Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand

On Koekohe beach, between Dunedin and Oamaru in the South Island of New Zealand, is a natural phenomenon steeped in Maori folklore. The Moeraki Boulders are one of the most photographed landscapes in New Zealand. Numerous wonderfully circular orbs of stone litter the Otago beachside.

Local legend says the boulders are the remains of eel baskets, calabashes, and kumara washed ashore from the wreck at nearby Shag Point from a large canoe of Arai-te-Uru. The patterning on the boulders, according to legend, are the remains of the canoe’s fishing nets.

Over 50 boulders have been unearthed from the eroding shoreline, with stones still half hidden in the banks of the beach. Some weighing 7 tonnes and measuring 2 metres wide. There were many more when the site was first discovered, where people actually took home the boulders as garden ornaments.

Captivating geologists, it is believed that these boulders initially started forming in ancient sea floor sediments (Paleocene mudstone) around 60 million years ago, and the biggest rocks are estimated to have taken roughly 4 million years to get to their current size.

Top Tips for Visiting Moeraki

  • For photography, it is best to get there either early or late, as the beach is emptier (and the light is prettier)
  • The boulders are free to visit if you follow the Department of Conservation (DOC) signposting. If you head to the cafe, you will be charged to get to the beach front a small cleaning fee $2.
  • Do not damage any of the boulders or take any pieces home, they are not souvenirs
  • Best to go in low tide to get the full effect of the whole boulders scene
  • Please properly discard of any rubbish with you, leave only footprints
  • Check out nearby Shag Point and Katika Lighthouse for nearby wildlife

 

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How Green Is Your Hotel? Tips For Finding An Environmentally Friendly Resort

As more people travel and the concerns about the state of the environment and the future of our planet mount, the desire for reducing our carbon footprint and trying to be more green, destinations are aiming to be more environmentally conscious.

But how do you know if your resort is green? Here are some things to look out for:

Renewable Sources

Bit of an obvious one but hotels consume a lot of energy as there are a lot of people. Many are now using renewable sources to reduce their carbon footprint (especially destinations with lots of sun) so look out for solar panels and wind turbines.

Master Key Cards

Many hotels now have master key cards that control the lights, sockets and heating/air con of the room, meaning that while you are not in the room additional energy is not being consumed.

Water Waste

There are many ways by which hotels can limit water waste, such as flow restrictors on taps and showers, and by dual flush toilets.

Many hotels also ask to reuse towels to avoid excessive washing. By just hanging up your towel they will not be replaced.

Toiletries Freebies

Some hotels have now started using large pump dispensers for soap and body wash in the bathrooms rather than many small complimentary bottles, reducing plastic waste.

Locally Sourced Food

Not only locally sourced food incredibly delicious and it supports local suppliers, but the bonus is also that it has a much lower carbon footprint as it isn’t imported.

Paper Straws

Plastic straws are such a waste and cannot be readily recycled. Eco-friendly hotels don’t hand out straws freely or have paper alternatives (which can be recovered).

Tap Water

Ideally, water should be safe to drink reducing the need for plastic water bottles. Alternatively, a sanitation system on the property to ensure plastic bottles are not needed. Glasses and ceramic mugs for drinking instead of single-use plastic or paper cups.

Natural Fibres

Bedding and furniture are made from natural fibres, which not only reduces sensitivity issues, are super comfortable and have a cleaner manufacture process than synthetic fibres!

Eco-policies are clearly stated

Properties that practice environmentally sound policies are generally proud to tell their customers! Read reviews and check online before you book.

The Future Is Bright…

There are always new ways to stay greener such as using organic food, natural cleaning products, increasing recycling rates, chlorine-free pool sanitation and boutiques for locally made products, green tourism is moving forwards!

London’s Best Parks

An unusual seasonal heatwave hits London over a bank holiday weekend; it is like hitting the jackpot!

One of the chief joys of London is the numerous green spaces within the labyrinth of old cobbled streets and high rise buildings. Other major cities will have one large park but London has so many, and here are the big five to visit:

Greenwich Park

For most people who know me, Greenwich is probably my most favourite part of London. Greenwich means ‘green settlement’ in old Saxon, and this park is monumental in honouring the origins of the name. The oldest enclosed royal park in London, covering 180 acres, used to be an old hunting ground. With a deer park nestled in one of the far corners, the Royal Observatory atop the hill, the Ranger’s house with glorious rose garden and the Maritime Museum and Queen’s house nestled at the bottom, this park has so much to offer.

Nearest Station: Greenwich Mainline or DLR Cutty Sark

Best for relaxing on a sunny afternoon and taking in some culture before having an ice-cream in the shade of the bandstand

Hyde Park

London’s most famous park nestled right in the heart of the west end. With Marble Arch on the north-west corner, to Kensington on the south-east, it covers a rectangular 350 acres. The history and rebellion of Hyde Park are reminiscent of London, with Speakers Corner being a platform for free speech since 1855 and some prominent protests have taken place in the park. Once again first used as a hunting ground, during the 15th century, the history of Hyde Park is lengthy. The original Crystal Palace resided in Hyde Park (before being destroyed in a fire), and the serpentine river hosts many sporting events.

Nearest Station: Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch or High Street Kensington

Best for having a breather from all your shopping in central London, walk around all the memorials, pop down to Kensington Palace to wave at the Royals, before having a cup of tea next to the serpentine

Regent’s Park

Based in North West London, sandwiched between Camden at the northern border and Baker Street and Great Portland Street in the bottom corners, this Royal Park is an impressive 170 acres considering its relatively central location.  Named after King George IV, he ordered for the park’s remodelling and opened to the public in 1835. The park is home to many sporting events and teams, and there is always something going on.

Regent’s Park’s most famous guests have to be ZSL London Zoo. The oldest scientific zoo in the world, and have 698 different species of animals. Sometimes you can spot a giraffe when walking northbound, and you can hear when it is feeding time.

Nearest Station: Camden or Great Portland Street

Best for animal, sports and people watching!

Richmond Park

Boasting an impressive 2,360 acres in south-west London, this is the largest Royal Park and second largest park in greater London and one of the largest in the UK. About three times the size of New York’s Central Park, this park was opened up to the public in 1872 after being (yet another) hunting park for deer. Around 650 deer reside in the park as well as many other woodland creatures and insects.

The history of the park is prestigious, and it is now efficiently policed to ensure that all users can appreciate the beauty of the park, and not cause a stampede (like one unfortunate fellow as his dog rang off the lead https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GRSbr0EYYU)

Nearest Station: Richmond

Best for deer watching before heading to an excellent local pub for some grub.

Victoria Park

The people’s park in East London was first opened to give the massing working class population living in the area some green space to appreciate. With the network of houses growing on top of each other for many, it was their only green space since it opened to the public in 1845. The ponds became bathing pools and many east end children learnt to swim in the lido.

A Japanese Pagoda from Hyde Park sits overlooking the central pond, and many organised runs happen in the park every year. Almost connected to Mile End Park to the south, only divided by a small a canal, adds another 80 acres to this area, with a patchwork of channels intersecting both parks.

Victoria park for me represents London away from the tourists. It has a more authentic feel, a more lived in experience and feels more appreciated.

Nearest Station: Mile End

Best for walking the canals around the parks and watching the ducks in the large ponds with an ice-cold drink

What are your favourite London parks and why?

Saklikent Gorge

Hidden is the Taurus Mountains on the south coast of Turkey a canyon of 300m high and 18km long is carved. Melted water from the snow caps on the mountain tops gush down the steep slopes, dissecting the terrain. The water is thick with limestone from the mountains and ice cold.

One of the most massive gorges in the world is found near the tourist destinations of Fethiye and Olu Deniz. During the summer months when the tide is low, you can walk deep into the gorge. The whole day is magical, the sides of the canyon towering over while you wade in the water.

What to take with you:

  • Sensible submersible shoes with grip -sea shoes are ideal (though you can hire slip on jelly shoes for a small fee)
  • Clothes you don’t mind getting wet
  • Swimwear
  • Camera (in a waterproof bag or case you can carry)
  • Suncream
  • Money
  • Bottles of water

Saklikent means ‘hidden city’ in Turkish and this geological wonder is a hidden treasure. Away from the glorious sandy beaches and the turquoise sea, Saklikent is worth a visit.

Top 7 Things To Do In Budapest

Budapest is a city of contrast. From the gently sloping hills of ancient Buda to the flat terrain of Pest. With a history of Celtic, Roman and Ottoman occupation, and pivotal during both of the World Wars, Budapest has something for everyone. Here are the top 7 things to do when you visit Budapest

1. Take In The Architecture Of The Parliament Building

The outstanding Gothic building on the banks of the Danube is one of the largest buildings in Hungary. Still, a fully functional parliamentary office, stunning from virtually every angle, forming part of the UNESCO site as a central element in the Danube panorama.

Tickets are available daily to tour certain parts of the building and can be purchased via the official website.

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2. Soothe Your Aching Bones at a World Class Thermal Bath

Budapest has one of the most unrivalled thermal spring networks in the world, with 125 connected pools, and a number of world class pools and spas to appreciate them at. The healing waters of these mineral rich hot springs have been celebrated for centuries.

Bring your swimsuit and pick one of Gellert, Széchenyi, Lukacs, Rudas, Kiraly or Veli Bej baths. Each of the baths has their own charm and quirks and all completely different.

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3. Try the local cuisine of Goulash and Chimney Cake

The hearty meat stew of Goulash is a traditional dish originating from Hungary and eaten across many central European countries since medieval times. With a mixture of beef, vegetables, paprika and other spices, this warming dish is served pretty much anywhere and is absolutely delicious.

Chimney cake is a type of spit cake native to Hungary. Layers of dough are wrapped about a wooden log or spit and then ‘baked’ on a rotisserie. Covered in sugar, cinnamon or Nutella, it’s difficult to describe, almost like a sweet Yorkshire pudding, definitely a local treat.

4. Drink Palinka in the Jewish Ruin Bars

The Jewish Quarter of Budapest is home to a number of pop-up bars and pubs, that have grown from the abandoned properties in the area. This hipster nightlife is a bohemian mecca, full of a buzzing and creative young crowd, bringing life and rebirth to the area.

Szimpla Kert has the proud honour of being the first ruin bar. With indoor courtyards, artistic graffiti and ‘shabby chic’, it is a must when visiting Budapest. Palinka is the local liquor, a clear fruit brandy native to Hungary. Egeszsegere! (Cheers!)

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5. Discover Ancient Buda

The hilly west of Budapest is the ancient capital to the Kingdom of Hungary. Buda is home to a vast array of historical buildings and monuments, including Buda Castle, Citadel, Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church.

Walking up from Gellert’s Hill to the Citadel gives you gorgeous panoramic views over Budapest, before heading towards the Castle. You can take the Funicular Cable Car back down to the river, which has been meticulously restored after it was destroyed during the second world war.

6. See The Spiritual Side of Budapest By Visiting Dohany Street Synagogue and St Stephen’s Basilica

Dohany Street Synagogue in the heart of the Jewish Quarter, is the largest synagogue in Europe and second largest in the world. Although closed on Saturdays, the synagogue is open to the public and is home to the Jewish Museum. This synagogue was a cornerstone of the ghetto formed during World War II and has a Holocaust memorial park within its grounds.

St Stephen’s Basilica is a large Roman Catholic church not far from Dohany Street. One of the largest churches in Hungary, with a stunning and ornate ceiling (Cupola). This church does has mass services, and a small monetary donation is required before entering.

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7. Be Moved By the History on the Danube Promenade

The bronze shoes on the banks of the river Danube are a memorial to those people who were horrifically shot into the river during World War II. These shoes represent what was left behind. Over 3,500 people were shot into the river by Arrow Cross Militiamen in 1944-1945.

With candles and flowers still resting in the shoes as tributes, it is hard to not feel a sense of remembrance at this monument.

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There is so much to enjoy in Budapest, with history and architecture round every corner. This list could have gone on and on… what would be your recommendations?

Homesick For Your Foreign Home

When being away from home, it can be quite familiar to feel symptoms of homesickness. Once the novelty of a new place wears off and the reality of the situation your in hits, homesickness can soon follow.

Homesickness is defined as the distress caused by being away from home. Leaving your family, friends and family places can leave you feeling lonely and isolated.

When I left London for New Zealand at the age of 18, I expected a degree of homesickness. Moving home for the very first time, and to a country pretty much as far away as possible would not be easy. I didn’t know anyone and going to University is hard enough for most people.

What I didn’t expect was the degree of homesickness I would feel on my return. How can I feel unhappy that I am home with my family? I felt so heartbroken with myself that I wanted to go back to New Zealand. I felt that city I grew up in has become this scary, aggressive and daunting place. I thought that I was betraying my heritage, my place of birth and the culture I grew up with. I felt that I was letting down my family, did they not think that I was happy to see them? I was pretty messed up in the first few weeks/months when returning.

Four key points affect the susceptibility to experiencing homesickness

  • Experience: If you’ve never lived away from home before, you’re probably more prone to miss it. You’re not used to coping with feelings of unfamiliarity.
  • Attitude: Sometimes homesickness can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you’re already prepared to feel uncomfortable in a new situation, you probably will.
  • Personality: Researchers talk about “insecure attachment” regarding children coping with new caregivers, but basically, if you’re not good at warming up to new people, this can obviously affect how you manage with the change.
  • Outside factors: Of course, your level of homesickness will depend on how willing you were to make a move. Did you have to do it, or is this something you embraced? Your homesickness depends on how your family reacts to the change, too.

Although homesickness is not classed as a mental health condition, it can have significant detrimental effects on your mental health. Isolation and loneliness, feeding into despair and grief, with any pre-existing anxiety or depressive disorders is a horrific mix for those experiencing it. Homesickness can be overlooked or dismissed in terms of people’s mental health but is so vitally important to know the signs and to seek help where you can.

 

Travelling With Depression – 14 Tips For Your Adventures

For those with depression, travelling can feel like a fantastic opportunity to feel better. A chance to get a new perspective on life, step out from your comfort zone and feel rejuvenated. While travelling can help you feel all these things, don’t believe that it can be a miracle cure. Sadly depression doesn’t get the memo that it didn’t get the invite for your trip!

Stepping out of the mundane daily stress life can help to break the cycle of depression but be realistic that your depression isn’t going to stay at home. Be prepared that an episode may strike and it’s ok if it does. Your depression (or any other mental or physical condition) does not define you, and it is beyond your control. As much as we wish there were a switch, there isn’t.

So many people feel guilty that they feel depressed on such an incredible trip or in a fantastic place. If I can’t feel ’happy’ here, will I ever think that way? Guilt is a sneaky bitch and plays into the hands of depression, feeding on a sense of self-doubt and low self-esteem. What a fun party!

Fears of what will happen with depression and a sense of wanting to be ‘strong and fearless’ can be a problematic combination of feelings to manage. Trying to remain calm and in control somewhere that is new and intimidating can cause everything to spiral out of control. We can feel defeated that our mental health is beating us into submission. We can be disappointed that we weren’t stronger.

Here are some tips to manage depression when you are travelling:

Know Your Options

Realistically what are your options for travelling? What places are entirely off limits because of your health? What are the best communities to get to know and integrate with? Is language or distance an issue? What are the options for getting a quick flight home if you need to?

