29 September 2014

does living abroad make the heart grow fonder?

I've been feeling nostalgic all weekend. It's a strange and sad feeling, and one I think most people who choose to live far away from the country they were born and grew up in must experience at least once.

For me, it's been the combination of a very busy week, and also having my parents visiting from New Zealand. In truth the last week has been easy on me - as Mum and Dad have been staying with my brother (who is also settled in the UK). My week was normal.

Tomorrow they come back to London, and back to me for another week and a half. And then it will be goodbye again - for who knows how long. One year, two years, three?

And that is the burden of being an expat and living abroad. Every day I weigh up the pros and cons. Travel vs family time. A job I love vs settling. Living in one of the biggest cities in the world vs one of the smallest.

Does living abroad make the heart grow fonder?

Kayaking down the Whanganui River, New Zealand
a family trip kayaking down the Whanganui River, New Zealand - January 2009

Ten years ago I would have sworn black and blue that I would never return to New Zealand to live. The world was far too exciting to be stuck in the furthest corner of the globe, pretty much twelve hours flight from anywhere interesting.

These days I'm not quite as certain as that. The decision is not quite as black and white, and the topic of 'where are we going next?' is a often debated subject that sends us to sleep at least once every few weeks.

What about you? Do you live away from your country of birth? Or would you?

27 September 2014

visiting Kinkaku-ji & Ginkaku-ji - Kyoto

another year is gone
a traveller's shade on my head
straw sandals at my feet

Kinkaku-ji and Ginkaku-ji are probably two of the most famous spots to visit in Kyoto, Japan. Translated their names mean the Gold Pavilion and Silver Pavilion.

Kinkaku-ji has always been a bustling tourist spot for as long as I've been visiting Japan. And it's no surprise really. No matter what the weather I'm always dazzled by the gleaming gold that cuts straight through the surrounding greenery. There's not much that can prepare you for the view of this temple, famous for it's gold-leaf covered exterior...

Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion - Kyoto Japan

Ginkaku-ji on the other hand always makes me laugh and smile. It's name is deceptive, and it's not uncommon to hear people exclaim "but I thought it was silver" as they get their first glimpse of the pavilion - tourists and Japanese alike.

Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion - Kyoto Japan

It's the Japanese gardens at Ginkaku-ji that really stand it apart from other temples in Kyoto - in particular the sand garden that never has a grain out of place.

Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion garden - Kyoto Japan

Together Kinkaku-ji and Ginkaku-ji make the perfect pair, and the perfect day out in Kyoto.

Another year is gone... but I hope to be back soon.

Do you have a spot far away from home you return to every few years?

22 September 2014

Seville - city of music, Spain


This weekend just gone I was in Seville, Spain for the bi-yearly Flamenco Festival La Bienal.

La Bienal is the biggest flamenco event worldwide. Held every two years, for a whole month at a time Seville is the must-be city for all flamenco fans. The city was a wonderful host, and hubby and I were truly spoilt by the music, weather, people and sights.

There are three words I would use to describe Seville - warm, dramatic and self-assured...

1. Warm...
Friendly people swarmed the streets and tiled squares, with smiling faces raised towards the warm sun, while heat radiated from the cobbled paths. Vibrant coloured buildings, intermixed with golden sandstone. I saw families, friends and couples relaxing in the warmth of the streets and celebrating life in this warm Southern Spanish city.

Taking in the heat of the day at Plaza de España - Seville
taking in the heat of the day at Plaza de España - Seville

Walking through the central city, fabric floating overhead to keep off the heat of the day - Seville
walking through the central city, 
fabric floating overhead to keep off the heat of the day - Seville

Locals and tourist alike gather for a free outdoor concert as part of the La Bienal Flamenco Festival - Seville
locals and tourists alike gather for a free outdoor concert 
- part of the La Bienal Flamenco Festival

Walking though a plaza at night - Seville
the nights were heavenly warm in Seville

Never have I visited a city where I have been so overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the architecture! Move over Rome, New York and Tokyo - hello Seville. Not only are the buildings dramatic, but they are grand as well, and most importantly pleasant on the eyes.

