Travel

Remembering the Amalfi Coast

It seems like an eternity ago now that my feet touched down on Italian soil after a dream Greek escapade. In reality it was only 5 months ago that our plane took off from Santorini and landed in Naples via Athens. All those memories come flooding back to me now. The ease of changing countries in Europe, the splendour of short flights and the eagerness to see everything that a country has to offer. I love to travel. To expand my horizons and explore new places with open eyes, a yearning soul and a refreshed mind. Every day to awaken and get excited for all that is planned as well as the unexpected surprises. To travel is to live.

Flashback to the end of March and the start of beautiful spring weather. We didn’t spend much time in Naples until after visiting the majestic Amalfi Coast so our first point of interest was finding the bus that would take us directly to Sorrento. That was our base for this leg of our trip and a glorious town where lemons grew in abundance and their scent filled the air. Specialty shops sold limoncello and you could walk down long, picturesque streets and shop for all the souvenirs your heart desires.

We took a guided tour of the Amalfi Coast from Sorrento in an 8-seater mini van and our extremely confident driver Massimo who navigated all the twists and turns of the road with great precision and confidence. Our first stop was Positano, the jewel of the Amalfi Coast, with its vast mountain vistas and multi-coloured houses stacked on top of each other like Rubik’s cubes. We were only given an hour to spend in that enchanting town with sparkling blue water but since we were there so early in the morning it felt like we had the entire place to ourselves.

Next on the tour was the thriving and extremely beautiful town of Amalfi. The crowds in late-March were plentiful and it would be crazy to imagine what goes on there in the peak of summer! Our driver gave us about 1.5 hours there so we quickly ran up the steps and entered the miraculous Duomo di Amalfi. The interiors of the cathedral were intricate and ornate and I highly recommend a visit even if you’re pressed for time. Amalfi had everything one could possibly want and more. For the brief amount of time I got to walk its streets I could already see that this town was pure gold in terms of lifestyle, shopping, food and relaxation.

For lunch our tour guide took us to the oldest and most marvellous hillside town of Scala where we devoured a light three-course meal. The views from that place were to die for!

Finally we made our last stop in gorgeous Ravello. The home of two lavish villas – Villa Cimbrone and Villa Rufolo, though we only had enough time to visit the latter and what can I say, every square mile of that place was perfection. Our visit was just before the flowers started to bloom but nonetheless the views totally impressed us.

When researching which tours to take along the Amalfi Coast we were spoilt for choice. As it was low-season we waited until we got to Sorrento and then booked our tour from the Information Centre next to the main train station. The company we went with is Amalfi Coast Tour Select. Our driver was witty and charismatic, knowledgable, precise and with a great sense of humour. His driving along the winding roads was incredible. In my experience a tour is always the most memorable part of a trip and having the right tour guide is ultra important. On this occasion, we were thrilled with our tour even though it was a bit of a rush from start to finish. The more you see the better, right?

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Travel

Barcelona Has My Heart

When I arrived in Barcelona just over a week ago, I couldn’t believe I was finally here again. Almost every day for the past four years I had spoken about my deep desire to return to the Catalan capital and after a long 22-hour flight from Australia, I was finally on European soil once again, and it felt good!

There’s something about Barcelona that just lights up my soul and makes me unequivocally happy. When I walk its streets, I feel at home. When I think about where I am right now, I’m filled with so much zest for life. Barcelona brings out the best in me and I can’t wait to call this place home one day. The locals, the architecture, creativity and culture of this city all make Barcelona a shining beacon of light in my eyes. No other city in the world quite compares.

Celebrations, Food, Life, Melbourne, Travel

Memories of 2016

Whoa, 2016 was quite a year! So much happened in the world – tragedies, triumphs, the unthinkable, the magical. This year had it all. In many ways I’m glad to bid farewell to 2016, which for me had its fair share of ups and downs just like any year.

A definite highlight was visiting beautiful Japan for two weeks in March. Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto were all places I had longed to travel to for many years and it will be hard to top my birthday from now on, having spent the day at Disneyland Tokyo – a magical place in every sense. I shall never forget my first trip in the Land of the Rising Sun – eating delicious food, seeing the sights with my own eyes, entering historic temples, smiling at the pandas and flamingos at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo. Getting a feel for Japanese culture was just incredible.

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Closer to home it’s been enjoyable spending afternoons at wildlife sanctuaries where cute koalas and wallabies can be fed and petted. It’s been so much fun creating a new studio feature wall and launching Mishka Mail back in August. I feel so grateful to every single customer who bought a subscription and every blogger that reviewed our kits on their blogs. Thank you!

