23 October 2014

how to: blogging while travelling

Being able to travel as often as I do is an amazing privilege. I have the funds, right partner in life and confidence to step into the unknown regularly.

So when I'm in a new place I don't want to take it for granted and miss anything because I've got my eyes glued to a laptop. I choose to have a actual travel experience instead - as it's pretty hard to write about something you haven't being paying attention to.

So without further ado - here are my top tips for blogging while travelling...
  1. I don't like to carry much when I'm out and about.
    The less you lug around the more flexible you can be. I hate being weighed down with lots of stuff while travelling, stuff just makes me tired. So the most I'll ever carry on me is my wallet, phone, keys, camera and jacket/sunnies/hat/gloves (weather dependant).

  2. Just my camera and me.
    I take photos of everything. Not just the 'time consuming, planned compositions, national geographic-quality' photos you see regularly on somewhere... beyond the sea, but also info signs, plaques, menus, street signs. Anything with information on that I can reference later to make my writing process quicker.

  3. And a cute notebook and pen for when I get back to my bed.
    Before laying my head down to sleep I jot down notes from the day - thoughts, observations, feelings, people I met, things I saw, and highlights I want to remember. At this stage everything is still fresh enough in my mind to capture in words.

  4. Travel notebooks by kikki.k
    travel notebooks - a gift from my Mum

  5. If I get an idea, or hear a line I absolutely want to remember word-for-word I record it on my phone.
  6. Just a simple notes app does the trick.

  7. Plus I keep all the bits and pieces that I gather while out and about.
  8. Ticket stubs, maps, info leaflets and business cards are a great memory jogger when writing a blog post later.

  9. Take note of the quirks.
  10. What's the one thing you notice that you've never seen before anywhere else that makes this place special?

  11. Remember your senses.
  12. I take mental-notes on what I'm seeing, smelling, eating, hearing, touching... for me to write down later (see tip #3).

  13. And lastly, have fun.
  14. Travel is the best thing ever!

20 October 2014

a long weekend in Cinque Terre - part 3

Ahhh Cinque Terre - my favourite place in Italy, and in Europe. I've said it once and I'll say it again - this is the most visually beautiful spot I've visited in the world.

If you haven't seen my previous posts do check out a long weekend in Cinque Terre - part 1 and a long weekend in Cinque Terre - part 2. Today I want to finish off this small series by telling you about my favourite of the five small villages that make up Cinque Terre - beautiful Manarola.

Manarola, Cinque Terre - Italy
Manarola, Cinque Terre - Italy

Manarola is the second smallest of the five Cinque Terre towns and survives off three primary industries - fishing, wine making and of course tourism. Built on the rocks, Manarola's bright multicoloured houses stand out in contrast against the sky and ocean, and take your breath away on first view.

To get the best views of this beautiful town we climbed up through the vineyards in the hills behind it, pausing every other second to take yet another photo...

Looking towards Manarola with the ocean breeze behind us - Cinque Terre, Italy
looking towards Manarola with the ocean breeze behind us - Cinque Terre, Italy

Exploring the hillside paths surrounding Manarola - Cinque Terre, Italy
exploring the hillside paths surrounding Manarola - Cinque Terre, Italy

There's lots of lovely little paths to follow in the hills and you could spend many hours here happily strolling, climbing, enjoying lunch with a view and of course giving your camera a work out.

Looking back towards the ocean - Manarola - Cinque Terre, Italy
looking back towards the ocean - Manarola - Cinque Terre, Italy

Enjoying the warm Spring weather - Manarola - Cinque Terre, Italy

Spring was a lovely time to visit as the hills were blooming with wild flowers, making the view even more picturesque. 

Looking back towards the ocean - Manarola - Cinque Terre, Italy

Manarola - Cinque Terre, Italy

After a few hours of looking at Manarola from a distance we decided to descend into the town and headed along the promenade to the sparkling harbour front...

Manarola - Cinque Terre, Italy

Manarola - Cinque Terre, Italy

...we followed our noses (and stomachs) on the hunt for a seafood themed lunch and were rewarded with homemade fresh pasta...