Manage Your Medications and Treatments

Do you have enough medication for your trip? Can you take your medicines through customs or do you require paperwork from your doctor? Are there online services for councillors that you can use? Can you practice mindfulness or similar techniques while you are away? Just because you are travelling does not mean that all the treatment and hard work you are putting into your treatment should stop, but make contingencies.

Be Realistic and Patient

Be understanding of yourself that some things are outside of your control and it is possible that things are going to go wrong on trips and it is something that just happens! I am ridiculously forgetful and misplace stuff all the time, especially tickets (always helpful!) I now prepare myself and am patient. It is one of my many quirks, and I just have to accept that I am probably going to misplace something, but it’s ok. I now have a particular travel wallet to store everything in which reduces this likelihood. Understand what may trigger a low mood and try to make alternative arrangements.

Give It A Rest

The excitement of seeing a new place and sense of guilt for not wanting to do EVERYTHING can be pretty overwhelming. When planning a wonderous travel itinerary leave yourself a rest day here or there, so if you don’t feel like going out an doing something, you don’t feel like you have wrecked your itinerary.

Eat and Drink

Make sure you eat well and stay hydrated when travelling. We can get caught up in a place and realise that we missed lunch two hours ago! I know that when I am hungry, I get hangry (hunger-induced anger) and can get pretty emotional so best to look after yourself to make sure you get the food you need. Being dehydrated can make you feel quite tired, so take some water with you to keep fresh.

Call It A Day

If you feel exhausted and drained, it’s alright to have an early night. Depending on where you are staying you can have a beautiful hot bath, order room service and watch Netflix. Give yourself some downtime.

Treat Fund

Sometimes our budget doesn’t allow for staying in hotels, and we are backpacking. If this happens and you are feeling shitty, I would advise having an emergency fund. To do something for you, whether it’s a spa treatment, a night in a hotel or a nice dinner.

Journalling

So many people speak of the benefits of journalling in coping with depression. By making a note of your thoughts and feelings, what you are happy and grateful for can promote positive thoughts and behaviours. Whether it is only a few minutes in the morning or at the end of the day, it is a constructive habit. If opening yourself up emotionally seems a bit too daunting, then there are other ways to journal to look back on your trip positively on.

Plan Ahead

We naturally have a fight or flight response, and the thought of getting away from an unpleasant situation can seem like the perfect solution. Travelling spontaneously to flee a negative place can have ramifications upon your return. The moment you switch your phone on and see all the emails or the dread of going back to a mountain of work. Urghh.

Planning your trip well in advance can help to manage your symptoms. Informing and preparing your support network in advance, will help to cope when you arrive home. Ensuring a supportive workplace and efficient handover so that your work will not be all left for you to get back. Setting clear boundaries about who should contact you and when.

Know You Are Not Alone

There are so many people going through the same things as you and struggling to find the words or way in which to say it. One of my friends disclosed to me about her mental health condition on a trip. I honestly had no idea after knowing her for a really long time, and it was the circumstances that let the conversation naturally happen. It is hard though to disclose this sort of information to a complete stranger!

If you are struggling, think about joining a tour group for a day trip to give you people to connect with, or talk to your local bartender to direct you to friendly locals or events that are happening. Or just sitting somewhere public to just listen to the hustle and bustle of the surrounding location.

Don’t Lose Touch With Home

Just because you are travelling does not mean that you need to forget about home or that phoning home is a sign of weakness. Message your Mum, or facetime your best mate. You are still you, wherever you are in the world and you need your support network around you to support you, so stay in touch with them. They will appreciate it as much as you will.

Celebrate Small Wins

Something I find that I always forget to do is to celebrate the small victories! Whether it is getting out of bed at a specific time, not eating all the chocolate that you can carry back from the corner store, going through a whole day with feeling like a mess… Whatever it is, appreciate it and celebrate it, you are doing great!

Connect With Nature

If you can get outside and connect with nature, this can have substantial benefits. An extensive literature review found that those with access to nature and greener environments had increases in their mental wellbeing. So go and feel the grass or sand between your toes, breathe deep the fresh air and feel the sun or wind on your skin.

It is OK To Not Be OK

The most important take-home message that it is OK not to feel ok. Don’t feel guilt and disappointment that you need to have a lazy day at the beach or you can’t even leave your hotel room. If you acknowledge that this is you taking control of your own mental health and that it is favourable to take this time.

This list is not endless, and these tips are not a solution for everyone as there are so many types of depression and depressive disorder. Just know that it is ok, whatever you are doing, it’s ok.

Are there any tips you would recommend?

Hacks For Booking Flights

Everyone wants to know when is the best time to book flights because everyone loves a bargain. Noone wants to pay over the odds for a ticket that if they tweaked by a day or even the time of day could have saved them a few quid.

Five-Week Rule

Flights go on sale 11 months in advance. The best time to book tickets depends on the destination you are travelling to, and the time of year you will be departing. Rule of thumb, the best time to book is five weeks before your departure date, but it is best to watch and monitor the flights on different websites to get a prediction on when best to book.

Compare The Market

Whenever searching for flights utilise the price comparison websites such as Kayak and Skyscanner, as well as the individual airline’s webpage. This way you have the full scope of prices so you can get the best deal. When browsing, it is always advisable to reset your browsing history and cookies, to get the best deal. Sign up for email alerts and follow airlines on social media to get ahead and notified of any upcoming promotions.

Should I Wait For A Sale?

Airlines tend to have their sales in January and September. If you are travelling in the school holidays, these routes will not be included in sales. This is the same for high demand routes with infrequent flights, they will not feature in sales.

Vary The Time of Day and Day of The Week

Getting an early morning flight can not only be cheaper but in the event of the flight being cancelled, it is easier to get the same day alternative. If you are flying long haul but within a similar time zone, it is best to get a morning flight to reduce jet lag.

Avoid Booking and Travelling On Weekends

According to Skyscanner’s review of data, they found that the best day to book flights is on a Monday and the worse on a Saturday, where the price can be 5% higher! Flying on a Friday tends to be the cheapest option, compared to a Sunday which can be 18% more expensive according to the same research. Great news for city breaks!

Look For Nearby Airports

Depending on your route, flying from a more prominent or busier airport can actually be cheaper than from a smaller airport. If an airport has a high number of flights to the same destination, it is more likely to have more competitive priced flights. This being said if you are saving £20 on a plane, and getting to that airport is a £30 taxi journey, is it really worth it?

Book Different Airlines

When comparing prices of flights, a pretty easy way of lowering the cost is by using a different airline for each leg of your journey. If you are flying from London to Rome, you might fly with one airline there as a one-way ticket and a different airline on the return. I would not advise using different airlines for connecting flights, as if your first flight is delayed for any reason, it may be difficult or expensive to rearrange your next flight. If your connecting flight is with the same airline, they are obligated to make alternative arrangements.

Save Up Your Miles

If you tend to fly with the same airline often, sign up for their frequent flyer programme. Do your research first: does it cost money to join and how difficult it is to collect points or miles? Does it include any other airlines? Is there a limit on when you can use points? Does it link to a store card that you can get more points (such as Tesco Clubcard and Avios points for British Airways)? Can you connect a credit or debit card to a frequent flyer programme?

Utilise Airline Partnerships

Some airlines form partnerships and alliances or share flight routes. If you shop around between these partnerships, you might be able to get a better deal. From example, flying British Airways between London and Belfast, if you look at Aer Lingus directly, you may be surprised at the savings that you could make.

What would be your number one flight booking hack?

Chilling With Penguins In Cape Town

An hour-long drive from Cape Town southwards, along the coastal road through Fish Hoek and Simon’s Town, lives an unusual family. Hidden in a sheltered bay of granite boulders, resides a colony of African penguins. White sandy beaches, peaceful neighbourhood, plenty of swimming spots, Boulders Beach is the perfect place to settle.

A few friendly penguins settled into the beach first in 1982. Now their family has grown, and the colony is almost 3,000 penguins. It is incredible that so many wild creatures have made this little part of the Cape Peninsula their home. Remember they are wild animals, and those beaks are pretty sharp!

African penguins are an endangered species. The numbers of penguins have dwindled over the last few years, with over-fishing, population, habitat destruction and irresponsible tourism activities. Boulders Beach forms part of the Table Mountain Nature Reserve and the beach and walkways are protected to ensure that more little penguins make this beach their home. With the dunes protecting nestling families, hopefully, the diminishing amount of African penguins can grow for future generations.

More than 60,000 people visit Boulders Beach every year as it is probably the only place in the world to get this close to African Penguins. The number of surrounding boardwalks amongst the dunes down to Foxy Beach give even better vantage points. The penguins can be found in the area all year round, with the juvenile birds moulting in January (the smell a wee bit during this time!) and they are fishing out at sea during September and October so the beaches will not be as busy.

These creatures aren’t the only attraction to visit Boulders Beach. The family-friendly beach is the perfect way to spend a leisurely morning or afternoon. It is a protected area for there is a R65 conservation fee and there are a limited number of parking spaces.

Boulders Beach is one of the best places for seeing any breed of penguins worldwide, especially without the freezing temperatures.

Top Tips For Staying Safe When Travelling

Travelling can be such a thrilling experience. Whether it’s because you’re visiting a new culture or getting to meet new people or just having a new adventure. It is important to remember that you need to stay safe while travelling and here are some top tips to look after yourself when away.

1. Do Your Homework

Research your destination before your travel. This may be the local cultures and customs, being prepared for what weather you can expect when there and knowing what to look out for. Know how to avoid accidentally offending someone. Be aware of the local scams.

2. Get comprehensive travel insurance and make sure you have the documents for it!

When you are travelling, it is vital to have cover if you require medical assistance. Ensure that the all the countries you are visiting are included in the policy, as well as any pre-existing conditions. Make sure that you are covered by an appropriate amount. If you were to have a heart attack in America, the average cost of treatment is $760,000.

3. Ensure you have all your documents and itineraries (printed out and in local language)

Phones and tablets run out of charge and prevent the panic by having everything printed out and with you. Booking references, phone numbers, addresses and travel instructions (along with your insurance policy number and contact number) will alleviate that stress. Depending on where you are travelling and for how long, take copies of your passport and research your local embassies at your destination.

4. Invest In A Decent Bag

Seriously! Invest in a decent bag, avoiding little clutch handbags that can be quickly snatched and any other items with narrow or flimsy straps. Avoid large backpacks with multiple pockets that can easily be opened. I have a camera bag that has a lockable zip to prevent pickpockets. Don’t store your phone or wallet in a back pocket and make sure any bag has a secure zip to avoid stray hands.

5. Have A Secret Stash Of Cash

Don’t carry all of your money and bank cards in one place. Utilise a money belt to protect items and ensure that you have enough funds with you in the event of a small emergency. Still, use your wallet or purse as your secret stash should remain secret. Only withdraw cash from official local banks, rather than just any random ATM. Be sensible about changing money in local stores or on the street as it may be a scam.

6. Try To Blend In

Nothing makes you more of a target than sticking out like a tourist. Whether this is being distinctly dressed or carrying expensive jewellery or technology or designer clothing. Try to pick up some of the local languages, even if it is just ‘hello’ ‘goodbye’ ‘yes’ ‘no’ ‘please’ ‘thank you’.

7. Be Bar Savvy

Enjoy your holiday but take it easy on the alcohol. The amount of alcohol in a cocktail can be a lot more than you expect and most European beers have a high alcohol content. Never ever leave your drink unattended. Make sure you know how to get back to your accommodation before you head out. Check you know when the last bus/train/cab is and what taxi firms to use.

8. Travel Light

Logically, the fewer items you have to carry around the less likely you are to lose them or have them stolen. Keep an eye on your belongings when in public spaces and never leave them unattended.

9. Chose The Best Accommodation For You

Read reviews before deciding on your accommodation. Ensure that your housing is adequate for your needs and has the facilities that you require. Whether this is a secure safe or decent wifi. If it doesn’t feel right when you arrive, find alternative arrangements.

10. Be Prepared

My friends laugh at me regarding this point! I carry a small first aid kit with me at all times, even when at home in London/UK. This includes paracetamol, plasters, eye drops, diarrhoea tablets, bite cream and antihistamines as a minimum. This way you are prepared for a few medical emergencies wherever you are. It may not be feasible to get to a pharmacy (you may still be on the plane!), so it is worth having a few items with you, just in case.

11. Think About What You Are Sharing on Social Media

If everyone knows that you are travelling and that you are currently not home, your property is now a possible target. Quite an extreme example of this happened when a prominent footballer had his house broken into when he was playing in a televised match. Be careful about sharing too much personal information especially if adding new friends to your social media. A good rule of thumb is to think, would I share all this information with a complete stranger?

12. Speak to People

Let someone know where you are going and what you are doing. This should definitely be someone at home, providing regular updates especially if travelling solo. Arrange designated check-in times, so that if you don’t call or text they know something is up. If you are visiting in a group or staying at a secure hotel, speak to someone you trust to let them know your plans.

13. Trust Your Instinct

Even in your hometown, there are probably places that you would avoid especially at night. Be sensible, use your common sense and trust your instinct. Your gut is generally right!

Although these tips sound a bit like common sense, it is worth reiterating them to encourage any traveller to look after themselves when they are away from home. Crime happens anywhere in the world and give your destination the respect without fear. A lousy experience shouldn’t ruin your trip.

What Makes A Bucket List?

The term is thrown around very casually and it seems that everyone has heard of a bucket list but what actually is it? Generally, the most common description is a list of all the things you want to try, goals you want to achieve and life experiences you want to have before you die.

Simple right? But where do you even start?

First start by really defining what you want in a Bucket List? You can have numerous different bucket lists, whether they are from your home country or places to visit or things to see. Bucket lists make you stop and think what you actually want to experience in this lifetime. Bucket lists give us both hope and feed our curiosity.

So… start brain storming. Yet, go further and remove time and money constraints, physical limitations and anything else you think may hold you back. Let your mind be as free as possible. Be as crazy as you can and forget the impossible. I am sure that you will be amazed at what you think up!

Next…focus on time. Its an idea to put a time next to your bucket ideas. Whether this is Summer/Winter (LA in Summer, Prague in Winter), by year or before your 30/40. If you set yourself time goals it will help to give you the motivation, otherwise your list is just gonna sit there.

Chose a partner. You probably have someone in mind whom you want to share specific experiences with, your spouse, partner, BFF or family member. Speak to your support network and see if they have the same goals as you. By getting someone else on board can further establish the time on these goals and get them into action. Buddying up can also help with costs and the whole joy of the experience.

Prioritise. What is your top three? What excites you the most and what has the most time sensitive limit? Once you have your top three, flesh out the finer details for each one. Who are you going with? When are you going (and try to be as specific as possible)? Where do you need to go and how are you going to get there? What do I need to do to make this happen? How much is it going to cost?

Keep going. The goal of your bucket list is not to finish it completely but for it to constantly grow as you grow. Its not a checklist to ‘level-up’ to ‘awesome traveller’ or be better than the next person, but to experience what makes you happy and what you chose.

