Travel

Penguin Discovery

It was my birthday on Sunday last week and what better way to spend it then getting up close and making friends with penguins! Seriously - every birthday from now on needs to include penguins. Unfortunately, I couldn't fly over to Antarctica but Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium in Auckland was the next best thing. 

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The aquarium itself is worth the trip and can be found on Tamaki Drive, just 10-15 minutes from Mission Bay - so you can also include a trip to the beach. Inside, you'll find an abundance of sea life such as jellyfish, mandarin fish, stingrays, seahorses, king crabs, pig fish and moray eel. Sometimes they have turtles which have been rescued and are due to be released back into the sea. A main attraction is the shark tunnel where you can watch as Sand-tiger and Broad-nose Seven gill sharks swim above your head. With over 1,500 sea life inhabitants across 50+ species, regular talks and feedings - there’s so much to learn and discover! Plus there are special exhibitions such as the recreation of legendary explorer’s Antarctic hut with authentic memorabilia showing just what it was like for the adventurers over a hundred years ago.

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The best part was taking part in the Penguin Passport which allowed us to go behind the scenes and on the ice with the penguins. First, you are taken to see the penguins as normal and the keeper gives you a detailed talk about the Gentoo and King Penguins. The rules and regulations of being on the ice are explained to you and then you are taken to get changed into your arctic gear (a fleece, warm trousers and big boots). You're not allowed to touch the penguins as they don't like it but they are pretty friendly and curious so they come up to you and stay with you. They love anything shiny so you have to take off jewelry and tie up hair but you take bubbles and a plastic ball with you for them to play with. It was a pretty special experience and I reccomend you try it for yourself if you are ever in Auckland. 

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What you need to know

  • Open 9.30am - 5pm (last entry at 4pm), 365 days a year

  • Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium, 23 Tamaki Drive, Orakei, Auckland, NZ, 107

  • 7 days a week Kelly Tarlton's operates a FREE shuttle service from downtown Auckland!

  • Shuttle departs from 152 Quay Street 

  • The shuttle runs hourly on the HALF hour from 9:30am until 4:20pm, with the final pick up from downtown being at 3:30pm.

Self-Care at the Polynesian Spa

I'm what some would call an 'active person.' I always like to be doing something! It can often feel like my brain won't switch off. This can be great sometimes when you need to get something done but when you're like that all the time, it can easily lead to burn out and stress. It's important to find balance in life and find a great self-care routine to look after yourself. So once the stress of life started to pile up, it seemed the perfect time for a weekend away in Rotorua. 

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Rotorua is said to be a place where all you can do is eat, sleep, and spa. Located in the North Island just three hours drive from Auckland, the region is highly geothermic so you can enjoy the benefits of boiling thermal mud and relax in the therapeutic hot pools. Although we were warned that the Polynesian Spa was expensive and that there are plenty of free hot pools to soak in, we decided to go anyway and treat ourselves - and I regret nothing! I can see why it is voted in the top 10. 

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Polynesian Spa’s geothermal mineral waters are sourced from two natural springs and feed into 28 hot mineral pools. The slightly acidic Priest Spring waters relieve aches and pains while the alkaline waters of the Rachel Spring nourish skin. There are four options when visiting the Polynesian Spa. Firstly, for $10 you can bathe in the Family Pool which is the cheapest and most communal pool. Secondly, you can pay $30 for the Adult & Priest Spring pool which is adult only. Thirdly, you can pay $50 for the Deluxe Lake Spa or lastly, you can pay between $20-100 for your own private bathing experience.   

We decided to go all out and indulge ourselves with a massage which gave us access to the Deluxe Lake Spa where we spent a blissful couple of hours. The massage we got was a scrub and full body whilst lying under warm water that jets onto your body. It was the best massage I have ever had and I can't recommend it enough! The pools themselves are split into five with four shallow Rachel Spring alkaline mineral hot pools and one Priest Spring acidic mineral hot pool and they range between 36 - 42 °C.

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Where?

