It’s getting to be that time of the year where I am very much wishing for the end of summer. I know some of you will be thinking, ‘what on earth is wrong with this girl?!’ when I say that, but it has been one scorcher of a summer and I will not be sad to see it go.
Do you hear that? That is the sound of retail workers all over the country sighing in relief.
It is now far enough into January that most stores have wrapped up their post-Christmas sales. The best bargains are all gone and the dregs are left to sit on a lonely little shelf tucked away in the back so the pretty new things get primary focus.
I know that I am a little bit late to the whole New Year spectacle, but it seems that it is only now that I’ve had time to breathe and really think about. The holiday time is just so crazy. In between Christmas and New Years, having family over, catching up with friends who have been away or are going away, as well as the crazy time at work with sale (I’m in retail btw), the time has just flown by!
It’s 3.28am…on a Tuesday night…I should be sleeping. But no, instead I am writing this post because I have resigned myself to the fact that this is going to be one of those nights where I just can’t get to sleep, no matter how badly I want to.
I’m not one of those people who has been swayed by the digitisation of books. Ebooks…no. Kindle….no. iPad…well I have one but the only book on there is a free lonely planet one I couldn’t refuse. Books are meant to be made of paper, they are meant to held and they are meant to form a collection that sits proudly on our bookshelves.
And I’m sorry, but I don’t buy this whole it’s so much easier to carry around and I have all my books in one place argument. I have all my books in one place too…on my bookshelf. And why would I need all of my books at once? I’m only reading one! It’s just as easy to throw a book in your bag as it is a kindle or tablet.
For me, there is nothing like the feeling of a freshly bought book. Holding the weight of it in your hands, the wonderful smell of the paper (yes I like to breathe in the smell of a new book..what of it!) and actually being able to turn the page. It’s a simple act, but turning pages is what makes reading not only joyful, but it turns it into an experience. You get lost in it. Page after page after page of glorious printed paper. You don’t get that when you flick at a screen. Tim Minchin said it best in the lyrics of Quiet from the musical Matilda:
Like silence, but not really silent…
Just that still sort of quiet
Like the sound of a page being turned in a book,
Or a pause in a walk in the woods.
Just quiet. Curling up on the couch, laying out by the pool, sneaking a couple of chapters in the car while waiting to pick up your kids from school. Wherever your preferred place to read; paperbacks, hardbacks, printed words and printed photos are what make it.
Since I am going through a travel drought at the moment, as I scrimp and save for my US trip, I hope you don’t mind if I post some of my favourite pictures from past adventures.
This is the magnificent Edinburgh Castle. The sun was out, a rarity in Scotland, a band was playing in the West Princes St Gardens and I just sat there thinking how freaking beautiful it was. Scotland is definitely the most naturally stunning place I have been too…and Edinburgh certainly didn’t disappoint.
I love Christmas time. Not just because of the presents or the time with family or the delicious food that we continue to eat no matter how full we are or the cheerful carols that are incessantly blasted through every store’s speakers (yes I am serious, I love carols). I do love these things, but more than anything, I just love the time off. No work, no study, just day after day to do fun things I normally get to do once in a blue moon. I feel like I have no cares in the world. I mean, that’s absolute bull because I have a lot of cares. But just for these two weeks, all those cares fly away and I can live in blissful ignorance of them.
Like yesterday, I baked. I actually baked. And it wasn’t even a packet mix either, which is normally to go to if I ever have the time or inclination to bake something. And it was festive baking too…gingerbread men. I carefully measured out the ingredients as I painstakingly followed the recipe my friend had given me. Being my first attempt at gingerbread, I ditched the mixture halfway through cause the butter, sugar and egg mixture looked weird. On the second attempt, I realised that was how it was supposed to look and continued on with caution.
The best part though, was post-baking. It was the decorating part. The fun, sweet, took-me-back-to-primary-school-art-class part. And I took it so seriously too. Those little men were my canvases and the icing pens and smarties my tools. Any interruptions by my brother or cats were greeted with vicious vicious words. The only sounds allowed around me were from the Disney carols I managed to dig out of the ancient CD drawer.
After I finished my masterpieces, I spent two hours wrapping presents. Two hours. Who spends two hours wrapping presents? Me that’s who! While Mickey Mouse and the Chipmunks sang Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in the background. Gingerbread, wrapping presents and Disney carols. What a gloriously fabulous festive day.
See? Isn’t that great. That I could spend a whole day do mind-numbing activities that have absolutely no effect on my future career or income. Oh how wonderful.
So Happy Holidays to everybody. Enjoy the time with family, enjoy the food, but most of all…appreciate the time to do nothing, it won’t last long.