Although this sounds a bit like a managerial spiel on how to manage your todo list, a lot of the same principles apply. Set SMART goals (corporate bullsh*t bingo here!) and make them happen. The only thing stopping you is you. If your goals are too unobtainable, change them. If you keep setting goals that you cannot achieve (climb Mt Everest – I don’t even own a pair of walking shoes) it will dishearten you instead of empower you.

Have fun in brainstorming and dream big.

The First Emperor and Liverpool’s China Town​

The first Chinese immigrants to Liverpool arrived in the 1830s when the first vessel direct from China arrived in Liverpool’s docks to trade such goods as silk and cotton wool. More immigrants came in Liverpool in the late 1860s with the establishment of the Blue Funnel Shipping Line. The commercial shipping line created strong trade links between the cities of Shanghai, Hong Kong and Liverpool; mainly importing silk, cotton and tea. Liverpool is still a twinned city with Shanghai. From the 1890s onwards, small numbers of Chinese began to set up businesses catering to the Chinese sailors and some married working-class British women, resulting in many British-born Eurasian Chinese being born in Liverpool.

The Liverpool docks were initially home to the first China Town. With many ships borrowed during WWI and the Chinese seamen not working, a welfare centre opened in 1917. The Chinese community began to expand in towards Liverpool. During the 1930’s, with the decline of the shipping trades and numerous layoffs, decay spread through the area known as ‘China Town’, before the bombing destroyed most of the area around the docks. Settlers moved further inland, just west of Liverpool Cathedral. The new China town straddles Nelson Street, Duke Street and Berry Street in the heart of the city.

As part of the cities regeneration, in 2000 a new ceremonial Chinese archway was built at the top of Nelson Street. With the assistance of twin city Shanghai, the 15m arch is the largest in Europe. Over 200 dragons adorn the traditionally coloured structure. It symbolises good fortune, prosperity and good luck while ensuring evil is kept away.

As Europe’s first Chinese community, World Museums Liverpool is the current host of ‘The First Emperor’ exhibition. Since their incredible discovery in 1974, the Terracotta Warriors have amazed visitors. Regarded as one of the most important historical finds in modern times.

Emperor Qin regarded himself as the first Emperor of China. He ascended to the throne aged 13 and became Emperor of a unified China after conquering all the Warring States. Not only obsessed with power (himself coining the term Emperor), Qin was fixated on immortality and the Elixir of Life.

Ensuring that if Qin could not locate the Elixir of Life that he would be protected in the afterlife, he built himself a life-size army of more than 8000 warriors. His mausoleum also includes horses, strongmen, acrobats and officials. Each of the numerous figures has a different face, hairstyle and outfit dependent on rank. Meticulous detail was given to each character. An extensive array of weaponry dependent on the position of each warrior.

The exhibition includes many objects that have never been on show in the UK before and is the first time any warriors have been shown in the UK since British Museum in 2007. World Museums Liverpool are experiencing similar issues to that of the British Museum in 2007, with tickets selling out fast.

Throughout the exhibition are 6 entirely whole warriors, chariots and the Golden Horse of Maoling. The most significant artefact of its kind, horses were revered in ancient China as a symbol of power, wealth and status. Numerous other pieces are also on display throughout the exhibit, with over 1000 years of history covered. A fitting celebration for Liverpool’s Chinese roots.

Going Underground

Dramatically busy, feeling like a rock concert mosh pit, with shouts of ‘can you move further down please’ as you manoeuvre and contort like some standing game of Twister, generally a sweltering hot sweatbox with suspicious and potent odours. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. Still one of the most reliable and frequent underground services in the world, it helps connect London.

The London Underground is the iconic transport network of the capital, but given the history and development of the tube, it can seem quite like an ancient labyrinth, near impossible to navigate! With 11 lines, 270 stations and 400km of track, it can be quite daunting to try and find your way around.

Here are my top tips for making sense of the underground

Understand The Tube Map

There are 11 tube lines plus Docklands Light Railway, Emirates Airline, TFL Rail and London Trams. The map can look quite daunting and intimidating. Each line has unique colour identifiers. The tube map has a grid and an A-Z to help find your tube station. So if you are looking for Victoria, you would look down the list, see that this is in Grid D4 and then you can identify where the station is and what lines it has.

Each station has both directions of the tube, and they will be either North-South bound or East-West bound. By looking at the map, you should be able to see which direction you will be travelling. North Greenwich to Baker Street will be moving North or Westbound. So when you get to the station, you can know in advance which platform you will be heading to, saving any confusion at the platform.

Prepare In Advance

The TFL website has a fantastic journey planner, where you can enter where you are travelling from and to, whether it is a tube station or even a bus station. Make a note of your journey route, including your changes. I know this makes a lot of sense, but honestly, if you have an idea of where you are going, it will make your journey so much easier.

Getting around central London, the distance between each stop is roughly two minutes. It is a good rule of thumb, that if you are travelling 5 stops on the same line, it will take about 10 minutes. Around central London (zone 1), the tubes are approximately every 2-3 minutes, but sometimes the platforms can be a bit of a walk away from each other, so give yourself a little bit more time, just in case.

Utilise Apps

Apps like Citymapper help with planning your journey and waiting times until the next tube or Tube Map give up a portable and searchable map with the current London Underground service updates. There are lots of apps available for the London Underground so it is just a case of finding which platform is best for you. I would recommend not paying for these apps though, its a bit unnecessary.

Know Your Peak Times

Not only is the tube ridiculously busy between 8:00-9:30am, if you buy an off-peak travel card or use an oyster card after 9:30am, the fares are significantly lower! So have the lie in and enjoy your breakfast. There is an afternoon peak time between 4:30-6:30pm but this does not have any effect on tube fares, it is only the morning peak time. This is only true of the tube. Some mainland train services do have afternoon peak times that vary dependant on the provider, so if you will be travelling elsewhere, it is worth checking.

Check Your Changes

It is essential to know where you will be changing different tube lines, as there are very busy interchanges and if you are able to utilise your travel plans appropriately, you can either avoid these changes to make your journey a bit easier. For example, Oxford Circus is a hellish change, especially around Christmas with the number of shoppers to the area, I would instead take an extra 5 minutes changing my routes that facing that! With the amount of development on the underground and upgrades, some stations are closed to certain lines at certain times. So always check before you travel!

Walk!

TFL website has a very cool map with the walking distances between stations. For example, if you want to get from Charing Cross to Embankment, you can either get the Bakerloo line, or it is a 2-minute walk between the two stations. Leicester Square to Covent Garden is a short 3-4 minute walk or one stop on the Piccadilly line, but Covent Garden has lift service (or like 500 stairs) and gets shut because of overcrowding. Heron Quays DLR station is much closer to the Canary Wharf underground station than the Canary Wharf DLR station. Sometimes it is much easier to walk between stations, so have a look at those maps as well!

Know Your Limits

The London Underground is a complex network of tunnels, deeper and deeper beneath London. For those who have mobility issues, check out the TFL website for maps with step-free access, avoiding stairs and avoiding tunnels (FYI central line has some very narrow tunnels walking down to the platform!). I do get quite claustrophobic, especially if it is quite warm weather as well so I would tend to walk than get the tube or make sure that I always have water when I travel, and if it is a bit too much, get off and take a breath!

Etiquette 

Nothing spots a non-local like how they manage the tube! Honestly, I have so many pet peeves and would really recommend following these tips!

  • Stand on the right and walk on the left on an escalator. This is actually from when the elevators used to curve meaning the people of the left would need to step to get off (fun trivia fact!). If you stand on the right, it allows people to move quickly down on the left and avoids the awkward tutting of commuters!
  • When you get off the escalator, don’t stop! There is a conveyer belt of people heading towards you, and they have nowhere else to go if you stop dead at the bottom, they will fall into you. If you are lost or confused about where you need to go, move forward and to the side, to let people run past you.
  • Let people get off the tube first! I get it, the tube is busy, you want to get on and preferably in the seat that I have just vacated, but I need to get off. If you let everyone off first, there is more space for then everyone to board.
  • Don’t hold the doors. The next tube will generally be along in a minute or two. Keeping the doors open causes delays to the overall service and Londoners don’t like delays.
  • Move down inside the carriage. Please. There is lots of space in most cases, but people just hang around the doors (normally as kids swing around the central pole!) but if you just move down it means more people can get on.
  • Be realistic in your expectations. It might seem cliched or stereotypical, but Londoners avoid eye contact on the tube. They are too engrossed in the phone/book/kindle/iPad/paper to notice what is going on around them, and generally have headphones in as well to dampened their senses of the commute. They might not see that you require a seat or quite what is going on. Don’t be too hard on them though, if you need a chair, politely ask those seated in the priority seats and someone will generally move for you. If you need a seat just before you a tired though, probably not going to work out very well. Those who are pregnant, elderly, with small children or with a disability will mostly be accommodated.

The underground is a great way to travel around London, just make sure you are prepared to make the most of your journey

It’s barely changed since the faceless colour committee originally selected it in 1908 when the first map of the Underground was designed and the Bakerloo conclusively became brown, a very early twentieth-century brown, which brings something of the nineteenth century with it – the colour of Sherlock Holmes’s pipe, a Gladstone bag, a grandfather clock.

Travelling Anxiety

Everyone gets that worry when at the airport or when travelling, that nagging anxious feeling. I always think about the film ‘Home Alone’ when Kevin’s mum is on the plane and convinced that she has forgotten something, a bit extreme as she has forgotten her youngest son. But what if you have anxiety in your day to day life? Almost 3 million people in the UK have an anxiety disorder, including (but not limited to) post traumatic, obsessive compulsive, social and generalised anxiety.

Travel anxiety is a complex condition, related to a fear or worry related to travel. This may prevent people from travelling and making excuses for booking trips. Fear of flying can really hinder people’s travel, and I even know someone with a fear of airports. Home comforts and the stability of routine can prevent people from travelling, especially for those with generalised anxiety. People with anxiety tend to think ‘worst case scenarios’ and may limit there travel to avoid perceived threats such as kidnappings, muggings and illnesses.

Avoiding travel and reinforcing travel anxiety is not a solution. The act of avoiding fearful has the ability to increase the fear when you finally experience it. Try to travel, but take baby steps. Maybe a weekend trip in your home country, before travelling overseas to a similar or familiar country (maybe you like that type of food or they speak the same language). By building on positive experiences will ease your anxiety.

One of the potential symptoms of anxiety is a sense of dissociation. This can be from yourself (kind of like you are watching yourself from a different perspective – like watching yourself in a play) or from the world around you (like the world isn’t real). As these symptoms aren’t quite related to worry or fears they can be quite hard to manage. I personally think that travelling is a good way to immerse yourself in a culture or place and find a good grounding. If you document your trip as well through journaling or photography, it can help with this sense of self.

For a lot of people with anxiety, there is a want to try new things, but a fear or worry about doing so. I think that travel is an amazing experience and allows for an understanding of new cultures and an increased compassion and empathy. It can be a big step though. Planning and organising, getting on a plane, surrendering control by going somewhere unknown. Remembering why travel is important or why you want to go can be really helpful. Positive images of you in your destination can help calm down the worrying thoughts.

Travel with someone you trust and knows about your condition. I panic about panicking! So I know that if I am going somewhere that might be claustrophobic (which is one of my phobias) that I am with someone I trust, who will take my seriously and be able to calm me down. When I was in New Zealand we went into some caves near Waitomo. It was so quiet in the caves as there were no echoes and there were also some pretty big Weta (which as like spiders, another phobia), if I wasn’t with someone I trusted, I knew I would have had a massive panic attack. My husband didn’t patronise me, didn’t ask me how I was every step, but held my hand to reassure me that he was there. (I also had my hood up to prevent a Weta from falling down my shirt as he couldn’t protect me from that!)

Build up your support network. Have someone you can contact at home if you need to talk about your worries. Check out online forums or webpages for tips and tricks when you are away from home. Practice mindfulness. Start using these platforms well in advance of travelling, so that you are familiar with them and feel that you can go there for help when you need it.

Try to figure out what are your fears and worries. If you start writing down what concerns you, you can try to rationalise your fears or you can start with things that don’t worry you. For example, if you are afraid of flying, why not try a bus or train trip first, or go short haul with a 1 hour flight somewhere (I appreciate that being in the UK this is a realistic option, compared to when I was living in New Zealand and everything is miles away!)

Understand your triggers and manage the situations. Some people feel more anxious if they have alcohol or caffeine, which are easy to avoid. Some people are triggered by specific social situations, or smells and noises (for those with post traumatic stress). Obviously with travelling you are unable to control the whole situation, but for example if you have issues with large noisy crowds, maybe don’t go to a outdoor concert on your first trip. When understanding triggers it is possible to work towards that end goal of that concert, but doing smaller achievements first.

Be prepared! I know this sounds like the Boy Scouts, but if you plan for being away, someone to check the house, make sure the post gets picked up and all your necessary documents in one place, it will help take the stress out of actually going away. Plan an itinerary so there will be no surprises. I always take a little first aid kit with me with painkillers, antiseptic cream, plasters, diarrhoea relief tablets and bite cream, just in case I can’t get to the pharmacy.

If your travel is causing more anxiety, take a little break for yourself. Whether it is just relaxing somewhere comfortable rather than going on an excursion, or booking yourself in for a massage or do something that makes you feel comfortable. I will sometimes listen to music and try to sleep to relax or practice mindfulness to calm down the thoughts.

Celebrate your achievements! We focus so much on the negative worries and fears that we forget to celebrate what we have achieved. This is something that can be done in a travel journal, listing things that you have done that you are proud of. Whether this is trying a new food, going somewhere off itinerary, getting through a day without a panic attack. This is a really individual task as everyone’s conditions are so individual and can really help in positive reaffirmations of travel.

Don’t compare your experiences to others. With the world of social media (looking at you Instagram!) it is so easy to be jealous of others amazing trips. What makes your travel experience unique is you! The reason most people travel isn’t to get a ‘cookie cutter’ experience but to get something that is personal and resonants with us. By comparing to others, a sense of failure or inadequacy can take hold, undoing the positive affirmations that you have worked on.

Remember that if things get that bad, you can always go home. When I left London at 18 for New Zealand, I knew that I could always come back home if I couldn’t cope (although this was pre-diagnosis with GAD). On balance, the worry of missing out on an amazing life opportunity was enough to make me go, but was always reassuring that I could come home if it didn’t work out. There were many days that I wanted to come home with homesickness, but I persevered. This is not to say that persevering is a solution, but it worked for me.

I hope that by writing this post not only does it give anxiety sufferers some ideas and tips of how to manage their anxiety when travelling but also raise some awareness of anxiety. Everyone has some degree of worry and concern, but when it becomes longstanding and irrational and all consuming it can really affect day to day life. It’s a difficult condition to manage or understand, with some people being quite dismissive. It’s a constant learning process and be patience with yourself and others.

Final point…. it’s ok to not be ok!

ANZAC Day

To all those unselfish heroes who have given everything for us – you will never be forgotten

Today (25th April) is observed as ANZAC day in Australia and New Zealand, and is a day to commemorate and remember those serving in Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). Most notably, this day was started to honour who lost their lives at the Battle of Gallipoli during World War I. The day has since expanded to celebrate all those who have served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives.
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours.
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land they have
Become our sons as well.

