travel blog

London Calling 

img_2310Only living an hours train ride away from the centre of London I sometimes forget how fortunate I am to have such a fabulous, diverse and beautiful city on my doorstep. Last Saturday I donned my exploring/tourist hat and fully embraced a tiny tiny portion of what London has to offer whilst remembering to gather stunning photo’s.

The morning started off with a bit of a history lesson aboard HMS Belfast, a Royal Navy museum ship moored on the south bank of the river Thames. Bang on opening time with only 10 people ahead of us we boarded and for the next 2 hours it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. Clambering up and down steep ladders, navigating tiny gangways intertwined between huge engines, torpedo shells & snug sleeping quarters I was very glad of my 5’4″ (ok 5’3 1/2″) height.

My absolute favourite parts had to be up on deck and in the captains bridge where on a beautiful sunny autumn day you can truly see and appreciate the contrast between the old and new that is London. From this one spot you have in your eye line the dome from St Pauls, the Monument to the great fire, Tower of London, Shard and the ever spectacular Tower Bridge all within 360 degrees.

Making our way to the top gun turret a spine tingling noise from the shore was heard that is all to familiar to me as one of my most hated sights/sounds that I can think of. The high pitched hollow sound of bells jingling and clattering of wood on wood floated across the waters, no Father Christmas hadn’t arrived early with a broken sleigh it was jeffing Morris Dancers………..img_2340Before you ask I have no idea of where this fear/hatred of grown men/women wearing bells on there knee’s, banging wooden sticks together whilst wearing a yodelling plus fore’s and feathers comes from, it’s just there and has no plan on leaving any day soon. As my newly appointed position on board HMS Belfast having sat in the Captains seat and attended a call of nature (not at the same time) I feel that I had the right to instruct the forward crew to start picking off the ‘old enough to know better dancing landlubbers’ one at a time, unfortunately my crew turned out to be 8-10 year old cub scouts who were more interested in cracking each other with the audio tour headsets.

After a most enjoyable 2 hours we had our permission to disembark and like all good sailors headed to the nearest watering hole, a plus point to being up and at ’em early means that you get the best seats anywhere, including the most sort after tables overlooking the Thames in one of many tourist trap pubs around Southwark. A glass of Prosecco and a few pints later it was time to tube it to our next destination Piccadilly Circus.

Just a quick note about the London Underground system if anyone important in TFL is reading this, please can we have all of the tube stations like the Jubilee line or Baker Street, the architecture is immense.

We headed over to Piccadilly Circus in order to attend the main event of the day, the Saturday matinee of The Comedy about the Bank Robbery written by the same folk as The Play That Goes Wrong. Staged in a small beautiful theatre the very well written, fast moving comedy funnily enough about a bank robbery left people chuckling from curtains lift. Sadly for me I think I must have missed the memo that everyone else got in order to belly laugh their way through it, thankfully the cast made up for it with their talent to deliver and entertain.

Our final tour destination was Purl London, in a basement quietly nestled away from theimg_2411.jpg tourist trail of Baker Street this speakeasy themed bar offers you a choice of cocktails to blow your mind and your taste buds. Alongside your standard wines, beers and lemonades be prepared for balloon popping, smoke flavoured  whiskey combinations that will send your standard JD & coke to another stratosphere and take your wallet along with it. Only jesting with you, for being in the centre of London, the skill and imagination of the staff it is well priced and defiantly worth a visit but I fear you maybe frowned upon if you ask for a JD & Coke.

Having had the great privilege to visit a handful of different cities scattered across the globe, I have to say that every time I head up to London I am so thankful that I have such an amazingly beautiful place on my door step that I get to call my capital city.

Thank you London

Hannah x

PS I would like to say no Morris Dancers have been harmed nor shouted at in the last 36 years by myself, and I’m sure it is a highly enjoyable past-time to keep you fit and out of trouble.

 

 

 

 

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travel blog

Don’t Turn Around

Feeding Time

Many years ago I worked in the advertising industry up in London and after 3 long years of 14 hour days I decided it was time to leave and embark on something new. Coincidentally this re-evaluation occurred a couple of weeks before a planned 2 week trip to Australia. Said 2 week trip turned into just short of 3 months.

