Simple Pleasures

Over the past few days, I’ve been reading Lessons from Madame Chic, a book about author Jennifer L Scott’s study abroad trip to Paris, and the habits and traditions upheld by her French host family which she has brought into her everyday life.

Lessons from Madame Chic got me thinking about my own school exchange trip to Germany, and my own host family. The more I thought about the time I spent with them, the more nostalgic I became about the whole experience. If Jennifer could bring aspects of her host family that she liked and admired in to her life, could I do the same?

Radio in the Morning

Madame Chic would prepare breakfast while listening to the radio. Having the radio playing in the mornings had also been a staple in my own host family’s routine.

Lately I’ve picked up the habit of having the morning news on TV playing as I get ready for work. Unfortunately, I’ve tended to watch it when I should be listening to it, which means I waste time and make myself late for work. I’ve decided to listen to the radio instead, and have been switching between the local radio station, and listening to French and German Internet radio stations, to practice my languages while getting ready in the morning. It’s been a far more relaxing start to my day!

The Magic of Driving in the Dark

I spent December and January living with my German host family, which meant that the sun didn’t rise until 8AM and it was dark soon after 4PM. It took about forty minutes to drive from the village we lived in to the school in the nearest town. The drive there was soothing; there was something about driving in the morning darkness that has stuck with me ever since.

Kaffee trinken

After coming home from school and work, my German host family would all congregate and have Kaffee trinken (literally, ‘to drink coffee’) together, which was basically a daily afternoon tea where we’d have coffee and hot chocolate, as well as homemade cakes and biscuits. It was one of my favourite traditions. It was nice to come home and relax for a bit, and catch up with everyone, before the rush of the evening routine began.

When I went back to visit my host family in the summer, homemade lemonade replaced the hot beverages and fresh fruit bought from a roadside seller replaced the heavier baked goods, but it was still a nice and relaxing interlude as day turned into evening.

Weekend Explorers

Maybe it was because they had an exchange student with them, but it seemed like every weekend we were going out and exploring the local area. I was lucky enough to see many of the castles which dotted the countryside, climb the Harz mountains (and watch my hair freeze!), go sledding in the freshly fallen snow, and visit gorgeous Christmas markets. It reminded me of the days when Mum and Dad used to take my brother and I on Sunday drives, where we’d take off in the car for a day and stop at whatever place looked interesting. It’s a habit I should really pick up again. I don’t really do much travelling when I’m home, and I need to make it more of a priority – there’s so many interesting things to do and beautiful places to explore!

Christmas Traditions

I stayed with my host family over Christmas and New Year’s. Every family has their own unique Christmas traditions. For my own family, it’s putting the Christmas tree up on the first Sunday in December, having a huge get together with my extended family the week before Christmas, baking gingerbread biscuits, singing along with my family to the televised carols on Christmas Eve, and eating so much for Christmas Day lunch that we don’t eat anything for dinner! My host family had their own traditions. They made their own carol songbooks (and included some English language carols for me alongside their traditional German carols) and brought them out several times in the lead-up to Christmas. They lit Advent candles and my host parents made an Advent calendar for each of us where we received a small toy or a chocolate every day in the lead-up to Christmas. They baked Stollen and biscuits, and visited Christmas markets. They gave each other gifts on Christmas Eve, and then spent the next three days celebrating with family gatherings.

My brother has also spent time over Christmas with the same host family (they’ve even hosted my parents!), and every year since then we’ve included German carols in our repertoire. Our favourites? Kling Glöckchen, Oh es riecht gut! and the traditional Stille Nacht.

I am so fortunate for having spent time with my host family – my time in Germany wouldn’t have been as wonderful without them. I must keep in mind what I enjoyed the most about spending time with them, and incorporate what I can into my daily routine, remembering to appreciate the simple pleasures in life.


Hello February!

Hello February!Where did January go?! Every year it seems that time speeds up and each month flashes by faster than the last one. Now January has disappeared in a haze of summer holidays and February is already upon us! Time to make some plans for this month.

