The 5 Best and Worst Hostels I’ve Stayed At

By Kate Arnold

I’ve stayed in a few hostels in my time travelling and some are winners and sometimes, well, you get what you pay for and as we all know, whether you are on a top or bottom bunk can make or break the experience of a hostel. Here are five best and five worst hostels I’ve stayed at:

The Best

  1. The Freehand | Chicago, US – This hostel is lovely. I stayed in a four bed dorm, which had an ensuite bathroom attached. The beds were comfortable and big bunks built into the wall, with curtains for privacy, personal lights and power points. Everything I want in a bunk bed. The Freehand is conveniently located in Chicago, I was able to walk everywhere I wanted to go, including the Navy Pier, Millennium Park, the Bean and theatre district. There is a communal kitchen where breakfast of cereal or toast is free.
  2. St. Christophers Inn | Paris, FR – I stayed in an eight bed dorm at the St. Christopher’s Inn in Paris, which also had similar bunk beds to the Freehand, with curtains, personal light and power points. The hostel has an attached restaurant/bar call Belushi’s, which makes a killer burger, just what was needed after a rather rough day in Paris. Walking distance to Notre Dame and Shakespeare and Co and the train station Gare Du Nord, which will get you everywhere else you want to go in Paris.
  3. Broadway Hotel n Hostel | New York, US – This hostel didn’t have great bunks like the above mentioned, in fact the room was tiny and only contained one bunk bed, a sink and locker. The reason it’s on the best list is because of the price. For New York it is very reasonably priced and located close to a subway station on the 1, 2 and 3 lines, which go through Times Square and all the way down to South Ferry near Trinity Church, the 9/11 memorial and the Staten Island Ferry. Read about finding budget-friendly accommodation in New York here and the Hamilton-lover’s guide to New York here.
  4. St. Christopher’s Inn | Edinburgh, UK – Though not a great as the St. Christopher’s in Paris, the Edinburgh location definitely make the best list. As with the Paris location (and all St. Christopher’s as far as I know) there is an attached Belushi’s. The dorms just had normal plebeian bunks but they were more comfortable than most.
  5. International Budget Hostel | Amsterdam, NL – The International Budget Hostel wasn’t as budget as the name might imply but that’s because EVERYWHERE books out in Amsterdam durning the summer. The stairs to get up to the reception are pretty perilous and the wifi only worked in the reception. But this hostel is well placed in Amsterdam, I walked everywhere I went, very close to the Anne Frank House and the Red Light District. Read about 10 hidden gems of Amsterdam here.

The Worst

  1. Wild Zebra Backpackers | Wellington, NZ – This is by far the worst hostel I’ve stayed. The door to my dorm room didn’t open properly and the staff just told me it was fine. There was damage from the earthquake, which is hardly their fault, but still undesirable. The dorm room wasn’t very clean I had to find a communal room just to charge my phone because there weren’t enough in the dorm.
  2. Haka Lodge | Taupo, NZ – I only stayed in Taupo for one night and admittedly I didn’t spend much time at the Haka Lodge but the bed was so hard to get into because of an awkwardly placed ladder. If I’d had a bottom bunk I’d probably feel differently about this place.
  3. The Backyard Inn | Rotorua NZ – What sticks out about the Backyard Inn was that it was an uncommonly hot day in New Zealand and none of the rooms had air conditioning. On the plus side they had a pool but when I jumped in to get some relief from the heat I realised it was a thermal pool at it was hotter in than it was out. It would be great for colder days though. Also I had to pay for wifi, which is a no-no for me.
  4. Fat Cod Backpackers | Picton NZ – The Fat Cod doesn’t foster great memories in my mind because of the staff. They were generally unhelpful and abrasive. They wouldn’t let me use a phone or even tell me where I could use one. The dorms were okay, there were no bunks just six single beds. The hostel was close to the beach and some walking trails, which had lovely views that were worth the visit to Picton.
  5. Banana Bungalow Hollywood | Los Angeles US – For a hostel in the middle of Hollywood The Banana Bungalow sure should have air conditioning. The dorms were fine but not great and the area didn’t have that much that I was interested in. On the plus side the offered cereal and toast breakfast for free and shuttles to places like Santa Monica. Read about our short stay in Santa Monica here.

