Anxious to Adventure

The thoughts, travels and tribulations of a recent graduate about to embark on the big bad world.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Gironde, France


I have been to France numerous times but never visited Bordeaux or Gironde. I didn't even know where about in France it was, I just knew that I needed some sun!! It actually turned out to be a wonderful trip with my family. There have been quite a few times where I've been on a trip and I haven't done a wealth of research until I've got there and have been quite pleasantly surprised. (Obviously, there are times when you need to do research!!)


Where is Gironde?
Gironde is a region in the South-West of France.

How long did you stay for?
One week

Where did you stay?
We stayed at Chateau La Gontrie. It is outside of Bordeaux itself, on the outskirts of Saint-Caprais-de-Bordeaux. 
Chateau La Gontrie was a great place to stay. We walked out of our front door and we were in the vineyard. It is a running vineyard one evening, Jean-Louis gave us a tour of the vineyard and we did a wine tasting with the other guests. What's better, the house comes stocked with a case of wine!! There is also a pool and the owners, Jean-Louis and Nola - and their adorable dog, Saffy -  provided bikes for us to use as well. 


What did you do?
Luckily, my parents are just happy for us to get in the car and 'follow our nose' to see where we end up. I love doing this because you quite often stumble upon things you maybe would have missed if you had a strict itinerary. The only down side is I'm sure we visited lots of places that I can't remember the names or exact locations of. Such as this:

and this:



  However, there are a few places that I can absolutely remember.

1. St. Emilion
 


St. Emilion is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site, and definitely one of the most popular places to visit in the area. It is very famous for it's picturesque streets and, most importantly, the wine!! When the shops look like this:




and the restaurants look like this:


and there are views like this:



you can see why St. Emilion is worth a visit!!

2. Cordeliers Cloisters 
Whilst you're in St. Emilion, visit the Cordeliers Cloisters. If you aren't interested in learning about the history, I'm pretty sure there was a cafe nearby.



3. Château de la Brède
One absolutely scorching afternoon, we visited Château de la Brède. It a fairytale-esque castle, complete with beautiful grounds, turrets and a moat. The chateau has an interesting history, that goes back hundreds of years. Two things to look out for: a piece of bread saved from the Revolution (I think!) and the paw prints in the concrete. When we visited, they did provide a guided tour in English.


4. Cycling
One of the best days of our whole trip was when the five of us rented bikes for the day. The place that we rented them from suggested a route for us to follow. I would 100% recommend. We spent the day cycling through the French countryside, vineyards and villages. When we found a village we liked along the way, we just parked up and stopped for lunch.

5. Markets
We loooove a French market. I'm pretty sure that Creon market takes place on a Wednesday (but it's always good to double check before you go!) 


Food and Drink
When we're in France we love sitting outside and having picnic type meals and BBQs. That's one problem with England - even in summer you can't always sit outside!

One evening we did go to La Table in Creon. It was the most beautiful setting in the courtyard outside, with lots of fairy lights - and the food was divine.



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Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Whitsundays and Airlie Beach


The road to Airlie Beach was a long one...over 14 hours to be exact! Our bus left Rainbow Beach mid afternoon and we were going to have to change buses at Hervey Bay and wait there for a couple of hours before getting our next bus that would take us overnight to Airlie Beach. As we arrived in Hervey Bay, our bus driver told us that there were storms up ahead and the roads were in danger of shutting...not ideal.
After three hours in McDonalds (thank goodness for Maccie's free wifi!) we and our new group of 'bus friends' made our way back to the bus stop, hopeful that we'd be collected. We were told that the weather was still bad but they would take us - but we were warned that we might be dropped off along the way if they couldn't make it any further - just what you want to hear!
Our merry band of five boarded the bus, having made a pact that if we were stranded we'd all chip in for a hotel room for the night. However, the gods were with us. We kept creeping closer and closer to Airlie Beach, through the rain, but carrying on nonetheless. Our band of five grew and grew, picking up bedraggled groups along the way (some of which had been stranded for 10 hours!) However, the journey wasn't the most comfortable - at one point, somewhere around 4am, the window started leaking rainwater on my head.

