Egypt, Africa

Part three – Aswan

After a colourful four-hour train ride from Luxor spent hanging our heads out of the cabin, sharing a cigarette or three with some gracious locals, our journey to the picturesque town of Aswan was complete. 

Stepping off the bustling platform the change in scenery is immediate. With a much busier, lively feel to the mainland, Aswan radiates African culture. Close to the border of Sudan and one of the Southern-most cities in Egypt, Aswan is truly a one-of-a-kind gem.

We eventually opted to stay in a seriously affordable homestay on Elephantine Island we stumbled across on Booking.com. A ferry ride over the Nile from the big smoke, Elephantine offers rustic beauty and kind-hearted locals at every turn. 

A word of advice that you’d be utterly braindead not to listen to – plonk your weary toosh down in a comfortable, wicker seat at the island’s true attraction, the Nubian Dreams Restaurant. I kid not and lie never, so listen up and let me tell you why. 

The Nubian Dream is Egyptian oasis on every level of the word. With a beautiful, bohemian backdrop of hand-crafted cushioned seats, cane chairs and cold beers, the friendly faces of the staff, their buddies and every other happy chap visiting the mecca of good ass North African cuisine will have you sold. 

One of our only photos taken at the Dream with Mufasa (criminal of us!)

A strenuous six feet and six stairs from the ferry port, the Dream offers up the most incredible tagines one would possibly lust over. Any mention of the eggplant, zucchini or spicy fish tagine send bolts of electricity to my tastebuds and dare I admit it, other less kosher parts of my body. 

If you have the pleasure of stumbling across a delightful local man by the name of Mufasa at the Dream, buy him a tagine. He’ll sit with you, chat, dance, sing, bring you traditional desserts, take you on a three-hour felucca ride with his family, wake up at 4am to personally escort you to a taxi and leave the best, lasting impression on your Aswan experience and all just for shits and giggles. A true gent and truly fond of French women!

The man himself and our captain for the day!

Lavished with cool beverages and plates of hot food cooked on the premises by owner Ali’s talented mama, the soulful tunes of Bob Marley sank into our weary, travel-ravished bones, giving us the perfect backdrop to end our day in Aswan.

To start your day, I suggest strolling over to The Ibiza Hostel. A colourfully painted hostel offering up some delicious local fares. We stumbled across it by chance and were hospitably sat on the balcony overlooking the shimmering Nile and within a stone’s throw of Kitchener’s Island – Aswan’s answer to a Botanical Garden. 

Our hosts plonked down some piping hot, minty tea, some freshly squeezed juice and let us have our pick of some falafel, soft pita, thick syrupy honey and deliciously greasy eggplant – again with the electricity bolts. 

With the Movenpick hotel at one end of the island, offering their pool side beers and top-notch bartender banter to visitors of the island (at a fee, of course) and hotel goer’s, I recommend securing yourself a primo spot pool-side and setting up camp for a relaxing mental health day if that floats your traditional Egyptian sail boat. 

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Dipping my Rue Roosevelt adored hands into the cool banks of the Nile.

It’s not a day in Aswan without a boat ride so taking a felucca (traditional Egyptian sail boat, duh) ride from the Movenpick’s dock will show you some of the hottest spots the idyllic cluster of islands has to offer, the Old Cataract Hotel to name just one – Agatha Christie fans delight . If the wind, natural not man-made, falafel induced, is hiding away for the day, a motor boat (good lord, the satirical avenues are endless) will suffice.

One of the best experiences up for offer in Aswan is enjoying the mind-blowing sites by river. Dipping your stinky toes into the Nile as a felucca leads you to some serene, secluded spots along the river – some of which, you can even have a swim in. 

While I was encouraged by all to swim, my skimpy bikini might have caused more of a splash than my meanest cannonball, so I opted to wade (pee) in the shallows while my adventurous travel companions embarrassed Australian’s everywhere with a poorly executed race to a large rock mid-river. 

The singing, dancing Mufasa who just so happened to speak seven different languages. All self-taught from making friends with inferior tourists over the years – all hail the real pharaoh! 

For those of you worried about the conservative nature of Egypt and how that translates to swimwear and sartorial choices, I would not sweat it.  While you might get a few looks, Elephantine and its surrounding islands are tourist friendly and it’s not necessary to be covered head-to-toe at all times. I would however, recommend travelling with men (or in my case, two very hairy man-boys) if you can and keeping legs and shoulders covered on the mainland. 

