Monday, 26 November 2018

Notes from a Travel Journal: Breakfast in Copenhagen


Way back in January, I spent a lovely weekend in Copenhagen with friend and maths department colleague Wendy. Our plans were simple: to explore as much of the city as we could in just a weekend, to take all of the photos and to eat all of the food.  So today's travel journal entry deals with the latter as I'm going to share with you one of the most delicious breakfasts I have ever had...

We got up specially early to catch a bus to Mad and Kaffe, uber-popular, instagrammable brunch joint. I’d read that if you weren’t there as it opened, you should expect to queue and indeed when we arrived, we found a few other punters waiting outside.


But not for long; we were soon inside, tucked into a cosy corner with our list of delightful dishes to choose from. The concept (it was definitely a place with a concept rather than a menu) was to choose 3 (only three?) or 5 (but I’m hungry) or 7 (now you’re talking) little dishes and they would be brought to you arranged in literally the most delightful fashion.

So we picked and we waited gleefully! 

And it was SO worth it. Amazingly seasoned, soft, buttery scrambled egg, avocado with chilli and smoked almonds, lots of dark rye bread to load up, a truly fabulous, indulgent berry yoghurt, blood orange dusted with mint sugar and two different kinds of cinnamon pastry: a cinnamon roll and, naturally, a Danish. When in Copenhagen!


Truth be told, it was a little dark to get pictures that did it justice, but we both squealed delightedly at our selections and I wolfed it down enthusiastically. A really fabulous way to start the day!

I was very keen to find the perfect cinnamon bun in Copenhagen and while I had peered in hopeful expectation in the window of every bakery we passed, I had thus far been disappointed. 


All his changed when we happened upon a covered market: sleek and welcoming, reminding me of Covent Garden, it was filled with elegant food stalls offering treats and delights.


And cinnamon buns.


After eyeing the selection in the first shop carefully, we did a full circuit of the whole market before returning to it. It was clearly the place I’d been looking for and despite the temping flavours available, I had to go for the traditional. Cinnamon and brown sugar all the way.


And it was perfection. Copenhagen is an expensive city and I had clutched onto my pennies determined not to throw then away on a disappointing morsel. But here, my patience was rewarded with the most mouth-watering delight. Having scarfed it down (despite an enormous breakfast) I quickly purchased a second and only just managed to refrain from eating it.


On returning to the UK, I stowed it in the freezer, in anticipation of the day it would be warmed through and make a fabulous breakfast.

And my goodness, it did.

Kisses xxx

P.S. This blog post is part of my November travel series; I'm spending the month documenting some of the trips I've taken this year, sharing extracts from my travel journal and my photos. My aim is to do this for each day in November as a personal challenge, to get photos and words put together and record some of my favourite experiences from the year. As the weather turns chilly, it's a lovely feeling to curl up in doors and reminisce about travels past, and plot travels for the future.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Notes from a Travel Journal: Climbing Ella Rock


During my time in Sri Lanka during the summer, one of the things I enjoyed the most was hiking. I was surprised by how green and mountainous the country was, and it was lovely to get out and explore and go off in search of beautiful views.  My favourite hike was the morning we climbed Ella rock: a viewpoint over a little backpacker town. This is the story of that morning from my travel journal.

We had a tasty breakfast before setting off on our hike of the day: a walk up to Ella rock and back, for a total of 12km.

Ella rock can be seen towering over Ella and at the start of our trek, it seemed implausibly far away and high up. We set off on foot out of the town, and soon found ourselves on the railway tracks. They were overgrown and wobbly in places and we walked along them, stepping from sleeper to sleeper, nattering along the way as Ella rock loomed over us, closer and closer.


We eventually stepped off the tracks to scramble down a bank, through a disco shack cafe (playing Living on a Prayer so we had a quick sing), over a little river and then the climb began. We ascended through scrubby tea plants, saw otters and monkeys scarpering about, and marvelled at a fern which hugged all its leaves in tight, closing up if you stroked it. 


The path was rocky and uneven, but the irregular tree roots helped to provide steps and firmer footing. Eventually we came out at a lookout point and enjoyed wonderful views down the valley.

