Behind the Blog – Meet Natalie from Cosmos Mariners: Destination Unknown

Hi! I’m Natalie, and I blog over at Cosmos Mariners: Destination Unknown. Although I’ve been blogging on different platforms for many years, I didn’t get serious about my blogging and freelance writing until right before I had my daughter back in 2013. I wanted to find a career that allowed me to work from home—as my then-current job as a college literature professor wouldn’t—and I decided to give the blogging and freelancing thing a go. Three years later, and my travel blog has grown beyond my wildest imagination! I am a deeply nerdy person, so I love all things artsy, cultural, and literature-based, and that’s where I focus my travel blogging. You’ll find posts about museums and historical sights, but I do my best to make them fun (and sometimes a little funny) so learning isn’t all boring and dry. When I’m not writing, photographing, or researching something for the blog, you can find me reading (post-World War II British fiction is my jam), hanging out with my husband and two kids (a 3.5 year old daughter and a newborn son), or sewing (you’ll have to rip my embroidery machine out of my cold, dead hands).

Where are you based/located?

I live in Charleston, South Carolina. I was born here, moved around during my younger years thanks to my dad’s job, then came back here in middle school. After leaving again for college and grad school, I did my best to live anywhere but Charleston since I wanted a fresh start, but, 400 job applications later, I managed to find one teaching job here. It was 2010 and deep into the recession, and people were firing liberal arts teachers instead of hiring them, so I took what I could get. Almost 7 years later, and I am glad I was brought back to Charleston; it’s a very different place than where I grew up, but mostly, it’s changed for the better. My husband works a very location based job, so that’s always a consideration, but we’d eventually like to move somewhere else when our kids get a bit older. We’ve even tossed around the idea of doing a year-long trip when they’re in elementary or middle school, which would be SO much fun.

What first sparked your love for travel?

My mom and dad were always taking my younger sister and I somewhere as kids. We were a regular middle class family, but my mom and dad always made sure that the budget included everything from small weekend long trips to different parts of the Appalachian mountains to a massive road trip to Prince Edward Island, Canada. Their emphasis on travel made me so excited to pack up my suitcase and experience different parts of the world, which is something that still hasn’t changed.

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What are some of your favorite countries to visit?

I am a complete and utter Angophile—I’ve been to England half a dozen times in 12 years, I studied abroad in London during college, and I focused my thesis on London literature. England will always be my first love in travel, and I will never, ever get tired of it. However, variety is the spice of life, so I do adore other places including Ireland (so green! so friendly! so pretty!), the Bahamas (particularly the Out Islands), and Scotland (so many kilts, so little time).

Are there any places you’d tell people to avoid? 

I’m one of those people who can find the silver lining in just about anything, so there aren’t too many places that I’ve flat out hated. We had a terrible experience in Paris where we were mugged on the Metro; on the same trip, people were very rude to us all over the city, which really put a damper on the entire experience. I’m not sure that would stop me from going back—or telling people to never go to Paris—because I absolutely loved the Louvre, Versailles, and Sacre Couer. In my home state of South Carolina, I personally would never vacation in either Columbia or Myrtle Beach when Charleston is so much more historical and flat-out prettier, but people love both of those places; different strokes for different folks, I guess.

What is your favourite memory that comes to mind when you think about your travels?

It’s a toss up between two times: one in the Bahamas and one in Germany. My sister and I (who both went to the same university) signed up for a Bahamas-themed class my last semester at Clemson; as a part of the class, we got to visit Andros Island for 2 weeks in the middle of the semester. When we got on the island, my teacher took the class to this desolate road, parked the van, and said, “Let’s go!” He took us three miles across the boggiest terrain imaginable and we all thought he was crazy. But on the other end of the massive field of itchy grass and mud was a completely pristine beach. There wasn’t anyone between us and the eastern coast of Florida! We had the best time on that beach, and it made me realize how a little bit of trouble could introduce you to some incredible places. My other favorite memory was on my daughter’s first international trip: as a part of it, we went to Schloss Linderhof in Germany. The docent gave her a pamphlet on King Ludwig, and she fell in love. She talked about King Ludwig for the rest of the trip, and fell even more in love with him after she visited Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. Seeing her get excited about learning and travel made me so happy!