A more than frequently asked question we encountered in Aswan was “Abu Simbel?”. For those amongst us not familiar with the temples, Abu Simbel are two massive rock temples originally carved out of a mountainside in 13thcentury BC but were relocated in 1968 (moving mountains, huh?) and now they sit a 4 hours’ drive of Aswan on the border of Sudan. 

A total sight for sore eyes, sore thanks to the 4am wake up time and subsequent four-hour van ride, we were slightly disillusioned by the 45-minute time limit we were given to look around once we were there. Don’t let my sour puss explanation dim your enthusiasm though, Abu Simbel is really, truly mind-boggling. My advice – make sure you are given enough time to look at everything you want to and take the second van ride of the day, the early start doesn’t help avoid the tourist explosion. 

The final verdict on Aswan? Just really, bloody good for the soul. The perfect place to end an Egyptian adventure with its rich cultural tapestry, unbelievable food and even better company, Aswan has my stone cold heart. Talk to as many locals as you can and achieve the eggplant tagine trifecta – breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Egypt, Africa

Part two – Luxor

My dearly beloved Luxor is out of this world beautiful. A merry nine-hour train ride from Cairo, Luxor will knock your stinky, mismatched socks off. Just don’t forget to splash your cash and snag yourself a sleeper cabin. With a nifty bunk bed set up, power outlets and comfortable pillows, you’ll rest easy.

You can opt to stay on the East Bank of Luxor for a central, bustling feel, but in my not-so-humble opinion, West Bank is where it’s bloody at. With quaint, Nile-side café’s serving up hot Turkish coffee, cushy pita and drool-worthy falafel, West Bank gives you that relaxed, holiday vibe we all so regularly dream about.

Al Salam Camp, our choice of sleeping hole, is the most heavenly mud hut set up I’ve ever stumbled across. With all of the creature comforts you could need, hot showers, fans, beers and beds, Al Salam’s nightly campfires are so dang good for the soul.

Al Salam is run by the ultimate gentleman, Mr Ahmed. With a beautiful wife behind the killer cooking, a herd of gorgeous kittens, well-behaved children roaming about and an honest, easy-going nature, Ahmed is your go-to hombre of the West Bank.

We ambitiously opted to rent bikes, as organised by Ahmed, and ride over to Valley of the Kings. Usually a cruisy ride for those of us with some sense of directional intellect, we spent a few hours working on the glutes and crack sweat as we got pitifully lost – well, if you have to do it somewhere…

Paired with the joy of seeing my adult male travel companions riding children’s sized bikes with baskets and jazzy bells to boot, laying eyes on King Tut’s freshly refurbished tomb was a time to be had. Spooky, a little surreal and real damn pretty, Tut’s mask has the ultimate resting bitch face.

A handy tip – take your student ID to all of the attractions about Egypt and get half off your ticket price. As one of my counterparts shamefully found out, Aussie drivers licences don’t fool no man and will only get you a barrage of laughs and (king) tuts.

Temple Hatshepsut is an amazing assault on the eyes, worth a gander and a photo or four. The temple’s bazaar is full to the brim with tacky souvenirs (sign me up) and pushy salesmen – just beware of entering into a trance like state spurred on by some merchant’s powerful ability to sell tourists utter crap – they missed that one on Smart Traveller.

Karnak Temple should be on the top of your sites to see, with a full day’s exploration ahead of you. Get in early, avoid the crowds and make sure you take up some of those shifty tours guides up on their offers to show you some hidden spots – again, for a price, but so stinkin’ worth it.

We ended up sharing a mind-blowing spinach curry, pita and some billy-boiled tea under the gates of Karnak with its resident security guard sweetheart. Number one rule of Egyptian travel, always say yes to tea, you never know where you might end up.

If you’re staying on the West Bank make sure to take a felucca (traditional Egyptian sail boat) or motor boat back home. Your overworked cankles will thank you, or you know, motorboat you. If lunch on a yacht sailing the Nile floats your boat, Ahmed or any of the local boat babes will happily organise a luxurious, relaxin’ day on the river for you.

Our two-day stint in Luxor was nowhere near enough to scratch the surface on this divine corner of the world. I’d recommend living there forever, or a more reasonable four or so days.

Just remember my three cardinal Luxor rules, never stray too far from the closest falafel cart, pack for the cold nights and never trust boys with directions, ever.

