Holiday at Home: Photo Diary

I got home from my trip home over a week ago, but at the moment it seems like if I manage to check something off my to-do list within a month then it’s good going.

I always take lots of photos and never post half of them, so I decided to record my trip with a photo diary:

Outside Copper Blossom

Thursday: After a dinner out on Wednesday evening, and coffee and a cake with a friend on Thursday morning, I met another friend at Copper Blossom just off George Street in Edinburgh. It was so lovely it is going to have its own post soon.

Edinburgh Castle and blossom

Edinburgh Castle and blossom

I had some time before my night out, so I had a wander around Princes Street, the Gardens and up to the Castle.

St Giles cloud and sun

St Giles’ Cathedral in the sun and cloud.

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From the Castle Esplanade, looking down the Royal Mile. Camera Obscura is the building on the left and the Hub is the tall building on the right.

Friday: On Friday I got my hair done – finally! I tried a new hairdresser for the first time in about 20 years in January, and it was definitely a mistake. Luckily my old hairdresser put it right! I then went for cream tea with my mum:

Scones with cream and jam

Scones! Mannerstons, Linlithgow

Saturday: I met another two friends for lunch at The Printing Press in Edinburgh. I hadn’t been in before because the food menu is quite pricey, but the bar was brilliant.

Printing Press cocktails

They have a great drinks option called Bespoke Bubbles, where you get a bottle of Prosecco along with various fruit purées to create Bellinis, as well as Crème de Cassis and Aperol to mix. I would definitely recommend this – it means you can create a couple of different drinks in one order.

Printing Press Bespoke Bubbles 2

Sunday: My dad drove us up to Loch Earn for a wee change from London! It was a good drive past Gleneagles and with a stop in Comrie for coffee. This is either the best or worst street sign ever:

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Is that Comic Sans?!

Loch Earn was lovely! I could post several photos, but I’ve narrowed it down:

Loch Earn

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From where I stand

On Sunday evening we had an amazing dinner at an Italian restaurant (where else?) with my parents, sister and her boyfriend, then on the Monday we spent some time with my boyfriend’s family, as he has an auntie and uncle in Scotland. (She made a brilliant lasagne.) Then it was all over already! Just enough time for a quick breakfast in Glasgow before getting the train back.

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His horse was not to be left out this time.

I think I managed to see almost everyone I know on one trip home, so it was busy, but a brilliant week. Now to plan another trip back for the Edinburgh Festival…

Wonder

I really love this week’s Photo Challenge:

For this week’s challenge, show us something that surprised you on “the road taken.” It could be a heritage building in your city or town as seen from a new-to-you angle, a yummy meal on a road trip detour, or the penny you found on a casual stroll. […] This challenge is wide open — show us the excitement, surprise, wonder, or amazement of your “road taken.”

Trying to think of the situations where life has surprised me brings back a lot of good memories. It was difficult to decide whether to go with small, funny things – a somewhat amateur engraving of a face in ancient rock in Marseille, for example – or whether to go with a beautiful view. (I might have to turn more of my ideas into a longer post later.)

In the end, I decided to go with an awe-inspiring moment, and it’s hard to top one of the natural wonders of the world – the Grand Canyon. I was never really sure that seeing it was on the cards for me, as incredible as I thought it would be. My trip across the States was almost a rash decision, and I couldn’t believe I was going to experience so many of these places I’d only seen in films or read about in books.

When we arrived at the Grand Canyon National Park, our Trek America leader, Gin (she was simply the best), made us all put on blindfolds. She then made us hold hands so she could lead us (down steps and everything) towards a good viewing point. I can only imagine how ridiculous the eleven of us looked – in fact, I have some idea, as there were little bursts of laughter from people we couldn’t yet see.

When Gin was happy we were in the right place, she told us we could take off the blindfolds. She made sure we had the best possible first impression of one of the most incredible, unusual sights in the world. (She got a little round of applause for that from the others around us.)

This photo was the left-hand side of my initial view, and it’s one of my favourite photos I’ve taken. I think it’s because the lone person looks so tiny in the vastness, away out on this ledge. (They really shouldn’t have been out there, but I love this shot.)

Grand Canyon man

What I didn’t fully realise until going through my album just now was how much I had zoomed in. This was my actual perspective:

Grand Canyon

Now that is being tiny in the grand scheme of things.

Photo Challenge: A Good Match

I thought I would take part in this week’s Photo Challenge with a picture from my day trip to Canterbury the weekend before last. The theme is ‘A Good Match’, looking for pleasing pairings.

Instagram is full of interesting doors (my friend Charly has a lovely account called Travelling Doors) but I have so many photos of archways or gates. Perhaps I’m just nosy. My good match is the foreground of the image and the glimpse of what’s beyond the gate – I liked the similar shapes of the gate and the windows, and the tree in the middle.