1000 Hinemoa Street, Rotorua, New Zealand

 

 

 

Bream Head / Te Whara Track

The Te Whara Track is a true hidden gem and one that is not on a lot of people's radar. This 7.5 km one-way track is a tough thigh-burning but rewarding one day hike. The walk takes you through some of the best coastal forest on the the North Island and you can also stumble across the ruins of a WWII radar station. The views along the track are pretty spectacular and you can see all the way up to Cape Brett to the north and Cape Rodney to the south. 

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We started our day at 6am from Auckland where we drove 3 hours up to the Te Whara Track. We parked at the Ocean Beach car park, took a leisurely stroll across said beach and then immediately began the hike up to the summit of the mountain. This meant that we did the hardest part of the trek first but was rewarded when we reached the top by the stunning panoramic views. For anyone doing this trek, I will warn you that it is a hard trek to the top with a seemingly endless amount of stairs! You will need to be fairly fit and take plenty of water for this hike. From then onwards we hiked up and down the mountain to reach the junction that can take you all the way across to Smugglers Cover or down to Peach Cove. We decided to continue on for a while but soon decided to descend to Peach Cove because the sun was setting soon. 

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The hike took us around 5 hours including our lunch break. From Ocean Beach to Smugglers Cove takes around 5-7 hours. My advice would be to take the road back to where you need to be as this is much easier and quicker than doing the whole route backwards. We took this hike in July which seemed to be a good decision because the weather was clear and sunny but not overall hot - I would not want to do this hike in Summer! At the end we were tired and achy but happy. A great day hike if you're looking to get out into the bush. 

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These birds are called Fantails and they will fly close to you. They won't hurt you but are quite playful and follow you around the track. 

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24 Hours: A Photo Story

On Saturday 9th June the Nikon Auckland Photo Day returned to the city as part of the Photography Festival!  NIKON AUCKLAND PHOTO DAY (initiated by the festival in 2004) is an open access public competition run over a period of 24 hours. For one day only Aucklanders were asked to capture an image which reflects their Auckland. I spent the day travelling around the city and here is what I captured: 

Traveling with Jewellery

If I had to pick one type of accessory to wear forever then it would be jewellery. It's the only thing I consistently wear everyday and I think it's an easy and creative way to express yourself. My jewellery collection consists of necklaces, rings and bracelets that I have brought from around the world and they usually express my love of nature and travel - therefore why wouldn't I take them travelling with me? 

I've developed lots of ways to travel with and protect my jewellery along the way and so I thought I would share them with you. 

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Protecting it

There are a few ways in which you can protect your jewellery from theft and damage whilst travelling:

1. Insure it! You can get insurance for your jewellery the same way you can get insurance for your car or your mobile. Alternatively, jewellery can also be insured under certain travel insurance. Make sure to ask your provider or shop around for someone who does. 

2. Take a picture of it! This way you can prove that the jewellery belongs to you and will make it easier to claim on the insurance. 

3. Carry on don't pack it! Pack your jewellery in your carry-on. Never put high-value items in your checked bag – luggage can get lost or stolen.

Packing it

Jewellery can be a real pain to travel with - necklaces get tangled, bracelets broken and rings and earrings are easily lost! 

An easy way to avoid that is to only wear what you will wear on your trip. That means you can travel to your destination with your jewellery on and avoid any mishaps. For long-term travel or if you want to bring multiple items then you will want to think about storage. There are a number of ways to store your items:

1. Use vitamin/pill containers for smaller pieces (i.e. Studs, bracelets...) this technique also provides for easy viewing of your options! 

2. Drinking straws are great to have on hand when packing and travelling. By slipping one end of a necklace through the straw and closing the clasp, you can keep your necklaces tangle-free. To avoid using plastic straws you can also use paper ones or your reusable metal ones giving them a double use! 

3. Keep all your necklaces together by organising them in a toothbrush holder or glasses case. 

4. Use small bags or sandwich bags to store your earrings and necklaces to stop them from tangling. (Tip: I use the small sample pots from Lush to store my earrings)

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5. Alternatively grab yourself a business card or postcard and poke your earrings through them. 