But the toughest part of the climb was ahead of us. We schlepped up through the trees, whose brown trunks soon turned white as the upper bark peeled off in huge strips, littering the forest floor. It really was a trek, requiring giant steps upwards and I had to pause for breath and consume a few iced gems for energy. Iced gems = food of hikers.


It was worth it though as the final climb yielded to a rocky outcrop and spectacular panoramas across the hills far below. We could see Little Adam’s Peak (a hike for the next day) and tiny chocolate box houses nestled here and there among tea terraces. It was a great climb; I felt a real sense of achievement and it was lovely to explore the viewpoints and snap a few pictures. 

The way back down was steep and rocky and we slithered and clung to trees as we picked our way over the terrain. We came across someone with a sprained ankle; fortunately one of our group was a nurse and she managed to bind it up with a bandage. We left behind a couple of the group and even our guide eventually, who struggled up and down daily, sometimes twice, in flip flops to support his family. 


More fool us - we went wrong somewhere but at least we found the railway tracks again and knew which way to wander. Eventually, we made it back to Ella, exhilarated, some 12km and 5 hours later. What a morning!

Belinda, Lorna and I popped out for a celebratory lunch and never have I attacked a panini (pretty good!) with such gusto. And the cup of tea I ordered was truly amazing. I actually couldn’t tell if it was any good or not, but it was a much-needed sharpener and worked wonders.

Kisses xxx

P.S. This blog post is part of my November travel series; I'm spending the month documenting some of the trips I've taken this year, sharing extracts from my travel journal and my photos. My aim is to do this for each day in November as a personal challenge, to get photos and words put together and record some of my favourite experiences from the year. As the weather turns chilly, it's a lovely feeling to curl up in doors and reminisce about travels past, and plot travels for the future.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Notes from a Travel Journal: Sri Lankan Tea Plantation


As an avid tea drinker, I can't deny that part of Sri Lanka's appeal lay in its status as home to some truly fabulous tea plantations.  I had never had the opportunity to visit one before and so during the couple of weeks I spent in Sri Lanka over the summer, I knew that a trip to the tea was an absolute must.  So here is my travel journal entry from that day...

The day had finally arrived: the mother ship was called me and it was time to head off to the more mountainous region of Sri Lanka: the tea plantations.


The journey was a slow and winding one, up and down switchbacks with steep slopes and hairpin corners. But the vistas were magnificent with rows of tea trees interspersed with cascading waterfalls. Most left natural, one admittedly used as a car wash. Young boys dashed directly up the hill between bends trying to sell flowers to the the passing vehicles, and they careered breathlessly up the mountain to meet us again on each new turn and try their hand.



Our destination was Glenloch tea plantation, and we started our visit with a cuppa (and a bonus wedge of chocolate cake) before embarking on a tour of the factory with our Guide. She first took us among the waist-high tea trees to show us which bits of the bush can become which black tea, green tea or even the exclusive white tea, and I was able to have a go balancing one of the traditional baskets over my head and slinging leaves back into it. I missed. Nowadays, sacks are used as they’re easier to carry but the women who pick are expected to gather 20kg of leaves each day.



We entered the factory to see where the leaves are laid out and dried, then crushed and sorted, before being fermented and the stalks winnowed from the leaves. This is the process for black tea and we saw huge crates and bags lined up and ready to be shipped out. Only tea that is 100% produced and made in Sri Lanka can be stamped with the Ceylon trademark and the plantations seem proud of the tea they produce.


We then got to try the tea: first the golden flush, a broken orange pekoe, unblended and delicious. Then a green tea and finally the expensive white tea, which was selling at 2000 rupees for 10g. Which means it’s a tenner for enough tea to make 2 cups. Yikes! 

Leaving the plantation, we continued on our way to Nuwara Eliya, affectionately known as little England. High in the mountains at almost 2000m above sea level, the climate was so different: fresh and rainy, jumper weather for us, freezing cold woolly-hats-and-coats weather for Sri Lankans.

We made a quick stop on the way to grab some Street food snacks and I love how delicious these things can be. I opted for some strange-looking doughnuts, deep fried in a wok and hooked fresh onto my plate with a dipping sauce. They were amazing, savoury with lentils and spices, but somehow soft and smooth with a crispy shell. Alongside a roti with chilli, it was a fantastic snack.