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Any advice for new and aspiring travellers?

Don’t get overwhelmed—there are so many trips out there that it can easy make your head spin! If you’ve never traveled before, try out a few longer trips in your region or country; if you manage that, then go further afield and start to deal with customs, passports, and the like.

What destinations are on your bucket list?

The short list includes the Northern Lights (so maybe Iceland, Canada, or Alaska), the Alhambra in Spain, the Amalfi Coast in Italy, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and Volcano National Park in Hawaii.

Do you have any upcoming travel plans for 2017?

Yes! We’re starting out with a very kid-friendly trip to Walt Disney World: it will be a birthday trip for my mom, and my sister, my two kids, and I will be going with her. My son was just born in November 2016, so I figured this would be a good way to ease back into travel now that I have two little ones. We’re also going to the Outer Banks of North Carolina so my husband can run a half-marathon there in the spring. Then, in May, the four of us are going on a Western U.S. road trip through Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. We’re hoping to also do a trip to Spain later this year (maybe late October or early November).

Do you research for your upcoming trips before visiting them?

Absolutely. I’m a huge planner: not only do I enjoy the planning and researching portion, but I want to know that I’m saving and then spending all of my travel budget on the things that interest us the most.

What is your most favourite photograph that you have taken during your travels? 

My daughter and I at Schloss Linderhof

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Which airline do you prefer to fly with?

I’m all about the bottom line, so I’m not loyal to airlines at all: it’s all about who’ve getting me to my destination for the best price. In my experience, I have enjoyed my time on Are Lingus, Delta, and JetBlue the most, and would be happy to fly with them again.

Tell me your top travel quotes to inspire yourself or other travellers

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

The older I get, the more I realize just how little time we all have on this planet. I look at my daughter and think, “We’ve got less than 14 years left with her before she goes off to college.” My son is brand new, but we’ve got just 17 years with him before he flies the nest. 14 years ago, I was getting ready to go to college myself, and that seems like a blink of an eye. My husband and I could drive better cars, have a more updated house, and wear nicer clothes, but  we funnel the majority of our extra money towards travel since we want to see as much of the world as possible with our kids.

Blog: Cosmos Mariners: Destination Unknown www.cosmosmariners.com

If you’d like the opportunity to be featured like Natalie, please contact Kate at wherekateresides@outlook.com

10 Instagram Accounts to fulfil your case of wanderlust

Rainy days have me pondering through Instagram dreaming of future travel adventures. Instagram is never short of spectacular photography to fuel your passion to travel. I always find myself discovering new destinations to add to my travel bucket whilst flicking through different accounts.

Here are 10 of my most favourite Instagram accounts to follow:

1.Polkadot Passport

2. Farfelue Travel

3. World of Wanderlust

4. The Free Passport

https://www.instagram.com/p/BLwZM-2gkEY/?taken-by=trisataro

https://www.instagram.com/p/BKJZtswgPBb/?taken-by=trisataro

https://www.instagram.com/p/7nmflPjfzp/?taken-by=trisataro

5. Tara Milk Tea

6. Alexandra Carson

7. Matthew Hahnel

8. Young Adventuress

9. Heart My Backpack

10. Girl vs Globe

https://www.instagram.com/p/BCqteAYJFZ-/?taken-by=girlvsglobe&hl=en

https://www.instagram.com/p/BAmrcKhJFVm/?taken-by=girlvsglobe&hl=en

Geothermal Wonders of Rotorua

Rotorua is located in the Bay of Plenty region in the North Island of New Zealand and has become well known for its geothermal wonders.

TE PUIA
Hemo Rd PO Box 334,
Rotorua 3040,
New Zealand
http://www.tepuia.com/new-zealand/

Te Puia is home to Pohutu Geyser – the largest and most reliable geyser in the Southern Hemisphere. The “Pohutu” (meaning splashing water in Māori) Geyser erupts once or twice and hour, getting up to 100 feet in height! A sight well worth waiting for!

At Te Puia, you can also see New Zealand’s national icon up close. The Kiwi are a flightless nocturnal bird whom which have become endangered. Years ago there were millions but today we have fewer than 100,000.