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It’s been so exciting to place our first print advertisement in a funky Canadian hobby magazine called Uppercase for their special 30th issue.

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Other highlights include riding a bicycle at the beach in Port Melbourne, eating some delicious meals, writing and receiving some awesome letters from international pen friends, winning auctions on Ebay and listening to lovely concerts at outdoor summer venues.

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2016 has taught me that life isn’t about chance encounters that happen to you, it’s about how YOU chase each and every opportunity to make moments for yourself. I’m entering 2017 with this very notion in my mind and have a lot that I’m already looking forward to. Here’s to a beautiful and successful 2017 for you all!

Happy New Year!

Travel

Joy in Disneyland, Tokyo

Earlier this year, during a 12-day holiday in Japan, I was lucky enough to visit both Disney themeparks in Tokyo – Disneyland and DisneySea. Thinking back on those days brings me such joy as the “Happiest place on earth” certainly exceeded all my expectations. Both adults and children alike had smiles on their faces as they ran to queue up for certain attractions, eat at themed restaurants and shop at some of the cutest boutiques in the world. From the moment I stepped foot inside Tokyo’s wonderland of Disney magic, I knew I would have the time of my life.

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One of the first sights I saw was this cute Disney Resort Line monorail taking visitors from Disneyland to DisneySea and all around. Inside the carriages it’s really cute too, with Mickey Mouse shaped views and handles to hold on to!

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This is the very beautiful Disneyland Hotel for those lucky enough to stay overnight at Disneyland! Even their rooms have been designed with certain Disney characters in mind and the hotel is lavish from top to bottom.

There were many shops selling everything from plush toys to confectionery, and stationery to cosmetics. Everything had the irresistible Disney feel to it and it certainly was hard to resist the urge to buy most of the things on sale! Bring a bigger suitcase with you if you can!

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I absolutely loved the different areas of the Park. There’s Adventureland, Westernland, Critter Country, Fantasyland, Toontown and Tomorrowland. Each in its own is an unforgettable experience!

The Mark Twain Riverboat cruise was one of my favourite experiences because it transported me back to my memories of summer in the US last year in the charming city of Wilmington, NC.

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Seeing the majestic Disney castle with your very eyes is absolutely incredible. So much planning and designing went into each and every element of both Disney Parks, and the attention to detail is just phenomenal.

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When I was there it was all setup for Easter and checking their website today it looks like they’ve decorated for Halloween!

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Honestly the whole experience was amazing and I highly recommend visiting magical Disneyland Tokyo for yourself. In a future post, I’ll make sure to cover the equally impressive DisneySea Park!

London, Travel

Dear UK

With everything happening in Britain right now with the “Brexit” and the fragile social, political and economic situation in the UK, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my life there. I lived in Watford, Hertfordshire for 23 months in my early twenties and practically regard the UK as my second home.

In this post I urge you to leave all your troubles behind, pour yourself a cup of tea (or as we say in Australia a “cuppa”) and let me introduce you to a few of my favourite places and memories in my beloved UK.

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Bath and I crossed paths at the very beginning of my time in the UK after I found a travel brochure offering tours to every imaginable tourist attraction in the country. Naturally I was drawn to Stonehenge, one of the seven wonders of the world, and thankfully Bath and Salisbury were included on the tour. There’s a certain charm and beauty to this UNESCO World Heritage Site that photography alone cannot convey. You have to actually walk the streets lined with 18th-century Georgian architecture to truly understand Bath. My top recommendations for architecture lovers are the unmissable Crescent and Circus – residences arranged in a grand semi-circle and circular layout that will leave you breathless.

The main attraction in Bath is the stunning natural hot spring bathhouse of the original Roman Baths, where steam rises from the sage-green pool of water before your very eyes. Bath is a bustling yet peaceful town that can easily be explored on foot and at times you will even feel like you’ve walked straight out of a Jane Austen novel. Let’s just say, one visit to beautiful Bath was not enough for me.


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I was picking up a Gumtree purchase for my shop in this quaint town of Surrey, known as Shere. This picture-perfect place left a great impression on me and the surrounding countryside views were some of the best I had seen in the UK. Luckily, I can re-live my time in Shere by watching Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz and Jude Law in the romantic comedy The Holiday (2006). Among other places, they filmed at “The White Horse” pub where there’s a framed photo proudly displaying the fact.

You can read my previous blog post about Shere here.


