Friday, 30 March 2012

Cornish Escapades

Cornwall is the most westerley and southerly county in England, one with lots of coast line and somewhere I'd long wanted to visit.  My folks went back in 2006 and they loved it.  Raved about.  So when a ski trip fell through and I already had a day booked off work, I booked a long weekend away in early march.  I was lucky enough to be able to extend it a day once there.

A sleeper train down, a wee little fiesta to zip about in, some YHAs to stay at and a regular train home.  Here's where I went* over the four days whilst here is a small sampling of what I saw.

All aboard! Sleeper train to Cornwall tonightInside my little cabin. A tele, sink, bed, heater, refreshments & a full size mirror.Oh I do love to be beside the seasideChilling out in an old slate mine.Padstow, looking outIf you're going to have a commemorative bench, the edge of the Atlantic seems a good spotBeachside breakfast @fifteencornwallI don't understand it but I can appreciate it #LanyonQuoitMy newest friendWaiting for low tide so I can walk on overTide is out, time to follow the brick roadKicking back at the Lizard, mainland England's most southerly pointSunset over Tintagel Castle (where king Arthur is rumoured to have been conceived) #nofilter #cornwall #tintagelA gray day in Polperro

|A sleeper train from paddington | inside my little cabin, simple but comfy and certainly a novelty | boats in Plymouth Harbour | Carnglaze caverns, an old slate mine | Padstow | an indulgent lunch at the Seafood Restaurant, Padstow (Rick Stein) | sunset at Treyarnon | breakfast at Fifteen Cornwall, Watergate Bay (Jamie Oliver’s restaurant) | Watergate Bay | fields upon fields of daffodils that this pic doesn’t do justice | Lanyon Quoit | a new friend | Lands End, the most westerly point on Great Britain | St Michael’s Mount when the tide is high | St Michael’s Mount with the tide out, showing the causeway | Lizard Point, the most southerly point of Great Britain | sunset over Tintagel (where rumour has it King Arthur was conceived~) | Polperro,  home of scary swooping seagulls | Eden Project | Eden Project, Mediterraen biodome | Eden Project; Tropical biodome|

A really wonderful four days that feels forever ago.  Are you dreaming of destinations long gone?

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Ten on a Tuesday - 120

Chelsea's questions this week, a mixed bag as usual. 

1. Should we keep doing Ten on Tuesday?
I’m on the fence.  I don’t play along as much as I used but do like to occasionally.  What do you guys think? 

2. How do you pick out your sunglasses?
My nonprescription ones are many and varied and they’re usually just cheap ones from wherever I am when I realize I’ve left mine at home.  My prescription ones are now 4+ years old and I wouldn’t choose them again but as the prescription is still correct, I’m being tight on replacing them.

3. Do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?
Not always but not opposed to it. I didn’t this year.

4. Name 5 movies that you will never get sick of.
Empire Records, 10 Things I Hate About You, Beaches, Before Sunrise, Love Actually

5. Name 1 book that you will never get sick of.
I really can’t.  I’m terrible at rereading books.

6. Do you know any sign language?
Some but not as much as I use to.  We had a profoundly deaf school in my grade 6 class so we had twice weekly lessons.  Since I haven’t actively used it in the last 19 years, I remember only very little.  Besides the alphabet the only words I remember are know, love, toilet, and is.

7. What is your favorite kind of Girl Scout cookie?
n/a as they’re not a phenomenon to have reached my life but my
favourite all time biscuit is the tim tam.

8. Are you handy? (Can you fix or build anything?)
I can deal with Ikea stuff but I’ve never really tried anything beyond that.

9. In what form do you prefer your potatoes? (Baked, mashed, au gratin, hashbrowns, twice baked, etc.)
Probably French fries but I like them scalloped, roasted, cheesy champ, hashbrowns etc.  I like me some potatoes.

10. Do you believe the saying “actions speak louder than words”?
Yes, they do, but I still think words have currency so be mindful of that.