The Anzacs were courageous during their attempted unseating of the Ottoman Empire during WWI and although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the Australian and New Zealand actions during the campaign left a powerful legacy.

Memorial services at held at dawn, the time when the allied troops arrived at Gallipoli on 25th April. National pride and honour ensure that it is a tradition and day of remembrance for all, regardless on their political or personal opinions about conflict. Wreaths are laid all around the world.

The Humble ANZAC Biscuit

During World War One, the friends and families of soldiers and community groups sent food to the fighting men. Due to the time delays in getting food items to the front lines, they had to send food that would remain edible, without refrigeration, for long periods of time that retained high nutritional value; the Anzac biscuit met this need.

The humble ANZAC biscuit is simple in its making, with flour, oats, sugar, butter as its main ingredients. The mothers, wives and lovers of the brave ANZAC would either send these to the front line, or sell them at galas and events to support their overseas troops. The first recipe for an ANZAC biscuit was published in 1921, although the recipe was most probably used before then.

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I attempted to make ANZAC biscuits today in honour of ANZAC day. The recipe is really simple to follow, just allow that the biscuits will spread when they are baked, but they are meant to look rustic and homemade! Plus they taste great and are for a celebratory day!

London Marathon

Electricity sparks in the air, the gentle excited laughter and soft pounding of trainers of thousands of runners heading to the start. Spectators trying to find a perfect vantage point, ensuring they make the most of the sun shining. Final preparations before the race begins.

“Do, or do not. There is no ‘try'” (Yoda, Star Wars)

The London Marathon was first established as an annual race since 1981. The question was to whether London would be able to host such a spirited and community festival. Looking back with the success of the race, it is amazing to think that this was even considered. Before this time there was the London Polytechnic Marathon but this was overtaken by the London Marathon in terms of its popularity.

What makes the London Marathon so magical is the runners. There are a number of elite races, with women and para-athletes competing as part of their championships and World Cup tournaments. The mass race is for everyone, and there are incredible stories for why people run that makes London so special.

None more so than the first Spirit of London award, which started last year. On the home stretch one runner was clearly delirious from the heat and exhaustion of the race and another runner, a complete stranger, came to his aid and helped him towards the finish line. This sportsmanship was seen across the world and really does show the true London spirit.

Over 700,000 runners take part in the Marathon and places are hard to come by. The vast majority of runners are taking part to raise money of numerous causes and charities. Whether these are national or international charities or community based ones, there are incredible people tearing up the road for what they believe in. The British public are ridiculously charitable and love an underdog, getting behind every single runner. Spectators will hand out jelly beans for sugar rush and water, calling out all the names they see on runners bids in encouragement. Is a party atmosphere, music blaring and singing amongst the cheers and applause.

Due to the popularity of the course, there are three different starting points, in and around Greenwich Park, before heading down into Greenwich, over Tower Bridge, towards Canary Wharf and round the Isle of Dogs and back into the City before the final straight on The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace.

26.2 miles of sweat, blood and tears. Months of training, weeks of prepping. A lifetime’s worth of achievement.

Liverpool – Road Trip Playlist

Liverpool has been synonymous with music since the Beatles burst on the scene in 1960s, and of course any road trip requires a banging playlist. Liverpool has been awarded a UNESCO City of Music status in 2015 for its influence on popular music that still resonates today, it seems that the only problem of making a playlist would be what songs not to include.

The Beatles

Liverpool’s famous sons are regarded as one of the most influential musical bands encompassing various styles of music and spreading ‘Beatlemania’ across the world.

Living is easy with your eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see – Strawberry Fields Forever by The Beatles

Not without heartache, drama and conflict, the Beatles still managed to sell more records than any other artist worldwide and really revolutionised the music industry at that time. Many modern date acts still refer to the Beatles as part of their inspiration.

  • The Beatles – All You Need Is Love
  • The Beatles – Let It Be
  • The Beatles – Come Together
  • The Beatles – Yesterday
  • The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby
  • The Beatles – Hey Jude
  • The Beatles – She Loves You
  • The Beatles – Help!
  • The Beatles – Across The Universe
  • The Beatles – Penny Lane

Mersey Beat

Merseybeat is the pop and rock & roll hybrid that developed around Liverpool and the river Mersey during this time, and further on to Manchester. The ‘British Invasion’ to America in 1964 stormed the charts before declining in the late 60s as Blues music became more popular.

So ferry ‘cross the Mersey / And always take me there / the place I love – Ferry Across the Mersey by Gerry and The Pacemakers

These songs have catchy melodies, doo-wop almost Barber Shop choruses and rock and roll drum beats.

  • Gerry and The Pacemakers – I Like It
  • The Searchers – Needles and Pins
  • Cilla Black – Anyone Who Had A Heart
  • The Swinging Blue Jeans – Good Golly Miss Molly
  • The Merseybeats – I Think Of You
  • The Mindbenders – Groovy Kind of Love
  • Billy J. Kramer – Bad to Me

New Wave

The punk rock of the mid-70s, constructed a new genre of music in the late 70s to early 80s in New Wave. New Wave which although similar to punk rock distinctive with its disco, mod and electro influences. Liverpool were once again home to a new of artists from this movement, most notably Echo and the Bunnymen and Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

The power of love / A force from above / Cleaning my soul – The Power of Love by Frankie Goes To Hollywood

  • A Flock of Seagulls – I Ran
  • Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Relax
  • Echo and the Bunnymen – The Killing Moon
  • The Teardrop Explodes – Reward
  • Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Two Tribes
  • Dead or Alive – You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)
  • Echo and the Bunnymen – The Cutter

Britpop

The back bone of the ‘Cool Britannia’ movement in the 1990’s, emphasising ‘Britishness’ and alternative rock sounds. While neighbouring Manchester may have been the home of big bands like Oasis, Liverpool was still home to Cast, Space, Boo Radleys, The La’s, The Farm and the Lightning Seeds.

Maybe you’re the same as me / we see things they’ll never see / see you and I were gonna live forever – Live Forever by Oasis

From the success of the ‘Manchester’ music movement in the late 80s by Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses, Britpop blossomed during the early and mid 90s, before The Spice Girls in 1996 started their own music frenzy.

  • The La’s – There She Goes
  • The Boo Radleys – Wake Up Boo!
  • The Lightning Seeds – The Life of Riley
  • Cast – Walkaway
  • The Lightning Seeds – Lucky You
  • Space – Female Of The Species
  • The Farm – All Together Now

The Home of CREAM

In the early 1990s, Liverpool was home to one the most famous nightclubs in the world, CREAM, promoting House music. Many famous DJs have hit the decks at CREAM before its closure in 2002 (although it does still host some events and there are touring CREAM club nights around the UK). During its most popular, more than 3000 people would attend per week, seeing the dance scene as a way of life, not just for entertainment.

Creamfields is still the ultimate electronic extravaganza, with a rich breadth of artists from across the spectrum. From techno to trance and drum & bass to dance

Expanding across international waters, CREAM hosted nights at world-famous clubs in Ibiza and then launching a festival CREAMFields over 15 years worldwide and releasing numerous complication albums. Not bad for the two lads who founded it as a place to party with friends.

  • The Chemical Brothers – Hey Boy, Hey Girl
  • Robin S – Show Me Love
  • Paul van Dyk – For An Angel
  • Tiesto – Adagio For Strings
  • Sash! – Encore Une Fois
  • Faithless – Insomnia
  • York – On The Beach

Indie Pop and Post Britpop

Following the decline of Britpop in the mid 1990s, a number of indie or alternative bands emerged in the early 00s, gained more commercial success, as music tastes and interests changed, with more albums being purchased and increased interest in live music.

I’ve just had the craziest week / Like a party bag of lies, booze and then deceit – Moving To New York by The Wombats

Liverpool is the home to The Coral, The Zutons and the Wombats, with catchy choruses and mainstream radio airtime. Miles Kane (also half to The Shadow Puppets) and Kele Okereke of Bloc Party has had both individual and group success.

  • Miles Kane – Come Closer
  • The Wombats – Let’s Dance To Joy Division
  • The Coral – In The Morning
  • The Zutons  – Valerie
  • Bloc Party – Banquet
  • The Coral – Dreaming of You
  • The Last Shadows Puppets – The Age of The Understatement

Liverpool is renowned for its musical influence with its growth and evolution over the years this city which lives and breathes music. Liverpool has left its mark on the music world and I am sure that it will continue to for years to come.

Travelling Is A Privilege

Travelling can have an immense positive impact on a person’s life. It broadens the mind, changes outlooks and perspectives on life. The potential exposure to new ideas, customs and beliefs can all lead to a personal growth.

Travel changed my life. From living and studying overseas at the age of 18, to marrying my husband in our favourite holiday destination. It has taught me about the world, the people in it, and myself. It has shown me that there is an amazing enomorous world out there and that I am capable of surviving in it.

Travelling has made me more aware of cultural sensitive topics and more tolerant and accepting of others. I appreciate different languages more. I am more open to the challenges of people in their home country. I appreciate the humbleness and authenticity of real people.

By making sense of behaviours and customs that I didn’t understand, I have received an education outside the classroom. I think this is why I have such an issue with parents not being able to take their kids out of school for the last day of term for holidays. I understand during term and exam time, but for a child in primary school on the last day when they will be watching videos or playing games?

I truly feel privileged enough to have had the opportunity and means to be able to travel. The harsh truth is that travel is simply not a commodity for all. There are a number of reasons why travel may not be feasible for all.

Family reasons and obligations can take precedence, especially in the event that the would-be traveller is a full time carer for someone. Some people are managing several jobs just to pay the bills, and as much as they want to jack it all in for a round the world adventure, it’s just not possible. Willpower and want to travel do not make it easy to disregard responsibilities, no matter how positive the mindset.

The country you are born in, or hold a passport for, can limit where you can travel to. With the number of restrictions to travel to USA increasing, it can limit the travelling opportunities. This is also the case for people with previous criminal convictions, with Australia, New Zealand and USA limiting travel. For countries where the currency is strong, some destinations can be really cheap (when I lived in New Zealand it was $3 to £1) but for non-first world countries, international travel is a real luxury because of the costs.

Money. This is the kicker. Who can quit their job and travel for a year when you are saving for a house or have a mortgage to pay (in London!). Yes, travel is great way to treat yourself and there are budgeting tips and hacks, but there are always going to be costs. Student debts and loans and lowing paying jobs just don’t add up. The need for financial stability upon your return home can make it difficult to leave in the first place.

Disabilities and chronic conditions can limit the ability to travel. Some places are not wheelchair friendly or suitable for those with reduced mobility. Some patients that I work with struggle to get travel insurance for their conditions. The idea of planning a trip in itself can be stressful for some with metal health conditions. Some people with severe allergies will not get dietary requirements they need in certain locations.

As much as travel can make people more tolerant, there is still discrimination. Whether this is discrimination based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, there are some places that it is inadvisable to visit. I am white, and I acknowledge that my white British privilege allows me quickly through customs with a thought as to whether I may be a violent criminal or terrorist (FYI, I am neither of these). Staying safe while travelling is so important and discrimination (or perceived discrimination) can limit travel opportunities.

I am grateful that I can fill up our passports with stamps and we need to stop shaming those who don’t travel. Different levels of privilege enable us to see the world and we need to stop rubbing it in the face of others. Travel isn’t something that they should just “set their mind” and it needs to be a realistic option for those that want it.

Healing Waters – Budapest’s Thermal Baths

Budapest sits on a complex network of almost 125 thermal springs, and this thermal-water reserve is one of the largest in the world, especially for a capital city. Budapest is therefore rich in world-class healing baths and ‘taking the waters’ has been a part of everyday life.

There can be few places in the world where water is as lavishly celebrated.

The healing powers of the hot springs were first discovered in 100 AD, when Romans settled at Aquincum, which is now part of Budapest. Then it was the Turks, who occupied Hungary during the 16th century, who built the baths and developed the spa culture. The water contains calcium, magnesium, hydrocarbonate, alkalis, chloride, sulfate and fluoride. Some of the health problems a thermal bath can provide relief for a number of degenerative diseases of the joints, circulatory problems, post-traumatic treatments and respiratory issues.

There are a 11 public baths to visit in Budapest, depending on what your preferences are. The layout of most of Budapest’s baths is similar: a series of indoor thermal pools, where temperatures range from warm to hot, with steam rooms, saunas, ice-cold plunge pool and rooms for massage. Some have outdoor pools with fountains, sprays and whirlpools. Being thermal, some are open year-round. Opening times and who is welcome when depend on the day of the week and the time, with many baths now opening late at night during the weekend.

Some of the baths have male and female only days, but these are in the minority, so a bathing suit is highly recommended. Walking around the baths can be cold and slippery, including outside, it is an idea to consider taking along a pair of plastic sandals or flip-flops. Some of the pools in the baths require a swimming cap to go in, but again this is not for all of them. Towels are not provided but can be hired for a fee, although the absorbance of these towels are questionable! It is probably a good idea to bring your own. All baths and pools have cabins and/or lockers.  A locker is somewhere safe to lock away your possessions and a cabin is a lockable changing room. In most of the baths nowadays you are given an electronic bracelet which directs you to and then opens the locker or cabin door rather than a key, which is handy to prevent losing it.

Four of the most commonly known baths are the Széchenyi Baths, St. Gellért Thermal Baths, St. Lukács Thermal Baths and the Rudas Thermal Baths.

The Szechenyi Baths were the first thermal baths in the city of Pest, when it was built in a neo-Baroque and neo-renaissance style before 1913. The baths became so popular that they were expanded and now boasts 2 large outdoor pools and 15 indoor pools.

The Art Nouveau Gellért Baths, now open to both men and women at all times, have the most beautiful indoor swimming pools in the city and small thermal pools at different temperatures containing water from Gellért hill’s mineral hot springs. Gellert Spa is famous for its lovely warm spring water pools, its architecture and its landscape.

St Lukacs Baths is more modest that the two previous mentioned baths, but has its own strengths and specialties, like the many Gratitute Tablets or stone plaques on its walls saying thank you for the healing power of the geothermal waters, or the Himalayan Salt Room for curing respiratory problems, or the Weight Bath used for stretching the back, treating spinal injuries.

The Rudas Baths were established during the time of the Turkish occupation of Hungary and is where history meets modern design and innovation. While its main thermal pool and octagonal room dates back to 1550, on the roof is a modern bath overlooking the Danube River. To complement its historical background, the Rudas Baths holds onto the traditions of separate male and female days at the main thermal pool on the weekdays, and only allows coed bathing on the weekends. From 1936 to 2005, only men were to use the bath, and women have only been allowed in since 2005 when the reconstruction work was completed.

Visiting the Thermal Baths in Budapest is a must. Budapest is not called the ‘City of Spas’ for nothing.

 

Budget Flying

For those whose wanderlust doesn’t quite match their income, flying to destinations with budget airlines can be a compromise to get to those destinations. Although the fares may be cheaper, there are some other ‘prices to pay’ and here are some tips to make your experience a bit more pleasurable.