I am going to tell you a story. A story of a girl who discovers that she is not Jamie Oliver nor Heston Blumenthal. She is not Nigella, nor is she Julia Child. And she is certainly not worthy of a place on Masterchef, or even Ready Steady Cook, despite how much she likes to delude herself into believing she is capable of using those flashy knife techniques that cut up food super-duper fast yet still perfect.
Yes, that girl is me. And the events of the day have led me to this place, being my couch, nursing a sore head and a sliced finger. Allow me to explain.
It started with breakfast, the most important meal of the day they say! And who does not love a bit of fruit for breakfast because I certainly do. A bit of banana, some beautiful strawberries, and lately because the joys of summer fruit are upon us, some mango. My favourite fruit in the whole wide world, and my love started young too. We used to be able to buy ten mangoes for a dollar at the market when I lived in Fiji, and since then, they have always been my go to summer fruit. Fresh and juicy, a delicious flavour, and so fun to eat…until now.
Maybe I was distracted, maybe the anticipation was too much to handle, maybe it was just my knife skills letting me down. While cutting a cheek, the knife slipped and sliced through my little pinky finger on its way down. Blood everywhere, my beautiful mango ruined, and the top of my finger now open like a book.
My first reaction? Well I swore like a sailor, let’s be honest. I then go into a what-the-hell-do-I-do-now state. So I grabbed some paper towel to try to absorb the flow of blood, then proceed to walk around the house yelling at my brother to get the hell out of bed so he can tell me what to do. I’m also starting to feel quite squirmy at this stage. The blood and the sight of my finger with a bit of skin hanging off it isn’t so pleasant and I don’t seem to be too good at handling it. Rule doctor out of potential career changes.
So halfway down the stairs, still trying to wake my brother because he is still in a blissful slumber unaware of my troubles, I start to get really light-headed and dizzy. So I sit down on the stairs, and put my head between my legs like they always seem to do in movies and on TV (so it must work then right). What happened next? Well I can’t actually tell you, because I have absolutely no idea. All I know is I woke up at the bottom of the stairs with blood coming out of my head as well. Oh great.
My guess, and I would say it’s pretty accurate despite my non-medical background, is that I fainted. But I didn’t just faint, oh I fainted spectacularly! I rolled down the stairs, hit my head on the banister and thudded into the wall. And now my brother decides to wake up. And I have to say, waking up from my little fainting spell is one of the weirdest feelings I’ve ever felt. I had the whole how-did-I-get-here experience, and having never passed out from alcohol in a random place before, this was a first for me.
But what is even weirder, is that I felt completely fine. No sore bones, no more dizziness (the fainting had handled that one for me), and just a little scratch on my forehead. I was even able to look at my finger and realised it actually wasn’t that bad. The bleeding had stopped, so I thought…hmm she’ll be right.
But the trouble with informing your mother about your crazy adventures while she’s in Sydney, is that she does freak out. She doesn’t think, hmm she’ll be right. So off to the doctor I go. Mind you this was a couple of hours later after I had devoured my fruit breakfast (minus the bloody mango) and watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. And it turns out my poor little pinky did need stitches, but it was too long after the injury occurred to do them because that interrupts the healing process (who knew!). So instead I’m stuck with those funny little strips and gauze to try to hold the skin together. Oh, and it turns out I have a mild concussion. Is it weird that I find that quite cool? Yep, apparently hitting your head after fainting isn’t a ‘she’ll be right’ moment, I’ve got to remember that one.
But the worst part is, my mum now thinks she should buy me those special knives they have for kids. How embarrassing.
So that’s my story, and I’m sorry for the rambling. This is only my second ever injury story so it’s hard not to get carried away, because it’s a pretty cool story if I do say so myself. I cut my finger slicing mango, fainted, rolled down the stairs and got concussion…not your average Wednesday.
Paris is an incredibly beautiful and photogenic place, so I couldn’t resist sharing another one of my favourite pictures from my time there.
It was twilight and the only way I can describe it, is that it was magical. The setting sun was hiding between the clouds and the street lights were all flicking on. This is looking down the Seine with the wonderfully gothic Notre Dame on the right.
Every time I look at this, I ache to go back there. And quite frankly, with sites like this…how could you not?
I think I have a problem, in fact I know I do. I am addicted. Every place I go, I buy a poster, print or watercolour to go on my wall and now my collection has reached epic proportions. So much so that I don’t have anywhere to put them. Instead, they sit in piles or propped behind my door, wasting their beauty.
It’s something I can’t resist, I just love having mementos from places I have been. Every time I look at my Monet watercolours, it takes me back to Paris and how amazing it felt to look at the water lilies in the Musée de l’Orangerie. My Kandinsky print from the Tate Modern reminds me of the day I walked across the Millennium Bridge from St Paul’s to the wonderfully industrial art space. I have old train company posters of London and Edinburgh I found rifling through a bargain bin in Oxford, and a beautiful watercolour of the Trevi Fountain I bought from a charming little shop in Rome.
