Monolithic Giants: The Great Pyramids of Egypt

France has the Eiffel Tower. Italy has the Colosseum. And Egypt has the Pyramids.

I don’t know what it is about these Egyptian megastructures that puts them on a tier above the rest. Maybe it’s the fact that they are the last surviving wonder of the world. But what I do know is that visiting this archaeological site has been one of my greatest aspirations for a very long time, and compared to my expectations, my actual experience did not disappoint.

History lesson! The Giza Pyramid Complex includes the Great Pyramids – Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure – guarded by the limestone sculpture known as the Sphinx. Located in the Sahara Desert on the outskirts of Cairo, the Complex was believed to have been built to house the remains of the Pharaohs (Ancient Egyptian rulers).

“The people of Ancient Egypt believed that death on Earth was the start of a journey to the next world. The embalmed body of the King was entombed underneath or within the pyramid to protect it and allow his transformation and ascension to the afterlife.”

The largest pyramid – Khufu – reaches a height of 138.8 meters, and is estimated to have taken 200 years to build. 200 years! It is also fascinating to learn that the Great Pyramids are precisely aligned with the constellation of Orion, which was associated with Osiris, the Ancient Egyptian god of rebirth and afterlife.

Did you know?

There are actually six pyramids that comprise the Giza Pyramid Complex, not three as is commonly believed. The remaining three (called the Pyramids of the Queens) are much smaller and located in a row behind Menkaure.

  

I had already been in Cairo for over a week before paying a visit to the Giza Pyramid Complex. This meant that I had grown accustomed to the pyramids dominating the horizon every time I ventured into the City of a Thousand Minarets. But as my boyfriend and I approached the gates to the site, I couldn’t help but feel consumed with awe at the monolithic giants towering over us.

I don’t think I’d ever get used to the level of (attempted) security in Cairo. No sooner had we pulled up outside the main gate than did three guards descend upon the car demanding to check us for any weapons or dangerous goods. After asking needlessly if we were married (🙄) they let us through. We parked the car at the foot of Khafre and began to explore.

The pyramids rise grand and resplendent from the cripplingly arid desert. The size of the individual slabs are enough to astound you, let alone the size of the actual structures. Given the sheer volume of security at the entrance, you’d expect the Complex itself to be meticulously patrolled; in reality, there are no barriers or guards, meaning you can climb onto the lower landings of the pyramids and get up close and personal with the ancient wonders.

If I had to choose one thing that left a negative impact on my time at the pyramids, it would have to be people (namely men) trying to scam you. We hadn’t even gotten out of the car before they swarmed upon us, offering deals on tours and souvenirs. One boy even followed us all the way around Khafre, relentless and dogged in his pursuit. If I took a picture of a camel, its owner would materialise out of thin air and demand some sort of payment. If I accepted a ‘free gift’ from a souvenir seller, they wouldn’t leave me be until I returned the favour in some (*cough*monetary*cough*) form. In all seriousness, if I had not been there with my boyfriend – an Egyptian citizen who speaks Arabic – I am pretty damn sure I would have been guilt-tripped or manipulating into losing a lot of money.

Tip

To avoid getting scammed, give a wide berth to people at the Complex who are not official employees. The only people you should be interacting with are those at the ticket booth and those at security (both at the gates and succeeding the ticket booth). Even if they flash you their ‘license’, people claiming that they will show you where to park your car, or that they take the tours included in the entry price (spoiler alert: bullsh*t), or that tickets have sold out and they have the only remaining pass, are just trying to empty your pockets.

But as far as bad experiences go, those men were a relatively insignificant one. If anything, they were amusing. I had the luxury of sitting back and relaxing as I watched my boyfriend’s patience slowly fizzle out like an old firework. It’s worth mentioning some of the good things that happened during my visit, such as the fact that hardly anyone else was there. This can be seen in the solitariness of my photographs, and has motivated me to write a blog post chronicling the deterioration of Egypt’s tourism industry… stay tuned 😎

Before I arrived in Egypt, I had been warned by friends and family members that I would stand out like a sore thumb. I had dismissed their words of caution, but the truth to what they were saying really hit me here. Foreign tourists were something of a rarity, and the fact that I have red hair and the complexion of a white walker probably didn’t help on that front. Many local tourists asked to take photos with me, and one woman physically grabbed me by the material of my shirt and held me still until she had taken a satisfactory number of selfies. My boyfriend had to drag me away from the growing crowd so that we could continue with our sightseeing.

After taking in the marvel of Khafre, I made the executive decision that we would embark on a camel ride. After riding an elephant in Thailand last year, I was bursting to get back in the saddle. (Yes, I realise that camel-riding is probably dodgy. Yes, I plan to educate myself on this topic. And yes, I understand that condemning my own participation only in hindsight not once, but twice, makes me a textbook hypocrite. I’m working on it.)

A few minutes later and we were climbing onto the backs of two camels. You don’t really appreciate just how high it is until you’re up there. I’d read that camel riding is a largely uncomfortable experience, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it’s nothing of that sort. Sure, you have to keep one hand firmly clamped on the horn of the saddle to save falling off, but hey, where else is the adventure? Led by a boy no older than thirteen, we padded back around to Khafre, snapped some more photos, laughed at the noises camels make (seriously though, have you heard them?!) and then meandered back to where we started.

The Great Pyramids are the beating heart of Egypt. They have survived for 186 generations and they will survive for many more. Standing amongst these giants was a simultaneously humbling and inspiring experience, and one I hope to recreate again in the future.

