Find Me Where The Hobbits Are

If you ever find yourself in the Shire aka Matamata you have to pay a visit to Hobbiton. I have to say as a disclaimer – I am not the biggest lord of the rings/hobbit fan, however after a day at this magical place, I am a convert. It is a vision, a complete immersion into the world of Tolkien and a pleasure to behold. A beautiful story of family and opportunity combined with one of the most popular stories that spans generations.

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Take the tour, they are available in lots of languages so make sure you check out the website for the best option for you! It gives you all the inside information and lets you wonder around Bilbo’s stomping ground with knowledge of whose hairy footsteps you’re walking in. You can even stop off at the Green Dragon for a cheeky cider or spot of grub before heading through to the wonderful gift shop – which has one a guest book, I love these!

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When you are back at the starting point (the place where you buy your tickets) have an ice cream, genuinely the best ice cream I have ever had in my entire life! We went in October right at the start of the season and it was the perfect time to go, beautiful weather and the crowds weren’t to overwhelming!

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I would definitely recommend this place for your New Zealand bucket list. Its an awesome day out and like nothing I have ever experienced.

Enjoy Hobbits!

https://www.hobbitontours.com/en/ 

 

Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove

After heading out of Auckland our next stop was Hot Water Beach, we drove along the Coromandel and stopped to do some walking on the way. This stretch of driving is really beautiful definitely not one to miss if your road tripping around NZ.

Hot Water Beach is a pretty awesome place, a gorgeous beach in its own right with a sprinkle of geothermal magic. Take a spade (there’s a place to pick them up right near the entrance sign) and dig a hole when the tide is out and right before your eyes you have created your own unique bathing experience even the Romans would be jealous of!

We visited this part of NZ in the middle of October 2017 just as spring was kicking in. The beach was pretty much empty, looking at the pictures at the time of posting in mid Jan the beach is booming so consider this when planning your trip. We had much more space and freedom rather than being crowded by fellow bath seekers. Do be careful though as the water in some places can get very hot so keep your wits about you – there are also strong under currents and rips in the ocean here so probably not the best place to go for a swim.

After bath time we decided to go on a kayaking adventure around Cathedral Cove. We went with Cathedral Cove Kayaking and would highly recommend them, the guides were great fun and so knowledgeable of the areas cultural and geographical history. However, if your looking for a way to test a 4 month old relationship at the start of travelling, duo kayaking with a broken left pedal is the way to do it! However, we battled through and had an incredible afternoon seeing the sites of Cathedral Cove and the surrounding marine reserve. We even stopped for coffee and biscuits on the secluded beach, pure bliss!

We stayed at the Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday park in a 6-bed dorm. The dorms were clean and comfortable with good showers in each block. There is an awesome little food shed that served up a mean fish and chips with salad for $10 a meal. We drank wine and got to know are fellow dorm mates.

After a few too many glasses of Wine most campers headed to bed, this was when my ever adventurous boyfriend decided it would be romantic to go down to the beach and look at the starts whilst in the hot water. I wasn’t a fan of this idea as it was a little rainy and windy, but he persisted, so on we went. The walk which seemed to only take about 10 minutes earlier that day felt like it took years. Luckily, for Phil, we did catch a glimpse of the elusive Kiwi bird in the wild – I jumped out of my skin thinking it was a rat! I begged Phil to turn around and eventually convinced him we were going to end up on the cover of a newspaper, headline reading “In Hot Water: The Tipsy Tourists Tragedy”. However, as we headed back a group of fellow Kiwi Experiencers had the same idea, so we joined torches and headed to the beach. The result was two guys getting their kit off and digging with their hands resulting in them mildly warm and the girls huddled together trying to hurry the process up!

I’m sure in the summer with the right tide this place is awesome at night. The stars where amazing even with the slight rain. While Phil was showering the sand off I managed to chill on top of a picnic table and take it all in!

Overall definitely one to add to the bucket list!

New Zealand Travel Guide: Auckland

It’s a miracle! I have finally got around to putting my thoughts into words, and words into sentences to make them into blog posts on the places we visited whilst travelling around New Zealand! hoorah! I have decided to do my version of a Travel Guide on each place, letting you know what I got up to and any must dos and must avoids (in my humble wayfaring rambles opinion).

