72 Hours in Brisbane: The Ultimate Weekend Itinerary in Queensland’s Capital

Brisbane is the go-to holiday spot on Australia’s Gold Coast for both backpackers and holiday makers. Whether you’re stopping off in Brisbane while travelling through Queensland, or simply having a weekend city break, keep reading to find out how to spend a weekend in the Gold Coast’s River City.

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Day One:

First day in Brisbane, dive straight into the cultural side of the city in the morning by heading to the museums and galleries in the city centre. Begin by marvelling at the dinosaur skeletons and areological history you’ll find in the Queensland Museum. After that, head directly below the museum to find the Queensland Art Gallery. Here you’ll find some pretty amazing and provoking art work that spans from the early colonial times up to the present day, with special exhibitions on for the art fanatics among us.

If you’re still up for a bit more art, head over the road to GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art), where you’ll find some more interesting and evoking pieces over its three floors. If you have time, take a look in the State Library next door which often has quite interesting exhibitions on and is worth a look inside.

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After a morning of exploring the city’s central galleries and museums, walk to Brisbane’s popular South Parklands Beach by following the path that runs along the city’s famous river. Take your time to explore the South Parklands, as it runs for 17 hectares parallel t to the  river, with plenty to see, including parks, gardens, and of course the city’s famous Streets Beach. There’s public toilets and showers right by the beach, so grab some lunch from the nearby restaurants and spend the afternoon soaking up the Australian sun. Why not head up the Brisbane Wheel to get a unique view of the city!

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If you stay late enough at the South Parklands, you might get to see the South Parklands Collective Market, which run every Friday night from 5pm until 9pm. Or visit the Collective Markets during the day on the weekend, from 10am to 9pm on Saturdays and 9am to 4pm on Sundays. The Markets are a great place to sample some local food, to pick up some unusual holiday souvenirs or simply for a great spot of holiday shopping!

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If it’s a Friday or Saturday, in the evening take the City Cat from South Bank Ferry Terminal to Northshore Hamilton Ferry Terminal, make sure you take a picture of Brisbane’s famous Story Bridge as you go under it! From Northshore, walk to Brisbane’s Eat Street Market, an outdoor food market made up of restaurant stalls in old shipping containers. Eat Street has an overwhelming variety of cuisines and delicacies on offer, as well as live entertainment and plenty of bars for you to make an evening of it!  If it’s not a Friday or Saturday, stay in the city and head to Urbane to savour some of the best from the city’s dinning scene.

Day Two:

Begin your second day in Brisbane with a little bit of history by visiting one of its most iconic sites, the City Hall.  Not only is the building itself worth a look at, but the City Hall also houses the Museum of Brisbane, where you can learn all about the history of the River City and its people, including the inhabitants of the city today. If you book ahead or get there early, it is also worth attending the short Clock Tower Tours, which take you right up to the top of Brisbane’s iconic clock tower that once used to dominate the city’s skyline (and are free to attend!).

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If you’re feeling peckish, why not treat yourself to breakfast at the City Hall’s cafe the Shingle Inn, which originally opened on Edward Street in 1936 as a fancy Tudor inn styled restaurant famed for its beautiful cakes, but was moved to the City Hall in 2013, with its original layout in tact.

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After an early morning in the City Hall, catch the bus from Adelaide Street up to the Brisbane Lookout on Mt Coot-tha. Here, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Brisbane and the surrounding area. On a clear day you can see for miles! Then, either follow the walking trail through the national park down the mountain or wait for the next bus to head back down to Brisbane Botanic Gardens on Mt Coot-tha. Spend the afternoon relaxing in the Botanical Gardens. Attend one of the free guided walks led by volunteers, leaving from 11am and 1pm to learn about the different plants that grow here, or follow one of the Botanical Garden’s self-guided walks to make the most of your visit.

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Once you’re finished taking in the botanical life of Brisbane, take the next available bus back down into the city. If you are still wanting to see a bit more of the city, head down to Kangaroo Point to watch the sunset over the city as your last day in Brisbane comes to a close. For dinner, head to the trendy Brew Cafe and Wine Bar where you’ll find amazing food in a low-key, tucked away bar off Queen Street.

Day Three: 

After spending two days exploring quite a lot of  Brisbane’s city centre, start your third day by having an early breakfast at Coffee Anthology, an uptown cafe that serves amazing breakfast and brunch food from 7am onwards. Once you’ve filled up on some scummy breakfast, walk over Victoria Bridge to the Cultural Centre Pontoon.

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From here, take the morning Mirimar Cruise to Brisbane’s famous Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary. Prices include a return cruise as well as your entrance into Lone Pine. By taking the Miramar Cruise to Lone Pine, not only will you have a relaxing journey to the park but also get to see the lifeblood of Brisbane, its river! The cruise will arrive in enough time to give you 3 hours to explore Lone Pine, so make sure you make the most of it by planning ahead as to which animal shows you want to go see.

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I’d definitely try see the snake and koala Keeper Talks! I’d also recommend buying kangaroo food from Lone Pine‘s shop as soon as you get there so you can feed the kangaroos before they get sick of people and the food! Make sure you also buy your koala ticket from the shop if you want to have a picture holding a koala, as the queue gets quite long so you’ll need to be ready to line up! As you’ll probably be in Lone Pine over lunch time, so why not bring a picnic to eat while watching one of the animal shows, or buy lunch there from the cafe.