There’s a very clear colonial influence in the town of Nuwara Eliya and we fetched up at our hotel for a quick change before heading out for high tea at the Grand Hotel. Because when in Rome.


It was lovely, sitting on an open verandah, looking down over very English, carefully cultivated gardens as it poured with rain.  There's no place like home. We had an array of little savouries from the traditional smoked salmon sandwich to tiny burgers, croquettes and fried prawns. We finished with a selection of tasty sweets and washed it down with a couple of pots of tea. And Lorna and I split a fries as we saw someone else have them and we are now fully bonded as roommates. And desperate for chips.

We took a rainy afternoon stroll through the town, wielding umbrellas and visiting the gardens of the exclusive members club, walking past the golf course and polo field. Oh I do like to be beside the former colonies. Facepalm.

Eventually, the rain got the better of us, and we headed back to our hotel for an evening in, making instant noodles in the kettle, enjoying a nice hot shower after the damp weather and curling up under a duvet that was actually wanted for the first time in the whole trip!

Kisses xxx

P.S. This blog post is part of my November travel series; I'm spending the month documenting some of the trips I've taken this year, sharing extracts from my travel journal and my photos. My aim is to do this for each day in November as a personal challenge, to get photos and words put together and record some of my favourite experiences from the year. As the weather turns chilly, it's a lovely feeling to curl up in doors and reminisce about travels past, and plot travels for the future.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Notes from a Travel Journal: Sri Lanka's South Coast


Over the summer, I spent a couple of weeks exploring Sri Lanka as part of a Gadventures tour; it was a great way to get around and see lots of different places within this beautiful country. However, hitting new locations every night or two is definitely a little bit tiring so it was nice to spend our last few days on the south coast, exploring the laid-back towns of Mirissa and Galle. And so this is the story of that time from my travel journal.

The day began with a leisurely breakfast (including cake and doughnuts, I’m not going to lie) and a bit of time to read by the pool and dangle my feet in the water. Lush.




Then we set off for a trip to Galle, an old colonial town which I was looking forward to exploring. On the way, we stopped at the stilt fishermen; a somewhat famous and very picturesque sight with men perched atop their poles, casting into the water and hauling up the odd small fish. Nowadays, most of the money they make comes not from their catch, but from posing for tourists to take pictures. Still, it did make a good snapshot.



We arrived at Galle and marvelled at the huge fort, started by the Portuguese when they conquered Sri Lanka, mostly completed by the Dutch when they took over and then topped off with a Victorian bell tower by the British when they wanted a turn at colonising Sri Lanka too. Not your proudest moment, Europe. But it was a solid fort nonetheless with massively thick walls, lots of cannon nooks for firing on whichever European nation was coming to have a swipe next, and an excellent (free) view of the Sri Lankan cricket ground if you haven’t managed to get a ticket. Jammy.




Galle is a lovely natural harbour (hence the reason behind the initial interest of the British who fancied themselves a pop at a new naval base) and is populated with lots of little colonial streets and curiosity shops. We enjoyed strolling around, perusing knick-knacks and I finally gave in and bought some elephant trousers. Because I’m just so carefree and bohemian. And they were about a fiver and everyone else was buying them and peer pressure is a real thing.



Lunch was a smoothie of dark chocolate, banana, strawberry, honey and curd, which really hit the spot - sweet and refreshing and indulgent from a cafe called Calorie Counter. Everything on the menu had the nutrition info with it and it was mostly healthy options. 

Apart from my smoothie, apparently.


And then it was time to make the journey back to Mirissa for hard afternoon’s sitting by the pool, biscuits by the pool, photos by the pool, drinking by the pool, and other energetic pursuits by the pool.



All this was topped off by a potter to the beach to watch the sunset and get the proper jumping pictures.


Early evening arrived and it was time to shower and change and prepare for the pre-dinner bus party. My roomate Lorna and I were first on the bus and cheery drivers Kals and Suji plied us with arrak (the local spirit of choice) and the Sri Lankan version of Bombay mix (yum) and we took selfies and sent them to the group to come along and party.


Kals’ English seems to consist mainly of the phrase “Bus Party” and he flashed the lights and blared the music, which was basically the same half a dozen songs from the nineties.

As more of the gang arrived, more arrak was poured and we were three bottles down and half an hour late for our reservation by the time everyone had arrived. I was characteristically starving and in need of something to soak up the drinks.