Our NZ adventure began and ended in Auckland. We opted to travel around on the Kiwi Experience bus and I’ll be doing a separate post about the pros and cons of this method of travel.

Time frame: Its not the kind of place I would go for holiday but I would definitely allow at least 3 days (if you have the time) to explore all it has to offer.  It is the largest urban area in the country so if your looking for your picture postcard NZ pics you’re probably not going to find them here, but, what you will find is a cool city with a diverse population, awesome coffee shops, cafes and restaurants and a sprinkling of some pretty beautiful city scape views.

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Geography: So, Auckland is a major city in the North Island. It has a sailing obsessed population mostly due to its location set amongst two large harbours. One to the Pacific ocean and one to the Tasmanian Sea. New Zealand is known for being full of tectonic activity and Auckland isn’t an exception being on the site of a dormant volcanic field. We were there in October and December, so we straddled the start of the summer. NZ weather is definitely ever changing so prepare for everything.

What to do: It has a bustling main high street full of every kind of shop you could imagine from Chanel to those souvenir menageries that have I ❤ Auckland emblazoned on everything imaginable. Take half a day to mooch around get your caffeine fix, I am in love with the ‘Remedy Coffee’ it sits opposite a cross roads and is a great place for people watching, with exceptional coffee and bacon sandwiches.

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Grab some food from the awesome Elliot Stables just around the corner with every restaurant type you could imagine you will be sure to find something you fancy. Then wander down the side alley across the road and find the perfect place for after dinner desert and drinks.  Take a wander round and chill out on some bean bags or deck chairs, soaking up the atmosphere in the culture and art hub of the city around Aotea Square.

The Sky Tower, amazing panoramic views of the city, plus free wifi! I facetimed my family from the top and the reaction was priceless. Its $29.00 for an adult ticket and I would definitely say it’s worth the money.

Take a walk along the harbour, there is plenty of bars and cafes to keep you occupied. There are over 45 volcano cones you can walk around in Auckland, so if this is up your street take a look at some tours. There are also ferry’s to the nearby Waiheke Island for wine tasting and lazing galore, we didn’t have time to do this but it came highly recommended from an Auckland local.

Where did we stay:

Waldorf St Martins Hotel – Beautiful apartment suite, a little walk out of the main city but views out to sea. Everything you could need and one of the comfiest beds I’ve ever slept in!

Queen Street Backpackers – Perfect hostel for saving money when backpacking. We stayed in an 8-bed dorm, it was light and airy, there was free wifi through out and a complimentary breakfast. Amazing location and cheap Beer, everyones a Winner!.

Columbia Apartments – Not an ideal location. Bad reception for both customer service and efficiency and expensive wifi that didn’t really work properly. Tiny rooms and we just didn’t feel overly comfortable in the dilapidated building. It was a little walk from the main city as well, I wouldn’t recommend it here. However, it was the cheapest way to get a double room.

It was the graduation ceremonies for lots of University of Auckland students and there was a real feel of community spirit watching them parade through Queen Street. I think it would be a great place to live and study, it’s difficult to find the magic of a city like Auckland in a short amount of time. Overall we enjoyed Auckland, it was more of a functional stop than a must see destination but I am glad we went.

Definitely go to Remedy though and sit in the window, coffee heaven! Did I mention the menus were inside old National Geographic *happy place*.

Half a World Away

I could never imagine I would be in the position I am in right now. I mean the literal position is extremely predictable, laptop, coffee shop, headphones in, intently checking my fantasy premier league team score. However, geographically I am on the other side of the world, 5 weeks into my newest adventure. It’s brilliant, terrifying, inspiring, romantic, ridiculous and exciting all at the same time. Its a risk, two fingers up to conformity, a hat tip to wanderlust and just beautifully unconventional.

I have always wanted to travel the world, I want to see everything, know everything, experience everything, its like the worst case of FOMO. Anyone who knows me will testify, no matter how big or small, I want to know whats going on and be included, like an excitable yet slightly irritating puppy.

I think my biggest fear in life is to not have lived it properly, I want to, for the good and the bad, have lived a life that is worth writing about. I want to have a real story. World changing brilliance and adventure isn’t too much to ask for… is it? Therefore when the opportunity to follow my heart to the other side of the world came knocking I jumped at the chance.