It seems too, that now my friends are aware of my problem and are aiding and abetting me. My dear friend just returned from her own European adventure and she so wonderfully brought me back a gift. Not a magnet, not a key ring. But art.
That darling girl bought me art!
It’s a beautiful watercolour from an artist she came across in a Roman square. He would paint anything he saw from his little spot in the square, and the one she gave me is of the lovely shuttered windows with laundry hanging from them.
Now every time I look at it, I’ll think of how she got it for me from Rome, of Rome, of walking through the Roman Forum, of throwing my coins in the Trevi, of crazy Italian drivers, of how much I loved Rome. See, this is why I love collecting art! So many memories.
It’s an oldie but a goodie. I just loved this moment so much that I wanted to share it as part of my Picture Perfect posts. This was after a wonderful day of shopping and wandering through the streets of Paris with one of my dear friends. We were walking back to the hotel when we came to the river and this wonderful sight befell us.
I had pretty high expectations of Paris as I had been dreaming about it for many years. It certainly rose to the occasion though, particularly at this very moment. We just stood there drinking it all in as I marvelled at the fact that Paris was everything that I had dreamed about.
Ok, it’s not quite winter but it sure feels like it. Spring has barely sprung but it doesn’t bother me when at the beach, in fact I prefer it that way. Snug as a bug in a rug with the cool salty breeze blowing on my face and the stormy sea raging beside me. This is how I prefer the beach. None of this burning sun you can’t escape from and the hoards of people everywhere.
Give me a deserted winter’s beach any day.
This post is the first in a line of themed posts I’m going to start called Picture Perfect posts. They are in no way perfect pictures, but are rather to capture a moment in time using any available camera where I am feeling happy, content or inspired. After a relaxing dinner enjoying the sunset, I couldn’t help but feel happy here so I whipped out my iPhone to capture it.
Have you ever woken up, feeling anxious or uneasy about the day ahead of you? Sometimes you need a little pick me up to help you survive the jungle you are about to enter. I have two forms of personal pick me ups…peppermint tea and red lipstick.
Peppermint tea is an old stand by, ever reliable for hot minty goodness that wakens me. It’s something I need most mornings to prepare myself for the day ahead. Wearing red lipstick on the other hand is something I decided to try on a whim, and I have never looked back as it seems to have jump-frogged tea in terms of effectiveness in giving me a boost.
Now I know some of you reading this might be anxious about trying something so bold (particularly the men) but I urge you to give it a go. What exactly does reddening ones lips do? It adds a dollop of style, a dash of va va voom and a tonne of CONFIDENCE. Sometimes it’s the small things that make all the difference.
If the weather is dreary or a potentially bad day is looming, red lipstick comes out swinging and puts a spring in my step. Rather than reflecting my crappy mood or anxiousness, I’m choosing to face the day head on with bright lips in my corner backing me up. Remember, red makes everything go faster, including that bad day.
BUT it doesn’t just have to be to face a bad day. ANY day can be a red lipstick kind of day. It makes me feel glamorous, braver, polished, more adventurous and more spontaneous. Maybe I’ll try something new, maybe I’ll splurge on something different, maybe I’ll push that big blue button at work to finally discover what it does. My red lipstick said I could.
Through my experience, I have discovered the key to a successful red lipstick day is long wearability. It’s just plain annoying to have to constantly re-apply and check for smudging. My weapon of choice, Chanel Rouge Allure in Pirate. It stays on for hours and is the perfect pinky cheery red with a hint of badass-ness.
So next time the weather is bad, you need a boost or you just want to be brave, I double dare you to try it. It will brighten your day (literally and figuratively).
So I had a weird dream last night. I won’t go into the details too much but basically I was driving down a beautiful tree-lined road somewhere in the New England area of the United States (well I’m guessing it was this region from my extensive viewing of Gilmore Girls episodes). Not only was I confused because Americans drive on the wrong side of the road, but then a police officer appeared out of nowhere and tried to fine me 200 pounds for doing 50km/h in a 50km/h zone (Yes, I do mean pounds and km/h. Apparently my dreams are bi-continental).
Let’s just say, things got heated and I got very defensive because I was NOT speeding. But the lovely copper and I eventually sorted things out and all was well in dream world. Anyway, the reason I mention this wonderful tale is because when I woke up, it got me thinking about how much I would LOVE to be driving down a road somewhere in New England.
The US is somewhere I am yet to go, but I have always thought about where I would visit on the trip I am eventually going to take there (because it IS going to happen). I would start of course, with the Big Kahuna, New York City. Broadway, Central Park, Fifth Avenue, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn. Everything about New York is calling me! I would then make my round the aforementioned New England area, stopping at B&B’s, cruising through picturesque towns and eating maple candy. I’m thinking the trip would have to be in autumn, as I cannot resist the gorgeous colours of autumnal foliage and I hear they put on a pretty good show in this region.
