Home: It is the people. It is the people.

He aha te mea nui o te ao
What is the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people
Maori proverb

You know when you learn a new word or phrase, and then all of a sudden it turns up everywhere?

Hutt River, Lower Hutt, New ZealandI recently came across this beautiful Maori proverb and since then, of course I have seen it everywhere since. It has already featured in this month’s #travellinkup. Pop over to Two Feet One World for another Kiwi’s take on home.

I have made a home in three countries so far and many different houses with different people and for me, what makes a place home is the connections I make and the little pieces I pick up along the way.

When I was preparing to leave New Zealand for the first time to live in Japan, I remember reading advice on how to combat homesickness. It said pack little things to remind you of home and make your new space feel familiar. Things like photos, special trinkets and even a pillow case. I took my second hand copy of Bridget Jones’s Diary and lots of pictures to put up on my wall. I got homesick a lot in my first year away in Japan and those things did help. Bridget never fails to make me laugh, all I have to do is read: 9st 1, alcohol units 2, cigarettes 0, calories 998 (excellent, v.g., perfect saint-style person) or the like I can’t help but crack a smile.

Fushimi Inari Temple- Kyoto JapanBut what helped more in that first year in a foreign country, was crossing the hall for dinners of miso fish and tofu with my fellow kiwi teacher, learning koto (a traditional Japanese harp instrument) and chatting over cake with a local housewife and spending weekends touring the prefecture I lived in with fellow foreign teachers. We would all congregate in a town for the night, cause general mayhem and party too hard, then crash for the night at the local teacher’s apartment. I knew I had to live in Japan first, I had to make my home where I was, by finding my people there.

I’ve made a lot of awesome memories throughout my travels, but what will always stick with me are those things that you never think to photograph. The normal daily life connections you make that make you feel at home. I remember the weekend nights watching The Voice and eating pimped out desserts in our Tottenham flat. My flatmate and I would buy ice cream and then add extra awesomeness to it like biscuits and cake. So good!

In my first flat in Wadestown, Wellington we would come together for Turbo Jam workouts in our only just large enough for four people lounge. In Lower Hutt it was Easter eggs + Greys Anatomy viewing with my sisters when I went home for Sunday dinner. Hangover curing breakfasts of fried herby potatoes, eggs and whatever else was available all over Yamagata prefecture, Japan. Most recently in Tufnell Park we’re walking down the road every Monday night to watch Game of Thrones and have freshly popped popcorn. Oh and having drunken sing-alongs to 90’s classics with our new flatmates. Long may they continue…

Home travel quoteThe little traditions are always changing, but the connections last.

My Facebook feed gives me political commentary from Northern Ireland, pregnancy updates from Canada and random life musings from Japan. I have a friend who blogs about crafting in Borneo and gorgeous architecture pictures pop up from a friend in Sydney. I get a once a year behind the scenes look at the Sydney Pride Parade which is always fabulous – I’m coming to watch in the flesh one year!  I wake up to picks of the ever growing animal menagerie in Upper Hutt and the award winning huskie and her lovely parents in Auckland pop up every once in a while. I catch up on #RICH living in Scotland and a Perth to Sydney cycle by someone who had barely ridden a bike before. A new baby in Toronto and girls nights in Melbourne. Sunsets from snowy mountains in Canazei, Italy and tourist-ing in Wellington.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0001I love these brief insights into everyone’s lives. Thank you to Facebook, Skype and good old snail mail for keeping the connections alive.

I often wish I could have all the awesome people in my life here with me in the UK but as the quote says, this is the price I pay for making connections as I have travelled. I’m glad we had the chance to make each other feel at home, wherever we were/are.

 

 

 

 

Memories + Pics from my Egypt Travels

I kept a diary while on my Ancient Encounters tour. I knew that with two weeks of solid travelling little details would get lost in my memory. Of course the big things, like riding a camel to see the Pyramids of Giza up close (!!), will be there forever, diary or no diary. But I wanted to share the little details, the amusing side notes that made the country and its people one of the most astounding and moving places I have encountered.

Kom Ombo Temple

We travelled to Egypt in November 2015, so this post has spent a long time kicking around in my drafts page, mainly because we had so many photos to sort through (as always!). I have a few more posts to follow this about the tour itself and some travel reading. Spoiler – I read Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile while on the Nile.

Here are the little moments:

Upon arrival in Cairo, us three Kiwis quickly found Wi-Fi access and checked the Rugby World Cup final score. The All Blacks won! Most important business sorted we started our holiday on a high. Note: We had the game on record at home to watch when we returned – great game, even knowing the outcome I was on the edge of my seat.

Kom Ombo TempleOur tour guide Aboudi, who has a tour guide pedigree – his grandfather wrote one of the earliest Egypt travel guides in English and his family has been running a foreign book store in Luxor since 1909.

