I couldn’t return to my home town for a quick visit (or as quick as a visit can be when you’re traveling 12,000 miles) and not pay at least some blog-worthy tribute to this sentimental city. Returning felt a bit like being embraced by a warm hug, and it was certainly nostalgic to revisit some of my old haunts.
Although you’ll find some token touristic attractions here, you will also find a few hidden gems that only Dunedin locals know about. It took a lot for me not to comprise this list solely of food ideas, so know that the ones I have included are – in my humble opinion – on a level above the rest.
So, in no particular order, here are 40 things to do in this little Scottish settlement by the name of Dunedin…
The surfing and farmer’s market photographs are courtesy of Unsplash. The photograph of Kiki Beware was taken by Naomi Haussmann for Neat Places, and the photograph of Larnach Castle was sourced from Tripadvisor.
It’s been a long, long time (four months to be exact) since I published my last vlog. As much fun as it was to try something new with my 2017 Travel Recap, I missed the good old templates that I had grown so fond of. There’s nothing like editing together cuts of saturated fruit and off-focus flowers 🍉🌺 (I’m being completely sarcastic. My boyfriend doesn’t stop complaining about my obsession with fruit and flowers)
For all of you in the southern hemisphere, a balmy Waikiki travel vlog might be just what you need as you embark on the odyssey into winter. Or, it might really not be. Either way, here is two minutes of footage taken during three trips over ten years in the aloha state. Enjoy.
You might have already seen my Postcards from Waikiki blog post that was published last Friday. If not, here are some aesthetic highlights.
While you’re here, be a 🌟 and give my video a thumbs up on YouTube (or better still – subscribe!) and offer some feedback so that I can improve on my content. It’s all about getting better and better.
Aloha ohana! 🌺 I am finally returning after my spontaneous month-long hiatus with some stellar new content, and it feels oh so good to be back. Over the past month or so, I have completed a round-world trip, which is something I can now tick off my (admittedly nonexistent) bucket list. I left from England, spent a few days in Spain, checked into the motherland (New Zealand), caught some waves in Hawaii, and then circled back to England again. I’ve got to say, I had presumed a 360° journey would be painful fight-wise (I passed through nine different airports), but I hit the jackpot on high-quality airlines and all but empty planes. There’s nothing like having the whole row of seats to yourself in economy class on a long-haul flight.
To give you a little taste of what I’ve been up to lately, I’m going to kick off with another instalment of the postcard series: the Waikiki edition. This was my third time traveling to Hawaii, which meant that – as an old hand – my experience was a little less touristic and more of an exercise in visiting all of my favourite haunts. I spent the week surfing, drinking watermelon juice, and roaming the streets of Honolulu’s most iconic neighbourhood in an exasperated search of vegetarian food (seriously, it’s an issue how few options there are. This is 2018, people!).
Oscar Wilde once said that Oxford still remains the most beautiful thing in England, and (that) nowhere else are life and art so exquisitely blended, so perfectly made one.
He wasn’t wrong.
When I arrived in the City of Dreaming Spires only three months ago, it was impossible to turn a blind eye to its reputation. I had been well-informed that it was the most beautiful town in England, and the fact that I would be living (quite literally) on the doorstep of the world’s oldest English-speaking university that has educated the likes of Stephen Hawking, Aldous Huxley, and Emma Watson (shout out to the Harry Potter generation) didn’t alleviate the suspense.
All of five minutes after I stepped off the train, I decided that the suspense had been worth it.
I plan to write a lot of blog posts detailing my Oxford experience, but for now, sit back, relax, and enjoy a ‘lil appetiser of what’s to come. Oxford is a fantastical place that you really have to see with your own two eyes, but for now, see what it’s like through my lens…
There is quite possibly nothing more transcendent that Oxford under snowfall
Enchanted by New College (deceptive in the fact that is actually one of the oldest colleges at the University of Oxford)
Half an hour shy of Madrid sleeps the humble Alcalá de Henares. The Spanish city — which translates to Citadel of the river Henares — is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and boasts a rich history which can be traced back to the Bronze Age.
