All posts by Lauren

A Lazy Mother’s Day in the Adelaide Hills

The autumnal colours of the leaves are beautiful this time of year

The last few weekends have been grey and chilly as we head towards winter. But this weekend the sun was out, and the temperature was hovering around a lovely twenty degrees making it the ideal day for a Sunday drive through the Adelaide Hills.

Red pops of colour as the leaves change
Red pops of colour as the leaves change

And perfect timing, too, since it’s Mother’s Day! To celebrate, I spent the day with Mum and Dad exploring the windy roads of the Adelaide Hills.

My parents are avid photographers, and so much of the time was spent pulling over to the side of the road and jumping out of the car for photo ops as we tried to capture the changing colours of the vineyards, apple orchards, and autumnal trees on the side of the road. We even passed Camelot Castle peeking out from behind the trees that lined the side of the road.

Catching glimpses of Camelot Castle on our Sunday drive
Catching glimpses of Camelot Castle on our Sunday drive

We managed to snag one of the last tables at the Lobethal Bierhaus, and tucked in to a warm loaf of sliced bread, and mains of pulled pork and venison as Mum and I sipped on the local Lenswood LOBO apple cider and watched as Dad worked his way through the tasting platter of eight beers that were each brewed on site (I don’t usually like the taste of beer, but even I liked the spiced Christmas ale!). We would have loved to have stayed for dessert, but we were too full!

Lunch at the Lobethal Bierhaus
Lunch at the Lobethal Bierhaus
The Tasting Platter at the Lobethal Bierhaus
The Tasting Platter at the Lobethal Bierhaus

A visit to the Adelaide Hills is never complete without stopping in at Melba’s Chocolate Factory at Woodside. Everyone else must have had the same idea, as the shop was full of people buying chocolate with their mums. The chocolate shop has rooms where you can wander in and watch the chocolates, lollies and other treats being made – and taste some samples!

Me;ba's Chocolates at Woodside - it's a tradition to go here whenever we're in the Adelaide Hills
Me;ba’s Chocolates at Woodside – it’s a tradition to go here whenever we’re in the Adelaide Hills
Chocolate honeycomb from Me;ba's - yum!
Chocolate honeycomb from Me;ba’s – yum!

It was a lovely lazy day and although we didn’t really do much, it was relaxing taking photos, eating great food, and most importantly, spending time with Mum.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mums out there – hopefully your day was just as relaxing!

Why I’ll Always Remember Salzburg

Mirabell Gardens
The Mirabell Gardens, in the Old Town of Salzburg

As soon as I set foot in Salzburg, I felt at home. Here was a town I could easily fall in love with, from the imposing Hohensalzburg Fortress overlooking the town, to the idyllic Sound of Music setting of the Mirabell Gardens, to the cobblestoned streets of the Old Town, and I couldn’t wait to explore it.

Five hours later, I found myself in hospital being examined by a doctor who looked like he had come from the set of Grey’s Anatomy and having X-rays taken to determine if I had any head trauma. I was right in the middle of one of my travel nightmares (the other being watching an ATM gobble up my debit card), and I wondered why this had to have happened to me.

So how did I end up in hospital? It sounds ridiculous to say, but I hit my head by walking in to a pole. In my defence, I was distracted by the window of a Swarovski store when I felt my forehead collide with the shop’s awning. I thought nothing of it at the time – I just banged my head, I’ll laugh it off and everything will be fine. But one of my friends pointed out that I was bleeding, and when after several hours and several plasters the scrape was still not healing, my tour guide took me to the hospital.

The doctor examined me, and I was sent to the X-ray room after making a midnight phone call to my parents back home in Australia to discover my tetanus immunisation was out of date (Make sure you know when you were last vaccinated, it makes life much easiest and doesn’t freak out your parents when you tell them you’re in the hospital!). Nine stitches and a tetanus booster later, I was free to go, with plans to get the stitches taken out in Prague eight days later.

