By AZARIA HOWELL
Recently, I went on a family vacation to the UK, France, and Hong Kong, and in between amazing meals and cultural experiences, I noted down some advice for fellow TEARAWAY readers on how to make the most out of your vacation.
Be a local
Save your money, and see beautiful scenery from outside your window by choosing to take the train or the bus during your vacation. It’ll be much cheaper than a taxi, and you’ll be able to experience life in the city as a local would. In addition to being a local with your transport choices, it’s best to try traditional, local cuisine on vacation. You know you’ll be getting the authentic tastes of your country, and you might even come home with a new favourite dish! In my experience, Hong Kong had the potential to really push someone out of their comfort zone in terms of food, with dishes such as chicken feet and liver seemingly topping every menu. You’ll be able to find foods that are available in New Zealand in any of these destinations, but it can be a great experience to try local dishes, especially street food.
Be a tourist
Seeing the Eiffel Tower, UK Houses of Parliament and the breathtaking art in the Louvre in real life was absolutely unreal. Seeing photos of these places was nothing compared to the experience of physically being there. If you can handle a large crowd of people taking countless selfies holding the Eiffel Tower, and make your way through the sea of opportunists selling their cheap keychains, the monuments are truly breathtaking. When visiting these sites, it can be beneficial to take note of the places surrounding these monuments.
A place that took my breath away was Montmartre, near Paris, as it had artists drawing caricatures of passers-by and a really ‘artsy’ vibe, with trendy cafés in every direction. In addition, if you ever find yourself at the doorstep of the Louvre, make sure to view the eye- catching sculptures and paintings before taking a glimpse at the ever-famous Mona Lisa. All of the art in the building was beautiful, and many were much less crowded than Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece. Still, art like the Mona Lisa and Liberty Leading the People were must-sees from Paris just due to the status both pieces of art hold.
A lively experience from my vacation was visiting the tourist markets in Hong Kong and filling my suitcase with replica brand items. The stall vendors always seemed to have a smile on their face and knew the best places in the city to eat. A bonus of the markets was being able to bargain the prices of items, seeing how much of a deal you could get on the latest “Gucci” wallet. Street food such as dumplings and spring rolls were at nearly every corner of the markets if you’re ever feeling hungry.
Know the basics
If you have the time and the means to do so, knowing a little of the local language can go a long way. Even if it is just ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ it can really enhance your experience of your vacation. In most tourist destinations, English is spoken, but it can be a breath of fresh air for locals to hear you respecting their language and culture. Listening to local radio stations can also be a really good thing to do if you’re too jet-lagged to go out, and watching the news can be incredibly beneficial if you want to know where to go, and what to avoid.
You can still take photos whilst enjoying yourself on vacation, but try to go out as much as possible and live in the moment when you can, so you don’t miss anything spectacular. You can always find different ways of making memories where you are. Whether it’s your ticket to the museum, a cheap painting of you done by a street artist, or even a tacky souvenir from a gift shop, anything special and a bit different from your vacation can spark memories and conversation about your travels with the people who see these mementoes. Even a small Eiffel Tower keychain can spark conversation with others about your vacation.
Don’t just go to the ‘tourist’ sites
Sometimes, the best places to visit aren’t the usual tourist destinations or a short distance away from where the big cities are. I’d really recommend Camden Lock, being a short Underground distance from London. Camden wasn’t as full of people as Buckingham Palace, or Downing Street, but it was still a lively place, with one-of-a-kind shops and great pubs, with menus ranging from light drinks to Sunday roasts. If you have a bit of time, it can be really nice visiting Brighton from London, if you have a few days. Brighton is completely full of vintage shops, craft beer, and fancy coffee if that’s the vibe you’re going for. It’s never really crowded with tourists, as most flock to London, and there’s even a beach complete with a picturesque pier just minutes away from the Brighton train station. If you can stand one or two seagulls taking your hot chips, it’s a definite must if trendy shopping is on your to-do list.
Try walking around the city instead of taking public transport, if your destinations aren’t far from each other. You never know what you might see. In Paris, a good ‘less touristy’ option was Le Petit Palais, an upmarket art gallery with free entry. It had similar art to the Louvre, mixed in with modern photography and exquisite sculptures, with much fewer people getting in the way. The café inside was definitely not for those on a shoestring budget, but the food and drinks were unmatched anywhere else. Having a coffee made with French chocolate whilst looking outside at the statues in Le Petit Palais is an experience like no other.
So go ahead, drop a pin on a map and see what happens. The world is at your doorstep… or a
17-hour flight away. You decide.
AZARIA HOWELL is a huge politics nerd living in Christchurch. Expect lots of new political articles on Tearaway from her! She also loves snowboarding, Beagles, and wearing clunky boots.
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