Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Best of Melbourne on a Budget

A little while ago, I did a post called "Best of London on a Budget" where I listed 20+ free to relatively cheap places to visit. I wrote it for people like myself who enjoy travelling and want to get the most out of a location without breaking the bank or going completely broke. The feedback for that post was so amazing with a lot of people mentioning that they had no idea there were so many free to see and do in London. This led me to think, why not do one for the city I'm currently living in? Especially since the day I'm writing up this post happens to be Australia Day.

I know a lot of my readers are from the US, UK or somewhere in Europe so you maybe wondering, "Why on earth would I want to sit on a plane for 20+ hours to visit Melbourne, Australia?" Well (not trying to boast or anything) Melbourne was named the "world's most liveable city" for the fifth year running since the year 2010.

Getting around Melbourne is easy, with our iconic tram system dating back to 1889. All the trams run through the city frequently with a tram free zone located in the CBD. I would highly recommend getting a Myki card, which works for buses, trains and trams. The trains system is extremely easy to figure out as well. Think of Melbourne as a tree and Flinder's Street station as the tree trunk. All the trains run from Flinders Street out to different branches and then come back in.



Here are some of the touristy things you should do/see while in Melbourne:



Free | Take a stroll through the Royal Bontanic Gardens
A.K.A 'The Tan', the Botanic Gardens located near the CBD and feature 94 acres of native and exotic vegetation. The Gardens were established in 1846 and bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II in 1958. The Gardens are perfect for picnics, jogging and there are some tours that happen throughout the year.

Free | Visit Degraves Street and have a coffee
To get a full understanding of Melbourne's culture and atmosphere, Degraves is a must! There are lots of little cafes and restaurants that branch off to smaller lane ways. Degraves is easily one of my favourite places in Melbourne to get a good coffee and listen to some of the street performers. 

Free | Visit the National Gallery of Victoria
There are actually quite a few things to see inside without paying. Every seasons, they'll bring in a special exhibition such as Monet which has an entrance fee. There's an Indigenous Australian art exhibition as well as Asian art and European art which are all free. To check what's on at the moment you can visit their website.

Free | Ride on the City Circle Tram
It's a free journey that takes you around the central city. It's usually quite full as you can imagine being free but it's a relaxing way to get to know the city before you decide to venture off. You won't confuse it with other trams as it's coloured maroons and yellow coloured with a vintage look. It runs every twelve minutes between 10am to around 6pm all days of the week.

Free | Visit Melbourne Town Hall
Located on Swanston and Collins street, it was incorporated into Melbourne in 1842 by Henry Condell, the first Mayor. The architect was designed by Joseph Reed and Barnes who also designed the State Library. You can take a free tour of the Town Hall and learn about it's rich history. During Christmas time at night, there are spectacular lights that shine on to the building to make it appear 'gift wrapped'. 

Free | Visit Federation Square
There's actually Visitor Centre located in Federation Square where you can get more information on places to visit. Federation Square places to eat, drink and hang out basically. There are special events that happen quite frequently at Fed Square including music concerts. Although it's a great place to visit, the architecture was actually questioned by many and  listed as 'ugly' on Virtual Tourist.

Free | Walk through Hosier Lane
Located opposite Federation Square, Hosier Lane is home to Melbourne's ever changing street art. It's an interesting place with a very Urban feel where you can take lot's of artsy photos. It's pretty cool how dull and boring laneways can be transformed with some spray cans. If you visit the next day, it may already look different! 

Free | Visit Lygon Street
Also known as Little Italy and home to some of the best Italian restaurants in Melbourne. Lygon St, Carlton is full of culture and life. It's hard to resist walking past the restaurants when there are waiters at the doors persuading you to eat at their restaurant. I'd recommend Brunetti's, an amazing cafe with lots of cakes, gelato and some savoury food to tickle your taste buds.

Free | Visit the Arcades
Melbourne has four main arcades, The Block Arcade, Royal Arcade, Campbell Arcade and The Walk Arcade with it's own individual character and charm. Inside you'll find small shops and cafes that you wouldn't find in the main streets of Melbourne.

Cheap | Visit Haigh's Chocolate
Basically our version of Lindt chocolate. Although pricey for chocolate, I would recommend having a look inside. They might even give you a free sample of some chocolate to taste if you're lucky! Haigh's chocolate was founded in 1915 in Adelaide but as open around Australia.