Let’s Get Social!

Facebook ● Twitter ● Youtube

And don’t forget to subscribe to my monthly email newsletter!

 

Continue Reading

Global Street Art: Part One

“People say graffiti is ugly, irresponsible and childish… but that’s only if it’s done properly.”
Banksy

I was never a huge fan of graffiti. For the most part, I found it selfish and something of an aesthetic atrocity. But a few years ago, my home town – Dunedin – launched a street art project. This project opened my eyes to the beauty of urban creativity and the important distinction between the construction of street art and the destruction of graffiti tagging.

When I arrived in Madrid, the first destination on my travels around Europe, I was gobsmacked by the way street art dominated the suburbs of the Spanish capital. I had the pleasure of staying in one of the most cosmopolitan neighbourhoods – Lavapiés – and stumbled upon new artwork every day.

My newfound appreciation for this genre was only fuelled during my subsequent month in France; specifically in the capital of Paris. Paris boasted a different flavour of street art – more minimalist, performatory – but still one that I could admire.

Through my lens, I captured the standout pieces I discovered over my two months in Spain and France. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the first edition of my Global Street Art series…

A stunning painted door in my favourite village in Provence, France: Roussillon

Winter is coming… Game of Thrones vibes in Paris

Enjoying the famous mural buildings of Lyon during a French river cruise

A beautiful painting on the side of a building in Madrid’s neighbourhood of Lavapiés

Parisian philosophy

A gorgeous portrait in the French town of Arles in Provence

Quite possibly my favourite graffiti script: I declare war upon this way of dying

Let’s Get Social!

Facebook ● Twitter ● Youtube

And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly email newsletter!

 

Continue Reading

The Beach Review #2: Nice

If you’re a long time reader of the Ginger Passports, then you might remember a wee blog post I published several months back where I reviewed Saint Kilda Beach in Dunedin, New Zealand. As the first edition of my beach review series, Saint Kilda scored 6.5 stars out of a possible 10, exceeding expectations in isolation and sand, but falling short in temperature.

A week in Nice in August offered the opportunity to dip my toes in the waters of the Mediterranean. The French Riviera is famous for it’s luxury and iconography, and I could hardly wait to embrace the coast after a month of meandering down central France.

For those perhaps unacquainted with my system of rating, here’s how it goes… I take a beach and evaluate it according to seven attributes: water, sand, temperature, wildlife, beauty, recreation and congestion. Each beach has the potential to earn 10 stars (★) and are stacked up against one another at the end of the post.

#2
Beach: Nice
Location: Nice, French Riviera, France

Water

Whilst the Mediterranean may not be like dipping your toes in a warm bath, it’s not far from it. I’m a complete wuss when it comes to the cold, so the fact that I was able to submerge myself after taking a few steps speaks volumes.

The water gets deep very, very quickly. This is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. There’s no jagged reefs or coral to cut yourself on, so it makes for a carefree swim. There are also no waves – but more on that later!

Sand

Yeah… that’s some misleading heading there. Unfortunately, you won’t find any sand in Nice (you’ll have to head westward past Antibes for that), but rather smooth pebbles by the name of ‘galets’. While these pebbles aren’t sharp, they’re not exactly nice to walk on either. I would make the regular dash from the towel to the shore grimacing in pain and searing heat, cursing my decision not to bring sandals.

Temperature

The biggest drawback to Saint Kilda is that it’s freakin’ freezing. I’m not just talking about the water, either – the south of New Zealand in general is a pretty chilly place to be.

Nice is hot but not uncomfortably hot. In fact, I would go as far to say that it is perfect beach weather. I visited during August, a month that on average scores between 24-27°C during the daytime. I was relieved to escape the 40°C highs of southern Spain whilst still being able to break out the bikini and sunscreen (because, y’know, I’m ginger).

Wildlife

When I came to write this part of the review, I had to actually open up another internet browser to search the answer. Even then, Google failed me. I never saw a single sea or land creature during my time lolling on the beach in Nice (save for perhaps a few nosy gulls). While there have been past sightings of sharks off the coast of the French Riviera, there isn’t really anything notable or iconic that I can discuss here.

Beauty

Strolling down the French Riviera is like strolling down the canvas of a painting. The colours, the texture, the music… everything titillates the senses. It may not be the natural landscape itself that draws the eye, but rather the mix of people and culture, blending together like wet paint on a palette.

Recreation

The adrenalised parasailing scene draws fun-seekers of all walks of life, but that – and the odd jet ski here and there – is about as lively as it gets. As a keen surfer, I was disappointed to learn that Nice has very little to offer in terms of waves. Nevertheless, myself and my budget were satisfied with floating in the water for hours on end.

Nice Beach runs alongside Promenade des Anglais, a coastal highway offering delightful (albeit overpriced) cafés and the sort of souvenir shops that you can’t help but check out every time even though they’re all the same. Although there is much to eat on offer here, Cours Saleya Market is a mere 50m stroll away. Here, you will find fresh fruit, local produce and savoury specialities of the Côte d’Azur. If all else fails, you can always count on people to be doing the rounds on the beach selling everything from chilled beer to carved watermelon 🍉

Congestion

Holy f*ck.

If you’re someone who values their personal space, then Nice is not for you. Be prepared to be sandwiched like sardines between holidaymakers, struggling to find just one square meter of free space to lay out your towel. People will assemble umbrellas right in your face. They will walk straight over you to get to the water. They might even strip right next to you (hey, it’s Europe). I distinctly remember waking up from a sun-soaked slumber to an eyeful of an old woman’s naked breasts.