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Oh London, how I miss you! I must admit that I get really emotional looking at these photos taken 3-5 years ago. Even though the sights and sounds of London town are behind me I still feel largely connected to the British capital. I have such fond memories of beautiful sights around Notting Hill and Hampstead Heath, as well as the areas around Kensington and Westminster.


Almost every Sunday I would walk around Hyde Park and marvel at the friendly squirrels. It was the only day that my shop was closed so I put my best walking shoes on and wandered street after street of each borough I was attracted to. I loved feeling like a tourist while taking photographs of locals on their Sundays.


NightOxfordStXmasMarketXmasMarket (2)My favourite time of year to be a tourist in the UK was definitely at Christmas time. Oxford Street comes alive with street decorations and lights while the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland of market stalls, rides, food and attractions (like ice-skating) really puts everyone into the festive mood.


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My favourite thing to do in London was attend all the glamorous movie premieres held in Leicester Square. I was so excited to come within touching distance of Ben Affleck (Argo Premiere) and Johnny Depp (The Lone Ranger Premiere) and the cast of my favourite Les Miserables (2012). London is an amazing place for film buffs.


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I remember spending hours and hours in Harrods whenever I had nowhere to rush to. The food hall is an absolute masterpiece and the lavish interiors and luxurious products really impressed me each time. If only I had a larger wallet!

You can read about my time in Harrods here.


Snow

Anyone that’s ever been lucky enough to wake up to powder white snow covering everything from tree branches to rooftops knows how magical it can feel. While snow never lasted too long in Watford, it was epic fun while it was there and certainly different to the sort of winters I’m used to here in Melbourne.


Sunsets

Gazing out the window to this view every summer’s evening was a definite treat! Sunsets in Watford were absolutely breathtaking. More about that here.


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Watford is where I spent 6 days of my week for 11 months straight when I ran my shop. It’s a place where the English countryside provides a peaceful escape yet there’s enough buzz in town to get you excited about the shopping and nightlife. Locals are friendly and everyone gets along, Watford still feels like home to me to some extent.


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The thing I miss the most about life in the UK is my little stationery and gift shop on Chalk Hill. I feel truly blessed to have had this opportunity to be part of the Watford small business group with such welcoming surrounding businesses around me.


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Who doesn’t love a hearty traditional English pub meal? It’s always great value.


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Last but certainly not least, it was hard to watch the Queen’s 90th Birthday celebrations in front of this gem of a palace. Every time I stood at the gates of Buckingham Palace, I felt like I was a true Londoner. And boy did it feel great!


Hope you’ve enjoyed my top memories of life in the UK.

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.

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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!

 

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

Timeless Prague

Church of St. Nicholas_Jan Hus MonumentAnyone that’s ever visited the capital of the Czech Republic knows that Prague is sure to leave its mark on you in some way or another. The city is filled with beautiful squares, striking building façades, breathtaking views and enchanting vistas.

I first came across Prague when watching the film Chasing Liberty (2004) starring Mandy Moore and Matthew Goode. The plot centres around the US president’s daughter as she decides to run from the Secret Service agents that monitor her every move in order to feel a sense of freedom and explore Europe without their constant protection. Long story short, she bumps into a man on a motorcycle in Prague, they fall in love and go on a journey through Venice, Austria and Berlin, without her knowing that he is actually employed by her father as an agent. It’s a cheesy romantic comedy but with lots of stunning European scenes. After seeing Prague as the backdrop in this film I felt a very strong desire to go there some day and experience the Bohemian capital for myself.

Church of Our Lady before Tyn

When I travelled to Mainz in September 2008 for my university exchange program, I knew that I had to put Prague on the top of my list of must-see European cities. Within two weeks of settling down in picturesque Mainz, I entered a travel agency in the city-centre to enquire about travelling abroad. Perhaps the most spontaneous thing I’ve ever done is booking a ticket for an 8-hour overnight bus to Prague from Frankfurt departing the next day! Luckily for me we had acquaintances living in the Czech Republic that I could stay with. Nothing was going to stop me from squeezing in this trip before study would commence in October, as I knew that my course would take up a lot of my time.

So on a cold, dark autumn night I boarded the train from Mainz to Frankfurt and awaited the bus to Prague to depart at 10:45 pm. My memory of the trip is a bit hazy, as I was in and out of sleep, but I do remember the driver letting us out of the bus for a quick bathroom break at a petrol station somewhere in Germany. It was freezing cold and we were all happy to be back on that warm bus once again!

