31 August 2015

Cambridge, and why it will always have such a special place in my heart - travel linkup

When you’re an expat, surprise marriage proposals often can’t factor into the romance of a relationship – for us it was more of an ‘oh, hey, I know that you didn’t want any serious relationships whilst you were travelling, but we seemed to have ended up in one. Where should we go with it?’ type of discussion.

What to do in Cambridge England

It involves a lot of heart searching, quite monumental decision making and the knowledge that as much as you’ll miss the beaches of your home country, you’ll one day come to enjoy the rain. For me it wasn’t a quick decision, but rather an easy one – not intending to get all smooshy & what have you – sometimes you just find your best friend without intending to, and marriage turns out to be much less scary that you think it will be.

29 August 2015

Cycling through London, and a childhood confession

As a kid I may have been a bit of a hoodlum. I’ve tried to turn my life around since then, but reminders seem to pop up every now and then to haunt me. Take a recent sunny evening after work for instance, there I was minding my own business (angelically obviously) as a message arrived from the always mischievous Amanda, asking me to join her whizzing around London on a bicycle as a guest of Santander (luring us there with the promise of dinner afterwards).

Cycling through London, and a childhood confession
Speeding along so fast I'm a blurrrr!

Cycling through London, and a childhood confession

Guiltily I gulped as memories of how I learned to ride raced before my eyes. It was another sunny afternoon and hanging out in the backyard, my two siblings and I were just whiling away another hazy Saturday afternoon, my new stereo blaring something hardcore (probably Mmmm Bop or Everybody). My sister had been banned from her new bike due to too many misdemeanours (the details now lost in the sands of time) and I had the genius idea of soothing her pain.

28 August 2015

Friday figments and photos: the one where we're gone from summer to winter in a matter of days

I'm not going to do it. I will resist moaning about the weather,  because the weather is simply a state of mind (well, and a few pairs of ruined shoes.)

Somehow (I'm still convinced that it's a glitch in the matrix) my little old blog has popped up to number 18 in the Trips100 August list of Travel Bloggers. I don't really believe it, but I'll enjoy my (no doubt very brief) moment of mischief...

26 August 2015

Sandwiches, Fish Fingers and an English lesson.

Sarnies. The Great British Pillar of Lunchtimes.

Nope, I didn't understand what they were at first either. The thoughts running through my newly expat bonce (head) ran something as follows; "Could they be Sardines, noooo, why would they just eat salty fish for lunch? Sarnies. Sarnies, sarnies, sarnies, is it a brand of pie perhaps? But I haven't seen any pie warmers on these barbarian shop counters. Maybe like quinoa it's a health food craze I've never heard about. Or, am I going deaf, do they mean salads?"

Sandwiches, Fish Fingers and an English lesson.

Invited then out for lunch (despite the confusion across my face) I hung back as the gang purchased a variety of cellophaned sandwiches, chips and drinks so I carefully followed suit and selected a rather limp looking triangular packet of egg and mayonnaise on white bread - or so the label said - alongside a packet of ready salted chips and a cup of tea. I was trying to fit in after all. It turns out we did happen to be speaking the same language, only my new friends were eating sarnies and crisps, whilst I enjoyed a sandwich and chips. The things you learn as an adult huh?

24 August 2015

15 London secrets that the tourist crowds miss

Living in London long-term is a fascinating window into the eccentricities of British history. Buildings that have survived more than 10 generations of human stories, streets that echo the rambling paths of underwater riverbanks, rolling acres of grassy parks and the delicious smells of a melting pot that is London cuisine. History books be damned, this city is alive with the most incredible tales.

What to do in London

And what's more, as lifers, we get a chance to discover the small and precious moments of 1,972 years of inhabited streets (yup, London was apparently founded in 43AD. Let me repeat that - 43AD. My home country was founded in 1840, some 1,797 years later.) We obviously get to enjoy the major sights and sounds of tourist London every time we have visitors, but we can also slowly and deliciously discover the inbetween bits over time. The nooks and crannies, the local history and finally answering the loaded question of what to do in London (and best of all, every single one is absolutely free - hello stacation ninja status).

22 August 2015

How to save for your next big holiday

Let's be a little frank here, I'm not ever always the sensible person in my marriage. I'm usually the ideas generator, enthusiastic booker and excited-fun-planning person. Hot air balloon rides over the Pyrenees? Amazing! In winter? Well... Suffering vertigo? Oh, wait. Luckily, my better half has taught me many forms of British-ness restraint over the years, and probably the best of all are a few skills for saving towards bigger, better adventures.

And with our third trip to New Zealand in 12 months all planned and tickets booked for Christmas (featuring sandy beaches, a wedding and a cheeky bit of sightseeing at the end) it was perfect timing when TSB contacted me about working together again to spill a few more of our favourite savings secrets. I can't pretend to be a finance whiz, couponing addict or high-flying investor (or for that matter English) but we have a few time honored strategies that have worked for us. In between trips of course.