The Verdict

7.1/10

★★★★★★★

I had imagined the beach at Nice to fulfil my wildest Mediterranean dreams: kilometres of white sand, gorgeous cerulean waters and a landscape like something out of a vintage postcard. I guess you could say I had high expectations.

The good news is that the reality of Nice wasn’t that different to my imagination. The ocean, heat and landscape all ticked the boxes, and even the severe lack of wildlife and lush sand didn’t dull my enjoyment. If I had to choose just one aspect of Nice that really impacted negatively upon my experience, it would have to be the pure congestion of bodies.

But hey – I suppose you can’t have everything.

The Rankings

  1. Nice 🇫🇷 France
    (7.5 stars)
    ★★★★★★★
  2. Saint Kilda 🇳🇿 New Zealand
    (6.5 stars)
    ★★★★★★

If you weren’t aware of the excessive links to my previous post in the Beach Review series, then here it is again: Saint Kilda. Or, if Nice has tickled your fancy, then you might like to read about a scrumptious food tour I embarked on in the unforgettable city (featuring a delicious recipe!).

Let’s Get Social!

Facebook ● Twitter ● Youtube

And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly email newsletter!

Continue Reading

Vlog: Paris Edition

There’s a lot in the works here at the Ginger Passports… subscribe to our YouTube channel to ensure you don’t miss anything!

Let’s Get Social!

Facebook ● Twitter ● Youtube ● Bloglovin’

And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly email newsletter!

Continue Reading

The French Way: A Succulent Food Tour of Nice + Recipe

It was mid-morning when my family and I shuffled sleepily to Place Masséna on a Sunday in mid August. Our arrival to Nice the previous evening had offered us a peek into the lazy, sun-kissed life of the Côte d’Azur, and we were ready to explore the city through our tastebuds.

At 9.30am on the dot, our lovely tour guide, Marion, bounded into the square. We had booked a food tour with the French Way, a local company specialising in art, food and wine tours in Nice and Paris. The rest of my family were proud foodies, and whilst I was still developing an appreciation for gastronomy, I was excited to tease my palate with the iconic tastes of Niçoise food.

While I’d always thought of French food as confined to croissants and vintage cheese I can’t pronounce, this tour would open my eyes to the fresh and simplistic flavours of the French Riviera. Described by the French Way as, “not quite French, not quite Italian”, French cuisine is characterised by the use of locally-grown vegetables that are chosen according to the season. The dishes focus on modest, reductionist ingredients so that the consumer can enjoy each component in its own right.

Marion lead our tour group from Place Masséna, through the Old Town and to Cours Saleya Market. There, we wandered through the bustling stalls with eyes as wide as a child’s on Christmas morning, trying to take in everything all at once. The colours, the smells, the atmosphere… it was almost too much to process. All the while, Marion was throwing information and samples at us left, right and centre.

Highlights included Torta de Blea (a local cake made of sweet and savoury ingredients), Socca (a chickpea pancake of sorts), and hard candies made from violet flowers. Oh, and I can’t forget all that gorgeous fresh fruit.

Fifteen tastings later (yes, you read that right), and we had arrived at Maison Bremond 1830. Maison Bremond 1830 is a mouth-watering shop specialising in olive oils, truffles, tapenades, terrines and confectionery, all sourced from the Mediterranean and Provence. There, we were treated to olive and truffle oils that would change my standards of cooking forever. Without a shred of doubt, my favourite was the lemon-infused olive oil. I thought that was quite impressive for someone who doesn’t particularly like lemons or olives 🍋

The ‘Deats

Name: Maison Bremond 1830

Website: Here

Address: 15 Rue de Pont Vieux

Phone: +33 (0)4 93 92 50 40

Email: nice@maison-bremond.com

At the end of the tour, we bode farewell to Marion and retreated back to our apartment with full stomachs and inspired minds. As someone who had never been passionate about the kitchen (I think to even say I am tolerant is quite a stretch), I was amused to find myself motivated to practice recipes and dishes influenced by Niçoise cuisine. I really relish the idea of modest, delicious food that is easy on the tastebuds and easy on the waistline. I guess that’s the key word here: easy. None of the meals Marion delighted in showing us required much preparation or effort, and they were all sourced from local producers without any of that synthetic shit imposed through processes of importation or preservation. With French food, what you see is what you get. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Recipe

Salade Niçoise

2 hands full of red radishes

4 hard-boiled eggs

1 branch of celery

2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes

200g of tinned tuna

4 big handfuls of mixed salad leaves

1 tablespoon of dijon mustard

10 tablespoons of olive oil

3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

1/2 red pepper and 1/2 yellow pepper

4 spring onions (or 1/2 red onion)

1 handful of broad beans

4 purple artichokes

16 tinned salted anchovies

black olives de Nice

salt and pepper

vinaigrette

The ‘Deats

Name: The French Way

Website   Facebook   Twitter   TripAdvisor

Address: 31 Avenue Malaussena

Phone: +33 (0) 6 27 35 13 75

Email: info@thefrenchway.fr

If this article has whetted your appetite for all things French, then make sure you take the time to enjoy my two Parisian blog posts: Fluctuat Ner Mergitur: A Paris Photo Diary and How to Spend a Layover in Paris (Sans Eiffel Tower) 🇫🇷

Let’s Get Social!

Facebook ● Twitter ● Youtube ● Bloglovin’

And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly email newsletter!