Meandering through the shadowed alleyways, I couldn’t help but feel reminiscent of my time exploring the Italian city of Siena. The centre — Plaza de Cervantes — is positively medieval, and the cobbled streets carry a certain romanticism. The destination has come to be known as “the city of three cultures” owing to its three different neighbourhoods of Moorish, Jewish, and Christian origin.
It is also one of those rare places where there is a lucky dip of tourists and locals. Alcalá de Henares is a university town, so the streets are not only buzzing with travellers, but also the quiet presence of residents. For someone who unwittingly seeks comfort from dichotomies — I am only human, after all — I found this to be a little unsettling.
Crossing the threshold into Alcalá de Henares, it soon became readily apparent that humans do not run this city. Instead, around ninety breeding pairs of storks have claimed the land — and more are arriving every year. The distinct birds throne nests balanced upon every rooftop, their black silhouettes stamped into the skyline. As someone who had never before seen a stork in real life — for me, they existed purely as cartoons swinging clothed babies from their beaks — seeing them for the first time was something of a shock.
Alcalá de Henares has come to embrace the visitors, so much so that the stork population has become one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city. For a place known as the birthplace of the celebrated author Miguel de Cervantes, that’s no easy feat. The stork has become emblematic of Alcalá de Henares, and has created something of a communal identity for its citizens.
I spent that Sunday afternoon roaming the city and practicing my broken Spanish. I sat in Plaza de Cervantes and ordered tortilla de patata, cerveza, café con hielo and vino tinto, whilst above, storks snapped their beaks and scattered twigs from their disheveled nests. My heart may belong to Madrid, but there is something doubtlessly special about Alcalá de Henares.
The storks know it too.
Catch more of my Spanish adventures here – or if you want to get choosy, take your pick out of Barcelona or Madrid 🇪🇸
For me, one of the greatest joys of traveling is the opportunity to expose yourself to diverse cultures and languages, to see how other people live, and to distance yourself from everything familiar and comfortable. It is for those very reasons that places such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America do not naturally draw me.
It is also for those very reasons that without a shred of doubt, I can say that the crown of my travels in 2017 – if not ever – goes to Egypt.
Many things amazed me during my three weeks spent in the capital of Cairo. There were the pyramids, the landscape, the way of life… but perhaps what amazed me most was that there was hardly a (western) tourist in sight.
Why was this? I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Here is a country with such rich history that places like Paris pale in comparison. Here is a country where you can easily budget for NZD$15 a day. Why am I – a white, western tourist – such an anomaly?
Cue research. Statistics show that Egypt’s tourism plunged from 11 million in 2010, to 9.3 million in 2015, and then to 5.3 million in 2016. I’m not ignorant; I’m fully aware that Egypt hasn’t escaped disaster over the last few years. This is understandably enough to deter anyone from regarding it as a tourist hotspot. To cite personal experience, I myself have rejected flights with Malaysian Airlines after the events of 2014.
Despite being located in North Africa, Egypt is also a Middle Eastern state, and to hold that label comes with certain connotations for us western folk. I’m not saying that these associations are completely false, but neither am I saying that they should serve as well-grounded rationale to veto the Gift of the Nile. For a long time, Egyptian politics have been anything but stable. We can track how statistics nosedive following the 2011 revolution, whereby autocrat Hosni Mubarak was overthrown. This political uncertainty kept tourists at bay.
“The low number of inbound tourists has affected the economy, which looks to the sector as a crucial source of hard currency.”
Further events have dissuaded the hordes. In October 2015, a Russian passenger plane was brought down on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, resulting in 224 fatalities. In the wake of the tragedy, Russia – a major source of tourists – cancelled all air links with Egypt, and the United Kingdom suspended flights to Sharm el-Sheikh (the Egyptian resort from where the flight had departed). It is estimated that this decision occasioned a loss of 900,000 British travellers.