Monday moments

This morning I was a real cranky pants.  No real reason.  Well, no justifiable reason.  I had a great restorative weekend where I didn’t do a lot but what I did do, I enjoyed (or at least enjoyed the result of when it comes to the houseworky stuff).  I woke up feeling good about the day.  As good as you can on a Monday at least.  I think that the sun was beating down on the window helped.

And after getting ready for work, I set off.  I can get to work a variety of ways – walk, bus, train or DLR.  All are about the same amount of effort/time.  I tend to default to walk if it’s sunny or bus if it’s not. Today was sunny but I was running late so I opted for the bus.  Mistake.  TFL has this little page so you can check the status of your bus – it’s ETA.  When I left home it was 9 minutes away (meaning I’d have about 5 minutes dead time at the stop – about the most I’m willing to still opt for the bus and before walking becomes an all round better option).  Got to the bus stop, waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Eventually it was a 22 minute wait (plus walking time to the stop).  It’s really set me in a bad mood. I know by world standards, that's fine.  But by London standards?? I kept thinking of walking but then sod’s law, I expected the bus to come as soon as I left.   It’s silly that something as little as this can give me the cranks.  Maybe it was because I was running late already?  I don’t know (and it’s not actually an issue at work).

Tomorrow? I’m walking to work

Since I got to work though, things have picked up.  Today is a glorious day in London. 
My coffee this morning was free (loyalty rewards) and served with good chat.  Can't fault that. 
My lunch wrap (avocado & herb from Pret) was free because it had a Monday sticker on it.  I don’t really get it and was baffled when the server just kept repeating free. 
My lunch was eaten with a  friend in the sun by the water. Can’t fault that.
My nails are green.  Nails Inc Haymarket to be precise.  They’re the only colour I’m wearing today (the rest of my outfit is black and white) and every time I notice them, I love them. 
My spin class shattered me in the best possible way and was followed by some major stretching.  The feel good feelings of a post work out stretch can not be underestimated.

So whilst this morning I was annoyed, and then annoyed that something so little had annoyed me, it pleases me to know that equally little things make my day. 

Also – tonight, gastro pub dinner with friends and a quiz.  Today is excellent. For a Monday. Fingers crossed for no physics rounds or we're doomed.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Valencia–Las Fallas Part 2

I can’t believe it is a year since I was in Valencia, enjoying all the crazy of Las Fallas.  The thing is, I mentioned its, crazy and shared the lead up to it but never shared pictures of the fallas themselves, in their natural state or on fire.  I am incredibly jealous of a friend there this week.  Incredibly jealous.

The fallas are statues built in each neighbourhood in the month leading up to the fires.  Where there is a big one, there is usually a smaller one nearby, to be burnt at the more child friendly time of 9pm.

I can’t really begin to explain these, the how/why/what but I can share what I saw.  These cartoonish, often rude, statues are all over the town,usually in the middle of an intersection.  They’re up for about a month and then on the night of the 19th, they’re all set on fire, bring the festival to a close for another year.  I’ve done some googling to try and understand more but nothing really explains it clearly to me.

Here are some of the fallas.  To give a sense of scale, the largest ones are around 7 storeys tall. 

And then at night time, when they get lit (setting of fireworks and crackers in the process), it is just crazy.  The heat these generate is unbelievable and suddenly those that had pushed to the front during the wait wished they hadn’t as the crowd surges back.

These pics above are of a large fallas whilst the one below is of a childrens one (for the children, not by the children).

Here’s the video of this children’s one burning.  I think it’s pretty clear in it just when I get hit in the face by debris.  This festival is seriously unlike anything I’ve been to before and I’d go again in a heartbeat.

Are you a pyro? fan of all things fires and fireworks?

Friday, 9 March 2012

App review - TripIt

I love my iPhone and use many many apps on it each day. I can't imagine not having one now actually as it's so useful in so may ways. I thought I'd start sharing some of my favourite apps with you. It's a mixed bunch of what I love and I'm always open to more suggestions. At the time of writing this, I have 28 apps open. And that's just from today as I tend to shut things down each night...

