14 September 2014

London pancake breakfast

I love breakfast. It's my favourite meal of the day, and in the weekends it's even better as I normally have longer to linger over my eggs, coffee and toast.

I currently have my parents visiting us in London all the way from New Zealand, and it was my Dad's birthday yesterday, so what better way to start the celebrations than with a homemade family pancake breakfast?

Pancakes for breakfast

Tea brewing, pancakes steaming, fruit glistening (well maybe that's an exaggeration) and maple syrup all the way from Canada at the ready - we soon got stuck in....

Pancakes for breakfast

Pancakes for breakfast. The perfect way to start any day.

London pancake breakfast

Hope you're all having a lovely weekend.

11 September 2014

a long weekend in Cinque Terre, Italy - part 2

In June I began telling you all about my Springtime holiday to beautiful Cinque Terre in a long weekend in Cinque Terre, Italy - part 1. Then I went to Japan and all thoughts of Italy were sidetracked. 

But I must finish where I left off! If you've never explored this little corner of the world I thoroughly recommend it. The Italian Riviera is a must see on anyone's travel wish list. So...

On day two of our holiday we decided to pull out our walking shoes and complete the 3.5 km walk from Monterosso al Mare (where we were staying) to Vernazza. It was a hot day, even for Spring but the landscape and views were both worth the sweat.

our first view of Vernazza on the walk from Monterosso al Mare

The walking path between Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza hugs the terraced cliffs, so we were treated to sea views for most of the walk. And there were plenty of spots to sit, relax and enjoy the views as well... even the dogs on the trail seemed impressed!

Dog on walking trail to Vernazza, Italy

Walking down into Vernazza was just as visually interesting... washing hanging from windows, the smell of freshly baked pastries and the salty sea air, vibrant colours and the chatter of many happy holiday makers.

Walking down into Vernazza amoungst the coloured walls - Italy
walking down into Vernazza

Fishing boats - Vernazza, Italy
local fishing boats

Of course we headed directly for the sea, only stopping for gelato and water. I had the most delicious pineapple flavoured gelato. For any kiwis our there reading - it tasted just like a pineapple fruju :)

Indulging in gelato - Vernazza, Italy

Then the boys went for a swim while us girls sunbathed. Others did yoga on the rocks...

Yoga on the rocks - Vernazza, Italy

By mid afternoon our stomachs were growling, so we followed our noses and feasted on fresh seafood Italian pasta and beer.

Fresh seafood pasta - Vernazza, Italy

Bellies full, we moved on to local wine and then meandered around the town until it was time to leisurely make our way home... 

Looking back to Monterosso al Mare from Vernazza - Italy
the view looking back to Monterosso al Mare

Do you have a favourite seaside town in Europe? I think Cinque Terre might just be my #1 spot :)

7 September 2014

a visit to Hastings, and the ocean

The ocean is beautiful. For me there's something about the sound of waves crashing against the sand, the stickiness of salt in your hair, on your face and the refreshing vividness of the smell!

Visiting the ocean makes me happy.

So I was very happy and pleasantly surprised when hubby and I arrived in St Leonards-on-Sea and Hastings for a long weekend to see wide open ocean for miles that was just asking to be explored...

enjoying the sunset on East Hill, overlooking Hastings Old Town
enjoying the sunset on East Hill, overlooking Hastings Old Town

 Hastings old town sits between two hills, both worth climbing. On the west sits the ruins of Hastings Castle, and to the East is the conveniently named 'East Hill', with sweeping views of the town and ocean.

Walking along charming cobbled street with bunting in Hastings Old Town

As well as the ocean, Hastings Old Town has it's own charm too. We ignored the penny arcades along the promenade and headed inland to tour the old cobbled streets.

 And then it was back to the beach!

Walking along Hastings Beach, England
walking along Hastings beach 

My Heart Belongs to Hastings, Love Locks

I have a bit of a soft spot for early morning activities when at the ocean. On our second day in Hastings I donned my running shoes and headed west...

Hastings Beach - early morning

... and I wasn't the only person up early.

Hastings Beach - early morning

Even when the ocean's stormy I think it's beautiful. On our last day in Hastings the rain came. Thankfully we had a great view of Hastings Beach from our holiday rental. Dramatic right!

Hastings Beach during a storm

If you want to visit Hastings it's just a short 90 minute train ride from London Charing Cross Station. Train tickets on Southern Railways are actually relatively cheap - we paid £22 return each, which is quite a bargain for the UK. Yay!!

Hastings Beach, England

 Do you have a favourite beach you like to visit?

4 September 2014

settling into London life...

If you've been stopping by here for a little while you may have read my making London home post from the start of this year, where I vowed to stop treating my time in London as temporary and to try and make it feel a little bit more like home...

Well, it's been a long road, and I'm not sure I'll ever find anywhere that I want to put my feet up in for the rest of my life, but I have made some conscience choices to really enable us to enjoy our London lifestyle a bit more. I mean, come on - it's been five years already!