6.  Empty mint tins or pill boxes make ideal containers for jewellery. Plus you can grab yourself a colourful or creative design. 

7. Buy a jewellery box. There are plenty of jewellery boxes and holders that are cheap and effective for travel. This is now my go to way of travelling with jewellery and I use the Vlando travel jewellery box. Grab yourself one of these amazing travel boxes here or click the link below this post. 

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Cleaning it 

There are two very easy ways that I clean my jewellery whilst travelling and it is incredibly easy to wipe away the sun tan lotion, ocean or sand from your jewellery:

1. For stubborn messes or stains grab yourself some toothpaste and a bristled brush. Gently scrub the offending item. 

2. Pack a soft cloth, like the ones used to clean eye glasses, for an easy way to clean jewellery before you wear it.

Have you found any more travel hacks for Jewellery? Let me know! 

On The Road: Yellowstone National Park

One of the most beautiful places we visited on the trip and my favourite national park was Yellowstone National Park. Famous for being the world's first national park established back in 1872 and the home of super volcano Yellowstone Caldera. Created on a volcanic hot spot, the park is massive and is a perfect spot to spend a few days exploring.   

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We only spent one day there but we still saw so much! There is lots of geothermal activity and natural wonder to behold - as well as a huge array of wildlife. The place that I found most amazing was the Grand Prismatic Spring, which gets its bright colours from pigmented thermophilic bacteria found in its hot waters. This famous hot spring is nearly 300 feet (91 m) around, and 160 feet (49 m) deep. It is located approximately 7 miles (11 km) north of Old Faithful. The colours of the spring were unreal and no picture can do it justice. The heat can be felt and the smell of sulphur is strong but it is worth it - trust me! 

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You can't go to Yellowstone and not visit Old Faithful. Named Old Faithful due to the fact that its eruptions are highly predictable (it erupts every 45 – 125 minutes), the geyser is easily accessible from the West Entrance to the park. It is located just west of Yellowstone Lake, and visitors can stand around the perimeter for the perfect view of that Old Faithful eruption. Geysers are always fascinating to watch and Old Faithful is no different! 

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Formed by thousand years of erosion rocks, water, and other natural energy, Grand canyon of Yellowstone is the main scenic attractions in Canyon Village. The Canyon is the largest canyon in the southern river of Yellowstone waterfall and there are many regional observer points like Lookout Point, Red Rock Point and many other points along the South Rim Trail, from there, you can admire the canyon and waterfalls from many different angles. (Artist Point ideal for people who want to see clearly the Lower Falls).

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There are plenty of beautiful hikes to take in Yellowstone park and lots of opportunities to spot wildlife. Head to Hayden Valley, located just north of Yellowstone Lake, the area is a favourite spot to find elk, coyotes, bison, and bears (okay, that last one might be much better viewed from a very sensible distance). There are also two well-known hiking trails in the area – the Hayden Valley Trail and the Mary Mountain Trail. Mount Washburn is a fantastic place for hiking as well as seeing incredible views of the park. Its summit is at an elevation of 10,000 feet (3,050 m), meaning that the Teton Mountains are visible on clear days! Lamar Valley is a gorgeous place to take a hike with lush greenery.  

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On the Road: Biking Through Gotham (Chicago)

On the Road: Biking Through Gotham (Chicago)

For those of you who are batman fans or at least fans of the Christopher Nolan batman films you may or may not know that the majority of the films are filmed in….Chicago! When I visited there in June we were booked in to do a late afternoon bike tour of the city with Bobby’s bikes but the weather wasn't great it was cold and misty but as soon as we were shown the first part where the films were filmed it was great! It was like biking through Gotham city.

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On the Road: Niagara Falls

On the Road: Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is made of three waterfalls but the most famous and picturesque is Horseshoe Falls. The other two can be found on the American side and they are called American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. It is located on the New York and Canadian border along the Niagara river. Both sides of the river have their own unique experience of the Falls and you can cross Rainbow Bridge to either side. The Falls themselves are impressive to say the least!