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Getting back into the city in the afternoon, finish off your day of sightseeing by exploring round Brisbane City Botanic Gardens, or if you’re wanting to do something more relaxed, head back to the South Parklands to soak up the last few hours of daylight, before heading to Greenglass for some French cuisine and Australian wine, the perfect combo for your last night in the River City!

If you are staying in Brisbane longer and are looking for a something to outside of the city, head to the Glass House Mountains for the day. Volcanic hills formed thousands of years ago, these ‘mountains’ offer fantastic views of the Queensland hinterland. Here’s my advice on how to have a great day out to the Glass House Mountains.

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Yaya’s 5 Top Tips for Visiting Rome

There is so much to see in Rome, the city literally has ancient wonders on nearly every street. It is impossible to see everything in one trip to the Eternal City, so here’s my top tips to make sure you make the most of your time there. 

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Get A Good Map

Rome is made up of a never-ending network of winding alleyways and narrow roads with no or few street signs that even Google Maps struggles to comprehend. Investing in a detailed map of the city is a must before going, as the paper ones given out for free at many of the hotels are often too simplistic or not clear enough to be useful, and when Google fails you you don’t want to have to resort to inadequate hand gestures and the little Italian you know to try get directions from locals.

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Only buy a ROMA pass if you are going outside central Rome 

The ROMA passes are a great way to fit a lot into your trips as they offer free and discounted entrances to different sites, as well as free access to all public transport. They are available for 48 or 72 hours, being active once you start to use them. In the city centre, in which a lot of the attractions are free like the Pantheon, you may only use your ROMA pass to enter the Colosseum. Certain central sites like the Vatican are not included at all in the pass. In central Rome, the free access to public transport is the most useful part of the pass. If you’re planning on only seeing the main sites in Rome or are going to stay within the city centre, I would suggest that you buy a public transport pass as opposed to the ROMA pass, and book or reserve a lot of your tickets to the historical sites online instead, particularly for the Vatican.

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 See one major sight every day 

The historical sites in Rome get crowded very quickly, particularly the main ones like the Colosseum. The best way to skip the long queues is to plan to see one major site every morning, then spend the rest of the day exploring the smaller sites and the city. Aim to see sites like the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Church and the Vatican Museums on different days and as early in the day as possible. Each of these sites require at least an hour and a half to fully enjoy them, if not 3 hours. By seeing them in the morning, you avoid wasting your holiday by spending hours in queues, and you also avoid information overload by trying to do too many major sites at once.

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Some sites are better to see later in the day

Certain attractions are better seen in the late afternoon or the evening as opposed to first thing in the morning. The Roman Forum is best seen in the late afternoon when there is quieter queues and less people. Similarly, you can still enjoy the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain in the evening when these often chaotic attractions are much more hushed.  Equally, make sure you explore the city in the evenings or at night, as you should try experience it in every light. 

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Go further afield to truly taste Roman food 

When you’ve been exploring ancient history all morning, the idea of walking another 15 minutes to find a more authentic restaurant seems ridiculous, buut it is always worth it!  The food served in restaurants near the main attractions are nothing compared to the amazing delicacies you can find in the less visited parts of Rome. The most popular of these foodie neighbourhoods is Trastevere, the best place in my experience to find delicious Italian specialities, particularly the gelato! It is also well worth visiting the food markets that pop up around Rome every month. The most well know of these is the farmers’ market in Campo de Fiori, Rome’s historic market place that has existed for over 400 years. It is a must-see historic site for any traveller, as well as a great spot to pick up authentic Roman foods (try the olive paste!). 

 

Day Trip To The Glass House Mountains

The Glass House Mountains in Queensland, Australia, are a collection of 11 hills that have become a vital site to see for those visiting Brisbane or Noosa. About an hour’s drive from either Brisbane or Noosa, the Glass House Mountains are a great day trip out. To make the most of your Glass House Mountain trip, start the day early and pack plenty of supplies, including food, suncream, bug spray and a hat! 

For those who are first time visitors to the Glass House Mountains, I’d recommend heading up Mt Ngungun, one of the easier walking tracks that only takes about two hours but offers great views at the summit of Mt Tibrogargan, Mt Coonowrin and Mt Beerwah. Read more about the Mt Ngungun Summit Walking Track here.

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The majority of the morning will be taken up by getting to and walking up Mt Ngungun, so make sure to bring lunch with you so you can have a mountain-top picnic on the top to take in the fantastic views (and catch your breath). On a clear day you can even see the sea! Make sure you take loads of pictures to capture the great views you get from the top. 

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Once you’ve taken in the fantastic views, slowly and leisurely make your way back down Mt Ngungun. Make sure to drop in at the Glass House Mountains Lookout to get a view of the whole Glass House Mountains family together and admire how far up you hiked earlier in the day. There are plenty of great lookouts in the surrounding area, but the Glass House Mountains Lookout is one of the best, and also has toilets and a picnic and BBQ area to really make the most of the afternoon. Alternatively, for an afternoon bite to eat head to the Glass House Mountains Lookout Cafe, where you can treat yourself to some wholesome, no-fuss food while admiring the view of Mt Ngungun and if you’re lucky some grey kangaroos!   

Visiting Brisbane? Check out Yaya’s Two Day Itinerary for Brisbane, Queensland’s River City here.

48 Hours In Manchester: A Weekend Itinerary in England’s Northern Culture Hub

Manchester is the north of England’s historic industrial powerhouse. Over the last two centuries, this huge metropolitan city  has now grown from its Roman beginnings into the cultural capital of the north, boasting not only a historical place in the major political and social movements of the last two centuries, but also being a longtime incubator for innovative technological advances and creative endeavours.