An idiot’s guide to Egypt

Part one – Giza & Cairo

Since the tender age of eight, I have longed with all of my wistful might to visit the land of the pharaohs. Transfixed by the mysteries of the great, honking pyramids, the promise of exotic landscapes and uncovering the secret to Cleopatra’s winged eyeliner, I recently took the plunge and booked my sorry ass on the first flight to Cairo.

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Our first, mind blowing stop was the ever-glorious Giza.

I can’t recommend the soulful experience of waking up to a view of the pyramids highly enough. Chugging down sugary mint tea to a symphony of calls to prayer, the dusky beauty of a morning gaze at the pyramids gave me more of an am kick than caffeine ever could.

Street puppies of Giza

The no-nosed lady, Mrs Sphinx – a heck of a load smaller than I had imagined!

You’ll find a load of affordable spots to stay in Giza, all sporting wonderful staff who are more than eager to organise your entire trip for you, but we chose the Best View Pyramids Hotel. 

With comfortable rooms, a tasty price tag and even tastier stuffed pigeon (more appealing to some of us than others), this ripper hotel had the rooftop terrace of a lifetime.

One hell of a terrace view ✨

Treat yourself to a cold, local lager, have a puff at a shisha pipe and put your lazy feet up on the glorious rooftop. With a view you’ll never get sick of and a lentil soup to write home about, you’ll find all you ever needed right in front of you.

Ask for Saber, the hotels resident tour guide and bad ass, who’ll take you on an astounding camel ride through the Sahara Desert to explore the pyramids. Yep, pretty flipping amazing. The man even knows his way around your good side, working the angles for any and all photo shoots you may require – bona fide legend.

Zinger happy snap courtesy of Saber himself 👏🏻

You’ll need a few days to fully absorb the wonderment of the pyramids. Explore, climb and try not to get swindled into a $40 photo on a camel in front of the tombs – it’s a heap harder than you might think.

Take your walking shoes, some snacks and your own stash of that h2o goodness. Giza is where it’s at, so much so that I’d almost endorse you put at the end of your trip, nothing will ever quite live up to the splendour of le pyramids.

The magnificence of Uber means you’re a hop, skip and a sarcophagus away from the big smoke in Cairo. Make sure to grab a sim card at Cairo airport when you land and save a bunch on taxis, that is, unless you’re an adequate barterer and can fend for yourself.

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo and it’s startling Mummy Room are well worth a gander. None of the artifacts seem to have the usual explanatory plaques, so it’s a spiffy idea to take up one of the eager guides outside the museum on their offer to show you around – at a price, of course.

Tahrir Square lies just next to the Egyptian Museum, and was the base for the people’s revolution in 2011. Again, without the wonderful world wide web, you won’t find much information about the uprisings in the square itself. Do a little research, give yourself some context and soak it on up.

During your wanderings in the bustling streets of Cairo, don’t let the opportunity to sneak into any of the Koshary stores slip you by. Open windows displaying obnoxiously sized bowls of pasta, lentils, chickpeas and fried shallots dot the avenues. Make sure to venture inside and have yourself a carb loaded meal.

A traditional Egyptian meal, Koshary is a bowl of all of the above, paired with a delicious tomato sauce. You can add spice and vinegar to the delicious concoction and eat as the locals do. Vegetarian and the ultimate belly filler, I swear it resurrected me after a long hard slog at Khan el-Khalili.

Khan el-Khalili is one of Cairo’s largest souk’s and is a tourist hotspot. Potentially the only time I felt a little on edge security wise, in the depths of the market you’ll find an intricate maze of market stall after market stall. It was here I did my best work, dropping some cold hard on a jazzy artesian rug and a hoard of Egyptian gold jewellery. Just remember to put your hard ass hat on and only pay what you want to.

The final verdict on Cairo and Giza? Make Giza home base and enjoy the pyramids in all of their glory. Cairo’s big city vibes make for a brilliant day out, but can feel a little intense for the everyday traveller.

Talk to as many locals as you can and don’t let stern warnings from concerned friends back home, stop you from making a friend or two along the way.

Don’t be fooled into thinking the Pyramids are all Giza and Cairo really have to offer, with a mountain of wonderful day trips and adventures to be had – Memphis, Saqqara and the Sahara to mention a few – this little pocket of the world has your name scribbled all over it.

