Italian Spring Road Trip – Amalfi Coast & Naples

So, lets jump in where we left off.. road tripping from Rome to Sorrento. Brace yourself as there are so many photos to get through…

If you missed it, check out part 1 of our Italian Road trip here, Italian Spring Road Trip – Florence, Sienna & Rome.
20160409_Italy_AmalfiRoadTrip_Day7_0245The drive from Rome to Sorrento was one of the most eventful in my life. Italian drivers have such an infamous reputation, but up until this point we hadn’t really experienced it. We had been driving the whole week with a GPS that was out of date, so most of the time it was spot on, but every once in a while it would advise that we turn down a road that no longer exists, or tell us to go left at a T-intersection that is now a round-about, things like that. Sometimes  we would miss the correct turn, but it was no worry as the GPS would just re-calculate and we would be on our way again.

While making our way to Sorrento, the GPS took us off the highway that was supposed to take us around the coastal side of Mt Vesuvius and ended up diverting us through Nola. I can’t find much about Nola online, other than the wiki entry stating that it is a town on the outskirts of Naples. Anyway, we drove through the centre of Nola at around 5pm on a Wednesday evening. We drove down the most hectic main street I have ever seen. The road was narrow with barely enough room for two lanes. There were cars darting out from all directions, car doors opening straight out into the road, people everywhere and uncontrolled intersections on every block. Our hearts were in our mouths the whole way.

A big cheer for our driver, Jake, who drove us through there without so much as a nick to the car, despite many occasions where the brakes were slammed on, or a car door was swerved just in time. It was an experience for sure, we knew we were in southern Italy now and it was such a contrast to the wider, more controlled roads of the north.20160409_Italy_AmalfiRoadTrip_Day6_0199As the sun was setting we pulled into our campsite in Sorrento, this would be our base for the rest of the trip . With with views straight out to Mt Vesuvius from our cabins, we really couldn’t have picked a better site. We saw the mountain in so many different lights. My favourite is the photo above from when we first arrived with the highest peak towering above the clouds.

As well as being surrounded by breathtaking views we found Sorrento a great place to base ourselves and explore Naples, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. I thought of Sorrento as the gateway to the Amalfi Coast, super beautiful but not quite as busy with tourists as Positano and Amalfi. It was also really central for all the things we wanted to do while in the area.

^^ Exploring Sorrento20160409_Italy_AmalfiRoadTrip_Day5_0002

After our long day driving,  we were all rearing to go and do some exploring. We got up early and headed to Mt Vesuvius. It was a little bit underwhelming as the clouds from the day before hung around making the views really hazy and the caldera was not much to look at. It was nice to get a big walk in though and we stayed on our feet in the afternoon heading down into Pompeii.

Having studied Pompeii in school I thought I had a fair idea of what to expect, but the reality was so much grander than I had ever expected. You really were walking through an entire city, which is hard to imagine when you read about it in books. We were there all afternoon and covered a fair amount of ground but still there were areas we didn’t get to.

^^ Being springtime lots of poppies were growing in grasses of the ruins. The contrasts were beautiful and naturally poppies became a feature of our Pompeii photos.

We didn’t take a guide through Pompeii, preferring to follow the map provided at our own pace. But I must admit that I sometimes found myself cheekily tuning into the guides around me for interesting stories and facts about the surroundings. I think if I went again I would opt for a guided tour.

As the weather was supposed to be better the following day, we opted to spend it on the island of Capri. I had completely fallen in love with pictures of the Grotto Azzurra in my Lonely Planet guidebook. The Grotto Azzurra is one of many sea caves dotted around the cliff faces of the island. It’s the most popular as the light entering the cave gives the whole cave an electric blue hue. The entrance to the cave is small, so you can only enter it by small fishing boats manned by locals singing old fishing songs into the eery cave. Unfortunately for us the wind was up during our visit, meaning it was too dangerous to enter the cave. We did have a lovely wander around the island though and lots of Limoncello samples from the tourist shops we passed helped ease disappointment.20160409_Italy_AmalfiRoadTrip_Day7_0117We finally hit the coast the next day, driving the ‘Green Ribbon’ route from Sorrento to Amalfi stopping at some amazing viewpoints on the way. The drive took about two hours and although there were some crazy hairpin corners and a few occasions where we queued coming into towns or waiting for buses to pass, it was generally quite a peaceful trip. I hate to think what driving around there would be like in high season, because as it was we struggled to park anywhere near the towns.