Let me know about the best hostels you’ve stayed in below! I’m always looking for recommendations.

My Favourite Bookstores From Around the World

By Kate Arnold

My Favourite Bookstore from Around the World

Bookstores are magical. They are some of my favourite places and when I’m travelling I often seek out famous or infamous bookstores. Here are some of my favourites from my travels.

The Strand | New York

This one might just be my favourite on this list of favourites. The Strand is located in the East Village of Manhattan and was opened in 1927. On my trip to New York visited The Strand twice and spend over an hour there each time looking at shelf upon shelf of books deciding what to take home with me. This iconic bookstore is known for having ’18 Miles of Books’ within its many levels and also sells a wide range book-related merchandise. The New York Times dubbed The Strand ‘the undisputed king of the city’s independent bookstores’ and truer words have never been written. The Strand sells new and used books and well as rare and out-of-print editions. 

Shakespeare and Company | Paris

Shakespeare and Company has a long history in Paris, the first shop opening in 1919 and became a gathering place for aspiring writers of the time such as Earnest Hemingway and James Joyce. The store closed in 1941 during the German occupation of Paris and was never reopened. In 1951 another bookstore by the name of Le Mistral was opened but it was renamed Shakespeare and Company in 1964 on the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth. To this day the store remains open of the east bank of the river Seine in Paris. My favourite thing about Shakespeare and Company is that it continues to be a refuge for writers and artists. They offer a place to sleep at the bookstore in exchange for helping out at the shop. Their motto, ‘be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise’ holds true and they continue to host these ‘Tumbleweeds’ (as the guests came to be known). It’s a dream of mine to one day sleep amount the shelves of Shakespeare and Company and a Tumbleweed. 

Waterstones | Amsterdam

Waterstones is known for being a UK based bookstore chain but the Amsterdam location stole my heart. This bookstore is four floors of shelves full of books, in both English and Dutch. The quiet atmosphere of this Waterstones feels like that of a library and there are seating areas so that you can read a chapter and see if the book is for you. Like The Strand, you’ll find a range of book-related merchandise, such as tote bags, stationary and bookmarks.

Gay’s The Word | London

Gay’s the Word is a bookstore in the Bloomsbury district of London that sells queer fiction and non fiction. They hosts events for those in the LGBTQIA+ community such as a Lesbian Discussion Group every Wednesday evening and TransLondon meetings on the third Tuesday of every month. This is the first and last surviving bookstore in the UK that is dedicated to selling exclusively queer literature.

Embiggen Books | Melbourne

If you want to buy a beautiful book and get a latte in the same place Embiggen Books is where you need to go. This gem is hidden away on Little Londsdale Street in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD, not far from the Victoria State Library. This bookstore has a vintage vibe and, to complete you book searching experience, there is a coffee cart in the store that will serve you a great Melbourne quality coffee.

Where is your favourite bookstore? Is it one that you’ve found while travelling or one that you love in your home town? Have you been to any of the bookstores I’ve mentioned above or would you like to? Are there any Tumbleweeds out there? I’d love to hear about your experience!

My First Extended Trip | March 2019

By Kate Arnold

Peru United States of America Solo Travel Trip

In early March next year I’ll be embarking on my first extended trip. I still don’t have all he details worked out yet but the main plan is to go to Peru where I will be teaching English for three months and then hopping over the States to revisit New York and LA. I’ll be gone from the beginning of March until mid August.

The Plan So Far

March

I’ll arrive in Lima (after a 30 hour journey!) and stay in a hostel for two days, which I’ll probably spend getting over jet lag but hopefully I can spend a bit of time exploring Lima as well. Then I’ll fly to Zorritos where I’ll meet the Teach Peru team that I’m staying with. The next four weeks I’ll undertake an intensive course of Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).  Zorritos is a costal town in the Tumbes region, sometimes called the Land of Eternal Summer, with beaches and hot springs. During the course I will turn 25 and hope that I can celebrate on a beach with some new friends.

