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Travel stories, inspiration, news and musing

We are the dreamers, the seekers, the travellers, the adventurers, the optimists. It's nice to meet you! There are lots of us with the same DNA - we look forward to sharing the journey with you.

Filtering by Tag: Europe

Santorini vs Amalfi - an attempt to compare perfection

Aimee Pearce

So a friend recently asked me if they should visit the Greek Island of Santorini OR Positano on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. It may have been one of the only recorded times in my life when I was actually speechless. For a moment. The cogs were just ticking. There was a lot to think about. Italy vs Greece. Beach against beach. Fresh sardines for lunch or would you prefer grilled octopus. And don't even get me started on the views?!?!?! Sunset over the caldera or THAT Positano beach? It actually might be impossible to choose.

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The beauty of small towns

Aimee Pearce

I love to visit cities. The buzz, the hype, the plethora of dining and drinking options, the endless list of attractions to visit and cafés to while away the hours in - what's not to love!

But when it comes to putting down roots and calling a place "home" I'm a small to medium town girl for sure! There is something beautiful about the simplicity of knowing your way around a place in a depth that you never could in a city. Knowing each street, each shop, each restaurant and café (even if the options are limited) every good picnic spot and and secret spot. Even all the people! There's a feeling of intimacy that comes from living in a small town that big cities just can't match.

And when travelling, the small towns are often the hidden gems of an adventure. You are more likely to meet locals and get great tips in a small town. And you're more likely to stumble upon hidden secrets that don't make the guide books.

While Elissa continues to swan around Europe, I've come across this great blog which list 12 idyllic small towns that remind us of the simple life. 

The photos are visually stunning! Check out this gem of Popeye Village in Malta! Malta is high on my Europe hit-list and this photo is sending me to Wanderlust heaven!

Photo: Mosin

Photo: Mosin

There is plenty of great alternative European inspiration here. So check it out at RYOT

 

European bucket list

Aimee Pearce

I love a good bucket list! They are inspiring and dreamy while at the same time incredibly frustrating because they only seem to grow! Is it just me or do you also seem to add another 10 items to your bucket list for every one you tick off. My bucket list is ever-evolving and ever-growing but honestly, that's the way I like it!

So while Elissa is managing to tick some European highlights off her bucket list this month, I've stumbled upon a great list called The short haul bucket list: 30 places in Europe you must see before you die

It's worth having a look through the photo gallery the Daily Telegraph Travel team has compiled, but I've summarised it here for you with some photos of places I've been lucky enough to visit:

  • Var, Provence, France
The stunning waters in the Gorge du Vurdon, Var, Provence

The stunning waters in the Gorge du Vurdon, Var, Provence

  • Gaudí’s Barcelona, Spain
Gaudi's La Sagrada - Barcelona

Gaudi's La Sagrada - Barcelona

  • Sistine Chapel, Italy
  • Acropolis, Greece
  • Pamukkale, Turkey
Pammukkale

Pammukkale

  • Semana Santa, Spain
  • Aya Sofya, Istanbul, Turkey
Aya Sofya

Aya Sofya

  • Matterhorn, Switzerland
  • Chateau de Chenonceau, Loire Valley, France
  • The Atlantic Road, Norway
  • Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey
Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

  • Northern Lights, Scandinavia or Iceland
  • Sainte Chapelle, Paris
  • Red Square, Moscow, Russia
  • Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy
  • Charles Bridge, Czech Republic
Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

  • Brandenberg Gate, Germany
  • Tuscany, Italy
Tuscany - overlooking San Gimignano

Tuscany - overlooking San Gimignano

  • Lake Bled, Slovenia
  • Colosseum, Italy
Colosseum, Roma

Colosseum, Roma

  • Ephesus, Turkey
Ephesus

Ephesus

  • Eiffel Tower, France
Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

  • Alhambra, Spain
  • Venice, Italy
  • The black beaches of Iceland
  • Pantheon, Italy
Pantheon

Pantheon

  • Mezquita de Cordoba, Spain
  • Versailles, France
  • The Hermitage, St Petersburg
  • Pompeii and Herculaneum, Italy
Pompeii

Pompeii

My list still some fairly significant dints in it but it still needs a bit of work! With these widely published bucket lists, you always notice a few landmarks that leave you a bit stumped...the Sainte Chapelle in Paris...It looks amazing! How did I miss it?!?!?! The Sistine Chapel of course will have to stay locked in my memory - strictly no photos allowed! And then there are always some places that you will swear should have made it onto the list. Cappadocia in Turkey? The Cinque Terre in Italy???? The islands of Croatia???? But of course - lists can't be endless...or can they?!?!

