A WEEKEND IN SCOTLAND

CAIRNGORMS INSH MARSHES

I love living in London, but it's nice to be able to completely escape the mayhem of the city every now and then. And the best place to do that, is at home.

There's not much to share from my weekend's at home, as I usually just lounge around drinking tea, going for walks in the woods and catching up with my parents - but these are a few snaps from a chilly weekend in the Cairngorms. Windy weather and all! 

Horse in Scotland
Horses Scotland
HORSES SCOTLAND
ME AND MUM
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Posted on November 23, 2014 .

MY HOLIDAY ESSENTIALS

HOLIDAY ESSENTIALS

I've spent a fair amount of time getting on and off planes in the last few years, but I've never managed to crack the art of packing. It feels like the more I travel, the worse I become and I've been known to pack about an hour before leaving for the airport, chucking in the contents of my wardrobe only to get to the other side with a collection of jumpers for a beach holiday, or ten pairs of pants and no trousers. 

But I'm trying to get better, and have started a list of holiday essentials that pretty much go wherever I go. None of these are clothes related - you can always buy a dress to chuck on if you need to - these are my must have holiday items to keep the sunburn away, the mosquito's at bay, and the umm... can't think of rhyme... the other stuff. 

THE CAMERA

I usually take a DSLR on holiday - and carry a Nikon D3200, with both a50mm and a 18-200mm lens. I debated getting the D5200 but felt like I probably didn't need the extra's at the moment whilst I'm still getting the hang of things (there's a handy comparison review here if you're trying to make the same decision). 

That said, sometimes I can't be bothered to carry it around and find that I get some good snaps on my iPhone if I spend enough time thinking about the composition. There are also some great apps that help to correct colour and sharpen phone images up, my personal favourite is Afterlight. I use it for almost everything!

THE SUNCREAM 

Right, I'm going to be controversial. I was going to say that P20 is the best suncream out there, because astronauts use it when they fly to the sun*, but the fact that it stains your clothes is so frustrating and it's quickly fallen from grace. I've ruined some perfectly good bikini's and beach dresses because of P20 - and although it gives you a nice glow and you only have to put it on first thing in the morning - it's not enough.

So instead I buy Coppertone Sport. It's a dry spray which doesn't need rubbing in, doesn't clog your pores and gives really even coverage (if you spray it properly). I swear by it. Every time I go to the US, I spend about $60 in CVS stocking up on the stuff for future holidays. 

THE MOSQUITO REPELLANT

I have tasty blood. There's no other explanation for it, mosquito's love me. When we went travelling around Vietnam, at one point I had 68 bites on my legs alone and could barely move without another one setting upon me. But a lovely lady in Hoi An let me know that Tiger Balm would keep them at bay - and not only that - it's really cooling for any bites and acts as a barrier to any possible infection. I always make sure I have it in my handbag. I know it smells strong - but it works. 

THE LIBRARY 

I'm a Kindle convert. At home I'll happily settle down with a good book and fold over the corners when I need to make a cup of tea, but on holiday I want a library to choose from but with none of the weight. I actually have an old-school Kindle Paperwhite because it's the most book-like one in my opinion. The Fire is too much like an iPad (and I have an iPad). 

THE CHARGER

If you're like me, you'll forget to take an adaptor each time you go on holiday and end up with a box full of them at home. But the one thing I do always remember is the 10-in-1 USB charger - which saves so much space for those clothes that I'm shoving in last minute. 

And that's it. Camera, Kindle, Suncream and some kind of mosquito soother are my holiday essentials. For everything else, there's a credit card and an emergency dash to the shops! 

*this isn't true, obviously. Despite what they'd have you believe! 

Posted on November 20, 2014 .

GALLE FORT

GALLE FORT SRI LANKA

An old Dutch outpost, Galle Fort wasn't at all what I was expecting, despite what I'd read in Lonely Planet. I was prepared for the lighthouse, and I'd read all about it's shipping history - built by the Portuguese and then later fortified by the Dutch, so I knew it would look a little different. But I didn't expect to love it. 

And love it I did.

We went back three days in a row. The benefit of staying in Thalpe is that it was only a ten minute tuk-tuk ride into the Ramparts, the walls of Galle Fort that edge onto the ocean. Lanes of beautiful colonial architecture, complete with vintage motors parked outside, made you feel like you'd stepped back in time and I half expected to see the man from Del Monte and strolling the streets in his linen suit and Panama. 

We basically ate our way around, from the ice cream at Pedlars to the amazing Sri Lankan curries at Mama's - we just rolled around stuffing our faces. Oh, and the place has some gems if you're looking for jewellery too - I *may* have spent three days eyeing up a diamond and amethyst rose gold ring which we made a last-minute dash to buy on the morning we left, because I decided I had to have it! I don't think I've taken it off since. 