April

The TEFL course will finish around the second week of April but because schools don’t take on new teachers until the beginning of every month I need to wait until the start of May to begin teaching. I’ve decided to use these two weeks in April to go to Cusco and take a trip to Machu Picchu.

May, June, July

Teaching! I’m not sure where in Peru I’ll be teaching yet, I’ll find out where teachers are needed when I get there. I’ll be teaching for around 30 hours per week, which won’t leave me with a lot of time to explore during the week but I’m planning on spending the weekends getting in as much experiences as I can. I can’t plan much of this because I don’t know where I’ll be located but I’m happy to go with the flow for this part of the trip. I want to experience living in Peru like a local. 

August

When I’m finished teaching I’m going to get on a flight to New York where I’ll spend about a week. I’ve previously spent 10 days in New York City and I got to do almost everything on my list. This time I really want to see Hamilton, Frozen and Mean Girls on Broadway (and a few others if I can afford it). Check out my article about how I saved money on Broadway tickets last time I went to New York. This time I’d like to go to the Empire State Building and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, which I ran out of time to do last year and I’m dying to go back to my favourite bookstore in the world, The Strand. From New York I’m going back to Los Angeles, where I’m hoping to go back to Universal Studios for a day or two. I love rollercoasters and I’m dying to go back to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If you’re going to Universal Studios make sure to read Laura’s article about using the Single Rider Line and how it will save you tonnes of time, without paying for express passes. It would be a fun way to end a great trip.  

The nerves are definitely starting to set in. I’ve never been away from my family for this long. I’ve travelled alone before (and loved it) but only for a maximum of four weeks. Living abroad and teaching English abroad have both been massive goals of mine and I’m so excited to experience these things. Have you been to Peru, taught a language abroad or done extended travel? Let me know all your tips and tricks in the comments.

A Short Stay in Santa Monica


                                   Photo by madeleine ragsdale on Unsplash

By Laura Jemetta

Like I’ve written about previously on Xen, last year Kate and I did some travelling in the US, and at the end of the trip, we decided to stay in Santa Monica for one night before we caught out flight home. We needed to be in LA to catch our flight out of LAX anyway, so we figured that we may as well get some rest in sunny Santa Monica before sitting on the plane for 15 hours. 

It turned out to be a great decision, and the perfect way to recharge before starting the long journey home. I would highly recommend doing a short stay in Santa Monica if you’re catching a flight out of LAX – Santa Monica has a bit of a different vibe than Los Angeles proper does, and boasts a beautiful beach, an iconic pier and some fantastic food. Plus, at best, Santa Monica is only about 15 minutes away from LAX so it’s nice and close when airport time comes.

How did we get there?

Well, we arrived in LA early in the morning on an overnight bus from San Francisco, and we caught the light rail to a station near our hotel. From memory I believe this took about 20-30 minutes, and while it was a little difficult with our suitcases, it is definitely do-able. And cheap! It was only a really short walk from the station, which was so handy, especially after not sleeping on the bus! 

The Hotel

Our hotel was the Hampton Inn and Suites, and it’s one that I would recommend without hesitation. Maybe it was simply because we were coming off the back of a stay in a slightly disappointing, shoe-box room in San Francisco, but walking into that bright, airy, air conditioned foyer was heaven. I knew when we arrived that we’d hit the jackpot. 

At the time we stayed there, the Hampton Inn and Suites was virtually brand new, opening in April 2017, and to me, the hotel was immaculate. The hotel is aesthetically beautiful and beautifully functional, with a modern design and a sophisticated palette, and the best part is, the hotel is situated only three blocks away from the Santa Monica Pier. 

When we arrived, we were greeted by friendly staff, who happily stored our bags for us until check in time. Because breakfast was still being served when we arrived, we were invited to eat some breaky in the dining area while we waited. It was a really nice gesture, and so appreciated after travelling all night.

So what did we do in Santa Monica? 

