises 300ft above its surroundings in the Southern part of the Yorkshire Dales. The spectacular views from the top look across the famous limestone pavement, an expanse of clints (slabs) and grykes (clefts) created by water seeping through weaker lines in the limestone rock. The Cove was formed at the end of the last ice age, when temperatures warmed the ice melted and a large river and waterfall began to flow over the cove. Once dried up, the combination of erosion, limestone rock and acid rain formed chunks of rock, known as slabs or “clints,” and deep cracks between them known as “grykes.” This feature of the cove is very rare in the UK, which makes Malham a magnet for both geologists and tourists alike. Malham village is home to barely a couple of hundred people who inhabit the huddled stone houses on either side of a bubbling river.

Mythical Glastonbury, more than a festival
On the southern edge of the Mendips, Glastonbury is built around the evocative set of ruins belonging to its former abbey. Famed for the world-renowned music festival, the town of Glastonbury lies at the heart of the so-called Isle of Avalon, a region rich with mystical associations, and for centuries it has been one of the main Arthurian sites of the West Country. Glastonbury Tor rises dramatically from the flat landscape of the Somerset Levels and is topped by the tower of St Michaels, a ruined 15th-century church. History, myth and legend surround the Tor – Dark Age and Saxon remains excavated here suggested that it was once a Saxon fortress, or perhaps an early Christian hermitage. Alternative conjecture has suggested that the Tor is associated with ‘ley lines’ and various earth energies; it is claimed to be the home of Gwyn ap Nudd, the Lord of the Underworld, and others consider it to be at the centre of a Zodiac pattern formed by surrounding field boundaries.

Alice Through the Looking Glass is in cinemas now.

A Few Things You Need To Know Before Walking the City Walls of Dubrovnik

14th June 2016

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Doing Dubrovnik without marching the city walls is a criminal offence in Croatia. Those caught get hanged from a pole by the harbour for everyone to see. Ok, ok, I’m just kidding here, it’s not illegal, but it should be. So here’s the low-down on the legendary limestone defences that have held out countless invaders, but sadly haven’t stopped the tourists overrunning the place…

It can get very hot and crowded, so get there early – or late in the day. I like to get my ticket the day before and go there for 8am to beat the queue and heat, you would think more people would do it, but I’m always surprised how empty it manages to be.

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From June – September the city walls are open from 8am. Tickets cost 120 kuna per person (around £13/€16/$19) – and that’s including a visit to the nearby Fort Lovrijenac. Depending on the how many photos you take you’ll need an hour or two to go round.

Don’t forget to bring water with you! There are a few kiosks and cafes on the walls, but they’re quite expensive – yes, even for Croatian standards. As you’ll soon realise, when you’re in the busy tourist destinations – you’ll be paying the special ‘inflated tourist price’.

I can write a 1000+ word post on the Dubrovnik city walls, but do you really want me to tell you that the ramparts are 22 metres high? Or that the main wall has 4 bastions? Right? But I’m not going to leave you without a few pictures.

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Have you braved the walls, or can recommend any other city wall walks?

Eurotrip 101: Paris For Beginners

9th June 2016

Heading to Europe for the first time for the summer? Then you might want to bookmark the Eurotrip 101 series.

We are kicking off with Paris, because let’s be honest: it’s been on your wanderlist ever since you saw the Olsen Twins walk around the city in Passport to Paris, then you fell in love even more during Amelie, you cried with Carrie’s struggles in Paris, and you’ve re-watched the Gossip Girl episodes a million times in preparation. So let’s don our berets and begin…

Montmartre is probably the most picturesque district of Paris and is home to the beautiful Basilica of the Sacré Cœur. This rather grand basilica dominates the highest point of Paris, and honours victims of the Franco-Prussian war. But lets not focus on that and feast your eyes upon the magnificent view of the city below.

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Built in 1889 the well-known cabaret is considered the spiritual birthplace of the French Cancan. The Moulin Rouge has also featured in a lot of movies (yes, even Zsa Zsa Gabor’s 1952 film), but probably most famously in the 2001 Baz Luhrmann epic, which has increased its draw to visitors from all around the world, who are often disappointed to discover that Ewan McGregor doesn’t live there.

When you mention Paris, most people automatically think of the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower was built for the 1889 World Exposition. Fun fact: when the tower was first unveiled, the populace thought it was a towering horror, and it was nearly torn down. Luckily for every man who needs the perfect spot to propose they didn’t. A quick Tea Tip: The Trocadero is the absolute best place for the full Eiffel Tower pic and for the ultimate Paris feeling you will probably cycle there, get a baguette with cheese and eat it in the park. Wearing a beret is optional.