STICK NO BILLS SRI LANKA
STICK NO BILLS POSTCARDS
VINTAGE SRI LANKA
SRI LANKA VINTAGE CAR
NO HORNS SRI LANKA
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HAMMOCKS SRI LANKA
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GALLE FORT LIGHTHOUSE
HERITAGE CAFE GALLE
RAMPARTS GALLE FORT
FISHING GALLE FORT
FAMILY GALLE FORT
SUNSETS GALLE FORT RAMPARTS
SUNSET GALLE FORT
Posted on May 30, 2014 .

TAKE ME TO THE ROTI SHOP

We’d been in Sri Lanka nearly a whole week and we still hadn’t had a proper Roti, so we hopped in a tuk tuk and headed a few kilometers along the coast to the Roti Shop in Unawatuna. 

This place is apparently the place to go for Roti. A hole in the wall with a few pull up chairs looked about right, and we opted for a mix of savoury and sweet. After all, every lunch needs some kind of dessert right? 

Roti is sort of like a pancake. Given that Sri Lanka was a colonial outpost for the Dutch back in the day, it’s doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out where the roti might have taken it’s inspiration from. It’s like a thin crepe, a really elasticated batter cooked off, wrapped around a selection of fillings and then fried to crispen up. And it’s pretty delicious.  

Posted on May 28, 2014 .

THALPE & ERA BEACH

ERA BEACH BY JETWING

After our trip through the Sri Lankan highlands, and down through the safari plains, we were ready to hit the beach and do a lot of 'doing nothing'. The coast of Sri Lanka is stunning, it's an endless sandy beach that's dotted with fisherman, palm tree's and surf. 

Parts of the coast were fairly devastated during the tsunami, but the tourism industry seems to be flourishing with a plethora of boutique hotels and luxury villa's available. We spent a good few hours trawling through trying to pick one that was close to the beach, but not somewhere that would be packed with surf types and backpackers - and we found the dream spot with Era Beach

And it seemed like luck was on our side as we decided to go onto the main Jetwing website to check out the rate (comparing against those on Booking.com, Hotel.com etc) and found they were having a flash sale, so we booked on the spot and saved ourselves 50%. Bargain! 

It's less of a hotel and more of a private villa with eight rooms wrapped around a pool - all teetering on the edge of a rocky shoreline, and if you want to eat something - they'll grab the chef - but otherwise you're pretty much left to laze around and grab some sun. I wish I'd taken more shots of the interior as it was a beautiful colonial building with vaulted ceilings and a stunning four-post bed - but we were more fussed with P20 and the sun-loungers to bother. 

era beach jetwing thalpe sri lanka
era beach sri lanka
era beach sri lanka jetwing
Era Beach Sri Lanka

The gate at the end of the garden led down to a beautiful shore that stretched for miles and miles - and if you were there at the right time you'd catch the fisherman coming down to find lobster, with nothing but a spear and a net. You could buy one and take it to the chef at Era Beach and he'd cook it up for dinner... can't get fresher than that!

Ginger Beer Sri Lanka
Flowers
Flowers
Fishing Sri Lanka
era beach sri lanka jetwing
Posted on May 27, 2014 .

UDA WALAWE ELEPHANT SAFARI

Elephant Safari Sri Lanka

I don't know how to describe this part of our trip.

Magical. Memorable. Mesmerising.

I could go on... 

It combined my India Jones fantasy with my favourite animal in the most perfect way. We rolled up dozy and tired in the back of the van, in the middle of the afternoon heat without much energy to sort out the safari guide negotiations. But we did - and we did well. An entire Jeep to ourselves and a guide that seemed to know exactly where to go - veering away from all the other trucks we could spot in the distance and taking us through sand bunkers and mud until we fell across a mum and baby. We trundled on, finding buffalo bathing, monkeys fighting and peacocks marching royally on the rocks. 

We thought that was it. That we'd been really lucky to see two elephants and had a great afternoon spilling around in a land cruiser. And then we came across an entire herd of 18 - including two small babies that were only around two weeks old, and it turned a great afternoon into an incredible one. 

We just sat there as they moved around us for about an hour or so. Silently watching and taking them in as they wondered who we were and what we were doing. There was one hairy moment when our guide decided to move the jeep along, and the noise of the engine startled them - the mums came stomping around, shooting their trunks and stamping their feet to protect the smaller elephants in the group. Dust was flying and their screeches were terrifying - we were less than 5 feet away - but our guide eased the van off slowly and things calmed down again, with the babies peeking out from behind ancient knee's. 

I can't recommend it enough. We'd debated whether to go to the Elephant Sanctuary where you can get a bit more up-close-and-personal but I found that watching the animals in their own environment without much human intervention was better, you see them as they truly behave rather than how they've adapted to tourists who come to feed and bathe them. And apparently you don't get baby elephants at the Sanctuary! 

Elephants Sri Lanka
Posted on May 26, 2014 .