Hand luggage can quickly add pounds to your booking. Depending on where you are travelling to and for how long, hand luggage only can be a sensible option. Do I really need 21 bikinis for three days? Some airlines will only permit one piece of hand luggage, so you cannot even take a small bag in addition. Some others will permit a small bag. Always check on the airlines website before you travel as there are always rumours and changes to these policies.

I have a small travel pouch or purse that contains all the things I need for my flight. This would be money, passport, iPad/Kindle, headphones and ear plugs as a minimum and any additional travel documents that may be required, such as landing cards or visas.  I am a pretty antisocial flyer and would much rather switch off in my own little bubble than spend the flight chatting with my travel companions, hence the entertainment and earplugs! I would take an eye-mask for a night flight as well.

When taking hand luggage only, if you take a trolley case (you know the little ones with wheels) be prepared that they may request or require you to put this in the hold due to lack of available space in the overhead cabins. Always come prepared with a padlock in the event that the case does make it to the hold, and don’t forget to take what you need out for the flight out before you hand it over. If you take a rucksack or backpack, you are far less likely to be requested to put your bag in the hold, as it is much softer and prone to damage in the hold. In my experience I have yet been asked to put my backpack in the hold, but it is not a guarantee.

When travelling I will always take a water bottle, preferably a non-plastic one. I take a flask type bottle with me, it can be emptied before customs, so it can pass through no problems and it can be refilled at any free water fountains air side, or on the airplane. Staying hydrated during flying is crucial to help with jet lag and just feeling more alert and awake after all the recycled air. My bottle keeps water cold for up to 12 hours and can be refilled during your visit without any additional plastic waste (yay environment!). A lot of European cities have public drinking fountains to utilise.

Most budget airlines now allocate seats (thankfully!) so you can avoid the crush at the gate (well apart from rush to get your bag in the overhead locker above your seat). Some airlines will try to put all the seats on your booking together where possible, others will purposefully allocate your seats apart to entice customers to pay for seats together. As a pretty antisocial flyer I am happy to sit anywhere, but my sister is not a great flyer, so I will always make sure that we are sitting together. It is down to preference and duration of flight. My husband is quite a big lad (rugby player build) and if we are flying for longer than 2-3 hours I will book seats with extra legroom so that he is not too cramped in.

Although not limited to budget airlines, I am always cold, and I will get cold on a plane. I will take a scarf/wrap/shawl just in case and if I am not wearing proper shoes (like boots or trainers and wearing flip flops or sandals) I will take socks for my feet getting cold.

Cheap flights are still a great way to travel, and they may have their quirks and drawbacks, any which way that I can travel more is a bonus!

Ruins to Rebirth – Budapest’s Ruin Pubs

In the quiet heart of the old Jewish Quarter of Budapest, there is an unexpected emerging bar scene. From the abandoned homes and businesses, has grown an eclectic nightlife.

The Jewish Quarter is the smallest in Budapest, yet it currently has the highest population density. The Jewish district is full with the historical remains of the Jewish community that once thrived there. There are three synagogues in the area, with the Dohány Synagogue being the largest and, indeed, the second largest in the entire world. Sadly, the tragic effects of the Holocaust ravaged the area and stripped it of its population and identity.

Luckily, the Jewish culture is not only something of the past. The district is experiencing an amazing revival of Jewish culture, embodied by a wave of new and renovated Kosher restaurants and eateries popping up, helping to revive cultural traditions.

Szimpla Kert has the proud title of being the first romkocsma (ruin bar in Hungarian). First established in 2002 and then at its current location in 2004, as the owners tried to save the current building from demolition. Szimpla laid down the definition of a ‘ruin bar’. An cult icon. This ambitious mission to preserve the Jewish Quarter without its dark history of being a Jewish Ghetto during World War II, lies at the soul of the ruin bar.

Since then the ruin bars have become a bohemian mecca, with affordable drinks attracting a young and creative crowd. With art and graffiti by local up and coming artists adorning the walls and formulating a culturally creative haven. While ruin bars started as a grungy and gritty utilisation of derelict places, some places have now become elegant, with ‘shabby chic’ rather than just ‘shabby’.  Some bars only appear for a summer, some hold farmers or flea markets on Sundays, some hold indoor cinema screenings. Hidden rooms, underground electro or heavy rock, multiple dance floors.

Another benefit of the abundance of abandoned buildings that existed in the neighbourhood was that it gave local mural artists plenty of places to show off their street art. What started as ad hoc expressions, have blossomed into a rotating array of murals.

Indoor courtyards, mismatch flea market-esq furniture, graffiti, art and a disused car make the ambience of the bar. The venue is packed with tourists. Although, now probably more of a tourist attraction than a local bar, the wondrous mix of nationalities still results in a buzzing nightlife, and is an assault on the senses worth experiencing. This combination of new and old, history and art leads to an electric atmosphere – day and night – as the streets fill with a mix of happy locals and curious tourists. A delightful contradiction.

Brainstorming Budapest

Before travelling, it is always recommended to do your research so that you are prepared for your destination. Whether that is confirming which country you are going to, the currency they use or the language. For this trip, this is unfortunately things that have required investigation before we travel today!

When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable

Budapest is voted as one of the world’s most beautiful cities worldwide. From a quick google search, it is easy to see why. The architecture, spanning neoclassical to art nouveau, Castles and Parliament buildings, with the naturally hilly Buda and the flat Pest districts, dissected by the River Danube.

Budapest has a number of hot springs, with indoor and outdoor baths to cure all sorts of ailments. With a network of 125 springs, there is ample to choose from. Although none of the baths date to Roman times, there is some Turkish influence Veli Bej Baths. It is recommended to bring a costume, towel and flip flops as a minimum!

Jewish Quarter is a close network of streets and alleys that have housed Jews since 300AD. Tragically 19% of all Jews killed during the Holocaust were Hungarian. This vibrant district shines with the life and passion of the second biggest population of Jews in Eastern Europe, with reminders of the dark days of World War II. The regeneration in the area has resulted in the ruin pubs attracting European hipsters, with pop up street food and street art. This contradiction is what locals love and shows how far Budapest has come in the last 100 years.

Goulash and Paprika are the two traditional Hungarian foods that I have heard of. My next-door neighbours are Hungarian, and they are always cooking out in the garden during the summer months, in (what looks like) a cauldron. The smell is amazing, so I know there is more to Hungarian cuisine!

Forints is the main currency of Hungary, were £1 equals 350Ft. I heard that the Budapest is quite a reasonably priced capital city (compared to make London or Paris for example). A lot of places will also accept Euro.

The metro system in Budapest is one of the oldest electric underground railway systems in the world. Originally constructed in 1894 as a system to connect the main city to the city park. The only older metro systems are part of the London Underground and Liverpool Overhead railway (the latter no longer exists).

Be A Traveller, Not A Tourist

Tourist and Traveller seem closely linked and almost interchangeable terms to describe someone who travels… however the word tourist can be uttered with such distain and to an extent quite derogatory, especially around the West End of London.

So what is the difference? There are some inherent characteristics that separate travellers and tourists.

Generally tourists stick out more than travellers. Whether this is because they are in massive groups, waving selfie sticks or throwing up ‘peace signs’ in front of the famous landmark. This is all very cliched behaviour that I am sure the vast majority of tourists don’t do these things, but as a Londoner, I am constantly dodging selfie-sticks on Tower Bridge and along the South Bank. A traveller is more likely to blend into the local crowd. Although each person has their own preference, it is important that if you are travelling in a large group or you appear as a stereotypical tourist, that you remain safe and protect your belongings when you are out, as you don’t want to attract the wrong sort of attention.

Travellers are foodies, they will try the National cuisine to intergrate with the local culture. However wondrous this may taste or be to experience, it can come at a cost. Delicate stomachs not used to local produce can result in days in bed. Tourists are more likely to stick to what they know, with recognisable fast food chains, without worrying about being unwell.

Tourists are likely to sightsee, taking in all the landmarks and culture, but without any human interaction. Travellers will talk with locals and find the hidden stories in their destination. This is something that I personally still struggle with as quite an introvert and shy person, but I know that by stepping out of my comfort zone will reap the rewards or a unique ‘not out of a guidebook’ experience.

Travellers are more likely to give the native language an attempt, however embarrassingly bad this is, whereas a tourist will stick to their native tongue. Whether it is ‘please’ ‘thank you’ or ‘hello’. I always find ‘cheers’ a good phrase to learn! The human interaction with attempting the language will give you a more personal experience.

Tourists are more likely to put their trust in guidebooks, maps and fully booked itineraries, whereas travellers will trust their instincts and dream of ‘getting lost’ in a place. Where this has its positives of possibily seeing and experiencing something off the beaten track, it is worth noting that something’s get booked up in advance and it is advantageous to prebook. For example, The Last Supper in Milan, Anne Frank’s House in Amsterdam and certain art exhibits in major cities. It is also important to remain street smart when ‘getting lost’ in a place. There are certain places in London that I would not want to end up stuck in. It’s all about finding that balance to give you that individual adventure.

Travellers are more likely to have an more authentic experience and sense of culture from where they visit, just because of the behaviours they have when they are there. Do your research before you go. Learn some of the language. Eat the local food. Be humble and patient. Follow your instincts. Stay safe.

Travellers will generally be offended if you call them a tourist, but one is not better than the other, and if we all get out there and see a bit more of the world, you can call me what you like.

Britain’s Forgotten Mother Tongues

International Mother Language Day is recognised by UNESCO on the 21st February each year, celebrating linguistic diversity and promoting multilingual education. There are an astounding 2464 languages listed as vulnerable, and at potential risk of vanishing, from almost 6000 languages worldwide. Almost 10% of these languages are critically endangered. It is possible that almost 600 languages may become extinct in a single generation.

In the UK, there are 11 languages that are listed as vulnerable, and UNESCO registered 2 of these languages as extinct previously, but a resurgence and revitalisation has forced UNESCO to reconsider this classification.

Manx or Manx Gaelic is the native Gaelic derived language of the Isle of Man. This small British dependency is nestled between England and Ireland and has a modern day population of almost 85000 people. The last native speaker of Manx died in 1974 with a risk that the language might become lost.

Manx has similarities to Irish and Scottish Gaelic, as all are descendants from Primitive Irish. The language was first recorded in 4th century AD and during the Middle Ages, the English language started to become more popular and the percentage of native speakers began to decline. By the start of the 20th century, with less than 10% of the population claiming to be native speakers, The Manx Language Society was formed. Native Manx speakers would speak and educate younger members of the community. UNESCO registered the language as extinct in 2009, despite nearly 2% of the population having some degree of Manx language abilities.

“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere; learning Manx isn’t just about language it’s about history, learning about the places we live, understanding why things are done the way they are and most importantly a pride and identity of being part of the Isle of Man.

A stronger sense of culture and identity has since emerged from the Isle of Man, where Manx is now taught in schools, the government supports and encourages the public use of Manx and bilingual signage across the Island. Luckily the Manx language was well documented and audio recorded for future generations. Even the Bible translated into Manx during the 18th century. The Isle of Man is looking forward to celebrating its Manx revival in 2021 with Year of the Language.

‘The Manx language is indigenous to the Isle of Man and its very structure holds the story of our Island. Although it is small in terms of numbers of speakers, its impact on worldwide efforts to protect and promote the language is huge.’

The key elements that are being targeted by the Manx government is to provide and collate adequate resources, promote the language as part of the Manx identity, culture and history and promoting the use of the language in the home and for life.

Cornish is a Celtic derived language native to the county of Cornwall in South West England. Its origins are closely linked to Breton (Brittany) and Welsh languages and it is believed that when the Anglo-Saxon invasion resulted in the Celtic population being pushed out to Wales and English peninsula.

Cornish has been in use since the 9th century AD, which is the earliest documentation. The language started to flourish during the 13th to 17th century, but then the number of speakers declining. This age of Cornish resulted in many documents and texts being recorded, but without a Cornish alphabet or religious text the language started to decline westward, with speakers becoming fewer closer to mainland England.

The last native speaker of Cornish died in either 1777 or 1914. and is however this is disputed

‘There has never been a time when there has been no person in Cornwall without a knowledge of the Cornish language.’

The Cornish revival started at the beginning of the 20th century, with ‘The Handbook to Cornish Language’ being published. Without a standardised structure and the uptake of the language being passed through generations verbally, the focus of the revival was to provide resources for educational material. With dictionaries and formation of language boards and societies, and the sense of distinct cultural identity that reflects its unique history, Cornish is a revived language. The number of speakers that is slowly increasing, and is becoming more visible in Cornwall as local government and business are encouraged to make use of the language as part of revitalisation efforts

Guernsey French (Guernésiais) and Jersey French (Jèrriais) are the other two languages from the UK which are severely endangered. Guernésiais is a mixture French, English and Norse. Less than 3% of the population of Guernsey fluently speak or understand Guernésiais, but the majority of these people are over the age of 64. Jèrriais is closely linked to Norman and French with some similarities to Guernésiais, with 3% of the population speaking fluently in social interactions but again the majority of these speakers are elderly.

Both Manx and Cornish have been successfully recovered and encouraged through an appreciation of cultural pride and ethnic identity. With community support and government backing, the other UK vulnerable languages can be reclaimed and saved for future generations.

Weather Challenges

It seems like all us Brits do, is talk about the weather, but it is an element that all photographers have to account for when using their equipment outside. Sometimes it is expected (like rain in London) but other times it can take you completely by surprise. We will discuss some aspects of the weather that can be utilised to change your image or making the most of your image when the weather isn’t behaving!

Rain

Typically we get a lot of rain in London/UK so I am constantly having to consider the effect of moving water (active rain) and still water (the puddles left behind) on subject matter.

Focus on water droplets – get up close to water droplets either on or through windows, or in nature, with droplets lingering in flowers and leaves

Check out your reflection – with a wide enough lens, you may be able to capture both your subject and their/its reflection in puddles, or do you even need to see your subject, is the reflection sufficient?

Contrast and Texture – a cobbled street, licked with rain water adds an unusual shiny element, look at how water changes the texture of your scene

Atmosphere – when shooting in the rain, the light is generally a lot less, this can add an atmospheric element with increasing your ISO to capture your subject, making the image a bit grainer and possible gritty. This completely depends on your subject (probably not best for portraits)

Fog/Mist

One of the best weather conditions for mood, whether its creepy or romantic. As the light is limited and quite diffuse, you will need to use longer exposure times, so a tripod is pretty handy.

Depth – it’s often helpful to have at least some of your subject close to the camera, as further away from the camera the image loses contrast and can become lost

Scatter the Light – Fog and mist is often heavy with water droplets and can cause a scattering of light that would not otherwise be possible. This can be in a gorgeous soft focus, or can be in beams or rays of light

Silhouettes – fog and mist can emphasise the shape of subjects because it downplays their internal texture and contrast. Often, the subject can even be reduced to nothing more than a simple silhouette

Black and White – as colours can sometimes be lost with fog, as well as texture and contrast, it can be beneficial to consider your composition as if you are shooting in monochrome

Frost/Snow

Frost transforms things into artwork. On leaves, subtle edge and vein patterns stand out boldly as intriguing designs and formations on windows can be fascinating.

