Europe Travel Plans

What I want to get right during my trip to Eastern Europe

It’s been a while.

Not only am I returning to blogging, I’m looking forward to leaving this freezing winter behind, ready to catch the end of the European summer. In a few weeks I’ll be exploring Eastern Europe, and the closer it gets the more I find myself wanting to use this trip as a way of improving myself, as well as experiencing all of what Europe has to offer.

Reacquainting myself with solo travel

Statue in Veliky Novgorod
Statue in Veliky Novgorod

It’s been five years since I’ve travelled solo outside of my state. While I’ve taken many trips with friends and family, there’s something freeing about going on your own.

While I’ll be joining some group tours along the way, and I’ll have my fellow tour group members to go exploring with, I also want to take the time to make sure I experience the things that interest me most about the places I’m going to. I feel like it’s easier to break away from a tour group and do your own thing than it is when travelling with friends and family.

It’s also a way of clearing my mind from what has been a busy and stressful first half of 2018. About three-quarters through a trip, my mind has usually quietened and found enough space to relax and it becomes quite clear about what I need to do when I get back home.

Learning to pack lightly

I identify as a minimalist, and have been actively culling my possessions down to only those I love or use, ever since it first sunk in that the less things you own, the easier it is to travel.

While I’ll never be able to fit everything I own into one backpack, one area I really struggle with is taking too many clothes with me. My suitcase is full before I leave Australia.

I want this year to be different. I did a trial pack for my seven week trip the other week, pulling all of the clothes out of my cupboard and packing them into my suitcase. I ended up with three pairs of jeans, two pairs of trousers, three skirts, three dresses, and thirty tops. I know I try to avoid doing as much laundry as possible whilst I’m away, but this was kind of excesive.

At the same time, I’ve read a lot about people using packing cubes to organise their luggage while travelling. I didn’t quite understand it, and wrote it off in my head as something I didn’t need, but after seeing how many clothes I was trying to take away with me, I managed to get some on sale from Kathmandu, and am challenging myself to only take away with me the clothes that fit into one of their large packing cells. I’ll let you know how successful I am in a later post!

Brushing up on my German

The gardens of Schoenbrunn Palace
The gardens of Schoenbrunn Palace

I’m spending four days on this trip in Vienna, and as a challenge to myself I want to spend it speaking only German. I learned German in high school and have kept it up with a few refresher classes since, but immersing myself in a German-speaking city will help me with my confidence with speaking the language. Watch out for a post on how well I managed!

Doing justice to Vienna, Prague and Budapest

Overlooking Budapest from the dome of St Stephen's Basilica
Overlooking Budapest from the dome of St Stephen’s Basilica

This trip sees me travelling around Eastern Europe, including visiting Vienna, Prague and Budapest. I’ve been to these cities before back in 2010, however I never felt like I took the time to fully understand them. There are many reasons for that including that a few days earlier I had walked into a pole in Salzburg, which meant I had to walk around Vienna and Budapest feeling self-conscious about the plasters on my forehead marking my head injury, and then had to spend half of my time in Prague waiting in a doctor’s office so I could have the stitches taken out. It rained constantly in Budapest, reflecting my miserable mood, so after exploring the Grand Central Market and having a Tokay wine tasting, I spent the rest of the time catching up on sleep at the hotel. I looked at my photos of Budapest the other day and was amazed at how pretty the buildings were – I was in such a bad mindset at the time that I hadn’t even noticed.

This trip I want to spend some time admiring these capital cities for the magnificent places that they are.

Travel Plans

Checking In: March 2018

The craziness of Mad March is here! It’s easy to be inspired at this time of the year, as the intense forty-degree days of summer dissipate and the cooler autumn nights set in. The Adelaide Fringe Festival, the Adelaide Festival, and Adelaide Writer’s Week are all on at the moment, full of performances and talks by creative and inspiring people, and re-igniting my own creativity.

Last Friday I spent a couple of hours listening to Cole Porter songs and Sinatra standards while cruising along the River Torrens on the Popeye – a boat that holds a lot of childhood memories and is a South Australian icon. Afterwards we joined the crowd admiring the mesmerising Parade of Light along North Terrace. The projections are always beautiful to watch, but the most impressive was the Borealis, a clever combination of smoke and light wafting over the gardens of the South Australian Museum, which almost made up for me sleeping through the real thing.

Popeye riverboat
The Popeye cruising along the River Torrens

I’ve finally booked in my trip to Eastern Europe that was on my 2017 travel wish list! While I’m missing out on Romania this time, I’ll be exploring a lot of other countries which will be new to me, including Slovakia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Croatia.

