30 October 2014

Japanese sweets! sugar that makes me happy :)

Japanese sweets, candy and chocolate are the ultimate sugar high.

Japanese sweets, candy, chocolate

Thanks Mum for my latest haul. They have been going down a treat!

27 October 2014

visiting Flanders Fields, Belgium

This year marks one hundred years since the beginning of the Great War, also known as WWI, in which more than 9 million soldiers and 7 million civilians died.

At the start of this month I visited Belgium with my parents and we decided to dedicate one of our days to visiting Flanders Fields - the name given to the Great War battlefields, where so many men lost their lives.

It was a gruelling, emotional day, with a full itinerary - twelve stops in total. Throughout the day I found it hard to believe that the peaceful country villages and lanes we were walking and driving through were the scenes of such devastation not so long ago...

1. Poelcapelle British cemetery
The third largest cemetery in Flanders Fields and contains the bodies of almost 7500 soldiers. 84% of these men are unidentified and their headstones bear the inscription 'Known unto God'.

Poelcapelle British cemetery, Flanders Fields Belgium
Poelcapelle British cemetery, Flanders Fields Belgium

2. Georges Guynemer Memorial
Georges Guynemer was a French pilot of the Great War who shot down 53 German plans and three balloons. He was killed during the battle of Passchendaele in 1917 and his body was never found.

This sculpture - the 'Guynemer Stork' mirrors the stork emblem that was painted on the French aircraft so they could recognise each other in the air. It is flying in a North-East direction - the same direction Guynemer was last seen flying before he went missing.

Georges Guynemer Memorial, Flanders Fields Belgium
Georges Guynemer Memorial, Flanders Fields Belgium

3. Langemarck German Cemetery 
The second largest of four German cemeteries containing 44,000 bodies, including almost 3000 German students who died during the Battle of Langemarck, also known as the 'Massacre of Innocents'.

German headstones are very different to those in the Commonwealth Cemeteries - each plot is marked by a flat stone inscribed with a name if known, and Oak trees tower overhead as a symbol of strength.

Langemark German Cemetery, Flanders Fields Belgium
Langemark German Cemetery, Flanders Fields Belgium

4. The Brooding Soldier at Vancouver Corner
A memorial column that marks the battlefield where 2000 Canadian soldiers lost their lives and were buried nearby during the first gas attacks in 1915.

The Brooding Soldier at Vancouver Corner, Flanders Fields Belgium
The Brooding Soldier at Vancouver Corner, Flanders Fields Belgium

5. Gravenstafel, the New Zealand Memorial 
"From the uttermost ends of the earth". On October 4, 1917 during the advance on Passchendaele, the New Zealand troops took this section of the ridge where this memorial stands today known as 't Gravenstafel or "Grab and Stumble". Only 10% of the NZ forces survived the assault, and in terms of lives lost in a single day this is still the blackest day in New Zealand’s post-1840 history.

For my family this was one of the more significant stops of the day as Dad's father (my grandfather) was a soldier in the Great War.

Gravenstafel, the New Zealand Memorial, Flanders Fields Belgium
Gravenstafel, the New Zealand Memorial, Flanders Fields Belgium

6. Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial Wall
This is the largest Commonwealth cemetery.  Almost 12,000 soldiers are buried here and another 35,000 are listed on the memorial wall at the back of the cemetery. It also houses the memorial to the Australian 3rd Division.

Tyne Cot Cemetery is the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world, for any war. No name is listed twice in this cemetery.

Driving towards Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial Wall, Flanders Fields Belgium
driving towards Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial Wall, Flanders Fields Belgium

The grave of a unidentified New Zealand soldier in Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial Wall, Flanders Fields Belgium
the grave of a unidentified New Zealand soldier in Tyne Cot Cemetery 

A corner of Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial Wall, Flanders Fields Belgium
a corner of Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial Wall, Flanders Fields Belgium 

7. Polygon Wood
The site of two cemeteries and two memorials. One memorial is for the Australian 5th Division.  The other is for those of the New Zealand Division who held the Polygon Woods sector from September 1917 until May 1918 but who have no known graves.

Polygon Wood, Flanders Fields Belgium
Polygon Wood, Flanders Fields Belgium

Australian troops at Polygon Wood in 1917, Flanders Fields Belgium
Australian troops at Polygon Wood in 1917, Flanders Fields Belgium 

8. Hooge Crater Museum
A private museum dedicated to the history of the Great War.

Images of the Great War at Hooge Crater Museum, Flanders Fields Belgium
images of the Great War at Hooge Crater Museum, Flanders Fields Belgium

Although one hundred years have passed the war still effects the lives Belgium farmers who live on this land today. It is common for farmers to find battle shells and hand grenades called 'heavy potatoes' as they plough their fields. The Belgium bomb squad visits the area weekly to collect these remains of the war and dismantle them.