Are any of your favourite places in Europe missing? Or any hot spots you are just dying to visit? While Elissa is gallivanting the European countryside living out her bucket list, come and dream with me!

Europe - it's summer and I'm coming!

Elissa Webster

Forget about getting your breath back from Aimee's trip to Hawaii - we are high-fiving at the airport as I (Elissa) head to Europe today! YEEEEW!

Did I mention I'm taking my husband Matt and our three kids with me?? I'm not the only one who's excited!

Did I mention I'm taking my husband Matt and our three kids with me?? I'm not the only one who's excited!

What's not to love about Europe?! (Apart from the really long plane trip to get there, a history of subjugation of far-flung colonies and icy, dark winters - let it not be said that I am not a realist!) There are hundreds of things I love about the continent that gave birth to Western culture but here are my top five...

  1. Long summer days. Being a Queenslander (even in summer, the sun sets by 6.30pm), the novelty of the sun going down after 9pm leaves me giddy as a school girl. There's nothing quite like a cider under an apple tree in broad daylight at 8pm. I feel like I'm getting maximum value for day - and on holidays, getting the most from each day is even better!
  2. Artisan culture. I love being able to meet the person who made this particular wheel of cheese and that special vintage of wine. And I love that in this part of the world, it's not a big deal - it's just the way it should be. Every French town has their own speciality but everyone does a pretty great local version of staple goodies. Why would you import them from miles away when you can make it yourself?
  3. Embedded history. There's nowhere quite like Europe for incorporating centuries-old remains into the streetscape. That fountain you're leaning on has probably been here since 1530. There probably isn't even a sign, because there is heaps of that stuff around here. And why wouldn't you be allowed to climb and dream and live on it?
  4. People are better at just being. We were in a town called Riparbella near Pisa, Italy a few years ago. We were lost and doing several (increasingly frenzied) laps of the town trying to find the turn-off to our hotel. Every time we went past one particular doorway (and this circling went on for the best part of an hour), I noticed an older gentleman standing there looking out over the street. He didn't seem to think there was anything more demanding of his time than keeping an eye on the street. And that's not unusual in rural Italy or France or many other parts of Europe. 
  5. The difference a few miles makes. Here in Australia, you can travel for thousands of kilometres and still find yourself among the same sort of pubs, people and places that you left behind you. In Europe, lots of countries are only a few hundred kilometres across - and crossing the border means crossing into an entirely different language, food and cultural tradition. Fantastique!

So buckle up wanderlusters - England, Spain and France here we come!

The anticipation is killing me!

Elissa Webster

But I wouldn't have it any other way!

You see, in 17 short sleeps, I will be handing over my passport for stamping, taking that excitement-charged walk down the boarding ramp, and waving goodbye to the ant-sized people of home for a month (four sweet weeks, yeeewww!) as I head off on a jaunt around western Europe. Even better, I've got someone to compare notes on excitement levels with, because Aimee is about to head off on a 30th birthday (opps, did I let the cat out of the bag?!) adventure to Hawaii. 

Squeeek!

I'm not the only one in my family who's feeling a little bit excited...

I'm not the only one in my family who's feeling a little bit excited...

But as marvellous as I know it will be to breathe in the grassy air of St James Park on a London summer day, bask in the sun on a Spanish beach, roam the cellars of Bordeaux, soak in the style along Parisian avenues, and eat all the pintxo, tapas, croissants and cheese I can conceive of, I also know, from previous experience, that this nearly-there, just-can't-wait, so-excited-I-can-hardly-breathe-sometimes feeling is one of the best bits about travel.

What now?!

OK, don't get me wrong. Some of the other best bits about travel are exactly the opposite of this agonising state of anticipation - the thrill of finding yourself in a place that is every bit as awesome as you dreamed it would be, for instance, or the magnificence of a serendipitous moment that is completely unplanned but will forever capture the essence of that particular grand adventure in your memory because it was so much better than you could ever have contrived or even imagined.   

But there is something that never gets old about getting ready to go. Not the packing of bags and checking of visas and doing of last minute jobs - because those bits get old pretty fast, let's not kid ourselves - but the circling of dates on calendars, and the casual dropping into conversation of the impending event, and the imagining of all the cool stuff you're about to see and do and eat and hear - there's nothing quite like the feeling those simple things combine to create. In fact, I think I'd feel pretty robbed if someone sent me on a surprise trip tomorrow and I didn't get to experience them (although just in case someone's planning that, I would probably get over it!).