Continue Reading

How to Spend a Layover in Paris (Sans Eiffel Tower)

I stayed in Paris for over a week in July. I always try to arrive somewhere with little to no expectations, but let’s be honest – this is Paris we’re talking about. It’s probably the last place on Earth you could visit as a blank slate.

Ask three different people how long you should stay in Paris, and you’ll receive three different answers. The general consensus is around three to four days, but I spent around ten and was still discovering new places by the time I headed south.

Whether you have a layover on a long haul flight or you’re a backpacker spending each day somewhere new, it can be frustrating to narrow down the seemingly endless list of activities to suit your time restraints. That’s where a planned schedule can come in handy.

The beauty of this pocket itinerary is that – aside from food – everything here is free. Perfect for the budget traveller! Furthermore – aside from perhaps Montmartre – nothing listed here is by definition ‘touristy’. Instead, I have endeavoured to include activities and cafés that will give you special insight into the remarkable vibe and essence of the City of Love. After all, discovering that is far more valuable then waiting three hours in a queue to climb the Eiffel Tower.

Allons-y!

If you associate Paris with the blush of roses and the scent of lilies, then you’re not wrong. Paris is famous for it’s flower markets, and perhaps none so more than ‘Marché aux Fleurs‘.

Nestled cosily between the equally famous cathedrals of Notre-Dame and Sainte-Chapelle, a stroll through Marché aux Fleurs is the ideal way to introduce yourself to the colour and beauty of Paris.

The ‘Deats

Name: Marché aux Fleurs

Address: Place Louis Lépine

Hours: 8am-7:30pm on Monday to Saturday, and 8-7pm on Sunday

Website: Here

Hop across the River Seine on the metro (or walk if you fancy stretching your legs) to satisfy your Instagram needs (*cringe*).

“There is a street in Paris that is all about colour and how sweet life can be. Its name is Rue Crémieux, and its inhabitants would surely prefer that we not reveal it to you because it is a little corner of paradise.”

Paris City Guide

Rue Crémieux is what I like to call the most photogenic street in the world. Situated on the 12th arrondissement, it is a 144 metre-long street where all of the houses are painted in sweet pastels with facades of vines, birds and lilacs.

The ‘Deats

Name: Rue Crémieux

Address: Well… Rue Crémieux

As a vegetarian, it can be difficult to find a place – especially in France, the most meat-savvy country I’ve ever visited – where you have more than one measly option on the menu. So you can imagine my delight at stumbling across this Parisian gem: Bob’s Kitchen.

After you’ve taken in the splendour of Rue Crémieux, catch the metro a handful of stops north to the district of Le Marais and track down Bob’s Kitchen amongst the thin alleyways (it took me a few goes). My personal menu recommendation: cream cheese bagel sandwich 😍

Excerpts from Reviews off Tripadvisor

“Best coffee in the Marais”
“This place is a haven for fresh juices from fruits, vegetables and clean foods. It’s Bohemian style, not flash but oh so hearty, reliable and good”
“New York in Paris”

The ‘Deats

Name: Bob’s Kitchen

Website   Instagram   Facebook

Address: 74 Rue des Gravilliers

Phone: 09 52 55 11 66

Hours: 8-3pm Monday-Friday and 8-4pm Saturday-Sunday

Photograph courtesy of Bob’s Kitchen

As Audrey Hepburn said, Paris is always a good idea. Likewise, a second lunch is always a good idea. Especially when it’s in Paris.

A mere seven minute walk from Bob’s Kitchen is heaven on a plate a.k.a Pain de Sucre. Pain de Sucre is a patisserie located on one of the main streets in Le Marais and boasts treats to make anyone’s mouth water. The boutique, gourmet dessert house specialises in eye-opening creations that will have you rethinking the limits of sweets.

The photographs below showcase the pink bliss I sampled during my visit: a light, sugary concoction of citrus cappuccino biscuit, black sesame crisp, rose cream, raspberry pulp and creamy vanilla topped with fresh raspberry and lily petals. Hell yeah.

The ‘Deats

Name: Pain de Sucre

Website   Facebook

Address: 14 Rue de Rambuteau

Phone: 01 45 74 68 92

Hours: 10-8pm

Now that you’re uncomfortably full and regretting that second lunch, walk it off with an outing to Montmartre.

When I first arrived in Paris and my couchsurfing host said that he was taking me to Montmartre, I was initially really confused. Montmartre? What is this Montmartre? But as soon as we had trudged up that damn hill and the resplendence of the Sacré-Coeur fell beneath my gaze, I knew.

For those who – like me – had not yet connected the dots, Montmartre is the name of the only hill in Paris that offers breath-taking views over the city (minus the Eiffel Tower 😑). Located in the 18th arrondissement, it hosts Place du Terre( i.e. the celebrated artist’s square) where artists rent out one square metre of land to set up their easels and try and sell their work. It is also where you will find the magnificent basilica of Sacré-Coeur, the ‘national vow’ of Paris.

This is just a really lovely area to walk around and absorb everything. Yes, you’ll have to wade through the hordes of tourists, but yes, it’s worth it.

T’is that time of the day where your feet grow tired and your head weary. You look at your watch and see that it’s not yet an acceptable point to call it a day… so what do you do?

You go for a drink at Le Cube Bar, of course!

Specialising in Mediterranean tapas, Le Cube Bar is a rooftop champagne bar atop the majestic Galeries Lafayette. Galeries Lafayette is a French department store that isn’t too friendly on the old bank account, but sure makes up for it with its gorgeous “art nouveau” stained glass interior. It’s worth a visit just for that.