It is a wonderful place to savour not only the industrial past of England, the historic social upheavals and political battles of its people, but also its exciting future, being home to some of the greatest minds and think tanks the country has to offer. You could spend a year exploring the different parts of Manchester, but below you’ll find my two day itinerary for seeing the very best this city has to offer.

Day One: City Centre and the Northern Quarter

Start your first day in this bustling city from Piccadilly Gardens, as it’s a good starting point for getting into the centre, especially if you’ve never been to Manchester before. From there, make your way to the Northern Quarter. This is the quirky and bohemian part of the city centre is great for wandering about and getting a taste for the creative and alternative side to Manchester.

Wander round the streets and spot some of Manchester’s amazing street art that decorate its streets. Some of the best includes the famous 22 bees mural by the graffiti artist Qubek on Oldham Street,  which is a dedication to those killed in the 2017 terror attack.

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As well as taking in your fill of the local street art, pop into the Northern Quarter’s unusual and interesting boutiques. Have a look inside Magma bookshop, the art and craft shop Fred Aldous and the indoor independent market Afflecks selling everything and anything. Don’t forget to check out the Manchester Craft and Design Centre, which is a treasure trove of local art and craftsmanship definitely worth the visit! Once you’re all shopped out, stop for brunch in one of the Northern Quarter’s many, many independent  coffee shops. This part of town has loads of the city’s bests places for brunch and coffee.  Try out Koffee Pot, Ezra & Gil, Evelyn’s, The Foundation Coffee Shop, Federal and Chapter One Books. If you want to see a bit more of Manchester’s foodie scene, head to Mackie Mayor for some mouth-watering Mancunian delicacies and cooking mastery.

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Come the afternoon, walk over to the Corn Exchange, which used to be the city’s Corn and Produce Exchange. Now a home to a collection of new restaurants, the building itself demonstrates some of the best of Manchester’s Edwardian architecture. Next, if you fancy a kick-about, head into the National Football Museum. If football is not your thing,  check out Manchester’s Cathedral round the corner and it’s oldest pub, The Old Wellington Inn. Continue onto the Royal Exchange Theatre, which was part of a collection of buildings used for exchanging commodities. Although now a theatre, if you go inside you can still see high on the wall the boards still showing the exchange rates on the last day of operation.

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Finish off the afternoon by musing around the Manchester Art Galley.  Allow a few hours here, as the gallery has some extensive and breath-taking collections of world-class art, both local and international that are well worth your time. Once you’ve had your dose of culture for the day, walk back to Piccadilly where you can either call it quits for the day or head out for some late night food. For evening entertainment, why not see some live jazz in the Northern Quarter’s Matt and Phreds Jazz Club. For a really fun night, head to Manchester’s gay village around Canal Street, where you’ll find plenty of bars to choose from. 

Day Two: Deansgate

Day two, begin in St. Ann’s Square, the beautiful pedestrianised square down the road from the Royal Exchange Theatre which is nestled in the commercial heart of the city. It boats some great examples of Victorian and Edwardian architecture to admire, including the exquisite Barton Arcade, a Victorian shopping centre hidden between St. Anne’s Square and Deansgate. If you’re looking for breakfast, head in here to Pot Kettle Black for a fragrant morning coffee and a jazzed up version of a Manchester tart.

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From Barton Arcade, head onto Deansgate, one of the city’s oldest paths, where you’ll find plenty to see and do. Head to the People’s History Museum for a morning of eye-opening museum-trailing. Unlike many museums you’ve probably been to, this is one that is still very much engaged with the present. Documenting how democracy has emerged in Britain, the museum houses thousands of snapshots of the British people’s fight for equality, fair legislation, equal representation and much more, that goes up to the present day!

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After a fairly politically-inspired morning, head back to Deansgate down to the John Rylands Library. Free to enter, this historical hub of learning is a must-see if not just for its beautiful neo-Gothic architecture, but also for the history that lines its walls, including extensive collections of medieval illuminated manuscripts. Next, head over to Manchester’s Town Hall in Albert Square. This grand neo-gothic building is closed until 2024 due to an extensive renovation project, but is still worth seeing even from the outside as it is a very impressive building. 

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Down the road from the Town Hall you will find the Central Library, the city centre haunt of bibliophiles and local students throughout the year. It is a good place to rest your feet for free, admire its rare book collections or just to admire a part of Manchester city life. After a day wearing down  your feet, finish your afternoon by heading to Grindsmith for a well deserved coffee. With three locations around the city, this Manchester-based coffee brewer is a go-to for locally crafted, good coffee. Their espresso bar in Deansgate is the nearest to the Central Library, which you can find here

If you still have time and energy remaining, a trip to the Science and Industry Museum located nearby is a good way to finish your second day. Free to enter, this museum showcases ideas that have changed the world, housed in the middle of a city that was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. After two packed-full days, end your second day in Manchester with a show at the Royal Exchange Theatre. 

Best Tea House in the Toon: The Quilliam Brothers Tea House

Quilliam Brothers Tea House in Newcastle has been a popular tea-lover hide out since its arrival in 2013. Striving to expand the tea experience in the North East, their city-central tea house brings inspirations from Hungary, India, China and Germany under one roof, offering an extensive tea menu of over 60 tea leaves concoctions, as well as a reasonable range of coffees, able to satisfy every lover of hot drinks.