^^ Seafood cones in Amalfi

^^ More scenic view points along the drive.

Our next stop was Ravello, a little town in the hills above Amalfi. It was pictures from the guidebook that enticed us up here but ironically our camera battery died at this point so I have no views to share. It really is worth the steep drive up here though. We ended up in the Gardens of the Villa Cimbrone. The villa is a very upmarket hotel, far out of our price range but we could afford the gardens which are well worth a look. We were walking through archways of wisteria and well-groomed rose gardens that overlooked stunning cliff tops. 20160409_Italy_AmalfiRoadTrip_Jake_1360457This is one of Jake’s group shots. We’re standing on what is called The Terrace of Infinity, a natural balcony over the cliff face, opening up endless vistas of sparkling blue waters and the colourful coastal towns below. We tried to have a bit of a snoop around the hotel’s dining areas and pool, too. All I can say is – if I ever win the lotto this will be my first stop. 20160409_Italy_AmalfiRoadTrip_Day7_0239We drove in to Positano as our final stop for the afternoon. It was everything I had hoped it would be, a gorgeous jumble of pink and peach houses cascading down to the sea.20160409_Italy_AmalfiRoadTrip_Day7_0248

20160409_Italy_AmalfiRoadTrip_Day7_0273We ambled through the narrow cobbled streets down towards the beach, stopping for ice cream on the way and played cards as the sun set over the hills.

We had an ongoing game of Scala Quaranta, or in English 40 Stairs, going and we played at every opportunity we got. Most nights of our trip were spent on our cabin balconies nibbling on BBQ food and sipping wine, or Montenegro for the boys, while playing Scala Quaranta well into the night.

We didn’t go back to Sorrento for a BBQ that evening though. After calling time on Positano we drove back to the west of Sorrento to try out La Torre, a slow food restaurant run by a local family. Over three courses we got to sample some amazing local delicacies and so much seafood. It was delicious and a great way to finish our time on the coast. 20160409_Italy_AmalfiRoadTrip_Day7_0310The next morning we were on our way to Naples and with heavy hearts saying goodbye to the lovely, romantic coast.

We parked at Naples airport and caught a bus into the city to soak it up for a few hours and of course try some pizza before we flew back to real life in London. The city was overwhelming, narrow streets in the shade of highrise apartments, scooters and cars everywhere and so much poverty.

Even though it was a Sunday morning the streets were alive with people and performers.

Church processions clattered through the town squares ringing bells and bringing brass bands.20160409_Italy_AmalfiRoadTrip_Day9_0089We sat watching it all unfold while eating some of the best pizza in town from Pizzeria Vesi. It really does taste better in Naples.

Can I go back and do it all again? It’s much harder to write a blog post about a trip that happened over a year ago now, as I struggled to remember a lot of the things we did. But the important parts have stayed in my mind and it has also been so much fun to relive it.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop going to Italy, there is still so much I want to see and explore. First on my list is another attempt to see the Grotto Azzurra of course…

Thanks to Ben and Jake for their photo contributions xx

Advertisements

Italian Spring Road Trip – Florence, Sienna & Rome

20160409_Italy_AmalfiRoadTrip_Day3_0238Better late than never right? It is just over a year since we embarked in one of the most interesting and relaxing holidays I have ever had and I have finally organised myself with some pictures and words to tell you about it. There is so much to say I have split this post into two parts. Part Two coming soon.

We had been planning this holiday for years! Ben’s older brother Jake and his girlfriend Giorgia have lived in Italy a couple of years longer than Ben and I have lived in the UK. They met working at a ski resort and have been in and around Italy on and off since then. So it is no surprise that we have been out to visit them a lot. We’ve been snowboarding (and more recently for me, skiing) in Canazei many times and spent time with them during summer in Venice and summer on the mountain.

