Latest News, Travel

My Japanese Adventure

It has long been a dream of mine to visit the “Land of the Rising Sun”. I remember always being fascinated about Japanese minimalism in relation to architecture whilst studying interior design at university. I always found Japan to be a great source of inspiration and have always been interested in their way of life and their unique culture. I have always wanted to enter a Japanese shop where everything is cute and character-driven.

A couple of months ago, right at the beginning of their cherry blossom season, I finally made it to this intriguing and fascinating island known as Japan. It was an eye-opening experience from start to finish and was the first time I ever holidayed in Asia. My sister and I spent 12 days travelling in Japan, starting in Tokyo and visiting Osaka and Kyoto.

For this post I simply want to showcase my photos to you because there are so many websites and books in the marketplace where you can gain information, make itineraries, and map out your day from morning till night (admittedly as a person who loves to plan everything out, I used a very helpful little app called Tripomatic to help me bring all my research together into one helpful daily organiser!). Of course I recommend that you do your research, by all means, but I also learned that it’s alright to simply have no plan for the day and see where life takes you. I wish we had more time to explore these three beautiful cities without time limits and without maps and itineraries as this would allow us to relax more and truly feel what it’s like to be in Japan. On my next trip there that’s what I plan to do for sure but understandably for the first trip somewhere I always seem to want to pack in as much to see and do as I possibly can!

Japan is a country which leaves visitors with their own distinct impressions, as long as you’re open to the possibility of discovering, learning and experiencing life from outside your comfort zone. Yes, there were lots of people everywhere and at times we did find ourselves on packed train carriages, feeling a little bit out of place, but even then I was eager to turn unfamiliar corners and see what’s out there. Japan really pushed my sense of adventure to the max and even though I couldn’t speak the language, its beautiful people always made me feel at ease. This trip was one of those “pinch me, am I really here?” moments and I cannot recommend Japan enough for anyone who is interested in history, architecture and religion. If you’re fortunate enough not to have any time constraints in Japan, then you’re probably the luckiest person in the world because there’s so much to see and so many places with the wow factor that will definitely leave you feeling speechless.

 

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Australia, Travel

Cockatoos of Sherbrooke Forest

Tourists visiting Melbourne are spoiled for choice when it comes to Australian wildlife and landscapes in our large and beautiful state. From picturesque beaches to lush green forests, we are so lucky to have all these options available to us in Victoria.

Those interested in feeding some Australian cockatoos should definitely visit Grants Picnic Ground in the beautiful Sherbrooke Forest of the Dandenong Ranges. The cockatoos simply love to fly onto your shoulder (and sometimes even your head!) and feed on the seeds you hold out for them in shiny silver dishes. It’s an experience that you’ll cherish as a truly Australian one so make sure you bring your camera!

Afterwards you should definitely go for a bush walk along the many trails in Sherbrooke forest, breathe in the fresh forest air and try to spot other wildlife such as wombats, possums, lyrebirds and wallabies in their natural habitat. The wonderful ferns and stringy bark trees rising up towards the sky will leave a good impression on you too. There’s also a lovely cafe and gift shop there for all your souvenir needs. The best part is it’s only a short drive from suburbia but feels a world away!

Travel

Mornington in Victoria

Over Christmas my family and I rented a small but stylish unit in Mornington to spend some quality time together. The interior spaces were ultra comfortable and every detail was perfect, from the bottle of bubbles we used to fill a pristine white bath tub to the cucumber cleansing wipes to refresh with after a one-hour drive getting there. All the rooms were decorated in a modern decor, with top-notch appliances and gadgets to fully entertain us. The artwork on the walls added a lovely playful touch and like everything else in the apartment showed off the owner’s great taste in interior design and decoration.

Mornington is the sort of quiet town by the sea that you could really fall in love with. It has exquisite little gift shops, artisan gelato stores, salons for high-tea and shopping to your heart’s content all the way along Main Street, leading down to the water. The sunsets, beach huts and sandy beaches all give the impression of a typical Australian beach vibe. Overall, we had a great time dancing on the terrace, singing Christmas carols and soaking up the atmosphere of a beautiful apartment in a gorgeous town.