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Having quickly become a frequent visitor, I have to say there isn’t much I dislike about Quilliam’s. It is a homely blend of an old, victorian-styled cafe mixed with a continental cafe-culture with its night owl opening times, offering Newcastle a different type of social late-night drinking. Complete with subtle quirky touches like the teaspoon chandeliers, imaginative baked goodies like their ginger beer scones and an underground cinema, Quilliam’s really is a tea house with an edge.

But it is their tea that keeps the customers coming back for more. From the Pinhead Gunpowder to their Banana Twist, there are more teas than you thought existed. Being the autumn/winter lover that I am, I have to admit that I have tried almost all of Quilliam’s seasonal teas. I heartily recommend either the Oh Christmas Tea, the Winter Dream or the A Stollen Moment to anyone who wants to know what liquid Christmas tastes like. All are wonderfully warming and get you into the spirit, even in July.

On my latest visit, I added their Snow Drop tea to my list of sampled brews. Snowdrop was surprisingly warming despite having strong fruit tones to it, and tasted slightly like the almond paste in croissants (which in my opinion is a very good thing). This visit also included a compulsory treat – a generous slice of the Guilliam’s Orange Cake, and their Fruit and Seed Flapjack (both delicious) as snacks for my film viewing in the downstairs cinema.

Every week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Quilliam’s put on free film nights in their basement cinema, that fits around 12 people. Due to the limited seating and the popularity of these film nights, it’s essential to turn up about an hour early to give yourself enough time to order your tea (and baked snacks) and bagsey seats before it all fills up. It is definitely a good way to spend your week night.

The greatest assets aside from the teas of this brewing establishment is not the charming deco or even the hidden cinema, but the very well clued up team of tea fairies. Every time I have treated myself to a Quilliam’s brew the staff have always served me with a smile, willing to advise me in my indecision between which tea to have. They will happily explain to the tea novice how the various teas are brewed at different temperatures and for different time lengths. All very technical and eye-opening to the ways of tea-making!

Despite all this praise, Quilliam’s does have one failing. It is a victim of its own success in that it is forever busy with customers, with a 20 minute queue to a table being the norm during university term time. This high demand unfortunately takes the relaxed atmosphere away from your tea experience, as the hectic environment and queue of waiting customers can make you feel guilty for taking your time to enjoy your brewed delight. But this is the consequence of such a brilliant tea house, only possibly solved by another Quilliam’s opening up!

Minus the popularity of Quilliam’s, which is both a sin and a blessing, it is the best place in the Toon to grab a cuppa with a difference.

Top 5 Highlights of Fraser Island

Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world, just off Australia’s east coast and one of the essential stop-offs on any east cost trip. It is easily accessible from either Hervey Bay or Rainbow Beach, with multiple tour companies running one, two or three day tours to Fraser Island (I’d recommend going on one of the Cool Dingo Tours for either two or three days). However, there’s way too much to see on Fraser to fit into a one, two or even three day trip. The island is full of treasures, from ancient rainforest to white beaches, from turquoise lakes to migrating whales. But don’t worry, I’ve come to your rescue! Below you’ll find the 5 must-see highlights of Fraser Island that you cannot miss!

The 75 Mile Beach

It is literally what it says on the tin. A beach, that stretches for 75 miles. On Fraser Island’s eastern side facing out onto the ocean is white sand and blue ocean that stretches further than the eye can see. This is normally one of the first stops people go to on Fraser, both if you’re on a group tour or going by yourself, as you can drive along the beach to fully appreciate how long it is! Look out for migrating whales off its shores that occurs every year from June – August.

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Lake McKenzie

No visit to Fraser Island would be complete without a dip in the blue waters of Lake McKenzie. This perched lake not only has beautifully clear waters, but the sand around the lake is pure, white silica, making it some of the purest sand in the world, rivalling the beaches on Whitsunday Island. Take some time to relax by its waters, float in the lake, even use the sand as a natural exfoliator!

Maheno Shipwreck

The SS Maheno is a historic ship, serving as an ocean liner for 30 years, operating between New Zealand and Australia. It also was used as a hospital ship by the New Zealand Naval Forces in World War I. That was until a cyclone in 1935 shipwrecked the ship onto the shores of Fraser, where it still remains to this day!

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Indian Head

Indian Head, so-named because when Captain Cook was sailing along the east coast of Australia in 1770, he saw aboriginals standing on this raise hill. Back then, ‘Indians’ was used by Westerners to describe the natives of various lands including America, hence Captain Cook gave the headland the name ‘Indian Head’. Besides this little snippet of history, Indian Head offers fantastic views of both the 75 Mile Beach and the ocean, being the most easterly point of the island. It is also a great place to spot migrating whales from during winter!

Champagne Pools

Last but not least, the Champagne Pools. These natural pools are a great place to swim, as  it’s a relaxing spot yet the water bubbling and frothing over the rock edge (hence the name Champagne Pools) makes it an exciting dip at the same time. Plus it is one of the most beautiful and most photographic parts of the easter beach on Fraser Island.

Day Trip To Kuranda: The Rainforest Village On Cairns’ Doorstep

The rainforest village of Kuranda is a great destination for a day trip from Cairns, easily accessible via road and train. Surrounded by World Heritage Rainforest, this rainforest village was the result of settlement by Europeans in search of gold as well as the introduction of the timber industry, and the railway from the seaport of Cairns made the village an easy location to get to back in the day. Today, this hippie, artsy village is a popular day trip destination from Cairns.

