25 January 2015

friendship, cake & blogging

It's been a hard week. For lots of reasons (mostly work related) so there hasn't been much blog action recently.

So yesterday to lift my spirits I baked (yum), and had some friends over for afternoon tea. For me there's nothing like catching up with friends to start feeling human again.

Ta da: Crunchy Lemon Cake...

crunchy lemon cake

Even more exciting - this afternoon I am going to afternoon tea at Brown's Hotel in London with twenty-five other London bloggers! Wow - no doubt I'll have my blogging mojo back after tea, scones and some social time with some of my favourite London bloggers. Thanks to Kelly from Around the world in 80 pairs of shoes for organising.

Other things I do to keep my blogging motivation fuelled when life takes over:
  • Head outdoors. There's nothing like a brisk walk or run(!) to get the heart pumping and endorphins flowing.
  • Review my travel photos. I love looking back at all the places I've been. There's so many I haven't shared here yet.
  • Read other peoples blogs. I started this blog because I was inspired by other blogs I was reading. All you guys out there are my inspiration.
  • Check out my blogging notebook. It's full of lots of random ideas I've noted down over the years for blog posts.
  • Realise life takes priority over blogging. There's no point in worrying if there's no action on the blog for week. I write here because I enjoy it, and I definitely don't want blogging to become a chore.
Hope you're all having a lovely weekend. Watch this space - lots of travel coming your way next week...

17 January 2015

Cappadocia, Turkey in panoramas

As you might already know I spent Christmas and New Years eve in Turkey. My favourite part of the whole holiday was exploring Cappadocia National Park - where the landscape completely blew me away.

Armed with a car, good friends, stunning views and my new iPhone 6 plus I went a little crazy - taking dozens of panorama shots as we cruised around. It was addictive. And actually, I'm pretty impressed with the results. So I have decided to share some of my favourite shots with you today.

Ta daa! Cappadocia, Turkey in panoramas....

view from our cave house - Uchisar, Cappadocia
 view from our cave house - Uchisar, Cappadocia

 looking towards the rock citadel of Uçhisar, Cappadocia
 looking out towards the rock citadel of Uçhisar, Cappadocia

lost somewhere on a small dirt road between Nevşehir and Derinkuyu, Cappadocia
lost somewhere on a small dirt road between Nevşehir and Derinkuyu, Cappadocia 

exploring Selime Monastery in the Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia
exploring Selime Monastery in the Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia 

 Ihlara Valley just before sunset. This spot is rumoured to have inspired the set of Star Wars
 Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia just before sunset. 
This spot is rumoured to have inspired the set of Star Wars

exploring Derinkuyu underground city, Cappadocia

Turkish coffee with a view in Avanos, Cappadocia
Turkish coffee with a view in Avanos, Cappadocia 

walking through Zelve Valley, Cappadocia (amazing!!!!)
walking through Zelve Valley, Cappadocia (amazing!!!!) 

Zelve Valley, Cappadocia at sunset - after all the tourist buses had departed and we had this amazing view all to ourselves!
all the tourist buses had departed and we had this amazing view all to ourselves!

Göreme - the tourist hub of Cappadocia
Göreme - the tourist hub of Cappadocia 

last but not least - Zelve Open-Air Museum.  A must see if you are ever in Cappadocia
last but not least - Zelve Open-Air Museum
A must see if you are ever in Cappadocia

Hope you're all having a lovely weekend.

15 January 2015

2015 travel planning and life...

If you're anything like me then you probably have a small obsession with travelling the world!!!! When friends and family, or even workmates tell me they are planning a trip somewhere I get all excited - my face lights up, my hands get clammy, and well I want to know everything.

This week's been a tough one at work so far, it's only Wednesday and I'm already thinking about the weekend when I can catch some extra zzzzzzs. To cheer myself up I decided to crack on with my 2015 travel plan last night. Here's what I came up with...

February
Portugal - not sure where yet, but somewhere warm and sunny :)

March
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Skiing holiday, Italy - with the girls

April (Easter)
Lapland
Or Sri Lanka the Maldives... swoon

May bank holiday #1
Paris

May bank holiday #2
Budapest

July
Oh Canada! 
More specifically Vancouver, Vancouver Island and Calgary for the 2015 stampede

August
Cornwall. There's nothing like fresh sea air in summer!
(Must convince my friend's boyfriend who has a car that he wants a road trip.)

September
Stuttgart Beer festival (with my bestie)

December
Vienna or Salzburg (or both), Austria for the Christmas Markets

January 2016
New Zealand

February 2016
Sapporo Snow Festival, Japan (oh I wish!)

Okay, okay - it's probably worth pointing out that none of the above is actually planned or booked. But now I have a wish list to work from.

I really want to blog from more places like this in 2015...

Blogging in Cappadocia, Turkey
me blogging in Cappadocia, Turkey (amen for WiFi), where I wrote this post

In other news I've been studying Japanese and rediscovering everything I forgot in the last seven years since living there. Call it a New Years resolution if you must. I've been listening to lots of Japanese podcasts and using Pimsleur Japanese again on my walks to and from work each day, which gives me about one hour study time in total.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. 
– Mark Twain

12 January 2015

what to expect at a Turkish bath or hamam...