Ice, Ice Baby the ones that form on plants at night provide attractive details that are perfect for a macro lens

Contrast – frost can create contrast and texture in landscape scenes that may be lacking in light

White Out! –  Under fresh snow the camera will try to under-expose the shot, making it look an unattractive grey. Keep an eye on your white balance to make the snow as white as you can see it

Don’t forget that weather is light, one of the most energetic and dynamic subject matters out there. Step out of your comfort zone and even when the weather looks a bit grim, still get out there! Stay safe out there though

Happy Snappy, CJeffers x

Skydiving Over Cape Town

The shutter door rolls up on the right handside of the small aircraft, hovering 9000ft above Cape Town, revealing an expanse of baby blue sky with a spattering of fluffy white clouds. The cold air sweeps in, causing goosebumps. Knees weak, palms sweaty. The tandem jumper issues his last instructions ‘Bend your knees under the plane, lend back and roll out‘.

A short drive from Cape Town, is a small airfield home to a well established skydive company. They have been operating out of Cape Town and nearby Stellenbosch. The sun beats down on the runway, as divers are meticulously folding parachutes. The place is deserted from tourists, and the diving instructions jovial at the obvious nervous faces. After a weigh-in, some quick maths to ensure that the parachute can support the combined weight and a short safety briefing, the walk to the plane to take off.

The plane was large enough to fit 6 people, including the tandem masters. A scenic 20 minute journey to 9000ft above sea level, the shutter door opens. Strapped to the tandem master, your final instructions are to tuck your knees under the lip of the plane edge, lean backwards and roll out of the plane from the hips.

Excuse Me While I Kiss The Sky – Jimi Hendrix

Then falling, at 120mph from 9000ft for 30 seconds. The adrenaline coursing though the veins, initial paralysing fear dissolves into awe and amazement. A thrilling rush at free falling. Without warning, the parachute is pulled and the free fall abruptly stops with a giant and not so gentle hoisting sensation. A serene descent, swaying from left to right, taking in the sights of Cape Town and the surrounding areas. The light fluttering as the wind catches in the chute as the temperature gets warmer closer to the ground.

The lightest person is first to jump, with the heaviest being last. The duration of the descent depends on the combined weight. A clumsy landing. Lifting knees up to hip level,  awkwardly landing in the sand, on top of the tandem master and thats it, back on solid ground.

Voted as one of the best backdrops to see at altitude, with Cape Town, Table Mountain and Robben Island, unfurling underneath during a tranquil 5 minute parachute descent. Only if your brave enough for the free fall first.

White Balance

White balance is the white tone of your image which is affected by the light in which you are shooting. The idea is to make the colours as true to life as possible. You know when white turns out a bit orange or blue in your image… that can be solved by white balance. Normally our eyes adjust for white balance naturally, but our cameras aren’t quite that clever (yet!)

Most of us haven’t even looked at the white balance options in our camera and shoot in Auto which will hopefully change the settings as necessary. Sometimes though we need to change things ourself. Here are your options:

Auto – will cover most situations and a safe place to start

Tungsten – the little light bulb represents indoor (tungsten/incandescent) light. This light is generally warmer or more orange. The camera will cool down the colours

Fluorescent – this light general has a harsh cold white tone, and this setting will warm the colours up.

Cloudy – typically in the UK! Under colours, especially white ones, colours can appear cooler, so this setting adds a small amount of warmth to the colours

Flash – when using flash, obviously depending on the colour of your flash, the colours can appear slightly cooler and this setting adds some warmth. However, check this setting with your flash, as if you have a warm light flash this setting may warm the colours too much.

We will discuss both the golden and blue hours in a future post, as that is when you may want to keep the colours slightly skewed towards warm or cool.

Tips

Stay in auto for most of your photography and if the colours become too cool or warm then adjust your white balance settings as necessary

Shoot in Raw as this will keep the raw image and you can manipulate in post processing, even if you have adjusted for white balance during capture

Manipulate white balance creatively! Make a sunset cool colours, mess around. Photography is all about breaking the rules

Happy Snapping, CJeffers x

Lumiere Light Festival London

London hosted the Lumiere Light Festival for the second time this weekend, following a very successful launch in 2016. With over 50 installations around Westminster, King’s Cross, Southbank and the West End I was really looking to visiting again.

Here are some of the highlights from the festival:

The Light of The Spirit [Part 2] by Patrice Warrener at Westminster Abbey

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A colour image is projected onto the front of Westminster Abbey, as it the abbey itself was painted with colour and it changes colour throughout the evening. Walking up from Victoria Street and turning the corner to face this hypnotic and alluring sight.

Child Hood by Collectif Coln at Trafalgar Square

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Trafalgar Square was lit with with numerous luminous balloons that lit up synchronised to music. This tranquil, yet slightly haunting music and the structured light show was wonderfully strange.

Spectral by Katarzyna Malejka and Joachim Stuhocki at St James’s Square

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The geometric sprawling of cord (probably the most accurate description) with UV lights is wrapped around trees in St James’s Square, in a balance between natural and artificial. The colours changed depending on your perspective and vantage point

Harmonic Portal by Chris Plant at St James’s Church, Jermyn Street

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The harmonic portal combined colour and sound, where the sounds are based on colour spectrum, with light changing in and out of the frame. The colour combinations, amplifying the natural texture of the surrounding walls, with the musical harmonies.

The Wave by Vertigo at Riverside Walkway

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40 triangles form this walkway on the Southbank and the lights are interactive, responding to the space around them, and change depending on the sounds and movement around them. So every person who visits the Wave has a truly unique experience.

Compared to the 2016 event, I found the piece a bit too interpretive and modern. Although the festival was good, I did find 2016 a bit better. Whether that was due to the pieces or because it was the first time it was hosted in London.

Happy Snapping, CJeffers x

Old Royal Naval College & Painted Hall, Greenwich

The Old Royal Naval College is the centrepiece of maritime Greenwich, just located on the River Thames towards the east of London. Maritime Greenwich is a listed UNESCO site, including Queens House, Royal Observatory and Greenwich Park (blog post to come!)

What is now the Old Royal Naval College was once originally the site of the Palace of Placentia (Greenwich Palace) but came into disrepair and was demolished before the start of the 18th century. The site then became the Royal Hospital/Greenwich Hospital, where sailors would live once they retired (hospital originating from the word hospitality, meaning a place to stay rather than a place to receive medical care). The plan was for the Royal Hospital to be the naval equivalent of Chelsea Hospital (for soldiers). Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor were the architects for this remodelling. The hospital was closed in 1868.

The buildings became the Royal Naval College in 1873, where it operated as a ‘Naval University’, ceasing activity during World War I, where it became a barracks. Before the start of World War II, women were recruited and trained at the Royal Naval College, but all activities stoped in 1998, with the declining activity of the royal navy armed services. Now a days, some buildings are still used as part of the University of Greenwich, especially for music subjects, when you can hear pianos or singing as you walk through the complex.

The Painted Hall is a surprise in this array of buildings. Originally planned to be the refectory/dining hall it was deemed too grand to be used for daily meals. Painted between 1707-1726 by Sir James Thornhill, this 40000 square feet mural, in a baroque style of work. Thornhill later went on to paint the dome of St Paul’s and the hall of Blenheim Palace. The ceiling painting celebrates William and Mary, part of the legitimisation of their Glorious Revolution as well as the Protestant reigns of the successive monarchs, Queen Anne and George I; all piled up on clouds in a fictive architectural oval with French king’s head at their feet. It is hard to described accurately and is well worth a visit.

Greenwich is a definite must for people visiting London, with a number of different attractions, and the Painted Hall is not well known at all. See London’s equivalent of the Sistine Chapel!

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Happy Travelling, CJeffers x

Chasing the Sun

Photographing in direct sunlight can be quite a challenge but sometimes to get the subject and aesthetic you are after, it cannot be helped. Here are some tips to get the image you want.

With some subjects you’ll be able to move them into the shade. This is particularly relevant with portraits where your subject is highly portable. If your subject is not movable you can try to create your own shade. Use your own shadow, the shadow of someone else or bring an object with you (like an umbrella, a reflector or large sheet of card) to block out the sun.

When moving your subject isn’t possible, don’t forget that you can move (lots of photographers tend to think that there subject has to move, we get too reliant on using zoom). This might be moving to the other side of the object, shooting from directly above or even getting down low and shooting up. Doing so will change the angle of the sun hitting both your subject and the camera and give your image a completely different feel.

Waiting for the sun to come down a little will do wonders for your shots. This is why photographs taken at sunset or sunrise are great, with avoiding the sunlight directly overhead and getting some amazing colours as well.

Sometimes a filter can be handy when shooting in bright sunlight, such as a polarising or neutral density filter. The polarizing filter will help cut down on reflections and both will cut down the light getting into your camera to let you use slower shutter speeds and smaller apertures if you’re looking for more control over these elements of exposure (check out our previous posts on exposure and the exposure triangle).

Metering your shots in direct sunlight can be very difficult. You can meter off the subject to ensure that it is adequately exposed. Take some sample shots and check these to make some adjustments. A good idea when it comes to metering during a midday photo shoot is to use spot metering then choosing the main subject. Or you could try to find a middle point, somewhere that is not too bright and not too dark and use that to meter off. This will ensure that every element of your photograph is bright enough to see.

Photographing your subjects up close under direct sunlight is an invitation for trouble. Shadows would be more pronounced, so as much as possible, go wide when taking photos under the midday sun.

Happy Snapping, CJeffers x

I’ll Meet You in Paris

Paris is just 300 miles away from London, and with fantastic transport links with the Eurostar, EuroTunnel and Channel Crossing Ferry, I have visited the French Capital on a number of occasions. Here are the best things to do and see in Paris

Arc de Triomphe

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The icon Arc de Triomphe is found at the end of the Champes-Elysees and is a monument to the fallen during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. It is found in the centre of a roundabout with 12 avenues radiating from the centre. This means this junction a little bit scary as it is very busy with cars, best to use one of the two underpasses available! Beneath the arch is the tomb of the unknown solider, from World War I that was laid in 1920, with an eternal flame to represent the unknown victims of (now) both World Wars. There is a lift to the top of the arch with stunning panoramic views over Paris.

Notre-Dame de Paris

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The large Catholic Church is actually located on a small island on the River Seine (Ile De La Cite) but its very accessible with nearby Metro station and bridges. This church is a definite must for visitors to Paris, with its large vaulted ceilings and fantastic stained glass windows. Sadly the church has undergone quite an amount of damage, during the French Revolution and the World Wars, but the restoration team have done an amazing job.

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Eiffel Tower

20150422-P1740957Obviously one of the most iconic landmarks in Paris, the Eiffel Tower! The gigantic iron wrought constructed in 1887-89, is as tall as an 81 storey building and has three levels which you can visit. There is a lift between each level (the first level being a bit diagonal, kind of like a cable car). The top level is very narrow and if you are a bit claustrophobic I would maybe not recommend it. The ticket to the top is currently €25 and although a bit touristy, it is something that needs to be done in Paris

The Louvre

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The world’s largest art museum, is located in Paris. With about 380,000 items, including the famous Mona Lisa and Venus di Milo. The large glass pyramid dominates the rectangular courtyard, in a mixture of modern glass (built in 1980s and 90s) with 12th and 13th century architecture.

The museum has allocated entrance times, you can book your tickets in advance with dates and time. I would recommend going early, before it gets too busy and the museum is massive so you could spend all day there. Tickets online are priced at €17.00. Please note that the museum is not open on Tuesdays.

Happy Travelling, CJeffers x

Shark Diving in Gansbaai

The brisk salt air of the South Atlantic Ocean nips as it fills the lungs, in contrast with the gentle swaying of the small diving boat. 20 minutes out at sea from Gansbaai, an 8 man diving cage attached to the side of the vessel, is ominously lowered. ‘Remember, do not put your hands outside of the cage‘ shouts our guide over the sudden flurry of activity of squeezing into wetsuits. Seeing the immense shadow materialise next to the boat, the additional warning was unnecessary.

The small town of Gansbaai in South Africa, 100km south-west of Cape Town, is famed for its Shark Diving Tourism, as the entrance to Shark Alley, a seal colony home to approximately 60000 fur seals, and a relative buffet lunch for Great Whites. A number of tour providers operate out of Gansbaai, with cartoons of sharks devouring body parts with the slogan ‘send more tourists’ underneath. A short introductory video, in a small kitchenette reminds the 22 wide-eye tourists that these animals are wild, and not to be touched. As if we needed reminding!

Filling the top deck of the boat, in luminous orange anoraks to protect from the bracing South Atlantic winds, the boat heads out to sea. The vessel begins to slow as chum was thrown into the water. This concoction of fish, bone and blood created a milky rose trail, and the boat slowly moves further out to sea. Waiting…

The anticipation is palpable, a sense of nervous excitement. With a successful viewing rate with most tour operators of 95%, everyone knows what to expect without knowing what to expect. A shadow, approximately 3-4 meters long emerges next to the boat, and a dorsal fin cuts through the surf like a razor as the shark hovers beneath the surface. The sheer magnitude of the shark does not translate to what is shown on documentaries. The boat is silent in awe of what is being seen.

A huge metallic clunk as an anchor is thrown overboard, and further clanging as the 8 man cage is lowered into the sea. As everyone is changing into their wetsuits, the shark is swimming nearby, politely curious at the activity and interest. One person climbs into the cage and moves along as it fills with 8 people. Submerged in the cold water, the shark swims past, occasionally having a harmless nibble on the cage.

Shark Diving is not without controversy, with many opposition arguments highlighting the dangers of the human activity association with food and baiting, Gansbaai is heavily reliant on this tourism and many conservation projects in place in the local community to ensure long term survival of Great White Sharks, as well as the remainder of the other ‘Big 5’: penguins, whales, dolphins and seals. With some of the highest recorded natural activity in the world, improving our knowledge and education.

Sharks are beautiful animals, and if you’re lucky enough to see lots of them, that means that you’re in a healthy ocean. Just make sure you keep your hands inside the cage.

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Photography Projects & Challenges

As we bring in the new year, a lot of casual photographers make a New Year’s Resolution to get out there and take more photos. Some ways that photographers do this is by selecting a ‘photography project’ to focus and motivate them, while giving them new ideas on subjects and techniques. This can be quite a good idea but with so many out there, it can be quite a challenge to find the one that is the best fit.

Project 365

Project 365 is probably the photography project that you have heard and seen most about, with the hashtag #project365. There is no other prerequisite, just to take a new image everyday. Sounds easy? I tried it a couple of years ago (start of 2016) and man was it tough! I think just to get the content fresh, I work in the same office each day, I take the same train, the same walk etc… (I am a creature of habit!), so trying to stay interesting was a big challenge. It was just too much of a commitment for me. So if you do fancy this challenge, be prepared!

Project 52

This weekly challenge is a bit more user friendly, especially if you are someone like me who can really only get out in the world on the weekend for photography. There are so great ideas out there, including the sub-genres of photography, with a 52 week landscape photography challenge, 52 week walk photography challenge etc… This one is a good challenge to start with, as it is less commitment but still giving you lots of ideas to try

100 Strangers

This challenge is one of the most daunting and difficult for me. My street photography skills are quite basic, as I don’t quite feel comfortable in photographing strangers and do not have the self-confidence to speak to this people. The challenge is exactly what it says, take 100 portraits of 100 strangers. This would push me WELL outside of my comfort zone, filling me with dread and anxiety. So if you are really looking for a challenge, this one is for you! I am hoping to start this soon, as really want to start to on my portraiture. Watch this space!

