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.

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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!).

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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!

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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!

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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!

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Postcards from Madrid

“I love thee as I love Madrid”

Ernest Hemingway

The bronze statue of King Philip III in Plaza Mayor, the main square of Madrid

The view from the Bella Artes rooftop bar

Beautiful tilework at a traditional Spanish café

Palacio de Cibeles during Pride Week

Instituto Cervantes

Looking after my waistline with a ‘freakshake’ at Tommy Mel’s🍦

The view from Parque de las Tetas

Reflections of the Egyptian Temple of Debod

Stunning street art in the suburb of Lavapiés

Architecture in the streets of Madrid

“I declare war upon this way of dying.”

Stay tuned for the upcoming Spain Vlog on the Ginger Passports’ YouTube Channel 📽 and if you didn’t catch my post last week on the World Pride Parade 2017 in Madrid, be sure to check it out here!

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The Local’s Guide to Dunedin

For those of you who haven’t the pleasure of experiencing Dunedin, allow me to introduce you to this special place. Dunedin is a southern city in New Zealand characterised by its famous peninsula, Scottish roots and student vibe.

There’s plenty to do in Dunedin. Tripadvisor will tell you to visit Larnach CastleSpeight’s BreweryRoyal Albatross Colony and Baldwin Street – and you know what? Those things are great, and you will certainly enjoy “drinking like a southern man” and hiking up the world’s steepest street. But what you will be missing out on is the authentic local experience. Dunedin has a thriving tourism industry that is celebrated and embraced, but sometimes you’ve just got to detour the queues and venture off the beaten path to actually understand a place.

Lovers Leap

Perhaps the most famous point of interest for Dunedin is the stunning Otago Peninsula, which – fun fact – was named by CNN as one of the ten most romantic places in the world to propose.

Whilst the Otago Peninsula is synonymous with ‘tourist hot spot’, you can still navigate the gloriously wild terrain with a degree of solitude. Tourists tend to flock to places such as Sandfly Bay or the Pyramids, so more remote areas are yours for the taking. My personal favourite is Lovers Leap – and the neighbouring Chasm – that are part of the Sandymount Track Network. Check out the following excerpt from my blog post Postcards from Lovers Leap

“Those who embark on the trek will be treated to the stunningly resplendent views of Sandymount carpark before a short stroll through rolling farmland to reach the Chasm (keep an eye out for the sheep!). After soaking in the monumental (and arguably formidable) abyss, negotiate the sloping and rugged coastline towards the 225m crag of Lovers Leap.”

University of Otago Public Lectures

To say Dunedin is a student city would be an understatement. In my eyes, the defining feature of this place is the University of Otago. The 148-year-old campus boasts beautiful gothic architecture which makes it a joy to walk through the campus and actually attend class (because, y’know, us students need all the help we can get).

One of my favourite things about this university is their regular and free public lectures. Averaging around five a week, the topics are vast and fascinating, and offer an invaluable opportunity to learn something new. From the politics of the Middle East to the latest findings in medical research, from the relationship between academia and Buddhism to the refugee crisis, you’ll discover a passion in something you’d hardly ever thought about.

These lectures are often presented by world-class researchers and take place either on campus or at other venues around the city such as the Public Art Gallery or the Toitu Early Settlers Museum. I find this a rewarding past-time, especially as a student who often feels confined by a narrow degree subject which leaves little room for educational exploration.

Follow this link to find upcoming lecture events.

Starfish Café

I told myself that I would only include one eatery on this list, a task that was not made easier by the fact that Dunedin has a flourishing café culture. However, when it came down to it, there was only one that could ever take out the crown. And so – not for the first time – I present to you Starfish Café.

Starfish overlooks the beach in Saint Clair – fifteen minutes from the city centre – meaning it caters predominantly to the locals. This just makes it feel all the more homely and familiar, and I always smile when the staff recognise me and say hello. Check out the following excerpt from my blog post Starfish Café: Your Sunday Morning Fix.

“It’s hard to define Starfish, but maybe that’s the beauty of it. From the electric swing playing over the speakers to the David Bowie posters pouting down at you from the wall, from the vintage swan wallpaper to the Pacific Ocean right outside the front door… and I haven’t even gotten to the food yet. Think coconut turmeric lattes as you sit outside and enjoy the sun on a lazy Sunday morning. Think a glass of wine as you wind down to an acoustic set on a Friday evening. Think fresh seafood sourced straight from the Otago harbour. Mouth watering yet?”