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On the Road: An epic road trip

On the Road: An epic road trip

After reading and falling in love with Jack Kerouac's 'On the Road,' I always dreamed about taking a road trip around America. I wanted to experience the thrills of the east, the sprawling landscapes of the west, the small town charms of the north and the famous hospitality of the south. I wanted to see it all - from towering mountains to white sand beaches, the top of skyscrapers to the bottom of canyons!

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Ottawa's Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill, known to locals at The Hill, is an area of Crown land on the southern banks of the Ottawa River located at 111 Wellington Street in down town. Ottawa is Canada’s capital which means that the city houses some impressive architecture and government buildings. Parliament hill was definitely an impressive sight.
Parliament Hill’s main building is the Centre Block which houses the commons and senate chambers as well as the offices of many high ranking government officials. Built in the Gothic Revival style, the Centre Block is one of Canada’s most recognizable works of architecture. You can find it printed on dollar bills. The East Block (pictured here) is home to parliamentary offices, and is one of only two Parliament structures which have survived from the original construction.Across from the East Block is the West Block, with similar functions.  The West Block is slated as the temporary home to the House of Commons during a renovation to the Centre Block in 2019.

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On the rear of the Centre Block is the Library of Parliament, the only surviving remnant from the original Centre Block built in 1876. This was by far my favourite place in all of Canada! As a book lover I wanted to stay in here forever.

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Thing's You'll Learn During Your First Northern Winter

My first experience of Canada was in winter - and it happened to be one of the worst they had experience in a long time. Coming from England where the idea of snow is laughable, I learnt a lot of new things. Here are a few things you will learn:

You Can Never Have Enough Layers! 

One coat will definitely not be enough for a Northern Winter but it is worth investing in a quality coat because it will be a lifesaver in the snow. The coat should be waterproof/windproof and thermal if possible. However you will also need layers! thermals, long sleeved tops, jumpers, fleeces, coats, good socks – the works!

No Amount Of Layers Will Be Enough

A jumper (even twelve) will not be enough because once the cold gets in past your layers then there’s not much you can do except go inside and warm up! In the Northern Winter you have to think about your body and what it needs to survive, but on the bright side that means lots of fires, hot chocolates and food! 

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Your Clothes Will Fall Apart

You find out pretty quickly which brands of clothing are built to last and which ones are built for fashion. Be prepared to replace a lot of clothing and it’s worth buying the important stuff like shoes and coat once you are there.

The Snow Won’t Listen To The Seasons

Winter doesn’t have a start and a stop date. Just because it’s March or April doesn’t guarantee an end to the winter. My friends tell me it’s still snowing there in June. Try to wait it out and don’t look at pictures of beaches or sun.
 

You Will Get Pale

It’ll be the palest you’ve ever been in your life. You’ll be made fun of by your friends and family back home. Prepared to be as white as a ghost — perhaps even sometimes scaring yourself in the mirror!

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Hand-Warmers Will Be Your Best Friend

Stick them in your gloves. Stick them in your socks. Stick them everywhere you can.

Snow Will Make You A Child Again

If your lucky then you will learn all the fun things you can do in the snow like snow slides, snow fights, building snow people, making caves and all the other winter culture that the North has.

It Will Be The Best Time Of Your Life!

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Montréal Biodome

The bio dome in Montréal was a wonderful place to spend a few hours.  The building was originally constructed for the 1976 Olympic games  as a velodome but was turned into the bio dome shortly afterwards where it now houses thousands of animal and plant species. There are four ecosystems to walk through so I would recommend wearing layers for the varied temperatures.