Our trip started off by spending a few days with friends in Singapore, cities are generally not my cup of green tea but I was excited by the diversity that is crammed into a small island.

In one day you can eat your way round the world, get blinded by the glamour of Orchard Road and sip a Singapore Sling in the elegant surrounding of Raffles Hotel all within a couple of square miles.

From Singapore Perth was the chosen starting point for the epic road trip in the very little yellow car. After non eventful days catching up with family we hit the road, destination Denham & Monkey Mia 850km north in a very straight line. If you have ever had the privilege of a road trip in Australia you will probably agree with me that 2 of the most exciting things you will see on the road is a kangaroo bouncing along side you (not in front of you) and bends in the road, spinning that steering wheel makes you feel like your headlining the main room at Ministry of Sound. Like anything in life the highs come with the lows, and my low on this journey had to be road trains.

Road trains are trucks that have 2 or 3 trailers attached rather than 1, can measure as long as 50m, weigh 200tonnes, the shift about as fast as a wombat carrying a roo. The feeling when you spy the snaking vehicle in the desert haze ahead of you knowing full well for the next 10min you are going to be playing chicken with the oncoming cars in a bid to pass the big bastard.

You’ve made it, WAHOOOOOO and now your back on the straight and sometimes narrow road. The midday sun starts to shine, you keep yourself satisfactorily rehydrated and in doing so means frequent visits to the dunnie. The discomfort you feel using the  composting metal shed of the outback dunnies soon pales into insignificance whilst trotting freely back to the car you start to hear a familiar rumble, a quick glance to the road already travelled and there it is trundling towards you that bloody big bastard road train. Your heart sinks as you know full well that you aren’t going to make it out of the rest stop in time to miss the inevitable replay of the yellow car v bloody big truck.

A small town by the name of Denham was our destination, and by small the last head count at their annual fire drill was a grand total of 806 residents. One coastal road housed a hotel, bar & holiday rental park – are we still in 2010 or did we drive through a teleport and get transported back 50 years to the time before pie shops on every corner.

On a early foggy morning we made the short drive to Monkey Mia a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Discovery centre famed for a small number of dolphins that make their way to the shallows daily for feeding. Being fresh faced and only 5’3″ I can sometimes get away with looking a few years younger than my passport implies so I managed to elbow my way to the front of the sleepy eyed crowd and waited patiently for my first sighting of wild dolphins. Their arrival was met by gasps of excitement that soon escalated when the staff started picking people out of the crowd to go further into the chilly ocean to hand feed the stunning creatures. I was adamant I was going to be one of the chosen few, so operation pick me commenced – think Donkey out of Shrek jumping, shouting pick me pick me now imagine a 29 year old female trying not to drown small children whilst making herself very noticeable to the lady handing out the fish…………………I had no shame but it worked. Knee deep trying not to fall over with giddiness I got to hand feed a wild dolphin.

Monkey Mia

The next few days were pretty quiet, I found out that the aussie’s have tote (betting) shops in bars so not only do the lovely bar staff serve the finest schooner of Pure Blonde they also hand you winnings from the dog race that you just backed the winner on. So with my winnings in my money belt we started the long drive back to Perth.

Having already spent a few days in Perth we cancelled our hotel booking and decided to head further south to Fremantle, on arrival with no idea of hotels/hostels/tents we arrived at the start of a holiday weekend. Casual strolling through the throngs of people I was barged out the way by a fellow backpacker excitedly announcing to his mates 50m away that he had found a hotel with vacancies but had to hurry as the rooms were going quickly. The room went a lot quicker than he anticipated when I bolted over the road, crashed through the door to the 5* hotel frantically waving my credit card at the reception desk to secure a highly sort after room to spend my last few nights of luxury in.

Fremantle was to be our final destination as a traveling duo on this trip, we drank Pip Squeak Cider in the echoy surroundings of Little Creatures, ate Eggs Benedict and pizza in little independent deli’s and generally wandered round the few attractions of this chilled out little town.

Finally D day arrived, we packed up the little yellow one for the last time, drove the 2 streets to the first hostel of many that I had booked myself into threw my bag on my bunk and carried on to drop the car back to the rental shop in Perth.