So, what happened to prompt this change of hemispheres? I met a boy. Classic, girl meets boys falls head over heels in love kinda tale. 6 weeks of dreamy Worcester dating later I decided to quit my job, booked a plane ticket and 2 days after my 24th Birthday travelled for 48 hours via 3 countries to meet him in Sydney Airport. Causal Tuesday right?

The boy. Without wanting to sound like the soppiest human alive, is the kind of person you dream about meeting. Someone who matches your competitive spirit, can make you feel special and that definitely isn’t horrible to look at. When the biggest downside they have is supporting Manchester United and can sometimes be too tidy you know your doing okay!

Thats where I have been. Exploring Australia and New Zealand and falling a little more in love everyday. Long may the days of chasing the sun continue!

My Words

I thought I would ease myself back in with a little explanation as to why I have been rather quiet recently…

Consistency has never been my strong point. I mean the last time I actually pressed the publish icon on one of my posts was the 4th February. Five months have been an gone, I have let myself get wrapped up in the day to day… eat, work, sleep, eat a little bit more, contemplate going to the gym, nap, drink, sleep, repeat (sound familiar?). There is magic in the mundane sometimes; I know that there have been times in my recent history that I have thrived on my relatively new found routine and structure. I have become more accepting of being settled and less resistant to the life I never thought I wanted. That meant that while I was getting caught up in the world of line marking paint (my job), and being mildly swept of my feet by a tall, handsome stranger my writing took a back seat.

I have still been noting things down, typing away when things get a little too much, squirrelling away ideas for a day when I felt it was important to let other people read them. I wish I could just write, edit and post but unfortunately I am very protective over the words I string together. My writing is a truer version of my thoughts, more than what I share in my average day to day conversation, it has more intention and focus. When I have a topic and I dedicate time to formulating sentences and paragraphs my feelings get wrapped up in the placement of an adjective or an attempt at being funny with a well-timed metaphor. It makes be vulnerable, it holds a mirror up to how i’m actually feeling in a way that effects me much more than anything else. It has become the easy option to hide it away just incase I get a bad reaction or someone I know reads it and sees me differently.

However, recently I have become less concerned about my protectionist stance regarding my words. 1. Life is too short to not strive for the things you love and pursue your passions. 2. I am lucky to be in a position to be able to outwardly express my thoughts on things, a right that isn’t freely available around the world. 3. I want to create worthwhile content that means something to someone and means something to me. 4. This is my corner of the internet, my space that gives me a voice in a millennial minefield, it doesn’t have to be perfect or cool or polished, it just has to be mine and something I am proud of.

So I will be writing, to you, for me, about nothing and about everything. Its my words explaining and telling my story, or the stories of a place, person or people. I think thats what I want the essence of wayfaring rambles to be.

Week 3: Happy Heart and Rough start

After a very early 4.30 am start I headed to the airport to catch my flight to Singapore for the night. My next major stop is Cambodia but the only flight available had an 18hour lay over in Singapore, this initially was an inconvenience but turned out to be a complete blessing.

My grandparents-friends-son, his wife and their children had moved to Singapore a few years back from London. This was amazing as I got to stay with them for a night and have a little home from home experience.

I had such a good evening, their children are adorable, the little boy Charlie melted my heart as soon as I met him! The girls were amazing too! It was a lovely night spent eating pizza and beans for tea (my idea of heaven) and chatting about life. Caroline and I had such an intelligent, inspiring and entertaining chat that lasted way into the night – It’s amazing how you can meet people for the first time and instantly feel comfortable. It just all made my heart happy! I’m so lucky I got to meet them and wish them so much luck with their big move to Sydney!

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After saying goodbye, it was time to go back to the airport. They sent me on my way with a packed lunch which was lovely, little bits of care like that when your a solo traveller make such a difference! Singapore airport is amazing, definitely the nicest I’ve been in so far. Next stop Phnom Penh.

I arrived into a the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh just after a storm so the heat wasn’t to unbearable. I met my new co-ordinator Hong and we took a tuk tuk ride to the guest house I would be staying in for the night.