Half the experience of Kuranda is getting there. You can drive to the village, but the best way to get to Kuranda is to take the Kuranda Scenic Railway from Cairns Central Station, departing at 8:30am and 9:30am daily. On purchasing the tickets from the ticket office in Cairns Station, you will be asked how long you want to spend in Kuranda and how you want to get there and back. I would recommend allowing yourself 3 hours or more to fully explore the village itself. Opt to travel to the village on the Scenic Railway, then travel back to Cairns on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, two very unique ways to see the ancient rainforest that surrounds the village.

Once in Kuranda, explore the large variety of art galleries, shops, and boutiques all selling interesting and quirky souveniers and art work and gifts. Kuranda is one of the best places to purchase original aboriginal artwork in Australia, but make sure you check where the pieces have come from before you buy any old boomerang, as you want to make sure the profits are going to the artists themselves. Three must-see stops on your visit are the Kuranda Village Centre, the Original Rainforest Market and the Kuranda Heritage Market, three great markets selling a mixture of items from jewellery, clothing, artwork, sweet treats, as well as boomerangs and didgeridoos.

Alternatively, you can check out the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary located close to the Heritage Market, which houses over 2000 butterflies. Or you can take the scenic trail down to Barron Falls, a dramatic waterfall in the heart of the rainforest that has for decades attracted tourists to Kuranda.

There are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat in Kuranda, and the Original Rainforest Market offers a good variety or=f cuisines as well as a mini gold course to keep everyone entertained. For coffee, head to Kuranda Rainforest Coffee shop, where you can not only buy a cup of caffeinated joy, but also see the beans being processed right in front of you.

After an enjoyable few hours spent exploring the rainforest village of Kuranda, head down to the Skyrail entrance for you selected time and enjoy a journey back to Cairns like no other by riding over the ancient Queensland rainforest.

Exploring the Eternal City: Four Must-See Sites In Rome That Are Not The Colloseum

For many people, Rome is one of those places that they have been dreaming about going to for years. But when you think of Rome, one image tends to come to mind – the Colosseum, the ancient Roman wonder of the world. Although the Colosseum is a site to behold and a must-see when visiting Rome, there are plenty of historical sites in Rome that are equally worth your time. Keep reading to find out what other essential places you must go to when in the Eternal City.

The Vatican City

The Vatican City is one of the most amazing sites that you will see while in Rome and it is not even technically in Rome. A lot of people are put off from visiting the Vatican because of its endless lines and high ticket prices, but it is well worth both the time and money. If you get there very early in the morning, you’ll be able to get into St. Peter’s Basilica fairly easily and quickly as you will have beaten the mid morning queues.

The Basilica itself is utterly breathtaking. It is one of the most beautifully crafted, entirely visually overwhelming places of worship you will ever set your eyes upon, both on an architectural and artistic level. It is only by comparing the crowds of visitors to their surroundings that you can grasp how vast the church is, as they are dwarfed by its towering  arches and aisles lavishly decorated by marble, gilding and exquisitely carved sculptures. It is so beautiful that you catch yourself because it seems too detailed to be really crafted by human hands. On my visit, I would have happily lied down on the cold, marble floor and gazed up at its high, painted ceiling for hours, if the Basilica staff had not been lurking around every corner.

St. Peter’s Dome

Apart from the church itself, another part of the Vatican that you have to include on your travel bucket list is venturing up to the top of St. Peter’s Dome. Although the 300 narrow, uneven steps up are a little bit difficult, the trek is well worth it as not only do you get to see the interior of the dome in much more detail but you also get a magnificent view of the church and city below as the whole expanse of Rome is laid before your feet (normally) in wonderful sunshine.

Roman Forum and Palatine Hill

Another must-see site is right next to the Colosseum, its neighbouring site, the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. It was here that you’ll find the Roman history you know of  really coming alive. When you are looking round this huge site of ruined temples, palaces, shops, and old parliamentary buildings, you can envisage what ancient Rome really looked like as a bustling, growing capital of an empire. The Roman Forum lies in the valley that is overlooked by Palatine Hill, so when you enter the site along Via Sacra, and descend into the valley away from the hustle and bustle surrounding the Colosseum, you do feel like you are being taken back in time.  The ruins on Palatine Hill itself, overlooking the valley, are also fascinating as you can really gage how large this cultural hub used to be. As you make your way up the steps, you can envisage the shops that would have been selling textiles, fruit and meat, overlooking the streets below. At the top is now a beautiful garden with an orange orchid, where you get wonderful views of both the valley below and the rest of the city, almost rivalling the views from St. Peter’s Dome.

Trastevere

Another often neglected part of Rome which can really make your trip special is exploring the winding streets of Trastevere, the neighbourhood on the west bank of the Tiber. There you will not only find endless narrow streets with little boutiques but also more trattoria than ristorante restaurants, which definitely does not mean a level down in the quality in the food. It is the other side of the river to the main sites such as the Colosseum, which not only means cheaper food but also more authentic dishes than those found in close proximity to the tourist sites. From my experience, the trattoria restaurants on this side of the river offer much more delicious and flavoursome delicacies for a lower price tag than the ristorante restaurants. Another striking difference is the gelato. Although most gelaterias in Rome make their own gelato themselves, the gelato in Trastevere is packed with much more flavour. If you’re in the neighbourhood, go to the Piazza di Santa Maria to Blue Ice Gelaleria. Although it looks more like a standard ice cream shop with its bright neon sign, they serve the most amazing gelato, with really berry pieces in their Berry gelato and actual coconut flakes in their Coconut gelato. Perfect after a day sightseeing in the hot sun!

If you’re travelling to Rome and want some tips, have a read of Yaya’s Top 5 Tips for Visiting Rome.