This was taken at St Augustine’s Abbey. (I hope to write more about the trip soon!)

canterbury-gate

 

Itchy Feet

I had the day to myself today, so was looking forward to getting some blog posts written. Instead, I have spent six hours looking at weekend breaks near London, because I am starting to lose my mind.

This is the first place I have spent more than a year consecutively since I was twenty years old. For so many years, everything kept changing – flats, jobs, courses, countries – so this is the first time I’ve settled. However, the expectation of doing something different soon hasn’t gone away, a sort of hangover from school/uni days that everything changes come September. Since I have no plans to change the big things, I need to get some variety by doing new things and visiting new places. Even with the thousands of things London has to offer, it’s not the same as going somewhere else.

It is almost a year since I went to Dublin and the hen do in Marbella, and I am absolutely desperate to get away. (Going to Bologna and Frankfurt with work absolutely do not count as getting away. If you need to ask why, you have never been to a book fair; it is quite simply working long hours in a place that is not the office.)

Work is full-on until mid-April, so I don’t want to go on a ‘proper’ holiday as I won’t enjoy it fully, or I would be swanning around abroad right this second. Instead, I thought that simply going anywhere new would calm the travel craving. My boyfriend has a weekend off next week, so I’ve been looking at places near enough to get to after work on Friday. If I have no objections by tomorrow evening, I’m booking wherever I like. Or I’ll go myself!

As for the rest of the year, I thought I could turn a trip home into a little tour around the Highlands. I could take advantage of the Eurostar and practise my French again. Or it would be incredible to go to Iceland. Although I might also be coming around to sunny, relaxing holidays, so perhaps the unbelievably beautiful Santorini? Then again, I have wanted to visit Budapest for years now, and it is also gorgeous. Or…

Caribbean food and cocktails at Sugar Dumplin, Kingston

One of the things I love about being a blogger is having the opportunity to try places I might never have visited for myself. I have started eating a greater variety of food since moving to London (yesterday marked two years since moving – post on this soon!) but I had never been to a Caribbean restaurant before an event at Sugar Dumplin, Kingston, a couple of weeks ago.

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We were welcomed with a Flaming Zombie (cocktail, just in case there is any ambiguity there) with a passion fruit burning away on top of it. Not only was it excellent for Instagram, but it was easily the best Zombie I’ve ever had. (Why do cocktails have such odd names?)

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The restaurant itself also looks amazing, with booths designed like beach huts, ‘lampshades’ made of old bottles and multicoloured string lights across the ceiling.

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We settled into a booth and got the chance to try two of their sharing cocktails: Piña Colada and Unleash the Beast, which was brilliant – Kraken dark rum, coconut and orange liquor and tropical juice.

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Then it was time for food – lots of it! We tried the jerk chicken, surrounded by four sides – sweet potato fries, house fries, plantain chips and red coleslaw. I don’t like coleslaw as a rule, but this was great, as were the fries – I don’t think I’ll ever be sold on plantain though! The chicken was perfectly cooked, but I needed chips-and-coleslaw intervals because I’m still trying to train my taste buds into spicy food.

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What was interesting was that the curries weren’t actually as spicy as I was expecting. This was something pointed out by Norris Panton, one of the co-founders, who joined us for a chat. There is sometimes the misconception that Caribbean food will be incredibly spicy, but these are all about the taste, rather than blowing your head off!

There were two curries: goat and butternut squash. My friend could have eaten two portions of the goat’s curry, which she thought was amazing, but I quite liked the butternut squash because it was a bit lighter. It was served with rice and peas, although you could also have the choices of the sides mentioned before.

It was excellent to have one of the entrepreneurs there to be able to hear about the inspiration for the restaurant. He wants Sugar Dumplin to capture a laid-back vibe, like being on holiday. (There is also the idea of being on holiday and falling in love, as your sugar dumpling is your sweetheart.)

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Ginger cake and rum cake

The food for him, though, is all about dishes he enjoys cooking at home with his family.  The menu is small, so they can do a few dishes well. The restaurant is also relatively small (60 seats), to be able to keep up quality in the kitchen.

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We had a really great evening at Sugar Dumplin, and by now a fair few people have too: the first restaurant only opened last year, in Glasgow, followed quickly by two in 2016 – Camberwell and here in Kingston. Wembley is next on the cards.

Many thanks to PR&EI for the invite, to Sugar Dumplin for hosting us, and to Norris and the lovely staff at the Kingston branch who were absolutely brilliant. (And thank you to my friend, Laura, for many of these photos – I forgot my camera, again…!)

 

Photo diary: a weekend in London

This weekend, my sister came to visit. And it seems that we spent most of the time eating and drinking…

TGI Friday: I thanked God it was my Friday on Thursday evening, with cocktails, Cajun chicken pasta and cookie dough cheesecake.

cookie dough cheesecake

Friday, Breakfast Club: we both opted for the All American breakfast at the Breakfast Club.

