Tag Archives: trip

2014 Travel, The Paris Edit

13 Aug

I’ve made it to 28 years of life living in England, and I have never experienced Paris. Despite this, it has always been a thing of dreams to me; a city entwined with romance and cloaked in illusion. I can’t help but think of the Chanel advert with Nicole Kidman, where she disappears off into the Parisian night, or alternatively (another Nicole Kidman related daydream) Moulin Rouge, and for this and many other reasons, the city has always been on my list of places I needed to see.

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So last weekend, the boy and I packed a bag and headed off for a birthday weekend (his) in Paris. In all honesty I can think of a whole host of other cities he would have rather spent his birthday weekend, but seeing as we couldn’t go for mine he graciously gave his. Because he’s good like that.

Window display in Laduree, home of the French macaron

Window display in Laduree, home of the French macaron

My experience of Paris was slightly different to where it had been positioned in my dreams. It involved food poisoning, closed establishments, delayed flights (both ways) and end of the world style rain. But hey ho, these things happen, and mainly to me. Despite all these things that I feel like were designed to make me giggle rather than cause problems, we had a fantastic weekend. We ate cheese (he) drank wine and coffee, and we moseyed along beautiful streets with stunning architecture, wondering what it would be like if we were Parisian and lived in such a wonderous city.

L'Arc de Triomphe on a grey Saturday

L’Arc de Triomphe on a grey Saturday

Has my opinion changed? No. the boy made a comment when we were walking around that the internet has ruined travel. He thinks that you have seen all these places before, so when you arrive its underwhelming and gone is the sense of surprise you experience when you see something for the first time. I see it from the flip side; I think that the internet has given you the option to choose, allowing you to whittle down the list of places you want to visit until you have an ultimate power bucket list, ready to hit hard and explore.

L'Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France

L’Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France

We were in the city in time to see the parade through the Arc de Triomphe to celebrate 100 years since the start of the war, so were privy to the pomp and circumstance of the army march. They lit the flames and laid the poppies, and then we watched as the canons were fired. It was a real privilege to be there for this occasion, and purely accidently too.

The Eiffel Tower itself

The Eiffel Tower itself

As well as the beautiful postcard ready sights Paris has to offer, the hotel was pretty special. We booked a night in the Hotel Splendor, which was magic themed. The highlight was the staircase, with magician’s hats adorning the banisters. Very unusual!

Notre Dame, sans Hunchback

Notre Dame, sans Hunchback

We also had time to visit Laduree, the winner in French macarons and my inspiration to take a macaron making class. A friend of mine bought me a box of the delightfully coloured marvels when we moved into our old house, and I savoured them like I had never eaten before. Thus began my affair with the macaron, so I was pleased to get in line to view the rows of brilliantly covered sweet treats.

Saint Chappelle, before the end of the world rain began

Saint Chappelle, before the end of the world rain began

Paris, even in the rain and grey still had mystery for me. We visited the Arc de Triomph, The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Saint Chappelle and the Champs Elysees, but didn’t get time to see Montmartre, the Sacre Couer or any of the Bastille.

The Money Shot

The Money Shot

Eiffel Tower | Paris | France

Eiffel Tower | Paris | France

But next time, as in the words of Howard Koch, “We’ll always have Paris”.

Crazy stairwell in our hotel

Crazy stairwell in our hotel

Have you been to Paris? What was your favourite part?

Sightseeing My City: Royal Maritime Greenwich, London

18 Jul

As a Londoner, there are a lot of things that I expect tourist guides to recommend. They’ll tell you to go on the London Eye, visit the Tower of London and take a trip through Hyde Park – all the places genuine inhabitants avoid at the weekends to stay away from the hordes of people. But seeing as I love to collect Lonely Planet and Rough Guide books, I thought it would be good to get one for my own city, and see if there was anything I was missing out on.

I was really surprised to find it recommends Royal Greenwich, and even more surprised to find it was a UNESCO protected area. I lived about ten minutes on the bus away for over a year, and had never taken the time to go and visit. I knew the Cutty Sark was there and the market was pretty good for foodies, but that was about all I knew about the area.

Fun and games trying on the old school headgear

Fun and games trying on the old school headgear

So last weekend, with my sister visiting and my friend staying, we decided to do the touristy thing. We took the Thames Clipper down the river to Greenwich, and explored.