We arrived at Airlie Beach, tired and groggy and were luckily able to check into Nomads with a group from the bus. There are so many places to stay in Airlie Beach, but we really enjoyed Nomads. They have a bar, washing facilities and a pool.
On the day that we arrived, they held a BBQ with beer and music. It was a great way to meet people and we ended up bumping into some of our friends from Fraser Island as well as people that were on our Whitsundays tour. We ended up having quite a boozy night and even went clubbing (Mama Africa!)

The main reason that everybody goes to Airlie Beach is because it's the gateway to the Whitsundays, so it's really easy to meet people who are going on your tour or just returning from it. There are lots of tours to cater for everyone - Clipper (party boat!!) Sailing Tours or the tour we decided to go for...Ride to Paradise. I would 100% recommend this tour! You don't sleep on the boat...you sleep in luxury...it's better! The day before we sailed we had to go and sign in with Ride to Paradise. We were given small, bright orange, waterproof bags to pack for the trip (much easier than lugging your backpack over) and make a quick stop for drinks.

Day 1
We made our way to the Marina and met our crew, Billy and Henry. They literally made the trip, I can't sing their praises highly enough. Once everybody arrived and were allocated their rashie (a light wetsuit for snorkelling) we left Airlie Beach and sped over to Paradise Cove.

Hidden, amongst the greenery, is a literal paradise. With palm trees and a beautiful view of the water, Paradise Cove is the definition of a hidden gem. They have a main house, as well as private houses that people can pay more to stay in. Everybody else is in rooms across the site.

My sister and I lucked out and were given the only room in the main house. It was perfect - and such a nice surprise. After four weeks of backpacking, this was luxurious. 


The photographs won't be able to do it justice, but from the window, you could see the water and it was....paradise. One of my absolute favourite memories, possibly of my life, is waking up to the sound of 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' playing, with the sunrise visible through this window. Heaven.


The resort has a pool and jacuzzi that can only be described as an Instagrammers dream...as well as the BEST outdoor baths.

Another great thing about 'Ride to Paradise'...all of your food is included and prepared for you! The first afternoon was spent relaxing, getting to know each other and then being served a meal. It doesn't get better than that!

Day 2
The second day began nice and early with a trip to Whitehaven Beach. Once again, the pictures do not do it justice. We spent time in the water, spotting baby sharks and stingrays.

Billy, our tour guide, also made me try a green ant. A little strange...but it tasted really sour. Apparently, they can be a source of food. Not keen - I'll stick to the picnic that was prepared for us and waiting on the boat when we returned. 

We then went snorkelling. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Even if you're not a fan of the sea, DO IT! The reef is amazing - even better than when we went out in Cairns - and there are SO many fish. 

The real treat was on the way back - we saw whales, a mother and baby, breaching within 100m of the boat. It was unbelievable! Just when you thought they had gone they jumped again, or waved their fins. 

I remember calling my parents saying that it had been one of the best days of my life.

That evening was more social. We had a chat with Henry, our other guide, who explained where we had been and what we had seen, pointing out where we had seen the whales. We played games, went late night swimming...and had far too much to drink!!

Day 3
We were super sad to leave Paradise Cove on our final morning. Most of us were a little worse for wear, but that didn't stop one last snorkel at the Langford Sandbar in the hope of finding turtles (which we sadly didn't!) Before we knew it, we were speeding back towards Airlie Beach, already homesick for Paradise Cove.

We returned to Nomads for one more night. We spent the afternoon relaxing by the Lagoon in Airlie Beach. That night we had a 'reunion' party with everybody on the boat, including the crew. It was so sociable, with not just our boat, but lots others meeting in a bar (after a shower and change of clothes!) Some of us ended up going out - desperate for the trip not to come to and end.