Throughout all these trips we have talked about doing a road trip around Italy, to see the famous sights of Florence and Rome and the southern landscapes. Jake and Giorgia, and by proxy us, have seen heaps of the north of Italy but never the south. In 2016 it became a now or never kind of situation, Jake and Giorgia were planning on moving to New Zealand for two years and didn’t know when they’d be back in Italy. With all the gear and the car they had with them, the time was now!

We had a loose plan to cover 9 days in the country with Ben and I flying in to Pisa and out of Naples. Here is how we spent the in between..

We flew in to Pisa and met Jake and Giorgia early morning for some obligatory tourist shots with the tower.20160409_Italy_AmalfiRoadTrip_Jake_1350197After a coffee and brioche and realising there was nothing more we wanted to do in Pisa, we made our way to the car and started the road trip. First stop, Florence.

20160409_Italy_AmalfiRoadTrip_Day1_0180Throughout the whole trip we stayed in a fantastic group of holiday parks. They are situated all over Italy and offer cabins, campsites and camper van sites. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the group, but I do know the places we stayed. As we left a site and paid our bill we would get vouchers for other sites in Italy, Perfect for travellers on a budget.  The campsites were always situated just outside a city and offered cheap, clean accommodation. We would leave the car there and take public transport into the heart of the city which meant no stressful city driving, no parking fees and no hassles. We stayed here in Florence, it was up in the hills and nice and quiet.20160409_Italy_AmalfiRoadTrip_Day1_0214_1The advantage of staying outside the city is as we were driving out we found this great viewpoint over the city.

The next morning we woke up for the long trip to Rome through Tuscany and Sienna and a stop off at Lake Bolsena.20160409_Italy_AmalfiRoadTrip_Day2_0030_1^^ I slept a lot of the drive through Tuscany as I was still recovering from a cold. But I woke for the photo stops..and to goof off in group shots.

20160409_Italy_AmalfiRoadTrip_Jake_1350624

^^ We spotted the scene on the right and thought it was a real life Romeo and Juliet. I loved walking the sun kissed streets of Sienna.

^^ A beautiful detour to Lake Bolsena as the sun was lowering in the sky. We wandered past wine shops and restaurants on the way to the lakeside. Stopping for ice cream on the way.

We arrived on the outskirts of Rome to a sprawling holiday park for our next campsite stay. We attempted out first BBQ dinner here but waited hours for the coals to heat up and ended up eating well after 11pm.. fail. All the while waiting for our BBQ food we made a plan of attack for our day and a half in Rome.

We started the morning early with a walking tour of the city. We joined the Vatican Walk with Rome Free Walking Tours.  The itinerary hit all the important spots and the guide was really knowledgeable and friendly and gave us all the interesting facts as we walked. It started at the Spanish Steps and left us at the Vatican. I was particularly taken with the Pantheon. What an amazing building? We came back at night, too, to explore around the whole building without the masses of tourists.

I also like the Piazza Navona, we briefly wandered through here on the walking tour and came back in the evening to explore more and have dinner in the restaurants on the little streets around there.20160409_Italy_AmalfiRoadTrip_Day3_0057As I said, the walking tour left us outside the Vatican. We hadn’t planned on going in at all, but when we got there something compelled us to go in and see it for ourselves. The queue in at midday though was (no surprises here) long! So, uncharacteristically for us, we paid for a guided tour, allowing us to skip the queues and find out a few of the secrets and stories of Vatican City on the way.  I’m glad we did as I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this.

^^ It’s well worth going up to the dome. The views over the cathedral and the city were worth all the stairs up I promise.20160409_Italy_AmalfiRoadTrip_Day3_0390Our last stop in Rome for the day was the Trevi Fountain. We fought our way to the front of the crowds to throw our pennies in and make a wish before running off to catch the last train out of the city.

