2013 saw me headed to Amsterdam for 2 days. That’s it. 2 days. I was tagging along on a work trip, and we stayed in a youth hostel quite centrally. One of the things that the good people of the hostel offered was a free walking tour of the city. This was probably the highlight of trip.
Not only did it mean I got to hang out with about 20 of the other people from all over the world, but it meant that I saw a lot of things off the main roads, and things that I wouldn’t have seen had I done an official tour, or took myself off wandering. It was the best part of my trip, and I got to see a lot of things that not everyone would have seen. We went down alley ways into big garden squares, we wandered through a book street, and learnt about the quirky things of the city.
If you ever get to go on a walking tour, I highly recommend it. It’s definitely worth it.
One of the first things people ask me when I’m overseas and they find out I’m from New Zealand is ‘Do you live with a lot of sheep?’, closely followed by ‘Are you a Hobbit?’ I never quite know if they’re serious or not, but I hope it’s the latter. Yes New Zealand has a lot of sheep, and no, we’re not Hobbits. But we still love everything Lord of the Rings and will always pride ourselves on being a close at least a little similar to Middle Earth. Minus the Mordor and evil ruler thing.
The greatest LOTR related locations in New Zealand is, in my opinion, Hobbiton itself. It’s the most wonderful place to visit if your’re a fan, and even if you’re not, it’s still a really fun outing.
Not sure if you want to add Hobbiton to your New Zealand trip itinery? Here are 10 reasons you should.
1 | It’s Hobbiton
Beginning with an obvious. It’s Hobbiton. You know it’s going to be great.
2 | Everything is small, which makes you feel like a Giant
Hobbiton is, well, it’s Hobbit sized. There are little vests hanging on trees, and little wheelbarrows everywhere. It makes walking through so much fun because you feel so big.
3 | It’s super fun, let’s face it
How often does a movie set remain standing after the film series is ended? Not that often. It’s so much fun being able to go back time and time again to a beautiful place full of exciting facts and stories.
4 | It’s exactly like the movies
Picture Hobbiton in the films. That’s 100% what it’s like. The houses, the gardens, the pathways, the hills, the Dancing Pole.
5 | The fruit and vegetables are actually real
The farm that Hobbiton is built on is a working farm, but as are the vegetable gardens around the set and the fruit trees. The produce from these plants are used in the Green Dragon and also driven into Matamata, the closest town. Having the real gardens may require full time gardeners, but they are wonderful and really add to the whole experience.
6 | You feel like you’re in Middle Earth
“I’m going on an adventure!” You can run through the exact part of Hobbiton that Bilbo does in The Hobbit, and see the Hobbit’s beautiful homes. You really feel like you’re there.
7 | The Green Dragon is spectacular
If you do the Green Dragon meal at the end of an evening tour, you get to explore the Inn. If not, though, you still get a pint at the end of your tour, and it’s delicious and wonderfully made.
8 | …and the food is the most incredible meal you’ll ever eat in your life
Just look at it. A-mah-zing. And it tastes even better (if possible) than it looks.
9 | Carrying lanterns around at night makes you feel magical
If you do the evening tour with dinner at the Green Dragon, then you get to carry magical lanterns around the site to end the tour. If that in itself doesn’t make you want to check it out, then you may want to reevaluate your love of LOTR.
10 | You learn a lot of behind-the-scenes information
If you’re a fan then you’ve probably read up on a lot of behind the scenes information, but actually being on set like this you get to see the information first hand, and it comes to life that little bit more.
Bonus | It’s Hobbiton
Ending with an obvious. It’s Hobbiton. You know it’s going to be great.
Have I convinced you? Book your tour here!
London is a city of nearly 9 million people. More people live in London than in my entire country. It’s big. And that means that even if you’ve lived there your entire life and you’re about to retire, there’s no way that you’re going to see everything there is to see. Even more so if you’re just there on a short visit.