The Great PyamidsThe great pyramids of Giza early on our first morning in Cairo. It was so surreal to have basically just come from work on Friday to be waking up in front of one of the wonders of the world. Cairo was just waking up too and the early morning haze shrouding the pyramids gave them an airy, secretive quality that looks beautiful in the pictures.

Of course we just had to give them a pinch.

The Great PyamidsMy first camel ride! We went from the lookout right down to the planes in front of the pyramids. I can’t say I was super relaxed perched on top of the gangly beast, but as we got closer to the pyramids I got used to it.

Seeing King Tutankhamun’s tomb at the Cairo museum was a highlight for me. We spent so long studying Tutankhamun in primary school that it was almost nostalgic for me to wander past all the many tombs and artifacts the young prince had been buried with.

Our group was joined by an armoured guard in Cairo who rode with us and presumably kept watch on our surroundings. He wore a nice suit, sunglasses and his visible glock generally added some swag to our motley crew tour group. That is until his phone rang and his ring tone, Celine Dion’s classic My Heart Will Go On, instantly crushed that bad boy image he was cultivating. At the back of the bus we were in hysterics every time it rang.

Philae TempleMagic Hour at the temple of love, Philae temple in Aswan.

Wandering through the markets in Aswan, famous for spices and teas. I bought some saffron which I have barely use since. Ben was called “lucky man” by all the market sellers as he wandered around with three ladies in tow, me, Brooke and Bethany, another girl from our tour group.

Night Market in AswanI also found a horribly perfect Christmas decoration for our collection at the Aswan markets. Sooo kitsch, I can’t wait to use it.

Feluccca Trip on The Nile in AswanSailing down the Nile on a traditional felucca boat. Unfortunately the support boat with a rowdy and smelly generator ruined the ambience way too often. Our “traditional” cruise was not without some creature comforts. You had to laugh.

Feluccca Trip on The Nile in AswanWe had a lovely dinner on board; vegetable stew, lentil soup and chicken wings. Traditional Nubian entertainment followed after dinner with us all having a sing song and dance around a bonfire on the Nile banks. All watched over by a nearby donkey.

Feluccca Trip on The Nile in AswanSleeping under the stars (nearly) on the felucca boat.

Kom Ombo Temple

Having the temples mostly to ourselves. The unrest in and around Egypt has kept most tourists away. It’s awful for those whose livelyhood relies on tourism. It was very jarring to read a 2013 edition of Lonely planet Egypt telling you tricks on how to avoid crowds when the biggest crowd you had seen in the temples were classes of local school children. It was a treat for the tourists who had come though as we had the run of the place.

Being harassed by some seriously desperate vendors outside Kom-Ombo temple. One man actually put a scarf on me to try to get me to buy, but I felt too vulnerable to get out my wallet in the area with that sort of treatment.

On Egypt Roads –

  • Traffic in Egypt is like nothing I have even seen before. I was fascinated.
  • Private vans acting as buses. Many with no doors and way over crowded.
  • Mechanics stalls and shops everywhere
  • Donkeys with grass over their bodies and the drivers sitting on top of the grass.
  • Water stations made up of ‘zeer’ clay pots and communal cups. These were the communities drinking water supply and were filled by hand.
  • Fruit shops
  • Rubbish piles and building debris and stacks of new bricks. Construction and demolition were happening everywhere.
  • Military check points

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  • Three layers of parked cars on normal sized streets.
  • No adherence to lane systems
  • Horns! Horns! Horns! This is the backdrop to any travel through Egypt. Drivers use the horn like an indicator.
  • Lovely pastel coloured houses; the ‘Nubian Colours’ of turquoise, blue, yellow and purple.
  • Waving school children, teenagers pulling the fingers, adults gawking.
  • Watching Egyptian life go by. Life is lived on the streets here, there were so many people outside meeting friends, shopping at street-side markets eating, farming, commuting and just passing the time.

The Great Pyamids“Take your time but hurry up!” – Aboudi’s catch phrase, one that we heard often while he hustled us on to the next site.

Meeting our tour guide’s brother at the foreign book store in Luxor town and picking up some sweet postcards and a copy of Death on the Nile which I read for the rest of the tour.

Staying in a very fancy 5* hotel in Luxor with views of the Nile and a luxurious swimming pool and pancakes made to order for breakfast. I really could have moved in.

Driving through the desert to Hurghada, vast expanses of sand dunes stretching out forever.

Surprising our Hurghada tour guide with our local catch phrase ‘fil mesh mesh’ Arabic for ‘in your dreams’.

Eating all the seafood in Starfish restaurant and having the biggest meal imaginable at Gad an Egyptian chain restaurant. All the meat…! We took doggy bags home to the hotel, and then left them there as our stomachs got upset during the night. Fail!

Grand Seas Resort HostmarkLaughable evening entertainment at the Russian resort hotel we were staying at.

Hurgharda diving_BrookeDiving in the red sea and seeing a black and white sea snake.