Despite walking around with a big white plaster stuck to my forehead, I spent my remaining day in Salzburg continuing to fall more in love with it. I loved the fortress, the casualness of the beer gardens, and walking along the river in the bright summer sunshine.

I hope to go back to Salzburg one day and continue exploring this beautiful town. Although next time, I’ll make sure to watch where I’m going!

How To Travel With Your Sibling

How To Travel With Your Sibling

Travelling with siblings can be awesome if you get on well with each other. Having lived with each other for such a long period of time as children, now that you’ve both grown up you know each other’s likes and dislikes, and when you each need your space. Since they care about you, they’ll be considerate of what you want from your vacation time (and vice versa). And they’ll be there to reminisce with once the holiday’s over.

I’ve been on two trips with my brother over the years: a visit to Belgium, France, and the UK in 2014, and a trip to the US and Ireland in 2016. Though I initially had some concerns about how well we’d travel together before we left for our trip in 2014, it all turned out well, and we’re even throwing around some ideas about doing a road trip of Scandinavia in 2018!

However, no matter how well you get on with each other, and how well you think you know your sibling, there are still a few things you should do in order to make sure the trip is memorable for all the right reasons:

The Planning Stages

So you’ve decided to go travelling with your family. What do you need to do to get organised?

Decide where you want to go

Perhaps the most obvious place to start would be deciding where you’d like to go. This could take some time, especially if you’ve both got long bucket lists of dream destinations. Find places you both want to go to, or work together to find some inspiration for destinations you both want to travel to.

Work out your Must-Do list

Once you’ve agreed on your destination, take the time to separately write down a list of what you would like to do and see at each place.

After you’ve each compiled your lists, compare them. Some things may be the same. If so, great! Add them in to your itinerary as they are important to both of you. If there are things that are different, and it’s not something you’re remotely interested in, compromise. Maybe when they go and do that, you’ll do something else on your list that they don’t particularly want to see.

While You’re There

So you’ve packed your bags, arrived at your destination and checked in to your accommodation. Excellent! Now how do you make sure everything runs smoothly from here?

Give each other space

When I’m visiting a city, I love to discover it’s history, and explore the heritage buildings, whereas my brother loves to hit the shops in the hope of finding something he can’t buy back home.

While I can spend part of my holiday shopping, and he can spend part of his time learning more about the history and culture of the destination we’re visiting, we get drained if we spend too much time on the thing the other person loves.

Therefore, we accept that we’re interested in seeing different things, and plan out our travelling days so that we’re together for the sights we both want to see, but also allow for time to split up and fulfill our own wish lists. Doing this also stops us from getting tired of being around each other 24/7.


Compromise is important when you’re travelling with other people. If you chose the restaurant you all ate at last night, perhaps tonight it’s the other person’s choice. Though you may not have as much freedom to do whatever you like when you’re with someone else as you do when you’re travelling solo, letting someone else choose may lead you to discover something fantastic that you wouldn’t have chosen yourself.

Don’t hold grudges

Nothing ruins a holiday faster than if you harbour regrets or antagonism towards the person you’re travelling with. On our recent visit to New York, my brother would stay up late and sleep in until lunch time, whereas I’d wake up in time to see the sunrise and want to start exploring. Instead of hanging around waiting for him to be ready, I went for morning walks by myself (avoiding the famous landmarks we both wanted to see), and therefore got to see Lincoln Centre, spend time in Greenwich Village, and explore the city on my own terms. If I hadn’t done this, I would have been angry at him for what I saw as wasting precious travel time. If something doesn’t go the way you wanted it to, either accept it or find a way to work around it. Don’t let your attitude ruin your holiday.

Hopefully these tips help get you in the right frame of mind when you’re travelling with your brother/s or sister/s! If you have any other tips you would like to share, feel free to write them in the comment section below.

