One of my close friends from my early school days used to give everyone in our friend group a flower in a flower pot on the 1st of May. He would just leave it on my porch for me to find, always somehow surprising me year after year from elementary to high school. My own birthday resides in May, the month known for the height of colorful blooms and wonderful things, not that I’m biased or anything.
I remember the first time I was given flowers from a boy I liked, my many walks home from school that consisted of me very literally smelling the roses (or anything else really) while my head was in the clouds, as it has always been.
I still say my favorite city in the USA is Boston because I went when the tulips were in full bloom (yes in May) at the Boston Public Garden. That was also the trip that I discovered my favorite flower in the world is burnt orange tulips. I had never seen something so beautiful in the form of a plant.
A few of you who follow me on Snapchat may already know about my recent venture into eastern Oregon this past week. I spent St. Paddy’s Day in Bend and I had the chance to take a day trip further east to the John Day Fossil Beds.
As soon as I saw a picture of Lake Tekapo on my Pinterest feed one day, I saved it in the memory bank as a place I had to visit for my road trip around the South Island. In fact, it was one of the places I was most excited to see, mainly because I love lupins and turquoise blue, two aspects that Lake Tekapo is known for.
Santa Barbara stood out to us as we traveled up the coast. I’ve always thought of it as the demarcation line between northern and southern California, maybe not in terms of geography, but in how its a mix, a little bit of everything.
While I was in Waitomo, besides exploring the enchanting glowworm caves, I took the time to go hiking on my own. With so much untouched nature around me in the small Kiwi country town, I thought it was only appropriate to take the time to appreciate it.
After finishing up with the caves, I wandered off to explore a few different trails just outside of town. I ended up getting myself a tad lost and I had to hitchhike back to my hostel, but the mental space and beauty I found on the walk was well worth it.
For once, I took a break from my iPod and instead took in everything around me. As opposed to my usual “walkabouts” which tend to include a rumination about a subject in particular, I used this walk to get lost in nature and clear my mind of fleeting thoughts.
Last weekend, with nice weather on the horizon for the first time in a month (and minimal wind – score!), I thought it would be the perfect time to take a little road trip along the coast to Cape Palliser.
With everything opposite to what I’m used to and not being an avid driver to begin with, it was a perfect opportunity to start getting comfortable driving on the left side of the road.
It was necessary to learn all the Kiwi road signage, including getting used to kilometers instead of miles, and liters instead of gallons, before I take off on my South Island road trip in month. I’m becoming Kiwi-fied, slowly but surely.
Just a 2.5 hour drive from Wellington, Cape Palliser is a beautiful day trip if you love rugged coastal views, seals, black sand beaches, and lighthouses.
The famous lighthouse’s roots go all the way back to 1897, and still stands in seemingly perfect condition on a big hill you can see from a mile away. Lonely Planet even named Cape Palliser in the top 10 flashiest lighthouses in the world. Clearly, it has stood the trials of time.
There are 254 steps to get up to the lighthouse from the base. Steps always have a way of reminding me how out of shape I am, but the dramatic views at the top were definitely worth the struggle.
We gleefully came across all of the fur seals dotted along the coast on the drive back, they were just chilling out in the sunshine with the salty sea breeze as their canopy. I found out afterwards that it’s actually the biggest fur seal colony on the North Island.
It was a beautiful day in the Wellington region, and it was great to finally explore an area that’s inaccessible without a car, but still such a short drive from the city, and to test out my Kiwi driving skills for my big travels coming up.
Have you ever been to Cape Palliser? What are your favorite day trips from Wellington?
The Gold Coast is popular with “schoolies” as they’re called in Australia, also known as the 18 year old high school crowd. It’s also a popular place for Kiwis, surprisingly enough, it’s one of the top destinations for Kiwis when they’re traveling to Oz. Of course, it’s also a mecca for surfers, business folk, amusement park aficionados, and people who simply love living in beautiful climates.
To be honest, compared with the rest of Australia, I wasn’t all that impressed with the Gold Coast, and therefore didn’t spend much time there. I much preferred the laid back nature of the Sunshine Coast to the party atmosphere and big skyscraper vibe of Surfers Paradise, in particular.
There’s a reason the young school crowd travels to Surfers Paradise for holidays once they’re of age, it’s a great place to go if you want to go clubbing, drink all night, and have a good time.
Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan, to be fair, I don’t think Surfers Paradise is given the credit it deserves. Yes, it has towering skyscrapers that tend to put shadows on the beach, and a drinking culture that takes away from the other attributes the city has to offer, but it’s also a stunningly beautiful place on the coast of Australia.