Firstly, there is so much to do and see there. As you disembark the Clipper you see the Cutty Sark; the world’s only surviving tea clipper, and round the corner to the Old Naval Museum which is absolutely stunning and a museum, designed mainly for kids but with lots of fun stuff to do, like pretending to be a knight of the round table.

Ill leave you with the photos!

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2014 Travel: The Vancouver Edit

14 Jul

It’s been a while since I went to Vancouver, but I didn’t want it to go unmentioned seeing as I talked about it for so long before I left!

Lionsgate Bridge from the Seawall | Vancouver, BC | Canada

Lionsgate Bridge from the Seawall | Vancouver, BC | Canada

It’s firmly cemented a place as one of my favourite cities, and I loved the whole experience. We visited the North Shore and Capilano Suspension Bridge, we cycled the Sea Wall, we dined in fantastic restaurants such as Wildebeest and Fable Kitchen (see my review here) and we watched everyone else do the Grouse Grind from the comfort of the cable car.

Vancouver, BC | Canada | All images copyright of Laura Tinker | www.laughteriscatching.com

Vancouver, BC | Canada | All images copyright of Laura Tinker | http://www.laughteriscatching.com

I love that in such a built up city there is such an outdoorsy aspect, and you can see the edge of it at all times, with ocean on one side and mountain on the other. The city is well designed for activity and most roads have cycle paths and walking parts to make being outdoorsy the norm (and you know me, I get puffed out watching sport in the TV!)

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Japanese Blossom | Nitobe Memorial Gardens | Vancouver, BC | Canada

Vancouver is a city for foodies. We worked out way through a combination of the guide book and of a friend’s recommendations, and we were never disappointed, Brunch is a firm favourite of mine, and some of the new spots and up and coming places gave us the most delightful assortment of fresh and farm to kitchen produce – the fresher the better.

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Delicious brunch @ The Farmers Apprentice | Vancouver, BC | Canada

The highlight of my visit was the Nitobe Memorial Gardens, located down in the University of British Colombia. It’s a trek out of the city through Kitsilano on the bus, but its worth every minute of the journey. The website says:

Nitobe Garden is considered to be the one of the most authentic Japanese gardens in North America and among the top five Japanese gardens outside of Japan, the Nitobe Garden includes a rare authentic Tea Garden with a ceremonial Tea House.

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Tranquil gardens | Nitobe Memorial Gardens | Vancouver, BC | Canada

and its pretty true to its word. You step into a little walled garden and suddenly you aren’t on a University campus, but in the most tranquil of settings. The cherry blossom was in full bloom, and it was the happiest part of my trip. I absolutely adored it.

Totem poles on the seawall cycle | Vancouver, BC | Canada

Totem poles on the seawall cycle | Vancouver, BC | Canada

Have you been to Vancouver? What was your favourite part?

Nitobe Garden is considered to be the one of the most authentic Japanese gardens in North America and among the top five Japanese gardens outside of Japan, the Nitobe Garden includes a rare authentic Tea Garden with a ceremonial Tea House. – See more at: http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/nitobe#sthash.DutYwu0y.dpuf
Nitobe Garden is considered to be the one of the most authentic Japanese gardens in North America and among the top five Japanese gardens outside of Japan, the Nitobe Garden includes a rare authentic Tea Garden with a ceremonial Tea House. – See more at: http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/nitobe#sthash.DutYwu0y.dpuf
Nitobe Garden is considered to be the one of the most authentic Japanese gardens in North America and among the top five Japanese gardens outside of Japan, the Nitobe Garden includes a rare authentic Tea Garden with a ceremonial Tea House. – See more at: http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/nitobe#sthash.DutYwu0y.dpuf

One’s Destination Is Never A Place…

9 Jul

…. but a new way of seeing things. Henry Miller.

It’s getting that way again, where my feet become restless and my heart hears the calling of the world around me, and yearns to get out there and do. Traveling is what soothes my soul and makes my heart happy, and I know there I have barely scratched the surface of what I need to explore, and the things I need to experience.

Last Christmas was rough on all of us, with having lost Granddad being so fresh in our minds, and I’ve been dreading the impending winter months, not wanting to feel the hollowness of our loss so strongly again.

So the boy and I are contemplating jetting off to see somewhere new and missing Christmas and New Year in the UK altogether. At first it was just a pipe dream (Imagine if we ditched it? Imagine if we ran away?) But the seed has been planted and I feel the roots taking hold and hopes growing from them.

