29 April 2015

new passport time!
& looking back at 5 years of travel...

This month it was time to renew my passport. It's been four years and nine months since I last got a shiny new passport, and because New Zealand passports are only valid for five years, and I'm headed to Germany this weekend my time was up.

Luckily the process was smooth sailing (thanks NZ government!). I simply filled in the online form, paid the fee, uploaded a digital photograph and two days later my new passport was couriered to me at work in London. Amazing! If only my UK visa was processed so fast...

New Zealand passport
I always find renewing my passport a little bit nostalgic. I hate the fact that I can't keep using the same little book to document all my travel forever.

I'm also quite competitive when it comes to travel and make it my personal mission to try and fill every single page with stamps to the brim before my five years are up. This time round I made it to page 37 out of 50.

Here are some of my favourite passport pages from the last five years...

Five years of travel

And here's to the next five years of travel!!

27 April 2015

holiday cycling, France

There's something rather satisfying about hiring a bike and heading off at a 'lightning fast speed' (in comparison to walking) to explore a new town, city or... coastline!

TOUCH: refreshing cool sea air against my face - tousling my hair as it whips against my neck, stiff hands and fingers grip my handle bars tight with excitement, legs ache but I push on just the same, salt stings my eyes, my lips.

The Côte d'Azur, also known as the French Riviera is the perfect European destination to get in a spot of good old fashioned cycling. The coastline literally goes on and on for hundreds of miles and this area of the world is also famous for having 300 days of sunshine a year.

If you're keen on biking (like some of my friends) you can plan a whole holiday cycling from one end of the French Riviera to the other. Start in France and end in Italy - stopping at as many or few of the gorgeous little sea towns and cities along the way that take your fancy.

Or if you're like me you probably just want to hire a bike for a day and see how far along the coast you can get. Of course snacks along the way are very important...

Delicious Café Gourmand, French Riviera
One of my favourite treats in France is an indulgent Café Gourmand. Served at many restaurants and cafés - Café Gourmand is an espresso served with three small desserts. Perfect for an afternoon 'pick me up'. 

TASTE: bitter espresso, almonds and custard, sweet and silky milk chocolate sauce and rich gooey dark chocolate cake with a sprinkle of icing sugar. Cycling snacks don't get much better than this.

By the end of the day we were pretty tired and decided it was time to take a quick nap. We deserved it with all that exercise.

The important stuff:
  • Bike hire is actually pretty cheap in Nice. I paid just 14 euros for 24 hours.
  • The cycle paths are really amateur friendly in and around Nice. Clearly signposted, off the actual road and with lots of room.
  • Depending on your level of fitness and ambition you can go quite far in one day. Hubby and I cycled from Central Nice all the way to Antibes and back in just an afternoon going at quite a leisurely pace, and stopping for a three-course meal along the way.

13 April 2015

Côte d'Azur, France

From the moment I arrived in Nice, France and set foot on the pebbly beach this Easter gone I knew I had found a little slice of paradise.

London's gloomy grey clouds were banished from my thoughts as I stretched out in the warm French Côte d'Azur sunshine and fixed my eyes on the blue horizon line...

SEE: disks of gold through my eyelids, pink, blue and more blue. Sail boats glide by, seagulls circle above.

SMELL: salt, salt, salt...

HEAR: the light crash of waves a few steps from where I lie, the excited screams of children playing on the seashore, an easyJet flight zooms overhead delivering another plane full of happy holiday goers to this sparkling destination.

TOUCH: hot sunlight burning through my jeans, smooth seaside pebbles dig into my back - but I'm enjoying the heat of the sun too much to move.

TASTE: Easter chocolate, beer, water with a dash of lemon, salt.

Chilling on the beach - Cote d'Azur, Nice, Francerelaxing on the warm pebbly shores of Nice, France

Beautiful blue Cote d'Azur, Nice, Franceblue, glorious blue

The important stuff: Nice, France is just a quick 1 hour and 40 minute flight from London, and the gateway to gorgeous Côte d'Azur (aka French Riviera). Visit in the shoulder months - April, May, September and October for smaller crowds and you'll still be rewarded with glorious sunshine. It may be a bit too cold for swimming though!

