Friday, 24 February 2017

The Most Beautiful Views on Tasmania's Great Eastern Drive

Freycinet National Park, Tasmania

Tasmania is undoubtedly the place in the world that has taken me most by surprise. It comes under the radar of most tourists considering a holiday to Australia, and even a lot of natives haven't been there which is particularly strange when you realise how absolutely stunning the place is.

After spending a few days exploring Hobart, we picked up a rental car to drive the island's famous Great Eastern Drive. 176 kilometres long, it covers an incredible stretch of coastline that boasts views only rivalled by New Zealand and Norway, in my opinion. Tasmania as a whole is an incredibly friendly place, which means there are plenty of stops along the way where you can park up and explore.

The scenery changes with every turn of the narrow and steep roads. One minute we were in lush, green forests, the next looking out onto pristine white beaches. The sea is azure blue and beautifully clear, which draws in penguins, pelicans and sharks; whilst the vast parks shield all manner of wildlife including the obligatory wild Australian wallabies. It really is one of the most unbelievable places I've ever been to.

Here's some of the beautiful views that took my breath away during our road trip:

Orford


Maria Island from Orford, Tasmania

Orford, Tasmania

Orford, Tasmania


Freycinet National Park and Wineglass Bay


Storm clouds over Coles Bay, Tasmania

Wineglass Bay, Tasmania

Wallaby in Freycinet National Park

The Nuggets, Tasmania

Bay of Fires


Bay of Fire, Tasmania

Bay of Fires, Tasmania

Bay of Fires, Tasmania

Bay of Fires, Tasmania

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The best views on Great Eastern Drive, Tasmania

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Wednesday, 22 February 2017

How to Make Friends When Travelling Alone

Group of travellers at Hobbiton, New Zealand

When I set off travelling for three months, my biggest fear was that I would spend the next 90+ days only having face-to-face communication with hostel receptionists and Starbucks employees. There is no rule book on how to make friends as an adult, and I had assumptions that everyone I'd meet would be of your bog-standard rucksack-with-flags-sewn-on, harem-pants-wearing, 'I'm spending six months in Thailand' variety that I basically have nothing at all in common with.

I remember discussing the fear of not making friends with my actual friends before leaving, and all of them that had been travelling ensured me that it just kind of happened. What I didn't realise is that this was totally right because of one main thing: everyone you meet is in the same situation as you. Just like when I moved into university halls, I was surrounded by people who knew exactly what it felt like to be alone and eager to hang out with somebody. Anybody, in fact.

Sulphur hot springs near Rotorua, New Zealand

So, less terrifying than propping up at the bar and chatting up a stranger, here's my top tips on how to make friends when travelling along:


1) Book a tour

Whether it's a one day excursion or a two month multi-country jaunt, getting on a bus with other tourists is the perfect way to meet people. The driver or tour guide will inevitably ask people where they're from, and being British I'll pretty much always find another person from the UK to do the obligatory, 'Whereabouts are you from? Isn't it hot here?' conversation. When I spent two days alone in Xi'an without hearing one word of English, my tour to the Terracotta Warriors went a long way in perking me back up and making me feel human again.

2) Stay in a hostel

Honestly, if you're travelling alone, this is the best way to meet people. I've written my top tips for staying in hostels, if you're new to them, but ultimately, staying in a dorm with other people who are normally travelling alone, is perfect. I was going to stay in a private room at my first hostel in New Zealand, but opting to share with three other strangers meant I met two amazing women who I'm now fast friends with (one of which I've been to visit in South Africa since!).

View of Table Mountain from Robben Island, Cape Town

3) Share food

I don't mean just sitting next to someone in a restaurant and trying to share a dessert. If you're in a hostel and someone is cooking and can't find any salt, and you have some, offer to share it. If you're on a long tour, share your bus snacks with other weary travellers. My fellow travellers on a Cape Winelands Tour bought a cheese platter and shared with all of us which basically secured my neverending love for them.

4) Offer tips

You'll find as a solo traveller that people are constantly swapping advice on where to go and what to do in various countries around the world. Some people may be pretentious with it, but most are just hugely enthusiastic and want to help, and if you do the same, people will be super grateful. On my first full day in Kuala Lumpur, I met a girl on my tour to the Batu Caves and said I'd heard dinner at Jalan Alor market was a 'must-do'. She suggested we try it together and lo! I had a travel buddy for the next five days!

VR mirror at Petronas Towers

5) Get involved

It's likely that if you're travelling solo, you're looking for some sort of adventure, so getting involved in activities and opportunities probably isn't much of an ask. But in case you're feeling shy...well, don't. It might be offering to chip in on the washing up after your tour group have eaten together, or maybe, for some unknown reason, you'll fling yourself off the world's highest swing with a woman you've known for only three weeks (a post on that is coming up and ohmygod). Whatever it is, just do it.

Nevis Swing, Queenstown

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Monday, 20 February 2017

Shakshuka Brunch at Cafe Loren, Camden

Traditional shakshuka and white shakshuka

I do all I can to avoid Camden Town on a Saturday. Being one of London's most accessibly eclectic areas, it draws in huge crowds with its outrageous 3D store facades, bizarre street performers and cheap 'alternative' tat available the whole way along the main strip. As a teenager, I went to Camden for all of the above, but as a twenty-something living in North London I now go for three specific reasons: haircuts, gigs and food.

Tucked in an unassuming corner of the packed-so-tight-you-can-hardly-breathe Stables Market is Cafe Loren*. Able to seat less than 20 people, it commands a queue to get in because of its signature speciality: shakshuka. With ten varieties on the menu, every options includes the obligatory poached eggs but with the traditional tomato sauce changed up and served with different vegetables and spices.

Bowls being prepared for shakshuka

We started with a hummus plate to share which came swirled on plate, smooth and sprinkled with parsley and a smattering of paprika for a teensy, tiny kick. The triangles of pita bread that came with it though, were outstanding. Thick, soft and straight from the oven; steam rose off them as we tore them apart.

Pita bread

White shakshuka, hummus and pita bread

I went for the White Shakshuka which substituted the tomato sauce for one made with cream cheese and mushrooms. Seasoned with nutmeg, it was like a rich white sauce that I'd be more familiar having with pasta, but strangely, it really worked with the poached eggs (although sadly they were a little overdone for me).

White shakshuka

Katy had the Homeshuka, proudly stated as 'Granny's Recipe', which was much more aligned with the traditional recipe but the bowl was lined with hummus first for an extra hit of tahini richness. I had a spoonful and, if you're not keen on veering too far from the norm, this is perfect as it is loyal to the tomato flavours of shakshuka.

Shakshuka

It was a genuine pleasure to find somewhere so calm and cooking genuine, homely and delicious food amongst the reheated and questionable food choices elsewhere in the market. Cafe Loren is undoubtedly a real gem.

My meal at Cafe Loren was complimentary. All opinions are unbiased and my own.

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