So I’ve made a list (I’ve checked it twice) and I want your input.

Thailand

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Thailand has always been a place I need to see in my life, and the spark has been recently reignited by a number of friends having visited. Cheap accommodation, crystal clear seas and warm climes are some of the reasons it features so highly.

Costa Rica

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Another one that features highly on my list is Costa Rica. It’s a great place to trip to from the USA so a lot of my friends and family have been, but to me it just looks like paradise.

And also, sloths.

Venezuela

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Random choice for Christmas sun, but Venezuela comes up fairly cheap for flights in December, and sitting just south of the Caribbean, it obviously has its appeal. The angel falls sit inland, but they are a must see for the life bucket list. I must admit to not knowing too much about the area, but would love to explore.

Japan

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There is something mysterious about Japan, and it’s a place I would love to explore. Cherry blossom, snow-capped mountains and a culture like nothing I have ever experienced before.

Where is your favourite place in the world and where would you recommend to a traveller? I want all your tips!

2014 Travel – London: Staring at the City

6 Jul

Now I’m back in London, I have a friend over from the States for 2 months, and its making me do things differently. I’m experiencing the city through the eyes of a tourist and honestly, you should do it. Even in your own city. There is so much to see and do in a city so rich with culture, and getting the chance to be part of it is amazing.mklm

Yesterday we signed up for the “Alternative London Tour” which casts a path through the rich tapestry that is East London. Starting and finishing in Old Spitalfields Market (one of my favourite places to spend a sleepy Sunday) the tour weaves through Banglatown, Brick Lane and Tower Hamlets to bring you back to the start.

The art we saw was amazing. I don’t really get the view that graffiti is abhorrent – I understand that some kid writing his name in spray paint isn’t ideal for a community, but when you turn a corner and see portraiture by the medium of aerosol paint, you can’t argue that it doesn’t have its place in art history in the same was as Van Gogh or (Londoner) Tracy Emin.

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Each tiny alley or side street taught us something; the ability to look and actually see. Signposts with angel toppers cast from pigeon wings, white walls stenciled with the words “99% of people will not see this” and mosaic tags of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker; all sights we see each day but never really take the time to look at.

We wove through time, from the airy spaced, open windows of the Huguenot workspaces, to the Jewish community site that was wiped out in the Blitz, all presided over by a place of worship that had passed from Catholicism to Judaism and now stands as a Mosque. We stepped through local communities – I love that this area is rich with family run businesses and one off stores, and listened as the passion flowed from our tour guide.  The East of London is a rich dichotemy of culture, and a bustling place to check out in London. Sixty years ago it wouldn’t have been a great place to visit as a tourist, but without taking a trip to Shoreditch you miss a whole, beautiful section of London. The typical London summer weather didn’t even stop us.

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The magic of this tour is born from the experience and passion of the tour guides. The tour is also a “pay what you think its worth” basis, making normally high priced tours accessible to everyone.

If you have 48 hours in London this summer, you need to check this out.

 How do you feel about graffiti as an expression of creativity?

2014 Travel – The Vancouver Edit: Fable Kitchen

29 May

This post is long overdue, and for that, I apologise. We went to Vancouver for 2 weeks at the start of May, and we had quite possibly the best holiday ever. The city is a juxtaposition of city and country, and the most beautiful backdrop to city life you can possibly imagine. In the next few weeks I’ll bring you up to date with my travels (from New York, where im based for the next month – I’ll tell you all about that too!) but for my first Vancouver post, Fable.

Recommended in my guide book (the Lonely Planet Guides obsession has taken itself to a whole new level) Fable was right down the street from the cute apartment we had rented, and so for our anniversary meal we rocked up. The guidebook said to get there right on opening to ensure you have a table or make a reservation. The guidebook was right, as we found on our last night, when we tried to go back.

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From the outside Fable is small, like a meek and mild little doorway, but don’t let that fool you, this is the place to be. We were seated, and the waiter explained our options to us. We opted for the canned tuna to start; a clever little take on what you expect. It comes in a kilner jar, with potatoes, tuna and sauce,and you add the powdered salt and stir it together, before splatting it onto toasted bread and going to town. Amazing.

