Onwards and Upwards

This little blog has been my absolute baby over the past few years. But now I’ve decided it’s time to step it up a notch. I have bought my own domain in order to start having some of my articles published. Thanks to travelicious.world, this has already happened: my first article got published last week (you can read it here), and I’m feeling all the richer, and super excited for what is to come. So while I may no longer be posting articles here anymore, check out www.travelwithsmudge.com for a bigger and better version of this blog, and of me.

Look forward to seeing you again soon!

Smudge xx

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Ode to Danielle

IMG_4533IMG_3957  SAM_2319  IMG_1325IMG_5182 IMG_3784IMG_4777 Danielle Thorne, I cannot thank you enough. Starting right at the beginning, before we’d even left the country – thank you for helping me get organised, arranging for us to get our visas sorted, and providing me with packing tips (although I still failed). When we arrived – thanks for finding us somewhere to live, for agreeing to live with me (you had no idea what you were in for!), for essentially being my counselor, you could always make me laugh, and probably most importantly during that time – you accepted me for who I was. Throughout our time in Milan – my roommate, my best friend, my partner-in-crime and essentially, my other half. Milan would not have been the same without you. For your pleasure I will add that you introduced me to Liverpool; I’m now their #1 fan. I will also include that you were a good influence, and my attendance at university probably reached an all time high! Throughout our travels – through the good and the bad you were a rock, you were always there for me, so easy-going and eager to please. Thanks for being as cool as a cucumber in times of stress. They say great minds think alike, and when it came to travelling, this couldn’t have been more true. The memories we have created are endless; to think for so long we could count the days on one hand where we didn’t see each other – your memories are my memories, and I will cherish them forever. In life, it’s not necessarily about where we go, but who we go with – and your friendship over the last few months could have taken us to the moon and back. Thanks for everything girl – I’m honoured to have shared the best year of my life with you! PS. I was joking about the #1 fan bit.

Paris: more than just a city

As Audrey Hepburn once said, “Paris is always a good idea”. I was very excited to be meeting my mum and Aunty here as they began their six week Eurotrip. My first night was spent at La Regent Montmarte Hostel, where I awoke early, transported my gear to Hotel Chopin on Passage Jouffrey and waited for my friend Dimitri to pick me up. Together we overcame some transport difficulties and eventually made it to Versaille where we had a lovely picnic after first exploring the grounds of this almighty palace. Afterwards we trained back and I spent the afternoon being guided around Paris by a local, seeing and appreciating this glorious city through whole new eyes.

I met Sandy and my mum back at the hotel shortly after, and after their rough plane ride we decided to eat somewhere local (I tried frogs legs!) before catching a good night’s sleep to ensure enthusiasm for our adventures the next day. The next morning we headed to Notre Dame, visited the Lovelock Bridge and walked through the Mais area, past the Louvre and onto the Champs Elyees. We had a macroon pit-stop at Laduree, before heading to the Arc D’Triomphe and Eiffel Tower.

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The day was wonderful, but the night turned into a disaster as EasyJet emailed me to inform me they’d cancelled my flight back to Milan the following afternoon due to an airport strike in Italy. Chaos erupted as EasyJet wouldn’t answer the phone, everyone seemed to only speak French, and I was told that I should jump on a 14 hour bus leaving immediately to make it back to Milan on time to catch my flight back to NZ. The strike ended at 5pm, so I ended up finding an astronomically expensive flight back to Milan via Heathrow Airport (something I hadn’t expect to tick off my bucket list!) landing at 10pm the next night.

The next morning we arose and headed out to Roland Garros. We did a tour, and combined with museum it cost €15.50. Although it was slightly less impressive than Wimbledon, it is a must see for any tennis fan, and it was just incredible seeing Nadal’s stomping ground in the flesh. The Davis Cup semifinal was scheduled for the following weekend so we were on the lookout for French players, unfortunately without any luck.