In January 2016, two German tourists were stabbed to death in Hurghada, and in December that same year, ISIS killed 27 worshippers at a Coptic church. Just two months ago, an attack on a Sufi mosque claimed over 300 lives… I’m probably not supporting my cause here, am I?
Let’s take a look at the UK government’s foreign travel advice for Egypt. Under terrorism, the government warns, “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Egypt… you should avoid crowded places and gatherings… in North Sinai, there are frequent, almost daily reports of terrorist attacks… foreigners have been targeted.” It’s not exactly the most reassuring news for prospective travellers. There is also a lovely little segment on how the government will not pay a ransom to free British citizens in the instance of kidnapping, but for the sake of encouraging people to visit Egypt, I’m going to leave that bit out.
However, the article does continue with, “The authorities in Egypt maintain a significant security presence across the country, including armed security officers stationed at important sites, critical infrastructure, and road checkpoints… extra measures are in place at tourist sites… (and) the Egyptian government’s counter-terrorism campaign has resulted in significant reduction in the number of terrorist attacks on the Egyptian mainland since January 2015.” That’s a little better.
There is a light amongst all of the darkness; in the first half of 2017, Egypt’s tourism rose by 170% to reach 4.3 million. This has been attributed to how Egypt has upped the ante when it comes to security and other incentives for travel. That number doesn’t even come close to the peak of Egypt’s tourism heyday – and it’s not to say the industry isn’t still reeling – though it illustrates how the country is making a slow but steady comeback.
“… we must move away from a ‘green-light’ mentality on travel advisories, and government and travel companies must devise a methodology to inform consumers as to all risks, actual or potential.”
My advice to you? Travel to Egypt. The threats certainly exist, but if you take the time to educate yourself on how to best navigate things, you will be greatly rewarded. With a non-existent tourist population, you will probably find you have the sights all to yourself. Al Jazeera described visiting the pyramids as “… like walking on the moon… deserted, forlorn and uninhabited”. Don’t believe them? Just take a look at my experience below…
If you consult terrorism statistics for London, you will observe that there have been five separate incidents in the last twelve months alone. With today’s political landscape, it’s unfeasible to be thinking of places as having safety guaranteed. Nothing is sure in this world.
Did I feel safe in Cairo? Yes. Aside from some minor harassment – which you can read about here – I did not for one moment feel that my protection was under threat. I am not encouraging that foreigners should take their safety for granted. In other words, don’t be stupid. Use common sense and exercise caution. Dress appropriately for the culture and understand that you have a responsibility to both yourself and others to behave respectfully. But the fundamentals aside, embrace the incredible opportunity that is Egypt.
I’ll see you there.
Need some more convincing for why you should travel to Egypt? Check out the following blog posts…
One day, I will publish content on time. Today is not that day.
Nevertheless, I have finally gotten around to writing a blog post to accompany my 2017 Travel Recap video that I published to YouTube about three weeks ago. As I wrote, sometimes it takes editing on your laptop for fifteen hours straight to really appreciate the magnitude of the year you’ve just had. In the space of 2 minutes and 52 seconds, I cram my adventures from five diverse yet equally incredible countries into this yearly review.
After the last six months, I have learnt that you should never nurse expectations when experiencing a new place. All expectations do is harbour disappointment – and what would be the point of that?
Stepping off the train at Paddington Station, I immediately found myself transported back to big city life. After shying away from the masses for the best part of three months, I ached to lose myself once again in the faceless crowds. In a city of nearly nine million people – over twice the size of my home country – I was pretty sure that wouldn’t be difficult.
In true British fashion, we were welcomed with miserable, melancholic weather. Cursing my photographic luck, I readjusted my scarf, kept calm and carried on (sorry, I had to). It was the first time I had been reunited with the Metro since my week in Paris, and I wasn’t expecting to have missed it so much. There’s that galvanising feeling of silent camaraderie between passengers that you just don’t experience on buses and trains. Or is that just me? Yeah… that’s probably just me.