And just before you go: today is my brother’s birthday! He has his own YouTube channel and vlogged our trip to the US and Ireland (blog posts to come soon!) last year. Check the vlogs out below for some travel inspiration!

New York

The Republic of Ireland

Northern Ireland

The Trees of Ta Prohm

The Trees of Ta Prohm

Out of all of the temples in Angkor, I was most looking forward to visiting Ta Prohm. From what I had seen online, it looked like an abandoned temple, left for the trees and vegetation of the area to consume it.

One of the most recognisable trees in Ta Prohm
One of the most recognisable trees in Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm was constructed in 1186 as a Buddhist monastery and temple dedicated to the mother of Khmer king Jayavarman VII. As Khmer rule moved elsewhere, Ta Prohm, like some of the other temple complexes in the area, succumbed to nature, leading to what we see now: the stones of the temple dislodged by the roots of large trees.

The masses of roots from this tree adds to the atmosphere of Ta Prohm
The masses of roots from this tree adds to the atmosphere of Ta Prohm

It is these trees and their spectacular root systems that set Ta Prohm apart from its neighbouring temples, which have been better maintained over the years. At Ta Prohm, the trees appear to be growing on the roof of the temple itself, their roots stretching over the stonework, clawing their way to the ground.

Tree root running along a wall of Ta Prohm
The shapes that the tree roots make are so interesting to me.

As you move through the temple complex, you see the effects of nature reclaiming the buildings as you come across walkways and corridors blocked off by rubble – fallen stones dislodged a long time ago as the tree roots fought their way through the temple walls. While restoration efforts by both Indian and Cambodian organisations are preventing further deterioration from occurring to Ta Prohm, you still feel like you have stumbled over a forgotten place (if you ignore the other visitors exploring the complex!).

Looking down one of the corridors in the temple complex
Looking down one of the corridors in the temple complex

When you do visit Ta Prohm, make sure to glance to your left as you walk back to the carpark. There you’ll see a somewhat out-of-place carving of what on first glance appears to be a stegosaurus. Whether it’s intended to be a dinosaur or something else entirely is up to you to decide!

While this carving looks like a stegosaurus, it could be a depiction of another animal entirely.
While this carving looks like a stegosaurus, it could be a depiction of another animal entirely.

How to Choose Your Next Adventure

How to Choose Your Next Adventure

It’s the start of 2017 and you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to ‘travel more’. However, there are so many places you could go in the world – 193 countries spread over seven continents – how do you choose where to go?

From other people’s travels

Have you started back at work this week only to hear about the great trip your colleague took over the holidays? Are you drooling over a location on your Instagram feed? Does one of your friends constantly talk of how great their recent vacation was?

Sometimes the best destinations come from the recommendations of others. Iceland didn’t become a must-see destination for me until it seemed like everyone I met during my travels had visited and loved it. Now it’s one of my favourite places in the world. My decision to go to Canada last year was made partly because of the stories my parents told me of their trip there, and partly because of the amazing photos I’d see on the Internet (yes, it really does look like that over there!).

Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake in Alberta, Canada. (Make sure you take the path up to the top of the Rockpile when visiting. There’s a lot of steps to climb but the view is absolutely worth it!)

From your favourite book

Whether fiction or non-fiction, some books describe a place in so much detail that we long to visit for ourselves. You could also flick through travel magazines at your local newsagency, or drop into the library and look through the travel guides for inspiration on where to travel in 2017.

From your favourite movie or TV show

How many Harry Potter fans have planned to visit Platform 9 3/4 in King’s Cross station, or to see the “Harry Potter bridge” in Scotland (otherwise known as the Glenfinnan Viaduct)?

Since movies and TV shows are so visual, their locations capture our attention and make us think “I’d love to go there!”. From visiting Sycamore Gap where a scene from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was filmed, to the locations in the Isle of Skye and Iceland that were featured in Stardust, movie filming locations are often the inspiration for my travel plans!