I never do well with following up on my New Year’s resolutions in January. With the start of a new month, it’s a perfect time to reboot, and plan to fit more language learning, day trips, and relaxation into my days.

Here’s what I’m working on for February:

Re-introducing myself to French

This will technically be the sixth year I’ve learned French, so you’d expect me to be pretty good, right? Mais non! Having taken a break from it since last October, I can feel myself forgetting my vocab and grammar. Classes start back this month, and at the level I’m at, staying quiet and self-doubting in class is not an option anymore. If I’m going to get better, I must practice speaking.

I need to drag out my French books, brush up on my vocab, and face my fears of conversing in French by attending my local French Meetup Group.

If you have any suggestions to help with this, I’d love to hear them!


I’ve taken a break from blogging, mainly due to the lack of faith I had in my writing style, and why people would care about what I write. Every time I’d sit down to write I would judge myself even before I had written anything. My mind would go blank and the doubts would creep in. This changes this month.

I need to establish a writing routine and stick to it. If I keep showing up to write, eventually the writing will happen.

Exploring my local area

I want to travel more around South Australia as well as interstate. We have so many great and interesting things to see and do here in Australia, that I want to take advantage of what my local area has to offer.

It’s unseasonably cool here in Australia at the moment (last weekend was in the low twenties) – the perfect weather to get out and about exploring the Adelaide Hills and checking out the city.

Finalising my next overseas trip

I’m currently planning to visit the US and go to Disneyland, which I’m really excited about, and working out how to fit in Canada and Ireland into the same trip. Scotland and Norway, get ready to meet your match!

What are your plans for February?


How to be a bad blogger

How to be a bad blogger

Castlephile Travels recently celebrated its first birthday. That’s an important milestone for a blog – it should be a sign of determination and commitment. However, over the past year I haven’t been a very good blogger.

My blog stats say that I’ve published 56 posts since I first started this blog. Fair enough, you might say. That’s an average of almost one per week. But in reality as time goes by I’m publishing less frequently. This time last year, posts would come out at least once a week. Now, I manage one post a month. That’s not good enough.

So what bad blogging habits have I picked up, and what do I need to do to improve?

Being afraid and procrastinating

It’s true – it’s been a month since my latest post about movies that have inspired me to travel, a post that I’d been working on since February.

Obviously I allow myself to procrastinate. A lot.

It’s hard to admit, but the main reason for my procrastination comes down to fear. What I call writer’s block is just a term for covering up my fear of failure. I worry that the time I put into this blog is not worth it, that my posts aren’t interesting and that my writing is not good enough to the point where I can’t make myself write anything.

Blogging regularly should be easy for me. I have hundreds of random ideas, half-drafted stories, and almost-finished blog posts stored away on my computer, however I am not ready to press ‘Publish’ on them yet. I should be sharing with you about my struggle to get to Neuschwanstein Castle, or how falling in love with the Loire Valley inspired me to learn French, or the time I went inside the magma chamber of an Icelandic volcano, but this irrational fear I have doesn’t let me. Instead, I tell myself excuses about how I can catch up on my writing later. By giving in to these fears I am doing both my blog and my writing a disservice. I need to believe in myself again.

Forgetting about social media

I appreciate everyone who shows their support and follows me on Facebook and on BlogLovin’. It gives me a creative boost and puts a smile on my face knowing that someone likes my work enough to want to see more of it.

However, I need to improve my use of social media. If you look at the Castlephile Travels Facebook Page, you’d think it was abandoned. There’s a couple of recent posts, and some likes, but I’m definitely not posting on there as much as I would like to.

While it’s okay not to be on all forms of social media at once (The idea of simultaneously running accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Trover, Snapchat and Periscope seems like it would be overwhelming for me and take up all of my time – I’ll get one social media account under control first before looking into any others!), if you are on social media, then you should make an effort to keep it updated. So in the coming weeks I’ll be paying more attention to my Facebook account (follow Castlephile Travels on Facebook and keep me accountable!).

Staying in my own bubble

One of my worst habits is lurking on the Internet. I read inspiring blog posts all the time but rarely comment on them. I’m in a Facebook group for travel bloggers but have never reach out to them for help.