“… when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”
Samuel Johnson (1777)
The modus operandi of this trip wasn’t so much participatory as it was observatory. We had arrived for one day only with a very special objective – to see Star Wars – and the rest was really just the icing on the cake. I was quite content wandering around the streets and getting hopelessly lost in the hopes of learning even a little about this beautiful, monstrous metropolis.
We strolled down the River Thames and lapped up the intoxicating scent of mulled wine from the Southbank Centre Winter Market. I had never before encountered such a market culture before arriving in England, and could wile away hours at a time exploring the myriad stalls.
Weaving our way through buskers and tourists alike, we looked up to find ourselves bathed in the shadow of the London Eye. Spoiler alert: it’s freakin’ huge. There are certain landmarks over the world that I have found somewhat underwhelming in size – the Pyramids and Big Ben, just to name two – but this iconic ferris wheel certainly lives up to the hype. Whilst we didn’t join the queues to see London from above, we enjoyed the view from below, and then carried on our merry way towards Parliament.
“London is a roost for every bird”
Benjamin Disraeli (1870)
Without a doubt in my mind, I can say that the highlight for me was the Camden Market. Unlike most people (I imagine), I had never before heard of this place. This fact was met with disbelieving ears, but I digress. Upon arriving, part of me felt like I had been thrown back in the MBK Shopping Centre in Bangkok, with it’s eccentric labyrinthine marketplace. Camden Market has over one thousand shops, stalls, bars and cafés nestled inside, plus spectacular events on the daily. My personal favourite food hubs include the infamous Cereal Killer Café (you know, the one with over 120 types of cereal on the menu) and the Cheese Bar (try the rosemary goats’ cheese, honey, walnut, and rosemary butter grilled cheese toastie! Phew, that’s a mouthful…). This is also a neat place to visit if you’re vegan 🌽
I also discovered that one of my favourite artists – Amy Winehouse – lived and died in Camden. For this reason, a lot of places in this district pay homage to her, such as the striking statue found right in the heart of Camden Market, as photographed below.
The day concluded under the evening glow of Leicester Square. Located in London’s West End, this pedestrianised square is home to some of the city’s most iconic shops. Think M&M’s World and the LEGO Store – but honest opinion? The LEGO Store is slightly overrated, and M&M’s World didn’t even sell my favourite flavour (peanut butter, in case you were wondering). But hey, this trip wasn’t about retail therapy. After digesting that M&M’s could warrant four floors worth of consumerism and merchandise, we withdrew back to Leicester Square and explored the lights and the art and the Christmas atmosphere. London is most beautiful at night.
I will be returning to the Old Smoke very soon. I barely scraped the surface of London, and next time, I want to get my hands dirty. There are so many things to see, so much to do… far more than a day could ever afford. What do you recommend?
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for my London travel vlog, which will be uploaded to the Ginger Passports’ YouTube Channel. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss out on any exciting updates! I will also be writing about my favourite London café’s in January, so keep your eyes peeled. Last but not least, if any of my readers are based in London and would be interested in meeting up next time I’m around, flick me a message on any of my social media profiles, or else email me at email@example.com – till then! 👋
When I was planning my itinerary for Paris, I would scroll endlessly through travel blogs to find the most beautiful photographs, and then track down where they had been taken. I figured that I was going to be in France, one of the most heavenly countries in the world; why not surround myself with as much beauty as possible?
Aside from the usual landmarks – I’m talking the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe – I began to notice a certain thread between pictures. There was always this one street that travellers – especially bloggers – seemed to gravitate towards. It’s not hard to see why; this narrow street had the most quaint houses, all painted different shades of pastel.
After some sleuthing, I discovered that this dreamlike place is called Rue Crémieux, and that it is located in Paris’ 12th Arrondissement (between Rue de Lyon and Rue de Bercy). When I finally visited the city, I took the Metro across La Seine to Gare de Lyon, and a short stroll later, found myself standing in the middle of the cobblestoned street I had become so familiar with through my screen.
Rue Crémieux is a pedestrian street, so you can lose yourself through your lens without having to worry about getting run over (or – a little more realistically – tooted at by impatient Parisians). Paris is known for it’s Haussmann architecture, but this is a somewhat pleasant exception; the houses give the impression that you have stumbled into a countryside lane, despite being smack bang in the middle of one of the most populous cities in Europe.