Our guide, Ud, had talked the hotel into giving us a special table outside with a little bar with 20% off drinks and unlimited kothu roti for 500 rupees. Bargain. The hotel had threaded fairy lights through the trees and set up a little sound system and we joined the non-bus-party elements of the group and I hoovered up two plates of kothu which was admittedly very delicious. Or at least filling and carb-based which is the same thing when you’ve had several glasses of arack.


We were served fruit and cake to finish, I ordered a mojito (freshly mixed and also delicious) and we spent the night dancing by the pool.

Kisses xxx

P.S. This blog post is part of my November travel series; I'm spending the month documenting some of the trips I've taken this year, sharing extracts from my travel journal and my photos. My aim is to do this for each day in November as a personal challenge, to get photos and words put together and record some of my favourite experiences from the year. As the weather turns chilly, it's a lovely feeling to curl up in doors and reminisce about travels past, and plot travels for the future.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Notes from a Travel Journal: Vancouver and Capilano Bridge


Over the summer, my parents and I spent a couple of weeks in western Canada, and we both started and ended our trip in Vancouver.  This was initially simply because that's where the flights go if you want to visit the Rockies, but I absolutely loved the city of Vancouver and all it had to offer.  Today's travel journal extract is mainly about our visit to the Capilano Bridge park, but we also spent quite a lot of time walking the city's seawall, and so I'm also sharing some of my general pictures of Vancouver itself.


We began our morning in the fantastic Purebread bakery; a spot we ended up visiting almost every day we were in the city for its fantastic baking and seemingly endless range of cakes. We picked up lunch and snacks, nattering to the cheery staff and agonising over the amazing selection which made it very harder to choose.


We walked to the waterfront and caught the free shuttle to Capilano Bridge Park. The drive took us through the middle of Stanley Park and over Lionsgate bridge, and we got great views of the areas we had walked through the day before.



Capilano turned out to be brilliant: out of the city, it was surrounded by different types of fir tree up to 300 feet tall and up to 1000 years old. The park had been done out beautifully and sensitively, using natural wood and environmentally protective processes. We began our visit with the main attraction: a super long suspension bridge spanning the canyon which bounced as we walked.



 We strolled along a walkway through the forest and clocked rainbow trout in the lake and little squirrels. We saw a falcon and an owl with their handlers, and the owl especially was beautiful and sleepy.



We had a little cake break. Or more accurately, a giant cake break: mine was a massive wedge of layered banana sponge and chocolate sponge, baked together and oozing with chocolate chips. 

Re-energised, we climbed the tree top walkway: seven suspension bridges between platforms high in the trees. It was lovely to be up near the canopy, making our way over the forest floor.


We crossed back over the canyon, wobbling along the main suspension bridge and stopped for tea. It was so relaxing to sit outside in the sunshine with music playing and the hum of people about, but there was still a feeling of freshness; a sense of being surrounded by nature. We followed up with the Cliff Walk: a bridge walkway jutting out over the canyon with great views. Capilano turned out to be such a beautiful park and we really loved exploring.


Back into Vancouver, we spent a couple of hours chilling out back at our Airbnb, and then
headed out for dinner in the sunshine, stopping by the Gastown Steam clock to hear it whistle the three quarter hour. We strolled the waterfront to the Cactus Club for dinner which was located right on the harbour with views out over the boats and seaplanes. It turned out to be a fab meal, and we split sticky spicy chicken and wontons in sweet chilli and some sweet potato (or yam!) fries. I also wolfed down some fabulous baja fish tacos, full of lightly battered cod, chunky, zingy fresh salad and spicy salsa and mayo. YUM.


I managed to top this off with a frozĂ©: basically a frozen rosĂ© with strawberries. Or a wine slushie, as I like to think of it. At the end of the evening, we strolled back along the seafront on the way home, enjoying the sunset over coal harbour.

Kisses xxx

P.S. This blog post is part of my November travel series; I'm spending the month documenting some of the trips I've taken this year, sharing extracts from my travel journal and my photos. My aim is to do this for each day in November as a personal challenge, to get photos and words put together and record some of my favourite experiences from the year. As the weather turns chilly, it's a lovely feeling to curl up in doors and reminisce about travels past, and plot travels for the future.