So with 17 sleeps to go, I'm in a fever of excitement - and I'm relishing it! 

The beauty of taking your time

Elissa Webster

My compulsion to fit as much as possible into every trip (and every hour, actually - my husband is regularly frustrated by my being late because I just had to squeeze one more thing into my day) is legendary. It's a running joke among friends who have joined me on various trips; just the other day one friend, who we'll be visiting in London in August, said she was thrilled the "Webster juggernaut" would be pausing in her honour for a whole week.

What can I say? I'm acutely aware of just how big the world is and how little of it I can ever hope to see.

That said, in recent years, I have taken the foot off the pedal just a little bit - and I've really enjoyed it. Travelling with kids makes it necessary to make it enjoyable, so now I have a minimum three night rule (although I will say that rules are made to be broken - but it's good to have goals). And the side effect, apart from enhanced family harmony, has been a greater appreciation of the nuances of each small corner of the world (and definitely less post-trip exhaustion). And while I wouldn't presume to say that a week enables me to become a San Sebastian cafe regular (sorry Ben), I will concur that it gives a much better glimpse into the lives and experiences of the people who are.

I'm heading to Europe for four weeks next month. I'm aiming to make the most of each day - by savouring it.

Slow travel: Why taking your time at a destination is worth it

WORDS: Ben Groundwater

There's a temptation to view the world like a breakfast buffet. Or at least, the way I view a breakfast buffet.

It's easy to feel that the only way to do this earth justice is to travel to as much of it as possible in the short amount of time you've been allotted, to feed your travelling face with as many sweet and savoury delicacies as you can fit on your plate. A small portion of south-east Asia. A dollop of Europe. A drizzling of the United States.

A dollop of Europe? We took this pic of the Italian countryside from the car window... oh dear.

A dollop of Europe? We took this pic of the Italian countryside from the car window... oh dear.

So you plan journeys that take in 15 countries in a couple of weeks. You go on tours that call through every single European highlight there is. You settle for a day here, a day there, a few hours at this museum, a few hours at that gallery. And before long, like the breakfast buffet, you've overdone things and you need to go lie down for a while to let things settle.

(Or is that just the way I do it?)

That's certainly the way I used to travel. As far as I was concerned, you only get a finite amount of time to see the world in this lifetime, and I wanted to see as much of it as possible.

If that meant having an eight-hour stopover in Abu Dhabi and cramming in four or five attractions, then so be it. If it required two overnight bus journeys in order to spend about six hours in Cappadocia in central Turkey, then that was fine.

You're here for a good time, not a long time, right? It's better to see four hours' worth of Vaduz and know you've been to Liechtenstein than to not go at all. It's worth spending just one day in Mexico City so that you can at least tick the box.

But recently, things have changed. I've decided to take things at a more moderate pace. If we're going to torture this food metaphor just a little bit further, then I've gone from stuffing my face at a buffet to sitting down to a long, leisurely brunch.

It's slow travel. Like slow food, the idea is to take time to enjoy just a few good things rather than hurry through as much as possible.

Two-year-old Sascha showing how it's done

Two-year-old Sascha showing how it's done

Here's the idea. I've got a month-long trip to Europe coming up. Back in the day, I would have used this fairly substantial amount of time to go on a touristic blitz. I would have booked a rail pass and tried to see all of the little towns and big cities that I haven't seen before. It would have been a tour de force, a whirlwind of "if it's Monday, I must be in Hamburg" moments.

But not this time. This time, in four weeks I'm going to five cities. I've got six days in San Sebastian. I've got an entire week in Rome.

The objective is not to see as much as possible, but to enjoy as much as possible. I want to become a regular at a local café in San Seb. I want to spend an entire day walking around the Villa Borghese. I want to sit and watch the world go by and not be worried about the flight I have to catch that afternoon, or the train I should be on to the next destination.

For me, now, this is the way travel should be done. The idea isn't to see a lot of places, but to really get to know a few. When you've got a whole week at your disposal you can start to move with the rhythm of local life; you can stumble across hidden gems; you can ditch the guidebook and embrace the notion of wandering with no set plan and no ideas.

Slow travel leaves time for the unexpected. It means you can have a chance meeting and end up in a place you never would have previously discovered. It means you can pick up snippets of local language and find the nuances of the culture.

You can still do the touristy things. But you can also spend entire days doing pretty much nothing. That's something people often reserve for sun-lounges at beach resorts, but it's just as valuable to do it at a café in Rome, or Barcelona. Whole new worlds reveal themselves when you've got nothing to do. New places, new people, new foods.