Throughout Te Puia, you will encounter bubbling mud, steaming ground, and the chance discover the work and methods of traditional Māori woodcarvers and weavers at their National Carving and Weaving School.

Guided tours (90 minutes) are available every hour from 9am onwards.

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WAI-O-TAPU GEOTHERMAL WONDERLAND
201 Waiotapu Loop Road
RD 3, Rotorua 3073
New Zealand
http://www.waiotapu.co.nz/

Located 27 kilometres south of Rotorua,  Wai-o-tapu (meaning sacred waters in Māori) is a geothermal wonderland home to some very unique features.

On the top of the list you will find the ‘Champagne Pool’. This feature got it’s name by the copious amounts of carbon dioxide present, similar to a glass of bubbling champagne. The vibrant colours around the edge of the 700 year old hot spring are formed due to deposition of minerals in the water.

Other features include giant craters, steaming ground, bubbling mud, geysers, native bush walks and plenty more.

Three self-guided walks have been created throughout the geothermal area where you can literally walk amongst the thermal sights.

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Hobbiton Movie Set

In 1999, Peter Jackson knocked on the door of the Alexander’s home, proposed an idea, and decided that this was where the Hobbiton Movie Set would be created. Now, many years later, it is a phenomenon where hundreds of thousands of tourists and LOTR/The Hobbit fans come visit each year. The set is located near the town of Matamata in the Waikato region of the North Island.

The tour starts as you board a bus, then taken through the farm, heading out to the set. Walking into the Hobbiton Movie Set is like stepping into another world. The Hobbit houses are so life-like you feel like they might open their door and greet you as you walk by. There is so much detail put into each house – some even had washing hanging on the line!

The tour lasts about 2 hours long and as part of it you make a stop at The Green Dragon Inn, which is featured in the LOTR trilogy’s and you receive a complimentary drink exclusively made for Hobbiton.

I recommend either going early morning or late afternoon as it gets very crowed over lunch time. You can book your tickets online through their website here.

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Hamilton Gardens, New Zealand

Lately I have been trying to get out and about and see more of what my hometown has to offer. Hamilton is home to a spectacular garden whom won an award for International Garden of the year in 2014.

The Hamilton Gardens were built upon an old city rubbish dump, and who knew how wonderful the gardens would become. There are now more than 15 remarkable themed gardens inside, my favourites being the Indian Char Bagh Garden and the Italian Renaissance Garden.

While I wander around the different gardens, I feel as though I am being transported from one country to another. The Hamilton Gardens have done an absolutely wonderful job and I highly recommend making a visit here if you are ever passing through Hamilton.

You can find more info about the Gardens on their website here

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Cathedral Cove, Coromandel, New Zealand

After living overseas for a few years, I have come to appreciate my home country so much more. Don’t get me wrong – I have visited some beautiful places, but I think when you grow up somewhere you don’t really see it as a paradise but more an every day thing.

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get a few days off work, so I headed to the Coromandel with some good friends of mine. While we were there, we decided to walk the track to Cathedral Cove – a marvellous beach. It is a major tourist attraction and the beginning scene of Narnia was even filmed there!

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Photo Diary – Park Güell, Barcelona

After seeing photos of this beautiful park online a few years ago, it has been on my to do list for a long time. Park Güell was established in 1914 by Antoni Gaudi and is now one of his major works in Barcelona.  Definitely a must see when visiting Barcelona. Don’t forget to book your tickets online as they only let in a certain amount of people per hour.

Metro: Lesseps L3 // Carrer d’Olot, s/n, 08024 Barcelona, Spain
http://www.parkguell.cat/en/buy-tickets/

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Where to Get the Best Views of the Eiffel Tower

Now we all know that when someone comes to visit Paris, the main priority is seeing the spectacular Eiffel Tower. Although the Tower was actually only intended to be built just for the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair, it has now become a global icon for France and is the most visited paid monument in the World!
After living in Paris for the past year, I have conducted a list of my favourite spots to wondrously gaze at the Eiffel Tower.