Let's face it, saving isn't sexy. It's not.

But, traveling on credit would suck all the fun out of the perfect sunset, picnics in front of monuments and early morning coffees a la bistro, knowing that when we got home there would be a whole swathe of charges just awaiting the opening of our next bank statement. Sometimes a little quality spreadsheet time can go a long way...

21 August 2015

Friday figments and photos: Guilty pleasures

Guilty pleasures, guilty pleasures. Oh how many I have... tea-ing, brunching, sipping bubbly in the name of 'networking', too much time spent laughing on Twitter, curling up in front of the TV with a cuppa and the cat (who is currently finding it quite amusing to sit in front of the PC screen whilst I attempt to type around her silhouette) whilst the rain pours down outside, dancing to full volume rock music on a Saturday morning at full volume, more hours of wanderlust glancing through Instagram, indulging the crazy words that race through my head and the occasional London adventure.

You know, the best bits of blog and life melding into one.

Delicious brunches (gluten free crab churros for the win) and enormous couches...

19 August 2015

Scones, Skhones and Skons - The Great Tea Controversy

If you ever want to open up an argument discussion with a bunch of pinkie raisers/bloggers/strangers, all you need to mention is one baked good; scones. Quite humble in appearance, these pillows of baked delight cause a level of debate normally reserved for Nuclear Power sources, the truth of Football injuries, EU legislation regarding curves of bananas and whose turn it is to take out the bin on rubbish day.

They call to us from domed cake stands perched on counters, tease us from doily-lined tins and prove simply irresistable at 2pm on a Sunday afternoon with a freshly brewed pot of tea. Who would think that families would be torn apart and friendships strained over 3inch round(ish) dough with a golden crisp exterior and fluffy interior.

Exhibit A: Pronounciation

17 August 2015

The best way to beat Monday blues.

Monday is derived from an Old English word Mōnandæg literally translating as ‘day of the moon,’ our favourite glorious celestial body. When the name was originally nominated as a day of the week I'm sure that the image of modern day desk workers trudging towards their desk with a cup of joe (or a round of Tea if you work in England) wasn't quite what they had in mind, so a bevy of lovely bloggers and I are here to the rescue.

Sometimes we all need a touch of travel inspiration, so as such we've scoured the internets for a few of our favourite travel quotes and photos that made our hearts happy. Take for instance this incredible Icelandic Horse's expression courtesy of Dannielle from Chicedeedee;

 How to beat Monday blues - travel inspiration and quotes

15 August 2015

Quotes, mottos, mantras and inspiration

A couple of weeks ago, a friend turned to me and asked "What is your life motto?". Rather astounded (it was only 10.15am on a Tuesday) I gulped goldfish-like a couple of times, and short of shouting out 'look, it's a bird' as a distraction or Googling furiously, it got me thinking.

What is my motto? Do I need a motto? How do pick just one? Should I get a tattoo in case I then forget the said motto? In any case, last year a few lovelies and I pulled out our quotes textbooks, and drafted a few inspiring words overlaying our favourite places. So, in the interest of answering the motto enigma, I've drafted a few ladies in again - the delicious Jaime@Angloyankophile, Dannielle@Chicadeedee, Kelly@Flat Eleven, Lauren@Lifestyle Diaries, Rebecca@Runaway Kiwi, Amanda@Rhyme & Ribbons, Maaike@Travellous World and Angie@Silverspoon London.

They say that 'Traveling is a fool's paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places" but...

14 August 2015

Friday Figments and Photos - Singin' in the Rain

Music is a lifeblood that runs through the veins of humanity - crossing cultural, language and education divides, there is something primitive and utterly beguiling about a 'phat beat' pumping, the sweet glissando of a string quartet or the haunting duet of singers.

London Life Adventures of a London Kiwi
This photo is technically terrible, but I rather love it..
When I'm playing my tunes (aka choons for the 80's babes) it doesn't matter that there are thunder and lightening storms outside to the staccato beat of rain hitting pavements. Inside, the clever arrangement of instruments playing with the weft and weave of vocal harmony means it's gonna be a bright, bright sun-shining day!

On another note, London, sort out your weather!

12 August 2015

Belgo Restaurant Review - a London taste of Belgium

Sometimes on my weekday train all I want to do is turn right. Normally I turn left to tread my normal well worn path (greet the cheerful barista, decide whether breakfast will be naughty or nice, sit in the usual summer spot amid graceful trees or scurry to the office dodging fat raindrops.) But, I'm always tempted to throw caution to the wind, find my way to St Pancras and call the office to tell them I've accidentally found myself on a distant shore, and I won't be in.

Whilst London chimney pots flicker past the window, the beautifully cobbled streets of Belgium and chic avenues of Paris usually feature in my daydreams as I make that decision again whether to do the right thing or give in to the devil cheekily whispering in my ear. The chocolatiers of Bruges are only 3 hours away, a hop skip and a jump. I could be wandering along the winding alleyways of Brussels, piping hot waffle clutched in my hand enjoying the cheeky street art. I could even be enjoying a bowlful of moules frites and a chilled beer as the sun sets over our starched table cloth and gingerbread turrets.