The main course was duck breast, with creamed cabbage, a wild rice croquette and spiced apple. The flavours complimented each other perfectly and me and the boy felt sad we had opted to share a main course. there was ample fork war and it went down way too quickly!

the piece de resistance was the dessert. I am a huge fan of anything lemony, so opted for the lemon parfait. A sundae dish was presented to me with layers of biscuit, lemon curd,tarragon ice cream and topped with meringue, which has been toasted to marshmallow-esque perfection. It was heavenly. I still dream about that dessert, and am determined to find myself a chefs blow torch so I can recreate it and never have to leave the house again.

Fable (or farm to table) is a cacophony of locally sourced produce, cooked and prepared on the premises and nested in the lovely suburb of Kitsilano. It was by far the best (and least pretentious) place we visited in Vancouver, and its first on my list for our next visit.

Follow them on Twitter for their specials!

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get any photos of the food as my camera was playing up, but rest assured, AMAZING.

2014 Travel – The Norway Edit

1 Apr

As part of branching out and extending my horizons, I booked a trip to Norway.

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There was no particular reason for choosing Norway as a destination, other than it was the cheapest place Easyjet went to, and I found a pretty little apartment on Air BnB. I was sold.

And the whole trip was amazing.

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As the plane landed we flew over show capped mountains and gorgeous expanses of water, and were glad we booked the fjord tour for the next day. The trip took us from Bergen through Voss, to Gudvagen and then on a boat trip to Flam, with the final part of the tour taking us on the old fashioned railway from Flam through to Myrdal, and then back to Bergen.

The tour was pretty expensive (it translated to £110 each), and took 8 hours from start to finish. It was a really great way to see a lot of different places when on a really short trip, and the scenery was breathtaking, especially the little villages on the shores of the fjords. I do think however that for the price you pay, it could have done with being a bit less of an independent tour; the bus was a local bus service and had no guide to tell you where you were, only a book that told you what to look out for.

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It was peaceful, pretty and out of the ordinary from what we normally see in London, and was a beautiful weekend. I would totally recommend it, however be aware that England is pricy, but it has nothing on the cost of Norway. £10 for a beer?!

Where have you been that surprised you?

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School Trip Scandal

14 Aug

When I was at school, we went on school trips. Bear in mind that I was at primary school a good fifteen years ago, so they weren’t the kind of trips that kids go on these days. My cousins in America enjoy the elephant sanctuaries in Thailand and surfing off the coast of Hawaii… me? I went as far as Le Touquet. They were always slightly budget, but Le Touquet had to be hands down the worst school trip I ever went on. Worse that the trip to Henley Fort ( a mere twenty minutes away from home) where it rained solidly for 48 hours while we slept in tents and the teachers resided in an actual building. This was the excursion on which I tripped over a tent peg and broke my toe, and my friend dragged me by the armpits pulling my top up and baring my boobs to my form. I was far too young to be wearing a bra, but the embarrassment stuck with me for life.

So back to Le Touquet. If you have read my post on teachers you will have a bit of a background on the aforementioned trip, but we headed off all excited about visiting France and having some fun. We were eleven. Our idea of fun was fairly low, so it wasn’t expected to disappoint. We go to the hostel which seemed to be the French equivalent of a halfway house for adults, finding our rooms to be on the fourth floor and full of sand. The teachers rallied the troops for an impromptu game of football on the beach to cheer us up, after all, we couldn’t play football on a beach at home! We walked the twenty minutes to the sand for the game to be stopped as soon as it started due to the sheer amount of dog pooh under the sand. Health and safety. Back we went to beds full of sand and people banging on the doors through the night. We huddled together for safety.

The next day we all went for breakfast and in the time it took us to munch on our croissants and down our tea, one of the rooms got broken into and one of the boys wallets was stolen. So we ALL had to get on the coach and make the trip to the local police station, where we sat for four hours. We waited there, on the bus in the scorching heat because the gendarme would not let us off, possibly again for health and safety. A squashed child on the road outside the police station would have done nothing for international relations.

The next day, our last, was due to be better. Off we went, on the bus again to the local swimming pool, where we were promised a day of rapids and flumes and bobbing about to our hearts content. We didn’t even mind too much that our horrible French teacher was wearing a speedo (pass me the brain bleach!) and we frolicked and swam until home time. We had to leave the pool relatively swiftly to have time in the duty free at Calais before we went home.

But one of the girls had had her locker emptied, and therefore had no clothes to change back into. Back to the police station we went, and sat there for a further two hours while the issue got reported and all the correct paperwork got filled in. Quick sit in traffic back to Calais and straight on the ferry, do not pass go, do not stop at duty free.