IMG_5506Empty and half-finished property developments, Hurghada is what I imagine Las Vegas is like, glossy and shiny on the surface but not quite right underneath.

After our slightly unsettling stay in Hurghada we flew on to Jordan to start the next part of our tour. You can see the pics of our trip here.

Egypt is a country of so many wonders and I’m really glad we took the chance to visit when we did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hiking The White Cliffs of Dover

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0001I have a stock standard screensaver on my laptop, it’s called United Kingdom and it cycles through images of the UK in all its glory; Stonehenge, Tower Bridge, the Giant’s Causeway etc.

They’re all pretty inspiring images, but the one that always makes me pause and go ‘Wow!’ is the image of the White Cliffs of Dover. Sparkly white and rising majestically out of the churning sea, I knew I had to see them for myself while in England.

They didn’t disappoint! A wander along this coastline really is a top experience in England.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0043Here is a little guide with an olfactory twist for this month’s travel link up challenge. I’m using smell as my cue to take you with me.

The White Cliffs path is maintained by The National Trust and you will pay a small fee to use the carpark at the start of the walk.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0083Unfortunately your first smell with be industrial. Diesel fumes waft from the busy port of Dover. But don’t worry you will soon leave that behind.

Although don’t forget to look back as you hurry on. The views of Dover Castle from here are pretty special.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0250_StylizedSigns of wildlife reach your nose as you walk through the headlands and we soon found the culprits. British native Exmoor ponies! So cute! They’re shy though, we didn’t see many on our journey.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0015Fresh coastal winds blowing the city funk away. It was so nice to be in the bracing fresh air.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0039I’d love to say we caught the scent of cheese and baguettes as we meandered so close to the lands of France, but although we could see it, the coastal wind wasn’t bringing us any olfactory treasures today.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0082Ben didn’t mind, he was head over heels to be out in the fresh air.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0072We passed perfumed gardens on our way around to St Margarets Bay. Spring buds are just coming through and they smelled so sweet.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0096We rounded a corner into the bay and were hit with the salty sea breeze. A storm was brewing and the sea churned at the cliffs. This is the launching beach for many a Channel swim, but it did not look inviting today.

We found a sheltered spot to crack open the Thermos for a piping hot brew. 20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0229_B&WThe earthy smell of English Breakfast will make you feel at home wherever you are. We snuck some Easter Chocolate into our back backs too which totally hit the spot on our little tea break.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0231I climbed the banks of the bay to explore the war time caves along the shore. It was a hands and knees scramble down though and the chalky smell lingered on my hands for the walk home.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0243The winds were so strong by then we were walking like drunkards fighting to stay upright. It’s ok though, we had each other for support.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0246Before we knew it, we were back at the National Trust restaurant for sweet smelling scones and decadent hot chocolate. Oops, gone before we even snapped a pic…

Have you hiked the White Cliffs? How was the weather? I hope you were treated to the famous British weather as we were 😉

What other walks should I attempt while living in England?

I hope you liked the pics in this post, Ben kindly edited them for me. For more of our travels follow Ben and I on Instagram @andieinspired @benjamin_e_parry

 

 

 

 

2016 Travel Plans

My plans for travel in 2016 are much more structured than they ever have been. It’s the start of the year and we actually have a travel plan! This is a first and I’m really excited about what different opportunities this might give us in our trips. We have tended to travel if not quite last minute, then second to last minute, booking trips based on what friends are doing, events we have managed to get tickets to and generally going with the flow in terms of travel. When we have the time and money available we take advantage and when we don’t, we stay put.

It’s been a good system so far, although somewhat hectic and usually over our very uninformed budget, we have managed to pull off some epic trips. In 2015 alone I saw Malaysia while Ben was living there, Paris, Croatia, Denmark, Jordan and Egypt. Closer to home I spent Easter in Bristol, a few rugby weekends in Newcastle and Cardiff and we got out to Wales twice to visit Ben’s grandfather and extended family, too. All in all, a pretty good year!

We’re changing our travel style this year for a few reasons though. One, (and it’s a biggy) is that I need to renew my visa this year. It’s up in August and to save money we have decided that I will send my passport away this time rather than booking a same day appointment which nearly doubles the already expensive cost. It means that my passport won’t be with me for up to two month this summer so it’s a London summer for me.

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The second reason that we have to be organised is that we’re planning to go to New Zealand for Christmas in 2016. I couldn’t be more excited! It will have been 2 and a half years since I’ve been home by the time we get there. But as it is the other side of the world and at Christmas time, it’s going to be pricey and so we need to Save! Save! Save! for the tickets ASAP. We also want to make the most of going that far, which means conserving leave for this period.

Hutt River, Lower Hutt, New Zealand

Both reasons mean that we need to be organised and budget and be much more realistic about our travel chances this year. But of course, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any!

We’re headed to Italy for our fourth time in May. We will be meeting Ben’s brother and girlfriend to road trip along the Amalfi Coast for a week. We’re thinking tents, sun, swimming and oh so many gelato cones!