The Wardrobe Tours

Leah Alexiou, Adelaide – thecurvyfashionista_

Smell something? Yeah, that’d be the crippling scent of overachievement – clearly not coming from me. Introducing the face behind the name, Leah Alexiou, better known for her alter ego, Sasha Fierce… whoops, sorry, The Curvy Fashionista.25105538_10215632436511032_2033126270_n
A smarty pants by nature, Miss Alexiou is 19 years young with a year of studying psychology under her belt. The Curvy Fashionista herself, created her Instagram page at the ripe ol’ age of 14 after struggling with self-acceptance and the bloody circus that is puberty.

“I saw a gap online with very little representation, or even celebration of curvy women – so I filled it.”

With 1,000 followers and a budding brand, lightning struck for Alexiou and some lass called Kim Kardashian chucked her a follow – heard of her? Yeah, nah, neither. Then followed Khloe and Kylie, bringing with them, more than 900,000 followers.25105393_10215632436231025_1383855291_n
But her success simply cannot be boiled down to the Kardashian factor, as Leah has an undeniable sense for what her followers want and need from their favourite page – the key to her burgeoning brand, she says.

“My own need to see pages promoting curvy body types has, I think, been a reason why I can identify what my audience likes”.

A highlight of Curvy’s success so far? Kim Kardashian sliding into her DM’s to ask Leah what filter she uses – “Aden” for the curious among us.25105444_10215632438471081_180479142_n
What does the future look like for this superstar, you ask? The prospect of a career in styling, check out Polyvore account to pick up what I’m putting down, and eventually, a fashion label with sister, Victoria (@a1daily). In the meantime, keep an eye and an ear out on YouTube and continue fervently scrollin’ through.

Leah wearing: Fifth the Label
Photo wizardry: Anastasia Borrelli
Proofed: Tyana Rongonui

 

The Wardrobe Tours

Victoria Alexiou, Adelaide – A1daily

A 21 year old architecture whizz and the biggest damn sweetheart you’ll ever meet, Alexiou boasts quite the back catalogue already. With the likes of Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin and Emily Ratajkowski following her every move on Instagram, the creator of A1daily has one eye on celebrity farshun ‘n style at all times – someone’s gotta do it, right?

“I got most of my style ideas from celebrities. Now, instead of scrolling through hundreds of different pages like I used to, my followers can find it all in one spot”.24989655_10215632436951043_1551072689_n
With a loyal army of over 200,000 avid interwebbers, Victoria’s style icons include Olivia Palermo, Hailey Baldwin and Kendall Jenner – all of who, selfishly hog A1daily’s feed.

“It was a total thrill when the women I look up to and post so much on A1, began following me. It kind of validated the vision i had for the page”.

With a deep love and appreciation of Aussie fashion and designers, Alexiou is a die-hard, frothing at the mouth fan girl of the talents of Zimmermann, Saboskirt and Bec & Bridge –  crap taste, clearly.
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Looking to the future, Victoria is enrolled into her Masters of Architecture and intends on incorporating more of her own style photos to A1daily. With her lil’ sis Leah by her side, the mind behind @thecurvyfashionista_, the girl’s joint vision of a future in fashion design and production seems as bright as Rihanna’s diamonds – pretty bright aye.

Watch this space and just try peelin’ your eyes away from this face.

Victoria wearing: Mink Pink top, Veronique Boutique choker and Zara jeans.
Camera work: Anastasia Borrelli

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An Idiot’s guide to Havana, Cuba.

Havana, Republic of Cuba

La Habana, land of salsa dancing, sexy people and the shits. In the planning stages of my trip, I scrolled through glamorous images of pristine beaches, vibrant buildings and of course, gorgeous Cubans – all of which, lived up to my sky-high expectations. A place steeped in rich history and even richer culture, next time you’re in that pocket of the world, make sure you stop by for a mojito or four.24020171_10155483270819130_160655965_n

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School kiddos indulging in a spot of P.E in the local square.

Food, food, food 

Despite their ideal climate for growing fruit, lots of the fresh produce resembled my decolletage after a long, hard day at the beach – overripe and wrinkly. Don’t be expecting exotic, luscious fruits, vegetables or much fresh food.  Occupational, health and safety standards leave a lot to be desired here, so come prepared and bring all of the snacks.

As a communist country, Cuba remains untouched by the wonderful world of Woolies and Foodland. Supermarkets are hard to come by and those that you do stumble across are pretty empty. Bring muesli bars, snacks and any medication you may or may not need – I would not recommend getting ill over there boys, it’s utter tripe.