Travel

Enjoying Macro Photography

Happy New Year, dear friends! Wishing you all a very happy 2016.

While my family and I were holidaying on the Mornington Peninsula last week, we spent a peaceful afternoon in a 230-hectare old Homestead known as The Briars, in Mount Martha. There was something so captivating about all the flora and fauna there that I decided to switch my Nikon camera to Close-Up mode and immerse myself in the vast amount of different flowers and leaves prevalent throughout the gardens. The Briars is an excellent place to spend a quiet Sunday afternoon, go for a walk along the boardwalk with the possibility of finding kangaroos and koalas in their natural surroundings, smell the roses, hear the roosters call and admire a beautiful maze of perfectly trimmed hedges. It’s truly every Victorian nature lover’s paradise, with a lovely cafe and restaurant also onsite. The best part is – it also has free admission.

 

Travel

Love Affair with NYC

One of the highlights for me this year was accomplishing my dream of visiting the Big Apple and feeling the excitement and energy of beautiful New York City. For years I felt a gravitational pull towards NYC, mostly out of curiosity for everything I studied about at uni, read in books/magazines, watched in films and heard in music lyrics. So this past summer, while I was on vacation for the first time in the US, it was obvious to me that NYC had to be on the top of my travel list.

EmpireState

During the summer, New York was absolutely sweltering, but somehow that didn’t stop me from getting the most out of my sightseeing checklist. I felt so full of energy and so eager to see with my own eyes all the major tourist attractions. For me this included cruising past the Statue of Liberty on the free Staten Island Ferry, seeing the Empire State Building from the top of the Rockefeller Center, seeing the bright colours of Times Square and walking through stunning Central Park, often referred to as the “lungs” of the city

I certainly did a lot of research prior to the trip to make sure I got the most out of such a long-distance journey. It wasn’t easy venturing into Manhattan every day on the subway from Brooklyn but having everything clearly mapped out and arranged on paper really helped me. Between riding on their well-organised bus system and sweating it out in the underground subway stations (before boarding the air-conditioned trains), New York City had me completely hooked from Day 1. I can’t describe exactly what it was that made me fall in love with it, but I know that reminiscing about my holiday there always makes me smile from cheek to cheek.

My advice to you is to do your research before your trip because not only can that save you a lot of money, it can also make you feel much more at ease having a sightseeing plan in the fast-paced craziness that is New York! For example, admission to many top attractions is free or at a reduced cost, if you go on certain days/times of the week. This is mostly what I planned my days around and it ended up saving me quite a lot of $$. So just do your research and you can’t go wrong.

New York City has it all, from world-class art galleries/museums to top-notch theatre performances and fine dining. While walking its streets I had the distinct impression that this really is the city where dreams can come true and anything is possible. Frank Sinatra definitely got it right in the lyrics – “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere. It’s up to you, New York, New York” and I know that returning to this crazy concrete jungle will be something I simply have to do, just preferably not in the summer!

 

Christmas, Travel

Melbourne at Christmas Time

For many people it’s extremely unusual to think about celebrating Christmas in the summer but for us Aussies, it’s what we do best. The streets of Melbourne are currently decorated in the traditional colours of Christmas and unlike our US/European friends, we can roam the streets in our T-shirts, indulge in ice-cream and go for a swim at the beach. While I prefer the traditional Christmas of snowy streets and warm homes filled with the scent of mulled wine and cinnamon, and the option of buying gifts at hearty Christmas markets, in many ways we are truly blessed to have our end of year holidays during the summer and a great atmosphere of Christmas cheer on the streets.

DSCN9044DSCN9051DSCN9057DSCN9058DSCN9061DSCN9065DSCN9067DSCN9071DSCN9076DSCN9077MelbStreet

 

 

 

 

Life, Travel

I Left My Heart in Wilmington, NC

Cape Fear River

When I heard there would be a “One Tree Hill” convention in the charming city of Wilmington in the US, I knew there would never be a better time for me to experience all the filming locations of my favourite TV show than during the summer of 2015. So I bought myself a General Admission ticket for Saturday, 8th of August, and somehow convinced myself to book a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a whole new continent I’d never been to before.

