Milan, Italy

 
 
 

Contributor:
Anna

Nationality:
New Zealand

Social Links:
Instagram: @imannaroberts
Website: www.imannaroberts.com
Twitter: @imannaroberts
Facebook: @imannaroberts

Age Group:
30-40 years

Gender:
Female

Travel Style:
Casual, luxury

 

Destination: Milan - Italy. June 2017

Milan is a gorgeous cosmopolitan city in northern Italy with everything you could want; stunning facades and historical buildings, the crossroads of business and innovation, designer shopping galore (get your VAT back!) and of course, another Michelin rated restaurant with unrivaled views. Milan was the final stop of out Italian road trip, check out the vlog for a behind the scenes exclusive!

 
Duomo

Duomo

 

First and foremost, where’s a good place to check in to? STRAF Hotel is literally 50 meters from the Milan Duomo and has stylishly designed rooms with modern amenities and breakfast to get you started for the day. Explore the inner city and tourist hot spots before sitting down to dinner at Felix Lo Basso restaurant, a one start Michelin rated restaurant that has this stunning view from the dining room, scroll down!

 
 

Turkey in a Campervan

 
 

Read about traveling the South-west coast of Turkey in a camper van - the must do's, the must see's, where to eat and where to stay!

 

Contributor:
Zoë Van mil

Nationality:
New Zealand

Social Links:
Instagram: @thebarefootkiwis
Website: thebarefootkiwis.com

Age Group:
 

Gender:
 

Travel Style:
Adventure & Nature, Coffee hunters.

 

Destination: South West Coast, Turkey. July 1 - 8 2017

Inspiration:

Why Turkey? It's unsettled. It's dangerous. It's overrated. There are better places to travel than to Turkey. 

Luckily we had my parents, and a fair few of our friends say otherwise, so off to Turkey we went. After riding in Hot air balloons in Cappadocia. We originally wanted to try Sail Turkey (it's meant to be just as amazing as Sail Croatia), however we had no friends who we keen to join us so we decided to campervan around the South - West Coast instead.

It was probably the best 'by chance' travel decision we have made to date! The only place on the map we had heard about was Bodrum from novels!

Getting There:

A quick 4 hour flight with Fly Dubai from DXB to Istanbul SAW and a connection the next morning to Keysari got us to Cappadocia for two days before we took at overnight bus (10 hours) to Antalya where we grabbed a taxi to meet Cargi from Lets Go Camper who we rented our campervan from. 

From there it was just us and the road for 8 days.

Local Knowledge:

Along the coast you'll find tiny villages with the old men drinking Turkish tea and playing backgammon. You'll also find massive resort towns that can seem touristy but worth staying in one or two to check out the culture and night life.

Bodrum is often talked about in novels and movies. Probably the most famous of the resort type towns along the coast. Worth visiting for sure!

Ephesus is an Ancient Greek city very close to the present day town of Selcuk. It holds the Library of Celsus and a massive amphitheater. The Temple of Artemis is also here.

Mark Antony and Cleopatra apparently frequented the coast. 

The Aegean Sea and some of the Mediterranean Sea. 

The stray cats and dogs are well looked after by local people and vets - pat them, they are friendly :)

Where To Stay:

Free camping in Beymelek, Demre (kus cenneti), Kaputas, Eckincik, Haydar Koyu. Free camping is safe and legal in Turkey - we loved it and would recommend doing this as you can stay out of a town and just be with nature!

Sarsala Koyu - we paid 12 lira and stayed two nights (no other people were camping here, it was stunning) 

Bodrum Eco Farm and Camping (30km out of Bodrum on the peninsula) we grabbed a local bus into the city centre. Great because we got free breakfast and dinner at no extra charge. 

Yat Camping in Kusadasi. In the middle of the town, would recommend only for a night.

What To Do:

Sarsala Koyu was by far our favourite 'hidden gem' place. We never would have gone here but asked Cargi from our campervan company of any awesome local hangouts and this is where he sent us! Such a sweet spot! 

Touristy - explore the Ephesus site and Bodrum night life, make sure you drink some Raki!

Eating:

Migros - these supermarkets were the cheapest and in most towns.