Belgo Restaurant review, Soho London

Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Belgo but my (very many) opinions are only ever my own, and I would never recommend anywhere that I wouldn't happily revisit.

Or, I could be tempted by an enticing email to forego the trans-country journey to pop in on the launch of Belgo's new Soho branch. I know which one the office (and the old bank balance) prefers...

10 August 2015

My 10 favourite afternoon teas (2015)

Someone, somewhere in the universe has designated this week as it's national afternoon tea week (though I mean honestly, who needs more excuse to book and reminisce about afternoons of luxury?) It has almost become a blogger cliche, inviting the girls to a few hours of decorous luxury, but one that I rather adore. As I'm getting on in years (feel free to feel sorry for me...) I've swiftly come to the conclusion that I'd rather don a pretty dress to spend a little more on sandwiches and scones, than prop up a pub bar and feel very sorry for myself the next day.

Running this list last year in honour of National Afternoon Tea Week, and as I'm - surprisingly - often asked for recommendations (thank goodness my reputation is for afternoon tea and nothing more scurrilous) or for my favourite, it seemed that another top list was in order. I find the hardest aspect of recommending a tea is that everyone wants something different; some people want opulent luxury, some prefer quirky surrounds, some fancy value for money. #bloggerproblems

National Afternoon Tea Week London Top 10 list

Personally, I love flavours that surprise and combinations that tickle the palate - at least a tier or two that showcases the personality of the chef and hotel, good but not oppressively attentive waiter service and fairly generous servings - Emma doesn't share. In fact I got so cross last year, it seemed a great idea to draft a post outlining my 'golden rules of afternoon tea'. After all we could simply pop along to the supermarket for a £1 ham sandwich and a plastic encased cheesecake slice if that's all we were after, but choose instead to open our wallets for something that we hope epitomises the finer side of London life.

8 August 2015

Friday figments and photos: Time

We're all very guilty of wishing time away. Clock watching, second counting and minute grabbing. It seems to be human nature, but is it good?

That aside it's Saturday, Saturday, Saturday!!!

We've been giggling this week about the habits of British people and their Tea...

5 August 2015

How to make the perfect cup of English Tea

*Disclaimer: This post is mostly for expats working in a British office environment and those who are curious to see how such fascinating microcosms operate...*

Step One:
You need to have your own mug. It usually has to have a clever remark about your personality, something quite witty and an imperviousness to being dropped.*

Step Two: 
Rise from your desk, sink back down to your desk to take that 20 minute phone call that won't wait, remember that certain dry feeling at the back of your throat, then take another step up. Weigh up the walk to the nearest coffeeshop (if so, carry out step three then skip to step ten).

A pinkie-raising Kensington Orangery Afternoon Tea
A pinkie-raising Kensington Orangery Afternoon Tea
Step Three: Essential
Ask each person in the office who wants a cuppa. Write down the 6 teas with varying milk, 3 with 2.3 sweeteners, 1 rebel person who takes coffee and can stand office-grade instant, 1 weird herbal tea and the foodie who drinks hot water with fresh mint or lemon slices, but will end up making their own. Ignore the weird hippy in the corner who doesn't mainline caffeine. Mutter/laugh with your colleagues about crazy avant guarde Earl Grey lovers whilst simultaneously hiding your box in a desk drawer.

3 August 2015

20 date ideas for Londoners

We all need to do this more. Grab your calendar and call someone you love - boy, girl, date, friend, Mom, co-worker - and plan something something slightly out of the ordinary. Make time to spend a few hours just hanging out and enjoying their company.

The Mister and I have been making an effort to do this lately, scheduling in a date night every fortnight where we just take a little time to catch up undisturbed by chores, try something new and laugh together. And yes, I put down the Twitter. Mostly...

Of course it became a blog post eventually... #bloglife. Our fun seemed to fall into 4 categories; in sunshine, out of the rain, quite foodie and a little bit boozy. I've also enlisted a few of my favourite suggestions from a few fellow blog addicts friends...

1 August 2015

Travel Contrasts - The East and West Coasts of New Zealand - #travellinkup

We stood, transfixed as the waves tumbled from glass rumbles to lace froth. A lone seagull dipped and wove through eddies of unseen air currents. The sunshine shimmered through breathtaking blue skies. Winter seemed like a distant thought, rather than close on the heels of our New Zealand Autumn.

A day (or 30 hours later to be precise) we landed back in amongst the silver skyscrapers of London.

PIHA BEACH Auckland New Zealand

Living in New Zealand, no one is more than 3 hours drive from a beach, and it is one of the things I miss most about living in London. (And having to take wind breaks will always make me giggle, sorry British friends!) We managed to sneak in two beachy visits during our New Zealand whirlwind.