A trip to Rome just wouldn’t be complete without a wander around the Colosseum though would it? We saved that for our fresh legs the next morning, getting up bright and early in an attempt to beat the crowds, which happily we managed anyway by getting in the right queue. People seemed to just be jumping on the end of the pre-booked ticket queue but without a pre-booked ticket we sauntered up to a much shorter queue and were standing gazing out over the 2000 year old arena within 15 minutes.

I particularly enjoyed seeing the exhibitions here and would recommend devoting at least an hour to seeing this place. They displayed artifacts recovered from the ruins that give insight into how the people were living and what kind of things would have been going on in the arena, like the gladiator duels, but also the gambling games and trinkets bought in by the watching crowds.

With no time to lose we reluctantly said goodbye to Rome and got back on the road heading to the Amalfi Coast. With 5 days left to spend in and around Naples and the Amalfi we weren’t complaining though.

Although, we had to make it through Nola and the craziest drivers I have ever experienced first. More on that in Part Two coming soon.

Thanks to Ben for contributing and helping edit these photos. It’s been so nice looking back at them.

 

 

Home for Christmas

20161220_102744We hadn’t been home for two years and 10 months when we touched down in Wellington on a gorgeous sunny Friday afternoon. One week before Christmas and the start of a four-week holiday. I felt so many things getting off the plane and hugging my mum, dad younger sister and best friend who had all come to the airport to meet us. Tired being the number one thing after a gruelling 26 hours in the air and 6 hours waiting at airports in Dubai and then Sydney. I also felt relieved, happy, nervous, excited, sadness and so, so, so much love.

It was all going on at once and I probably came across as quite shell-shocked, it was overwhelming. But as we got in our old family car, drove the familiar roads to my mum’s place, the conversations picked up where we left off from our last Skype calls and I felt comforted and home.20170107_114343Home was a funny word while I was at home. People were careful about how they used it around me. I was careful about how I used it, too. When I was discussing London I would say “going back to London” not the more natural, “going home to London”. I felt that I was home in Wellington, but I was also going home to London.

After living in London for almost five years, it would be weird if I didn’t think of it as home. It’s where my life is now, my friends, my things, my routines all my habits are formed from living in the crazy, busy, vibrant and beautiful city. London is my normal now.

I’m so proud of how Ben and I have made our lives in London, the experiences we’re having are so different from what we would have had, had we spent our twenties in New Zealand. I never thought big city life would suit me, I was actually very scared moving to London as I was worried I would hate it. Now I worry that I will never be able to leave this big city, how will I ever manage waiting longer than three minutes for public transport? Where will I get my Pret A Manger sandwich fix?

But then I spend time in New Zealand and see photos like these and realise I won’t care. I  loved the lifestyle in NZ. Being invited in to people’s houses, the ease of getting around and the ability to just roll up anywhere without encountering queues or missing out entirely. I know that eventually NZ will be my forever home. Not quite yet, but when the time is right.20161228_161231Also, how could we forego these views!?!

Here are a few things we got up to while home…

A quick mission up to the Belmont trig for views over Wellington harbour.

Hiking Karangahake Gorge near Waihi and spotting fantails in the trees.

Many days on the beach in Waihi. Exploring, swimming, sunbathing and Ben even learned to surf!

So many cuddles with this beauty. She wasn’t that into my selfie taking though!

I had better mention the food, too. Pavlova on Christmas day, ice creams as we road-tripped around the country and so much caramel slice. For Christmas I was given a recipe book called Treats from Little & Friday with what looks like a cracking caramel slice recipe, I can’t wait to try it out.

There was cards on New Years Eve in Auckland and Scrabble at Dad’s. I even managed to win a few 😉20170107_104645So many hours chatting in cars…20161228_150623And so many beautiful views. This is Maraetai Beach on the outskirts of Auckland City.

I love being able to feel like a tourist in a country that is also so familiar. There is always so much to discover. 20161228_150357I hope you enjoyed my photo round-up of our New Zealand trip. I have a few more photos to come of two really special days out. A day out at the zoo with my dad which was my Christmas present and as my birthday present, day out at Zealandia, a bird sanctuary, with my mum and sisters. I was really spoilt, so blogs on those days to follow.