Sait restaurant opposite the Marina Yhact club in Bodrum. Probably the best fish we have had overseas! Their Melon and feta entre was also outstanding. Take it easy on the Raki though!

Bodrum Eco farm and Camping sorted us out with a traditional Turkish breakfast every morning. They also give you a free vegetarian dinner if you stay with them. They have a small Turkish front shop and their Kofte, made by Ahmad, was the best we had in Turkey.

Must Do:

Make the trip down to Sarsala Bay. It's worth it just for the adventure down the dodgy winding road! The Bay has beautiful views of Greek islands and Turkish Coast. The people are all mainly locals and the Life Guard there is your go to English speaking helper! There are numerous bays you can find if you clamber around the small rocky paths, you'll be all by yourself - bliss.

 
 

Must See:

Climb up one of the Turkish Coasts numerous hills for sunrise and take a shot looking over the bay, sea, islands and beyond!

Number 1 Travel Tip:

Try to stay out of the main beach towns. Do as much free camping as you can. Talk to the locals, most of them have basic English. ALWAYS drink their tea if they offer. Say 'Sal' for thank you as their proper thank you is too hard to get right! Use your sense of a place to see if it's worth eating at, check to see if the locals are dinning there and you'll figure it out. Tourists are sought after as Turkish tourism has taken a big hit over the past 2 years. Only half of the tourists are coming than before. This is good for you, but the down fall is that everyone wants to sell you things, don't fall into the trap of buying unnecessary things because of it.

5 Word Travel:

Beaches, History, Relaxing, Locals, Sunrise

Excess Baggage:

We would recommend staying in the campervan longer, starting in Antayla and dropping it off in Istanbul. That way you can make your way further up the coast up to Izmir, Troy and Gallipoli before ending in the vibrant city. 

Lots of camping sites were cheap to stay in. Take turns at free camping (this is easily done) and plugging in your campervan!

 
 

New Zealand - Lord of the Rings, Hobbits & Camper Vans

 

Contributor   : Cat
Nationality    : USA
Social Links  : Web: www.flatworldonline.com
                          Instagram: @flatworldtravel
Age Group     : 30-40
Gender           : Female
Travel Style   : Adventure
Destination   : New Zealand, March-April 2017

 

Inspiration:

New Zealand has always been a dream for us. We fell in love with the landscape in Lord of the Rings (and so many other films and tv) and the Hobbit. As photographers and cinematographers  we knew we had to go there to film. When we got notice our air miles had to be used or would expire, we discovered we had enough saved to go to New Zealand. So we began planning!!

Getting There: 

We flew for over 24 hours. We went  Philadelphia to LAX to Bisbane to Christchurch! Once we arrived in the South Island, we picked up our camper Van. This is what we traveled in and stayed in for our two weeks

Local Knowledge:

There are so many things that are unique from our perspective as Americans in New Zealand. The first is you have to cross the international dateline. It is a 17 hour difference (16 after daylight savings). This is also cool when you look up at the stars and realize they are upside down from the view we are used to seeing them. Seeing the Milky Way so clearly and then Leo completely upside down was awesome.  It's also helpful to remember that they drive on the left side of the road .Really one of the most unique things about New Zealand is just how stunningly beautiful it ALL really is. There just is not a bad view in the whole country.

Where To Stay:

Since we had a camper van we stayed in a variety of holiday parks. And we loved them. you could also often rent rooms, bunks, and cabins as well)They are much nicer than the ones here in the US. Our favorite thing about them was that they had community kitchens. This allows you to go to the grocery store and be able to cook your own meals without always having to do it in the camper. Also we found that people leave leftover items that they can no longer use especially in the towns where people fly out of. So there is a nice free box to help pick up supplies. Just remember to leave behind what you can't use as well. While we did score some salt-and-pepper and a great water bottle, we wish we had seen this before we went to the grocery store lol!
Here is the list of the holiday parks loved it the best and why.
- Camp Glentanner Park- This holiday park is based at Mount Cook.It is absolutely amazing. The view is fantastic. And there are rabbits everywhere. We even took a 15 minute (or so) walk down their path to the river to watch the sunset and then the sunrise the following morning.
- Queenstown Creeksyde 10-This camper park is so centrally located in Queenstown. It's just a five minute walk into the hub of the town, had a couple fantastic kitchens, clean bathrooms (with a jacuzzi bath), super helpful staff, and a dumping station. If you're planning to stay at several Top 10 Holiday Parks you might want to get their discount card. We got one and saved money on campsites as well as free (or extended)  Wi-Fi. There's a lot of places you can use the card as well for food and activities.
Lake Outlet Holiday Park (Wanaka)- This location was beautiful. It was quite large and set on a lake and offered some great views. The drawback about this holiday park was the kitchen was small, not very clean, and didn't have any extra amenities.
Te Anau Top 10 Holiday Park-This was based right in the heart of the town. This made it very convenient. It also has fantastic kitchens and I was very excited to find ice lol!! One thing that made this spot extra special was we rented a hot tub with the the view of the lake as the sun was setting.
Rain Forest Retreat Holiday Park-This holiday Park located at Fox Glacier in Franz Joseph was probably one of our favorites. It was nestled in a rain forest environment and had a lot of privacy despite the fact that it seemed to have a full house. It had a fantastic community kitchen that even had free tea and coffee. And also it had dishes and pots and pans there to be used so we didn't have to drag everything from the camper. That small convenience was great! It was just around the corner from town so you could go to the grocery store as well. The showers were clean and there was a hot tub although it was too crowded with young backpackers for us to enjoy. We also used this spot to do laundry as well.
Lake Nelson at Rotaiti Lake- This was the one DOC (Department of Conservation) site that we stayed in. It was Located at a lake surrounded by beautiful forest. We were able to do a fantastic hike in the morning. It didn't have electric hookups but it did have a community kitchen although we didn't use it.
Camp Takapuna-The Promenade, Takapuna, Aukland-For our last night in the camper van we wanted to stay in Auckland but not in the heart of a too busy  an area. So we stayed here. It was a wonderful location. The promenade had all kinds of restaurants to choose from and we had a fantastic dinner that night. While this holiday park is a little older and pretty basic it had a fantastic view of the lake. and you could rent old campers to stay in. The kitchen and bath area were pretty rundown and not nice as most of the other holiday parks we stayed at.

What To Do:

What you do in New Zealand all depends on how long you can stay and what you want to see. We had a limited time and so hit the ground running (and did more than most do in 2 weeks). We knew what we wanted to explore nature and do several hikes but we also knew we didn't want to do all day or overnight treks. We mostly went for beautiful scenery for photos and video. We also love the the Lord of the Rings and you could say our time pretty much centered around that. We actually did a LOTR Tour as well went to Hobbiton. There are hidden gems just every where (especially the South Island where we spent most of our time).
We were always open to just pulling over at some Park area we saw or were told about to hike around for a while. We came across rain forest, beautiful views of the glaciers, and waterfalls.

Eating:

We didn't do much eating out. We found the food to be much more expensive than we had planned. We also knew we would most of our meals at the holiday parks. We did have a couple meals worth mentioning however. In Queenstown we had a fantastic dinner at Finz.The highlight was awesome and silver trumpet fish and chips. And of course Al had to have a Ferburger. I don't eat meat and don't like veggie burgers so passed on that one. We had been told to check out Francesca's in Wanaka and it didn't disappoint. It was nice to sit down and have a relaxing meal and glass of wine. Even though this was more the off-season we were definitely glad we had a reservation as we watched many people turned away. While in Austin we had 2 fantastic meals.For lunch we had the freshest fish and chips at the wharf.It had just been caught that day and was delicious and affordable. ($20 for 2 and sodas vs $55 in a cage in Hokitika. And for dinner we had when the best meals we've ever had anywhere at Tok Tok At the Promenade. But the food that stands out the most and what we have missed most are the Awesome MSG free barbecue kettle chips and of course Tim Tam cookies. lol!!