We had a great time in Santa Monica. We spent plenty of time down on the pier – which was so close to our hotel – just relaxing and taking in the sights. The Santa Monica Pier is the obvious must-do if you’re in Santa Monica – it’s a fantastic place to get some food, see some entertainment or to just people watch. If you’re on the pier, don’t forget to check out Pacific Park, the family amusement park on the pier. I recommend taking a ride on the ferris wheel for spectacular views of the beach. 

The pier is the heart of Santa Monica – a hub of activity drawing huge crowds of tourists. It’s over 100 years old, stretching out across the water and providing awesome views of the ocean and Santa Monica Beach. Just across the road from the pier and it’s iconic sign, is Blue Plate Taco, where we had two fantastic meals; an afternoon snack, and proper dinner later in the evening. It’s a fantastic mexican restaurant, serving fantastic food and drinks, with a relaxed atmosphere that’s perfect for a lazy lunch or afternoon drinks. 

We also spent time in Downtown Santa Monica – an outdoor shopping mall which we were able to walk to from our hotel. We did a little shopping, but my favourite part was going to Barnes & Noble for the first time. We walked to Santa Monica Place from there, to get lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, which I was hugely excited about. We don’t really have anything like it in Australia, so I jump at any chance I get to visit the Cheesecake Factory. 

By the afternoon, we had to get back to the hotel to pick up our bags and go to the airport, but it was nice to walk back via the pier one last time. We had enough time to ride the ferris wheel, before heading back to the hotel to order an uber. The ride to the airport was quick and painless – because Santa Monica is situated so close to LAX. 

There you have it – our one and a half days in Santa Monica. Why not consider Santa Monica for a short stay, (or a long stay), next time you’re in the Los Angeles area. It’s a great base from which to explore greater LA, or just to stay overnight if you want to be close to the airport. 

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve been to Santa Monica and loved it like I did! 

How I got Scammed in New York

By Laura Jemetta

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So, it’s time for an embarrassing story. I was in New York for three weeks last year, and yes, I did fall victim to a couple of scams in my time there. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. See, in my real, non-travelling life, I consider myself to be a very savvy and aware person. But I think there’s something about being a tourist in a strange city, that probably makes you let your guard down a little, making you more vulnerable to being scammed. Unfortunately, there are people in every city in the world who will target tourists for this reason.

So, here it is: a cautionary tale for you, so hopefully the same won’t happen when you are travelling.

So, how did it happen?

This particular morning, we had tickets for a particular time-slot at the One World Tower, and we were cutting it fine to make it downtown in time. I remember rushing down the stairs to the subway station, which in hindsight, made us the perfect targets. We were in a hurry, and anybody in the area would have been able to tell that we really wanted to catch the next subway. We all needed to buy new tickets, and so we were headed to the ticket machine, when a man yelled to the station in general that the ticket machines were out of order.

Red Flag no. 1: He wasn’t wearing a metro uniform.

Red Flag no. 2: He said we could buy new tickets from him instead.

You can guess what happened next right?

Yes, we bought ‘tickets’ from an uniformed ‘metro’ employee.

To be honest, I don’t have much of a defense, apart from the fact that none of us were really thinking, (evidently), and that the man pulled out key with which he unlocked the locked gate to the platform.

But, here comes the really stupid part: we gave him money for the ‘weekly subway passes’. As in, cash money. We just handed it over, and got – you guessed it – expired subway passes in return.

  • Yes, this man disappeared as soon as he pocketed the cash
  • Yes, we realised immediately that we had just been scammed
  • Yes, we panicked. We had just handed over roughly $150 US to a scammer
  • Yes, we felt, (and feel), exceptionally stupid about it

Realising we had just been scammed, we found the nearest Police Officer, who directed us to the nearest Police Station. A report was made, though nothing came of it. Of course, I don’t hold anything against the NYPD; the officers took out report dilligently, and likely did as much as they could do. After all, police have much bigger fish to fry than tourists willingly giving $150 to a scammer.

  • Note: I always recommend reporting any scam or crime you are a victim of to the Police, even if you think nothing will come of it. 