Unwind with a glass (or two) of sauvignon blanc whilst losing yourself in the indescribable panoramic view of Paris. Unlike that of Montmartre, this time you will be treated to an eyeful of the Eiffel Tower 💪

The ‘Deats

Name: Le Cube Bar

Website: Here

Address7th floor of Galeries Lafayette (40 Boulevard Haussmann)

Phone01 73 71 91 13

Hours: Monday to Saturday 11-7:30pm and Sunday 11-6pm

La fin!

If you’re hungry for more Parisian content, be sure to check out my Paris Photo Diary (and learn some Latin while you’re at it!). Moreover, if you’re enjoying the itineraries, make sure you spend some time perusing my blog post: How to Spend a Day in Bangkok. Nothing like contrasting gourmet croissants with fried bugs!

Let’s Get Social!

Facebook ● Twitter ● Youtube ● Bloglovin’

And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly email newsletter!

Continue Reading

Cultural Appropriation (Or Why That Bindi is Racist)

As I have mentioned before in previous posts, I do not want my travel blog to simply be about Insta-worthy pictures and food porn. My goal from the very beginning was to use this blog as a resource and vehicle by which to educate myself and others on issues entrenched in the tourism industry (and society in general). The issues I have discussed in the past – see feminism and why tourism is political – are prime examples of how travel and politics are not mutually exclusive. This latest article is one I have been wanting to write since the inception of this blog.

Culture not costume. Artwork courtesy of the Odyssey Online.

If you’re a follower of pop culture – or you use the internet – the chances are that the phrase ‘cultural appropriation’ would have emerged once or twice in the context of someone such as Miley Cyrus or Katy Perry.

In short, cultural appropriation can be defined as when “people from a dominant culture take cultural elements from a marginalised group without knowing or caring about how their actions affect marginalised people”.

Cultural appropriation is largely misunderstood owing to a lack of critical discussion and the fact that you won’t actually find the term in a dictionary. (I also think it isn’t given the time of the day because lots of people deep down know they are guilty of it – and ignorance is bliss, amiright?).

Everyday Feminism summed it up quite nicely by saying that it is often taken to mean, “the policing of what white people can or can’t wear and enjoy”. Whilst there exists a rather objective definition (as written above), people can also take C.A. to extremes. Some people believe that everything is cultural appropriation, whilst some believe that nothing is at all. Whilst I certainly think that some critics of C.A. can get a bit carried away, I also believe that it is a complex idea that plays a different role in different scenarios. I believe that the issue becomes about learning and educating ourselves about it so that we can identify instances where it is not okay.

Model Gigi Hadid was criticised for wearing dreadlocks on the runway. Photograph courtesy of the Daily Beast.

Some Examples of Cultural Appropriation…

  • Bindis
  • Cornrows
  • Dreadlocks
  • Indian headdresses (I’m looking at you, Coachella)
  • Pretty much 99% of all cultural Halloween costumes
  • Basically Rachel Dolezal’s entire existence

Photograph courtesy of Marion Cameleon.

A common defence people employ when confronted about appropriating behaviours is that they’re simply celebrating another culture. After all, if they can’t participate in a tradition belonging to someone else, then how are we meant to share cultures? Isn’t that the very foundation of a more equal and humanitarian world? And then there are the people who get straight up offended.

The reality is that cultural appropriation plays a significant yet dismissed role in all of the inequalities people face today. To understand C.A. demands a comprehension of intersecting frameworks of oppression (shout out to intersectional feminism) and power dynamics. The key idea is that C.A. simply doesn’t go both ways; if it did, then it wouldn’t be a problem. But instead, the nature of a more privileged group of people borrowing cultural elements from a less privileged group is a one way street.

Amandla Sternberg delivers a crash course on cultural appropriation in ‘Don’t Cash Crop on My Cornrows’

This next part can sometimes be a little more complicated to get your head around. I know it was for me. Take the example of white girls braiding their hair into cornrows. That’s not inappropriate, you might respond. Black girls straighten their hair all the time! But what needs to be discussed here is that historical context is incredibly relevant. Consider the history of the United States; black people were discriminated against whilst white people reaped the rewards of a white supremacist society. As Everyday Feminism accounts, “when people of colour… conform to what the U.S. society considers ‘normal’, they’re often doing it for the sake of survival”.

“Assimilation doesn’t have the same impact as appropriation.”

Expressions of cultural appropriation. Photograph courtesy of Sikh Philosophy.

Cultural appropriation isn’t about memorising an infinite list of things that could offend people. There’s no value to that. Instead, it’s about “taking responsibility for your own actions that can cause other people harm“. I myself took responsibility after a phase where I insisted on wearing part of my hair braided into cornrows. At the time, I wasn’t aware that I was inadvertently participating in a culture that had historically – and even still today – been marginalised beneath mine (I’m talking about the participation part, not the historical part). But after taking a gender studies course at university and reading about these systems of social oppression, I realised that my behaviour had been less about how I looked and more so about taking what had never belonged to me in the first place.

The key message I’m trying to get across here, is that you don’t have to own something to appreciate it.

Even with well-meaning, good intentions, cultural appropriation is not something we should take lightly. We’re not just talking about fashion; we’re talking about the lived experiences of human beings. Identity is one of the most central facets of our lives, and for someone more privileged to take that away from us with little regard for who we are is plain discrimination.

“You only like me for my Sari.” Artwork courtesy of Zaiba Khan.