Signal Hill Lookout

Now this is one city secret that I’m surprised isn’t more popular. Signal Hill is – without a shred of a doubt – the best lookout in Dunedin.

Although you’re unlikely to have it all to yourself (there’s usually small groups of people playing frisbee or eating fish and chips), you’ll be too distracted by the jaw-dropping views to notice. The lookout also hosts the city’s New Zealand Centennial Memorial, and has the ‘Big Easy’ bike trail for those questionable souls who feel like cycling 6.1km uphill.

For the best footage, watch my Dunedin vlog at the bottom of this post!

The photographs below are courtesy of  Amplifier NZ and Wikipedia (respectively).

University Book Shop

Book shops are my guilty pleasure, and none more so than the University Book Shop.

Unfortunately for my wallet, UBS is situated right next to the University of Otago, meaning that it is a daily battle for me not to enter and sacrifice the contents of my bank account. What sets UBS apart from every other book shop is that their titles extend beyond the generic bestsellers. Bibliophiles rejoice! They curate provocative publications that require good old fashioned rummaging through the shelves to find, and you could easily wile away hours inside the labyrinth of literature.

If you’re a stationery enthusiast (I mean, who isn’t?), you won’t be disappointed either; UBS sells unique gift stationery along with tea leaves, scented candles and novelty socks. UBS is also proud to be involved in Dunedin’s special UNESCO City of Literature status.

Photography courtesy of Hotel St Clair.

Be sure to also check out…

Dunedin Botanic Gardens: Through My Lens

Flight of the Butterflies: Otago Museum’s Tropical Forest

Brew-tiful: Nectar Espresso Bar & Café

The Beach Review #1: Saint Kilda

As well as my Dunedin Travel Vlog 👇

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Dunedin Botanic Gardens: Through My Lens

The ‘Deats:

Name: Dunedin Botanic Gardens

Website: www.dunedinbotanicgarden.co.nz

Location: 12 Opoho Road, North Dunedin, New Zealand

Open Hours: Dawn to Dusk

Cost: Free! 💵

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Flight of the Butterflies: Otago Museum’s Tropical Forest

“Hundreds of butterflies flitted in and out of sight like short-lived punctuation marks in a stream of consciousness without beginning or end.”

Haruki Murakami

I’m one of those people that can wile away hours and hours in a museum. Load me with snacks and a map and I’ll quite happily potter amongst the exhibitions without once consulting the time.

The thing with having lived in the same place your entire life is that eventually you grow blind to the beauty and individuality of it. I spend all my time yearning to escape and counting down the days till I board that plane, when I have a stunning city full of possibility and wonder right on my doorstep. Cheesy, but true.

I recently hosted two lovely couch surfers for a couple of days, which was a fantastic opportunity to accompany them sightseeing and experience the New Zealand town of Dunedin through new eyes. On a miserable and cataclysmic winters day, we trudged through the storm towards the heavenly embrace of Otago Museum’s Tropical Forest.

Otago Museum is the natural, cultural and scientific jewel of Dunedin. Conveniently neighbouring the historic University of Otago, the museum has a rich diversity of yearly and seasonal exhibitions on offer. Perhaps the most unique of these is the Tropical Forest.

As it’s name suggests, the Tropical Forest in a humid oasis within the confines of the museum with its own thriving ecosystem of butterflies. Yes, you heard that right: butterflies.

The aim of this “living, tropical habitat” is to educate people about these exotic, friendly insects. It’s no wonder the attraction is such a success; by entering the enclosure, you are fully immersing yourself in the butterflies’ world. Three stories of crawling vines, blooming flowers and a majestic waterfall – yes, a waterfall – make you temporarily forget you are not in fact on an expedition through the Amazonian rainforest.

Curious butterflies dance around you as you explore the striking environment. Watch your step for birds or turtles, and don’t look too close – you might spot a tarantula. But for those who aren’t a fan of creepy crawlies, don’t fret; a thick pane of glass protects you from these eight-legged creatures (*shivers*).

The Tropical Forest is a wonderful way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon, embrace your inner scientist or simply to escape the cold (hello 30° thermostat). The nature of the experience means that it’s appropriate and enjoyable for all ages, and I have never once been there and felt inconvenienced by crowds. Actually, the last time I went, we were the only ones there. How neat is that?!

Did you know?