Next came the longest yet shortest afternoon in history, Lee was flying back to London that night and I was stopping in Australia on my own in a country that until 10 days ago was the other side of the world and completely unknown to me.

Perth train station was the venue of our goodbye, disappointingly the string quartet and the shower of rose petals hadn’t got the memo about this heart wrenching event nor had the steam train that would be my carriage back to Freo where I would wave a damp floral handkerchief from an open window. Instead I fumbled my ticket through gate having to be assisted by a member of staff, and marched my way to the platform, teary eyed you have to be strong in moments like this and don’t turn around……………..if you do you’ll never leave.

 

 

travel blog

Somewhere Only we Know

DSCN0001
Night market Krabi Town

2009 took us back to Thailand, this time to play with ferries and longtail boats with the trendy backpackers.

We spent our first night in Krabi Town getting mingling with the locals doing their weekly shop of household goods in the night market, followed by a little stroll round some of the local watering holes on offer to the penny pinching tourists anticipating the excitement of a ferry trip in the morning

Our night pretty much started and ended in the same bar/dive shop, primarily due to the power of advertising enticing me to indulge in 2 for 1 cocktails, a superb offer even by Thai standard. Unfortunately for me my need for free poured Thai spirits meant that I  didn’t quite get the memo that said “2-4-1 til 8pm”. 4 hours and a new pair of fins  from the dive shop later we were emptying my handbag searching for last Baht to pay our extortionate bar bill.

We headed out to the islands from Krabi ferry port, perched on the sundeck of a packed ferry laden down with young backpackers searching for their own Leonardo DiCaprio inspired beaches. Within minutes of anchors up, a few locals were doing the small circuit offering hotels/huts on Koh Lanta, adorned with our magic ticket (yellow sticker) they knew where we were going, so with a secret wink and bow we were left alone to enjoy the ride.  Passing beautiful uninhabited islands the ferry started to slow , the crew shouted “Koh Jum”, the young folk who wandered what the hell was going on and why did they not know about this stop, we staggered through the knots of tanned legs to get to the back of the boat. With a smug little grin on our faces we grabbed our bags and left the ferry, as here, in the middle of the Straits of Malacca my longtail boat to paradise awaited.

Approaching a jungle covered island, with nothing but pure white sands visible, I could tell that this was going to be my happy place before I had even jumped from the boat and waded through the crystal clear waters to the shores of Koh Jum.

Koh Jum is a sedate island consisting of one small village and about 15m of surfaced road so the next 5 days were filled with lazing in hammocks, making Singha towers from emptied beer cans and watching the amazing sunsets. One evening my peace and serenity was shattered.Snoozing away I get woken by a bright light shining through the window, then another and another. Feeling rather disorientated by the Singha and the heat crazy thoughts started to race through my mind, then the voices started. Trying to waken a snoring Lee with a gentle nudge was as usual a mission in itself, I later found out that he thought he was being rocked to sleep. Then the tapping started, that was it pirates had landed and they were removing the walls to the hut to steal my passport and handbag (remember this for later tales), I was going to be kidnapped and forced into a life of wearing sarongs and sandals for the rest of my life (shit happens). A sharp punch to the torso and the words “rubber cutters” are muttered from a sleepy lump next me. It turns out our hut was surrounded by rubber trees and they tap the bark in the night to get the best out of the trees, something that I am still adamant to this day that it would have been nice to share with me when we arrived.

 

Our time to leave this tiny piece of paradise soon came, checking out was the reverse of checking in, this time bobbing patiently on the sea waiting for the passing ferry to take us back to Krabi. We decided to spend our last few days in the resort of Ao Nang which is nowhere near the commercial chaos of Phuket but great for people watching non the less. As standard we found a bar showing the rugby that we had missed during our island stay, a tailors that would make 5 shirts within 12 hours complete with the initials LPA emblazoned on the pocket and plenty of sunburnt holiday makers in love with their Thailand experience of having a Mcdonalds meal that wasn’t available in the UK.

I would say that the by the end of this trip my love of Thailand had deepened but I feel I would be misleading you. My love for this immense country deepened by day 2, who needs Chanel perfume and Moet Chandon when you can have eau d’ 2 stroke and an ice cold Singha.

Thank your for lending me your eyes, I hope you enjoyed it.