The Quiraing on the Isle of Skye
The Quiraing on the Isle of Skye: one of the locations for the movie Stardust

From your childhood dreams

Remnants of memories from when you were little could inspire you to re-visit that beach your family always went to during the summer. Or you could visit the real-world equivalents of the fairytales your parents read to you at night: the stories of Sleeping Beauty, the Pied Piper of Hamelin, the Three Musicians of Bremen and the Goose Girl come alive along Germany’s Fairytale Route. Then there’s one of the biggest childhood dreams of all: a trip to Disneyland!

Throw a dart at a globe

Just want to get away? Close your eyes and point at a random spot on the map, and see how that location makes you feel. If your first location doesn’t excite you, you could always try it a second time and see if you are more inspired by your second choice!

Follow your heart

Sometimes you just feel like going to a place without really knowing why. Something about the culture, history or ambience of the location calls out to you. Permit yourself to follow your heart – it won’t lead you astray!

What’s Happening in 2017!

What's Happening in 2017!


Happy New Year and welcome to 2017! I hope you celebrated last night in style surrounded by friends and family.

It’s the start of a new year and like a lot of people, I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to see, be, and achieve over the next 365 days.

After an epic 2016 with travels to the US, Ireland and Canada (posts coming soon!), I’m looking forward to where 2017 will take me. Some plans are already in the works, while others are just pipe dreams that may or may not eventuate, but I feel like sharing them here will keep me accountable and inspire me to work harder to achieve them!

Here are the destinations that I would love to travel to this year:

The capital cities of Australia

Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, and of course Australia’s capital, Canberra.
Over the past six years, most of my travel has been overseas. I’ve left travelling within my own country by the wayside, intrigued by the draws of foreign sights and culture. However, my childhood memories of summer holidays spent travelling around Australia with my family are fading faster the older I get. It’s time to make some new memories, and where better to start than our diverse capital cities?

Eastern Europe

Croatia, Slovenia, Romania and surrounds
Every single photo I see of Croatia and Slovenia makes me long to visit and see the beautiful lakes, picturesque towns and formidable castles for myself. It’s time to venture in to Eastern Europe!

Eastern Canada

I tried to visit the east coast of Canada as part of my Canadian Rockies trip last year, but didn’t have enough time to visit both the east and west coasts. I would love to visit Quebec (and it would be a good opportunity to practice my French!). We’ll wait and see whether a trip is on the cards for 2017.


Tasmania and Western Australia are the two Australian states that I have not had the opportunity to explore. That’s changing this year, when I plan to visit the Apple Isle for my birthday. I’m looking forward to exploring the beautiful Tasmanian forests, the walking trails and the early Australian history, though at the moment the part I’m most excited about is crossing Bass Strait on the overnight ferry!

Local day trips

When I’m home I tend to be a creature of habit, and when I’m not pottering around the house I seem to visit the same places over and over again. It’s time to break out of the mould and explore the restaurants, museums, national parks and places right near where I live that I never go to. There has to be more than the well-trodden tourist trails of zoos, wineries and beaches. It’s time to really explore my local area.

Hopefully 2017 can be a year filled with local, interstate and international travel for me, along with growing Castlephile Travels, finding ways of promoting and conserving Australia’s and the world’s historical monuments and areas, learning more about history and how those lessons can be applied to the present and indulging in other cultures and stories.

What are your travel goals for 2017? Please share them in the comments and let’s inspire each other to great things in 2017!

Castlephile Travels is now on Instagram! Follow me: @castlephile_travels

Phnom Penh from the Water: A Cruise Along Tonle Sap River

After a week of catching up with old friends, learning about the recent tragic history of Cambodia, and getting used to culture shock, we decided to go on an early evening river cruise to celebrate our last night in Phnom Penh.