The hustle of the 15-countries-in-two-weeks itineraries will feel laughable once you've mastered the art of just chilling out. Slow travel is about seeking out the small things, and enjoying them. It's about the fun of foreign normality.

It's not about overnight bus trips. And it's not about four-hour stopovers. It's about a long brunch. And no buffets.

Via Traveller

Travelling with your brood

Aimee Pearce

Travelling with children hey....you know the kind that kick the back of your seat on the train, scream the entire way on the plane and interrupt your sunset view with their crying and snotting. Sounds amazing right?

To be completely honest, for me one of the main reasons that the concept of having my own children seemed so inconceivable for so long, was because it didn't really reconcile with my love of travel. All I really had to go on was the back-of-the-seat-kicking, the screaming and the flailing. I can actually remember having conversations with Elissa (who became a parent before me) about what it was like to travel with children and she assured me travelling with kids ADDED to the experience rather than detracted from it. I must admit part of me thought this may have been a bit of an exaggeration or that perhaps she was overcompensating with positivity because really it was the worst thing in the world but since she was already stuck with said children, she had better just pretend it was great because there was no going back now! Really I imagined she must be gouging out her eyeballs on long haul flights and pining for the days of solitude and bliss.

But then, eventually, I joined the world of parenthood myself. Of course travel was on the agenda early on and we took our eight-month-old on a six week trip to Europe - travelling through Italy, France and parts of Spain. And we all absolutely loved it! Of course it was different to travelling just the two of us. But it was brilliant. And I finally understood what Elissa meant when she said having children on the adventure actually added to the experience. We found that travelling with our baby was a magnet for engaging with local people. We had more conversations, more recommendations and discovered more hidden gems than perhaps we ever had before. All because people wanted to talk to Samuel.

And it was remarkable to see the world through Samuel's eyes as he experienced not only foreign lands and cultures for the first time, but also the wonder of first time experiences of absolutely everything - from interaction with locals who stopped to greet him with a "Ciao bello," everywhere we went in Italy, to the breathtaking magic of a new vista, another uninterrupted view, the crystal clear waters of a stream, the vivid green of a tree, the undulating hills dotted with castles, the scent of fresh garlic and herbs cooking in an Italian trattoria or the pungent cheeses to be sample at a French market. How amazing is the world!

Samuel with one of his surrogate Italian nonnas. This woman whisked him away, fed him biscotti, took him for a walk and then gave us the best travel advice we received in Italy!

Samuel with one of his surrogate Italian nonnas. This woman whisked him away, fed him biscotti, took him for a walk and then gave us the best travel advice we received in Italy!

Critics might say that you're crazy to take your kids travelling before they are old enough to remember it. But for us, having an extended period of time off exploring together, especially with a young baby, was the perfect way to begin this new season in our lives. This particular journey will always hold a special place in our hearts and memories as it solidified our new life as a "family" and gave us time and space to enjoy each other and establish ourselves in this new phase of life in the best way we know how - by travelling!

I'm certainly no expert in this field though - in fact as a family with just one child, you could say I'm really just a beginner. Rachel Denning on the other hand, is somewhat of an expert. She is permanently travelling with her husband and SIX children (eight years, 13 countries and counting!).

...when we hear people say “Travel and adventure isn’t for people who have taken on the responsibility of raising kids,” we have to raise our hands and say, “Whoa… wait a minute. That’s not true.”

Sure, it’s not easy. It takes a lot of work, and planning and often requires ‘sacrificing’ something else (like maybe time in school, or giving up Little League.)

But if it’s something you really want, if the idea of exploring this big, beautiful world with your kids is exciting, whether part time or full time… then you can make it happen.
— Rachel Denning

If you are considering taking your family on the road, I would recommend checking out the Live Your Legend blog and especially the tips Rachel provides for permanently travelling with kids.

And in the meantime - be kind to your fellow travellers! Whether you are travelling alone, with your partner or friends or with your brood of children, remember everyone is in a different phase of life and has different priorities and experiences. A smile, a friendly conversation and a dose of respect will always be the right attitude no matter what situation you find yourselves in.

French chateaus and sleeping babes

French chateaus and sleeping babes

And if you're planning a trip with your bambino...this booties are made for walking... (actually, they're not, but they are definitely up for some international crawling)

The  retro patchwork baby booties in raspberry  are currently available online for $24 and there is an adorable  matching bib  to complete the set.

The retro patchwork baby booties in raspberry are currently available online for $24 and there is an adorable matching bib to complete the set.