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Aqua Shard: The most expensive drink I’ve ever had.

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Although the view wasn’t bad:

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House of MinaLima: We had a wander around the pop-up shop of the team behind the Harry Potter graphic work.

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16 Goals in 2016: Half-Year Progress

1. Visit fifty new places. I checked my list two days ago and saw the last thing I wrote was Puerto Banus, which was in March, so obviously I have forgotten a bunch.

I think my favourite new places are the Tattershall Castle, the pub on a boat; Dublin, because it was great to see a new city, and visit the zoo and the Guinness Storehouse; Puerto Banus, where I went for my friend’s hen do holiday; Rabot 1745, where I had my birthday meal; Cork and Bottle, a wine bar hidden away in a basement in Leicester Square, where we had all the cheese and charcuterie; and most recently, the Tower of London.

2. Go on two holidays. I had checked off my goal to have two holidays by mid-March, which is pretty amazing: a weekend in Dublin and a weekend in Marbella. However, I think I need something else in the diary – perhaps a week off around September time – to look forward to. I have started a list, featuring more city breaks like Vienna and Budapest, as well as the unrealistic – New York! Canada! Iceland!

3. Do three day trips. I have done zero day trips. Possibilities to consider are Stonehenge, Canterbury and Oxford.

4. Make a scrapbook or memory box. I haven’t made a scrapbook or even bought a memory box. I’ve certainly collected enough to fill one, however!

5. See three ten new shows. I achieved ‘see three new shows’ in January alone, so I adjusted the goal to ten, and I achieved that by the first week of May. This goal is a complete cheat, because I am always going to go and see lots of shows.

Most had a limited run and are now finished, but I can recommend Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for an entertaining family show; Sh*t-Faced Shakespeare, for a decidedly un-family-friendly take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream; How the Other Half Loves, which has some outrageously old-fashioned ideas of relationship roles, but is in some ways still very modern – and funny; and Motown the Musical – if you love this genre of music (who doesn’t, really?) then this show is packed with classics.

6. Read two books a month. I have managed to read at least two books a month, and I’ve enjoyed every single one. I’m making excellent reading choices in 2016! My recent obsession was the Throne of Glass series, so if anyone likes YA fantasy (or perhaps just plain fantasy) then you should definitely try this. Another special mention to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.

Reading The Infernal Devices trilogy on my friend’s recommendation meant I decided to go and see Cassandra Clare when she came to London. I’m so glad I did, as it was really fun and I got to meet Dominic Sherwood, who plays Jace in the Shadowhunters TV series – added bonus!

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7. Do something different. This was vague to begin with, but I will be honest and say I haven’t done very much different.

I want to find out more about Age UK’s befriending service, which helps tackle the problem of loneliness faced by many older people. There is so much wrong with the world, there is more bad news every day, and it feels like there is nothing we can do about any of it. I need to do something, even if it only helps one person on a tiny scale.

On a lighter note, I have decided I’m going to buy a harmonica, so learning to play it can also be trying something new.

8. Take a chocolate tour. I have not done this yet, sadly, but you know it will happen.

9. Read a book in French or Spanish. I have so many great books waiting to be read that I haven’t yet sought out any French or Spanish books yet. Perhaps translations of Harry Potter are the answer!

10. Run for twenty minutes without stopping. I don’t know why I set this goal! I tend to go to the gym either post-work, when I’m too tired, or for zumba, so I’m not in the gym itself. I went this morning and can definitely run for ten minutes without stopping – and without breakfast, so perhaps if I were properly fuelled I could improve this.

11. Take care of myself. I have been eating more vegetables than I used to, but these are still outweighed by the amount of chocolate I eat. I am going out less in the week, but I’ve been reading such good books that I’m staying up late anyway just to find out what happens! Again, I don’t really remember what I meant by this goal, so I’m not sure what I wanted to achieve here. This needs a rethink!

12. Make my money go further. I have been taking advantage of free nights out, like blogger events and things advertised on Time Out, and using discounts on OpenTable and lastminute.com a fair bit. I think the most expensive show I’ve seen this year was £25, whereas there are some ridiculous top prices in the West End (£125, anyone?!) so I am definitely finding better deals.

13. Dedicate three hours each week to blogging and writing. I have definitely not done this. Perhaps this week, and this week only.

14. Write more list posts. I could do more, considering how many lists I write each day.

15. Take a photo a week. I am sure I have, but have I been carefully selecting a photo for Instagram/the blog to remind me of each week? No, no, I have not.

16. Keep a happiness jar. I moved this and forgot about it for a long time, so it’s back on my desk, ready to add to in the coming months.

So approximately four goals out of sixteen are on track, which is not the best result halfway through the year. However, that just means that tomorrow I should spend time finding a chocolate tour or a good time for a day trip, so I can’t complain!