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Got time for a day trip? Then head to Palace of Versailles, one of the most famous in France. Built in the 17th century, it was the home of many royals – but you’ll probably know if for the 2001 Marie Antoinette movie. The huge building, terraces and gardens symbolise the supremacy and the military power of the French people. Most impressive? The Hall of Mirrors, which consists of 250ft of sheer glass and the gardens when in bloom. If you are going during high season, make sure to go super early and book in advance as queues can be a nightmare.

Notre Dame Cathedral is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in the world and boasts beautiful stained glass windows and a massive organ. But let’s be honest … you’ll only take a photo and squeal ‘Quasimodo!’. You might want to know that it’s FREE to go inside the Notre Dame. Usually there is a long line to go inside, but it moves rather quickly. You can also walk up 402 steps to the Bell Tower of the Notre Dame. It is a separate entrance and costs around 9 euros.

Arc de Triomphe is Paris’ most iconic boulevard and is located on one end of the the Avenue des Champs-Elysées – which is often proclaimed as the most beautiful street in the world. I can imagine way way back it was the place to be for a walk, but today, a stroll down the tree-lined boulevard is far from peaceful and it’s mainly a giant mass of cars. You can walk around outside Arc de Triomphe for free, but if you want to venture inside to the museum to learn more about its history (do we?) and go to the top to get a great view (yes, we do) there is a small fee.

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The Louvre is one of the largest and most famous museums and houses some of the most famous works of art in the world, you’ll probably only head to Mona Lisa, the little pyramid because you remember it from Da Vinci Code and maybe you’ll stop by Venus de Milo statue. Don’t feel too guilty though, culture is hard.

Time for another day trip? Why not head to Disneyland Paris: the Disney Empire’s European variant of their “Magic Kingdom” theme park. The park is located outside central Paris and it has two themes: The Walt Disney Studios and the Disneyland castle where you can easily spend a day or two hanging out with Mickey and co.

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Luxembourg Gardens is a park that’s known for its lawns, tree-lined promenades, flowerbeds and for the picturesque Medici Fountain. The district it is situated in, Quartier Latin, is a very lively area with a lot of little narrow streets, old buildings and nice churches.

Pere Lachaise Cemetery: yes, it might sound a bit morbid, but really it’s fascinating as well as sometimes emotional to explore. Famous residents include Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf.

Musee d’Orsay: This place is one of the visited museums on the planet and if you’re a lover of art, then this is a sight you won’t want your eyeballs to miss. Le Musee d’Orsay is located on the banks of the Seine, housed in the former railway station the Gare d’Orsay and houses works by greats such as Monet, Cezanne and Renoir. Household names, right?

Have I missed anything?

Instant May

6th June 2016

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We are almost halfway through the year, you guys! How many things have you crossed off your list for 2016 so far? Or will you be rushing for success towards the deadline in December? May had a few Polaroid worthy days, so here’s what went down.

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No matter if you look up, down, left or right London is camera ready at all times and locations.

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In a little side street off Carnaby Street I spotted this wall that pretty much was made for photo opps and social shout outs // I finally crossed off something from my Awesome things I want to see and do in London list: an Afternoon Tea at the one and only sketch. Took me a while but worth every penny to get some Tea on Tea action.

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Amsterdam, damn you for being so photogenic. I went to Amsterdam to gawp at Eurovision and catch up with my friends, the downside wasn’t that Holland didn’t win, but that I accidental gave my phone swimming lessons in the sink. On my last day I strolled through the city centre to the train station and snapped a few of the canals and the Amsterdam houses, while still mourning my phone of course!

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I gave The Skygarden a second chance, but it wasn’t much better honestly // Still worth a visit as it’s free and has great views of Tower of London, Tower Bridge and pretty much all over London.

Whereas last month I only managed 5 posts, this month I didn’t do much better, the 6 May posts are: on free things to do in Berlin // April’s Polaroid overview // some more Copenhagen ramblings // Things to do AND things to avoid in Dublin // Five bloggers shared the story behind their favourite passport stamp/visa and a new awesome things I’ve seen and done in London that you should do too. In retrospect I’m going to go with a business/management cheat from now on – use percentages! Suddenly one extra post is a ‘20% increase”. Horray, and bonuses all round!

How was your month of May?