Then I have always thought about hiring an old convertible and taking a road trip through the southern states, weaving my way through Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana etc on my way to New Orleans for some good times on Bourbon St. I’d also want to skip my way over to the West Coast and hang out with celebrities in LA and chill on the Santa Monica Pier before heading up the coast to ride in some San Francisco cable cars.
Well, as you can see, my plans aren’t exactly well thought out and detailed at this point. I just have some general musings about where I want to go and what I want to see. Some people may say, why would you want to go somewhere that isn’t that much different to where you’re from? First of all, it is very different. There’s nothing like New York in Australia. Second of all, maybe I haven’t made this clear. I want to go to as many different places as I can.
Is there something that you really want to do, but you really don’t want to do it? You see, I want to sky dive. I really want to do it, but I really don’t want to.
That doesn’t make sense you say? Well let me try to explain the internal struggle I am having regarding this. I hate heights, but in a particular way. I like looking out at pretty views from the tops of castles and buildings and I can stand to climb ladders at work. But as soon as I can look down or directly underneath me and see how high I am, I freak out. Take going up the Eiffel Tower. Beautiful views looking out, but as soon as I go near the edge, OH NO! Take me working on ladders at work. There I am, pottering away perfectly fine doing what ever has taken me to face the retched beast, and I stupidly look down. I go shaky, and have to climb down before I can brave it again or convince someone to do it for me instead.
So you can imagine, jumping out of an aeroplane and being able to see how damn high I am, um no. Then there is also the fact that I am scared. Scared of what? Oh you know, just dying. Just falling from thousands of metres out of the sky with my parachute not opening, and the second parachute not opening, and with me going ker-splat. I know it’s only supposed to happen once in a million, but knowing me, I would be that one.
But… the thing is… I want to fly. How stupid and childish is that? But it’s true. I want to know what it would be like to free fall with nothing but air around me. My friends who have done it have said it’s a feeling like no other, a feeling of freedom, wonderment, immense happiness, fear and adrenaline all mixed into one. It’s something that can’t be felt any other way.
And I want to know what that would be like. I don’t want to not do something because I am scared. Even though I think my fears are pretty damn legitimate in this case, I don’t want to always wonder what it would be like.
Is it going to happen? I really don’t know. Because I really want to do it, but I really don’t want to. Maybe in a year or so, when I have finished university. Jumping into the unknown and leaving that all behind seems wonderfully symbolic. Perhaps I’ll just jump off my bed instead.
The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.
– St Augustine
There are still many pages I want to read of this wonderful book. To name just a few: New York, the Maldives, Rio de Janeiro, Scandinavia, the Greek Islands, Nepal, Ireland, Prague etc etc.
Imagine it is six degrees and there is a thick layer of fog hanging over the blue-green water.It’s mystical and eerily beautiful to see the old buildings appear out of nowhere as you make you way towards San Marco by boat. In the dead of winter, this was my Venetian experience.
A group of friends and I were only there for a day, so we first did the one thing we all desperately wanted to do, a gondola ride of course. Six of us crammed into the traditional boat, which was punted by a lovely fellow called Giovanni (I’m not making that up). Although refusing to sing for us, he took us through little side canals so narrow you could touch the walls of the houses as you went by.
I should also mention, we had a couple of bottles of wine on the gondola…so our plan to climb to the top of the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica was abandoned.
Instead, once we had made our way back to land (well, in this case not quite land, but you know what I mean), we wandered through Piazza San Marco watching people get attacked by pigeons.
Our next destination was the Ponte di Rialto, a beautiful bridge that crosses the Grand Canal and divides the two districts of San Marco and San Polo. However, it took us a lot longer to get there than expected. In what seems to be a rite of passage when visiting Venice, we got lost.
There are charming little signs the size of a number plate, but there just aren’t that many of them. We would follow one, and then find ourselves in an intersection of four or five little alleys with no idea of which to follow. However, it was getting lost that enabled us to find delightful little cafes and shops. We looked at beautiful masks, bought Murano glass and indulged ourselves at a wonderful patisserie.
You see, the great thing about Venice was that it was exactly as I thought it would be (bearing in mind that my preconceptions were based on the movie The Italian Job). The water really was that colour, the buildings really were that old and gorgeous, and it really did have that certain charm. Although my time there was fleeting, it was wonderful.
If there is one thing that really irks me, it’s bad grammar. Now I am not going to pretend I am Miss Perfect here, we all make mistakes and I’ve certainly had my slip-ups. But not every single time I write something.
At university, it is something that is drilled into you every day, spelling and grammar matters. However, it’s everyday actions that are concerning me.
Grammar and spelling is something that immediately tells the recipient of your email/text message/tweet/status/blog post the commitment you have to preserving our language.