Positano, Amalfi Coast Italy

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Originally planned for summer 2015, we will try again this year to stay at what is reputedly the best campsite in England, Eweleaze Farm in Weymouth. We tempetd fate and booked for the August bank holiday last year and were unsurprisingly rained out. So bonus – this one is already paid for! I can’t wait for these stunning views >>

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I still have a couple of trips I want to tick off on the 27 List, namely seeing the White Cliffs of Dover and climbing Mt. Snowdon which will help me see a bit more of England.

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Pic Source

Lastly, a friend and I are aiming to spend some time up at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival. I have wanted to do this since I learned about it and can’t wait to see who will be performing.

So that will be my 2016 and I can’t wait to get it started! I think the restrictions on my 2016 travel and the fact that I’m being more organised is increasing the anticipation and excitement for my adventures.

What are your travel plans for the coming year? Are you going with the flow or have you already given your boss a list of leave requests? Whatever they are I hope daydreaming about them is giving you as much joy as I’m getting.

Here’s to 2016!

 

 

Road-Tripping: Danish Style

P1010844This post has been in draft format for months now, we got up to so much on our trip and I had so much I wanted to say that I ended up procrastinating, but I have finally completed it. So here we go…

Buckle in guys, and let me take you on a road trip through Denmark. From Viking ships to tall ships, to Lego ships, here’s what we got up to in the land of the Danes.

First stop, Copenhagen. We were met off the plane by our friend and lovely host for the week, Pia. Keryn and Pia spent a lot of time exploring NZ together while Pia was studying abroad in NZ. So it was lovely for her to show Keryn some of her home too. I was lucky that I got to come along for the ride. Thanks ladies.

It makes me smile to tell you that our first destination, after dumping our bags, was for porridge. I didn’t do much planning for this trip, but once I happened across a blog about Grod, a cafe in Copenhagen with a menu entirely consisting of porridge, I knew I had to incorporate this into our trip somehow.

I am a mad fan of all things porridge. I have it for breakfast every day at home and sometimes, to my boyfriend’s disgust, order it off brunch menus on the weekend. “You could be having that at home” he says “have something special.” As he tucks into his eggs benedict with mountains of bacon on the side. He just doesn’t appreciate the joys of a decadent cafe made porridge.

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My Grod porridge was like a dessert; creamy oats with rhubarb compote, Danish yogurt and toasted almond flakes on top. Totally divine. I did get order envy though when the next customer made a choice that involved a huge wallop of thick caramel being heaped on top.  I nearly ordered seconds!

20150728_Denmark_Road_Trip_0008Our next point of call was Rosenborg Castle, a massive Royal residence right in the centre of Copenhagen. It was built by Christian IV as a summer house for royalty and now houses the Danish Crown jewels and many other royal relics and collections. I loved all the dark wood interiors and ornate gilded features. We spent the afternoon there and ended up having to be shooed out at closing time, not before taking jumping shots in front of the royal thrones.

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No visit to Copenhagen would be complete without seeing Nyhavn, the iconic entertainment and canal district of the city. Bitterly cold and with rain threatening, we gamely jumped into a canal boat and sailed out for a sunset cruise along the canals. We passed the Royal Palace among other historical buildings and the other icon of Copenhagen, H.C Anderson’s The Little Mermaid statue, albeit from behind.

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We had dinner along the canal, pork and potatoes, our first taste of hearty Danish fare and Pia warned us of the prices, offering to go somewhere less touristy if we wanted to. But for me, the expensiveness that Copenhagen is infamous for, was unfounded. I found most things to be on par with London, which I know is expensive but hasn’t got the same reputation for it, or cheaper.

Our food and drinks went down well, and as we wandered home on a surprisingly lively Tuesday night, we stopped in for a spiked hot chocolate at a local cafe. Despite the temperature the tables outside were pretty full and we all snuggled under blankets sipping our gloriously indulgent drinks.

After a night in Pia’s quintessential Scandi style apartment – so many compartments and hidden storage drawers and a raised bed with a wardrobe underneath – we headed to our next destination, Roskilde, to pick up that essential road trip item, a car, call in on Pia’s mum and grandfather and visit the UNESCO world heritage Roskilde Cathedral.

20150728_Denmark_Road_Trip_0161It’s a grand Gothic church where all but one of the Danish kings and queens have been buried. The inside was quite different to most of the churches I have seen in Europe so far and I loved all the bold detail. What struck me also was the massive scale. The church features a number of royal burial chambers that are not only imposing rooms but feature huge monuments and coffins built in different periods of history.

20150728_Denmark_Road_Trip_0176One of the most interesting features of the church was the “Kings Column”. As I know many families did, when I was growing up my parents used to track the height of me and my siblings on a door frame every birthday, the “King’s column” in Roskilde is exactly that but played out over centuries. Visiting royalty and noblemen have been asked for centuries to record their heights on the pillar and I am pleased to tell you that I am taller than most Danish kings throughout history. Although there is one who was giant, but historians believe that was a technical error. Or this king was just lying.