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As dawn broke over the Bohemian capital, the bus arrived at Florenc Station and I had butterflies in my stomach, having never felt so uncertain in my whole life. I’d like to point out that this was the very first time (apart from my solo journey into Mainz from London on board 3 different trains!) I had ever gone on a holiday all by myself in a foreign country. Excluding Mainz, which would later become my home away from home, Prague was a really BIG deal for me as I was out of my comfort zone on so many levels. Even til this day I think it’s the bravest trip I’ve ever completed.

The city was only just starting to wake up. I took the metro a couple stops and disembarked near the main square. Dragging my suitcase along the old cobblestone path and making a heck of a lot of noise, I ended up in Prague’s empty Old Town Square. I was beaming with happiness and even though I still had the difficult task of finding my accommodation in a town miles away, nothing could stop me from smiling. I made it to the iconic Charles Bridge, usually filled with artists, musicians and entertainers with crowds and pick-pockets also a common occurrence. Upon seeing the view of Prague Castle (the largest ancient castle in the world) before my very eyes, I remember very vividly laughing out loud and whispering to myself “I’m here, I’m in Prague!!”. The bridge was deserted at that time of morning, making the moment just that extra bit special for me.

The research I did on the internet prior to travelling informed me that to reach the home of our family friends, I would have to catch a train from Praha Masarykovo nádraží Station. This proved a difficult task for a tired and hungry 19-year-old adventurer who was by then running solely on adrenaline. I ventured into a fancy hotel where the kindest lady printed out a map for me and pointed me in the right direction. Next thing I knew, I was on board the right train heading towards my home for the next 5 nights. I disembarked at Úvaly in central Bohemia.

Uvaly Station

With a hand-drawn map of the small town and the address I needed to find, I had absolutely no idea where to start. This was at a time prior to GPS tracking on iPhones I might add! After about 30 minutes of aimlessly wandering around the town, I located a name on a gate that sounded like what my dad told me to look out for, so I buzzed it. A second later, a lady appeared in the second-storey window of the building and started yelling something in my direction. I was so scared that maybe I’m in the wrong place but decided to tell her my name and the name of the woman I’m looking for. She nodded and granted me access to their property!

I wasn’t going to waste a single second and after a quick lunch and a short round of getting-to-know-each-other-better questions, I headed back for Prague. By this time I was already much more confident in my abilities to navigate myself to and from the capital and could now explore in a more relaxed way.

Breathtaking Views

Prague is such a timeless city filled with many beautiful vistas of the Vltava River and countless bridges that cross it. Fragments of history are on every single building façade, monument, fountain and sculpture wherever you look. I must admit, I didn’t read a great deal about Prague before my spontaneous trip. I wanted to learn about it as I went and to be surprised by what I discovered. This had both its advantages and disadvantages. If I could do the trip all over again, I would patiently queue up for a visit to St. Vitus Cathedral, explore the Jewish Quarter more thoroughly, enter a few more notable buildings and try some authentic Czech food. As a young and inexperienced traveller, I only took inspiration from the exteriors of buildings, ate home-made sandwiches or store bought snacks and walked from morning to evening, never setting foot on any iconic Bohemian trams.

Old Town Square Buildings

Enchanting Prague dazzled me from beginning to end. I walked up and across Charles Bridge to Lesser Town and up the winding roads for breathtaking views of the city from near the Castle. I marvelled at marionnettes and handmade glass in souvenir shops, felt the grandeur of some of the most striking national buildings and enjoyed river views second to none. Wandering the intricate lanes of the Old Town was my favourite activity and admiring the beautifully decorated façades of buildings that looked like they came straight out of The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), made my days so much more enjoyable. I found the Czech people to be friendly, helpful and kind and their city mesmerising, magical and full of unforgettable memories. It was the jewel of Eastern Europe to me.

Views over Prague

The journey back to Frankfurt was quite uneventful. I remember shopping in a large shopping centre during the evening, before taking the metro to Florenc Bus Station and awaiting my Eurolines Bus. I strongly remember how customs personnel boarded our bus, took everyone’s passports, left all of us sleepy passengers for about 15 minutes and then returned all our documents. I was so worried that something were to happen to my passport or that I would be given someone else’s back but thankfully not! I got back to Mainz by about 7am and spent the rest of the time convincing myself that it wasn’t all a complete dream. Prague is the land of fairy tales after all.

Travel

European Stories

I find myself reminiscing about the past more and more these days. Maybe it’s because I keep seeing beautiful photos on Instagram that remind me of my own travels or maybe it’s the millions of various other channels of information such as TV travel shows, websites, newsletters and social media that keep taking me back to the time when I was young and free in Europe. Either way, I felt like writing a series of blog posts to tell my story. A story about a 19-year-old ambitious, Australian girl with a dream; to travel and discover who she is.