And let’s be honest, if I see someone post ‘so exctd for tomoro! Its gona rock!’ (Yes, sadly that is a real world example), my opinion of them is immediately lowered. I’m sorry, that may seem judgmental, but that’s just how I feel. I value language, and I value the intelligence to use it correctly.
Common infractions we should have learnt in primary school include:
- Two, to and too. There is a difference.
- Its and it’s. Once again, a big difference.
- Their, there and they’re. What do you know, there’s a difference!
- Your and you’re. I think the title explains that one.
One of the reasons for this generation’s dismal language and grammar skills is the text message. Before we all had smart phones that had QWERTY keyboards, we had to press each number on the keypad 2-3 times to get one letter, let alone 5 times plus to get a word. We got lazy; we took shortcuts and text-speak exploded.
But times are different now. It is no longer easier to write ‘2’ than ‘to’. ‘C’ is not a word; neither is ‘2moz’ (even spell check agrees with me on that one). There is no excuse.
So please guys, let’s step up our game. Take that extra second to proof read that text to make sure auto-correct hasn’t made any embarrassing changes. Re-read that post and ask yourself, do you really want to come across that way? We owe it to the written word we all claim to love so much.
Last week, I spent an enjoyable week catching up with friends having brunches, lunches, tea times and dinners. But I’ve noticed that a nasty habit on my part has emerged.
My phone sat on the table next to me for the duration of every meal and drinks session, within easy reach for access to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
It is well-known that we are in the midst of a social media revolution. There is now a demand for information right here right now, which is dominating shifts in social behaviour.
But the problem I now realise is that communicating with people via these sites and apps is replacing communicating with them face to face. And what’s worse is that it happens when there are friends sitting right in front of me.
For example, take the dinner I had with my two good friends I went through uni with. All three of our phones sat on the table, making it even more cluttered and requiring Tetris-like skills to fit our tapas plates.
While we could say they are there for ‘emergencies’, let’s be honest. If there was an emergency, it would likely come in the form of a phone call and I would hear the phone ring, or at least vibrate in my bag. Someone ‘liking’ or commenting on my status or photo is not an emergency.
I constantly slide across that unlock button, simply tap my fingers and my social media world is seconds away. Ooo that person just tweeted, ooo I like that photo, oh haha what a funny status.
Not only is it incredibly rude, it seems simply stupid to me on reflection. These are my friends and they undoubtedly understand and perform similar actions themselves. But why do I care what my Facebook ‘friends’ and those I follow on Twitter are doing or think when those I treasure most are sitting in front of me? I haven’t seen or spoken to most of my Facebook ‘friends’ face to face in years and have never met and will never meet 95% of those I follow on Twitter.
Half way through the night one of my girlfriend’s work mates, who the other two of us had never met before, swung by for a drink. We all made conversation to get to know each other, but once we had reached the point where the questions and anecdotes were exhausted, that nasty habit reared its ugly head again.
The work mates start talking about work gossip and the activities of their mutual friends, so we tapped on our phones to see what was new in cyberspace.
The main problem is that it has now become social norm to communicate via wall posts, private messages and tweets. Events are organised on Facebook, photos are shared on Instagram, and tweets and status updates are used to convey our thoughts.
I look at my recent calls list and it is sparse. There are calls from work, and mum. I used to spend hours on the phone TALKING to my friends, yet now we are reduced to electronic communication.
What’s even more terrifying is that it is not only on the friend front that this habit has emerged. On the rare occasions where all my family are at home on the same night, we don’t actually seem to spend that much time talking to each other. Rather, we are glued to our own forms of electronic entertainment.
Dad is following the live Formula One updates on his phone; mum is playing Angry Birds; my brother is on Facebook; and I’m constantly refreshing all my news feeds or writing about how we all keep doing this.
Even though it is the cause for problems such as these, social media does have its advantages. While overseas I was able to shares photos, post updates and let mum and dad know, ‘don’t worry, I’m safe’ without enduring an exorbitant phone bill when I returned.
So yes, social media isn’t all that bad. But I have definitely identified issues with my behaviour because of it. I’m laying it all on the line here and admitting I have a problem, as that is the first step to recovery right? Hi, my name is Samantha and I’m addicted to social media.
So what’s the answer? Do I delete and deactivate everything, and rely on my friends and the news media to inform me about what’s going on in my world. Whoa that’s a big step.
Rather than quit cold turkey, I’m going to quit doing it on-the go. No longer will I use my phone for social media, but instead I will use it as a good old-fashioned phone, calling and text messaging only. Social media will have to wait until I have finished spending time face to face with those I love.
“I always wonder why birds choose
to stay in the same place when
they can fly anywhere on earth,
then I ask myself the same question.”
– Harun Yahya
An island paradise. A tropical heaven. Fiji has long been thought of as a holidaying destination to rewind and relax.