48 Hours In Glasgow: Weekend Itinerary In Scotland’s Largest City

Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city, having expanded dramatically in the 18th-20th centuries due to being one of the main British hubs for trade and shipbuiling in the Industrial Revolution. Although its industrial heritage is fairly well known, Glasgow’s past as a centre for learning and creativity is less so, despite having been a hub for the Scottish Enlightenment in the 18th century and being famed for its Victorian and art nouveau architecture. Nowadays the creative side of Glasgow is much more prominent, being the home of  the Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet and National Theatre of Scotland. In comparison to its eastern rival Edinburgh, Glasgow is a lot more spread out, so there’s a lot of ground to cover to get from one end of the city to the other.

Day One:

Start in Glasgow’s George Square as it is bang smack in the middle of the city and a good place to start your Scottish adventure. Take some time to take in the buildings around you, as George Square is flanked by various historically and architecturally important buildings, including the City Chambers, as well as various statues of notable historical figures like Sir Walter Scott. From George Square, begin exploring the rest of the city.

Leaving George Square, began walking towards the west end of town for around half an hour until you reach the area around Kelvinbridge station, from which you will be able to leisurely explore the rows of the neo-classical terrace houses in this neck of the woods. (Alternatively, you can take public transport to Kelvinbridge or a nearby stop and explore from there.)  Although now inhabited by the growing student population of the University of Glasgow, this end of the city is particularly well known for its beautiful sandstone houses and quirky cafe culture, an arty mixture of the city’s past and its vibrant present.

After exploring some of the nearby streets and getting a taste for the local architecture,  walk up the Great Western Road until you find yourselves at the Botanic Gardens. Free to enter, these huge greenhouses are fascinating to wander round and admire all the exotic and beautiful plant life they have growing in there. The Botanic Gardens were founded in 1817 by Thomas Hopkirk, moving to its present site in 1847, so it’s a little cove of history as well as an atmosphere of topicality that is unlike any other part of the city.

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Once you’ve admired Glasow’s exotic plant life, head over to The Òran Mór for lunch. The Òran Mór is a church that has been turned into a pub and playhouse where you can spend your lunch enjoying some of Glasgow’s theatre scene. It’s a very unusual but vibrant, friendly place, and the pub is beautifully decorated with ornate celtic patterns spanning the bar, tables and chairs, with artwork as well as ceiling and floor murals. At 1pm each day Òran Mór run a lunchtime special called A Play A Pie And A Pint, which does exactly what it says on the tin. At 12pm the tickets begin selling by the entrance to the pub, so for £12.50 you get a decently sized Scottish pie, a pint and a 45 minute play to enjoy. Not bad for a midday pastime!

After your lunchtime dose of culture, head over to the University of Glasgow campus to marvel at its neo-gothic spires and towers, which make it look like something out of Harry Potter. The main site which is connected to the University Chapel is also very beautiful, particularly the inner courtyard, in which you can see the various towers assigned to different subjects. Don’t be surprised if you see a broomstick flying overhead.

From there, spend the rest of the afternoon exploring Kelvingrove Park, before heading back up to Gibson Street for a bite to eat and a coffee at Artisan Roast. The west end is populated by some of the best independent cafes and coffee houses Glasgow has to offer, Artisan Roast being one of its finest coffee pioneers.

In the evening, why not sample some of Glasgow’s arty culture by treating yourself to a show at the Scottish Opera, the Scottish Ballet or at one of the city’s various theatres.

Day Two:

Start your second day early and take the underground to the East end of the city to see Glasgow’s Victorian roots. Getting off at High Street Station, walk up High Street to Glasgow Cathedral. Although it technically hasn’t been a cathedral since 1690, the history of the cathedral is linked with that of the city, and hence is still worth a visit. It is a gorgeously dark building, demonstrating some of the best Scottish Gothic architecture that the city has to offer.

The cathedral is alleged to be the location of where the patron saint of Glasgow, Saint Mungo, built his church, and his tomb can be found in the lower crypt of the cathedral. The University of Glasgow also has its foundations within the cathedral, as it began as classes that were held in the cathedral itself, with the Bishops of Glasgow serving as Chancellors of the University for around two hundred years.

Continuing your history themed morning, after exploring the cathedral, walk across to the Necropolis. This is basically a fancy Victorian graveyard that in the 19th century the rich merchants and traders decided to lay their bones to rest in when Glasgow was hit by the Industrial Revolution. It doesn’t sound that interesting, but the Necropolis is actually fascinating to walk round to look at the investment placed by these prominent people on their final resting place. Half the graves are like mini houses, and are actually really ornate. Also, being on a hill, the Necropolis offers fantastic views of both the cathedral and Glasgow below.

Finishing off your history tour, stop off at Provand’s Lordship across the road from the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art and the cathedral. Supposedly the oldest house in the city, this historic house dates from the medieval period around 1471, having most likely once housed members of the clergy for the cathedral. Once there were numerous houses like this, but now the Provand’s Lordship is the only remaining house from this period in the city, the rest being demolished between the 18th and 20th centuries. It is a testimony to the religious heritage of the city and beyond that, it is fascinating to walk round such an old house and imagine people living in such buildings hundreds of years ago.

Having had your dose of history, began to wander back into the centre of Glasgow by walking back down High Street then along George Street. By heading back into the city along this route, you’ll catch a glimpse of some of the street art that decorates this part of the city. In particular, you’ll see quite of lot of wall murals that are scattered around the University of Strathclyde as you walk back towards George Square, a nod to the artistic culture of Glasgow.