Must Do:

There just isn't ONE favorite one thing to do in New Zealand. Instead here are a few highlights.
-Mount Cook-It is worth doing the stargazing tour. This area is an international dark sky reserve and we've never seen so many stars in our whole life. Also we definitely recommend doing the 3 hour Hooker Valley Trek around the Tasman Glacier
-Queenstown-Definitely take the gondola to the top and do the luge ride. It is so fun!
-And Milford Sound- take a boat tour- it is gorgeous. And if you're able to do a super splurge we can't recommend the helicopter ride that lands on the glacier enough. Absolutely stunning. We did a small group tour out of Te Anau with Trips n' Trams and it was fantastic. It is definitely worth not having to do all the driving yourself and just sit back and have a tour guide. We also learned so much about the area this way.
-Lake Matheson- Is a must see for all photographers who love great reflections! and the hike through the rainforest around it spectacular.
-Waitomo Glow Worm Caves- We did the Spellbound Glow Worms Photo Tour and recommend it for any photographer who wants to get great photos of the glow worms. The owner of the company does this tour himself and we can't recommend enough
-Hobbiton Movie Set Tour-You don't have to be a big fan of The Hobbit to enjoy this great attraction. But if you are, it is a must. It was such a beautiful setting and it is just like being in the Shire. Not to mention we finished the tour drinking ginger beer in the Green Dragon Inn!!

Must See:

Seriously you cannot take just one picture .Even if you aren't professional photographers like we are. I took over 500 photos " On my real camera-Nikon D810) and hundreds more on my phone!!

5 Word Travel:

Breathtaking
Friendly
Wanderlust
Green
Sheep

TravelTip:

I think the number one travel tip is to know things are more expensive than you think they are going to be. It costs a lot more for food and supplies than we thought. We were prepared for gas to be more. And beware of the extra "Diesel Tax". This was a tax that cost us over $160 dollars to use diesel for the van-which was a MUST. It has to do with how many miles you go. But don't be cought off guard by it like we were!!

Excess Baggage:

We were bummed we didn't get to go to Abel Tasman National Park. We honestly didn't know in the planning how beautiful it was. We did a lot of research and used Lonely Planet and it had the worst picture, Not inspiring at all. And nothing like what we later saw in pictures from talking to people we met along the way. Oh well…Next time!


Auckland, New Zealand - 2 day stop over

 

Contributor  : Andrew
Nationality   : Australian
Instagram     @andrewmarty_
Age Group    : 30-40
Gender          : Male
Trave Style    : Leisure
Destination   : Auckland, New Zealand. 
Date               : July 2016. 2 days

 

Inspiration:

We flew into Auckland en route to Bora Bora for our honeymoon, however it is also the most common entry point for international travellers visiting New Zealand, either to explore the North Island by car or even head south to the world class skiing and adventure "hot spots". Whilst Auckland can be a destination of its own, we found that a stop over of a couple of days is definitely worth-while if you are travelling through.

Getting There:

Auckland International Airport receives flights from many destinations including USA (LA, Houston, Honolulu), Japan, China, Dubai, Thailand, Australia and several Pacific Island nations. The airport is a little way out of central Auckland and there isn't really a direct public transport route to the city. There is a skybox service that costs $18 and takes you via 2 different routes to the CBD. The road between the airport and city can get quite congested with traffic and there isn't a direct motorway. Taxis are available but quite expensive. It would certainly be wise to keep this in mind when you re booking your accomodation and airport transfers. If your hotel offers a free airport shuttle, it is a significant advantage in Auckland. We did find a taxi company that was much more reasonably priced than the others - Discount Taxis Ltd (phone: 5291000), they were polite, prompt and clean.

Where to Stay:

We actually stayed over in Auckland on the way to and from Bora Bora, and chose quite different options for each.

On the way there we decided to go 5 star and stayed at Hotel Sofitel Viaduct. This is a fantastic location in terms of being close to a lot of the popular tourist features and within walking distance of the marina and shopping districts. When booking, request a water facing room, as these have much better views than the ones facing the bus terminal. The room service menu and quality was fantastic. The fitness centre was fantastic with a gym, heated pool and sauna. One thing we did find a little strange was that it had a very French theme, with staff offering welcomes in French - its not something i have noticed the other Sofitel properties despite the French ownership.