Not for me. Fiji holds a different place in my heart. It will always be the place where I started school, the place where I learnt to ride a bike, the place where I got the scar on my chin and the place where I experienced things others dream of.
I was 4, so we are talking a good 18 years ago now (wow that seems like a long time!). We lived in Albury, New South Wales and then my dad got a job at a company in Suva, Fiji. Mum and dad thought, hey why not! When are you ever going to get the chance to do that again? So they packed up me, my brother and all our stuff, and we moved to the Pacific.
Being my typical self, I made things pretty interesting on our arrival. It was Easter weekend, and I was REALLY excited to be there. We were staying in a temporary apartment until we found a house, and as kids do, I started jumping on my bed trying to exert some of the excited energy that was building up in me. Big mistake. Being a temporary place, the bed had wheels. Being Fiji, the floor was tiled. Yep you guessed it, smack bang chin first onto the floor.
Screaming my head off with blood cascading out of my face, mum and dad took me to the hospital where they stitched me up. But then once Easter had ended, we went to the doctors to get the stitches checked out, and got a big lecture from the doctor. Apparently we weren’t supposed to go to the hospital because things weren’t always on the clean side, so she then took out the stitches and started all over again. Needless to say, I have learnt my lesson and never jumped on a bed with wheels again. Normal beds? Oh I jump on them all the time.
We found a house just outside of Suva, and it was pretty awesome. We had a swimming pool, and basically a tropical jungle in our backyard. Our Fijian friends would climb the coconut trees and chop down coconuts for us and we would steal mangoes from our neighbours tree when they weren’t home.
My favourite times though were when it rained, and the hill up to our personal jungle would become a muddy waterfall. Not great for trying to walk up there, but absolutely perfect for a mud slide :).
Fiji was the place where a lot of things started for me. That big expanse of concrete you see in front of our house…thats where I learnt to ride a bike. With and without training wheels. Our swimming pool was were I learnt to swim and I became a master at diving in the deep end and getting to the other side in one breath.
It was also were I started school. There were quite a lot of Australians in Suva at the time, and we went to the International School where kids of all different nationalities attended. They still did everything in English, but the boys uniforms were sulus and it was a rarity to see kids in shoes. My mum is a teacher and she started out on the governors board of the school, but ended up teaching there as well. It was a pretty cool place. In absolutely no way was my learning hindered because of it, if anything my brother and I were so much better off. We understood at a young age the value of interacting with other cultures.
We had a lot of fun events and ceremonies at the school, and this photo below was from the school concert. I was not so original and was a cat, but my brother’s costume was amazing. He was dressed up in the traditional meke attire complete with sulu and grass skirt. Oh and by the way, a sulu is a large bit of cloth that is worn as a wrap around by both men and women. It’s versatile, it’s easy and it’s cool.
On weekends and during the holidays, our family would indulge ourselves and enjoy the many wonderful things Fiji had to offer. We frequented the yacht club where my brother would sail and mum and dad would drink and chat with all the other parents. I preferred to play cops and robbers with the kids, or go around introducing myself to the owners of all the visiting yachts. Mum continually likes to tell me of the numerous times I wandered off, and they would find me on some random American’s boat playing with their kids. Probably not very smart or safe, but that was just what it was like there, everyone was friendly and having a good time.
The yacht club was also were we met David. He had spent his life savings on a beautiful yacht and would take us on sailing trips to the different islands. Our favourite place to go was the little island of Naukilau. You could walk around the whole island in half an hour and fishermen wandered along the shore selling freshly caught lobster for ten dollars (and by freshly caught, I mean caught ten minutes ago). There was also an amazing fig tree in the very centre of the island which was a ready-made tree house. It was the size-of-a-building-huge, and we would spent hours climbing over the roots and through the branches.
There were also times, particularly when family were visiting, that we would really indulge and visit the beautiful resorts in Nadi. It was a time to relax and enjoy our time with family, swimming, building sand castles and generally lazing about. But it wasn’t just when we were at the resorts that we would do this, I did it pretty much every weekend. I mentioned my brother sailed, well there were usually events that would mean going to other islands in Fiji for races. He would sail, mum and dad would cheer him on, and I would build sand castles and laze about.
Now there are so many other stories I could tell you and thousands of other photos I could share. But I just wanted to show you how lucky our family was to experience and grow up in such a beautiful place. We spent 3 and 1/2 years in Fiji, and it is something that I will never forget. There are always little things that remind me of our time there. When I complain how it costs 3 dollars for a mango, I think of when we could buy 10 for a dollar from the Suva markets. When it’s too cold to go swimming in the sea, I think of how the water temperature was 25 degrees on a cold day. When someone asks me were I went to school, I say ‘well….it all started in Fiji.’