Traveling is a fantastic opportunity to expose yourself to the practices and traditions of different cultures whilst finding the fine balance between appreciating and appropriating. When you are engaging in ethnic activities or find yourself at the counter of a souvenir shop, ask yourself these three questions: does my privilege allow me to participate in this? Will buying this make anyone from this group feel uncomfortable? Am I committing harm to anyone by doing this?

I like to think that most of us are contributing towards a society where all people and cultures are valued and respected. We have made great progress in the last half century, but that doesn’t disguise the fact that we are still a long, long way away from achieving that ultimate goal. To punctuate with the words of the 35th president of the United States…

“The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”

Artist Katy Perry is slammed for dressing up as a Geisha in a performance. Photography courtesy of Reaxxion.

If you’re interested in learning more about social issues, then I highly recommend you check out the primary resource for this blog post: Everyday Feminism. Everyday Feminism is an amazing tool for educating yourself on topics such as gender and racial equality, and presents information in an understandable and thought-provoking manner. Find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Let’s Get Social!

Facebook ● Twitter ● Youtube ● Bloglovin’

And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly email newsletter!

Continue Reading

Face-Off: Couchsurfing vs. Airbnb

My first couchsurfing experience was in Madrid. 12,350 miles from home, I hopped off the plane, caught the metro to a train station in the middle of the suburbs, and waited without a phone for a stranger who was supposed to come and pick me up. Probably not what my mother wants to hear, but nevertheless, it was the case.

Photograph courtesy of Couchsurfing

It was only in January of this year that I finally ventured onto the Airbnb scene. My boyfriend and I were celebrating New Years with a road trip around the North Island of New Zealand, and we wanted somewhere to stay in Auckland – the capital – that was homely and central yet met the demands of our budget.

Photograph courtesy of Airbnb

Both of these experiences were great. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. But I can also sympathise if you’re an Airbnb and Couchsurfing virgin and have no idea where to start when it comes to accommodation. I procrastinated using Airbnb for a long time simply because I didn’t really understand how it worked, and Couchsurfing was a repellent to my social anxiety. But fear not, because I am about to walk you through everything you need to know about these two online platforms so that you can tailor future travel to your individual needs.

Let’s start with the basics.

What the hell are Airbnb and Couchsurfing?!

An Airbnb is kind of like a budget hotel. As an online hospitality service, you make an account and then browse the thousands of listings available from all corners of the globe. You can either pay for a shared room, private room or an entire home, and compared to a hotel, let’s just say your bank account is going to be thanking you.

If Airbnb is like a budget hotel, then Couchsurfing is like a budget Airbnb. The good news? You don’t have to pay a dime. The bad news? Yeah… you’re most likely going to be roughing it. With couchsurfing, you set up an online profile and reach out to hosts in your chosen area. There is no formal process to it; all you need is for someone to agree to let you crash for a few nights, and voilà! Your accommodation is sorted.

I’m going to be rating these two services on price, comfort, reliability, sociality, locality and safety. Let’s get down to it 👊

Like I said in the introduction before, the major difference between these two services is that Airbnb charges and Couchsurfing doesn’t. Assuming that you are traveling on a budget, it’s pretty clear who prevails here.

For some, this difference is the deciding factor. But for others, there is still lingering doubt. If you have the money to spare, then it is completely understandable that you might like to explore different options for accommodation if you are receiving more comfort in return.

Not unlike hotels, Airbnb’s are generally priced according to quality (emphasis on the generally). As the quality increases, so does the cost. It’s immensely difficult to throw some average figures at you, but as a general rule, you’ll be saving your pennies by opting for the latter.

It is also worth noting that although you don’t pay a fee to stay at someone’s house with Couchsurfing, it is always polite to thank them in some way. After all, they are going out of their way to host you. Some couchsurfers like to show their appreciation through shouting their host dinner or buying them a bottle of wine. Although this is not obligatory, it’s a pretty basic courtesy to show gratitude. Your host will certainly respect and remember that.

The Winner: Couchsurfing

Trullo Edera in Ostuni, Brindisi, Italy 

The excuse many people employ to justify their splurging on more expensive accommodation is that it is more comfortable. Comfort can refer to many things – most significantly degrees of luxuriance – but for the purposes of this article, I am going to refer to it in a more social light. In other words: how much does the presence of a stranger impact the ease and enjoyment of your stay?

Of course, if you are renting out an entire home on Airbnb, then you don’t have to worry about this. You’ve got the place to yourself! There’s no need to concern yourself with the whereabouts or judgements of another person. Five stars, Airbnb 👍

But… if you’re renting a private room or couchsurfing, then this factor might be of interest to you.

I’m not even going to be subtle about it: Couchsurfing takes the cake here. I just can’t help but feel uncomfortable when I’m renting a private room through Airbnb; you’re always running into your host but are so unsure of your relationship. Are you obligated to spend time with them? Invite them out for a drink?

At the end of the day, you can do whatever the hell you want. After all, you’re paying them and are entitled to use the space and time as you wish (respectfully, of course). But I still inevitably feel rude when our contact is limited solely to inaudible grunts in the hallway and waiting on each other to finish using the bathroom.

With Couchsurfing, the expectations are clear. It is considered ill-mannered to exploit someone’s generosity in exchange for a free bed. It is anticipated that you will spend time together and (ideally) make friends. If your host ventures to your home country, then perhaps you will even return the favour of opening your doors for them. If this implicit agreement isn’t your cup of tea, then maybe you should be punching Airbnb into Google instead.