For those of you who have watched this show, you need no further explanations as to just how much of an impact it has had on fans from all around the world. They finished filming in Wilmington three years ago now but that hasn’t stopped the fan-base from growing exponentially. Next year there are already five “One Tree Hill” Conventions planned – two in Wilmington, one in Paris, one in Geneva and one in Montreal. London is also hoping to jump on the conventions train!

My mum was my travel companion for this trip and it was an amazing experience to share with her. When we arrived in Wilmington she was so excited for me even though she had never seen a single episode of OTH. We spent one week in this beautiful port city on the Cape Fear river and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been happier. Everywhere we’d go there would be some kind of building or monument or street that would remind me of a certain episode or character from the show. Most of the time I knew where to find these locations, as I had come prepared with a map of all the main filming sights, but sometimes I would recognise a place from the show just when I least expected to. I had always seen the locations such as the cafe/fashion boutique corner at Front and Grace Streets, the iconic 6th Street Bridge from the opening credits and the glorious Riverwalk on my digital screen and now I was right there experiencing it all first-hand! I’m so glad that the show’s creator, Mark Schwahn, filmed all around Wilmington as well as in the closed sets at EUE Screen Gems Studios, because that gives Wilmington a huge advantage as far as the tourism industry is concerned. Fans of Dawson’s Creek also come from far and wide to see where Joey Potter and the gang filmed in the fictional town of Capeside.

Shop Merchandise OTH

We lived in the historic downtown area with a balcony overlooking the beautiful river. There were many filming sights within walking distance, for instance the former Rivercourt sight was seen from our window and many interior scenes were filmed in actual diners/shops very close to our hotel. My mum and I managed to travel on foot and by bus (with a bus arriving only once per hour at best!!) to all the main characters’ actual homes where the show filmed. Summer in Wilmington was extremely hot and very humid and when fans rolled up in their comfortable, air-conditioned cars you can imagine our reaction! Nonetheless, we did manage to see almost all the sights on my list, which is a brilliant achievement without any transportation of our own!

View From My Balcony

Season 1 Karens Cafe

Then came the day that I’d been eagerly awaiting for four months. The EyeCon “Return to Tree Hill 2” Convention got underway with photo ops, then Q&A panels, autographs sessions, followed by banquets and parties. We were all seated in a freezing cold hall with awful acoustics where we could barely understand what the MC, Joshua Reid-Davis, was saying!

Convention Photo Ops

Paul and Joy

Chad and Hilarie RTTH2

I met Paul Johansson first up for my photo op. He played resident evil Dan Scott in the show but he was so funny and nice in real life. He put his arm around me and we posed for the cameras. There wasn’t much time to speak to the stars during the photo ops as we were being hurried by staff at every turn. Then came my photoshoot with Chad Michael Murray (who played Lucas Scott) and Bethany Joy Lenz (who played Haley James Scott) and they were just so sweet and adorable. I stood in between them and the moment felt so surreal! Lastly, I simply had to meet my favourite actress Hilarie Burton (who played Peyton Sawyer) who really does give the best hugs ever! Her character was the one I related to the most and meeting Hilarie was just one of the best moments in my life. She was just a beautiful soul.

When I spoke to Chad and Hilarie while getting their autographs I was feeling so starstruck but they were so genuine and so down-to-earth that the conversation just flowed naturally. He was very excited to learn that I came all the way from Australia to be there with them that weekend that he gave me a hug (eeeek!) and Hilarie also gave me a hug when I presented my gift to her. All in all, it was probably the best day of my life.

Wilmington certainly turned on the charm and everything from the horse-drawn carriage rides to the beautiful river boat cruises made this peaceful town shine bright in my eyes. The locals were so friendly and warm. One example of this was when we first arrived from the airport to the city centre it began to pour with rain so one local man offered to give us his umbrella while we figured out how to enter our hotel! Everything from the boutique shops on Market Street to the hidden and quaint shops of the Cotton Exchange made our stay so special. I am filled with so much joy just thinking about how far I travelled for something that to many may seem a little extreme, flying from Melbourne to Wilmington (via Los Angeles and later NYC and Toronto) to meet a few “stars”, but for me those moments are the ones that I will look back on and truly know that I lived my fullest life. Those encounters with the stars are absolute gold to me.