20150728_Denmark_Road_Trip_0204We spent the rest of the day driving across the islands of Denmark.

20150728_Denmark_Road_Trip_021620150728_Denmark_Road_Trip_0225Searching for the highest point in Denmark… however most of the road looked like this.

P1010909Stopping in on Hans Christian Anderson’s childhood home.

20150728_Denmark_Road_Trip_0237Before arriving at Pia’s family home in time for a traditional Danish dinner of Fraikadeller. Fraikadeller are pork and beef meatballs, ours were homemade by Pia’s father and were absolutely delicious.

We struggled out of bed the next morning to make the early sailing of The Hjejlen, the world’s oldest operating paddle steamer, to take us to Himmelbjerget or in English ‘Sky Mountain’. We made the leisurely walk up for some beautiful views and a delicious picnic of leftover Fraikadeller and rye bread.

We spent the night in Aalborg on our way to Skagen. Skagen is the point where the North Sea and the Kattegat (Baltic) Sea meet and is the northernmost point of Denmark. This was my favourite part of the whole trip.

We walked along the sandy spit to dip our feet in the two seas.

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We explored the gorgeous yellow town of Skagen.

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And discovered the extremely photogenic Den Tilsandede Kirke or The Sand-Covered Church. Perched on such a windy coastline it is a constant battle to keep this church from being buried by sand, as it has been historically.

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Boyed by the sunshine and dipping our toes in in Skagen, we took the plunge for a swim in the North Sea at Lokken. It was freezing! But you have got to be tough to spend your summer holidays in Denmark.

The ubiquitous sight of any Denmark road trip, windmills!

20150728_Denmark_Road_Trip_0472Travelling around Denmark we usually took The Marguerite Road, the scenic route through the islands identified by the marguerite flower symbol. As Keryn takes her middle name from the pretty flower we had to get a pic of them together.

20150728_Denmark_Road_Trip_0594We stopped back in on Aalborg as we had learned there would be a tall ship gathering there that day. We wandered down the waterfront eating candied almonds and listening to a Danish rap band on a nearby stage as the ships settled in the harbour and the crews started their evening festivities.

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With our time in Denmark fast running out we made the short trip back from the North of Jutland to Billund, the home of Lego. It couldn’t really be skipped from a road trip around Denmark could it? We spent an entire day here riding the attractions, exploring the Lego cities and making our own Lego figurines as souvenirs. We are much too old to be the target market, but it was good fun none the less and a trip down memory lane for Pia who had visited in her childhood.

‘Everything is awesome’ the theme song to the recent Lego movie was blasting out on rote at the entrance and a various sites in the park too. Luckily I love it and made sure to sing it incessantly throughout the day even when it wasn’t around.

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Nyhavn in real life and in Lego.

20150728_Denmark_Road_Trip_014020150728_Denmark_Road_Trip_0553Our final stop before flying out was to Jelling village, a UNESCO world heritage site important because it is home to an ancient Viking burial site, thought to be created for Viking kings. The powerful Vikings made huge mounds for their burials which enclose a tomb at the bottom and in the case of the Jelling mounds there is a large stone ship.

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Our road trip was rounded off by coming across a Viking ship sailing in a nearby lake on the drive out of Jelling.

20150728_Denmark_Road_Trip_0607Denmark was such a great country for a road trip, especially as it has the dedicated Marguerite route. We were reminded often of New Zealand, too. With the windswept sandy coastlines and sunny but chilly climate we were travelling in, it felt very similar to an NZ autumn. Denmark also felt very outdoorsy with lots of opportunities for hiking and getting out in the sunshine and lots of friendly people it did make us feel very at home.

So, now I’m thinking about my next road trip, what other countries are good to travel around by car?

Orphan’s Christmases- Celebrating away from home

Christmas has come in many guises for me since I left home for Japan as a 21 year old. What started off as a two year teaching contract has turned into nearly 6 years away from home and counting. So it has meant I’ve celebrated a fair few Christmases without my family, although I have been lucky to have my sister join me once in Japan and once in the UK. Happily though there have always been a few other ‘Orphans’ around to help me celebrate.

I have celebrated Christmas cross-legged on a tatami floor, warm and cosy under a friend’s kotatsu table, drinking Asahi beer and eating so much food while the snow fell outside. This was the first year I spent away from my family and I decorated my apartment with tinsel sent from home and origami my students taught me to make. This was my first Northern Hemisphere Christmas and, although strange at first, I did come to love the wintry snowy Christmas.

2010 Japan

Life in Japan was still very new for me, but I was slowly settling in and making some friends. I was so grateful for all the other teachers staying in japan over Christmas, it helped to make the time feel more festive. Especially as the Japanese don’t really celebrate Christmas. Here is a bunch of us getting into the spirit by carolling in the lead up to Christmas. Snow was falling and it was pretty magical.