 Cheap | Talk a stroll through Chapel Street
Although walking through the street is obviously free, it's hard to resist not going into a shop and buying something. If you're interested in vintage shopping, fashion and antiques I'd highly recommend it. If you're not and your friend drags you along, I'd recommend getting some ice cream at Gelato Messina!

 Cheap | Visit the Queen Victoria Markets and South Melbourne Markets
There's a lot of variety at both markets, both with a fairly different feel. The Queen Victoria Markets is slightly bigger and has everything ranging from fruit and vegetables to meat, cheese, souvenirs and clothing. If you visit South Melbourne, I'd recommend checking out Bibelot, an amazing cake house!

Pricey | What a performance at the Art Centre/Hamer Hall
Melbourne is the city of arts which makes it the perfect opportunity to watch a ballet, see the opera, watch a play or listen to a music concert. Both the Art Centre and Hamer Hall are located next to each other always plenty to see. You won't miss the Art Centre with it's huge spire that lights up at night, definitely something worth seeing!

Pricey | Visit Crown Casino
Even if you don't gamble, there is plenty to do at Crown. A lot of shopping, bars, bowling and even a buffet great for families. There's also a fire show that happens every hour durning the night which lights up the entire South Bank. 

Pricey | Visit the Eureka SkyDeck
The tallest buildling at the moment in Melbourne, you can take the elevator up to the top floor and get a glimpse of the entire Melbourne. There's also a little cube that comes out the side of the building called the Edge which is completely made of glass. The ride up is about $19/adult and the Edge experience is about $12.

Pricey | Watch the Cricket at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds (MCG)
If you're interested in the cricket and other sporting events, there's the MCG you can visit as well as the Rod Laver Arena, AAMI park and a few other arena's. (As you can tell I'm not that into sport so I can't tell you much more than that!)

Pricey | Visit Luna Park
Melbourne's little theme park built in 1913 and still going. It also happens to be right down by St. Kilda beach so if you've had enough of the rides and rollercoasters you can walk to the beach, relax and enjoy the sun. Tickets are $50AUD/Adult for unlimited rides.

Pricey | Take a Tour tour along the Great Ocean Road
Not technically in Melbourne but definitely worth seeing. There are some tours that go for under $100AUD per person that drive you along the Great Ocean Road where you can see the Twelve Apostles (well 8 now). It's a really wonderful trip actually with very beautiful scenery. 

Pricey | Visit Phillip Island
Take a tour to visit Phillip Island where you get to see little penguins come out of the water every evening. Most of these tours also stop by a koala or Australian animal wildlife reserve where you might get the chance to see some koalas, kangaroos, wombats, emus and wallaby!

Pricey | Ride the Puffing Billy Railway
Ride an old steam train along the country side of Victoria. The train opened in the 1900 still runs along the same track through the Dandenong ranges. Depending on what tickets you buy, you can have lunch/dinner and jazz/blues concerts on the train while you enjoy the scenery. Tickets are around $50AUD/Adult.

If you ever plan a visit to Melbourne, I hope my guide helps you make the most of your trip! Melbourne is quite different to other parts of Australia and there's always something to see and do. Just be warned that we're also famous for having four seasons in one day, it can be sunny one minute, raining the next and back to being sunny straight after! 
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Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Healthy Banana Bread

Last week I found myself in possession of a lot of over ripe bananas. When I eat bananas, I actually like them best when they've just become yellow with a hint of green but these banana's were completely covered in brown spots. I ended up making two batches of Banana Bread, one which was vegan (egg free) and the other which involved eggs and honey. I used to make Banana Bread quite often when I was younger and smother it in frosting but as I've grown older, I actually enjoy it this way as you can really taste the banana plus, it's healthier too.

I thought I'd share with you how I made the Banana Bread. It's really simple to make, almost fool proof and taste delicious! I've also substituted the ingredients from a standard recipe to make it a healthier, guilt free recipe.

Healthy Banana Bread 
Difficulty: Easy      Preparation: 10 minutes      Baking: 1 hour
Ingredients Instructions
1 3/4 cups whole grain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons chia seeds*
6 tablespoons water
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup rice malt syrup*
1/2 cup sliced almonds
pinch of salt
2 ripe bananas
1 lemon
pecans*

*2 eggs can be a substitute for the chia seeds
and water
.
*Honey can be a substitute for rice malt syrup.
*Olive Oil can be a substitute for Coconut Oil.
*Pecans are optional

Please note by using eggs and honey, the recipe will no longer be vegan.
Preheat the oven to 190°C. Grease and flour the pan. In a small cup mix the chia seeds in with the water and allow it to thicken.