  • Butterfly wings are actually clear; the patterns and colours are constructed by the reflection of microscopic scales
  • During winter, the Monarch butterfly migrates from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico – a whopping2,000 miles – before returning to the north again in the Spring
  • A group of butterflies is called a ‘flutter’

The ‘Deats

Name: The Discovery World Tropical Forest

Location: Otago Museum (419 Great King Street, Dunedin, New Zealand)

Website: http://otagomuseum.nz/whats-on/do/dwtf/

Hours: 10am-5pm

Price: $0-$10 (depending on age)

Tip: If you’re not a self-diagnosed lepidopterophobia (noun: a person who is afraid of butterflies and moths), I encourage you to surreptitiously dip your finger into one of the pottles of nectar and accept the challenge to try land a butterfly. Trust me, it makes for some stellar photograph material 👌

If you are traveling to Dunedin – or are a local searching for new ways to enjoy the southern city – don’t forget to add the unforgettable landscape of Lovers Leap to your list. For more information on this walking track, check out my blog post: Postcards from Lover’s Leap.

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A Mountain Baptism at 7000ft

I’m not one for spontaneity – and that’s not exactly a good thing. But when my lovely friend Becky (who you might remember from this stellar interview) suggested we go climb a mountain, who was I to say no?

Let me set the scene for you. During the university break, I escaped the mundanity of urban routine to the wine-soaked town of Cromwell. It just so happened that Becky had traveled to the town over. Naturally, we decided to meet up and go on some good old fashioned adventuring. And so it was that one balmy Saturday morning, Becky and I jumped into my car and set off towards the shadow of the Remarkables, a flask of mulled wine in one hand and a drink bottle in the other (because, y’know, we’re responsible drinkers).

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the New Zealand landscape, the 7000ft Remarkables are an aptly-named mountain range located on the southeastern shore of Lake Wakatipu and a ten minute drive from the adrenaline capital of Queenstown. During the winter months, the Remarkables are blanketed in a powdery layer of snow and transform into a gem of a ski-field. But at this time of the year, travellers are treated to a rustic canvas of alpine undergrowth and jaw-dropping views.

One of the features that lured us to the Remarkables was Lake Alta, a small glacial lake nestled amongst the peaks. Symbolic of new beginnings in the coming months (stay tuned!), Becky had joked that we might baptise ourselves in the water when we reached it. I liked the idea but nevertheless snorted in response. Me, swimming in a glacial lake? Please.

Famous last words.

Under a crisp blue sky, we parked at the base of the deserted ski resort and began our ascent. After the initial revelation that I am embarrassingly unfit, we settled into a comfortable yet spritely pace. I have never really been heavily involved (or even lightly involved, to tell the truth) in any sort of hiking, but could certainly understand the appeal to it. A highlight for me included navigating our way up an almost vertical rockscape and questioning every step of the way why I had made the conscious decision to impose this upon myself.

I don’t think I am likely to forget the sensation of busting my gut to reach the summit – practically crawling on hands and knees – for the stupendous Central Otago landscape to fall into view. Having actually earned the view was unbelievably rewarding, and I had to take a moment at the top just to breathe and take in the sight.

With clothing clinging to our clammy skin (how’s that for an alliteration?) we climbed down from the peak and descended upon Lake Atlas. I don’t think I’d ever laid eyes on water so clear. Sheltered from the wind by the surrounding crags, the surface of the lake was undisturbed and inviting, the water a tremendous tinge of turquoise (blimey, I’m on a roll).

Without further ado – or warning – Becky began stripping off. When she were naked and her clothes crumpled at her feet, she began wading shamelessly into the lake. Apparently this whole re-awakening/baptism business was more than an entertained thought.

“Take the damn photo!” she demanded while I gawked, my camera buried in my pocket. Her voice betrayed the cold. Laughing, I got my act together and began snapping away madly. Unencumbered by expectations, Becky extended her arms and embraced the invigorating mountain air.

I was next. Once Becky had clambered back out of the lake and dressed herself, there was really no excuse I could avail. Surprising even myself, I climbed out of my deliciously cosy clothes and waded tentatively into the depths. The biting, mind-numbing water sucked hungrily at my legs, and the possibility crossed my mind that I might not actually be able to convince my limbs to walk out again. It wasn’t just cold, it was painful. But still, I made myself stay put, and the endorphins that skyrocket afterwards were second to none.

Becky and I rewarded our efforts by opening the flask of mulled wine we had brought. Basking in the sun on a slab of stone lakeside, we sipped away, soaked in the landscape and discussed new beginnings. If hiking up a 7000ft mountain and taking a glacial plunge was what it took to experience such satisfaction… well, maybe I could get used to this.

If these photos have tickled your fancy, then be sure to check out my Central Otago Vlog featuring more footage of the hike – and subscribe to the Ginger Passports YouTube Channel!

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