Fashion bloggers frequent Rue Crémieux to use it as a backdrop for their photographs – and who can blame them? This street is beyond idyllic, and bloggers have the luxury of choosing just what colour palette they would like to pose before. Whilst I am quite content to work behind the camera, most of the other tourists were making the most of the prismatic opportunity. This street has been likened to Portobello Road in London, and it’s not difficult to see why.
The only downside to this online exposure is that Rue Crémieux is no longer one of Paris’ best kept secrets. Now, it seems that every man and his dog is flocking here (and I suppose I’m not helping on that front, either 🙈). So perhaps be thoughtful and don’t overstay your welcome; I’m sure the locals aren’t too fussed about all the attention.
A year ago — well, a year and one month, to be exact — I told myself that enough was enough. I had been flirting with the idea of starting a blog for years now, but the technical side to things really threw me off. I’m not a complete numpty when it comes to technology, but words such as RSS and permalink could have been part of a foreign language for all I was concerned.
In the end, it was a trip to Southeast Asia in late 2016 that really pushed me to throw the Ginger Passports together. I saw it as an ideal opportunity to generate content and launch my brand. Gritting my teeth, I went the budget route and signed up to wordpress.com (I would later swap over to the more professional wordpress.org), recruited a talented friend to speak code — and here we are: thirteen months later with a blog I couldn’t be more proud of.
2017 was one hell of a year. I mean that in both the best and worst possible sense of that word, but for the purposes of positivity, I am going to focus on the best.
2017 began with a bang – quite literally. I spent my favourite New Years Eve yet in a high rise in the Auckland, curled up with a bottle of Shiraz and watching King Kong (adrenaline-pinching, amiright?). When the clock struck midnight, I ran out to the balcony and watched fireworks cartwheel over the luminescent city.
I began the year how I intended to finish it: with a map in one hand and a suitcase in the other. For the first week of January, we road tripped across the North Island of New Zealand. Beginning in Auckland, we zig-zagged our way down south, making pit stops in iconic places such as Hobbiton. We concluded the journey in Wellington, where we filled several action-packed days making the most of the capital’s cultural scene.
Trying to be all creative and such at Hobbiton in Mata Mata
Stumbling across a painted piano on the waterfront… just your average Wellington shenanigans
Feeling nosy? Get your business all up in my travel vlog of the North Island road trip 🎬
February was a milestone month for me in that it was the first time I published a piece of work on an independent platform.
I had been a follower of the feminist travel blog – Travelettes – for some time by this point, and was eager to try my hand at submitting a guest post. Not expecting much, I wrote an article on navigating the turbulent landscape of homesickness, and voila! How to Get Comfortable with Traveling was published a few weeks later.
This was also a time that I began to realise the value of my home. Foreshadowings of change in the coming months were beginning to creep into my life, and I began to feel a need to explore and appreciate my own city before the opportunity escaped me.
On the hottest day of the summer, I launched my beach review series at Saint Kilda Beach in Dunedin. On what was likely the windiest day, I made the trek up to Lover’s Leap to take in the jaw-dropping views of the Otago Peninsula.
If you ask me what my favourite part of New Zealand is, my answer will irrevocably by Central Otago.
For some reason or another, I decided in March that a Central Otago escape was in order. Drawn by the temptation of vineyards and gourmet cheese, I packed my bags and left the coast behind.
Quite by chance, my trip synchronised with a spontaneous roadie of my friend Becky (check out this interview with her), and one Saturday morning, we decided to go on an adventure up the Remarkables mountain range in Queenstown (the tourist capital of New Zealand). A bottle of mulled wine later, and we decided that skinny dipping in glacial lakes seemed like a good idea.
Central Otago is the most beautiful place on Earth, and no one can convince me otherwise
(Let’s just pretend I didn’t just skip two months, okay?)
If anyone ever tells you that running away from your problems never solves anything…. well, they’re wrong.