Missiles and war posters from the Great War at Hooge Crater Museum, Flanders Fields Belgium
missiles and war posters from the Great War 
at Hooge Crater Museum, Flanders Fields Belgium

9. Hill 60 Preserved Battlefield 
Hill 60 was the scene of bitter fighting between the German and British between 1914 and 1918, and during this time changed hands several times. In the Broken tunnels beneath this green area many British and German soldiers are still buried today. On the top of the Hill is the remains of a Allied pillbox.

Hill 60 Preserved Battlefield, Flanders Fields Belgium
Hill 60 Preserved Battlefield, Flanders Fields Belgium

Pillbox on Hill 60, Flanders Fields Belgium
Pillbox on Hill 60, Flanders Fields Belgium

10. The Menin Gate
The Menin Gate bears the names of 54,389 officers and men from United Kingdom and Commonwealth Forces who fell in the Ypres Salient before 16th August 1917, and who have no known grave.

The Menin Gate, Belgium
The Menin Gate, Belgium

Names inscribed on The Menin Gate, Belgium
names inscribed on The Menin Gate, Belgium

11. The Yorkshire Trench and Dugout
This trench was excavated and reconstructed by a group of amateur archaeologists in 2003.

The Yorkshire Trench and Dugout, Flanders Fields Belgium
the Yorkshire Trench and Dugout, Flanders Fields Belgium

The last stop on our tour, this cemetery sits on a dressing station site where wounded soldiers were treated on the front line. There are 1,199 burials in this site, but only 102 are unidentified and one of the youngest soldiers to die in the war - Valentine Strudwick, a 15 year-old from Surrey is buried here.

Essex Farm Cemetery and Dressing Station is also the site where Dr John McCrae wrote his famous poem In Flanders Fields in 1915.

burial site of Valentine Strudwick - one of the youngest soldiers to die in the Great War
burial site of Valentine Strudwick - one of the youngest soldiers to die in the Great War

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
{John McCrae}

If you ever get the opportunity to visit Flanders Fields I highly recommend doing so. I learnt a lot about the Great War, our history and those that lost their lives. It was an emotional day and one I won't forget in a long while.

25 October 2014

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory afternoon tea - at One Aldwych

It's tradition when friends and family from New Zealand visit London to take them out for a fancy afternoon tea. Over the years I've narrowed the wide selection afternoon teas in London to a few firm favourites, including the Corinthia Hotel London and beautiful Claridge's.

However, this year I decided to take my parents to the famous Charlie & the Chocolate Factory inspired afternoon tea at One Aldwych. We had tickets to go see the show as well - so it felt like the right choice.

One Aldwych - the setting

I had anticipated a whimsical setting to match the story of Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, but actually The Lobby Bar where we were seated was pure adult sophistication. No children running around on a sugar high here! With windows running the length of each side of the room there was plenty of natural light, and we settled back comfortably in our soft chairs ready for the delicious food marathon that was to come...

The Salt Family

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea - the menu

Each menu was decorated on the underside with an illustration from the original story. My menu showed the spoilt Veruca Salt in her ballet costume with her father.

And on the underside we were given a glimpse of what we had to look forward to.

I fell in love with the selection of teas on offer and chose the Smooth Caramel - a black tea with 'caramel chunks and a hint of vanilla make this tea ideal for anyone with a sweet tooth'.

Menu

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea - highlights
  1. The presentation of the sweets - fluffy candy-floss, golden eggs and miniature milkshakes. Willy Wonka himself would have been impressed! The detail in each individual piece was incredible. 
  2. The scones and jams - so soft and fluffy. These are some of the best scones I've had in my time in London, and the meadowsweet apple compote was a unique twist to the more standard berry jams you often get with afternoon tea.
  3. The leisurely pace in which we dined. There seemed to be no time limit and the courses came out at a great pace too - giving us enough time in-between to digest what we had just eaten.

Sweets and sandwiches
Charlie & the Chocolate Factory afternoon tea
{photo via One Aldwych}

A top tip from me to you

Go with an uneven number of people. The sweet selection is served in even numbers, so if you go with three people for example you will get four of everything. This means if one treat really takes your fancy you can enjoy it twice! For me this was the chocolate caramel milkshake. Amazing!

Willy Wonka: But Charlie, don't forget what happened to the man 
who suddenly got everything he always wanted.
Charlie: What happened?
Willy Wonka: He lived happily ever after.

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.
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