From George Square, go down Queen Street where you’ll find the Gallery of Modern Art with its guarding statue complete with an adorned traffic cone on its head (Glasgow does have a sense of humour). Feel free to spend an hour or so in one or all of the four  galleries housed here, as entrance is free and they have some fabulous, world class art on display that is worth a peek at.

From there, turn to the shopping district of the city by going down Royal Exchange Square to Buchanan Street. Buchanan Street and its adjoining Sauchiehall Street is the shopping sources for the centre of Glasgow, housing on its paved stones the vast majority of recognisable brands from the high-street names to designer  stores.

Decorated with beautiful Georgian buildings as well as every possible shop you could need, this part of the centre is a must-see stop for anyone with a slight interest in shopping. Particularly worth a visit is Princes Square, an inside, beautifully designed shopping mall that has plenty of cafes to sit in. Here, rest your weary feet while treating yourself to a cake and a coffee at Tinderbox, one of the cafes in a chain of Glasgow-only coffee houses that was one of the first cafes to establish a coffee culture in the city. Although the Tinderbox on Ingram Street is generally considered the preferred site, the cafe in Princes Square is great for a break while shopping.

Want to know what Tinderbox is like? Click here to read my view of Tinderbox.

Following a packed second day in Glasgow, relax in the evening by enjoying some of the city’s food scene. Head to The Ubiquitous Chip for some tasty Scottish grub, The Gannet for fine dining at a reasonable price, Stravaigin in the West end for pub classics in a rustic setting, and Nanakusa for a spot of Japanese meets Scottish cuisine.

Want to read more on visiting Scotland? Click here to read about Meandering Around Edinburgh: One Day Trip To The Scottish Capital

Unusual Things To Do In Beijing

When you think of Beijing, certain images come to your mind – The Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China, the skyscraper dominated skylines. But there’s more to this bustling city that its main tourists traps. If you want to see a different side to Beijing that everyone else sees, keep reading to find out about some of the unusual things you can do in Beijing.

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Take a Cooking Class in the Hutongs

This was one of my favourite things that I did during my trip in Beijing. The cooking classes run by The Hutong is an amazing way to learn about some of the traditional cooking methods and practices of different parts of China, as well as learn how to make some authentic dishes at home. The classes are not expensive for the quality of the classes and the teaching that you receive, and it is also taught in the historic hutongs, the  oldest alleyways of the city.

Each class costs 300 RMB and lasts around 2.5-3 hours long. During that time you learn to cook 3 different dishes which you can then replicate at home. I would highly recommend taking the Taste of China or Dumpling workshops, but all the classes sound amazing so if you want take all of them!

Click here to go the The Hutong website

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Explore The Hutongs

The hutongs are the oldest network of alleyways in Beijing, a reminder of what the city would have looked like hundreds of years before the construction of Beijing’s skyscraper skyline today. These interconnecting alleyways were built by various Chinese emperors to house the different groups in society as the city expanded over the years. Today, you can wander down the various alleys to get an idea of what ancient Beijing would have looked like.

Exploring this historic part of Beijing is a great way to spend an afternoon in the city, and it is also one of the best places to pick up some fresh dumplings. Speaking off…

Buy Freshly Made Dumplings

When you first arrive in Bejing, the idea of dumplings before 8am may sound a little crazy, but it is the perfect early morning or after a night out snack. In France, the bakeries sell freshly made croissants for breakfast – in Beijing its dumplings. These little balls of puffed up goodness are best from one of the many little street sellers in the hutongs. They are sold from as early as 6am to around 8am so you have to get up early to get some, but they are worth it.

The little bakeries are nothing more than opened doors down narrow alleyways, so you might have to go looking for them. Usually, you can smell the dumplings being made, and you will see them when you walk past. Don’t be alarmed if they give you your dumplings in a plastic bag – it may not look very Instagram worthy, but you will thank yourself for dragging yourself out of bed when you try them!

Click here to read more about the Top Foods To Try In Beijing

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Try Out Some Of The Mystery Pastries

There are various hole-in-the-wall bakeries lining Beijing’s streets. I would normally go to one of these little bakeries at least once a day and try something new. Because many of the people working at these establishments couldn’t explain in English what each of the little baked goodies are, most of the time it was a bit of pot luck picking which one to try that day.

Some of the little cakes and pastries I really liked, such as red bean mooncakes and ink cakes (not actually ink), but others weren’t as pleasant. But half of the fun is trying something new and unknown and risking not liking it, you might be surprised and find something you really like.

Going To Beijing? Check out Yaya’s Four Day Itinerary In Beijing

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Keswick: A Beginner’s Base for England’s Lake District

Wanting to explore England’s Lake District but don’t know where to start? Keswick is the perfect place to begin your first adventure to this beautiful part of England! Surrounded by the stunning fells and nestled beside the photo-worthy lake of Derwentwater, Keswick does not disappoint in showing off the beauty of the Lake District.

It is ideally located to get to using public or private transport, but far enough away from the hustle and bustle to feel like a proper escape back to the countryside. It is also a great base for walking up the Lake District’s well-know fells!

There are plenty of campsites in Keswick, as well as hotels and holiday homes to rent. I would always go for the camping options, as staying in a hotel for a walking holiday seems like cheating. I stayed at the smaller Derwentwater Camping and Caravanning Club Site, which was easy to find and ideally located as it was only down the road from Keswick’s biggest food shop, Booths, and a short walk to the centre of the town. The staff were very friendly and welcoming which made the trip even more enjoyable, and the facilities were very clean, it almost felt like we were glamping instead of camping!