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One of many local fruit stalls scattered in amongst the ‘burbs.

Money, money, money

There are two types of Cuban currency, CUC for the tourists and Cuban Peso for locals. Sadly, the fresh bakeries and fruit markets you walk by only accept local currency, so unless you can get your grubbers on some Peso’s, there’s little chance of you shopping in these local haunts.

There are two banks in town that you can convert currencies when you get there, but it’s ideal to have some CUC’s in your pocket. I had no trouble converting Mexican Peso’s in town, but if one bank knocks you down, hit the other. Avoid converting USD at all costs, you’ll be taxed till you bleed. 24098676_10155483271739130_347922932_n

Where to stay

I visited twice, experiencing entirely different accommodation options both times. Hotels vs. home stays, you ask? Home stays through and through, my dears. Not due to any wrong-doing on the hotels behalf might I add, but the more personal experience of a home stay was wonderful, comforting and gave you a bigger insight into what it might be to be a local.

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The varied reading material – exclusive to all things Cubano.

I and by that, I mean my long suffering parents, had us bunkered down in the glorious Hotel Santa Isobel. Santa Isobel featured a glittering rooftop terrace, opulent French elevators and an open lobby, providing you with an abundance of architectural porn. The bread at breakfast could’ve been used as a weapon to stone your enemies, but the fresh fruit, juice and kind-hearted waiters who fed our leftovers to stray pups, more than made up for it.

24019776_10155483270874130_1072814166_n24098723_10155483271259130_581513162_nOur home stay, found through Airbnb, was nestled in the ‘burbs’ of Havana, littered with locals, lots of little poopers playing soccer in the street and just three blocks from the water. Our hosts offered a 5 CUC per person breakfast each morning and holy smokes, it was good. Louie, our glorious housekeeper sprinkled some fairy dust into the eggs each morning, which were by far the culinary highlights of our days and even managed to dissipate my Vegemite cravings – quite the feat.

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Narcissistic local resident with her 4 cameras, map and filthy Aussie accent.

Museum of the Revolution

An interesting spot to hit if you’re after a touch of propaganda and in-depth shrine to USA’s deficiencies. Despite the rather one-sided recounts, there are some snippets of information about everyday Cuban life that might take you by surprise. The building itself is resoundingly beautiful, with cool marble floors and gold detailing so take yo’ camera people.24135337_10155483271404130_1560512040_n24098877_10155483271439130_305159887_nRestaurante La Guarida

This fancy-pants ex-palace is a hot spot for the rich and famous, food lovers or just smelly tourists looking for a night of make pretend – I clearly fall into the first category, duh. Being a more upscale establishment you’ll need to shit, shower and shave (debatable) beforehand and don your finest threads. For me, this included a $15 H&M dress in dire need of a blind date with an iron and a pair of size 11 men’s thongs, held together by bread tags stolen from a Mexican supermarket. Glamour is in fact my middle name.

The food is the best I had in Cuba with leafy greens that won’t give you salmonella, a wide variety of mains (some of which, are vegetarian friendly) and an intriguing array of desserts. Ask to be sat outside, the terrace view will blow your damn mind and make sure to catch the sunset. Reservations are required, so get in early. 24133447_10155483277759130_1302717435_nHotel Ambos Mundos

A popular haunt for tourists thanks to Ernest Hemingway’s love of the rooftop and their tip-top mojitos, Ambos Mundos was my go-to for a sit down, a few cold ones and a ripper view. Strolling into the lobby, head straight to the French-style lift and let the elevator operator take you to the rooftop. Take plenty of photos, tip the waiters and marvel at the spelling mistakes on the menu.

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Hemmingway enjoying the view.

24019819_10155483277224130_970870241_nVintage Cars

One of the highlights of my trip was taking a vintage car tour around the city. The general rule is – furthest from the square, the cheaper the deal, so hunt for the best price people. We paid 45 CUC for a one-hour tour around the city, but most quotes were for 60 CUC. Don’t be scared to put your big girl panties on and haggle a drop.

