30 March 2015

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Hiya!

So sorry if you were expecting a post today. Im in the process of writing up one about the Fallas of the Las Fallas festival that is just taking waaaaay too long. The bulk of the writing is done but there are still lots of photos I want to include and maybe a video too of the crema which is the burning of the fallas on the final night of the festival. Bear with me and check back soon. If you think you'll forget, you can always subscribe so you get emailed when its up!

Hope your week has been off to a great start!


Sam




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23 March 2015

Missing Valencia already!

Im back at work and the week in Valencia already seems like a dream. A whole other life lived in a week. I enjoyed Valencia far more than I expected. Sure the Las Fallas festival had a lot to do with it but there is more to the city than that. After the Fallas were all burned and gone without a trace, the weather turned and still, still the city held something charming about it.

There is so much I want to share with you about my adventures there. The Fallas of course, but also exploring the markets, trying the food, visiting the beach, getting lost in the old Carmen district, seeing people dance on the street and all the kindnesses I was shown by locals. So stay tuned, more posts are coming over the next few days and weeks!


Music and dancing in the streets by the Falleras and their neighbourhood bands. I actually have a video of it somewhere...


There was so much street food on offer. Huge tents were found all over the old town, with all sorts of food from tapas to churros and drinks. The smell from some stalls wafted over everyone making them drool.
So many Falleras in full traditional costume. All ages from babies to grandmothers were included. Just look at the color and detail!

Mmmm Paella...oh yummy. Did you know it originated from here??
Spectaculat street lights - makes Oxford Street during Christmas amatureish doesnt it?

Dont worry, i'll be back with more soon!


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16 March 2015

On the hunt for Fallas in Valencia

If you have been following my Twitter feed, you would have seen lots of photos of the Fallas around Valencia. Finding these Fallas dotted through out the city has been my mission recently and will remain so till the end of the festival when they all go up in flames! All Fallas, bar one, will be burnt on the 19th March. Can you believe it? These are works of art, so much detail, so much thought, so much work - all of that to be then burnt to the ground and then the process begins again for the next year. Thats one way to keep the artists and creatives of a city employed! And the fact that they are burnt make them fleeting pieces of art, be there to see them that year before they are gone forever.


















The Fallas are not the only part of the Las Fallas festival but i'll leave it there for now. I'll be back with more later :)

Which one of these is your favourite so far?


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09 March 2015

Koya: The best Udon in London

Koya in Soho : source
I am being biased, I haven't really tried udon elsewhere in London, but I have been to Koya three times now and I had lots of udon when I was in Japan. The noodles in Koya are as good as the ones I had in Japan. And that's saying something.

If you don't know what udon is, it is a simple dish, thick noodles in a broth with some vegetables or meat or both. Warming and filling it makes for a hearty winter dish.


The thing I like about Koya is that it does one thing and does it well. They have some side dishes of course but really its all about the noodles. But you cant get bored either - each time I've been there, they have had seasonal specialities and on my recent visit on Friday, I ordered both my udon and small plate from there.

Small plate - Char grilled tempura turnips
Udon with mussels - seasonal special
Koya is a small restaurant based in Soho. They don't take bookings and usually, there is a line outside, but it moves fast, on my last visit I only had to wait 15 minutes to get a table. It was worth it though, I got my favourite table which over looks the kitchen. I could watch the chefs prepare each plate, see the attention to detail in each cut vegetable, garnish and plating, hear the clanking of pots, roar of the gas stoves and bubbling of water cooking the delicious noodles while devouring my own noodles.

Seating by the kitchen
I love Koya, not just because it makes great Udon, I love it because it feels like a place I could have walked into in Japan. Its small and busy and has great attention to detail. For an hour or so, I feel like I've taken a trip back to Japan minus the expensive plane fare :) If you haven't been and you love Ramen or Pho, you should definitely give Udon a try. And do let me know what you think ;)

Have you found a restaurant that takes you back to somewhere you've been?





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01 March 2015

Lost in Translation #Travel Linkup

My first ever experience of foreign languages was Japanese in high school. It was also my first embarrassing experience of something getting lost in translation...or pronunciation.


Our school was playing host to Japanese exchange students and we were all crammed into the teachers lounge meeting and getting to know each other, the girls on one side, boys on the other, as you do in awkward teen years, when one of the girls asked me if I liked guys "with led back". I didn't quite get that, but after she repeated herself a couple of times, I was like "Ohhhh! Guys who are laid back!" to which she nodded, yeah. It was a bit of an odd question but I said sure, I liked guys who are laid back. I swear her face lit up and she gave me the biggest smile before running off to another student...a tall Japanese boy with a red bag....


Since moving to London, Ive come across a few words which can cause a bit of confusion. The most common one you're likely to hear about is 'pants'. Pants in the UK mean underpants/knickers/panties whatever you want to call em. In Australia they mean trousers. Ive lost count of the number of times I've said 'pants' meaning trousers and gotten funny looks from people here.


Then there is the less common 'pull'. A friend of mine was chatting with a colleague at work and asked him if he pulled a girl. I was shocked! I was thinking 'How rude! Why would he pull a girl? That's not very nice!' Before I jumped in on my high horse to say just how rude and disrespectful he was and that women should not be manhandled, my friend saw the look on my face and quickly explained that 'pulling' meant chatting up a girl. Thankfully she had the grace to laugh at me only for the rest of the afternoon.