I am enjoying going through these photos so much. The weather was pretty patchy when we were home and we got lots of spring rain, but when the sun shone we definitely got out and made the most of it.

What do you get up to while visiting friends and family at home? I love having lots of chilled days, but also recognise that this is my holiday time so make an effort to explore as well.

Getting Festive

20161203_christmas_wrapping_0013Today things really started to feel Christmassy for me. I have had a day indoors wrapping presents, writing cards and drinking tea. It’s been bliss. I’m wearing my (non-brand) Ugg boots and my thickest woollen jersey and have been watching the winter sun’s slow decent through the sky out the window.

Oh… and did I mention the Christmas carols? I have had them on repeat all day. My new favourite is The Greatest Gift by James Corden and (I’ve only just found this out) NZ’s own, Bret McKenzie. It’s the song from the Sainsbury’s Christmas ad. So cute!

Christmas to me really is all about the people you spend it with and for the first time in four years, it will be with my family this time. Our Christmas trip has been one and a half years in the making and I’m so excited that it’s finally time. We fly out to Wellington in just over a week and a half now. Eeeek!20161203_christmas_wrapping_0023_1^^^ Ben bought me an advent calendar this year so I can count down the days…20161203_christmas_wrapping_001720161203_christmas_wrapping_0018It’s going to be nice to be there for the present opening in the morning and just be on the same time zone in general for the holidays. I always find it funny over New Year’s when I suddenly get bombarded with all these (usually drunken) messages midday on New Year’s Eve. I’m sometimes still at work and not even in party mode yet.

It looks like I may have gone slightly overboard with the present buying this year, but I can blame it on the excitement.. Plus, I have had a year and a half to collect these up.

Can’t wait to see you NZ xxx

 

Eweleaze Farm: Camping in England

20160820_eweleaze_farm_camping_0370For my 29th birthday Ben and I went camping and it was the best!

We camped at a beautiful site just outside of Weymouth, Eweleaze Farm. Eweleaze Farm is on the South East coast and I had heard that it was the best campsite in England. Having tried but failed to get there in 2015, (we were washed out, surprise, surprise) excitement levels were high for this trip.

I had only one goal for this trip, lots of outdoor activities and relaxing. Lucky for us, the weather didn’t let us down and we spent three full days swimming, hiking and exploring.

Day 1: Settling in

The first thing you should know, is that the campsite is tops. The best I’ve been to, and I’ve been to a few. The showers felt like you were in a tropical rainforest, with just enough creature comforts and privacy while still being out in the elements. Every morning the onsite bakery tantalised you with fresh croissants, rolls and other delicious smelling delicacies.20160820_eweleaze_farm_camping_0572Oh, and did I mention the view? Endless rolling hills and cornfields overlooking your own private beach.20160820_eweleaze_farm_camping_0212^^^ Our first home. Thankfully it withstood the elements, the coastal wind has flattened a fair few tents at this site.

Day 2: Corfe Castle

Lonely Planet described Corfe Castle and the surrounds as romantic and dramatic and they weren’t wrong. Set above a quaint little village with a steam train rolling through, the picturesque ruins really catch your eye. For the best vantage point climb up the nearby hillside, I think it’s a part of the National Trust area and you will get fantastic views looking over the castle ruins.

20160820_eweleaze_farm_camping_0204

Day 3: Lulworth Cove & Durdle Door

Today we earned our dinner. I dragged Ben on a 7 mile (11km) hike up and down the steep chalky cliffs of the Jurassic Coast Line. We started at Lulworth Cove, taking a few pics of the secluded bay and tourist boat port before embarking on our first hurdle along the coastal path that eventually reaches Durdle Door.20160820_eweleaze_farm_camping_0231We were met by some disinterested cows and our first glimpse of the gleaming white cliff faces this section of coastline is known for.

You first come across Man of War beach, which I suspect is the better beach because the cove protects you from winds buffeting the coastline, then as you crest the next hill the famous Durdle Door comes into view.20160820_eweleaze_farm_camping_0264It seemed like the perfect place to stop off for some lunch.20160820_eweleaze_farm_camping_0355^^^ A bit of a paddle was in order, too.