We drove through to the other side of Havana, the highly populated streets providing an impressive spectacle for our greedy eyes, before heading back past the coast. Recommend, recommend, recommend.24098670_10155483277264130_2022256057_nPlaya Santa Maria
A hop, skip and a half hour taxi ride from central Havana, Santa Maria’s water is as pristine as Mum’s criminal record – clear as the day is long. Make a day of it and grab some water, snacks and a camera. We chose to spend our Saturday there, competing for space with the locals – you’d be far better off on a weekday. Sadly, the beach is pretty well littered with rubbish, cans and plastic so do the good thing, clean up after yourself and pick up any other scraps you find – you’ll be granted immediate entry into enviro-heaven.

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Cheery creature despite newly reddened skin-tone.

Havana, in all of it’s starkly, unique glory has left a lasting impression on me. It’s rich culture and the vibrancy of its inhabitants will have you craving more and more.

Now you have it, a painfully detailed, albeit shortened version of my travels to Havana. Remember, bring snacks and medication. Come off the plane hydrated, don’t vomit in airport sinks, get wheelchaired off planes, eat veggie sandwiches of any kind or get heatstroke – it’s the bin, I would know.

 

Spillage

My entire life I’ve had a complicated relationship with the crop top. Feelin’ a lil ripped off with the material yardage vs. price tag, it has taken me years to accept the crop as a legitimate item of clothing. Logistically speaking, the crop is about as useless as a regular tampon, okay for the most part but there’s always spillage.  Back fat or menstrual matter, it’s never pretty. While it’s taken a while to come to terms with it, my tolerance for crop tops, women with light periods and my own back flab has slightly increased.

I enthusiastically urge all of you badasses to follow suit.

Wearing: Dior crop from Vestiaire, Josh Goot Flowerbomb skirt similar found here, Celine Cowboy slides from Vestiaire, Cult Gaia bag found here, Celine ID necklace from Vestiaire.
Photos: Anastasia Borrelli.

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La La La Bamba

Earlier this year I spent 8 long months on a soulful journey through North and Central America in search of something. Something I’d been missing for a long time and could no longer happily proceed without. While at times it was lonely, emotionally challenging and tested my resilience, I finally found what I had been looking for, for so long – the perfect summer dress.

In my usual lazy, sloth-like fashion, I opted for a browse on the net, ignoring the retail delights of New York and LA. No surprise, I struck solid 24 karat gold on an Aussie site. Three cheers for Australian fashion.

The legends over at Bamba Swim have more than provided the goods and finally put an end to my emotionally traumatic journey. Crisp white cotton with embroidered detailing and the most gorgeous tassels – it’s a sure fire summer hit. Excuse my lady boner, but my God, they know what they’re doing. Be sure to check out their brilliant silk and swim range and buy, buy, boner away.

Wearing: Bamba Swim Isla Dress as top found here, Forever 21 denim skirt similar found here, Saint Claude Social Club vintage necklace similar found here and here, Vintage straw backpack similar found here, vintage pink cat eyes similar found here.
Photography: Grid.city photos

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An Idiot’s Guide to Tulum

An Idiot’s Guide to Tulum.
Tulum, Quintana Roo. Mexico.

After suffering through a number of days in rural Cuba with a bout of what can only be described as Satan’s work aka food poisoning, arriving on the sunny shores of Tulum was nothing short of euphoric. While a few of my magical days in Tulum were spent sculling Electrolit (what a name, right?) and popping & pooping pills, I was lucky enough to make a speedy recovery and enjoy some of the dreamy Mexican delights on offer. Here goes…22656466_10155386604314130_381103136_n
Pictured: fully healthy cretin.

Cenotes.
One of Mexico’s greatest natural wonders are its abundance of natural springs or cenotes. As an exceptionally mediocre swimmer with a talent for drowning herself and those around her, I found these stunning natural pools easy on the eye and the swimming skills.

Cenote Nicte Ha.
About 10 minutes’ drive from Tulum town centre, Nicte Ha boasts an impressive selection of different springs, caves and cenotes. A quiet spot for a dip and photo opportunity, just make sure you get your ride to drive you down to the cenote. We, like the bunch of  peanuts we absolutely are, sent the taxi away at the gate and enjoyed a brisk kilometre or three jog down a long ass, rocky path. Woe is me.

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Photos courtesy of gal pal, Louise Armstrong 

My advice – bring some damn bug spray, cause boy those mozzies are relentless bastards. Ideally a natural option as not to pollute the beautiful, clean waters of the cenote. Speaking of polluting the waters, no golden showers people. I understand wholeheartedly the level of restraint it requires but ya know, look after that environment and all.