It seems to be London’s year this year. It’s the Queen’s Jubilee, there’s that big sport event happening at the moment, and the city got a visit from me. In stark contrast to the peacefulness and natural beauty of Scotland, the buzzing city of London is all about being on the move.
Before I begin, I must mention two things; number one, I love the underground. I come from a place where the public transport is so bad it’s pretty much obsolete. So, experiencing the tube is like christmas and my birthday combined times two. Number two; even in our week long stay, there was no way we could visit or experience everything that London had to offer, there is just so much. I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I took this trip to the UK with my mum. I had been to London before, but mum hadn’t, so the things we did included a lot of the traditional sites and tourist attractions of London, as well as a few bits and pieces of what we particularly wanted to do. So here we go…
Our first outing was to see Buckingham Palace of course! We had just gotten to London, and it was late but we still wanted to see something so we got off the Tube at Green Park and walked down to see where the good ole’ Queenie lives. Despite the fact that the huge wealth of the royal family makes me cringe a little, the palace is still a very beautiful building that does make you say ‘wow’. We then got our walking shoes on (metaphorically of course, as they were already on) and walked up the Mall, through St James Park, past the Horse Guards Parade, around Parliament Square and up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square.
For our second day in London we decided to do a bus tour and a cruise down the Thames. Our main reasoning for doing so was because we wanted to be able to orientate ourselves and have a general look around before going to particular places. Now, most people have a skewed view about tour groups. They might imagine they are full of loud and obnoxious tourists wearing bumbags and visors saying thinks like, “oh my gawd honey that man’s wearing a fluffy hat, doesn’t he look silly!”
However, in actual fact they are a very handy way to get a good view of the city, especially if you have limited time and don’t know where you want to go. The guides are also full of sometimes odd and strange facts that you might not find out about any other way. Such as the church spire which tiered wedding cakes were modelled after, who knew?! The cruise also gave a great view of the city from a different perspective. You could really appreciate the beautiful old buildings, as well as some of London’s stranger new ones (the Gherkin and the Shard for example). Check out some of the photos below.
We then went and had a look inside Parliament. Luckily for us, our timing was perfect as both the House of Commons and the House of Lords were sitting, so we saw both houses in action. We firstly had to make our way through lots of security, have photos taken and attached to a lanyard around our necks, and sign various declarations saying we wouldn’t be disruptive. But we did make it in to the viewing gallery eventually. Although they weren’t necessarily interesting topics being debated and discussed (proven by the many empty MP seats), in was still fascinating to see the beautiful rooms that have played host some of the most influential people in English history.
One of the things I love about London is the mix of the old and the new, from buildings to traditions, there’s something for everyone. We indulged this mix by visiting one of London’s most wonderfully old attractions before moving across the river to one that houses all things modern. Our plan was, St Paul’s Cathedral then over the Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern. St Paul’s is pretty unbelievable. The intricate designs and details that cover the walls, floors and ceilings are beautiful. I’ve been to a fair number of cathedrals and churches on my previous travels, but each one still manages to be unique. The dome of St Paul’s is of course what sets it apart from all others.
Crossing the Millennium Bridge gave us a great view up and down the river. It was blowing a gale though and we had to have our heads down, bums up to ensure we weren’t blown away. But, it’s just a bridge, and it is much more interesting looking at the bridge from a far, rather than on it as you don’t see much of the design.
Now, the Tate…ahhhhh. Oh it was wonderful. I’m not particularly fond of all types of modern art (I’m more of an impressionist girl myself) but I did enjoy lots of parts of the Tate. The surrealism section wasn’t really for me, but there were some beautiful pieces of art on display. I feel in love with a Kandinsky (and rightly purchased a print of it), and some of the black and white photographs were gorgeous. The building itself is also a piece of modern art. From a far, it looks like an old factory, but up close, the bricks are a beautiful shade of red. Inside, the spaces are very open and industrial . It’s very fitting to have all this wonderful modern art housed in a wonderful industrial building.
One of my favourite days in London was when we went walking in Hyde Park which is a wonderful expanse of lush green grass and trees, walking paths and the Serpentine Lake. The park was alive with picnickers, dog walkers and runners on the beautiful sunny day we visited.We meandered along the edge of lake to my favourite statue in all of London, Peter Pan, visited the newly refurbished Kensington Palace, the Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall. It was a perfect day for a stroll through the park, and we just took our time wandering around and sitting on benches people watching.
We finished the day by taking a ride in what I call the pod wheel, the London Eye. Despite my slight fear of heights, I was absolutely determined to go on the Eye. It is the most visited attraction in London, and not surprisingly there were so many people lining up to get one. We splurged and actually bought the fast track tickets, which saved about an hour of queueing for the tickets and to get on the wheel. The 360 degree views that you get of London are spectacular! You can see right out to the outer suburbs, down the Thames and see all the wonderful buildings as well. I would definitely recommend this ride in the sky.
