Monday, 5 June 2017

Moving Sites

Hey guys!

I've progressed in the blogging world and am currently in the process of migrating over to WordPress.

If you want to continue on this blogging journey with me, you can find me over on https://rattlesramblings.com/ 



Friday, 5 May 2017

A Destination Menu - May Travel Link Up




The topic for this month's travel link up is if travel was a menu, where would your palate take you?

I decided to go with a 5 course menu because who wants to limit life to 3 courses?
The good thing about this theme is that it doesn't just have to be places that you have already visited.










Soup
 
Soup: a liquid dish, typically savoury and made by boiling fish, meat or vegetables in stock or water.

Soup, to me, invokes visions of cold winter days warmed up in front of a log fire, eating soup.
Besides doing this in front of my Gran's fire eating chicken and noodle soup when I was younger, none of my previous travel has included freezing my ass off. My soup course comes straight from my wish list of visiting Russia.





http://russiatrek.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/khanty-people-cabins-winter-russia-1.jpg
Imagine rugging up in this cabin, in front of the fire, fortifying yourself with vodka soup.


















Appetizer


Appetizer:  something to whet the appetite

 I don't have one particular destination in mind for this one, instead I have a full on 26 day group tour.

Last September I (and about 30 other people) did the Contiki Grand Southern which left Los Angeles, travelled through the southern states of the United States and up the East Coast, ending in New York.

Each place we stopped had a unique vibe and everywhere was different, from the deserted town of Seligman on Route 66, the smoky den of iniquity that is Las Vegas to the party scenes of Miami and the go-go-go of New York.






The road sign just outside of Seligman

getting the pre-drink photos done
horse riding in Durango, Colorado

bike tour in Miami

making friends with Lincoln



working it to Beyoncé's 'Run the World (Girls)


Last drinks with the Contiki family








Salad

Salad: Simple and easy to throw together




As I am currently living in London, I feel that this course belongs to the beautiful vibrant town of Brighton. Brighton is an easy 1 hour away from the Big Smoke by train and is a perfect spot to day trip to.
I went for a friend's birthday back in March 2014 and even though it was a bit on the chilly side, it was a lovely place to visit full of things to do. The arcade on the boardwalk is full of penny games and a great place to spend a few hours, especially if you have the opportunity to stay for the sunset.




sunset on the English Channel















Main



Main: the most substantial course




For the main I was trying to think of a destination that had it all - weather, culture, history, people, food. A few places popped into my mind but the one that really stands out has to be Turkey.
Turkey is a pretty big country that straddles Europe and Asia. Landscapes vary from the populated Istanbul to the fairy chimney rock formations of Cappadocia. 

Weather - I went in April/May for three weeks in 2014. The weather was mostly in the mid-twenties and up, although it did get chilly on the coast of the Marmara Sea when we camped overnight for Anzac Day.
Culture - due to the multi-ethnic, multi-religious Ottoman Empire, Turkey is a very diverse country.
History - Turkey has 16 World Heritage listed sites, including Pammukale, Troy and Ephesus.
People - all the people I met during my three weeks were incredibly nice and friendly. One Turkish man even bought dinner for me and my friend, showed us where to buy the best baklava and took us to play traditional Turkish games in a café in a cave.






Sunset in Fethiye


the pools of Pamukkale

Fairy Chimneys in Cappadocia

Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia




























Dessert

Dessert: the sweet course eaten at the end of a meal


I was trying to think back to a place that I have been to that has invoked the sweetest memories. Then I had to go back and see if the photos I took were decent enough to include on a blog, so after ruling out Paris (more of an ideal than a great place - although I'm not writing it off just yet and plan to go back and give it another go at some stage), Dubrovnik (not enough quality photos) and the Swiss Alps (most of my photos include half naked Marines) I settled on Salzburg.


Salzburg is the second destination I visited solo. I spent around a week before travelling on to visit friends in Hanover, but the medieval city is absolutely stunning.


I chose to go Salzburg because I'm a big fan of The Sound of Music and modern history. I did the tour - complete with a sing-along on the bus and a visit to Eagle's Nest.




view of Salzburg from the Fortress

where Rolf and Liesl got it on (1940's style)

Eagle's Nest

Salzburg's Love Lock Bridge
















































































How to link up your post
Just pop your post up over the first week of the month (the 1st - 7th May 2017), add it to the link up widget found below on Follow Your Sunshine, Adventures of a London Kiwi, SilverSpoon London, or on the blog of our lovely guest host Binny at Binny's Kitchen and Travel Diaries from the 1st.