2010 Japan caroling

I’ve spent it on the tropical Okinawan Islands. There we partook in the Japanese Christmas tradition of a Kentucky Fried Chicken Dinner. True story, KFC is synonymous with Christmas in Japan and we had to give this custom a go.

2011 Japan KFC

We were treated in the evening to a lovely festive spread by the hostel we were staying at. Our eccentric Japanese host cooked a chicken and we ate our way through traditional and non-traditional side dishes in the eclectic hostel common room. I remember a German guy snorting wasabi at one point and partying with some Czech guys who were obsessed with their snuff (tobacco). It was one of the most random Christmases I’ve had.

My first Christmas in London was spent around a tiny dining table wearing shiny new Christmas jumpers in a cosy North London flat. I remember bucks fizz, egg-nog and a charades match that got a bit out of hand. We were hosted by some lovely Aussies who we now count as very good friends.

2012 London Christmas

I’ve celebrated in a spacious country house on the outskirts of Bath, with a big group of friends and a massive Ocado order. Although it was the first time many of us had cooked our own Christmas dinner, we pulled it off like pros. I was in charge of the roast potatoes (I used goose fat, it was a success!) and after dinner we wandered round the cute little neighbourhood in the fresh winter sunshine.

2013 Bath Christmas

My bangin’ roast potatoes  ^^

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Last Christmas we celebrated with Ben’s family in Italy. Ben’s brother spends his winters working at a ski chalet for British guests. So when Ben’s parents visited from New Zealand last year, Ben and I went out to meet everyone there for the holidays. We spent Christmas day having sparkling Prosecco in mountain chalets and skiing the Dolomites until sunset.

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This year we’re getting ready for our 6th Orphan’s Christmas. Our jumpers are at the ready and we’re putting up some decorations. We’re currently living with a master Pavlova maker too so dessert is sorted.

We’re looking forward to having a truly Kiwi Christmas next year though, when we make the trip home to see our families and friends. I can’t wait to spend the day in the day in the sun with a BBQ dinner, lots of NZ wine and a wander along the beach to kick off the lazy summer holidays.

I’ve added this post to a monthly travel link up. I’ve been meaning to join in for a while and this month stars aligned, (read: I learned of the topic in time and it was something I could write about yay!) so I’ve added my post. Check out some of the other awesome takes on this month’s theme The Festive Season, below.

 

A Few Holiday Snaps + A Challenge

Weeeee’re back!

The Great Pyamids

It’s been two weeks of new sights, new people to get to know, new food, new culture, new beds in new places and of course, with all this new going on there were many, many photos to be taken. 2200 to be exact. Whew! That is a lot of photos, and of course we have a lot of ‘practice shots’, but they’re all worth it because I know some of these photos I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Here are a few I have picked out of the mix so far. I loved taking photos in Egypt and Jordan – the countries are both so photogenic!

So while I’m on this photography loving high I’m setting myself a pre-Christmas challenge. We’ve had the camera exactly on a year now and with nearly 100 folders of photos to show for it, we have definitely been out and practicing lots.

I have spent the year making steady progress in my photography knowledge. I’m reluctantly learning the technical vocab that goes along with it and generally sorting out my focal lengths from my ISO (#cameraspeak). But while on holiday it became very apparent that the camera is Ben’s baby and I just have a play around when I can. All the interesting shots (like this awesome night shot in Petra below) were lead by him, and I’m soooo grateful that he had the technical knowledge to be able to give these things a go.

Petra By night

We both learned a lot from other great photographers on our trips too. But it definitely highlighted to me that I need to put in more effort – least I become the passenger (or in this case the poser), more often than not.

So I’m challenging myself to get awesome at using the camera to take the shots I want. In the 6 weeks leading up to Christmas I’m going to work through some of the homework challenges set out in the ABM DSLR Basics course which I have been dipping in and out of this past year.

I’ll be sharing my progress weekly so please pass on any tips or pointers.

Thanks for joining me x

 

Sail Croatia in pictures

20150711_Sail_Croatia_Day6_1473Over summer we had a few friends visiting and we knew we wanted to get a proper summer holiday booked for while they were here. We had two objectives really, lots of sun and something easy to organise for a group. A couple of friends had been on sailing trips around Croatia in previous years and couldn’t recommend it enough. So it sounded like just the thing for us.

You really never hear a bad word about Croatia, I’m not going to add any here either. This holiday completely exceeded my expectations. Every day was wow! Sunshine, beautiful villages, friendly people and an abundance of seafood to enjoy. I think I had sea bass for dinner all but one night we were there. I got totally hooked and as soon as I saw it on a menu, I just couldn’t look past it.

Oh, and did I mention the ocean was so warm it was like swimming in bath water? I’ve never experienced anything like it. I could have stayed in all day if it weren’t for the enticing lunches on board prepared by our skipper or the thought of reaching our next island destination.