Next blend the bananas or mash them by hand. Sieve in the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda. Add the oil, rice malt syrup, salt and almost all the almonds. Lastly add in the thickened chia seeds and banana. Mix them all together until there are no lumps in the mixture. Pour the mixture into the floured pan. Sprinkle on the remaining almonds and pecans.

Allow the bread to bake for about an hour. After removing from the oven, allow the bread to cool for 5 minutes before transferring it to a wired rack. Then prick the cake with a knife or fork and squeeze on some lemon juice for extra fresh and moist cake. Enjoy!

I hope you enjoyed reading this post, I love the occasional home baked delight. (Apparently so do my neighbours!) Now if you keep scrolling down, I'm going to tease you with some scrumptious pictures of my banana bread. I hope you're all well and haven't yet given up on your New Years resolutions!
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Sunday, 10 January 2016

Books & Reading Challenges

Usually at the start of the year, I always headed over to the Goodreads website and set myself a reading challenge. Last year I over shot and set myself fifty books to read in the year 2015. Halfway through the year I realised it would be impossible for me to complete the reading challenge and went 'sod it' and gave up. This year, I've set it to twenty books not including uni reading and so far I'm on track.

My favourite genre to read is generally fantasy or science fiction but I do like to branch out occasionally. I've also read quite a few young adult books and I absolutely love Harry Potter. If your taste in books sounds similar to mind I've written up two lists down below. A to read list and a short recommendations list. Hopefully some of you find this post helpful!

To Read

Book

Author

Eleanor and Park

Rainbow Rowell

Four

Veronica Roth

Zac and Mia

A.J. Betts

Before I Fall

Lauren Olivia

Diana

Morton Andrew

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Stephen Chbosky

Uglies

Scott Westerfield

Gone Girl

Gillian Flynn

The Mists of Avalon

Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Crystal Cave

Mary Stewart

A Man called Ove

Fredrik Backman

The Lightning Thief

Rick Riordan

Dealing with Dragons

Patricia C. Wrede

The Great Tree of Avalon

T.A. Barron

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

J.K. Rowling

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

J.K. Rowling

If I Stay

Gayle Forman

Where She went (If I Stay #2)

Gayle Forman

Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen

David Copperfield

Charles Dickens

Recommendations
Delirium (#1) Pandemonium (#2) Requiem (#2) by Lauren Oliver
A dystopian young adult book. In this society, love is a 'disease' that has to be cured.

Matched (#1) Crossed (#2) Reached (#3) by Ally Condie
A dystopian young adult book. Society decides who you love, where you work and where you die.

The Maze Runner (#1) The Scorch Trials (#2) The Death Cure (#3) by James Dashner
A dystopian young adult book. Thomas wakes up and realises he only remembers his name. He finds his place amongst a group of boys until one day a girl arrives.

Inkheart (#1) Inkspell (#2) Inkdeath (#3) by Cornelia Funke
A young adult fantasy book. Meggie discovers that her father Mo can read things out of books but something always has to go back in.

Divergent (#1) Insurgent (#2) Allegiant (#3) by Veronica Roth
A young adult science fiction book. The society is split into five factions where all sixteen year olds have to decide where to spend the rest of their lives.

I hope this post helped you in some way whether it be book ideas or just general reading inspiration. I'm currently reading The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley which is a bit of a long read but I'm enjoying it so far. It's related to the Arthurian Legend and is written in the perspective of Morgaine and other female Characters rather than King Arthur and Merlin. (Any BBC Merlin fans?) Let me know if you've taken on a reading challenge for 2016 and whether you've written a post similar to this. I'd love to check them out.

I'm currently reading my books on a Kindle Paperwhite. I'm not really to fussed about the whole ebook - traditional book debate. I just find it handy to have lots of books at hand and I can carry around mighty books like the one I'm currently reading in my handbag. Also, I'd highly recommend signing up to Goodreads as you can can check off the books you've read and it'll recommend you similar ones. You can also see what books your friends have read and what they rated them as!
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Friday, 8 January 2016

Best of London on a Budget

About a month ago, I visited my birth country, England an got the chance to explore many of the historical monuments an icons within London. For those of you who have never been to London and just don't know where to start, I've written up a little guide featuring some of my favourite places to visit ranging from free to pricey. Being a student myself means I'm travelling on a budget which is why I wanted to share lots of free activities to do with a few sneaky pricier ones.