TROCADERO // Metro: Trocadero –  Line 9 & 6, Take the exit Eiffel Tower

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SEINE RIVER CRUISE // Find the boats located along the banks of the Seine – Day and night cruises available

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ARC DE TRIOMPHE // Metro: Charles de Gaulle – Etoile – Line 1 & RER A, Take the entrance for the Arc de Triomphe and climb its staircase to the terrace atop the Arc

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NOTRE DAME // Metro: St Michel – Line 4 & RER B, Line up on the left side of the Cathedral

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TERASSE DU PRINTEMPS // Metro: Auber – RER A or Harve Caumartin – Line 3, Take the escalator of the mall “Printemps” to the top level

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TOUR MONTPARNASSE // Metro: Montparnasse Bienvenue – Line 4, 6, 12 & 13, Take the elevator to the top floor for the best view of Paris

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CHAMPS DE MARS // Metro: Ecole Militaire – Line 8, Walk around the corner and find yourself at the beautiful gardens located in front of the Eiffel Tower

Photo Diary – A Week in London

A few weeks ago I travelled to London for a week to meet my Parents, who had flown over from New Zealand to see me. We were blessed with wonderful weather, and explored what London had to offer.
You can watch what we got up to on my youtube channel here.

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Top Free/Cheap Things to do in Paris

One of the most challenging things while travelling abroad is budgeting your money. I for sure am one of those people who live in the moment, and don’t think about the financial consequences afterwards. It is difficult when visiting expensive countries as you come to realise that things cost way more than you expected.

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But with some experience living in Paris now, I have chosen a few of my Top Free/Cheap Things to do in Paris for you to visit/try;

1. Free Entrance to Museums
On the first Sunday of each month, numerous museums offer free entrance such as Le Louvre. There are also many museums that are open for free entry all year round, and some are free if you are under 26. You can find the list of museums here.

2. Bus Tour
Instead of getting on one of the expensive bus tours that go around Paris, see the city from a public bus, as tickets are just over one euro!

3. Transport
Getting from A to B can become expensive. The best way to get around Paris via metro would be to buy your tickets in bulk, saving you money in the long run. Or if its nice weather, you have the option to hire a ‘velib’. Velib is a self service bike system open 24 hours all around Paris. You can hire a bike for the day for just 1.70 Euros or a whole week for only 8 Euros.

4. Order your coffee the right way
If you love your coffee with milk, but can’t afford to splurge 4-6 euros on it, order a cafe noisette. It is an expresso with a little bit of milk added to it. It also usually has a bit of a nutty taste to it, hence the name ‘noisette’, meaning hazelnut in French. 

5. See the sights from the outside
It is no secret that the architecture in Paris is beautiful. Save yourself a few euros by seeing the major sights from the outside.

6. Square du Vert-Galant
Located down the steps of Pont Neuf, this is a popular place with the locals to come drink some wine and hang out. The best time to come is at night, where you can see Paris lit up and can watch the boats go by.

7. Le Terrasse du Printemps
This is one of my favourite spots to view Paris from above. Make your way into the Department store ‘Printemps’ and take the escalators to the top. There you can walk through the cafe to the other side, where you find a big terrace. The view is magic, as you see the Eiffel Tower, Palais Garnier (Opera), Basilique du Sacre Coeur and much more.

8. Basilique du Sacre Coeur
This white marble church is located on the hills of Montmatre in the 18th Arrondissement. It is free entry into the Basilique, and there are also some stairs in front where you can sit and watch some street performances or look over the sky of Paris.

9. Place des Vosges
Located in Le Marais, Place des Vosges was built by Henri IV in 1604 and is the oldest square in Paris. Here you can also visit the house of the writer Victor Hugo.

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10. Cimetiere Pere Lachaise
This is the worlds most visited cemetery. It is the burial site of numerous French authors, musicians, writers and more. The most visited graves are Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Gertrude Stein, and Marcel Proust among many others.

11. Promenade Plantee
For a chance to escape the busyness of Paris, make a visit to the Promenade Plantee – A former railway line that was abandoned and then renovated into a linear park.

12. Watch the Eiffel Tower Sparkle
By far one of my favourite things to do in Paris. It truly is a magical moment and can be viewed from many spots in Paris. The best being the Champs de Mars, where you will find yourself surrounded by others, with wine, food, and sometimes music.

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