Hannah x

 

 

travel blog

The weather with you…

229.jpg2008 took us on a road trip from Cape Town to Durban and back in just over 2 weeks, to visits friend in Cape Town and family in Durban. This was my first experience of South Africa and Lee’s second so thankfully this wasn’t a completely novice trip. When we generally embark on an expedition of this kind we like to book the starting point and the finish point and leave the rest to wherever the road takes us, and this is where the road took us.

On arrival in Cape Town first on my list was Table Mountain, I needed to see it and I didn’t want to wait anymore. Every turn of the road my neck stretched to yet another awkward position to look up out of the car window to check if it was in view yet, much to my disappoint a bloody big mountain was playing hide & seek.

Due to the wind and the rain I finally got to the summit of this famous landmark on day 3 of our trip and experienced something that will stay imprinted in my memory forever – if you stand on the top of Table Mountain and let one rip, it echo’s round the whole of the mountain and everyone and I mean everyone except the culprit turns in my direction………Thankfully I was saved from the echoing silence by the evacuation alarm that indicates the imminent arrival of the table cloth.

Number 2 on my list was Robben Island, as a child I remember the day that Nelson Mandela was released from prison like it was yesterday. To be able to wander prison grounds, see his tiny cell and the spot where the infamous Long Walk to Freedom autobiography manuscript was hidden in order for it to be smuggled out. Our guide through out the day was a fellow prisoner of Mandela’s and was one of the last to leave the island. This was and still is one of my poignant holiday moments.

After a few days it was time to bid farewell to Cape Town and say hello to the Garden Route up ahead. I would be telling a fib if I could remember all of the places that we spent a night in, they all started to merge into one by about night 4 or 5. There were a few stand out events if you could you call them that.

The first thing you notice on a road trip is the roads & traffic, I didn’t expect the roads to be perfectly tarmacked, give way signs adhered to and let alone obeying traffic lights but I was far from ready for the Friday afternoon chaos in Mthatha. A major crossroads in the middle of a town that didn’t take any notice of traffic signals. Nose to tail for an hour just trying to edge your way in front of the car next door, whilst remembering you are in a hire car with huge excess and dodging the locals that have now resorted to scooting past us in shopping trollies at high speed. Surprisingly enough the lovely South African wine was consumed in excess that evening and I saw that I never wanted to do that again forgetting that we had to drive back through in a week or so.

Our stop over that night was a little coastal place in Port St John, a welcoming family that served us dinner and wine in their front room whilst listening to our plans for the following days journey to get us to Durban. In the wine haze we vaguely remembered the guy telling us that we would be lucky to get to Durban the following days as snow was forecast over night…..snow in South Africa, it never snows there – well it bloody does and it bloody did. Driving along the mountain roads in snow and flip flops is not something that I wish to ever repeat.

Sadly we didn’t make it to Durban, we had to call it a day in Margate and yes to all the Brits who read this it is every bit the same as the ‘tourist trap’ on the south east coast. With the journey abandoned and in the driving freezing rain we bedded in for the afternoon/evening in the local Cask bar attached to our hotel. 10 hours and 40 scratch cards later we were fully emblazoned in Castle beer memorabilia and Lee had a full braai cooking kit that he is adamant is coming home with him.

The return journey was now underway, stopping again anyway that looked vaguely inviting and open in the quiet off season along the long costal road. As we left Jeffrey’s Bay we would have to drive over Bloukrans Bridge which at the time was the highest bungee jump in the world, me being me I wanted to stop for a little look. A look turned into a couple of questions, a couple questions turned into me parting with some holiday spending money. A couple of minutes later I’m walking through a cage suspended from the underside of the bridge with the metal flooring merging with the greenery 216m beneath me. Once on the bridge the music pumping, staff chatting and high fiving you don’t realise until your arms are up toes on the edge 3,2,1……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………BUNGEE.

From the tips of my out of place hair to manicured toe’s my whole body ached from the momentum of being snapped back like a yoyo in the hands of a over enthusiastic child, I decided that evening that I was to under no circumstances was I to be dragged away from the bar, unless a whale decided to wave his tail fin in my direction. 2 hours later a shout comes from the whale watcher (smoker outside) to announce that not only was there a whale 20m from the rocks outside that the hotel it was indeed proudly displaying its fine and huge tail fin.