Lunch - Manarola - Cinque Terre, Italy
lunch - Manarola - Cinque Terre, Italy

One Christmas I hope to re-visit Manarola. In the holiday season the hillside overlooking the town is turned into a giant nativity scene, with more than three hundred characters lit up by lights. Apparently it's quite easy to rent rooms with a view of the nativity in December and January - so if this sounds of interest start planning now.

Manarola's permanent nativity scene overlooking the town ready to be lit up next Christmas
Manarola's permanent nativity scene overlooking the town 
ready to be lit up next Christmas

After lunch we decided to carry on up the hillside to the small village of Groppo - famous for its wine. This was a longer and much more tiring walk - but we persevered with wine on our minds...

The view walking up to Groppo - Cinque Terre
the view walking up to Groppo - Cinque Terre

The view walking up to Groppo - Cinque Terre

Groppo is a very small village, and from what we cold tell and there was just a single place for wine tasting, that had wines from several vineyards in the area. For a small price we were treated to six different wines, snacks and a informative chat.

Wine tasting in Groppo - Cinque Terre
wine tasting in Groppo - Cinque Terre

Warm from the sun and jolly from the wine we headed home happy.

If you've never visited Cinque Terre I can't praise this area of the world enough. Furiously busy during summer I recommend visiting in the months of April, May, September or October when it's still warm but so much quieter. Make sure you let me know what you think.

Viaggiare bene.

18 October 2014

Guildford to Gomshall - a walk in the English countryside

Sometimes a gal just needs to get out of London and into the wilderness.

A few weeks ago it was time to breathe in some fresh air and swap London's endless concrete and brick for some nature, so I joined friends on a leisurely day walk from Guildford to Gomshall.

Never heard of these places? Neither had I - but I was amazed at how far I felt from London, when in reality we had only travelled by train for forty minutes to find ourselves in the beautiful English countryside...

Strolling through the North Downs - Guildford, England
strolling through the North Downs - Guildford

We strolled along dirt paths, spirits high even if there wasn't much sunshine - for we were in the countryside.  And it was just us, no other people to be seen or heard...

Strolling through the North Downs - Guildford, England

The signs along this walk were few and far between, and yes us city folk did get lost a few times. Thank goodness for GPS. When signs along our route did appear they were beautifully illustrated.

Walking signs - Guildford to Gomshall, England

We munched on wild blackberries...

Wild blackberries - Guildford to Gomshall, England

... and came across some history too. This is an old WWII pillbox situated a few moments walk from St Martha-on-the-hill, one of the most remote churches I've come across.

WWII pillbox - Guildford to Gomshall, England

As we got closer to our pub lunch in Shere we stared longingly into some of the local vege gardens, and grew excited by a giant yellow pumpkin and neighbouring scarecrow. 

Shere garden - Guildford to Gomshall, England

Don't you just love the look of English country homes?

Shere village, England

At last it was lunch time and we treated ourselves to local fish and chips, and ale.

Fish & Chips - Shere village, England

Now, I would like to be able to say that we continued on our way after lunch. But the truth is we were enjoying ourselves far too much at the pub so decided to trade a "few" more beers for the rest of our walk. It was a Saturday you know! 

One day soon, next year, some stage we'll go back and finish the adventure.

Have you ever walked from Guildford to Gomshall? Or do you have another favourite day walk from London? If you are after some fresh air my favourite day walk is Deal to Dover.

16 October 2014

raspberry and almond cake (aka Bakewell Tart)

Raspberry and almond cake is my all-time favourite cake recipe for three reasons: it's super easy to bake, super delicious (rarely lasts a single hour in our house once out of the oven) and the finished cake is impressive. I cannot count the number of times people have asked me for this recipe.

So today I share with you.

I wish I could take full credit for this great recipe, but alas I cannot. I originally stumbled this great bake on the BBC Good Food website and haven't looked back since...