We pressed on after lunch though, four more miles to cover with some steep ridges in our path meant we didn’t want to mosey about. Our circular route took us to White Nothe, meaning White Nose and what I assume is the point of the cliffs that juts out from the land the most. Other than that though, White Nothe as a destination wasn’t very exciting. This walk is all about the journey and the scenes we were treated to along the track did not disappoint.

Oh, and some kestrel friends watched over us as we wandered.20160820_eweleaze_farm_camping_0504As we dragged our weary legs back over the cliffs we had energetically scaled a few hours before, we decided a swim was in order. The sea was warm from the days heat and sparkling in the slowly setting sunshine. We stripped our sweaty outer layers and plunged in for a refreshing dip.20160820_eweleaze_farm_camping_0543A birthday dinner of fish’n’chips at Lulworth Cove completed the day perfectly.

Day 4: Packing up and Bournemouth Beach

We woke to glorious sunshine on our final day camping and it was only supposed to get hotter. We meandered over to the little beach below the campsite for a wake up swim before stopping in for fresh juice and baked goods for breakfast at the campsite shops.

We said goodbye to the resident livestock, lambs, pigs, alpacas and the most popular of all, puppies. Packed up our tent and drove off, carefully avoiding children chasing kites vowing that we would be back next year for sure.20160820_eweleaze_farm_camping_0583We stopped off at the ever popular and supremely crowded Bournemouth beach for a swim and ice cream on the way home. It was jarring after the tranquilness and quiet of the campsite though and we didn’t stay long.

Weekend in Torquay + Brixham

20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0057Here is a quick photo round up of a recent weekend I spent in Torquay and the surrounds. The trip was almost wholly unplanned and as most spontaneous ideas are, completely and surprisingly brilliant. I really has no idea what to expect of this little seaside town in Devon, but as most around me can attest, I have been raving about it ever since.

We started off checking out Brixham, a small fishing town across the bay from Torquay.

20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0016

We wandered the small village then sat on the waterfront with fresh mussels for lunch and watched the kids catching crabs off the wharfs. I wish I had taken a good photo of them because I was so intrigued by this quintessentially seaside hobby. A fruitful hobby too as they were filling up their buckets pretty quickly. You could buy bait, a line and a crab bucket at all the local tourist shops – I very nearly gave it a go myself.

20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0050

In the afternoon we sat on the stony beach and watched those braver than us plunge into the less than tropical waters while the sunshine flickered in and out of the clouds.

20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0054For a moment it looked like the weather was going to well and truly crash in on us, but luckily it passed with just a few sprinkles of rain.

IMG_6937On the hunt for the best fish ‘n’ chips in the area for dinner we also stumbled across the best view of the weekend, Babbacombe Bay. Good spot for a picnic huh?  I can highly recommend Hanbury’s Fish ‘n’ chips, they do live up to the hype.

Finally we arrived back at Torquay harbour to finish off our bottle of Cava. The sun really put on a show of setting too. I was kicking myself for not bringing along my big camera. These iPhone pics do not do it justice at all.

Red sky at night, shepard’s delight….

Waking up to sunshine the next morning, our first mission was to get some more pictures of Babbacombe Bay and venture down to what looked like a sandy beach from above.20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0061

20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0069But alas, once we got closer we found it was pebbles.20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0074You go down to Babbacombe beach by a very steep cable car.20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0083Ice creams are a must at the seaside.20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0089Nice spot to watch the world go by…. and serenade it.

After resting on the beach for a while we got up and started on the hunt for our last meal. After a quick pit stop at Cockington first. I happened upon Cockington in a guide map that described it as ‘a village frozen in time’. It sure was! With lovely grassy woodlands and thatched roofs as far as the eye could see, it certainly looked untouched by time.

I fell in love with this little pink one. 20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0102When can I move in? Even the roses match!

We had envisioned stopping at Paignton for lunch, another seaside town along the coast from Torquay but after discovering a fun fare had come to town and there was no parking we decided to head back to Torquay and find some more seafood on the beachfront. We had delicious crab at On the Rocks if you’re interested.20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0104

Then it was back in the car to make the trip back to London, with a little pit stop at Cheddar Gorge on the way.