Here we bid farewell, as I flew from Paris to Heathrow to Milan, where Marco and Marika had both kindly come to pick me up from the airport; it was so lovely to see them again before I left. We went home for dinner, driving through the city and seeing all the oh-so-familiar sights made me home-sick for Milano, and I hadn’t even left yet! The next morning Marco dropped me off at the airport, and it wasn’t really until then that reality hit me: I was going home.

In true Nicole style, my flight from Abu Dhabi to Melbourne was delayed two hours, meaning it was a mad rush to make my plane in Melbourne. However after sitting on the runway for 2.5 hours, we were informed that the toilets could not be fixed, and we would therefore not be flying anywhere that night. I checked into the Mercure in Melbourne a little after midnight, only to be getting up again at 6am to make my way back to the airport. A huge shout out to Dad who had been in Auckland to meet me, and had to fly home the next morning – without me next to him!

Kia Ora New Zealand, I am officially home.

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Hola to Happiness

Sangria + Tapas + Beaches = Inevitable Happiness. I was very excited to come here after the unexpected coldness that the UK presented, and couldn’t wait to return to the sand and sunshine. Similarly to Portugal, everything is cheap, the culture is alive, and both the people and the language are cheerful and beautiful. Would three weeks be long enough?

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Malaga

After getting off the bus to my hostel a stop early, I had to wander around in the dark for about half an hour before eventually finding my hostel. I fared better than Danielle though, who got super lost and didn’t arrive at the hostel until after 1am! We were staying at the Melting Pot Hostel, which wasn’t right in town, but we did have the beach literally on our doorstep so we were very happy girls.

We intended on doing a walking tour but we ended up conducting our own; walking down the main street, through the cathedral courtyard and then back along the beach to the hostel. We spent the afternoon on the beach before we met my friend Midori (from the Sahara Desert trip) for dinner. We then caught a bus to Feria (one of Spain’s largest festivals – conveniently on at the same time we were there) where there were rides, clubs, side shows, tapa places, performers, and people of all ages – everywhere! To my disgust on the way home, a middle aged lady riding the bus by herself puked everywhere, including on my feet.

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The next day James’ girlfriend Alex arrived at the hostel and we spent the day at the beach for some rest and relaxation before heading out into town to explore the nightlife. Being from clean, green New Zealand wouldn’t have helped; but there was rubbish littering the streets everywhere, and we were absolutely appalled! We located a cute little tapas bar where we enjoyed some inky squid and sangria before Alex and I befriended three mutes and then caught a taxi to Feria. To my delight Alex was also a bit of a thrill seeker so we eyed up the two scariest looking rides and had an absolute blast. The next morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed we set off up to the castle to get some views of Malaga. One last stint at the beach and then Danielle and I were Seville-bound!

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Seville

Hostel Boutique was officially the flashest hostel I have ever stayed in. it was so modern, clean and spacious we felt like we were staying in a hotel. With a free breakfast that included waffles and crepes, as well as a gym (to burn off that breakfast) we were in heaven. Seville itself was also hard not to love. We saw the cathedral, castle (Alcazar), beautiful river, had a guided tour of the bull-fighting arena (free Mondays 3 – 7pm), watched a flamenco show at a local bar (Le Carboneria, on Calle Levies 18) and ate dinner at La Huenta Mediterranea (Plaza de la Terceros 9) which specialises in vege tapas – divine! Later that night we visited Bar Garlochi (Calle Boteros 26) which is a must-see; the entire place is decked out in paintings, photos and statues of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and other religious figures. The interior is lavish, chintzy and holy all at once. The drink to try is the ‘Blood of Christ’, comprised of Granada, Whiskey and Vodka. We also explored the Jewish Quarter (known as Barrio Santa Cruz) and sampled delectable gelato at La Florentina (C. Zaragoza 16) – I had Crema de Flor de Azaha (orangeblossom) and Dule De Pestino (Caramel Pastry from Holy Week).