I absolutely love London. Remember that top 3 favourite cities list, London is number 1. This was my second visit and I still did about 10 things I hadn’t done on the previous trip. Along with the things I’ve mentioned, we saw Matilda the musical (which is AMAZING), ate delicious food at different restaurants, did a fair bit of damage on the bank cards on Oxford St, visited Harrods and Fortnum and Masons, wandered around Soho and the holy grail of all things London…I saw platform 9 3/4.
Given that I am new to the blog world, I though I would catch you all up on a little trip I took a month and a bit ago to the United Kingdom. After all, it’s very much relevant to the whole documenting-my-travel-dreams-and-experiences thing I am going for here. I was lucky enough to make my way through a small portion of Scotland and England for a short three weeks. In no way did I see everything I wanted to see, and certainly not everything there was to see, but I sure wasn’t going to turn down a trip overseas now was I?
So…it began in Edinburgh. Oh Edinburgh. Not only is Scotland the most STUNNING place I have been to thus far, but Edinburgh is way up there in my top 3 favourite cities (again thus far – maybe it will be challenged, who knows). Everything about this city is beautiful. From the dirty stone of the old buildings on Cowgate to the Georgian terraces in New Town and the parks surrounding the Edinburgh Castle. Even a run-down warehouse with broken windows in the old market district had a certain charm. I spent the majority of the day with my mouth open in awe at this city that preserves its history and character so well. Mother Nature even put on a good show for us with blue sky and sun shining down on us all day.
We started the day with a trip to the Edinburgh Castle, and there is no way you can come to Edinburgh without seeing in it. Even if the seeing the Crown Jewels or touring through the old royal apartments and the war museum isn’t your thing, the views from the castle are well worth the admission alone. We then headed down the Royal Mile and hopped on a bus which took us all around the city, starting with the New Town area where I marvelled at the terraces, squares and gardens. If I could live anywhere in Edinburgh, a 3-storey terrace on Heriot Row with a key to the Queen Street Gardens would do the trick, but I have a feeling it’s a little (ok, a lot) out of my price range.
We then headed around to the Old Town seeing Grassmarket, St Giles Cathedral as well as the Scottish Parliament and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Canongate. I could have spent hours driving around and around just so I could keep looking. Edinburgh is amazing, there is no other way to put it. But the problem is, it doesn’t seem to be high up on the dream-city scale for most people. When people asked me what my favourite place was from this trip and I say Edinburgh, their response is a quizzical look and “really?”. YES REALLY! It may not be a bustling metropolis like New York or London, but it character. Maybe my photos in the gallery below will help convert you non-believers.
Anyway, so the next adventure through Scotland was up to the Highlands and when I think of the Highlands, I think of words like WOW, PHWOAR, WOAH! Yes, it really was that good. There is something mysterious about the Highlands, a kind of wondering of what really goes on around all those mountains, moors and valleys. We left from Edinburgh, and headed north-west, stopping in the little village of Kilmahog were we first laid eyes on some Highland cattle. I never thought I would actually say this, but they were kind of cute!
We then continued up through the Rannoch Moor to Glencoe and this was the highlight for me. The landscape is completely bare and desolate and you can go for miles without seeing a house. But it’s the barrenness that makes it so beautiful. The shapes of the rocks and mountains against the sky, as well as the contrast between the grey and green is what is so interesting and intriguing. It was slightly eerie though travelling through the Glencoe Valley, called the Valley of Weeping because this was where the Glencoe massacre of the Clan MacDonald occurred in 1692. Even though it was such stunning natural landscape, there was that feeling of sadness knowing what had happened there.
Now a trip to the Highlands wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Loch Ness. All of the legends of Nessie aside, it is a beautiful loch which is home to the Urquhart Castle. The castle sits regally on the side of the loch and it’s very picturesque with the hills in the background.
Our next and final stop in the land of the brave was Stirling, a pretty little city next to the river Forth. The crowning glory of this city that was once the capital of Scotland is the Stirling Castle. Just like most of the other castles in Scotland, Stirling castle has played an important role in Scotland’s history, none more so than in the 1300’s when the Scots were fighting for freedom in the Wars of Independence.
The castle stands very proudly on top of rock and also houses the Renaissance Palace, which were the lodgings for the King and Queen, and the Great Hall. While the rooms were very impressive, the best thing for me was the views the castle offered. The castle is surrounded by walls, that visitors can walk along and look out at the surrounds. The natural landscape of Scotland never ceased to amaze me, and it continued to impress from the view points of the castle.
That was the end of our stay in Scotland, and I really did only crack the surface of what it had to offer. Glasgow, the Hebrides and Isle of Skye are on the list for my next trip, and hopefully it won’t be too long until I am able to go back.
What’s next? London, Oxford and Cambridge.