Top Tips to Not Get Scammed

Stay Aware: I believe we were caught off guard because we were in such a rush; we had blinkers on, and we just wanted to catch the next subway. When you’re travelling, it’s easy to get caught up in what you’re doing; in trying to make a reservation you’re late for, or in exploring the attraction you’re visiting. But remember to keep your wits about you – and to keep a bit of paranoia in the back of your mind. I know it’s not very pleasant to be questioning the genuineness of everyone around you, but it’s necessary when you’re a tourist – as I found out.

Pay Attention to Red Flags: Listen to your gut. When something feels uncomfortable, it’s a sign that something probably isn’t right. I remember the thought crossing my mind that the man should have been wearing a Metro uniform, but I dismissed it, because of how confident he was – with his Subway station key, and carrying out his scam in the middle of the day in the station, where there are cameras. It all seemed too brazen to be a scam. I now know that I should have listened to my gut. Yes, you risk offending someone, but caution can go a long way when you’re travelling.

IMPORTANT TIPS FOR TIMES SQUARE: 

  • You will probably be drawn to Times Square on your first visit to New York, but it is a hotbed of underhanded activity, under the guise of busking
  • When in Times Square, do not let anybody hand you anything – people will try to ‘give’ tourists their ‘music’ on CD’s, but once you have it in your hand, you will be hard pressed to get away without making a ‘donation’ to their ‘musical career’. Spoiler Alert: the CD is blank, and there is no musical career.
  • To avoid this, don’t make verbal or physical contact with anybody who tries to hand you anything. Just don’t. Keep your head down, and just keep walking.
  • Also important: there is an area of Times Square that is designated by a large green square on the pavement, where anyone is allowed to busk. Avoid this area like native New Yorker’s avoide Times Square. Do not step into this green square. Don’t talk to anyone in the green square. If you find it hard to walk away when salespeople are pitching to you, just give the green square a wide berth.

New York is a wonderful city, 99% full of wonderful people. However, like you will find in any city in the world, there are people who will take advantage of vulnerable tourists. While I hope you enjoy the city, and open yourself up to everything it has to offer, I also hope my story helps to remember to always keep your wits about you and listen to your gut.

Oahu Spotlight: Waimea Valley

By Laura Jemetta

Waimea Valley
The waterfall at Waimea Valley

Waimea Valley is an historic and sacred cultural site located on the North Shore of Oahu. Beautiful and expansive, Waimea Valley 1,875 acre botanical garden and ahupa’a – division of land stretching from mountain to sea.

Waimea Valley is recognised as the ‘Valley of the Priests’, after having been given in perpetuity to the Kahuna Nui, (high priests), as early as 1902 AD. Waimea Valley features a beautiful botanical garden, and many significant cultural sites, as well as a beautiful waterfall.

Take the 1.2 kilometre trail through lush gardens and be rewarded with a beautiful ‘wailele’, (waterfall). The name of this waterfall actually changes depending on how the water is running at any given time. Called Waihe’e when the water is gently trickling, and Waihi when the water is rushing, this waterfall is breathtaking.

My tip is to wear your bathers to Waimea Valley, because you can actually swim in the stream below the waterfall. Borrow a free life jacket from the lifeguards and take a dip; it’s a lovely way to experience the waterfall and the valley.

Let me know if you’ve ever been to Oahu, and if you have, leave me a comment below if you have seen beautiful Waimea Valley. I’d love to hear about your Hawaiian adventures!

5 Ways to See Oahu

By Laura Jemetta

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Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Pexels.com

If you’ve ever been to Hawaii, you’ll know what an amazing place it is. Check out my post about why you have to see Oahu here, and my post about the best beaches on Oahu here. But, if you’re looking for a way to make the most out of your time in Hawaii, read on to find out some unique ways to discover beautiful Oahu.

By Outrigger

What better way to see Oahu than from the ocean, as the early Hawaiians did? While the Outrigger Canoe didn’t originate in Hawaii, it arrived there around 200 AD, and is now an iconic symbol of Hawaii. In fact, Outrigger Canoeing is actually the official state team sport of Hawaii. Outrigger is a fantastic way for you to see Waikiki Beach, as well as some of the other beaches on Oahu. Paddle out with two experienced Oarsmen and, if you’re lucky, catch some waves in your very own Outrigger; a thrilling way to see the sparkling ocean, the beach, and lush green Diamond Head in the distance. There are plenty of opportunities for Outrigger Canoe tours on Oahu, and it is a unique and relatively inexpensive way to see Hawaii.