Typography / A-Z Photo Challenge

The A-Z challenge has no time constraints, but can be quite challenging. The idea is to find the shape of letters in nature, whether it is a letter B in the arches above a window, a letter S in a swing chain, a letter I as a daisy. The possibilities are endless and requires quite a low level of commitment, all the while looking deeper into the daily world around you.

Photo A Day / 30 Day Challenges

You can find many 30 day challenges on Pinterest, where everyday the subject or technique of the image is listed and you are challenged to capture. This can help if you are stuck in a bit of a rut or end up photographing the same thing. If you are dedicated on completing this everyday, it does required quite a bit of dedication, but you can always be a bit flexible if you wish.

Lay Flat Challenge

I am sure that you have seen loads of stunning instagram posts where everything has been laid flat and perfectly positioning. If you are trying to boost your instagram following or for blogging, it can be quite a useful technique to have. Again, 30 straight days can be quite labour intensive but you could amend it for your next 30 instagram posts or next 30 blog posts.

Photography Bucket List

The big one! This is your photography wish list, all those skills you want to master, the scenes you want to capture, the goals you want to achieve. This means writing down your dream list and starting to achieve these. There is no time limit on these, however they can be quite expensive (Photographing the northern lights for example). This is an ongoing project and evolves with you as a photographer and something to work and strive towards.

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Any photography project can be a bit time commitment, chose your project on your terms, set your own expectations, set your own time and don’t be too hard on yourself if your circumstances change. Check out our pinterest board with some ideas and follow the board for more updates

Happy Snapping, CJeffers x

Dare To Be Wise – Study Abroad

I finished my A-Levels in 2004 and the plan was to go to University. I did not want to go to a London based University as I wanted to have the experience of independence and freedom. At 18 years old, I believed that I was fearless and brave and applied to University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. Pretty much the furthest University from London.

I had heard of the University before from some friends from New Zealand and went online to find the course and applied. The application process itself was pretty straightforward. I completed an application form and made the submission (much easier than UCAS!). I was given a provisional place and I needed to make the grades in my A-Levels to confirm my place.

Unluckily for my boyfriend (now my husband), I was not at home to receive my A-Level results. I was actually in Turkey on holiday. So he phoned me to relay my results to confirm whether I had been accepted or not (he told me that he was so nervous giving me those letters over the phone, in case they weren’t enough).

I was accepted (my psychology mark making up for my maths one!) and now I had to start the process of Visa applications. Even though NZ is part of the commonwealth, travellers from the UK still need to apply for a visa to study (the standard tourist visa allows 3 month visit). I went to NZ House in London (next to Trafalgar Square) and applied for my student visa. I need to have all my vaccinations up to date (including Hep-B), a clear chest X-ray within 6 months, funds to pay for my tuition and to pay for myself when there and enough to get home. A student visa has to be renewed each year of study, so I would have to visit the embassy in NZ to confirm that I was still enrolled on the course, I had paid my fees and that I could still afford to live in New Zealand.

I found a flat, I got a part-time job and I lived. I went to rugby games, bar crawls, student events and lectures (although not the 8am Friday Biochemistry lecture!). I learnt more about myself than I thought I could, I learnt that the pangs of homesickness can be all consuming and I learnt all my domestic goddess skills (I never cooked before I left home). I learnt that I am stronger, fiercer and more courageous that I knew. I can overcome almost anything. I was away from home for just short of three years. Although NZ might not be so different from the UK (same language, drive on same side of the road etc…) it was so far away.

‘Dare To Be Wise’ was my Universities’ motto, and to make such a huge commitment I did have to be daring. I knew that I wasn’t going to see my Mum and Dad for years, I knew that I would be changing my life, uncertain if for better or worse, I knew that I was being thrown into the very deep end and I was either going to sink or swim. Although sinking to me didn’t seem like such a loss. I knew that if I didn’t go, I would regret it for my whole life. I knew that if I did go and didn’t like it, I could always come back home. The balance was definitely in favour of me going. I could not have done this without the backing of my family. My mum left Glasgow at 18 to move to London and she knew what opportunities I could experience, having done it herself.

Saying goodbye to my family, not knowing when I would see them next was heartbreaking. Unfortunately my grandfather passed away 6 weeks before my graduation, and that is still one of my regrets about going, that I never got to say goodbye to him properly.

You are more capable than you know, if you have the opportunity to study abroad, take it with both hands. University or study is the time for self-development, self-awareness and self-enlightenment. Time overseas will help broaden and shape this awareness of self in ways you didn’t know.

My experiences have stayed with me. I am very family focused as I missed out on so much while I was away (my sister growing up), I still love rugby, I truly appreciate what cold is (when it would snow and we had no central heating), I found out what is important (me!). If you want to help discover yourself, take that risk

Happy Travelling, CJeffers x

Wildlife Photography – Aquarium

Photographing wildlife is something I really enjoy and watching nature documentaries (especially ones by Sir David Attenborough) I always wish that I had the opportunities to travel the world exploring nature. Sadly in London the extent we have are urban foxes and manky pigeons. (There is more to offer in London that this, however this is generally what I see!)

Wildlife can still be captured indoors and for improving your skills it is not a bad place to start. I recently went to the National Sea Life Centre in Birmingham and took my camera with. The added bonus of going to the aquarium versus outdoor is that I didn’t have to fork out on expensive waterproof casing (and no chance of getting eaten by sharks!).

One of the best tips I have for photographing wildlife in captivity is a polarising lens filter. Many animals are behind glass, and often your images will have a reflection from the glass. The easiest way to get rid of this is by using a polarising lens filter. This are readily available and will change the way in which reflections and glare are seen by your camera.

I will always try to go outdoors and capture more wildlife, I just need to research places more

Happy Snapping, CJeffers x

Happy Hogmanay!

Wishing you a very Happy New Year or Happy Hogmanay!

Hogmanay is the Scottish word used for New Years Eve, and is a huge celebration in Scotland, especially the capital Edinburgh. Although I have never spent a Hogmanay celebrating in the centre of Edinburgh or Glasgow, I have spent it with my family in Scotland and still have some of the traditions in my celebrations in London.

Generally Hogmanay is spent with family, friends or neighbours, visiting their homes.

On Hogmanay, we do not eat until just gone midnight, with a meal of steak pie (the table needs to be laid and full at midnight to bring a full table for the rest of the year). We eat and drink, tell stories and play games.

Special attention is given to the ‘first footer’ (the first new guest of the new year). This person is the bringer of good fortune for the year ahead. This is regarded as a Gaelic tradition. To bring good fortune, this person should ideally be a tall dark-haired man. The guest should also carry a number of items. We would always have whisky and a food item (sultana cake), representing food, flavour and good cheer for the year ahead. Other items can be coal (warmth), evergreen (prosperity), silver coin (financial fortune). It was always my Grandad’s job to be the first-footer, meaning we would shove him outside just before the bells and then let him back in once the bells had finished! Since he passed away, I try to force this tradition onto my husband. I am not sure if I have convinced him yet!

Auld Lang Syne is a tradition of Hogmanay that is found in many British celebrations. Auld Lang Syne is a poem by the famous Robert Burns and it is now common to sing this in a circle of linked arms that are crossed over one another as the clock strikes midnight. Not many people know the words, but after a few drinks everyone gives it a good go!

On my bucket list I would like to celebrate Hogmanay in Edinburgh, one of the biggest New Years Eve events in the UK and although it will not be my traditional NYE I would love to experience it.

All the best for 2018, CJeffers

Shakespeare’s Stratford and Warwick

William Shakespeare is one of Britain’s most iconic writers, play-writes, poets and manipulators of the English language. Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, and on a very wintery Friday whilst staying Birmingham I ventured down to Stratford to see what this quaint market-town.

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William Shakespeare’s birthplace and childhood home is located in the centre of Stratford, among cobbled streets and mewses. This restored building is owned by the Shakespeare centre and is a haven for lovers of literature. Although I did not visit the centre inside, so I cannot give an opinion on the attraction, it is a steep price at £15.75. Just walking along the Henley Street outside almost takes you back hundreds of years.

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There was a busy Christmas market when I visited Stratford, with some of the most amazing cakes, and a specialist Victorian Market. People mainly flock to this area for tourism and with the Christmas Markets it is no wonder, you really feel like you are taking a walk back in time.

Warwick has been established anglo-saxon settlement, and William the Conqueror built a castle here in 1068 to help ward of the rebelling North. Sadly most of the medieval town was destroyed in a great fire in 1694. St Mary’s Church which was first built in 1123 and the crypt is the only part of the church remaining. The current building was rebuilt in 1704 and based on the original gothic design, but it does look relatively new, which is a bit of a shame.

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Both the towns with their quaint medieval charm and narrow cobbled streets offer a retreat to the hustle and bustle of Birmingham

Happy Travelling, CJeffers x

Metering and Histograms

Knowing how your meter measures light allows you to manipulate and interpret the results and know when you need to change something.

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Your histogram is one of the most valuable tools in explaining the tonal values of a scene.  The far left represents pure black and the far right represents pure white. The horizontal axis is 0-255 and the vertical axis shows how many pixels are in each position of each tone.

The optimal histogram should not be too heavily bunched at either end of the horizontal axis, as this can cause the detail to be lost in the pure white or pure black. Ideally the histogram should look a bit like a bell curve, with a peak in the middle and starting/finishing in the far bottom corners. However, the ideal theory is not always able to be put into practice, often the light and shadows do not allow for us to expose for a perfect histogram. If you understand that a histogram to heavily bunched at either end of the horizontal axis can cause a loss of detail then you can look to manipulate the settings to allow for that clarity to still come through (changing ISO, white balance, shooting directly into the light, adding additional light to the scene).

Light metering is an additional tool to help prevent the loss of details in the pure white and pure blacks.

Spot Metering only evaluates the light around your focus point and ignores everything else. It evaluates a single zone/cell and calculates exposure based on that single area, nothing else. Spot metering works great for back-lit subjects.

Centre-weighted metering evaluates the light in the middle of the frame and its surroundings and ignores the corners. Use this mode when you want the camera to prioritize the middle of the frame, which works great for close-up portraits and relatively large subjects that are in the middle of the frame.

Matrix or Evaluative Metering mode is the default metering mode on most DSLRs. It divides the entire frame into multiple “zones”, which are then all analyzed on individual basis for light and dark tones. The metering system looks at where you focused within the frame and marks it more important than all other zones.

Metering-Modes

As with all photography, practice is the only way that you are going to improve and understand your camera more. Luckily with digital cameras there is no limit to the amount of images you can take and with there is an no limit to the subjects that you can capture as well.

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Happy Snapping, CJeffers x

Glasgow Patter

I am currently in Glasgow on a short surprise trip to visit my wee granny and have been thinking quite a bit about the language. Not the accent but the actual words used.

Language is something that I have always found fascinating, not that I can speak anything other than English (know some very basic German and Turkish) and the UK is beautifully diverse in its regional dialects. Having spent many summer holidays in and around Loch Lomond, and my mum being Scottish I never really understood that there was such a difference until I starting talking to Londoners (friends and colleagues) that they maybe didn’t understand what I was talking about!

A great example of this is ‘what would you call this?’ Basic-Bread-LARGE-HERO-32adc330-cdd9-4cf7-b467-03bca920dc15-0-1400x919

The suggestions are: Roll, Bap, Morning Roll, Cob, Bread-cake, Tea-cake, Bridie, Bun, Barm, Bread-Roll, Batch, Muffin, Stottie and I am sure there are many more names!

Some of the words that have Scottish origins that I use in my daily vocabulary are listed below (and yes, I have had to explain or translate all of these phrases at some point!)

 

Bahooky – Backside, bum, bottom ‘move ya big bahooky out the road’

Blether – a talkative person or to have a chat ‘she is a right blether, can’t get a word in’

Chap – a knock at the door ‘you chap the door like the police’

Crabbit – used to describe someone who is cranky, miserable, moody or dour ‘Och, you are real crabbit when you wake up in the morning’

Dreich – normally referring to the weather, bit grey and miserable (typical Scottish weather). ‘its a bit dreich outside today’

Dug – dog ‘aww look at that wee scruffy dug’

Eejit – idiot

Gallas – used to describe someone who is self-confident, cheeky, has bit of a swagger ‘he is pure gallas’

Greet – crying ‘stop your greeting’

Hoachin’ – somewhere very busy ‘Luss was hoachin’ with midges in the summer’

Messages – shopping ‘go the messages’

Mince – used to describe someone who is talking rubbish or nonsense ‘Dinnae talk mince’

Numpty/Numptie – generally used to describe someone who has done something a bit stupid, and idiot ‘look at that numpty, couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery’

Ouse – fluff  ‘my trousers are all covered in ouse’

Peely Wally – Pale ‘have you put on sunscreen, you will get burnt because your so peely wally’

Phish – rubbish ‘that film was pure phish’

Piece – sandwich ‘want a piece and jam?’

Poke – open portion of chips from the chippy (can also be used to describe an open bag) ‘want a poke of chips?’

Shoogle – Shake ‘shoogle it like a polaroid picture’

Skelp – Slap ‘I’ll give ya skelp round the ear’

Taps aff – describes the weather when it is nicer than normal, can go about with out a shirt on ‘tops off’

Tugs – knots in your hair ‘my hair is so tuggy’

So next time you are in Scotland, hopefully this will prepare you with some basic translation! The Scots are a ridiculously friendly and hospitable bunch (despite the stereotypes) who love a sing song and a drink. Whenever you are in Scotland, speak with the locals, they love a good blether.

Happy Travelling

CJeffers x

Savvy Shutter Speed

The final element in our photography triangle is shutter speed. Shutter speed controls the amount of time that the sensor is exposed to light

Photography Triangle

The longer the shutter is open, the more light that hits the sensor and the shorter the shutter is open, the less light hits the sensor. The shutter speed is either listed as a fraction of a second (1/60) or in whole seconds (1′, 2′). Some camera even allow for whole minutes, or an infinite amount of time (bulb). Shutter speed is a bit easier to understand than aperture, where the fraction 1/60 is literally one sixtieth of a second that the shutter is open.

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Depending on what you are capturing, depends on the shutter speed that you will need. If you are capturing sport or wildlife, you may want to try and get a sharp image, freezing the action as it happens.

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Capturing a slight blur, as seen in this image above can also be quite effective at demonstrating moment, such as the street below Somerset House in London or the image on the Southbank at London below

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So remember…

Short shutter speed = 1/2000 = freeze the action

Long shutter speed = 1′ = capture movement

Adjust your shutter for the light and remember the balance between ISO and aperture

Happy Snapping, CJeffers x

Depth and Aperture

Another component of the photography triangle is aperture. Aperture regulates the amount of light permitted through the lens to the sensor. The larger the opening the more light passes through, and the smaller the opening the less light passes through. To complicate matters, the f-stop which refers to the size of the aperture is a large number for a small opening and the smaller the number the larger the opening. By changing the aperture you can change the exposure of the image, but also change the depth of field.