SEE: geometric patterns glisten overhead and all around as the midday sun filters through star shaped ceiling cut-outs. Condensation drips from a high dome above, the drops blending into the sunlight and tricking me into thinking they might just be shooting stars. Bare skin glows pink, scrubbed until soft, bubbles surround me and moisture hangs in the steamy air. A smiling attendant rubs away my dead skin.

SMELL: almond soap fills my nostrils, drowning out the syrupy sweet quince sherbet I drunk on arrival. Later I cool off with a fragrant spearmint hand towel.

Inside Kilic Ali Pasha Mosque - Istanbul
inside Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamami - Istanbul, Turkey
{photo via Istanbul Tour Studio}

HEAR: soft footsteps echo, kept pace with a slow drumming of water as it drips onto the smooth marble interior. Whispers and the murmur of low voices in deep conversation reflect around the octagon shaped wash room. The clapping of hands slapping exposed flesh squeeze under heavy wooden doors from the massage rooms around the corner. In the background the soothing music of a loot keeps time.

TOUCH: warm marble against my back followed by rough exfoliation. The press of fingers into my back, neck and scalp forcing away tired work-created knots, hot water splashing over my head continuously, silky bubbles, soft towels.

TASTE: sweet quince sherbet floods my taste buds as I wait in anticipation for my hamam experience to begin. Later I relax sipping on soothing rose tea.

My Turkish hamam experience...
While in Istanbul over Christmas I visited the Kılıç Ali Paşa Camii (Kilic Ali Pasha Mosque) twice for a hamam. Why twice? Well, it was such a soothing and relaxing experience that left my skin feeling like butter and like I was walking on marshmallows - I couldn't not go back for a second round. 

Kilic Ali Pasha Mosque, relaxation area - Istanbul
Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamami relaxation area - Istanbul, Turkey

But what actually is a hamam?
A Turkish hamam (or bath) traditionally takes place in a room with a dome shaped roof that lets in shafts of light - somewhat similar to a steam room but with marble surfaces and quite a lot larger. 

In the centre of the hamam is a large, heated marble platform where you lie for about twenty minutes as you begin to shift into relaxation mode, and your pores open ready for a full body exfoliation.

After twenty minutes your personal attendant appears armed with a coarse mitt and she/he (depending on if you are female or male) will then rub you from head to toe - starting with your face in the most thorough full-body exfoliation you'll ever experience. Along the way you'll be rinsed off with warm water and vigorously massaged.

Next comes my favourite part - a personal bubble bath just for you. The attendant uses a pillowcase sized muslin sack that is soaked in warm water and soap before having air blown into it - which forces the soapy air thorough fine holes and onto you. Amazing! Once the mountain of bubbles seem like they might just drown you it's time for another wash down, including shampoo and conditioner before being wrapped tightly in soft clean towels and heading to the relaxation room where you can lie back, admire your sparkling skin, sip tea and reflect.

Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamami - Istanbul, Turkey
At Kilic Ali Pasha the hamam ritual lasts for about one hour, but you can relax inside on the comfy sofas for as long as you like. You can also opt for a oil massage to follow, which I did both times. It's the ideal place for hamam first-timers as you are looked after from start to finish and never made to feel uncomfortable in your own skin.

Highly recommended. The perfect New Years day experience!

10 January 2015

favourite 2014 travel moments

Today is my five-year London anniversary! It was on this date five years ago that I landed in Heathrow, navigated the tube with a backpack and suitcase, got lost in Earls Court tube station (hey - it was very confusing for a weary traveller) and then proceeded to get lost in East Putney as well. Oh, and it was snowing.

Five years on I am still loving living in London, especially because it means I can travel a lot. Every year my destination wish list grows longer. The more you see, the more you want to see in my experience.

Here are my 2014 travel highlights...

1. Honeymooning at Iya Onsen in Japan.
Not only is Japan my favourite country in the world but Shikoku (Japan's forth largest island) is my favourite part of the country to get away from it all. Words can't describe the tranquil beauty of Iya Onsen.

Honeymooning at Iya Onsen in Japan

2. Visiting the breathtakingly beautiful Cinque Terre, Italy.
Cinque Terre has been on my travel list for a long time. Anyone who's been to Cinque Terre swears it's a must visit and I couldn't agree more. As I stated right here last June - Cinque Terre is without a doubt the most visually beautiful place I have visited in Europe.

Visiting the breathtakingly beautiful Cinque Terre, Italy.

3. Dancing all night at Seville's bi-yearly Flamenco Festival!
Olé! We had a blast in the warm Spanish Autumn nights - exploring a city that didn't sleep, grooving along to the music we found around every corner and fuelling up on delicious tapas. Amazing.

Dancing all night at Seville's bi-yearly Flamenco Festival in Spain!

4. Discovering Vilnius - the capital city of Lithuania.
Lithuania is not quite on the tourist trail yet and I'm hoping it won't get discovered any time soon. There was a lot to see as the city is quite arty and has a interesting history - not to forget the free Republic of Užupis and the charming winter festival. I also went on the best walking tour of my life here.

Discovering Vilnius - the capital city of Lithuania.

5. Walking around, through, over and under fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, Turkey.
Landscape like I have never seen anywhere - Cappadocia, Turkey completely blew my mind. Look out for my blog posts coming soon...

Walking around, through, over and under fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, Turkey

In summary 2014 was a great travel year. Here's a few more moments that almost made the list:

Inspired by this list? Check out my favourite 2013 travel moments too.

Happy new travel year y'all!
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