There are no rules – basically all we ask is that you check out some of the other cool bloggers that are involved in that months travel link up; make a few comments here and there and tweet a few of the posts out to your followers that you think they will love. It’s a great way to meet some new travel bloggers and share some blogging love!
The Travel Link Up is open to all bloggers – as long as the post is relevant!

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Disneyland Paris at Easter

What's better than a long weekend? An EXTRA long weekend!
Easter brings the gift of a Friday AND a Monday bank holiday!

But where to spend these 4 days (well, 3 once you take off travelling time)?



We found some relatively (for a long weekend) cheap flights from London with EasyJet flying on the Friday and Monday.

We had arranged an AirBNB, so got in an Uber from CDG and made our way to the small village of St-Germain-Sur-Morin - a fantastic spot easily accessible to Disneyland.

After a small hiccup of knocking on the wrong door (there were 6 houses numbered 49 on the same street!) we made contact with our hosts and got unpacked.

It was about 6pm so after unpacking and a bit of a chat with our hosts we made our way into the village to the an Asian restaurant. Mann Fong was a lovely local restaurant full of locals. Unfortunately the menu was not available in English, but with a bit of Google translate and the lovely young waiter we were able to get a meal without any (bad) surprises. They were really good at catering for my coeliac too!

We had a late start on the Saturday as we knew the fireworks at the end of the day weren't going to start till around 10.

A bus from St-Germain-Sur-Morin goes straight to the park for €2.




We scored some 2 day, 2 park tickets from Attraction Tickets Direct for £106 each which also came with a 20% off food voucher for Planet Hollywood.


Walt Disney Studios is the first park that you come across after getting through security so that's where we headed. There were a few rides that we tried - I got on a rollercoaster or 2! - and went and watched the Stunt Show. I got to be the Star of the Show! I got this lovely photo frame and photo for my efforts.



After all that excitement we went to Disney Village and made use of our Planet Hollywood voucher.

The menu is quite extensive and we all ended up with a rack of ribs. So excited to see BBQ ribs on the gluten free menu!

Unfortunately it got a bit awkward when the table of three French lads behind us turned their chairs around AND WATCHED US EAT RIBS! One of them did make a good photobomb though.

the boys couldn't believe 3 girls could eat a plate of ribs. Each.



The rest of the day we spent getting photo opportunities with the various attractions around the park and had a look through Disneyland Park before settling in to watch the fireworks.














The fireworks happen every day after closing. It also includes illuminations over the Disney castle and IS AMAZING and is a must see.




The next day was spent mostly at Disneyland Park and it seemed everyone else had the same idea so it was a bit hard to get on some rides, but there is a line for 'single riders' which had a reduced waiting time so we made use of that plenty.

We went back to Planet Hollywood for lunch (burgers this time) and made our way back to Disneyland Park for the afternoon parade. The floats were amazing and the Disney 'princesses' were interactive with the crowd.

We did have a bit of an issue with some people trying to push in front but we stood our ground and managed to have a great view.  


We finished the day off with a ride on the carousel and having a go at bring King Arthur.



So we know that Disneyland is pegged as a place for children but god! some parents need to teach their children some manners.
We had all lined up for a photo opportunity - we've been in England too long - when all these little kids just jumped in front. Cara's face in the above photo sums up the feelings. After pushing the kids out the way waiting for the kids to move on, we made our way back to our Airbnb and got ourselves takeaway.

The weather was typical France in April, but we were lucky that the rains stayed away. I would recommend a thicker coat than my light rain jacket though.


The Details

Our Airbnb with Alexis & Liliana was £69 per night

A 2 day, 2 park Disneyland Paris ticket was £106 from Attraction Tickets Direct.

An Uber from CDG to St-Germain-Sur-Morin was around €65.

Flights with EasyJet cost £120 flying out from Luton and back into Southend.

The local bus from St-Germain-Sur-Morin was €2 each way.



Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Cheese and Wine Festival - East Village (London)



On Saturday morning I met up with a friend and some randoms for our not-so-regular brunch club. Anyone and everyone is welcome and this time we had 5 people. After brunch, Rachel - who had come down from Cambridge for the weekend - said she was headed to the Cheese and Wine Festival in the East Village. Cushla and I quickly jumped on that idea and invited ourselves along because, well, CHEESE!

It was a bit of a mission to find the place as none of us live in the East and following the 'directions' seemed to take us all around the Westfield.

We arrived pretty much on the dot, and started wandering around the open air market stalls. We did our first lap to see what was on offer - stopping at the cider stall for a half of cider before continuing on and around for some arancini balls!

these were amazing!


We now had a bit of an idea of what we wanted, so we started at the beginning again, this time Rachel and I had a glass of Pimms to accompany our journey round.