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Depth of field is the manipulation of the focal plane, its the aesthetic of having the subject in front of a blurry background, or getting every plane of a landscape in sharp focus. You need to be mindful of how much or how little depth of field to ensure that it is appropriate for you. Restricting depth of field may not always be possible on very bright days and ensure that the subject for a larger aperture is in very sharp focus.

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So remember…

Larger aperture = small f number = more light = shallower depth of field

Small aperture = large f number = less light = broader depth of field

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Happy Snapping, CJeffers x

Christmas Markets in Esslingen

Esslingen am Neckar is a small medieval town close by to Stuttgart. Last year I was lucky enough to be visiting Esslingen for a workshop and had a chance to visit a traditional Christmas Market. However, the Christmas Market in Esslingen is unique. With more than 200 booths, the Esslingen Market is one of the largest in the region and had so much history given that there has been a settlement at Esslingen since about 1000BC.

For almost four weeks at the Medieval Market, merchants in historical garments offer their goods for sale just as they did hundreds of years ago. Craftsmen like pewterers, felt-makers, tinder-makers, blacksmiths, rope-makers, basket-makers, broom-makers or glass-blowers demonstrate their craftsmanship. Furthermore, in the streets and on various stages artists fascinate their audience with juggling, music and nonsense. Everything is credible, without the feeling of being too commercial and the food and drink is also amazing (recommend the traditional mulled wine, or a rum hot chocolate with a hint of chilli to warm you up!). Esslingen takes a thrilling trip back in time. The Christmas market is unlike the ‘German Christmas Markets’ that appear in London weeks before Christmas, with a sense of history and authenticity. Well worth a visit!

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Happy Travelling, CJeffers x

ISO and Noise

Part of the photography triangle is ISO. ISO is International Standards Organisation and measures the sensitivity of the image sensor. The lower the number the less sensitive your camera is to light and the finer the grain. In bright light, a low ISO number (about 100 or 200) can be used to get a clean image at most apertures and shutter speeds. However, in dim light, you may need to increase the ISO number to capture the image you are after (as it will allow changes in the aperture and shutter speed). There is a cost of a high ISO though… the image will appear more grainy (which is the appearance of noise).

Photography Triangle

Noise is a random textured pattern that interferes with the image quality, and is commonly described as grain. The higher the ISO the more likely you are to see this noise. Noise is caused by an almost electrical interferences of the pixels on the sensor. How distracting the noise is, depends on your person taste, some images the noise can add a gritty quality (as seen in some urban photography). Its all about finding the balance between the components of the photography triangle to get the image you want.

So remember…

By upping your ISO, you are able to capture faster shutter speeds and narrower apertures.

Try to keep the ISO as low as possible depending on the quality of light that you are dealing with

Be prepared that in low light situations where you would need to increase the ISO that there is going to be a risk noise/grain

Happy Snapping, CJeffers x

The White Cliffs of Dover

The famous white cliffs of Dover on the Kent coastline has always been a focal point for people entering and leaving the UK. With is close proximity to mainland Europe, Dover was the home to the first settlers to Britain with historical relevance from the Bronze age. When the Romans expanded through Europe though, Dover was the start of the network connecting the UK to Europe.

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The White Cliffs are part of the National Trust and for a small fee you are able to walk along the cliffs. The cliffs themselves stretch for about 8 miles! Apparently on a clear day, you can see France from this viewpoint (To be honest as it was a clear day and thought I could see France, but could have just been me!). This walk is part of the English Coast pathway.

Given the abundance of chalk, there is quite unusual wildlife native to this area. I would like to visit again in Spring, with the wild flowers and butterflies, rather than just all the samphire.

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With its closeness to Europe, it is no surprise that any would be invader would first land at Dover and has historical relevance during the Napoleonic Wars and World War II. If you have seen the recent film Dunkirk, the returning soldiers see the white cliffs and see it as a sign of being home. The cliffs have meant hope, freedom, opportunity to so many and I was delighted to capture them on such as nice winters day.

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I visited a small place on the coastline near Dover, called Samphire Hoe.  Samphire Hoe Country Park is a nature reserve situated on a new piece of land created by the earth excavated during the construction of the Channel Tunnel. It covers a 30-hectare site at the foot Shakespeare Cliff and you can walk along the sea wall (if the winds are normal).

If Kent county is the garden of England, then Dover is the gate.

Happy Travelling, CJeffers x

White Cliffs © Carol Ann Duffy 2012

Worth their salt, England’s white cliffs;
a glittering breastplate
Caesar saw from his ship;
the sea’s gift to the land,
where samphire-pickers hung from
their long ropes,
gathering, under a gull-glad sky,
in Shakespeare’s mind’s eye;
astonishing
in Arnold’s glimmering verse;
marvellous geology, geography;
to time, deference; war, defence;
first view or last of here, home,
in painting, poem, play, in song;
something fair and strong implied in
chalk,
what we might wish ourselves.

Bucket List – Bungee Jumping

A bungee/bungy jump is something that I always wanted to do and living in New Zealand, home of the world’s first permanent commercial bungee site near Queenstown, I knew that this is where I would need to take the leap of faith!

Bungee jumping has it origins on the small pacific island of Vanuatu, where young men would dive off tall platforms with vines attached to their ankles, as a rite of passage into adulthood.

As a celebration of completing my degree, I decided to do the jump at Kawarau River in Queenstown. This site has been open since 1988 (almost as old as me!) and at only 43m high, it was not too daunting for a first attempt! Jumping off a suspension bridge into a river also seemed a bit more attractive than a rock solid floor.

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When I turned up to jump, I had to be weighed (and have my weight written on the back on my hand in massive lettering – luckily was not too embarrassing) and then had to wait my turn. On the suspension bridge there are two sides where you can jump from, all to do with the balancing of weights. I was on the lighter side (after three years of student drinking) and had to wait my turn. I was quite apprehensive while I was waiting, thinking that I was going to back out at any time.

I then stepped onto the platform and had a chat with the guys as they got me prepped to jump. These lads are legends, obviously used to many nervous tourists, they made me feel more comfortable and explained what they were doing and why. My final instruction was to leap as if I was trying to jump to the bridge in the distance (the road into Queenstown). The Australian guy in front of me went to jump and then hesitated. I knew that if I hesitated then I would not end up jumping, that little rational voice in the back of my head would have won! I leapt … what an absolutely amazing thrill, to be free falling. My mum told me that she had almost had a heart attack watching me and the buzz of adrenaline that I had afterwards, I could have quite easily jumped again!

That evening my back did feel quite sore, once the effects of the adrenaline wore off, I suppose it was due to the whipping motion but this went away within a day or two.

Queenstown and New Zealand are famed for their adventure tourism and the bungy was how this notoriety started, well worth doing!

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Any eagle eye Lord of the Rings fans will also notice that this river was used for the Gate of Kings/Pillars of the Kings at the end of the Fellowship movie.

Happy Adventuring, CJeffers x

Exposing Exposure

Exposure is one of the key elements in photography that is often overlooked by the automatic settings on your camera. In this introduction, I will try to explain what exposure is and how it can be manipulated to alter your images. As with most aspects of photography, practice is key in finding what works for you, your camera and your finished image. Although there are ‘guidelines’ in photography, any rules that govern ‘how to take the perfect image’ should be broken (repeatedly!)

So what is meant by exposure…

In simplest terms, exposure in how much light is hitting the photosensitive material (film or digital sensor). Generally you are trying to replicate the image with what you see with the naked eye. Too much light on the sensor, and the image is too bright (over exposure) and too little light on the sensor and the image is too dark, with tones all muted and mixed (under exposure).

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Your eyes are amazing and can detect the smallest variations in light (contrast) and is far more dynamic than the finite range that is possible with your camera. (I used to work for an eye surgeon and the abilities of the human eye still fascinate me. The range of colours and the constant feedback to the brain. Anyway….)  Work with the fixed limitations of your camera, to get the image that you would like.

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In this image (House of Parliament), the clock face of Queen Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) is over exposed (there is too much light to see the details on the clock face). However, if I were to expose for the clock face to see the details, then the rest of the building, the bridge and even the bus on the bridge would be under exposed. Even though I could see all these aspects with my eyes in full dynamic range, the range of my camera would not allow for this. Hence the finite dynamic range of the camera are the only constraint that you are working with.

For every image, there isn’t a ‘right or wrong’ exposure. When I attending photography meetups and workshops before, students were always asking what should my aperture be, what should my ISO be, why am I not getting the image I want. This because there are no hard and fast answers! Each subject is different (is the light itself the subject?), the light changes second by second (especially with the constant clouds in the UK!) and the saturation, vibrancy and drama changes on the exposure.

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By under exposing this image of a man on the beach, I would able to capture the pink and blue of the sky in Turkey. Although the man is slightly in shadow and mixed, the sky is vibrant and saturated. No colour or exposure edits were made to this image in post processing. This image was much lighter in person (with my own eyes) but work with the restraints of your camera.

Underexposure – generally appear darker than the naked eye, leading to possible drama or mood. Can lead to colours being more saturated, toning down highlights but can cause of loss of detail in the shadows and low tones

Overexposure – generally appear lighter or whiter than the naked eye, can cause a sense of lightness and romantic feel of the image (hence why so many instagram filters give the appearance of overexposure). Can also cause of loss of detail in the highlights and too much can cause an almost abstract feel to the image.

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Exposure is a product of three camera controls – ISO, aperture and shutter speed. This is know as the photographic triangle. We will discuss each of these components in more detail separately as part of our Photography 101 online guide.

Many artists have advanced their art by breaking the conventional barriers and being non-conformists. Understand the principles and disregard all the rules! You are the creative imagination behind your images

Happy Snapping, CJeffers x

People Make Glasgow

Glasgow is often given a bad reputation compared to its elegant and sophisticated sister Edinburgh, being more industrial and gothic to the pretty and romantic capital city but for what Glasgow may lack in aesthetics it makes up for in charm and character. Glasgow was crowned the City of Architecture, Capital of Culture and Commonwealth Games Host in 2014. What was once a city of gangs and slums, now shines with tolerance and diversity.

George Square & Merchant City

George Square and the City Chambers is the grand space that forms the city centre (almost like Trafalgar Square in London). There are some prominent statues in the square and depending on the time of year depends on what else that is there. Giant G for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and a Winter Fun Fair at Christmas. Just south of George Square is the Merchant City, named after the prosperous years of the trade routes of tobacco, rum and sugar.

Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA)

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On Exchange Square, just down from George Square is the Gallery of Modern Art. Housed in a former bank, this has been open to the public since 1996, with some leading modern artists hosting exhibitions there. The gallery itself is not very big and does not take long to cover all the rooms.

Outside GoMA you will find a statue of the Duke of Wellington with a traffic cone on his head. This has been removed numerous times, but always finds its way back!

SECC & Hydro

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In 2008 Glasgow was appointed a City of Music by UNESCO. The SECC (affectionally named the Armadillo for its architecture) and the Hydro at the primary arenas in the city now. The venues are also used for exhibitions and sporting events, including the Commonwealth Games.

People’s Palace & Glasgow Green

The People’s Palace is a real collective memory of the economic, social and political past of Glasgow from its residents. It is situated in Glasgow Green which is Glasgow’s oldest public park

Glasgow Cathedral & Necropolis

Glasgow Cathedrals is one of the few remaining churches in Scotland that survived the Reformation, originally being built in 1136. The gothic architecture is representative of Glasgow, with its compelling atmosphere. Behind the cathedral is the necropolis, a labyrinth of tombs with impressive vistas of the city.

Kelvingrove & Glasgow University

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Glasgow University was founded in 1451, and the current gothic spires dominate the West End skyline.  The University is amongst the oldest in the English speaking world and boosts an Alumni of 7 Nobel Laureates. Down the hill is the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. This free museum is one of the most visited in Scotland with 8000 objects to browse. The main hall has a massive pipe organ, and you can sit at the cafe there in the atrium. The Kelvingrove was shut for three years due to a considerable refurbishment, and although it does look different from when I used to visit here as a child, it is still a really interactive place to take the kids.

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Weegies (Glasgewians) are warm, funny and open. Grab your waterproofs (you are going to need them) and walk around this fantastic city. Take a ride on the ‘Clockwork Orange’ Glasgow’s own metro system, drink Iru-Bru, eat fish-n-chips at 3am (only place in the world I know that a chippy is always open) and live life as they do in Glasgow.

“In Glasgow, ‘how’ means ‘why’? You do not ponder why. You demand HOW?” Kevin Bridges

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Brighton Rocks

Brighton is an iconic seaside town on the south coast of England. This resort is a day-trip haven in the summer months for Londoners, giving it the nickname ‘London-by-the-sea’. A lovely clean pebble beach, with lots of little shops and arcades all the way along. Beautiful in the summer months as well as a stroll along in the winter and you can’t go without pier doughnuts!

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Brighton Pier is open all year round so you can enjoy all the fun of the seaside any time of year. From fish ‘n’ chips to arcade games and funfair rides and free deck chairs. The pier does get very busy so be prepared for some crowding.

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The Lanes form a retail, leisure and residential area near the seafront. Characterised by narrow alleyways following the street pattern of the original fishing village. You can be captivated by the window displays of the jewellers (drooling over the antique style diamond rings!) or stop off for a quick drink in one of the pubs.

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The Royal Pavillon is a palace of Prince George IV transformed by John Nash between 1815 and 1823 into one of the most dazzling and exotic buildings in the British Isles. Looking like a miniature Taj Mahal, this building is notable for its Indo-Saracenic architecture and Oriental interior. The Pavillon is open to the public to view the exquisite interior.

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Borough Market

Borough market is one of the largest and oldest markets in London. This fresh food market has been situated near London Bridge since before 1014, and it has a prime location along the wharf and docks of London. Although no longer used as a wholesale market, it is still open to the public on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays just a short walk down from London Bridge and nestled next to Southwark Cathedral.

Many of the Market’s stallholders are themselves producers, where there is no chain or middle-man. The Market’s stalls, shops and restaurants reflect London’s status as a truly global city, with traditional British produce sitting alongside regional specialities from around the world (French macaroons and Turkish delight were among my purchases).

This market is one of my favourites in London (and there are still a lot of markets to chose from). It’s vibrant and bustling, with so many colours and smells and characters. Taste the delights, and you wander around and enjoy a stop in one of the nearby pubs (and of course, people watch!). It is a dynamic, ever-changing institution of London.

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Remembrance Sunday

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.”

The Sunday around the 11th November is observed as Remembrance Sunday in the UK and other Commonwealth countries. This day remembers those who have lost their lights fighting in the British Armed Forces and the civilians who also lost their lives during these conflicts. The poppy is seen as the symbol of remembrance in the UK, and a national service takes place every year at the Cenotaph on Whitehall. The Queen and other dignitaries lay wreaths of poppies on the war memorial, and a 2-minute silence is held at 11am. It was 11am on 11/11/1918 that the guns stopped to end the First World War. Having traced my ancestry, I have discovered that I lost two great-great-great uncles in WWI and I am sure that almost everyone in the UK has a family member who was involved.

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