You can find the bio dome at 4777 Avenue Pierre-de Coubertin, Montréal, QC H1V 1B3and it is wildly popular, so try to visit during the week, avoiding the middle of the day if possible. Plan two hours to do it justice. You can bring a packed lunch for the picnic tables or dine in the cafeteria. In summer there are educational day camps for kids

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Tropical Forest (South American Rainforest) 

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Laurentian Forest (North American Wilderness) 

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The appearance of the Laurentian Forest varies widely with the seasons, with special habitats for lynx, otters and around 350 bats

 Saint Lawrence Marine Eco-system (Gulf of Saint Lawrence)

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Here you can find an underwater observatory where you can watch cod feeding alongside lobsters and sea urchins in the tidal pools.

Arctic Cold (Arctic and Antarctica) 

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Here you can find frolicking penguins in the icy climate.

 

The Montréal bio dome was the most diverse and large bio dome that I have visited so far. It was both interesting and educational! 

Québec Carnival 2015

Québec winter carnival is said to the biggest in the world, and it is a true celebration of winter and all it has to offer. Every year, there are new features and attractions added to the three weekend long program. The 2014 Quebec Winter Carnival runs January 31 to February 16 – visit the website for details.
Bonhomme Carnaval, or Bonhomme for short, was created in 1954 and has become synonymous with the event. The seven-foot-tall, 400-pound jolly snowman, with his signature red toque and arrowhead sash, isn’t a mascot – he’s an ambassador. You can find his image and the snowman himself nearly everywhere!

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All around the city are some really impressive ice sculptures. My favourite was the iron throne from the game of thrones! There is also an ice palace that you can walk around in.

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The parade was one of the best I have seen so far and despite the cold it was a really enjoyable experience. Lots of dancing, singing, rapping and impressive costumes.

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Bonhomme’s home for the winter. A giant palace made of ice with lots of fun surprises inside.

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As well as all this you can find 100's more activities scattered across the city. At the Mr. Christie Village you can find sleigh rides, dogsled rides, animation, shows, giant slides, food stalls, ice fishing, saunas and so much more! This was seriously one of the best carnivals I have been to and I will definitely be visiting it again! 

Travel Guide: Québec city

Québec city is a beautiful and charming city. It reminded me strongly of Europe with it’s old buildings, cobblestones streets and French language. The city is one of North America’s oldest settlements and it’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In Winter the Christmas spirit seems to live on with fairy lights covering everything, the snow and even the decorations left on the street. I went the first time for the Québec  Carnival but when I visited the second time there was still plenty to do!

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Old Town

Every trip to Quebec City should begin with a walk around the Old Town as it was my favourite part of the city. It’s a sprawling network of narrow cobblestone streets laden architecture up to four centuries old at the base of the city. I would recommend wearing comfortable clothes and shoes as although the city is walled in, there is alot of it to walk. The city is very uneven and there are a few small hills trek up. In upper town you can find the Hôtel du Parlement, La Citadelle which sees a changing of the guard ceremony most mornings, and the Plains of Abraham Battlefield Park. In the lower town you can find the Notre Dame des Victoires church, the Musée de la civilisation, and Petit Champlain, the oldest commercial district in North America and foot of the aptly named Breakneck Stairs.

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Musée de la place Royale

The Musée de la place Royale is an interesting museum that shows the history of New France and the Royale. It is located in a charming courtyard in lower town. Admission cost $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $5 for students and 11years and under go free. It’s also good to know that admission is free from 10 till 12 on Saturdays if you visit in January or February. There is also a free cloakroom for all those pesky winter layers

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Château Frontenac

The Château Frontenac was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1893 as a luxury hotel to attract wealthy travelers and now stands as a landmark institution. The most photographed hotel in the world, the Frontenac can be seen from nearly every vantage point in Old Quebec and it truly is a sight to see

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Musee de la civilisation

The musee de la civilisation, located right off the Place Royale, is an outstanding museum and I would recommend taking your time when you visit as there is a lot to see. There is also a free cloakroom at this museum which I advise using. Admission for adults is $10, seniors is $9, students is $8 and 11years and under go free. It is also free for all on Tuesdays between November 1 and March 31 and from 10 a.m. to noon every Saturday in January and February