One of the main features of the Festival was the cheese carving. Unfortunately we didn't stick around till the end, so not sure what the end result was, but they did have Brie-once on display!

this is made entirely from cheese!

Our next stop was to the chocolate stall! I got these three cute little hot chocolate sticks, one for me and one each for my housemates. Cara and I have not yet had ours, but G had hers last night to help cure her hangover and she 100% recommends!



On our way out we stopped again at the cider stall where I restricted myself to only buying 3 jars of chutney! I bought a passionfruit curd (not sure what I'm going to do with that!), a sweet cider chutney and a Thai lime and chilli flavour. While sipping on another half of cider I checked out the cheese - all the cheese (excluding the Stilton) was all from Somerset. With a few tidbits as samples, some of that cheese ended up in my bag to take home!

so many options!


Our last stop was to 'Gastro Nicks' where Cushla was looking for an alcoholic gift for a friend.  We came across these cute little bottles of gin liqueur.




Cushla purchased 2 of the Rhubarb and Ginger flavour - one for her friend and one for herself!

After spending an extortionate amount on cheese, it was time to part ways with Rachel and Cushla and I met up with some other friends on the Southbank.


Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Colorado Ski Trip


At the start of February I was lucky enough to be chosen to be the Personal Assistant on a ski course in Colorado with the charity Back Up

Back Up was set up over 30 years ago by a bloke named Mike Nemesvary, who was a James Bond stunt double and former British and European Freestyle Champion! Back Up supports individuals who have had a spinal injury and their families. They hold a range of different activity courses from going back-to-work to skiing.


We had a group of 15 - 10 wheelchair users (including one of the group leaders) and 4 'A-Bs' (able-bodies) which included the other group leader, a nurse and a PA (me!) and 2 corporate buddies from the Bank of Montreal.

Back Up courses are available to anyone with a spinal injury which means that you're not likely to come across the same people every time - which means new friends!

We all managed to get to Heathrow on time (except for the group leader Luke who wanted to make a late entrance) and onto the plane without too much hassle.


plane selfie



It's around a 9 hour flight from London Heathrow to Denver and our flight was full.
Although the course was predominately about learning how to ski independently, Back Up uses any situation to teach new skills and to adapt to the situation and a long haul flight definitely can do this. Not to go into too much detail but if you have a catheter and a bottle and a helpful friend to empty the bottle feel free to go to town on those free bottles of alcohol!

After the flight we collected all of our baggage and got straight onto a bus to take us to Winter Park. We had a huge 50 seater bus for the 15 of us so it was a great opportunity for us (read: me) to have a nap.

After an ok night of sleep everybody was pumped to get up to the National Sports Centre for the Disabled (NSCD) and get kitted out. Winter Park has its own 'wheelchair' bus which is free for users and includes a lift.


 
Mike getting loaded onto the bus


Everybody and their chair loaded


















The first day consisted of the participants getting measured and fitted into a mono-ski. This was an all day process as the staff and volunteers at NSCD make sure the skier is secure and comfortable in the bucket seat, which may require multiple adjustments.


Daniel testing out the mono-ski





Fitting was an all day affair, so I asked the group nurse Wanda - self confessed ski (semi) expert - to take me on the steepest slope (according to everybody else this did not count as a 'slope' and was more of an incline) and refresh me on the basics. Before this trip I had exactly 3 days ski experience which turned out not so good. The lovely Caro from NSCD also took me on my first ever chair lift ride and talked me down a green slope.

Monday was our first proper ski day and when everybody was all kitted up we hit the slopes of Sorenson Park. Well I say slope, everybody else says slight incline.


video

Throughout the week there were many, many falls, but luckily no injuries.


Michelle had a lot of practice getting vertical


After a hard day of skiing there's nothing like a pint (or three) with new friends.





Although skiing is the main attraction of Winter Park there are many other options that were available including dog sledding (unfortunately the company we had a look didn't bother to reply to our enquiry), snowmobiling - which is accessible - shopping (although there is about 5 different taxes on everything) and an ice rink!


Wheelchairs make good skates


Skiing all day every day for a week takes a lot out of you so we stretched it out with a short lesson of tai chai.



But the extra stretching and relaxation exercises did not help keep everyone awake, with Mike deciding the dinner table was a good place for a nap.



The group were all at different levels skill wise by the end of the week but everybody got up the mountain and were very happy with the personal progress that was made.



the Back Up crew and staff and volunteers of NSCD





Plane drinks for Kev's birthday
It was a bit depressing having to come back to reality again but *silver lining* our British Airways flight was only half full so I was able to make camp in 4 spare seats and pretty much slept through the entire flight.


safe and sound in London town