Cambodia has such an interesting atmosphere. It feels young and industrial in some ways but then bustling and alive with culture. I had dinner at my hostel and it was incredible – I may even go as far to say the best noodles I’ve ever eaten! At one point I ended up helping the owners family pull a rope attached to a massage chair he had won at the bank, they were pulling it up three stories – it was all very surreal! I met some interns staying in the same place so it was nice to have some people to chat to after the social craziness of Sri Lanka.

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The next day it was time for a whistle stop tour of Phnom Penh, me and Hong went to the market, where I ate a tarantula! Then we went to an awesome view point and drove past the memorial statue for the previous King and the palace on the river. After this it was time to travel for about 45 minutes to my project at the orphanage.

My first impressions were that the place was beautiful, and the kids were really welcoming and friendly. I was shown around and then taken to my room above the office. There was one other girl here for the first night but then she was leaving – this is where some problems began.

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Before starting this project I was told that there would be at least 3 volunteers at the project with me for the duration of my 3 weeks in Cambodia. This is not the case. I would be here by myself. This was quite difficult as I had just come from a volunteer house of around 22 people to just being me in a room from Monday to Friday.

I decided to just take it in my stride and give it my best effort. I began planning some lessons and started teaching properly on the Tuesday. Teaching is so hard!! I have a mixed ability class of children from 4-14 so it proved quite a challenge.

I muddled through for the rest of the week but I did find the nights quite lonely. I am really enjoying travelling but when you get too much time by yourself the distance between you and your loved ones feels a lot more real.

I gave the children a test on Friday and it was awesome to see that they had actually taken in some of what I had taught. On the Friday afternoon I headed back into the city to have some well deserved social time!

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Me, Hebe, Elina and another volunteer who I have only ever called higher but I’m sure his actual name is different, went to an incredible rooftop bar for some cocktails and then into the night market for some more delicious noodles. Hebe and I were heading to Siam Reap for the weekend so we chilled at the guest house before getting our night bus at 11pm.

I can’t wait to write all about the weekend!

Again well done for finishing! if you got this far, I’m sending you an invisible high 5 of appreciation!

Week 2 (2): I wish I could stay

So after the first night, moving into the bigger volunteer house was awesome. It was great to get to know so many amazing, friendly, kind and hilarious people that completely made my time in Sri Lanka.

On Monday me and the girls from my room Imogen, Lucy, Molly and Anna decided that we all wanted to get a bit tipsy. It was born out of a kind of man hating, we deserve a drink chat, once one person suggested it we were all on the same page and off to the wine shop we went. To buy any sort of alcohol in Sri Lanka you go to these wine shops which are basically like a bar but you just order and take away your drink. Like how people used to shop in the olden days.

We had an amazing night. I’m really so glad I met those girls and everyone else because we just clicked and were exactly what each other needed at the time! Dancing on the rooftop and stumbling into bed all to feel like death the next morning was so worth it!

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The turtles continued to be so much fun and rewarding as I got to give a few more tours this week. It has also been good exercise for me to be lifting turtles into their feeding tanks everyday! The girls have been awesome too and I will miss my little turtle team so much.

There is a statue less than 100m from the hatchery to commemorate the lives lost in the area when the 2004 tsunami hit. The statue was donated by the Japanese and the flagstone laid down a year on from the disaster. This area is close to the site were 1700 people lost their lives on a train that was destroyed by the second wave after people had taken refuge on board after the first. It’s beautiful and peaceful. Even 12 years on the scars on the landscape and people are still visible. It’s a testament to the Sri Lankan people’s unwavering kindness and strength that they continue to work with nature and rebuild their lives the way they have.

On Wednesday we had a beach party for Esme’s birthday. After unsuccessfully trying to get pizzas ordered to the beach me and the other girls from my room went for a fancy-ish dinner at restaurant in town. It was so strange when we walked in because we were in beach party clothes which aren’t overly acceptable around the locals! We got taken to the gold room and after a few minutes of traditional music they put on Eminem. It was kind of like they googled white music and that was the first artist that came up. The food was nice but didn’t sit too well with us all for the rest of the night, if you catch my drift. I also had a moment with the waiter when he dropped his pen and we both reached for it haha!