During my time in England, I was able to go to London several times, sometimes just for the day, sometimes for a couple of days. Each time I managed to do different things, so as to best get as much in as possible. If you’re one to cut up your time into morning and afternoon segments, then there are a few things that don’t take more than that time. I’ve narrowed that list of places down to 5 that I really enjoyed.
Sea Life Aquarium
There’s just something about an aquarium that’s almost other-wordly. The London aquarium is truly of superb quality, and can be done easily in a morning or afternoon.
How to get there: Get off the Underground at Westminster and cross the brdige. It’s on your left. Or get off at Waterloo, and make your way towards the River.
Easily accessible from the Underground train line, Camden Market is a rabbit warren of wonders, a sprawling market with everything from delicious food stalls, clothing shops and jewellery stands. Whether you go for lunch and the wander around, or you arrive early afternoon and stay on for dinner, there’s always something happening, always something to see and do.
How to get there: Get off the Underground at either Camden Town station or Chalk Farm station.
The Victoria and Albert Museum
If you’re a museum or history lover, then the Victoria and Albert is definitely worth a visit. 8 miles of corridors full of history, art and sculptures, you could spend hours and hours wandering their beautiful halls. But if there are specific things you’d like to see, you can easily head to that floor and just see the things that really interest you.
How to get there: Get off the Underground at South Kensington station and walk to Cromwell Road.
Fans of the 60’s band The Beatles will be sure to head to iconic Abbey Road anyway, but if you’re interested, it is a fun expedition, and you’ll forever remember trying to get the ultimate Beatles-style photo across the zebra crossing. If this sin’t something that you’d like to spend your afternoon doing, but you’re still intrigued, you can check out Inside Abbey Road by Google for a virtual tour.
How to get there: Get off the Underground at St John’s Wood, or Maida Vale.
St James Park
If Hyde Park’s vastness doesn’t do it for you, St James park, which runs between Buckingham Palace and the Parliament buildings, is a beautiful walk. With a river running through the park, it’s full of wildlife, cyclists, picnic-ers, and, well you.
How to get there: Get off the Underground at St James’ Park or Westminster
Obviously there are so so many more things to do in a half day, but that’s a start for you, and some of the things that I’ve done in a short space of time that I really enjoyed. Feel free to drop other suggestions into the comments!
When it comes to accommodation abroad, there is an abundance of choices. Normally it depends on what your budget is, or your particular travel style or needs. You have everything from luxury hotels to Air B&B, budget motels to sleeping on a friend’s couch. And there’s the hostel. A lot of the time the hostel is branded as for the ‘young people’, those intrepid travellers on their big overseas experience, or gap year. But it doesn’t have to be just for those people. It can be for you too.
1 | Saves money
Hostels are known for being cheaper than other accommodation, and definitely cheaper than hotels. If you’re travelling on a budget, or you’re simply a cheap skate like I am, then a youth hostel is the way to go.
There are usually a lot of different options when it comes to hostels. You can either get a large room, shared with other strangers, a smaller room (for example, 4 beds), or pay more and have your own room. Often you can pay extra for breakfast, but if you’re willing to wander in the morning you should be able to find food for cheaper than they might charge in their own kitchens.
If you want to do a city on the cheap, hostels are the way to go.
2 | Meet other people
Especially if you’re sharing a room with them. But even if you’ve opted for your own room, then you’ll be bound to meet people about the hostel. What I love about them is the range of countries and cultures that gather in hostels.
In my stay in Amsterdam, I met a couple of groups from England, and a brother and sister from the Netherlands who had just got back from Sweden where they had been hiking. Then there was a lady from Cyprus, and a girl from the Philippines who was travelling…and the list goes on. Not only is it awesome just chatting about this new city with them, but you also get to hear about their own countries and a bit of their stories.
3 | Central
Usually a hostel will be very central. The public transport, the main sightseeing places, are likely to be on your door step, or at least a short travel away. This is fantastic, as it means you can spend the entire day out exploring, and know that you only have to take a 10-minute walk or a short train ride at the end of the day to get back. The last thing you need when you’re travelling is a long hike back to where you’re staying.