The first app I'm sharing is quite apt really. I'm off on another trip this weekend. This is one of the rare scheduled posts actually and by the time you are reading it, I'm either in a car zipping around Cornwall and taking in it's coastline, villlages, hills and what not or I'm still on the sleeper train heading down to do just that.

I go through phases with trips. I don’t tend to do a lot of travel in January/February but it is usually when I set up quite a few holidays for the year. In the next few months I've got this trip, Jordan & Egypt for Easter, Gibraltar later in April, returning to the Scottish Highlands in May and then two weeks walking the coast to coast in July, not to mention I was in Northern Ireland last weekend.

As fun as booking all these trips is and the anticipation that comes with them, keeping my stuff together can get tough. My "travel" folder in my email is chockers with all sorts of things and there's no logic to it. Ie. All flights were booked for these trips before I looked at accom, tours, activities etc. This is where TripIt comes in.

It's my favourite travel app on my iPhone (other loved ones include Kayak, iTranslate, TripAdvisor). Once you have an account set up (free), you just forward your confirmation emails to it and then it brings it all together. I mainly use the iPhone app but there is also a really easy to use web interface. Note that not all service providers work seamlessly with it but most I have encountered do. Trains, flights, car hire, YHA and hotel bookings have all been seemless for me, with just some minor tweaking needed on the restaurant confirmations. If Tripit doesn't recognise a confirmation email format, it saves it as a note which you can then add to the trip or manually enter the details. Normally I just assign the note to the right trip and leave it at that.

Screen dumps of the various views within the app including all the details of last week's Northern Ireland jaunt.  Click on pic to see larger)

You can also build a network so if you're travelling with friends on the same bookings, you can share the details etc which is handy when one person books all the flights or something.  The app is free as is the account I have.  There is an option for pro account (ie. flights monitored, frequent flyer details stored, flight prices tracked) but it's not something I need.

All in all, it makes things easy and I'm a big fan - it makes my life easy and it excites me every time I open it and see my upcoming trips.

What apps do you love at the moment? Travel or otherwise?

Disclaimer - The kind folks at TripIt have no idea who I am (other than the details I signed up with) and have even less idea I'm writing this review.  There's no perks in it for me, I just like their app and am sharing this with you. 

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Northern Ireland–Belfast

The final part of our weekend break in Northern Ireland was in Belfast.  It's a city with a well known and violent history, especially in recent times and I was keen to learn more about it.  With  limited time in the city and on the recommendation of friends, we booked a black cab history tour.  Before that though,  we grabbed a coffee and had a gander about the city centre.   City Hall, views of and from the Victoria Quarter Shopping Mall glass viewing dome. 

Hello Belfast - you look lovely in the sunshine

The tour we had booked was a Black Cab history tour.  We met our guide, Paddy, outside City Hall and then spent the next 100 minutes driving around the Shankill and Falls areas of Belfast (Protestant and Catholic areas), hearing about the Troubles, what led to the Troubles and where things are now.  In these two distinct areas, there are many many murals depicting the victims and occasions and their pride in their side. 

The first 4 (l-r) are Catholic whilst the remaining 8 are protestant.  Click through to Flickr for larger pics

Did you know there is a Belfast Peace Wall?  Many of them actually, with the longest over 1 mile long.  They separate the Catholic and Protestant areas the city over, with gates that are open during the day but to this day are closed at sundown.  I had heard of the wall before the trip but had no idea the city was still this divided. 
 A small stretch of the peace lines along Cupar Way

After our tour, we had some lunch and a wee beverage at Crown Bar, a completely over the top ornate pub filled with private snugs from which to eat and drink.  Leave the door open when you want service, keep it shut when all is good.  Cute, a little kitsch but well worth a visit.

Sadly soon after, our trip was over and we were headed back to the airport for a nice bumpy flight back to London. Belfast was a fascinating city, one who’s Troubles I still just can’t fathom.

A weekend away I hadn't really planned but that I'm really grateful for.