Homemade raspberry and almond cake, aka Bakewell Tart
homemade raspberry and almond cake, aka Bakewell Tart

  • 140g ground almonds
  • 140g softened butter
  • 140g golden caster sugar
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250g raspberries, or a pot of quality raspberry jam works just as well
  • 2 tbsp flaked almonds
  • icing sugar to serve
  1. Heat your oven to 180ºC  and grease a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin. 
  2. Throw all your ingredients - the ground almonds, butter, sugar, flour, eggs and vanilla extract into a bowl together and mix until well combined.
  3. Spread half the mixture over the bottom of your cake tin. 
  4. Scatter your raspberries over the top, or alternatively add a nice thick layer of raspberry jam.
  5. Dollop your remaining cake mixture on top of your fruit/jam and roughly spread.
  6. Scatter with flaked almonds to finish off and bake for 50 mins until golden brown. 
Homemade raspberry and almond cake, aka Bakewell Tart

Dust with icing sugar and serve warm from the oven with vanilla ice-cream. Yum!

Homemade raspberry and almond cake, aka Bakewell Tart

I'm off to eat cake...

13 October 2014

travel & my expanding waistline - Belgium

Travel is good for the soul. Every time I arrive somewhere new my excitement is brimming and happy emotions flow.

However, I am starting to realise that travel is not so kind to my waistline! Travel and eating are integrally linked to me - like sleeping and dreaming. One of the things I love about travel is trying new foods wherever I go. So when my parents, hubby and I visited Belgium last weekend I knew we would be sampling a lot of tasty eats.

Belgium is famous for it's food. And we wanted to taste everything...

1. Belgium Beer
Beer in Belgium rages from pale lager to dark stouts and flaming red brews inbetween. There are about 180 breweries in Belgium and almost every individual beer has its own uniquely shaped glass - to improve the drinking flavour. My long-time favourite is Kriek Belgium beer - made with fermented sour cherries. Delicious!

Belgium Kriek cherry Beer
my first Kriek beer of the trip - straight from the can and amazing!

2. Belgium chocolate
It's a terrible thing walking through a city in Belgium - every fifth shop is a chocolate shop and temptation is everywhere. 

If you're after the best don't go cheap. Our AirB&B host from Bruge told us if were were paying less than 15 Euros per 100 grams then expect to be buying chocolate from China!

Chocolate shop - Brussels, Belgium
one of many chocolate shops in Brussels, Belgium

In Belgium chocolate pieces with a soft centre are called Pralines and the variety is endless. My favourite flavours this trip were dark chocolate raspberry and white chocolate passion-fruit.

A selection of Belgium pralines
Belgium pralines - yummmm

3. Belgium biscuits and cookies
In between the endless chocolate shops you'll find Belgium biscuit shops and other sweet treat shops. One of the most famous Belgium biscuits is the humble Speculoos - a type of spiced shortbread biscuit.

Window display - Belgium biscuit shop, Brussels
window display - Belgium biscuit shop

4. Belgium frites
Frites are immensely popular in Belgium, and it's no wonder as the humble french fry originated in this country. They are sold everywhere - in restaurants and street stands, and are served alongside almost every meal. Needless to say over four days we ate our weight in frites.

Belgium triple-cooked frites and salad
Belgium triple-cooked frites served with salad

5. Belgium hot chocolate
Hot chocolate comes in several forms in Belgium - but my favourite is by far the mug of steaming hot milk served alongside a dish of liquid chocolate heaven and cream, allowing you to 'mix your own' hot chocolate perfection. Oh, and chocolate is served on the side as well :)

Belgium hot chocolate
my perfect hot chocolate - made by me!

Belgium hot chocolate

6. Ummm... did I mention Belgium chocolate?

Earl Grey chocolate pralines - Belgium
Earl Grey pralines from my favourite Belgium chocolate shop - The Chocolate Line

7. Belgium waffles
Who could forget Belgium waffles? These are commonly sold as a sweet street snack as well as in tea rooms and restaurants. After several days of eating I was trying to be healthy and ordered my waffle with fruit (ha ha).

Belgium fruit waffle - Bruges
Belgium fruit waffle - Bruges

8. Belgium mussels...

9. Belgium fruit jellies...

10. Belgium pastries

11. Belgium steak

12, Belgium stew

13. Belgium pâté... and so on...

I'm off to the gym.
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