Don’t forget, my “Tree Hill is Home” collection of postcards and wall art inspired by the show are still available.

TreeHillisHome

You can purchase them here:
https://www.pitchi.com/pitchi/one-tree-hill-stationery/11503

Travel

The City of Angels

Freeways of LA

For the majority of August, I’ve been away travelling; letting myself get lost in adventures and exploring the most beautiful surroundings this world has to offer. Up until now my travel posts mostly revolved around Europe or Australia, but now I’m so lucky to add another continent to that list. I made it all the way to America, and boy did I have fun!

After 14 hours on a direct flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles, there was nothing more beautiful than seeing palm trees and the coastline just as we started to land. I knew from the moment we disembarked that we had left the winter weather behind us, as a warm breeze and the sun’s rays welcomed us to summer at last. I’d never been to the US before and it was also my very first time travelling with my DSLR, which I was super impressed with.

Hollywood Sign

Los Angeles was absolutely gorgeous! I was so excited to photograph perfect looking streets lined with palm trees, the most amazing mountains and intertwining freeways in the distance. The City of Angels had it all; the excitement of Hollywood Boulevard with its Walk of Fame, glimpses of old Hollywood glamour through the windows of historic restaurants on Santa Monica Boulevard, and the sight of the Hollywood sign when you least expected it. Just a short distance away were its stunning beaches where you felt like you just walked onto the set of Baywatch. 

Panda

For me, there were two highlights from my time in California. One was taking a tour out to San Diego and visiting the amazing zoo they have. Catching a view of pandas and flamingoes was extraordinary and made the long bus ride totally worthwhile. Ever since I drew my first Mishka Collection greeting card, I knew that it’d be great to see a real panda someday. The two sleepy pandas that day mostly sat with their backs to the people the whole time, but thankfully one of them moved and I managed to get a brilliant snap of it!

Universal NYC

The second highlight was going to all the various film related sights in and around Burbank. I am such a movie-fan and find it so interesting to visit sets, movie premieres and film studios. Warner Bros. Studios and Universal Studios were both incredible! With each of them they take you on a narrated tour around the working studios and show you where certain movies from the past and present were filmed. At Warner Bros. I got to hold a real Oscar, sit on the actual couch from the hit series Friends and see the current set from 2 Broke Girls. There was also an exhibition about Batman and Harry Potter, which were awesome. Universal Studios was my favourite place in L.A and apart from seeing Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives, walking through a real-life Springfield and exploring a mini version of Paris, London and NYC, I also got to be in the background of Extra! and see Mario Lopez filming!

All in all, California and its people were so warm and beautiful and their lifestyle makes me want to pack up my bags and return for a second visit! Admittedly, getting around the city without a car is extremely difficult, but thankfully their Metro system was quick and efficient albeit not as widespread as it needs to be. People recommended riding on the Uber network, but fortunately for us we had our lovely relatives there to show us around. Los Angeles, with its glitzy Rodeo Drive and ultra-cool destinations for culture such as The Getty Museum and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, will always hold a special place in my heart.

Travel

Journey from Holland to Belgium

Here we are at the last post in my series of European cities I visited solo during my student exchange days. I’ve enjoyed reminiscing about my time of great independence and highly adventurous spirit immensely. Today, I’m taking you back to February 2009, when I was travelling into The Hague from Amsterdam and then continuing my trip across the border into Belgium.

Walking to ScheveningenWhen I arrived by train into The Hague, this small Dutch city was just waking up. I asked for directions to find my hostel in the seaside resort of Scheveningen and decided to walk there. The streets were so empty and it was really cold, but there was something so appealing to me about walking in an unknown city I’d never been to before. I didn’t even have a map so I just observed how the tram carried on in the distance and followed its lead. The reason I decided to go the The Hague was because I had been deprived of seeing the beach for a long few months living in landlocked Germany. There were plenty of lakes and rivers around me but for any true blue Australian, nothing beats the beach.