-

It's difficult to sum up our time in Whitsundays. It was SO fantastic and I wish I hope this comes across in this post. It will be different for everybody, but if you get a chance - visit the Whitsundays.
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Thursday, 8 February 2018

Florence


Florence, beautiful Florence - or Firenze - is probably one of the best cities I have ever visited. Not only is it beautiful and full of culture, art and history, literally every corner you turn brings you to another spectacular find. It feels safe and compact and magical. I spent the whole time walking around imaging that I was an extra in A Room With A View.




Where did we stay?
We stayed at B&B Galileo 2000.

How long did we stay for?
2 nights. We were there in the lead up to Easter weekend.

What did we do?
We had a lot to do and see in Florence in quite a short time.




We walked to all the sights: Il Duomo, Michelangelo's David, Ponte Vecchio.





On the first morning we got up really early to beat to queues and visited the Uffuzi gallery. Pre-book this if you can.



In the afternoon we walked up to Piazzale Michelangelo, where you get a picture perfect view of the Florence. We stopped just beyond here for a drink, with the best view!! We continued up to San Miniato al Monte before heading back via Giardino della rose (rose garden). If you get a chance to do this, it will be worth it! It's beautiful. The following photo isn't mine, but I think it captures the rose garden perfectly.


We spent the final morning visiting Medici Riccardi Palace. It has gorgeous gardens and the most beautiful interiors.


Food and Drink?
To be honest - I can't remember the name or location of either of the restaurants we went to in the evening. I do remember one had a mural on the wall (see below.) However, I do know what I had to eat both nights: Pizza with mushrooms, black olives, ham, artichokes and lots of cheese. Oh. My. Goodness. Incredible.



If Florence is on your list, but you can't quite make it there yet, why not watch Medici: Masters of Florence - a drama about the Medici family.
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Wednesday, 7 February 2018

New York City


New York...the Big Apple, the City That Never Sleeps, the home of Friends, Sex and the City and so much more.

Landing at JFK airport was a real 'pinch me' moment. I couldn't believe that I was in New York City!! However, it would be almost three weeks until I could truly explore the city (we drove straight from NYC to Rhode Island, to Boston, then Cape Cod, then Bermuda, before returning to New York!)

Where did you stay?
We actually stayed in Edgewater, New Jersey and got the Ferry across to the city everyday. Our hotel was Homewood Suites by Hilton.

How long did you stay for?
4 nights

What did you do?
We got the 'New York Pass' which enabled us to gain access to over 90+ over the three days. I would recommend looking into this.

I once read a story in which a girl 'ran away' to New York. I vividly remember there being a moment when she walked through New York in a summer dress, and every since then I've imagined myself walking through New York in the summer. I did it. We rented bikes one afternoon and cycled through Central Park. As a child, I used to read/watch 'Balto' and always remembered that there was a statue built for Balto in Central Park, so that was an important stop on our bike ride!

We visited quite a few museums such as the New York City Police Museum, the 'Bodies' exhibition, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and the Natural History Museum.

We also stopped off at Macy's and Fifth Avenue, calling a yellow cab as we left. Such native New Yorkers!

One, slightly overcast, afternoon we boarded a boat and sailed around the Statue of Liberty. It's surreal seeing such familiar landmarks for the fist time.



We were in New York in August and for my birthday in June I was promised a trip to Tiffany's New York. It felt wonderful walking into Tiffany's and sauntering through the rows of shining diamond and whizz up in the lift to the 3rd floor. That's where I found what I was looking for - the classic Tiffany heart necklace and matching bracelet...both of which I've somehow lost...!

My parents told me there was one more surprise but wouldn't let onto what it was. One morning, we were up and out super early to catch the ferry into the city. We arrived, slightly confusingly, in the Financial District. We walked along the path before Dad suddenly doubled back on himself and turned, walking through a gate that read 'New York Helicopter'. I couldn't believe it. For a surreal 25 minutes we circled Manhattan in the sky!!
Looking back, New York was a whirlwind. It's almost like a dream. My family were talking the other day and Mum said 'It's time to go back to New York' and do you know what? I wholeheartedly agree.

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