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Granada

Yet another gorgeous Spanish town, we stayed at a hostel (Sweet Albayzin, essentially a guesthouse) right by the Alhambra. Here we learnt to appreciate tapas the traditional way; buy a drink (Tinto de Verano became our firm favourite, basically a summer wine) and get a free tapa with it. Bonus that drinks were usually only €2! We established a local; just down the road ‘La Bella and La Bestia’ had a bagel menu with 84 differently flavours!

The main tourist attraction in Granada is the Alhambra. We were informed that because we hadn’t pre-purchased tickets we would have to get up at 6am and join the queue with the thousands of others who also didn’t have tickets. We thought we’d go for a wander and have a look at the situation before committing to the early morning, and we managed to fluke two tickets for the afternoon session! There were so many palaces and gardens to look at; it actually made for a really exhausting afternoon. The Alhambra was spectacular however; I now understand all the hype.IMG_2788

Time for a morning stroll(which soon turned into a half-day excursion); we walked up to the Alhambra and thought we’d come down an alternative route. Somehow we got lost, and ended up way out on the hills overlooking the Socromonte region. My main concerns were being attacked by snakes and getting chased by wild dogs; Danielle got to see her first real-life toad, but still came to the conclusion that “this walk makes the 500km walk look tame!” In the heat of the day, with no water or protection from the sun, we were exhausted, sweaty and just wanted to get back to civilisation. We could not find a way down the hill side and we refused to contemplate turning back, so we bush bashed our way down and ended up in someone’s backyard – a grandma with at least six children. They looked at us as though we’d just rolled in with the circus, however they kindly let us through their front gate and pointed us in the right direction. We stuck to the road walking back – passing through Socromonte (where there are house caves, and an excess of flamenco dancers) and through the historical, Moroccan influenced area of Albayzin.

Being in Spain (home to both Zara and Mango) we thought we’d better hit the shops. We also discovered ‘Lefties’ – last season’s Zara stock at ridiculously reduced prices. Somewhat successful we left Granada with our bags a lot fuller than when we arrived. Before we left we met up with our gal pal Lorena, who we hadn’t seen since Milan. She had just moved to Granada to learn Spanish, and we had a wonderful catch up over dinner and drinks.

After talking up my overnight train experience from Napoli to Milano, I was dismayed that the train Danielle and I were to catch to Barcelona firstly had no air-conditioning and also had a rocking motion that left us both feeling rather sea sick! I can vouch for us both when I say it never felt so good to arrive at our next destination.

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Barcelona

I was very excited for Barcelona 2.0. Danielle and I were joined by my friend Lisa (who I’d seen in Ireland) for a few days of fun in the sun, as all of our times in Europe were slowly coming to an end. Our first moment of fun was when we were photobombed at the cathedral by a headless man, who then proceeded to chase us wanting money – and when we refused he pulled the fingers! Typically, Danielle was forbidden entry into the cathedral (inappropriate dress) and Lisa snuck in, but then got kicked out. I showed them my favourite spots from last time, visited some new ones (Olympic stadiums + Montjuic), and gave them a personalised Gaudi walking tour – which was extended when we visited Park Guell as well as the Sagrada Familia – perhaps Gaudi’s most famous, and definitely one of Spain’s biggest attractions. We had pre-purchased tickets, which were €25 and included entry, climbing the tower, and an audio guide. It was genuinely one of the best things I did in Spain.

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We indulged in some divine food; we were told that the 1.5 hour wait at Barcelona’s best tapa bar was well worth it, and we were glad we did: we had a range of tapas, the most interesting being “angry eggs” – French fries with a smashed egg on top! Danielle and I introduced Lisa to Haagen Dazs after dinner, a new-found love for Baz. The next night we walked down to the waterfront for dinner, and enjoyed delicious burgers and fresh juices at Makamaka Burger Bar – vibrant and delicious, I would highly recommend.