Houses along the river in Phnom Penh
Houses along the river in Phnom Penh

After five days sweltering in the humidity, I was ready for a break from the weather. Even as the daily afternoon rains poured down, it did little to stop the sticky heat. Getting out on the water, away from the traffic and buildings, sounded like a nice way to escape to somewhere slightly cooler.

Walking down to the boats to begin the river cruise
Walking down to the boats to begin the river cruise

Our boat departed from Riverside, an area filled with markets, restaurants and hotels, right next to the Royal Palace complex. As the boat pulled away from its mooring, we slathered ourselves with mosquito repellant and headed to the back of the boat to take in the scenery.

More views of Phnom Penh from the river
More views of Phnom Penh from the river
Seeing Phnom Penh from the river gave us more time to appreciate the style of Cambodian buildings
Seeing Phnom Penh from the river gave us more time to appreciate the style of Cambodian buildings

Being on the water gave me a chance to look at Phnom Penh from a different angle than what we had seen zooming past us from the back of a tuk-tuk. We were out of the thick of the moto drivers, away from the constant beeping of horns and the random odd smells of the city itself.

The grandness of the Sokha Hotel from the river
The grandness of the Sokha Hotel from the river

We saw fishermen trawling for catches, local youths hanging out on the concrete river banks, and the grand Sokha Hotel on the eastern bank contrasting with the fishing boats that were clustered behind it.

Boats clustered behind the hotel
Boats clustered behind the hotel

As our boat slowly turned back once it had reached the confluence of the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers, Phnom Penh put on a beautiful view for us – a double rainbow.

A double rainbow: a lovely way to end the cruise!
A double rainbow: a lovely way to end the cruise!
Admiring the double rainbow from the back of the boat
Admiring the double rainbow from the back of the boat

Current Obsessions: Outlander

I’m currently obsessed with Outlander, the TV show based on Diana Gabaldon’s series of books of the same name. And when I say obssessed, I mean in the past three weeks I’ve watched both Seasons 1 and 2, and instead of enduring the wait for Season 3 of the TV series, have begun reading the third Outlander novel: Voyager.

After watching Neil Oliver’s documentary series A History of Scotland in 2013, I decided that I wanted to go to Scotland, but when I was there, I felt I didn’t quite understand how what I had seen on TV all fit together with what I was seeing on my travels. I loved Scotland: the beautiful Highlands with its lochs and castles, the dramatic islands of Orkney, Harris/Lewis and Skye. The stone circles intrigued me, and my Scottish tour guide had a thing for encouraging us to hug the stones – a habit I’ve adopted as I’ve visited more standing stones throughout Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland (though I’ve yet to fall through them and find myself in another time like the character of Claire does in Outlander!).

Callanish Standing Stones
Visiting the Callanish Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis

I felt deep sadness standing on the battlefield of Culloden, trying to imagine the bloody battle as I stared across the empty, flat moor, and took in the memorials and outdented bricks in the wall at the visitor’s centre which shows the vast number of Jacobite supporters who died during the battlein comparison with the British army.

Culloden Moor
The emptiness of Culloden Moor, where the Battle of Culloden took place

When I was visiting Scotland, I didn’t understand enough about the history to understand how important Bonnie Prince Charlie was to the clans who supported the Jacobite cause. I left Scotland with pieces of fact, fragments of clansmen tradition, and a whisper of folktale but still not really much of an idea of how it all fit together to form part of the history of Scotland.

Watching Outlander changed that. It gave me someone to relate to – someone who learned the history of Scotland as I did – through visiting the sites as a tourist – before they were plunged right into the middle of events as they unfolded. Things began to make sense and what I had seen during my travels began to jump out at me when they were touched on in the story. My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach whenever Culloden was mentioned, even when the characters were only passing by it and the day of the fateful battle was still years away in story-time. Maybe that’s part of why I like Outlander so much – we are right there with Claire figuring out how what we know of history is going to matter in the story.