Here is our trip in photos. We collected blue skies, blue seas and sunset after gorgeous sunset.

Trogir, Split. Sail Croatia, MedSailors Island of Brac, Split. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsOur holiday was booked through MedSailors on the Discovery route which starts and ends in Split and takes you to a different island mooring every night. Your on board skipper and the support crew take care of everything. All we had to think about was when we wanted to fit in our next swim stop.

Our boats slept eight people plus the skipper, in pretty cosy rooms below deck. Although it was pretty tight, it was surprising how much could actually fit down there. It was like being in a Scandinavian apartment. Every compartment and little piece of space was used meaningfully and thoughtfully.

Stari Grad, Split. Sail Croatia, MedSailors Stari Grad, Split. Sail Croatia, MedSailors Here is us wandering Stari Grad before a bus ride took us to a winery at the top of the island for wine tasting and delicious Croatian food. The sunset over the vineyard was one of the best we saw. Stari Grad historic Vineyard, Split. Sail Croatia, MedSailors Sunset over Stari Grad historic Vineyard, Split. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsSome nights we would moor up on forlorn little jetties that led to sleepy village towns, other nights we would be docked at  bustling marinas like the one below in Hvar town.

Hvar, Split. Sail Croatia, MedSailors Hvar, Split. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsLook how clear that water is!Sail Croatia, MedSailorsWe spent our days swimming, paddle boarding and lounging in the sun on the boat decks.

Water reading. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsWhen it got too hot to read on board, I decided my best option was to tether my floaty to the boat and bob around all afternoon immersed in a book. I was reading the seventh installment of The Shardlake Series, not your average summer holiday read, it’s a historical crime series set in Tudor England, but it was long enough to keep me entertained for the whole holiday.

Korcula Old Town. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsWe spent our nights exploring quaint little island towns like Korcula Old Town. Here we had cocktails on the rooftop of a tower built over the sea. We managed to be up there at sunset as our tour guide recommended and it was one of the best tips of the trip.

Group shot! Korcula Old Town. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsSunset from Korcula Town. Sunset over Korcula Old Town. Sail Croatia, MedSailors We ventured into an abandoned submarine bay in the ex-military base island, Vis. We learned a bit about the history of the island which was only opened to tourists again in 1989 after years of serving as a military base for the Yugoslav National Army. Vis. Sail Croatia, MedSailors Vis. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsWe caught another sunset overlooking Vis town and explored more of the island with our tour guide. Most of the island was so rugged we were shipped around in the back of a Jeep and it was not a smooth ride. Old Church. Vis. Sail Croatia, MedSailors Vis. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsBoat Life. We hung our togs out in the breeze over night and for the most part abandoned our showering and cleansing routines in favour beach hair and sun tan. Boat Life. Vis. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsBoat Life. Sail Croatia, MedSailors Sunset over Sesula Bay on our last stop of the tour. The one restaurant on the bay was so busy with boat loads of tourists anchored there for the night we didn’t eat until after 10pm. We were starving by this time but my last sea bass meal of the tour didn’t disappoint. Sesula Bay. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsWalking to the night markets in Trogir Town on our last night in Croatia. Here we spent our last Croatian Kuna on fresh juices and souvenirs to take home. Trogir, Split. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsI hope you enjoyed our pictures. Going through them all and editing them recently my over-riding thought has been, I want to do it all again..

Take me back, seriously.. Take me back.

Swimming every ocean: On ‘Life Lists’

Lokken Beach Denmark - North Sea swimWhile on holiday in Denmark recently, my friends and I swam in the frigid North Sea at Lokken Beach on the north-west coast of Denmark. These photos are all taken in the space of about five minutes as we dashed in and out of the icy water. Other much hardier souls around us stayed in longer, but not much longer. Although Lokken is a place of summer houses and seaside holidays for Danish locals, a dip in the ocean here is a more than refreshing experience.

Lokken Beach Denmark - North Sea swimLokken Beach Denmark - North Sea swimSo why did we do it?

To say we had. While my friend Keryn was visiting in the summer, it became a running joke that rather than racking up countries visited as we traveled the world, we would instead try swim in every ocean. So when the chance presented itself to swim in an ocean neither of us had, we gamely slipped into our togs and squealed as we hugged our exposed bodies against the wind while running across the beach and finally plunging into the water.

So, that’s the Atlantic Ocean ticked off, what’s next on the list? Kidding! To complete that list you would have to swim in the Arctic or Southern Oceans and hypothermia is not a price I would pay to complete a challenge.

It got me thinking though, about the ‘life lists’ we make for ourselves and the sometimes arbitrary challenges we take up, just to say we did it; just to tick a box. We’re living in a goal orientated world, full of to do lists, bucket-lists, career goals and travel wish lists. We walk through life racking up experiences like it’s our job. Travel the world; write a book; finish a marathon; visit the latest pop-up event; climb the highest mountain; bike the length of the country. Not to mention the ultimate life-box trifecta of house, marriage and baby.