When I was a teenager I lived in Germany as an exchange student for 6 months. I never thought this experience would help define my life, but it has in ways that I continue to discover every day. It allowed me to experience how people in many different countries in Europe worked, played, loved and lived. As a 19-year-old visitor, I saw with my own eyes just how many bicycles there truly are in Amsterdam, felt just how cold a European winter in Munich can be, believed in fairytales again in Prague and got lost in the most narrow, beautiful streets of Florence. I enjoyed delicious Belgian chocolates in Brussels, felt the presence of Mozart over the city of Salzburg, crossed canals of picture-perfect Strasbourg in France and held up the Leaning Tower in the mandatory photo everyone simply must take in Pisa.

Travelling opened my eyes to the beauty of the world around me. I boarded overnight buses to the Czech Republic all on my own and climbed towers for picturesque views of cities from above. I engaged in the art of photography and learned about the importance of money by paying rent for the very first time in my life. Sometimes I was joined by my dad on travelling expeditions, sometimes it was just me and the wide, open road. I felt the friendliness of complete strangers when I was totally lost and saw the hardships of locals just scraping by with the clothes on their backs. It sure was an eye-opening experience.

In many ways travelling helped me find myself and grow to become an independent, mature human-being. I was forced to make my own decisions, whether it be leisurely, academic or financial. I’ll never forget the night when my friends and I were working on a group assignment until 1 am and I had the sudden urge to call my mum and tell her not to be worried about me, that I’d be home soon and that I’m safe. Then it dawned on me that I was responsible for finding my own way home in the middle of the night and apart from the people around me, I had no family to immediately rely upon. One of my team-mates fortunately lived in the same apartment block as I did so we caught the bus home together. I’m extremely close to my family and found it the hardest not having them immediately next to me, especially in moments when I’d usually rely upon them.

It would bring me so much joy to be able to re-live some of the most precious moments of my youth again by writing about them here. The human mind can only retain a certain amount of information until slowly but surely pieces of the story become blurry. I didn’t keep a diary of my time as a solo traveller, I simply didn’t have the time but I’d like to write about my solo travels in the cities of Prague, Munich, Salzburg, Strasbourg, Amsterdam and Brussels so that some day I could look back on those days and know that I TRULY lived when I was younger.

I got to experience all these places for different lengths of time and while I can’t go back to any of them unless I board a 20-something-hour flight from Melbourne, I’d love to travel to each of them again through my memories, photographs and stories on this blog and I hope you’ll join me.

Europe Intro

London, Our Shop

Remembering our Shop

On September 29th 2012, the doors of our retail shop opened on Chalk Hill in Watford. I wanted to commemorate the anniversary of this event two years ago and tell you all a little more about Graceful Avenue’s humble beginnings in the UK.

I remember that autumn day so clearly. Miraculously enough the sun shone down on us (no rain that day!) and everything went off without a glitch. I spent that day double-checking all the stock levels were correct and making sure everything looked clean and presentable. A few customers entered and some even bought something. It was a great start to our trading calender.

Interestingly enough I lived on the same street as my shop, so going to ‘work’ was not only quick and enjoyable, it was the most rewarding job I’ve ever had! I would cross the street on Mondays – Saturdays (you’d be surprised how difficult it was even though it had only one-way traffic!), unlock the door at around midday, make myself a cappuccino and work on my designs right there in the shop. Some days I could be seen making paper flowers, while other days I had my sewing machine out producing drawstring pouches. Time passed slowly but I enjoyed every single minute in there. Then at 4 o’clock I’d lock up, cross the street and I’d be home again! I knew I would never ever commute to work that easily again and I treasured every single work day I was fortunate enough to do so.

In the summer evenings I’d go bike riding through the forest a few blocks away from my apartment and smile to all the squirrels around me. We don’t have them in Australia. I learned to get into a rhythm where I worked 6 days in the shop and spent Sundays wandering the streets of London, discovering cute stationery stores, photographing picturesque squares and admiring everything the city had to offer from the eyes of a tourist. Secretly I was also taking inspiration from high-end shops and boutiques with regards to their store layouts, window displays and visual merchandising. London was full of creative energy and every step forward I took along their high street, only opened up a new web of thoughts in my mind as to the direction my shop could take. I didn’t realise it then, but I had a pretty great life.

I’m looking forward to possibly opening a shop again one day, but in the meantime I’m happy working in my studio and taking life as it comes.

2 Years On