I only spent one night in Surfers Paradise, but that one night I experienced one of the best sunsets I’ve had throughout my travels.
I mean, those clouds though. Pure joy.
Another cool thing about Surfers Paradise is the night market that takes over the promenade. There are a variety of stalls to choose from, and you’ll basically find whatever your heart desires, from souvenirs, to tasty food, to other services such as a classy massage on the waterfront, or even getting a replica of your hand in wax.
Surfers wasn’t my favorite place, but still worth a stop over on travels up or down the East Coast. It’s a great place to experience Aussie nightlife, or have a relaxing time on the beach. It’s a chance to catch an awesome sunset, which is never a waste in my view.
Have you been to Surfers Paradise? The Gold Coast?
Historical Hue (pronounced “hway”) in Central Vietnam is a feast for the eyes and the history buff. Located along Song Huong River, more commonly known as the Perfume River, Hue is not only an UNESCO World Heritage Site, but the historical and once national capital of Vietnam and the Nguyen Dynasty.
The main attraction by far in Hue is the old Citadel. Built in 1805, it includes the Forbidden City within its walls, and it will give you a day’s worth of crumbling ruins, ancient architecture, royal palaces, and the knowledge that you’re standing in the original Royal Vietnam capital.
The entrance fee can be bartered like most things in Vietnam, but expect to pay at least 100,000 dong ($5US), if not more. I sadly didn’t get to actually go inside the Citadel as I only had one full day in Hue, and there was a lot more of the city that I wanted to see, but I would highly recommend spending a day exploring the complex if you have more time in Hue.
Besides the Citadel, there is more to see with the numerous pagodas, tombs, colorful culture on the streets, and scenic walks through the city.
Hue was a nice stop midway through my Vietnamese travels. From the little time I spent there, it seemed to have a slower pace and friendlier atmosphere than some other Vietnamese counterparts I visited. It gave me a chance to catch my breath and just relax. Drawn to the slow pace around me, I decided not to focus on an action-packed day of sightseeing, and instead used my time to walk around the city, get lost, and take pictures on a whim.
I found myself at Tigon Hostel, which was one of the nicer accommodations I stayed at in Vietnam, and one that I would recommend to any traveler on a budget. Prices start around $8US for a 10 bed dorm, free breakfast buffet and free WiFi, and go up slightly from there. Being a relatively new hostel, everything was clean, the free breakfast buffet was superb compared to what most hostels offer for free breakfast, and everyone was affectionately friendly. I also enjoyed the fact that the staff dressed in colorful traditional Vietnamese clothing, and were highly knowledgable about what to do with my time in Hue.
Although there may not be as much of a draw to see Hue as other places up and down the coast, it is a great city to soak up traditional Vietnamese culture and take a break from the sometimes overwhelming pace of most Vietnamese cities.
I’ve been in Wellington for 2 1/2 weeks, and I’m grateful to say that everything has come together more than I could’ve hoped for. I have a job in the city with a good amount of hours, I’m moving into my new apartment in a few days with a group of Kiwis I could see myself becoming great friends with. I’ve made connections in my hostel from all over the world and New Zealand, I now have friends to visit and places to stay from Auckland to Christchurch once I start traveling the country. I just bought a huge bed, which is quite a big deal for my wandering self, I’ve made the big gesture, in my mind, of staying put in Wellington for awhile. I have one more month of being 23, so without further ado, here are 23 photos of my journey in Wellington so far. I have big hopes for this small city that has shown itself to have such a classy character.
One aspect I’ve grown to love about Sydney is the amount of coastal and scenic walks at your disposal in various neighborhoods. The Bondi to Coogee walk is still a favorite activity of mine. Even though I’ve been here for three months, I still love going out there to write or just enjoy the views. The Manly Scenic Walk, also known as the Manly to Spit walk, is the lesser known but still popular walk to do if you happen to be on the northern side of the city.
Although it doesn’t have as many breathtaking views as the Bondi to Coogee walk, it has a lot more variety in terms of the terrain and trail itself, and one of the best views of the Sydney skyline. From patches of walking through forests, to walking on a couple different beaches, to even walking through small parks and towns, it was a nice way to see a part of Sydney I haven’t spent much time in. It took me a few hours to complete, I chose to start on the Spit side, so I could have some more time to explore Manly at the other end. The few hours included basically checking out every lookout point and stopping multiple times to take in my surroundings and take a picture or two.
Here are my memories from a lovely afternoon, just me exploring the natural beauty around Sydney, and the song to go with it. It was a great day, and made me realize even more how content and happy I am with my life here.