Doune Castle
Doune Castle acts as Castle Leoch in the TV show

Seeing locations such as Doune Castle transformed into Outlander’s Castle Leoch, or the characters of Jamie and Claire wandering the streets of Prague done up as eighteenth-century Paris, brought back my own travel memories of visiting those places. Outlander has made me want to put Scotland back at the top of my where-to-go-to-next list!

Until then, I’ll have to be content with catching up on the novels while waiting for Season 3 to be filmed!

Adopting Traditions From My Travels: St Nicholas Day

St Nicholas Day
Celebrating the tradition of St Nicholas Day, with chocolate and small presents being left in children’s shoes

Tomorrow is St Nicholas Day (Nikolaustag), where ‘Saint Nicholas’ makes his yearly visit to the houses of children in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and many other countries throughout the world. If you’ve been well-behaved he’ll leave you chocolates and sweets. Been bad? Coal, twigs, or other less pleasant things might be headed your way.

The real Saint Nicholas was known for his generosity, and there are many stories about how he would use secret gift-giving to help those most in need. I first heard of Nikolaustag when I was eleven years old and sitting in my first year of German language classes. We learned about German children waiting anxiously for the arrival of Saint Nicholas and learned to sing German songs, such as “Sei gegruesst, lieber Nikolaus”. It all sounded wonderful – Saint Nicholas seemed to be a Christmas version of the Easter bunny, leaving chocolate in his wake.

Six years later, I experienced it first hand while on a German exchange trip. While Saint Nicholas visited the other students in my school group the morning of December 6, he took until that evening to get around to my host family’s house! There, in one of my boots left out by the stairs, was not only a Kinder Surprise and a bar of Milka chocolate, but also some gloves and a scarf. The extended family came over, songbooks were handed out, and a night of fun and song commenced (no “Sei gegrusst lieber Nikolaus” but plenty of other traditional German Christmas carols).

My brother stayed with the same family when he was on school exchange, and since he returned we’ve made sure to celebrate Nikolaustag every year. It usually falls right near our family’s long-held tradition of putting up our Christmas tree on the first Sunday of December, which is our first sign that the holiday season has started.

Have you ever adopted the traditions of other countries for yourself?

Christmas Tree Day: Celebrating Family Holiday Traditions

My family has many traditions around Christmas. From singing carols on Christmas Eve, to the extended family lunch, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without them.

Putting up the Christmas tree is my favourite of all of our family traditions. Each year, on the first Sunday of December, we get together, pull out the Christmas Tree box (my parents’ fake Christmas tree has lasted for more than 30 years and is still going (mostly) strong!), and put together the tree branches, string up the lights, and adorn the tree with tinsel, baubles and decorations. Since they’ve had the same tree and most of the same decorations for forever, there’s a lovely sense of nostalgia to the routine of putting up the Christmas tree.

My parents' 36 year old Christmas tree
My parents’ 36 year old Christmas tree. I couldn’t imagine Christmas without it.

This year is the first time I’ve had my own tree, so after we had gathered at my parents’ house to put together and decorate their tree, we all came around to my house to do the same for mine.

My Christmas tree
My Christmas tree. As the years go on and I travel more I hope to add more decorations! to it.

While travelling, I usually buy Christmas decorations to give to my parents as souvenirs, which makes decorating the Christmas tree that much more interesting. We reminisce about each decoration as it is given a place on the tree. Among them, there’s a puffin from Iceland, a Scottish guard from Edinburgh, and a train made out of Waterford crystal that I bought for Mum on my latest trip to Ireland.

My globe Christmas decoration
My globe Christmas decoration, bought in 2014 from an Oliver Bonas store when I was staying in London.

Now that my Christmas tree is up and my living room is decorated with candles and tinsel, it feels like Christmas is finally here. All I need is the weather to make up it’s mind and for the Aussie summer to show up – it’s currently 34 degrees Celsius here but pouring with rain!

What are your favourite holiday traditions?

Merry Christmas!
Merry Christmas!