My memories of the trip included the state of the overfilled minibus loaded with Kaiser Chief fans stopping for anyone waving the team flag at the side of the road whether they wanted to travel to the match or not. The people we met along the way, including the young kids we saw trying to sledge down a hill in black bin liners in snow no deeper than a couple of mm. Finally the weather, I never thought in my wildest dreams that we would have to abandon our trip due to snow blocked mountain roads.

No matter how many sunglasses, flip flops you pack in your excesses luggage, just for free you can always take the weather with you.

Thank you for reading.

Hannah x

 

 

travel blog

Wondering where the Lions are…..

One of the many reasons that I love to travel is sport. If there’s a tiddlywinks World Cup in Timbuktu or karate in Kathmandu I would atleast give it a thought about going. 
My biggest sporting trip had to be heading to Australia in 2013 with a bunch of mates to watch the British & Irish Lions, an experience that I will never forget. I will of course expand on this trip later on, also share my experiences of how sport has the power to bring people together from all the corners of the world. 

Good luck to the B&I Lions on the tour to New Zealand, I feel your going to need it. 

Thank you reading
Hannah x 

travel blog

Music to Watch Girls By

Back in 2007 which seems a lifetime ago, my boyfriend and I decided that I needed to step out of my comfort zone of what was primarily western based holidays, travel east and discover with palms pressed firmly together the beautiful Thailand. Phuket was the destination of choice for my first taste of South East Asia, a lovely little boutique hotel tucked away in the foot of the hills in Patong.

Phuket 10 years ago is a different place to what it is now. It was just short of 4 years previous that the horrendous boxing day tsunami had caused much devastation to the island along with many other regions. The aftermath of this natural disaster was still very much on display throughout Patong, lamp posts by the beach still at an angle, a clock encased in a cage in a public toilet still stuck at 10:25 the time the wave struck. We travelled along to the next beach to surprise some friends who owned a beach bar, to be greeted by huge construction sites emblazoned with “5* HOTEL COMING SOON”. It was all gone and nature had inadvertently cleared the ground for mass tourism.

Back in Patong and the now infamous Bangalore Road, by day a few shops were open and you could walk from the beach to the end in a couple of minutes……..but when the sun started to dip below the horizon the shutters went up and the girls came out to play. Possibly my favourite holiday pastime like many other folk is people watching and my gosh do you get an eye full on Bangalore Road aka Porn Street. Once you find a nice spot bar to sit and watch you are set for the night. I will let your imagination run wild as there has many a TV programme covering the exploits of what goes on once the sun goes down  but leave you with this, 1 guy trying to negotiate with a lady for his mate…it took longer to negotiate than it did for the deed to be done if you get my drift.

3 things stole my heart in Phuket, the landscape. Pristine crystal clear oceans with rugged cliffs that show you a different picture from every angle.

The food is out of this world. I went only having really eaten a very limited amount of fish and spice, within 2 days I had set myself a goal of eating something different everyday, whether it be dried squid (vile) or red snapper (divine) I stuck to. The lesson I learned very quickly plastic chairs and paper table clothes make my tummy happy, rattan  chairs and pristine ironed white table clothes make my tummy sad. Something I have stuck with to this day and if there are no chairs and tables even better.

And last but by no means least the people. Yes I know they work in tourism and they get paid piss poorly to be nice to cash welding tourists like me, but take some time to sit down and talk to them (not in the girly bars you’ll get charged by the syllable) and you will learn from them, more than any Lonely Plant book, tour guide or travel rep.

Little did I know that when I left the safe haven of Heathrow airport that my love affair with Asia was just about to begin.

Hannah x

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized

You know my name…..

First of all I would like to welcome you to my first ever blog, something I should have probably done a long time ago, but no worries it’s here now and will be the cherry on the top of the wonderful long weekend you have had.

For those of you that haven’t had the privilege of meeting me I’m Hannah and I love to travel whether it be a 24 hour trip to spend 3 hours in North Yorkshire or a 3 month unplanned holiday in Australia. If it means seeing different places, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures I’m there.

This blog will primarily contain tales and tips from my travels but will at some point no doubt divert into sport and music.

I hope you enjoy.

Hannah x