We all had such a good night, it all ended rather dramatically though. Lucy tripped backwards and fell in to the remains of the fire. After getting her back to the house and seeing the damage Molly and Lucy (nurses in training) said she needed an ambulance. Lucy is recovering at home now and I wish her all the best – definitely on my list of people to see when I finally venture into Scotland!

Thursday was a recovery day for everyone. The rest of the turtle team went to see Lucy in the hospital so I manned the fort with the turtles. They also let Dianne from another program come and join for the day which made it a really good morning!

After checking everything was okay with Lucy me and some of the girls headed to the tsunami photo museum. After seeing the statue earlier in the week I really wanted to look further into the impact on the local area.

The museum is located in a former house that was destroyed by the waves. The woman who runs the musuem used to live in that house. Talking to her about what happened was extremely emotional, you could see the pain in her eyes. The way she spoke of the day was haunting and the photos and stories contained in the rooms were hard to view. It’s so important to see them though and to show your support to the people.

Thursday night was meant to be the night I got to release baby turtles back into the sea. However, the owner didn’t show up so one of the co-ordinaries let us hug some puppies. All though the word RABIES was flashing in my head I couldn’t resist the cuteness and i totally fell in love!

Friday was my last day in Sri Lanka I said goodbye to my turtle family and had a celebratory King coconut!

The team have been a pleasure to work with and I would recommend PMGY in Sri Lanka to anyone. After chilling with the girls for the rest of the day we all got ready for a birthday party for the CEO of PMGY. On the way me and team turtle got to release the little babies back into the sea! It was amazing, I felt really proud that we had given them that extra fighting chance of making it in the big old blue!

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The party was a wonderful end to a brilliant two weeks. We had delicious food, cocktails and then danced like idiots with the local Sri Lankan’s until the early hours. When we got home I had to say goodbye to everyone as I was leaving at 5 am on Saturday morning. I wasn’t expecting it but so many tears were shed! I have met the most incredible group of people that I know I will stay in contact with, genuinely feel so lucky to have gone at the time I did and couldn’t of wished for more.

I would like to say thank you to everyone I met in Sri Lanka for making it by far the best two weeks of my life, love you all!

Right this is ridiculously long, I will stop waffling!

Next stops Singapore and Cambodia…

Week 2 (1): Life at Worlds End

Last time I posted I’d given you all the highlights of the first week of my trip. Another week has flown by and I can’t believe I’m already writing the second instalment of my adventure.

So last Friday me and 23 of the other volunteers went on a weekend trip to explore more of this beautiful Island.

The first stop was white water rafting – this was incredible. The slight fear of death by crocodile was put by to paddle our way down some pretty angry rapids. Near the end the guy in charge of our boat told us to jump out and float the rest of the way. It was like something out of Jurassic park, this winding river surrounded by lusciously green mountains. I was half expecting a teradactile to fly over and take me away.

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Then we headed on to our next point of call which was Mackwoods tea factory. Deep into the hills, the smell of tea did remind me of home but then I saw cake and my minor moment of home heart ache was soon subdued – it was chocolate, enough said. The woman who showed us around was adorable and she had such a knowledge of the process and they were very proud of the company that was originally British, you know from back in the day when we wanted to own everything! I did end up buying some tea which is going to be a pain to carry around for the next two months but it is so tasty I couldn’t leave it behind.

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After this we headed to our hotel for the night. It was pretty basic but I was sharing a room with Imogen and it was kind of just like having teenage a sleepover we put the world to rights and then headed to sleep. The area we were staying was called little England because it was bloody freezing compared to everything else. I actually slept with a blanket on for the first time in a week!

Next morning we woke up at half 4 to get to the start of the worlds end hike for 6. If anyone is ever in Sri Lanka you have to do this! It’s only a 9km round trip and I saw the most beautiful landscapes I think I’ve ever seen. I also braved these ridiculously heavy breath inducing steps to get a sneak peak at a gorgeous water fall.

After that we headed back on the coach for what felt like forever. But we did stop at another waterfall and see some monkeys which was pretty crazy. The next hotel was gorgeous and we had little villas between four of us, and there was a pool!

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We then headed out to see the Hindu and Buddhist temple, this was one of the most humbling and culturally eye opening things I’ve ever done. There were hundreds of people dressed in white and offering flowers and food to the temple. There was an elephant as well, I think it’s meant to show the wealth of a temple if they have an elephant but my mind was pretty much blown from walking a metre away from the thing.