20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_011220160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0116Unfortunately we arrived too late to pick up any cheese! Better planning is needed next time.

I’m off on a camping trip to Weymouth next weekend, so I don’t have to wait much longer for my next dose of the English Seaside. Have you got any tips on what to do and where to eat around Weymouth and the Jurassic Coast?

Home: It is the people. It is the people.

He aha te mea nui o te ao
What is the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people
Maori proverb

You know when you learn a new word or phrase, and then all of a sudden it turns up everywhere?

Hutt River, Lower Hutt, New ZealandI recently came across this beautiful Maori proverb and since then, of course I have seen it everywhere since. It has already featured in this month’s #travellinkup. Pop over to Two Feet One World for another Kiwi’s take on home.

I have made a home in three countries so far and many different houses with different people and for me, what makes a place home is the connections I make and the little pieces I pick up along the way.

When I was preparing to leave New Zealand for the first time to live in Japan, I remember reading advice on how to combat homesickness. It said pack little things to remind you of home and make your new space feel familiar. Things like photos, special trinkets and even a pillow case. I took my second hand copy of Bridget Jones’s Diary and lots of pictures to put up on my wall. I got homesick a lot in my first year away in Japan and those things did help. Bridget never fails to make me laugh, all I have to do is read: 9st 1, alcohol units 2, cigarettes 0, calories 998 (excellent, v.g., perfect saint-style person) or the like I can’t help but crack a smile.

Fushimi Inari Temple- Kyoto JapanBut what helped more in that first year in a foreign country, was crossing the hall for dinners of miso fish and tofu with my fellow kiwi teacher, learning koto (a traditional Japanese harp instrument) and chatting over cake with a local housewife and spending weekends touring the prefecture I lived in with fellow foreign teachers. We would all congregate in a town for the night, cause general mayhem and party too hard, then crash for the night at the local teacher’s apartment. I knew I had to live in Japan first, I had to make my home where I was, by finding my people there.

I’ve made a lot of awesome memories throughout my travels, but what will always stick with me are those things that you never think to photograph. The normal daily life connections you make that make you feel at home. I remember the weekend nights watching The Voice and eating pimped out desserts in our Tottenham flat. My flatmate and I would buy ice cream and then add extra awesomeness to it like biscuits and cake. So good!

In my first flat in Wadestown, Wellington we would come together for Turbo Jam workouts in our only just large enough for four people lounge. In Lower Hutt it was Easter eggs + Greys Anatomy viewing with my sisters when I went home for Sunday dinner. Hangover curing breakfasts of fried herby potatoes, eggs and whatever else was available all over Yamagata prefecture, Japan. Most recently in Tufnell Park we’re walking down the road every Monday night to watch Game of Thrones and have freshly popped popcorn. Oh and having drunken sing-alongs to 90’s classics with our new flatmates. Long may they continue…

Home travel quoteThe little traditions are always changing, but the connections last.

My Facebook feed gives me political commentary from Northern Ireland, pregnancy updates from Canada and random life musings from Japan. I have a friend who blogs about crafting in Borneo and gorgeous architecture pictures pop up from a friend in Sydney. I get a once a year behind the scenes look at the Sydney Pride Parade which is always fabulous – I’m coming to watch in the flesh one year!  I wake up to picks of the ever growing animal menagerie in Upper Hutt and the award winning huskie and her lovely parents in Auckland pop up every once in a while. I catch up on #RICH living in Scotland and a Perth to Sydney cycle by someone who had barely ridden a bike before. A new baby in Toronto and girls nights in Melbourne. Sunsets from snowy mountains in Canazei, Italy and tourist-ing in Wellington.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0001I love these brief insights into everyone’s lives. Thank you to Facebook, Skype and good old snail mail for keeping the connections alive.

I often wish I could have all the awesome people in my life here with me in the UK but as the quote says, this is the price I pay for making connections as I have travelled. I’m glad we had the chance to make each other feel at home, wherever we were/are.