The Winner: Couchsurfing

Romantic Suite in Valparaiso, Chile

Reliability refers to two different things in this context: whether the accommodation is actually that which is advertised online, and the likelihood of a host bailing on you.

This first applies more predominantly to Airbnb. I have stayed in a number of houses (thankfully a minority) where what I paid for wasn’t what was advertised online. A common occurrence is staying in a room different to that which is photographed. This wouldn’t be much of an issue if the same facilities were present, but unfortunately that is not always the case. One time, I even stayed somewhere where the entire house had been stripped after the photos were taken, leaving nothing but the bed upon which I was to sleep. But possibly the most frustrating thing to happen when arriving at the listing is to discover that – contrary to what is advertised – there is actually no Wi-Fi 😡 *cue millennial tantrum*

With Couchsurfing, you consider places for the merits of the host, not the house. This means that the quality of their home isn’t going to be of such a huge priority. Furthermore, with Couchsurfing, you learn to roll with the punches anyway. No one is going to be too upset if the bed you were promised turns out in fact to be an air mattress. What matters is that you have a place to sleep.

However, regarding the likelihood of a host bailing on you, it’s Airbnb’s time to shine. Because money is not changing hands with Couchsurfing, hosts are under no obligation to remain available to you. It is not uncommon for hosts to bail the very day you are expected to arrive – hours before, even. Yet with Airbnb, cancellations on behalf of the host get very muddly indeed and are to be avoided if at all possible. You have to organise refunds and then find somewhere else to stay, sometimes at very short notice. Luckily, it doesn’t happen often.

The Winner: Airbnb (just)

Balian Treehouse in Bali, Indonesia

When it comes to social matters, Airbnb and Couchsurfing are polar opposites.

As I discussed under the comfort heading, Couchsurfing exceeds all expectations. The very nature of the service is to put yourself out there and make friends with people whom you probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to meet under ordinary circumstances. By living under the same roof, you can develop quite an intimate bond – especially if you are staying longer than a couple of nights. This is especially desirable if you are a solo traveler and looking to meet people on the road. After all, one of the most efficient and reliable ways to make friends is to stay with them.

Whilst Couchsurfing reigns supreme in the social tiers, Airbnb is somewhat appalling. Some of the loneliest times I have ever felt on the road are those nights spent in private Airbnbs with only myself for company. Of course, this isn’t always a bad thing; lots of travellers – especially those in a pair or group – are simply looking for somewhere to retreat for the night to rest up. The last thing they may want is to be thrown into yet another social situation where they are pressured to slap a smile on their face and make uncomfortable small talk.

But one of the objectives of travel is to meet people, and therefore the ultimate goal with sociality is to make lasting friends. In saying that, we have a champion.

The Winner: Couchsurfing

White Space in Brooklyn, New York

It may sound somewhat picky, but when you’re in a foreign city and relying on public transport, prime location becomes something of a priority.

When you are using the Airbnb search engine, you can filter listings by location. This is a particularly handy tool if you know exactly what part of town you want to be in. Although you don’t receive the actual address until you have confirmed your payment, you do have knowledge of the street where you will be staying. Good enough, I reckon.

Yet with Couchsurfing, all you have to go on is the city. Occasionally you might strike gold and find that the host has written the suburb in their profile, but it’s relatively rare. The mentality behind this is that you’re lucky to get a bed at all, let alone start getting choosy. Although a distant location can be inconvenient at times, I don’t contest this.

I encountered poor location with couchsurfers in Madrid and Paris. In each place, I found myself hosted on the very outskirts of the city. It certainly made for a challenge finding my way there on the metro from the airports with a 30kg suitcase in tow. I won’t lie; Airbnb certainly looked a lot more appealing at that stage of the game.

The Winner: Airbnb

Luxury in Rivo, Lombardy, Italy

Last but certainly not least, we have something that cannot be emphasised enough: safety.

Perhaps Airbnb can afford to be neglected in this part. Statistically, you are far more likely to stumble upon a poor-quality listing than one where your personal safety is under threat. But as soon as you enter the domain of Couchsurfing, it’s a whole new ball game.

To be a couchsurfer – especially a solo female couchsurfer – you need to find the balance between trust and suspicion. On one hand, you need to be able to let a complete stranger welcome you into their home and share your company when you are at your most vulnerable. But on the other, you also need to have developed some good old fashioned common sense, and always keep an eye out for questionable behaviour from your host. Couchsurfing horror stories have not fallen upon deaf ears.

In my blog post, 5 Practical Gifts for Female Backpackers on their Bon Voyage, I briefly discussed some measures you might take to up the stakes of a safe and enjoyable couchsurfing experience. These include…

  • Never staying with anyone who doesn’t have (positive) references
  • Going with your gut instinct; if you are messaging someone and something feels a bit dodgy, listen to that. A lot of people use Couchsurfing as they would Tinder, so take everything with a grain of salt
  • Prioritising opting for verified hosts for better piece of mind

Long story short? Don’t be stupid. When you enter a stranger’s home, you are largely on your own (ooh, that rhymed). Couchsurfing has the potential to make or break a trip. Let’s do everything we can to avoid the latter.

The Winner: Airbnb

Bamboo House in Bali, Indonesia

Drum roll please!

And the verdict is… it completely depends on what you are looking for.

I know, I know. This is that blog post all over again where I refuse to play by the rules and give a black or white answer. But hear me out, okay?