We got given bindi’s by local children and we all placed a lotus flower at the temple as a sign of respect. It was an amazing sight and completely takes over all your senses. The faith and community is so beautiful to see.

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The next day we did a safari in the national park. This was really cool to do but I didn’t overly agree with how the jeeps charged at the elephants, it all felt a bit tourist fuelled, I did also fall asleep. It was warm and fairly long and we had an early start, I definitely wasn’t the only one!

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We then got to go to another hotel for a gorgeous buffet of food and another chill round the pool before heading back to the house.

Me, Imogen, Anna, Molly, Lucy, Katherine and Aimee all moved to the bigger volunteer house on Sunday which after a slightly awkward first night was definitely the best decision. It was so much easier to chill with everyone and nice to get to know more people around meal times. Only downside was the new addition to the girls room, rats. They ran across a ledge near the ceiling, it wasn’t great to hear their feet at night whilst trying to sleep!

I’m splitting this week into two posts because so much happened and if anyone is still reading I would truly be very surprised!

Amsterdamned

Don’t let the title fool you, Amsterdam was anything but damning but Amsterdamned happened to be the name of a rather delicious cocktail I had in an ice bar. So in homage to that cocktail and that wonderful city I thought I would let the world know how I found my four days in Amsterdam.

First things first I’m the realist, I joke I joke, the first thing to know is the city is crazy beautiful, gorgeous architecture, hidden streets and an interwoven maze of canals. I start with that because the obvious connotations are brothels, prostitutes and coffee shops. Yes, those things are present and I may have dabbled (the last one, I’m afraid to disappoint – but I’m just not into paying for any action I may or may not be getting!) but there are loads of other awesome things to experience too. Its one of the friendliest and most laid back cities I have been in, with strangers being particularly helpful when me and my friend Hannah got a little lost between the train station and our air b and b loft.

We stayed in a loft on the island off the main central area called Prinsenland. I would highly recommend getting a little off the beaten track with where you stay, the public transport is easy to use and with a three day travel card you can’t go wrong. It was great to actually experience local life in an authentic canal side town house. Our host Carla was lovely and made sure we had everything we needed and apart from a wi-fi mishap on the first night it was awesome.

Okay I’m not one to openly admit my shallowness but Amsterdam is a very attractive city, as in the people, one night we got talking to a group of guys from the University and honestly it was like talking to an Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue. That was pretty random in itself,  but then we ended up going with them to a secret lobby around the corner from the main square, it was their fraternity headquarters – at this point the language barrier became a bit of an issue and it felt slightly like we were in a eurotrash horror movie or a budget taken spin off. I was starting to feel pretty *weird* at this point after eating a certain cake so we slipped away and headed back to the loft to eat way too much bread and jam and laugh into the early hours.

Art – whether you have brushed up on your Van Gough or not you can’t help but appreciate the greats work. If you have any interest in art, culture or history you will be all over the multitude of museums you can hit up in dam. Getting lost for hours amongst random doll house furniture was a surprisingly fun way to spend a morning. The rijksmuseum was the chosen one for me, this is also an ideal activity to do if the weather is shockingly shitty like it was last week. It was free entry for under 19s and 17.50 for those unfortunate enough to have fully reached ‘adulthood’. Anyway, I, unsurprisingly love museums my friend Hannah wasn’t quite so crazy but it kept us both entertained for nearly three hours… then I finally agreed to leave plus it was lunch time so my brain was less concerned with art and more with pasta.

The red light district was something I felt it was important to see. It was strange, it felt like I had entered a weird parallel universe where its normal to see women in underwear wiggling in windows. This area was largely filled with men and there were people on doors of clubs trying to coax us into sex shows which was just surreal.  I’m glad I saw it and if you are in Amsterdam you can’t not do it, but as a feminist and a twenty something women I didn’t agree with the principal.

The ice bar is another night time must see purely because of its novelty and great cocktails. It’s not too expensive so in this case I was all for succumbing to a tourist activity!

Overall Amsterdam was an amazing city and I will definitely be back. So if it’s on your list of places to see list put it somewhere near the top because it scores highly on architecture, culture, originality, fun and friendliness!