I’ll also be spending a day or two in Český Krumlov – a medieval town in the Czech Republic recommended to me eight years ago as somewhere I’d love. I’m also returning to some places, including Vienna, Budapest, and Prague, since due to seeking medical attention and walking around with plasters on my forehead after colliding with a shop awning in Salzburg, I didn’t see everything I would have liked to the first time around.

Now I’m off to spend the afternoon at the Garden of Unearthly Delights, soak up the Fringe atmosphere and be re-inspired.

Travel Plans

Checking In: The Mid-Year Review (2017)

The Mid-Year Review

I have no idea where the first half of 2017 went. Surely it was only a few weeks ago when I was dreaming up travel plans for this year? Yet somehow I am sitting here with my laptop, listening to it pour with rain outside, counting the days to when winter is over and wondering how the first half of 2017 has passed without travelling much at all.

The 2017 Travel Goals List

Back in January, I came up with a list of dream destinations to visit in 2017. Some plans are still in the works and others have fallen through. So what’s still on my travel list for this year?

The capital cities of Australia

With trips to Sydney and Melbourne planned in September, dropping in to Hobart to visit relatives as part of the Great Tasmanian Odyssey in October, and spending my weekends venturing around my home town of Adelaide, by the end of the year I would have visited four out of the eight capital cities (the others being Perth, Darwin, Brisbane, and the capital of Australia: Canberra). Half of them isn’t that bad, right?

Eastern Europe and Eastern Canada

My plans to visit Croatia, Slovenia and Romania fell through due to scheduling issues. Hopefully early next year I’ll be able to get to Vlad’s Transylvanian castle, the lakes and waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes and the picturesque towns of Slovenia.

The Eastern Canada trip will have to be moved back, too.


Tasmania is definitely happening, and I’ll be waking up on my birthday on the Spirit of Tasmania, the ferry that makes the crossing over Bass Strait between Melbourne and Devonport. From there, the plan is to go hiking around Cradle Mountain, spend some time exploring the north-western coastline of Tasmania, venture down to Hobart to visit relatives, learn more about Australia’s convict past by visiting Port Arthur, get my fill of the heritage homes that are around Evandale and take in the spectacular scenery that Tasmania is famous for.

Local day trips

Staying so close to home during the first half of the year has meant that I’ve been able to take advantage of what my local region has to offer. However, there’s still so much more I’d like to explore this year!

During the next six months, I would love to:

  • Take a day trip out to the Naracoorte Caves, the only UNESCO heritage site in South Australia
  • Return to Moonta, a mining town originally settled by the Cornish, where I grew up
  • Learn more about my family history by visiting the Barossa Valley towns of Tanunda and Nuriootpa, where both my mum’s and dad’s fathers settled when they migrated to Australia from Germany in the 1880s
  • Explore Kangaroo Island
  • Visit one of the major salt lakes
  • Visit Martindale Hall, where Picnic at Hanging Rock was filmed
  • Do the Adelaide Oval Roof Climb
  • Face my fear of ghosts at the Adelaide Gaol
  • Explore the Tunnels that are underneath Adelaide (already signed up to do this in August – can’t wait!)

There’s so much to look forward to!

What are your travel plans for the next half of the year?

Travel Plans

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!

Travel Plans

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

Travel Plans

November Travels: Travelling across Europe with my brother

By the time this post is appears online, I’ll be at the airport, bags already checked in, waiting to board the plane for my next adventure: four weeks travelling through Belgium, France and the UK.

Travelling with my brother

It’s going to be interesting: over the past few years my travels have been solo (along with some group tours). This time will be different – I’ll be spending four weeks travelling with my brother, Ryan.

When we were young, our family took trips together every school holidays. We even spent three months of 1991 living in a caravan as we drove up through Coober Pedy, learned about Aboriginal culture, climbed Uluru, and watched crocodiles in Kakadu and the Daintree, before driving down the east coast through Brisbane and Sydney and heading home. Our parents have instilled in us a love of travel that we still as adults.

Climbing Ayer's Rock
My brother and I climbing Ayer’s Rock (Uluru) – a pretty impressive feat for a five and a seven year old!

Ryan’s beyond excited about going to Europe. He’s even joining me in creating digital media and has set up his own YouTube channel (Subscribe to see what we get up to, and be prepared to listen to a lot of bad roadtrip sing-alongs!).

Meanwhile, I have mixed feelings about this trip.