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Menorca

Danielle and I walked down to the port where we caught an overnight ferry to Menorca, creating makeshift beds for ourselves in the on-board cinema. We were potentially in for a difficult morning; we had to walk to the car-hire place where we’d hired a car (despite neither of us having an International Drivers Licence, contrary to Spanish law) and we wanted to arrange for the deposit to be made on Danielle’s card, even though the terms and conditions strictly required the card used must match the name of the designated driver (me). Somehow we glided through this without difficulty, and I drove on the wrong (right) side of the road to San Parco where our accommodation details had been provided to us solely in Catalan. Thankfully we found an information centre where the lady translated for us, and we made it to our apartment in high spirits, and in good time! We’d used Air B&B to score an apartment to ourselves; splurging on our last weekend!

We began the beach hopping almost immediately; first up was Sant Tomas. We had been warned it was touristy, but we were early enough to avoid the crowds – the white sand and turquoise water made us feel like we were in Fiji. We crossed the island and visited Ciatudella, on our way to Cala d’Algaiarens. The beach was beautiful, and we both swam before we realised there was jellyfish – that were stinging people! That night we enjoyed chicken burritos on our deck, after swimming in one of our two pools, and exploring the beach nearby.

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The next morning we visited Pregonda (highly recommended by locals) – being on the northern side of the island the beach had red soil which contrasted beautifully with the blue sky and green surrounds. We stopped for lunch at Platja de Cavalleria (where people were doing DIY mud-masks with the clay on the beach) and headed back across to Cala des Talaier, which featured lots of nudists, turquoise water and white sand.

Menorca was one of my favourite places for beaching the whole time I was in Europe. A car is essential, but it had a real holiday feel – and you could stay there for two weeks, visiting a new beach every single day! Neither of us were ready to leave, but I don’t think we ever would have been. Danielle was headed for the UK, before leaving Europe for the USA; and I was off to Paris to meet my mum and my aunt before beginning my journey back to Aotearoa.

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Getting Jiggy With The Irish

I landed at Dublin Airport, immediately made my way into Hueston Train Station (€6) where I jumped on a train to Killarney. It took me a while to find Killarney Railway Hostel in the dark; although like its name suggests it was very close by! I thought it was a wonderful hostel, the rooms reminded of lodges, and were spacious with good facilities and location. My first day there I hired a bike for €12 and set off for the National Park. All the Irish people are so friendly; everyone has time for a chat. I visited Muckross House and gardens, a traditional farm and I cycled around to Dendis cottage and the Meeting of the Waters before finishing up at the waterfall. My lack of biking meant that I was very sore; however I thought I should pop into Ross Castle on my way home. The town was very cute, and the whole place had a homely feel about it.

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The next day I caught a €10 bus to Tralee (45 minutes). When I arrived I had to walk some distance to the Kings Court Apartments which is where my friend’s family were staying. The Bazalo’s were very kind to have me crash with them during the final nights of the Rose of Tralee Festival, in which their daughter Lisa, who was also my friend, was representing New Zealand in. The rest of the day was spent wandering around town with Lisa’s sisters Michelle and Jess, visiting Penney’s (Ireland’s equivalent of Primark) and keeping our eyes peeled for the ‘travellers’ who had come to town.

The two nights I was in Tralee coincided with the TV nights; in which all the Roses from around the world were interviewed on live television, and often would show off a talent they had. The event was very formal, and I battled with my ‘traveller’s wardrobe’ to find something appropriate to wear. When Lisa was being interviewed we moved to special seats where we met up all her Irish cousins and supporters to hold NZ flags, posters and banners and have our turn on TV. Her special talent was teaching the presenter and the audience how to do a traditional Maori greeting (known as a hongi). After both nights huge celebrations were to be had, and the Irish sure know how to party!

Early the next morning I got dropped at the train station and travelled back to Dublin. After dropping my stuff off at Isaacs hostel (which was really close to Connolly train station) I went for a wander to Temple Bar, Trinity College, St Stephens and of course the shops. Dublin was fantastic; I wish I had taken the opportunity to go there earlier in the semester with a group of friends rather than being by myself, as it was a definite party town.

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