Connecting with other bloggers provides you with a support group when things go badly. They understand what blogging means to you and can commiserate with the lows and celebrate the highs with you. I need to connect with other bloggers rather than keeping myself isolated.

Comparing myself with others

I have been an avid reader of travel blogs since 2010, when I found all of these blogs written by women my age who had the courage to travel solo. However, now that I have my own blog I find myself comparing Castlephile Travels to their blogs.

Comparing my blog to someone who has been working on theirs for five or more years is just crazy. There’s no way I should be comparing the success of my blog to theirs – I haven’t had the same time to build my following, work on my writing or figure out what I want Castlephile Travels to be.

Even comparing Castlephile Travels with other blogs around the same age as it is not great – their owners have been regularly posting content, making connections, reaching out to companies and promoting their work.

I need to forget about comparing my blog with other blogs. Instead, I need to focus on creating a vision for what I want it to be, and then work to align my blog with my vision.

Forgetting why I’m blogging

A sure sign of being a bad blogger is forgetting why you started blogging in the first place.

My main reason for starting this blog? I wanted to provide a place to share information about travelling. While planning my travels over the years, I’ve had many questions for which I couldn’t find detailed answers. What was the best way of getting to Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich? Was the Paris Museum Pass really worth it? How could I get from the Steel Rigg carpark to Sycamore Gap by following Hadrian’s Wall? This blog is the result – my place to share my travelling stories; my love of castles, history and fairy-tales; and the information I would have found useful during my trip research.

The other reason is to give me an outlet to practice my writing. I’m in a place now where I’m ready to commit myself to a consistent writing practice. I want to improve myself, my blog and my writing by letting go of my bad behaviours and fostering better blogging habits.

What struggles have you had with your blog?


10 Movies That Have Inspired My Travel

One of my favourite ways to relax is to spend two hours escaping in to the world of a movie. I want to be where the action takes place – see the river crossing, stand in the castle courtyard, breathe in the salty air of the beach. I watch until the end of the credits to find out where I can visit the settings for myself, and my travel list quickly builds up!

Once I’ve been there, I never watch the movie in the same way again. Now I know more about the scene – I remember the sound of the waterfall, how the sand gave way under my feet, the wrong turn I took on the drive to get there. More often than not, re-watching the movie makes me long to return to the destination.

Here are ten films that have either inspired my travels or had me racing to my computer to watch the movie just for the chance to see how it showcased the location I’d just visited.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

ENGLAND: Alnwick Castle, Sycamore Gap, Aysgarth Falls

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was one of my favourite movies growing up, and when Alnwick Castle and Sycamore Gap both came up as day trip options when I was visiting Edinburgh, I knew I had to book myself in. Time restrictions meant that I had to choose between one or the other, and the castlephile in me jumped at the chance to go to Alnwick Castle, which served a minor role in the film (they have a framed arrow from the movie hanging on the wall in the castle garden’s gift shop).

Alnwick Castle
Alnwick Castle in Northumberland has been the filming location for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and the Harry Potter movies

I was back in the UK a year later with the freedom of a hire car, determined to tick more Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves film locations off of my bucket list. My next location was the tree along Hadrian’s Wall where on his way home to Nottingham from fighting in the Crusades, Robin first meets Guy of Gisborne. Despite spending hours scouring the Internet working out how to get to Sycamore Gap, when we parked at Steel Rigg Car Park and slowly edged our way along Hadrian’s Wall, the howling wind and darkening skies almost made us turn back without seeing the tree. Luckily, as I peered over the wall down into the next valley, there was Sycamore Gap!

Sycamore Gap
The Sycamore Gap section of Hadrian’s wall – one of the more famous locations from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Travelling through the Lakes District from Penrith to York offered up two waterfalls from the movie. The inn that charges admission to see Hardraw Force was locked up when we visited. We had more success at Aysgarth Falls, where Robin and Little John’s fight was filmed, and spent an hour exploring the Upper, Lower and Middle Falls.