Add to this architecture some dramatic flamenco music and dancing, emotional hand gestures, the rumble of excited voices, children running and playing in the beautiful squares (Seville has many) and people everywhere generally having a great time - and you have yourself one overwhelmingly dramatic city.

The Cathedral of St. Mary - Seville
The Cathedral of St. Mary - the third largest cathedral in the world,
and the largest of all medieval and Gothic cathedrals in terms of both area and volume...

The Cathedral of St. Mary - Seville
...it was so big I couldn't even begin to capture the front entrance with my camera

Inside the Cathedral of St. Mary - Seville
...inside the Cathedral of St. Mary
(in just one of the many corners)
we craned our necks to get a view of Jesus on the cross

Golden ceiling in the Hall of Ambassadors - Alcázar of Seville
golden ceiling in the Hall of Ambassadors - Alcázar of Seville
The Alcázar is the royal palace in Seville, 
and is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe

The Courtyard of the Maidens - Alcázar of Seville
the Courtyard of the Maidens - Alcázar of Seville

The Alcázar Gardens - Sevile
The Alcázar Gardens
- palm trees, a maze to get lost in and miles of paths to walk.
If I was going back again I'd take a book and picnic.

La Bienal Flamenco Festival - Seville 2014
the highlight of our weekend away?
the amazing flamenco of course!

3. Self-assured...
Sevillanos are proud of who they are, their culture, city, food and wine. They know themselves and what's important - family, children and friends. Self expression was everywhere, and seemed to be embraced by all.

A wedding in the Cathedral of St. Mary - Seville
we stumbled upon a wedding in the Cathedral of St. Mary.
The bride was singing Ave Maria, accompanied by a live orchestra,
while her newly husband joined in on Saxophone!

Plaza de España - Seville
the Plaza de España - Seville

Beautiful tiles adorn many a building in Seville
beautiful tiles adorn many a building in Seville

On a final note one can't go to Seville and not sample some of the delicious food. The tapas, jamón ibérico, gelato and sweets were amazing!

Seville sweets
stopping by a 'small' coffee shop - Seville

Jamón ibérico - Seville
it was jamón just too delicious,
so we ordered the jamón ibérico selection!

Would I recommend Seville as a destination? Absolutely. I'm already planning my next trip back.

20 September 2014

travel, London, and my own #GBBO

I haven't been blogging as much as I normally do recently. That is because life is just a tiny bit crazy right now! I have my parents visiting from New Zealand, work is hectic and of course I'm squeezing in lots of travel as well.

So I thought this morning I'd share a few photos from the week just gone. Enjoy :)

Brighton Beach, England.
Brighton Beach. 
My parents and I did a little day trip out here on Monday. 
I even convinced my Dad to go on the beach carousel with me!

Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla and coconut icing.
Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla and coconut icing.
I hosted my monthly bookclub (also known as cheese and wine club) 
on Thursday night and baked these sweet cupcakes to share.

Brighton Pier, England
Brighton Pier.
Another snap from our day trip.
We watched the sun go down from sun chairs along the pier.

The English seaside and Fish & Chips.
The English seaside and Fish & Chips.
A perfect combo.

Brighton Beach, England
Did I mention a visit to Brighton Beach?

Regents Park, London
Although my parents have visited London a few times now, 
they had never been to Regents park.
We remedied that last weekend and had a picnic.

A classic English Victoria Sponge,  filled with berries, jam and whipped cream
It was my Dad's birthday last Saturday.
So I got my bake on and baked a classic English Victoria Sponge, 
filled with berries, jam and whipped cream.

Brookes running shoes
I've been pounding the pavements quite a lot recently.
In fact I run to work most mornings as it's the only spare time I have to fit in exercise.
So I decided to treat myself to some lovely new runners.

Homemade lime and ginger slice
And yes, I baked one more time.
A little lime and ginger slice.
Sweet and tangy.
This week's been like my own Great British Bake Off.

I'm currently in Spain this weekend - in Seville at the yearly Flamenco Festival - so will tell you all about it next week!

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.
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