But it is mostly a caravanning and holiday home site, there are alternative camping sites such as Keswick Camping and Caravanning Club Site which are as good in terms of their proximity to the town centre and the facilities.

There are plenty of walks to choose from in Keswick. Skiddaw is a popular option for a good hike as it is the mountain that dominates the skyline in this part of the lakes. It is a fairly moderate hike with some steep parts and flatter sections, as well as rewarding you with a fantastic view of Keswick and the surrounding area at the summit.

The most popular walk up Skiddaw is Jenkin Hill Path, which is easily accessible from the town. On this path, the walk from Keswick to the summit and back should take around 6 hours, so give yourself the whole day for this walk. Pack some lunch to have at the top of the summit, plenty of snacks and lots of water, then get going!

Aside from walking up the fells, there is plenty to do in Keswick that won’t give you blisters. You can ride a boat on the beautiful Derwent Water which is good fun on a sunny afternoon when your legs are recovering from the hike the previous day! The lake also boasts some beautiful walks around its edge, which are significantly easier and flatter than hikes around any of the surrounding fells.

Keswick also has a good selection of nice restaurants and pubs to try out. You can’t go walking in the Lakes without trying a pub meal or two, especially after a day hiking. The Royal Oak is a gorgeous gastro pub that serves delicious food and drinks. If you want to go somewhere a little cosier, then head to Magnolia Bar Bistro. This little bar not only has a great selection of local and international beers, wines and whiskies, it serves delicious, no-fuss food in a relaxed atmosphere.

48 Hours In Brisbane: Queensland’s River City

Brisbane, the Gold Coast’s River City, is a popular tourist location for both backpackers and holiday makers alike. Whether you’re stopping off in Brisbane while travelling up the East Coast or simply having a weekend city break, keep reading to find out what you should do with 48 hours in this fantastic city!

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Day One:

Start your first day in Brisbane by exploring the museums and galleries in the city centre. Start off at the Queensland Museum where you can see some pretty impressive dinosaurs skeletons and learn more about the history of the land beneath your feet. Then head to the Queensland Art Gallery immediately below the museum. Here, immerse yourself in the fantastic artwork on display that ranges from the political and historical pieces that explore Australia’s history to more modern artists’ work.

Continue to spark your creative side by heading over the road to GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art). Here you’ll find equally interesting and evoking pieces spread over its three floors. If you fancy it, also take a look in the State Library next door which normally has quite interesting exhibitions on and is worth a look if you have the time.

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After your morning of exploring the galleries and museums in the city centre, walk to Brisbane’s popular South Parklands by following the path that runs along the city’s famous river. Take your time to explore all of the South Parklands, as it runs for 17 hectares along the river, with parks, gardens, and of course the city’s famous Streets Beach to see. Grab some lunch from one of the nearby restaurants and spend the afternoon soaking up that famous Australian sunshine.

If you stay late enough, you might also get to see the South Parklands Collective Market on a Friday Night from 5pm until 9pm. Or visit the Collective Markets during the day on the weekend, from 10am to 9pm on Saturdays and 9am to 4pm on Sundays. The markets are a great place to sample some local food, to pick up some unusual holiday souvenirs or simply for a great spot of holiday shopping.

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If it’s a Friday or Saturday, in the evening take the City Cat from South Bank Ferry Terminal to Northshore Hamilton Ferry Terminal, make sure you take a picture of Brisbane’s famous Story Bridge as you go under it. From Northshore, walk to Brisbane’s Eat Street Market, an outside international food market where the stalls are made out of old shipping containers from the wharf. It has a huge selection of food to choose from, from all the different corners of the earth, as well as a separate dessert section, bars and live music – the perfect place to end your first day in Brisbane!

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If it’s not a Friday or Saturday, stay in the city and head to Urbane to savour some of the best from the city’s dinning scene from a more central location.

Day Two:

Start your second day in Brisbane by visiting one of its most iconic sites, the City Hall.  Not only is the building itself worth a look at, but the City Hall also houses the Museum of Brisbane, where you can learn all about the history of the River City and its people, including the inhabitants of the city today.

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If you book ahead or get there early, it is also worth attending the short Clock Tower Tours, which take you right up to the top of Brisbane’s iconic clock tower that once used to dominate the city’s skyline (and are free to attend!). If you’re feeling peckish, why not treat yourself to breakfast at the City Hall’s cafe the Shingle Inn, which originally opened on Edward Street in 1936 as a fancy Tudor inn styled restaurant famed for its beautiful cakes, but was moved to the City Hall in 2013 with its original layout still in tact.

After an early morning in the City Hall, catch the bus from Adelaide Street up to the Brisbane Lookout on Mt Coot-tha. Here, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Brisbane and the surrounding area. On a clear day you can see for miles!

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Then, either follow the walking trail through the national park down the mountain or wait for the next bus to head back down to Brisbane Botanic Gardens on Mt Coot-tha so you can spend the afternoon relaxing in the Botanical Gardens. Attend one of the free guided walks led by volunteers, leaving from 11am and 1pm, to learn about the different plants that grow here, or follow one of the Botanical Garden’s self-guided walks to make the most of your visit.

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Once you’re finished taking in the botanical life of Brisbane, take the next available bus back down into the city. If you are still wanting to see a bit more of the city, head down to Kangaroo Point to watch the sunset over the city as your last day in Brisbane comes to a close. For dinner, head to the trendy Brew Cafe and Wine Bar where you’ll find amazing food in a low-key, tucked away bar off Queen Street.

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