Aysgarth Falls
In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Aysgarth Falls is the backdrop to Robin Hood and Little John’s fight

Stardust (2007)

SCOTLAND: The Quiraing, Isle of Skye
ICELAND: Jökulsárlón

The Quiraing on the Isle of Skye
The Quiraing on the Isle of Skye

Stardust is one of my favourite films. Adapted from the novel by Neil Gaiman, it sees Tristan Thorne setting out on a quest to bring back a fallen star to prove his love to shallow Victoria, while evading murderous princes out to gain themselves a throne, and witches seeking eternal youth by capturing the star for themselves.

Jökulsárlón ice beach
The surreal ice sculptures washed up on the beach in Iceland

The countryside of Stormhold, the fantastical land in Stardust, looked so stunning that I assumed it was all CGI. I only discovered it was real when my Scottish tour guide mentioned the Quiraing might seem familiar as Stardust had been filmed there. And now, re-watching the film, I can see the deep emerald green of the Scottish Highlands and the Quiraing on the Isle of Skye, and the beauty of the ice washed up along the beach at Jökulsárlón.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

FRANCE: Notre-Dame de Paris

The chimera of Notre Dame
Disney’s adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame made me determined to visit the towers and their monsters for myself!

The Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame introduced me to the story of Quasimodo and his life up in the belltowers of Notre-Dame de Paris. While the cathedral itself is beautiful, with its rose windows and sculpture, climbing up to the towers into Quasimodo’s world to visit the gargoyles and chimera (and to see one of the best views of Paris) was what inspired me to make visiting Notre Dame a must. 

The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

FRANCE: Palais Garnier

Inside the theatre of the Palais Garnier
The Phantom of the Opera is rumoured to have lurked in the Palais Garnier, and even has his own box!

The 2004 cinematic version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical The Phantom of the Opera made me determined to visit the Palais Garnier, the Parisian Opera House that the phantom was rumoured to haunt. Although a tour of the ornate Palais Garnier doesn’t take you to the underground lake where the Phantom made his home, it does play on the popularity of The Phantom of the Opera with a plaque naming Box 5 as belonging to the Phantom.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

SCOTLAND: Doune Castle

Doune Castle
Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed at Doune Castle
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is my favourite of all the Python films – and most of it was filmed at Doune Castle. Some friends had told me that Doune Castle in Scotland was the castle from the “French Taunters” scene, and I was so excited to be there that I skipped around in front of the castle pretending to clap coconut halves together, while imagining French guards taunting us from the top of the castle with a giant wooden rabbit lurking just out of sight in the woods. It was only after re-watching the DVD when I came home that I realised that most of the movie was filmed in and around Doune Castle!

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)


Some of the most spectacular scenery featured in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is in Iceland
In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Walter spends his routine life only daydreaming about being adventurous, until one day his sense of loyalty takes him on a quest through Greenland, Iceland and the Himalayas. The movie shows off the stunning Icelandic scenery, and made me long to go back and spend more time in one of my favourite countries explore Iceland’s fjords, waterfalls and volcanoes!

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

The Moulin Rouge at night
The Moulin Rouge is most impressive at nighttime

 Baz Luhrmann’s movie about a disinherited writer who falls in love with a courtesan while writing a play to be staged in the Moulin Rouge was my introduction to one of the most well-known nightclubs in Montmartre. The Moulin Rouge, with the red windmill that gives it its name, looks its best all lit up at night.

The Sound of Music (1965)

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

The Austrian town of Salzburg serves as the backdrop to much of The Sound of Music. There’s even a Sound of Music tour that will take you to many of the filming locations. I preferred to walk around Salzburg’s Old Town, and to spend time relaxing in the Mirabell Gardens, with Do Re Mi playing in my head!

The Monuments Men (2014)

Michelangelo's Madonna and Child
Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child was one of the artworks rescued by The Monuments Men

In The Monuments Men, a group of museum curators and art historians are tasked with saving priceless art from being stolen and destroyed by the Nazis in World War II. In the film, one of the Monuments Men dedicates himself to defending Michaelangelo’s Madonna and Child. I’d never heard about the statue before, and wanting to learn more, I took the opportunity to see the master’s work at the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk in Bruges.

