Author: The Flaneur

Australian writer. Travel writing, opinion editorials, short stories, poetry.

OCBC Skyway, Marina Bay, SINGAPORE

When you go to Marina Bay, you know there are certain landmarks to tick off your list: Marina Bay Sands SkyPark, Gardens by the Bay and the SuperGrove. Purchasing $8SG tickets to the Skyway checks the third of those activities and is well worth your time.

Being up in the canopy offers a cool breeze and the views of Gardens by the Bay are excellent. It’s great to get up close and personal to these living solar trees. One of our group was nervous about this adventure of heights, but she was able and happy to traverse the suspension bridge between the two super trees. It’s a short experience, it’s not particularly strenuous, but it’s an affordable and beautiful attraction.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

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Living Lounge Hostel, Lisbon, PORTUGAL

My trip to Portugal was my first step into Europe. The Living Lounge Hostel in Lisbon was my first step into a European Hostel. Oh, am I glad to have come here.

The hostel was perfect for all my backpacking needs. Set at a reasonable price, this hostel felt more like a home, a giant sharehouse right in the heart of Lisbon. The communal areas are cute and kitsch, with vintage record players and astroturf and indoor plants. The kitchen is just big enough to offer cheap community dinners every night, as well as complimentary breakfasts of a morning. The bathrooms are clean.

My travel partner and I stayed in a private two bed room which had the feeling of being in a penthouse at the tippy-top of the hostel. It was spacious and fun, with a near-vertical climb up the stairs in our room.

This hostel offers communal activities as well, we were disappointed we didn’t try more than we did. We went out to see Fado for the evening, arranged by the hostel, and the night was cheap, informative and the perfect cultural experience. Living Lounge was an excellent hostel for us in Lisbon and would absolutely stay here again.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Inside Lisbon day tour to Sintra and Cascais, PORTUGAL

João picked us up from outside the Hard Rock Cafe and we set off from Lisbon to Sintra and Cascais.

For me, this was one of the most memorable experiences of my trip. A road trip through the countryside was just magical; a warm summer breeze, a brilliant blue sky, vineyards as if from an animation, a cerulean sea. We packed a lot into the day trip. We stopped at Cabo Da Roca, the westernmost point of continental Europe and breathed in the clifftop glory of a truly perfect day.

We drove to Pena Palace and João provided an excellent commentary of the history and architecture. He was our tour guide and showed around the whole palace, then gave us time to walk through the palace ourselves. Then, we had some free time to wander the historical centre of Sintra. This town is full of narrow alleyways and boutique homewares. There are traditional restaurants and tasty delicacies so bring your coins and your camera. I would have loved more time here, in fact, I’d love to stay here forever.

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant between towns nestled in a rural setting. The restaurant is clearly a roadhouse for tours such as ours, but I was happy with the meal. Air conditioning, wifi, clean bathrooms, rustic charm. The food was delicious- I loved trying the Iberico ham and local melons, and I had a main course of octopus, the thickest I’d ever seen! The wine rounded off the meal perfectly.

We finished our tour in Cascais, a boutique harbour town. The tourist markets and ice cream stalls weren’t to my interest by this time, so my partner and I found a cafe by the beach and sat with our sangrias. A truly excellent day.

I highly recommend this day trip. There’s so much packed into one day and as someone who only had a short stay in Portugal, I felt like I had seen enough of the country.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Hellyers Road Distillery, Burnie, Tasmania, AUSTRALIA

We took the Whisky Walk with tastings at Hellyers Road Distillery. We were running a little late, so I called up to let them know and the tour guide was particularly helpful and understanding.

The tour itself was very interesting. It was information heavy about the history of the distillery and process of making whisky. Again, our guide was fabulous fielding heaps of very specific questions. She knew a lot which made for a very interesting tour. We were shown the factory floor and room where the whisky is kept. Although it would have been nice to be physically on the factory floor (rather than peering in), it was pretty cool anyway.

We were able to taste single malt and peat whisky, both incredible.
Hellyers Road Distillery has a stunning vista and offers lunch as well as tastings. Would recommend for a lazy afternoon. The tour was excellent value for money as well coming in just under $20AUD.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Private Tour Chefchaouen, MOROCCO

Our private tour of Chefchaoen was a mixed bag. I was probably blinded by the prospect of visiting one of the most beautiful cities in the world, so I didn’t prepare myself well enough and made a few rookie errors.

First of all, Chefchaoen is over three hours from Fez. Bring something to do in the car because it’s just a lot of countryside otherwise. Our tour guide was an hour late, and we were picked up only because I called enquiringly where he was.

Second of all, clarify with your tour guide before hand that you’ll be given a tour of the city. I was under the impression that we would be given a private tour of the Blue Pearl, but we had a guy who said he ‘didn’t have a tourist permit’ so he ‘wasn’t able to actually escort’ us through the streets. This didn’t seem very legitimate, nor did it instil much confidence in us. I appreciate free time to explore, but we were told to meet him at the Kazbah at 5pm, and that we should try and get to a few of his recommended landmarks, such as the Spanish mosque. He didn’t give us directions or a map, and we couldn’t speak Moroccan, and there are no street signs. So we were left in a maze for 3 hours. We got lost.

Chefchaoen is a labyrinth. Winding streets and alleyways. There’s a tourist belt with typical wares and crafts, and there’s the residential side. Somehow we made it to the residential side, in the sweltering heat. We nearly melted. Bring water, buy water, stay hydrated.

Lastly, the tour guide took us to a local restaurant and recommended we try the fish Tagine- a delicacy. Beware the fish tagine. My partner and I were violently ill, night of a thousand deaths style, for three days and nights afterwards. We had to cancel the Casablanca leg of our trip and spent a week recuperating. Beware the fish tagine.

Look, I think there are other ways to get to Chefchaoen. It’s a magical city, but I didn’t really get a chance to love it between all the palava that happened on my tour.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Suzhou and Zhouzhuang tour from Shanghai 

I’m glad we went on this private tour. We booked this at short notice through TripAdvisor and the company was very helpful with us.

Our guide was very informative, he had a lot to say and he spoke English well. The guided tour through the Master of Nets Garden was great, and we felt very supported having a knowledgeable guide take us through this beautiful ancient residence. The tour of the silk factory was also very interesting on the process of silk production (unlike other factory tours which can just seem like a showroom).

Visiting Zhouzhuang was my favourite bit of the whole trip, and I enjoyed my included gondola ride. However, would have appreciated more time, even free time to explore the water village. It’s such a cool place, I just wanted an hour or so to follow my nose, to explore the canals and see the little craftsmen in their shopfronts. This was the main feedback from all on the tour- there was too much time spent in the silk factory, and not enough time in Zhouzhuang.

Also, don’t expect too much from the lunch. As far as Chinese meals go, it was pretty disappointing and poorly produced. 

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Pastelaria Belus, Marid, Spain

On our first morning in Madrid, we had the classic traveler’s fog: you want breakfast, you need coffee, you have never been to this city before, you don’t know where’s good. So we walked. We didn’t speak any Spanish, and we walked. We chanced upon this very small, clean, bright cafe boasting sweet and savoury pastries. We tentatively slipped inside.

They have a basic breakfast menu, cute pastry and coffee deals which suited us just fine. My friend had croissants and a hot chocolate, while I had some savoury morsels and a life-affirming coffee. I enjoyed my treats, something with beef, something with cheese.

Despite the language barrier, the server was particularly accommodating. Quaint, bathrooms, wifi- everything a weary traveler could want.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.