My worries and concerns:

  • Turning in to the bossy, know-it-all older sister: I need to watch myself, and make sure I don’t kill my brother’s enthusiasm for being in Europe with my list of where-I-think-we-should-gos, what-I-think-we-should-dos, and when-I-think-we-should-do-thems. It would be very easy for me to slip into my Miss I-Am-Always-Right persona. I need to make sure I let him come to his own conclusions about independent overseas travel and not overwhelm him with my own opinions.
  • My brother’s tendency to be accident prone. My brother tends to attract trouble in the form of bodily injury (he’s nicknamed himself ‘Mr Bump’ after the Mr Men character). Back, shoulder, foot ligaments, he’s hurt them all (and that’s just in the last 300 days). When I’m at home, I’m fine, though while travelling I’ve managed to walk into a pole and split my head open in Salzburg, and have sustained a swollen knee in Moscow after falling down a flight of stairs wearing my 20kg backpack. Putting the two of us together could spell trouble.
  • Needing a break. I have never travelled for more than ten days with just one other person. Usually I alternate between solo travel and group travel. And as much as we get on with each other, we are going to need a break every now and then. We might need to go our separate ways for a few hours after we arrive in the UK and are back on English-speaking soil and I have put aside my role as the French interpreter.
  • Castle fatigue: My brother is excited about this trip. He’s been counting down the days. He’s signed on to what is inevitably a castle tour and has voluntarily come up with about fifty castles that are near where we are travelling. That’s fantastic for me (and for this blog), but how long will it last?

What I’m looking forward to:

  • Playing tour guide: I love Paris, feel like I could live in Scotland, and know my way around London. I have my favourite spots and places to recommend that he should see. Together with his own European bucket list, I’m looking forward to showing him around, sharing with him the history of these places and what they mean to me.
  • Travelling with one of the people who knows me best. My brother and I tend not to hold grudges. Even if we’re livid with each other, we know to give it a few hours and then everything will be back to normal.  He even accepts my castle addiction!
  • Visiting places I’ve always wanted to go to: Although this trip will see me back in my favourite cities of Paris, Edinburgh, and London, I’ll also be going to some places that have been on my Travel List for a while. We’ll be going to Bruges to see the canals and buildings that everyone raves about. We’ll visit several film locations from the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and see where the legend started by exploring Sherwood Forest and Nottinghamshire. And for the first time on my travels I’ll have access to a car, and be able to get myself to those places that trains don’t get me close enough to (Chatsworth, I’m looking at you).
  • Getting to say ‘Remember when…?’ The worst thing about solo travel is that when you get home, you can’t sit back and reminisce about your travels with anyone else. If you try it with someone who hasn’t been to the locations you have, their eyes tend to glaze over. If you try reminiscing with someone who visited, you’ll more often than not get them trying to one-up you with their own experiences. What you need is someone who was there with you, who knows first hand how hilarious it was to get off at the wrong train station, or how angry you were that your suitcase broke on the third day of your holiday. Hopefully we’ll have a few stories from this trip that will stay in our shared memory for a long time.
Train carriage on the Kuranda Railway
Taking it easy on the Kuranda Railway

The November Weather Report

A change of plans saw our original holiday of four weeks in New Zealand switched for exploring Belgium, France and the UK. Though the location changed, our annual leave dates did not.

The result? We are heading in to Europe in November.

After several Google searches, it seems that people have mixed feelings about how bad the November weather in Europe is. It runs the gamut from the weather being cool with snatches of sunlight and the cities being free from summer’s bustling crowd of tourists, to all tourist attractions being shut down, the sky dumping a deluge on those people who stay there for November and everyone basically having a miserable time. One of the quotes I read on TripAdvisor recommended against travelling to Europe, since it wasn’t summer, and the charm of Christmas wouldn’t have made its appearance yet.

With so many mixed opinions, we’ve decided to go in November anyway. If we expect it to constantly rain, then we’ll be happily surprised when it doesn’t. We know what we’re getting into temperature-wise – we’ve been through snowy Januarys in Germany, so know that we can get out and explore even when it’s near freezing outside and the hours of daylight dwindle to six a day. We even had a cold winter in Adelaide to prepare us – we had a week’s worth of the maximum temperature hovering between ten and thirteen degrees.

And going in November has made it easier to narrow down our castle list – it’s true that quite a lot of them are closed to the public from November onwards. But we still have a pretty long list of castles, palaces and stately homes to choose from that keep their doors open year round.

Miniature Castle, Batchelor
Be prepared for lots of photos of us standing in front of castles – like this one from a miniature display village in Batchelor, except with us being twenty years older!

For the next twenty-eight days, I want to expose the European November weather and document it and how it affects our travel plans, so the next person who Googles What’s the weather like in Europe in November? can read through these posts to add to their confusion find out what it was like for us.

So share our journey with us and follow us on the Castlephile Travels Facebook page to find out whether it all goes to plan!

We’ll see you in Europe!