Gran Cenote.
An impressively large and well organised spring, Gran Cenote is one of Tulum’s most popular spots. I’d recommend knocking their doors down at 9am for a smidge of P&Q before the masses invade. There are a heap (score, gaggle, murder perhaps?) of turtles to share the water with so keep an eye out. They’re pretty badass at Marco Polo and will kick yo ass in chasey – watch out punks.

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Beware of six-foot blood-sucking parasites ^

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Face like a slapped toochie, courtesy of squillions of aggressive mozzies – see advice on repellent. 

Casa Cenote.
A little further out than many of the other cenotes but well worth the trek, Casa is noticeably without many of the man-made additions of stairs and decks.

My favourite of all of the cenotes, Casa is home to a friendly and very peaceful crocadilly and a metric tonne of fisheys – scientific names only please. Like any cenote, I recommend an early call time to avoid the masses of screamy, smelly tourists. Bring your own snorkel gear or hire some when you’re there, you’d be more than missing out just paddling in the waters. 20/10 mucho love, mucho reommendo.

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Tulum Beach.
Playa Tulum is a long stretch of ritzy resorts, shops, spiffy restaurants and nifty beach clubs (participation award for greatest number of Kath & Kim adjectives used in one sentence). Whether you’re staying in town or in Playa, this expanse of shore and shopping is a revellers dream.

World By Hand.
As soon as I walked past this aesthetic, little shop front I was pretty bloody enamoured. Hand-made artesian rugs and pillows generously decorate the walls. WBH has an emphasis on ethical creations and as an added bonus, they ship! Make sure you check out their amazing crowns and jewels and if you look closely, the remnants of my drool can still be seen in-store.

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La Eufemia Beach Club.
For those staying in town, La Eufemia is your best bet for snagging a seat shore side. The entire beach is free game but most resorts and hotels restrict the use of loungers for guests only.

La Eufemia has a gnarly set up with mattresses, hammocks, tables and most importantly, guac on tap. Make sure you try the watermelon juices, veggie tacos and guacamole, they’ll have you singing tunes of elation.

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Restaurare.
Vegans and food lovers, REJOICE. This place is a real knee slapper and this slapper was slapping, i tell ya. The coconut ceviche, local mole, aromatic noodles and lettuce tacos were more than I could’ve wished for. Fresh, skilfully created and original, this spot is worth splashing a bit of cash on. The watermelon, peppermint and ginger mocktail got me happy drunk, I swear.

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Tulum town centre is a cluster of artesian shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. For the entirety of my stay I was settled in Tulum town and absolutely adored it. Don’t feel like you’re missing out if you’re not staying on the beach people, no fomo here.

La Hoja Verde.
Specialising in vegan and vegetarian cuisine, this cute lil’ café is nestled just off the main drag. The gorgeous staff were a highlight with a welcoming smile each time we invaded their special spot with our stinkin’ bodies. The watermelon juice and vegan omelette gave me a total lady boner.

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De Cicelo Tropical Bistro.
Air con, air con, air con. Choccie croissants, fresh bread and avo on toast, what every tourist comes to Mexico for. Authentic millennial heaven. There’s a diverse range of Mexican and Western fares with a delicious range of tostadas with avo, beans, eggs and goats cheese, an option I revisited a number of times. On our multiple excursions to De Cicelo we tried and scoffed everything, e v e r y t h i n g I repeat.

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Hernandez Gallery Tulum.
Crack for souvenir hunters, this place was one of few stores I found Mexico-wide with genuinely usable souvos. I of course, bee lined for the handbags and rugs. Honourable mention to the huge range of aluminium crosses and Frida shrines. The deadset legends at the counter saw the state of my cuticles and chucked a 10% discount my way. What’s not to like?

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Just a leathery bag with her leather bag 

Mercado Candelaria.
A street off the main drag you will find the sweet, peaceful and gloriously aesthetic cafe Mercado Candelaria. With an alfresco eating set up, more intimate dining area and quirky bar set up, this spot caters for all. We headed there for a bite of brekky and an oggle at the beautiful surroundings.

The lunch menu had a few more options my icky, picky palette liked the sound of but the cocktails are spoken about around town as if the stuff of myths. My advice, head for in lunch or dinner and grab a bloody cocktail for me.

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Viola! There it is boys, my shopping & eating guide to the bees knees town of Tulum. Enjoy, drink too much and do us over here at the guacamole fan club proud.