There are so many things to do in London and all the sights are pretty remarkable. Getting around London is quite easy as well and you'll quickly pick up how the Tube and bus system works. All you need is a London Oyster card which you can simply top with with money and tap when you hop on a bus on train.

Here are some of the touristy things you should do/see while in London:

Free | Visit Buckingham Palace and watching the changing of the guard
The changing of the guard is one of London's most watched and iconic attractions. The ceremony occurs at about 11:30 but only on certain days of the month so it's best to check the Buckingham Palace website if you're planning to go and see it. It's also suggested to arrive about an hour before the ceremony to get the best seat of the house.

Free | Visit the British Museum
Open daily from 10am to 5pm, the British Museum is dedicated to human history, art and culture featuring over 8 million different works. Perfect for everyone and a great start to learning about development of how London came to be.

Free | Visit Trafalgar Square
Visit Nelson's columns, iconic stone lions and the Forth Plinth. There's always something going on by the fountains whether it be street performers, cultural events, a Christmas tree (or lots of birds!).

Free | Take a stroll down Oxford Street
I've put it as free unless you choose to buy something! Oxford street is Europe's busiest shopping street with an average of three-hundred shops! There are shops ranging from Primark to Selfridges. The street runs from Marble Arch all the way to Oxford Circus. It's also beautiful during the festive season with lights and decorations all put up.

Free | Take a stroll through Kensington Gardens to Hyde Park
This was actually my favourite thing to do in London in the morning. Take a peaceful stroll through the gardens where you can see plenty of white swans, Kensington Palace and Lady Diana's Memorial. It's a beautiful place whether it be during the winter or summer season.

Free | Take a stroll through St. James' Park
Another beautiful Park with stunning views of Buckingham Palace, The London Eye and The Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben). There are more swans to see, both black and white as well as lots of birds and squirrels. A squirrel actually came up to me to see if I had any food as people feed them!

Free | Visit Harrods
Another famous department store and actually the biggest in Europe. Again I've put as free unless you choose to spend! It's definitely worth a visit, even if you don't choose to buy anything. The architecture is beautiful especially when it's lit during the evening. The Food Halls well renown and the Stationery Hall and Christmas Hall are my personal favourites along side.

Free | Take a walk around Westminster Abbey
Unfortunately since we're on a budget, we're not going to be able to go inside the building and pay for a tour. Fortunately the architecture is astoundingly detailed and the history of the place is seeping through the walls. Westminster Abbey is a beautiful gothic styled church that has held 16 royal weddings since 1100!

Free | Take a stroll around Westminster Palace
If you come to London, one of the things you have to see is the Elizabeth Tower a.k.a the Big Ben! The Tower is one of the most prominent symbols of the United Kingdom alongside. Again neo-gothic architecture, the details of the building are astounding and a definite must from a far and up close too.

Free | Visit Convent Garden
Convent Garden, home of the Royal Opera House and a popular tourist destination with lots of shopping, restaurants and things to see! There are also lots of little markets with hand made items such a soap, candles and little bits and bobs. There are also lots of nice cafes and street performers to watch keeping you constantly entertained.

Free | Visit the Natural History Museum
A perfect way to kill a couple of hours while learning about the history of earth and mankind. It has five main collections ranging from; zoology, botany, entomology, paleontology and mineralogy. There is also a Diplodocus cast that has been on display at the museum for the last one-hundred years!

Free | Stroll around Piccadilly Circus
With big digital screens that light up the road junction, it's a great starting point for those new to London. It's also a close walk to China Town if you're interested. It reminded me of a very London styled Time Square.

Cheap | Hire a £2 bike and ride it around the Royal Gardens 
There are plenty Cycle hire schemes around London that are perfect for short journeys and a great way to fit in some cardio while you're on holiday. Once you've hired a bike, you can return it to any docking station. There are over 10 000 bikes to hire around London. The bikes are £2 to hire for 30 minutes and go up about a pound for every hour after that.

Cheap | Take a Thames River Cruise from Westminster to Greenwich 
The cruise takes you from Westminster to Waterloo and Greenwich passing the London Eye giving you audio commentary along the way. An exciting way to learn some of the history of London while enjoy the amazing view. A great way to capture some interesting photos from a different perspective.

Cheap | Visit the Tower of London
Again, I've put this as cheap as there are free tours which are entertaining and a definite must do and more grand tours which on the pricer side. The Tower of London is a definite must see as it's such an iconic part with an prominent role in London's history.