Although I do love lists and I’m not about to stop making goals for myself, I have come to realise that the goals I make need to be thoughtful, and relevant for me.  I know I’m the kind of person who likes completion, who likes to tick things off and get things done. But I need to make sure that the goals I make are for the right reasons.

I’m keeping this in mind as I start to think about the next steps I want to take both on this blog and for my next year or few years. What do I want my late 20’s to be? What will I look back on and be proud of? What do I want to try out? Whatever my goals end up being, I am going to make sure they are tailored to me and something I can enjoy for the journey as well as the satisfaction of completing them.

Lokken Beach Denmark - North Sea swimAnd, just for the record, I have swum in the Pacific and Indian Oceans already, so if I were to take on the challenge of swimming every ocean, I can already post a solid 3/5….

Bristol City Break

_MG_0147Easter approached fast this year and 1 week out I hadn’t made any plans, but knew I wanted to get away from London for the weekend. I had been reading a lot about Bristol and when you added up the cost of a train ticket and a cheap business hotel, it was a pretty good option for a last-minute weekend. So my sister and I packed our bags and our books and jumped on the train.

We were a bit hampered by Easter bank holiday closures. But an Easter chocolate fair on the waterfront and sunny winter days made up for it.

Here is what we got up to in Bristol:

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A great first stop when you arrive at Bristol Temple Meads is Hart’s Bakery. They sell lovely fresh breads, a variety of cakes and sweet things and, Kiwi’s will know what I’m talking about here, good cabinet food! By this I mean a good selection of lunch stuff that’s just ready to go like savoury muffins and quiches. I love that stuff.

_MG_0018mint green wall, BristolWander along the colourful Harbourside to Brunel’s SS Great Britain.

_MG_0124When the ship was launched in 1843 it was the world’s largest and fastest ship due to the new steam engine powering it. Technology advanced quickly in the 1840’s though and by 1852 the now obsolete engine was replaced and the ship converted to a sailing ship. The ship worked for decades carrying emigrants from England to Australia. It was fascinating to see how passengers would have travelled. I definitely wouldn’t be able to squeeze into even one of the first class beds. They are tiny!_MG_0070  This is Claire and I goofing around in the first class dining deck.

_MG_0105Beers on Bristol HarbourDrinks on Bristol HarbourDrinks on Bristol HarbourWe saw a few smart souls had grabbed beers and perched themselves on the docks to sit and watch the winter sunset. It looked like the perfect way to rest our legs and we quickly sourced beers from Arnolfini Cafe & Bar and sat people watching as the sun went down.

Garlic bread at The Stable, BristolDefinitely tuck into pizza and the cider tasters at The Stable on Bristol waterfront.

_MG_0141 Take a stroll around Millenium Square at night._MG_0187 _MG_0193Or check out the mirror ball and bronze sculptures there during the day. I just read that there is one there of Cary Grant who was born in Bristol. I didn’t pay enough attention to the sculptures, I have about 5 mirror ball selfies instead.

_MG_0179I can recommend the Glassboat restaurant for a breakfast or a coffee on the water. No surprises for me, I had the muesli and an English breakfast tea when we popped in. Both were exactly what I need to get me ready for a second day of exploring.

_MG_0210We wandered past the Bristol Cathedral in search of street art. Bristol is known for its street art scene and is home to a number of Banksy pieces. We went looking for ‘Naked man’ which is on Park Street, but stumbled across ‘Swinging Girl’ too. We thought this was a Banksy, but reading more about it now it seems it may have been a copy-cat, either way it was nice to look up and see it brightening up a very dull area of town._MG_021320150405 March iphone Bristol 225 _MG_0222_MG_0236Tuck into some gorgeous Indian food at Thali Cafe. This is a Bristol institution, every tourist guide and Bristol blogger mentioned Thali Cafe and I am going to continue this trend. Go and try this fragrant and delicious indian food!! There are 5 branches and Bristol so you’ll never find yourself far from one.

Thali Cafe BristolOur last stop was the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Before we got there I kept thinking that this was the bridge over to Wales. Nope, that’s the Severn Bridge, much bigger than this local one. On the plus side though, we could easily walk to the other side of this one. Well easier for some than others, Claire was holding on to the rails for dear life – she’s not one for heights.

_MG_0253 _MG_0260If you make it out to the bridge do take a stroll through the nearby Clifton Village. It has some interesting boutique shops and cosy little cafes.

We finished off our weekend in Bristol with a warming hot chocolate at Za Za Bazaar where I fell in love with these purple lanterns. I have about 20 pictures of them – no joke.

_MG_0274I’m sure I haven’t even scratched the surface of what Bristol has to offer, so if you have any tips please pass them on. I definitely want to take Ben and show him around one day.