I checked into my hostel and what do you know, an Australian expat was working there! He helped me find my room and offered lots of helpful advice, one of which was how to ride their trams so I wouldn’t have to walk back and forth between Scheveningen and The Hague! Within a few minutes I rushed to the beach down the road and it was such a great feeling to hear the waves crashing in and smell the salty air. I didn’t take my shoes off because it was freezing cold, but the sand was fine and soft as it passed through my fingers. I spent only one night in that cosy hostel by the sea and only half a day exploring the sights of The Hague, but that was more than enough time to get a feel for beautiful, serene Holland.


Grand-PlaceThe next morning I journeyed into Brussels by train. This capital of Belgium immediately captivated me with its charming streets, picturesque squares and quirky shops. Brussels is a bilingual city where both Dutch and French are spoken and street names appear in both languages. Without any trouble I located my hotel and stepped out to explore. My first stop was the main square, known as Grand Place, where I started to feel like I stepped into a fairytale. Each building facade was so beautifully decorated with gold trimmings and embellishments that it made me so happy just to stand in the centre of the square and admire all four sides of the buildings surrounding me. The shopping arcades nearby all had a distinct European flavour, and the chocolate shops dotted all around the city were just heavenly. I took the 2-day Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour around all the major attractions in the city, making it super simple to explore and very convenient for a young tourist who didn’t do her research on public transport options in the city!

Manneken PisOne of the other main tourist attractions in Brussels is the “Manneken Pis” otherwise known as the pissing boy! All the tourists and I were armed with our cameras, which were directed at this tiny sculpture in the corner of a road intersection. It’s just so funny to think about it. He was actually being undressed from a Valentine’s Day costume when I was there!

All in all, I spent five days exploring three different European gems (Amsterdam blog post here), each with their own languages, architecture and traditions. Even though it was a short trip in duration, it was a rich and eventful journey I will never forget because it convinced me that a young and inexperienced solo traveller can do anything she sets her mind to, especially when she’s miles from home.

Travel

In Love With Amsterdam

AmsterdamAfter completing the study semester at the FH Mainz back in February 2009, the 19-year-old traveller in me was finally free to explore Europe at my own leisure. Assessments and tests that had weighed me down for the past 5 months were now behind me and I was finally able to sightsee, discover and satisfy my wanderlust with a greater peace of mind. My final journey before returning home to Melbourne took me to three cities in the span of 5 days! I was so eager to mark more countries off my list that I travelled to both The Netherlands and Belgium that winter.

Amsterdam was my first stop after a train ride in from Germany. I booked myself a very cheap hostel not far from the city centre. After a short tram trip, I dragged my suitcase up a flight of very steep stairs in an old hostel building that was strongly infused with the smell of cannabis. Wherever I have lived thereafter, I could so easily distinguish this smell from the first instance, like an airport sniffer dog! Needless to say, my accommodation wasn’t anything fancy but at least there was a roof over my head. I was only in town for one night and almost immediately after checking-in, I was out of there to explore Amsterdam in all its glory.

Architectural Styles

Everywhere I looked there were bikes and cyclists! Amsterdam was cold and at one point there was even some snow falling, but I just simply wandered the streets crossing endless bridges over the Amstel River and gazing up at the beautiful architectural style that is synonymous with Dutch living. The local people spoke English so well that I found it so easy to ask for directions and order food. Having had to remind myself that I was in a foreign country, I felt so comfortable as an international tourist in this clean, vibrant city.

As the night fell and it got dark by around 5pm, Amsterdam became a magical place with illuminated bridges and lane-ways. During my short stay in the capital of The Netherlands, I didn’t get to enter the famous Rijksmuseum to see Rembrandt’s famous paintings, nor did I visit the Van Gogh Museum or Anne Frank’s House, but I did tick off trying Dutch pancakes, buying cute clogs to take home as a memento and weaving in and among the millions of cyclists that call Amsterdam home.

Dam Square