 The movie brought home to me how important it is to preserve our artistic heritage. Standing in front of the Madonna and Child, I thought about how it and other masterpieces could have been lost forever if not for the men who risked their lives to ensure the safety of thousands of artworks during the second World War so that I could visit them today.

Ever After (1998)

Château de Fontainebleau
Château de Fontainebleau, one of King Francis I’s residences

Ever After, an updated take on the Cinderella story, is responsible for my love of French chateaux and interest in French Renaissance history during the reigns of Francis I and Henry II. Though I’ve yet to visit the Dordogne, where Château de Hautefort, Château de Beynac, and other locations from the movie, are located (they’re on my list!), I have visited the real castles lived in by the historical Francis and Henry, including Château de Chambord, Château de Fontainebleau and the Louvre.

Which films have inspired you to travel? Share them in the comments!


Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father's Day

Today is Fathers’ Day in Australia and New Zealand, the day where we take time to appreciate our relationship with our fathers and what they mean to us.

I caught the travel bug from my parents. While I was growing up, we spent our weekends going on drives, hiking through national parks and visiting historical landmarks. School holidays saw our family travelling around Australia, and my parents supported both my brother and I when we had the opportunity to live in Germany as part of our school’s student exchange program.

My parents showed me that it was possible to take long overseas trips and still have a day job. Together they’ve travelled to every continent, and spend their free time improving their photography skills.

Ever since he got online in 1997, Dad’s met and kept in touch with people from all over the world. He likes numbers and statistics and lodges my tax for me. He has an affinity for emus: when he talks to them, the emus respond (it’s a kind of a weird glounk sound). Dad loves trying new beers on his travels, quotes lines from The Castle and gets a little bit too distracted by Farm Town. He’s also an avid coin and stamp collector, which makes buying souvenirs for him really easy!

Dad has always supported me in everything I’ve done. He helped me with programming logic during my IT degree and over the years he’s saved the discarded drafts of my short stories and writing projects. He’s always a Skype call away if anything goes wrong while I’m travelling. He pretends to understand when I speak to him in German. He is always the first to read any of the posts on this blog and actively promotes Castlephile Travels and my writing whenever he can.

Without my Dad being the person he is, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

So thankyou for everything, Dad. Happy Father’s Day!


Right Place, Wrong Time: Three Sights I Didn’t See

Travelling can lead to some amazing experiences and sights that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. But sometimes the travel gods are against you, and while you might be in the right place, you are most definitely there at the wrong time.

Thankfully, none of these times have been life-threatening, but after years of planning and anticipation, you can’t help but be disappointed to turn up somewhere and not be able to see the thing you came for (though it does give you a reason for a return trip!).

The Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

On my first overseas trip at 17, I had two things I wanted to see: the Brandenburg Gate and Neuschwanstein Castle. I managed neither – our group of exchange students voted against going to Neuschwanstein, and when it came to the Brandenburg Gate, well, it just wasn’t how I had pictured it …

The Brandenburg Gate, undergoing restoration works in 2001.
The Brandenburg Gate, undergoing restoration works in 2001.


Nine years later, I made it back to Berlin and was so excited to see the actual Brandenburg Gate!

The Brandenburg Gate
My favourite part of visiting Berlin – seeing the Brandenburg Gate!

The Bridge of Sighs, Venice

Advertising surrounding The Bridge of Sighs
Almost the perfect image of The Bridge of Sighs, complete with gondolier. If only there weren’t any ads…

Oh, advertising. You really are everywhere. Even covering up restoration work on the second most famous bridge in Venice. What should have been an idyllic scene was almost choked by Coca Cola ads.

The Northern Lights, Norway

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of all was having the Northern Lights dazzle in the sky above me while I was fast asleep! The next morning we woke up to the rest of our tour group gushing about the incredible experience they had and showing us the photos that they had taken. After that we stayed up night after night waiting to see the Northern Lights for ourselves, but the sky was too cloudy to be able to see the light show.

Now it’s your turn! Have you ever been in the right place at the wrong time?