Some of the changes we've made this year...
  • first we moved flats back in March, upgrading from a 1-bedroom, dark, cramped flat in W2 to a lovely light 2-bedroom place with an extra-big new kitchen and garden out the back in NW6. These days I enjoy coming home from work.
  • then we bought some furniture. Not lots of expensive stuff, but a few nice Ikea pieces that make life that much more comfortable.

Our spare room, complete with homemade quilt and origami cranes
our spare room, complete with homemade quilt and origami cranes

  • next we added some personal touches. I even got creative (inspired by many lovely blogs out there) and made my first quilt... of course it's travel themed - bringing a tiny piece of wanderlust into our spare room! Do you like the fabric?

Travel themed fabric

  • I've printed and framed wedding photographs too, and finally hung some of the art I've been storing under the bed. Here's one of my more risky pieces...

Put art up on the wall!

  • We've been exploring our new neighbourhood bit by bit during the weekends. We now have a regular pub, favourite local restaurant and farmers market we stop by every weekend.
  • We've also met our neighbours and even shared a few bottles of wine.
  • And next week my parents arrive on a month-long visit from New Zealand. The finishing touch to a eight-month journey. Because anywhere feels like home when you've got family with you.

Hope you're having a great week. Mine has been a little stressful at work... bring on the weekend!

1 September 2014

the most tranquil view of all - Iya Onsen, Japan

sit, look, think, drink, write
verses we make together
honeymoon happy :)

View from our room - Iya Onsen, Japan
the view from our room - Iya Onsen, Japan

While in Japan earlier this year, hubby and I made a beeline for Shikoku - the smallest of the four main islands of Japan, and in my opinion the most tranquil, natural, traditional and beautiful.

Every time we visit Japan Shikoku is always on our itinerary, and every visit I seem to fall head over heels for this little spot in the world all over again. The pace of life in Shikoku is slower, and there are definitely far less tourists. It's the one place in Japan where the locals really don't know any English at all, and it's up to me to use my limited Japanese to communicate. But oh, the reward.

This visit (on our belated honeymoon) we decided to splash out and stay at the famous Iya Onsen, nestled deep in the dramatic Iya Valley 祖谷渓. The view from our room was just amazing - with floor to ceiling windows that opened right out onto Iya Valley itself...

Iya Valley - Shikoku, Japan
the view from our room - Iya Valley - Shikoku, Japan

... and we spent several relaxing, romantic days here, sunning ourselves in the light and writing haiku poems while looking out over the vivid green, misty hills.

steep emerald hills rise
to meet a misty sky, pop!
honeymoon nector

Iya Onsen - amazing views - Japan

What better way to enjoy a view so stunning than with chocolate covered crisps? (I heart Japan and it's imaginative junk food.)

Chocolate covered crisps - Japan

As well as the breathtaking views of the valley, the best part about staying at Iya Onsen was of course the onsen themselves (Japanese hot springs) - situated at the bottom of Iya Gorge.

Yukata - Iya Onsen, Shikoku Japan
 our 'his and hers' yukata for wearing to and from the onsen

To get to the onsen we took a cable car (attached to the hotel) on a five minute, 170 metre decent to the bottom of the valley, and were spoilt with even more panoramic views of the valley - and the odd monkey spotting!

Many of the green trees you see here are Japanese Maples - so in Autumn the whole valley is awash in red.

Waiting for the cable car - Iya Onsen, Japan
waiting for the cable car

Looking down into Iya Valley from the cable car as we descended
looking down into Iya Valley from the cable car as we descended

The open-air baths (one for men and one for women as there's a 'no clothing policy' in Japanese onsens) sit alongside the Iya River, flowing with natural hot spring water. The perfect way to relax.

Iya Onsen - Shikoku, Japan
Iya Onsen

In the evenings we enjoyed our meals with the same breathtaking view of the valley...

dinner with a view - Iya Onsen
dinner with a view - Iya Onsen

Dinner with a view - Iya Onsen Japan
dessert - jelly spaghetti served with molasses sugar to taste

...and then settled back to take in the night-time views from our room.

Iya Valley early evening - Japan
Iya Valley early evening

And in the mornings we awoke to our beautiful room and, well did it all again - tea, breakfast, onsen, sleep, poetry, view, wine, food, onsen, wine...

View from Iya Onsen, Shikoku Japan

at the crack of dawn
onsen, breakfast, back to bed
way to start the day

Breakfast - Iya Onsen Japan
Japanese breakfast

We weren't the only ones enjoying the view. Just a short stroll from Iya Onsen is the statue of a boy standing on the edge of a cliff posed as if he is peeing off the ledge into the valley below. According to local folklore passing travellers used to climb out to pee off the same rock as a testament to their bravery. Needless to say hubby wasn't given the option!

Peeing boy statue - Iya Valley, Shikoku Japan

Thanks to Emma and friends for this fine 'room with a view' travel blog link up.
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