Let’s typecast for a moment and imagine Airbnb and Couchsurfing as representational of two very different travellers. Airbnb is traveling with their partner on a short trip where they can afford to splurge a little on accommodation. They want to be able to spend their evenings exactly how they want, and to not have to bother about the stressful possibility of having to find somewhere to sleep last minute if it falls through. Alternatively, Couchsurfing is a solo traveler who is trying to stretch their budget as far as it will go so that they can see more over a longer period of time. They concern themselves with meeting new people and treasuring those new relationships, and they are flexible about the quality of their lodgings. Given the nature of their trip, they are prepared to accept the risk of unpredictable hosts and bizarre locations, because at the end of the day, it’s all about the experience.

Do you see what I’m getting at here?

I personally prefer Couchsurfing over Airbnb.

But like I just said, that is because I am someone who falls into the second category. I also find that you can predict what service someone will prefer given their age. The older people are, the more they generally opt for something reliable like Airbnb. It also helps that the older you are, the more savings you tend to have.

So, there you have it: the pros and cons of both Airbnb and Couchsurfing. I would love to hear your thoughts on whether one or the other reigns supreme, or any anecdotes you are willing to share on the subject. Comment below!

Photograph courtesy of Unsplash

Let’s Get Social!

Facebook ● Twitter ● Youtube ● Bloglovin’

And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly email newsletter!

Continue Reading

Vlog: Madrid Edition

It’s that time again!

Putting together vlogs is without a doubt one of my favourite parts of being a travel blogger. There’s just something about collecting raw footage over weeks – months even – and then spending hours upon hours editing it into a two minute montage.

Okay, so maybe the idea of that doesn’t exactly appeal to everybody. But it’s my cup of tea ☕

I don’t know what I was expecting when I traveled to Madrid. For starters, I was quick to discover that it was the capital of Spain (as opposed to Barcelona, as I had previously thought). Madrid hadn’t really struck me as a touristy city; I associated the name with professional football, and had only selected it as the first destination of my Europe adventure because I couldn’t fly straight into Andalusia. But all it took was a few weeks for me to develop quite the attachment.

If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll know that I arrived during World Pride 2017. Catch my experience of that unforgettable week here. Likewise, you might be interested in viewing some photographic highlights.

Last but not least, don’t forget to subscribe to the Ginger Passports’ Youtube Channel! There is very exciting content on the way. Think Paris, Andalusia, Nice… you name it.

(Yeah… I really like filming food)

Let’s Get Social!

Facebook ● Twitter ● Youtube ● Bloglovin’

And don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly email newsletter!

Continue Reading

Fluctuat Ner Mergitur: A Paris Photo Diary

Paris is… well, Paris. I spent a week exploring the city with a camera in one hand and a map in the other, slowly but surely falling in love with the aristocratic metropolis. It is quite unlike anywhere else, and after seven days there in July, I feel as though I have hardly brushed the surface of the city of love.

“Paris was a universe whole and entire unto herself, hollowed and fashioned by history… as vast and indestructible as nature itself”

Anne Rice

Paris wasn’t always called Paris. In the 3rd century B.C., when it was a Roman city, Paris was known as Lutetia.

The Eiffel Tower

During World War II, the French Resistance cut the elevator cables to the Eiffel Tower to keep Hitler from visiting it during his time in France after Paris fell. Apparently the prospect of climbing 1500+ stairs did not appeal to him.

The name Paris isn’t quite as original as you may think; there are actually 38 cities called Paris across the globe.

The famous blue door of Montmartre where Vincent van Gogh lived

Paris earned the nickname, ‘the City of Lights’, but contrary to popular opinion, this has nothing to do with illumination. Rather, ‘lights’ alludes to the intellectuals, specifically the many writers and academics drawn to the city.

Parisian flower markets

Every year in Paris, around a dozen Japanese tourists must return to Japan after being diagnosed with ‘Paris Syndrome‘ i.e. being completely unprepared for the reality of Paris not being as great as expected. These tourists are usually women in their 30s who are on their first overseas trip.

Paris has a network of ghost metro stations that no one uses because lines were either rerouted or simply fell out of use.

A painted house on Rue Crémieux

After a decision made by the Paris municipal government, Tom Cruise may never become an honorary citizen of the city owing to his views on scientology.

Statues adorning the exterior of Notre Dame

The last public execution held in Paris was in 1939.

The Artist’s Square in Montmartre

There are more dogs in Paris than there are people.

The Eiffel Tower

There is only one stop sign in Paris.

The beautiful Rue Crémieux

There is a law that buildings shall not exceed 6 storeys in Paris. This is so that all can have access to sunshine.

The Rose Window of Notre Dame

The main bell in the Notre Dame Cathedral has a name: Emmanuel.

Arc de Triomphe

There is a Statue of Liberty in Paris that faces the Statue of Liberty in New York City, representing the bond between the two cities.

Fluctuat Ner Mergitur is the motto of Paris, translating from Latin to, “Tossed But Not Sunk”, referring to a ship. I think that’s kind of beautiful.

All the trees in Paris are measured and referenced. Bonus fact: there are 470,000 of them 🌳

A filming location for Amélie in Montmartre

On average, 10 films or commercials shoot in Paris every day.

The Louvre

Before the Nazi armies invaded Paris during World War II, the art collection at the Louvre was secretly distributed amongst wealthy French citizens to protect it.

Mais attendez! Don’t forget to read Revue de CitiX60 Guides: Paris, for a selection of things to do in the City of Love that extend beyond the generic tourist traps. Au revoir!

Let’s Get Social!

Facebook ● Twitter ● Youtube ● Bloglovin’

And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly email newsletter!

Continue Reading