So if you need to know anything about the intricate workings of a French police station then I am probably the best person to ask, but otherwise I would gloss over me when researching the country. And if anyone wants to take my on a road trip to France, please may I request we avoid Le Touquet.

Come Fly With Me!

31 May

I’m not the best flier in the world, and it doesn’t help that flying isn’t the most exciting thing that I get to do in life. Yes, it’s a means to an end and ultimately makes me happy as I touch down to my family or to a fantastic beach holiday, but that doesn’t make me like it any more.

Firstly, there is security. Even at 5am you have to trail through the barriers set up for a manic holiday weekend, and at that time of the morning it’s out of my skill set. Then you run the gauntlet of having to either take your shoes/belt/pants off so they can scan you, or looking like a fool when you take the aforementioned items off and don’t actually need to.

Then there are the dawdlers at the airport. You know the ones I mean, people who are walking with the flow and then suddenly stop, or feel the need to turn and charge back towards you. You constantly get bruises on the knees where a child in control of their own suitcase has rammed it into your knees, or the person with the suitcase with the extraordinarily long pull bit has wandered off and you trip over the case because it is so far behind them.

Then there is the issue with your cases in the loo. This one particularly grates me as I regularly travel by myself. Until you travel alone you don’t get it, but trying to navigate the toilet cubicle with a suitcase, a hand luggage case and a handbag is like a new Olympic sport. You have to go in at a certain angle so that everything fits and you can shut the door without ending up face down in the loo. The key is te approach, and having lots of hand sanitiser on hand in case you accidentally touch something.

This is all before you get on the plane. Once you are on you have that worry of whether you have the window seat (always need to go to the loo 10x more because you will have to shift people), the aisle (run the likelihood of losing an appendage if you have it sticking out and the duty-free trolley comes past) or the middle (where you will inevitably get stuck between too hoggers and fall asleep and dribble on someone’s shoulder. Or worse, they’ll do it to you!)

And then they bring the food. Unidentified meats in weird sauces that taste of plastic. I am known to buy bulk packs of hula hoops in the airport to last me the entire trip, but this sometimes doesn’t work. For example, when my flight to Chicago was cancelled a few weeks ago and I was rerouted through LA I had to run to the terminal for the next flight, missing all food stations and therefore had to eat on the plane. Doom. I find in these situations the best option is veggie, and was presented with veggie lasagna which was manageable. Just.

JK Rowling has it right. Harry Potter has some magic flea powder that he wiggles round the place and appears where he wants to be. I need to get thinking about this, it could be the next revolutionary invention. Until then, I will grin and bear it as the person in front of me reclines their chair at a rate of knots and I risk having my dinner propelled into my lap and my front teeth knocked out. If I survive this, the child that is (always) behind me will feel the need to play the drums on my back for the entire flight. Happy times!

Point Loma

5 May

A few days ago we went to Point Loma. Its the furthest most western point of California and therefore was a major part of the war effort, and the place where they watched for the Japanese in the First World War after the attack on Pearl Harbor. As you drive up the hill all you can see is rows and rows of military graves, and I couldn’t help but think if you had to be buried somewhere then buried watching out over such beautiful ocean wouldn’t be half bad.

You can stop half way up the hill and go down to sea level; we did and played around in the rock pools. We waded out to the rocks and played around in the water, it was so lovely to be the only three people in such a quiet and thought provoking place. We stayed there for about an hour; me and my Auntie perched on the side of a rock and my sister fishing in the rock pools for crabs, fish and other interesting creatures.

It was so pretty and the rocks looked like they’re designed by some clever interior designer, not faded from decades of the wind and water hitting the surfaces to shave it into tiny little shelves; layers of sandstone and intricate horizontal lines.

The lighthouse at Point Loma was interesting too; before the war effort it was manned by one solitary family who kept animals and used the rain water for drinking. They had two little children whose lives were spent carving wooden toys from logs to keep them occupied, and the family dedicated their live to ensuring that ships were guided easily into the by and sailors didn’t lose their lives on the treacherous rocks.

I found it really interesting to see how people lived their lives in centuries past and if you stood still enough you could almost feel the previous people around you; the hustle and bustle of soldiers moving equipment with the fear of the Japanese attack in the air, or previously the little children who made those quiet little rock pools their entertainment for the day. It was pretty humbling.