By Air

Yes, you can experience the island by helicopter, and these tours are a spectacular and thrilling, albeit expensive, way to see Oahu. I have seen Oahu by open-door helicopter, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience on Oahu. You will be stunned by seeing the commanding majesty of Diamond Head from the air – with the ocean to it’s right, and the specks of the city at it’s base. Do almost a full loop of the island in your helicopter, seeing not only Diamond Head, but Waikiki, Honolulu, the Dole Plantation and some of Oahu’s most beautiful valleys from above. It is an amazing way to see the island, and an unforgettable experience in itself. Long pants and a jacket are definitely a must for helicopter tours – while Oahu is generally warm and muggy, it is freezing up there! And remember, closed toe shoes are required to board helicopters, so pack some runners if you want to see Oahu from the air.

By Car

Oahu is a very drive-able place, provided you can get your head around driving on the wrong side of the road! Sure, Waikiki is built up, and can be confusing with it’s abundance of one-way streets, but the freeways are well signed, and with a GPS, they can be easy to navigate. When I was in Hawaii, we rented a car and took trips up to the North Shore, driving from beach to beach, and did the same for the East Shore too. This is a fantastic way to explore the real Oahu, and to pack a lot into your days. Rent a car and drive yourself around for a shopping day at the Premium Outlets and Ala Moana, or drive up to the Polynesian Cultural Center for a day of education. You can even drive yourself to Pearl Harbor, though it can be very difficult to find a car park there! My tip for renting a car in Hawaii: try to stay on the road for a full day, so you don’t need to park your car in Waikiki, though if you must, spaces can usually be found at the International Marketplace car park.

On Horseback

If you love animals, consider experiencing Oahu and some of Hawaii’s most beautiful valleys by horseback. I recommend renting a car and driving yourself up to Kualoa Ranch; a 4000 acre private nature reserve and working cattle ranch on the East Shore. There are so many exciting activities offered at Kualoa Ranch, and horseback riding is a fantastic way to explore the ranch, and see Oahu’s natural beauty. Both one and two hour tours with an experienced guide are available at Kualoa, and closed toe shoes are essential.

By Zipline

Also operated from Kualoa Ranch, zipline tours are another way to see Oahu from above, and more specifically, to see Ka’a’awa Valley, which you may recognise from the film Jurassic World. The zipline experience takes roughly three hours, and includes some education on Hawaiian culture and traditions from your experienced guides, as well as some short hikes, before you zip your way through the treetop canopy zipline.

The Hamilton-lover’s Guide to New York

By Kate Arnold

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If, like many of us, you’ve fallen in love with Hamilton: An American Musical and you’re heading to the greatest city in the world, you may want to visit some of the historic sites that you’ve heard all about. Here’s a guide to all the places in Manhattan that every Hamilton-lover should go see.

Hamilton Richard Rodgers New York City Broadway

The Richard Rogers Theatre

If you can get tickets to this insanely popular musical then what are you waiting for? The Richard Rogers is located on West 46th Street right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Times Square. But if you didn’t manage to get a ticket, don’t despair, there are plenty of other Hamilton related things to do and see in New York and you can always try the lottery, who knows? You might get lucky. Check out my article, How To Save Money On Broadway Tickets and get the lowdown on how to enter the Hamilton lottery.

Trinity Church

If you’re familiar with the show then the name Trinity Church will sound familiar to you from the lines ‘I rely on Angelica/While she’s alive we tell your story/She is buried in Trinity Church near you/When I needed her most she was right on time’ from final number of the show. You’ll find Hamilton’s grave on the edge of the churchyard and Eliza’s right next to her husband’s. People throw pennies onto Hamilton’s grave as a symbol of his great contributes to the American banking system. You’ll also find Angelica close by, though her name does not appear on her grave, as well as the graves of Philip Hamilton, Alexander and Eliza’s oldest son, who was killed in a duel and Hercules Mulligan, a revolutionary who fought in the war for America’s Independence.