As an Aussie, I have been in the position of confusing others too. Bludger, dag, mozzie, Maccas and arvo just to name a few. Can you guess what they are?

When travelling, I'm always amused to see how English is used and it can provide a few giggles. Japan has been the oddest, all the above photos are from there, but I did spot an interesting store name in Brussels recently.


Do you have your own "Lost in translation" story to tell? I'm so excited to be guest hosting this months blog link up with lovely Kiwi trio Emma, Kelly and Rebecca. Why not join in and have a laugh? Details below!




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23 February 2015

Day Trips from London: London to Blenheim Palace


After moving into my new flat last year and during the period of unpacking, I decided to take a break and visit Blenheim Palace in a spectacular accomplishment in procrastination. My floor was still full of boxes that I kept tripping over, I still had no bed (where would we be without air mattresses?) or wardrobe for that matter - and yes I was going all wrinkly to work in the mornings, but what the heck, it was high time for another edition of Day Trips from London.

I spent 6 hours (no, that is not a typo) travelling to Blenheim Palace and back. Blenheim Place is the current home of the Marlborough family. As it happened, only a few days before my trip, the 11th Duke of Marlborough passed away, but the house was open as per his wishes.

Blenheim Palace is most famous for being the home and birthplace of Winston Churchill. Walking around the Palace and its gardens, its hard to imagine this being a current home for anyone.




First impressions

My first reaction on seeing it from the outside was that it reminded me of Versailles (no doubt, if i'd seen Blenheim first, I'd have thought Versailles looked like Blenheim). It is a grand structure built from Oxford sandstone, its russet colours deepening and lightening as the clouds scuttled across the sky. From the forecourt, I saw the first Ai Weiwei installation in the Great Hall - a massive chandler held up by a support beam overhanging the hall.


Ai Weiwei chandelier in the Great Hall at Blenheim Place

Inside the Palace

When I first walked in, it was hard no not gaze upwards and take in the height of the Great Hall and the painted ceiling. Ai Weiwei's chandelier installation dominated the space and glowed with light.
I wandered through the Churchill Exhibition, through halls with painted portraits of current and previous members of the Marlborough family, through the room Churchill was born, state rooms and a grand dining room. It was really hard to imagine this Palace as a home. Some of the more modern family portraits did help but it still seemed strange to me.

Ai Weiwei's art installations were sometimes glaringly obvious and some not so much. Modern art is not really my thing so I think the impression was lost on me sadly.




See the flag? That is the 'rent' paid to the Queen each year.


The Palace grounds

The grounds are unending. I confess that I only saw a small part of them opting instead to make a beeline for the cafe and indulge in a cup of tea and some yummy scones while looking out at the formal gardens with the fountain tossing and turning in the wind. When I headed back out, the rolling hills, lake and bridge were so picturesque, I couldn't help but stop to capture the scene. Can you see why Churchill was inspired to paint here?


How to get to Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace is just outside of Oxford in the small village of Woodstock. Oxford is about an hour and 30 minutes from London Paddington rail station. From Oxford station you can catch the S3 bus which will drop you just outside Blenheim Palace gates. The bus ride can take about 40 minutes depending on traffic. On weekends the bus comes 10 past and 40 past the hour.

If you don't fancy the long trip, driving there will take you about 1.5 hours and there is parking on the grounds of the palace.

The Long Library - during times of war, this was turned into a recovery room for injured soldiers - just like Downton Abbey.

A little money-saving tip

Buy your ticket to Blenheim Palace on the bus to get 30% off! And if you fancy visiting Blenheim Palace again, convert your ticket into an annual pass for free return visits. I LOVE it when places do that because 1) it encourages a repeat visit and because of that it 2) allows you to take your time and explore bit by bit instead of rushing around trying to fit everything in.

Whats the most extreme thing you have done to procrastinate?

P.S In case your curious, here are a few other day trip to Windsor Castle, Henley-on-Thames and York

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14 February 2015

In love with London

Dear London,
Its been three years since we started this relationship and you ought to know all the things I love about you...

I love your small alley ways and gas lights
I love your theatres with shows for every mood and taste
I love your architecture from St Pauls to small Mews
I love that the sight of Big Ben always makes me pinch myself


I love that I can watch Shakespeare under the stars 
I love all the weird and wonderful things to do, from escape rooms to immersive theatre
I love your free museums and the amazing events put on during the monthly late openings
I love your history and literary ties


I love your quirky tours and quirky cafes
I love that there is always something to see or do
I love your obsession with pop-up anything, bar, restaurant or cereal shop
I love your tube announcers making sour faced commuters smile
I love that I never  have to check tube or train departure times because there will usually be one along in a few minutes


I love how on any given weekend, someone will spot adults in costume without batting an eye
I love the sense of 'anything is possible' you exude
I love the amazing mix of people I've met
I love the plethora of afternoon teas on offer


I love your long summer days
I love your parks, gardens and commons, stretching out on a warm summers day with a good book and just relaxing


I love how close you are to everything else making a trip to Madrid, Venice, Athens, Iceland or lots of other places, an easy hop.

I love that I can go on a day trip to so many interesting places 
I love that you have challenged me and helped me grow
For all this and more, I love you.

Happy Valentines Day London. Here's to many more happy years together.
Xoxo.

Tell me, what do you love about London?

P.S Happy Valentines Day to all my lovely readers!



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