Okay, so that’s probably not the best advice to be giving you. But in this particular case, it worked wonders.
Midway through 2017, I was not a happy chappy. As special as my home country of New Zealand was to me, I just wasn’t prepared to invest in a short-term future there. I was nearing the last semester of my degree, and needed to be thinking about what I was going to do once I walked out of that exam room for the final time. During June, I really worked myself into a state over this, and — against the wishes and logic of nearly everyone I knew — I resolved that unhappiness by buying a one-way ticket to Spain. You could say I was quite literally running — flying? — away from my problems.
I landed in Madrid a week later and I never looked back. I fell in love with Spain in the same way you might fall in love with someone who saves your life. The language, the culture, the people… I was starving for change, and took everything in my stride.
As chance had it, I arrived in the Spanish capital the same weekend of World Pride, and had the unmissable opportunity to march down Puerta del Sol with three million other supporters. 2017 marked the 40th anniversary of the first LGBTIQ pride parade in Spain, so it was a particularly special event indeed.
There’s nothing like a bit of ELO
After falling for Madrid, I bought a train ticket south to the Mediterranean paradise of Andalusia. I delighted in tastes of Málaga, Granada and Seville before bidding a short adiós to Spain and flying to the City of Love.
Just east of Málaga… those beautiful moments before I was reduced to a sun-burnt lobster
As I wrote on the blog, Paris is… well, Paris. And as Anne Rice said, “Paris was a universe whole and entire unto herself, hollowed and fashioned by history… as vast and indestructible as nature itself”. One of us definitely nailed it.
To me, Paris was always one of those places where the idea surmounted the reality. To elaborate, I never actually thought I would make it there. Not in any macabre way or anything – it was just that Paris always seemed so far away and distant, as though belonging to someone else’s dream. To stand in her very midst was a surreal experience.
Because nothing screams Paris like the same photo taken by every tourist ever
I didn’t think it possible to consider any part of France to prevail over Paris, but that was before I stumbled upon Nice. Nice – the Mediterranean heel of France – drew me for reasons I cannot fathom. Perhaps it was the landscape reminiscent of Andalusia, or the local culture that made it so effortless to feel not on holiday, but at home. All I knew was that when I left – with my pockets full of truffle oil and lavender sweets – I almost felt homesick for a place I barely knew.
If you had asked me at the beginning of the year where 2017 would take me, I would not have said Egypt. Not because it didn’t intrigue me – quite the opposite – but because it existed in a completely different world that was incompatible with all safe intentions of the independent, female traveler. And yet – much to the joys of my mother and father – I found myself spontaneously stepping off the plane at Cairo airport in the early days of September.
Cairo was all I wanted it to be and more. I ticked the touristic activities off my bucket list – think Pyramids and Citadel – but I also had the opportunity to explore a more authentic side to things such as markets. Staying with locals certainly didn’t hurt, either. I was also treated to some classic street harassment, which was neither appreciated nor altogether surprising. If travel has taught me one thing, it’s that you can’t pick and choose the positive aspects of a culture.
After over three months of living out of a suitcase, I eventually made it to my final destination: the United Kingdom. There, I began my final semester as an undergraduate on exchange in England.
It was relaxing to be able to focus on my studies for a wee while without another trip looming on the horizon. As invigorating as I find travel, it does mean sacrificing the little things. Like routine. And gym memberships. And a proper bed.
It is now mid-December, and I have itchy feet again. My restlessness has me trawling through budget flight search engines, keeping an eye out for deals. My camera has sunk into the depths of my wardrobe, and the Ginger Passports feels naked without fresh content three times a week.
I’m not choosing to think of 2018 as the beginning of something new. I’ve learnt that seeing starts and ends to things isn’t always healthy, and can pre-empt failure if intended plans don’t exactly take shape. Rather, January 1st will just be another day. I won’t set goals for the next twelve months, nor will I foster expectation. My blog – and myself – will grow at our own pace, and enjoy what life has to offer on this side of the world 🌍