Pricey | Visit St. Pauls Cathedral
St. Pauls Cathedral is open Monday to Saturday for all sightseers. The price for adults is £15.50 which gives you self guided multimedia tour. You can also climb up all 528 steps to the Whispering Gallery, Stone Gallery and Golden Gallery giving you spectacular views of London. (I was so sore the next day but it was so worth it!)

Pricey | Visit the Royal Albert Hall
I've categorised this as pricey as the best way to appreciate the architecture is to go inside. You can do so by watching a show or taking a grand tour which are both around the £15 mark. Fortunately the outside is still pretty worthwhile to see with Italianate styled architecture which of course is completely free.

Pricey | Take a ride on the London Eye
The London Eye tickets are £19.97 for an Adult. The experience is pretty surreal though and goes for about half an hour. I timed it so when I was up there the sun was beginning to set and the city lights were beginning to turn on making it absolutely breath taking. It is actually Europe's tallest ferris wheel. If you're not keen on the price or the wait, I'd recommend still having a walk around that area during the evening when the lights are turned on.

Pricey | Take a tour of Westminster Abbey
If you've seen the outside of Westminster Abbey fall absolutely in love, it wouldn't be a complete waste of money to take a tour inside. The price for a single adult is £18 and it is usually opened from 9:30am to 3:30pm but it's best to check the website if you're planning a visit.

Pricey | Visit Windsor Castle
Not exactly in London but very close and easy to get to. A beautifully kept castle, rich in history with lots to see and learn. To visit Windsor Castle, you can catch a fast train from Paddington to Slough, then Slough to Windsor. It's also best to check the website to see what is available that day as the Queen is occasionally there and places may be shut off.

I hope my little guide helped some of you, London is definitely one of my favourite cities in the world. There is always something to see and is extremely cultured. Even though it's an expensive city, there are definitely ways for you still enjoy and get the most out of it. 

Here's a little montage of clips I put together from my recent visit to the UK featuring mostly London.

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Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Visit to the National Gallery of Victoria

Yesterday I visited the National Gallery of Victoria as there's a big Ai Weiwei and Andy Warhol exhibition happening at the moment. These two artist are quite well known and have done some interesting pieces of work that stirred quite the controversy. Since I studied both these artist while I was in year ten at school I thought I'd take the opportunity to check it out. I actually vlogged the day as well but thanks to Australian upload speeds, it would take me about 3 days up upload a nine minute video. Such a bummer! Hopefully in the future, I'll incorporate some shorter vlogs into my blog posts!

Anyway, I took a few photos of some of the artworks that stood out to me and thought I'd share them with you. I'm not generally a huge fan of modern art, I love the traditional renaissance and realism era's of art but none the less, I still appreciate the different styles and enjoy learning about why a certain artwork was created. Is it weird to say I respect Ai Weiwei a whole lot more now because of his obsession with cats!

Above is Weiwei's Fountain of Light, a five metre tall chandelier of crystal.

Some of my favourite works for the exhibition was the Forever Bicycles by Weiwei pictured below which is made of over 1500 bicycles to symbolise the freedom to move.

The second picture down is by Andy Warhol. He actually had an entire wall covered in black and white photos but this one stood out to me the most because so many people were taking photos of the wall and it was almost like a mirror image.

The third image down is Weiwei's Blossom all made by fine porcelain which served as a memorial to those who lived in restricted conditions because of their fight for freedom of speech.

Forth is Andy Warhol's portrait of Marilyn Monroe which reminded me of those 'spot the difference in these pictures' puzzles.

Next is Weiwei's Flowers for Freedom which was he's way of protesting his loss for freedom when he was put under house arrest. There was also a bicycle leaning against the wallpaper of flowers which symbolised movement.

Sixth is Warhol's Bird Balloons which was a fun and interactive exhibit with lots of little kids running around punching the balloons.

Lastly, Weiwei's cat wallpaper. I actually wouldn't mind having some wallpaper like that in my room honestly!

All it all, it was a pretty spectacular exhibition. There were lots of people in queue to purchase tickets so apparently it's very popular. The entry was $26.00AUD for a single adult and the exhibition is on until the 24th April I believe so if you happen to be in Melbourne and you're interested in this sort of thing, I would highly recommend you go and see it. If not I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post. I'm still so bummed my video couldn't go live but at least I took photos. Let me know what your favourite style of art is.
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