On our way back, we had a late overnight stop and decided to go with a low-cost nearby option. We stayed at (>>>>>>>) and found it to be really comfortable. It had free airport shuttles and the rooms were really comfortable. It is quite a way out of the city, with its advantage being the convenience to the airport. The rooms are relatively small, but very suitable if you are wanting to stay close to the airport for a night.

What To Do:

Auckland is not a great walking city, particularly in July when it can be pretty chilly close to the water. But in general, it doesn't have an area that has a host of tourist attractions, sites and places to eat all in close proximity.

The Waterfront and Viaduct area, known as the Wynyard Quarter, is a great place to spend a morning or an afternoon. The marina is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and when you see huge fleet of yachts, you can quickly appreciate where Auckland gets the name "City of Sails". The Maritime Museum is really interesting and worth visiting - auckland has a rich and proud maritime history, from the Maori fishing boats, through to their achievements in America's Cup yacht racing. I couldn't understand why entry was free only for local residents, as I always think places should be encouraging tourists to visit their attractions. That said, I was happy to have paid the $25 entry fee for the hour or so walk around. There Wynyard Quarter also has some nice children play areas, sculptures and a fish market. The fish market was closed when we went (Saturday morning), so maybe check the opening times if you are keen to go to this.

Queens Street is the main shopping area and whilst it doesn't compare to the shopping districts of some of the bigger cities in the world, its still a nice walk up from the water near the viaduct to the top near the (>>>>>>). Unfortunately there aren't really a lot of nice cafes or restaurants along Queen St, which is a shame. The shops are mostly mid-range casual stores, but if you have a few hours to spare its not an unpleasant walk. 

A really nice area to visit in Aukland is Ponsonby. The main street has a few boutique shops and there are several nice restaurants (Mekong Baby) and cafes (Dizengoff). I would suggest coming here for breakfast and a morning walk along the strip of boutique shop.

The Sky Tower is a popular tourist attraction in Auckland, offering 360 degree views of the city and surrounding area. There are several price options, but we just went for the observation deck, which was $29. You can choose to walk around on an outside platform or even base jump from the tower. The views give a really good perspective and you can see quite a distance on a clear day. From the observation deck you can watch people jumping from the floors above. Compared to some other city observation decks around the world, Auckland as a city is quite small and without a skyline that compares to larger cities, so don't be too devastated if you don't get here.

Where To Eat:

There are a large number of restaurants around the Wynyard Quarter. We were actually really surprised that several of the restaurants were closed around the Viaduct on a Saturday evening and there was very little atmosphere. Admittedly it was in july and quite cold, but it was strangely quiet. We went to one of the restaurants, Danny Doolans, and left not long after - the service was really poor to the point we just got frustrated and left before even ordering. The North Wharf has the best variety of restaurants and we ate at Pescado Tapas Bar and it was really good. Would definitely give this a visit - very casual spanish style with good range of drinks! There were a couple of other places close by along the North Wharf that also looked quite good - Live Fish and Urban Turban might be worth a try!

If you visit Ponsonby, definitely think about going for breakfast at Dizengoff. I have an unashamed bias towards Melbourne when it comes to cafe breakfasts and this place is on par! The menu is very trendy and has a wide range. Importantly the coffee is really good, which to be honest, wasn't easy to find in Auckland. I had the eggs benedict, salmon and avo and it was good, but the best was the side of mushrooms - whatever you rode get the side of mushrooms in the gravy, its incredible! I know a few places are going with the "no wifi" and suggesting it encourages people to eat and socialise, but for travellers, its a big negative! They also didn't have brown sugar or water on the tables which I found odd. Overall, this was a really great start to the day, very enjoyable.

We also had breakfast at 21 Viaduct Cafe on the water, just near the Sofitel. The food was ok and the coffee passable. To be honest, unless you were in a rush, I would make the effort to get out to Ponsonby and go to Dizengoff!

Number 1 Travel Tip:

If you are staying near the Viaduct/Wynyard area, make a point of visiting the Information Centre! We met a lady called Michelle and the advice she gave was all absolutely spot on. It will definitely help you make the most of your time and decide what best suits your interests! She knew a lot about the local architecture, points of interests and p;aces to eat.

5 Word Travel:

Well worth a quick stopover