Federal Hall, The Financial District

A short walk away from Trinity Church is Federal Hall, located on Wall Street, in the heart of the Financial District of New York. George Washington was sworn in as the first president of the United States in 1789 on the steps of Federal Hall. This historic event is marked by a statue of George Washington, which has been placed on the steps in the approximate place of the inauguration.

Fraunces Tavern Museum

If you take another short walk towards South Ferry from Federal Hall you’ll find Fraunces Tavern Museum on Pearl Street. This is a historic tavern where George Washington bid farewell to his troops and where Hamilton and Burr shared a meal one week before their duel in 1804 where Hamilton was killed. Lin-Manuel Miranda has spoken out about the Fraunces Tavern as being the setting for the iconic song ‘My Shot’ in the show. You can still eat at Fraunces Tavern Museum as well as visit the galleries on the second and third floors, where you will find portraits of George Washington and maps that were used during the Revolution.

Central Park Statue

You’ll find this statue of Hamilton on the East Drive of the park, opposite 83rd Street and close by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was erected in 1880 (76 years after Hamilton’s death) by his son, John C. Hamilton. This statue stands at more than 15 feet high and is carved out of granite.

Hamilton Hall, Columbia

Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton and his son Philip all attended Columbia when it was still knows as King’s College. Hamilton Hall is an academic building named after Hamilton, one of Columbia’s most notable alumni. A statue of Hamilton stands at the entrance to the building, which was erected in 1908. Hamilton Hall is located on Amsterdam Avenue. The 1 subway line will drop you off at 116 Street, right outside Columbia.

Hamilton Grange National Memorial

If you do visit Columbia, while you’re there jump back on the subway and follow the 1 line to 137 Street to Hamilton Heights and check out Hamilton Grange National Memorial. Here you’ll see Hamilton’s writing desk as well as Eliza’s tea set and the pianoforte, gifted to the Hamiltons by Eliza’s sister, Angelica. The Grange is thought to be the only home that Hamilton ever own and the construction of the house was only completed two years before his death though the house remained the Hamilton family home for 30 years after he died. The house had been relocated twice but now sits on the corner of St. Nicholas Park, just north of The City College of New York. Entry is free.

New York is full of history and you’ll be seeing familiar names on street signs and building names wherever you go. While you’re on your Hamilton tour of New York you’ll be using the Subway a lot so don’t forget to check out Laura’s article on how to use the New York Subway System.

What’s your favourite thing from the musical that you want to see in real life and will you check out any of these things on this list? Let us know in the comments!

Oahu Spotlight: Diamond Head

By Laura Jemetta

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The view from Diamond Head

If you have seen a tourism photo for Hawaii, then you’ve already seen the Diamond Head State Monument; that lush, green mountain to the left of Waikiki Beach. Diamond Head is actually a volcanic tuff cone, formed over 300,000 years ago by a single and brief volcanic eruption. This created a 350 acre wide crater, and the crater is actually wider than it is high.

Diamond Head is actually climbable, and it is a fantastic way to see Oahu. The Diamond Head trail was built in 1908 as part of a defense system of the US Army. While people climb Diamond Head every day, the trail is uneven and hard going, and includes some very steep stairs. Proper, enclosed walking shoes are a must; don’t make the same mistake as me and wear birkenstocks!

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Diamond Head from above

1.3 kilometers long and a 171 meter climb from the crater floor, the trail is difficult, (unless you are super fit!), but it is highly rewarding to get to the summit and see the ocean and the city below you. You’ll get some fantastic photos from up there, and you might even get a rain shower to cool you down from your climb, like I did.

Take your time at the summit, and then have a much easier downward climb back to the bottom. My tip is to grab a huge Shave Ice to enjoy on the way home, from the truck just before the car park. Shave Ice is the Hawaiian version of a snow-cone, and yours will taste all the sweeter for just having scaled Diamond Head.