31 March 2015

Columbia Road Flower Market, London

Every Sunday morning Columbia Road in London transforms into a living, breathing sanctuary of flowers, music and coffee. It's a magical place for many long-time Londoners who like to spend their Sunday mornings slowly moving through the flower-hungry crowds in search of a splash of colour and sweetness to brighten up their London living rooms for the week ahead...

Columbia Road Flower Market - London

SEE - buckets of red, pink and peach roses, cactus, ferns, posies, tulips and more. Stands overflowing with sweet-smelling peonies, a blur of colour in every direction. Cherry blossoms are the flavour of the day with people everywhere hugging their dark stems and delicate pick flowers...

SMELL - the air is laced with the smell of fresh cut grass intertwined with the sweetness. Bursts of lavender punch through delicate rose...

TASTE - the lingering bitterness of coffee and flower fragrance in the air...

HEAR - excited chatter as people do their best to bargain, cheerful flower sellers compete with each other to shout out their best deal, children hum and the notes of soulful folk music wind through the crowds...

TOUCH - flower petals brush my cheek as I meander my way through the market, burying my nose in as many bunches of flowers that I dare...

Columbia Road Flower Market - London

Columbia Road Flower Market - London

The important stuff...
  • Columbia Road Flower Market and nearby boutique shops are open every Sunday from 8am to about 3pm
  • Arrive early to get the pick of the bunch
  • Arrive late to get the best deals
  • Bring cash
  • Columbia Road is in East End London, close to Shoreditch, Brick Lane and Spitalfields - so you can really make a day of it with all the trendy East Londoners!
  • My favourite way to arrive is via Liverpool Street station (about a 20 minute walk). Along the way take a stroll down Boundary Passage and Old Nichol Street and pause at Albion for brunch. The bread, eggs and pastries are amazing!

26 March 2015

how to travel light

There is a art to travelling light. 

It's something that we all struggle with now and then, and over the years I've seen many travellers on planes, trains, boats and buses that seem to be lugging around way more stuff than they actually need. 

These days I can pack for a long weekend in under 10 minutes. And I strive to keep my luggage (preferably just a backpack) no heavier than about 6kgs. This makes getting around and exploring a lot easier. Some of the things I leave at home include make-up, shampoo, heels, sparkly 'just in case' changes of clothes and weighty reading material. If I happen to forget anything essential I buy it when I get there.

Here are my ten travel essentials...

1. A tote bag. It folds up neatly, weighs next to nothing and is very handy for carrying my daily shopping when away such as wine, cheese and morning pastries! 

2. Eye mask. Self explanatory really - perfect for those dodgy curtains in your hotel room, and the offensive interior lights of your budget airline.

Travel essentials: emotional baggage tote
emotional baggage tote
{image via The School of Life}

eye-mask, a travellers best friend
eye-mask, a travellers best friend

3. Scarf. This item has multi purpose - it can keep you warm in cool climates and cool in hot ones. A scarf is also perfect for covering up when entering religious sights.

4. One pair of comfortable walking shoes. You wear these onto your flight. No need to pack any other shoes.

travel essentials:  the travel scarf!
 the travel scarf!
{image via Go Chic or Go Home}

take comfy walking shoes on holiday
wear your comfy walking onto your flight
{image via La Cool & Chic}

5. Something warm. For those days when the weather turns sour. Depending on the time of year you might want to take more than one warm layer, but for Spring, Summer and Autumn I make do with just one when heading away for a long weekend.

6. Something cool. For those awesome travel days when the sun makes an appearance!

something warm and snugly...
something warm and snugly...
{image via Dara Muscat}

Travel essentials:  cool t-shirt
 cool t-shirt
{image via From Up North}

7. Something waterproof. I have a lightweight jacket that folds up small and is perfect for travel. Alternatively I suggest a small, compact umbrella.

8. Something with SPF. So important. Always look after your skin!

rain in New York
rain in New York
{image via Sugarfox}

SPF and staying sun smart while travelling
SPF and staying sun smart while travelling
{image via Pure Home and Body}

9. A camera/phone and charger. For capturing all your cool holiday moments.

10. Credit card. Last but not least. I travel cash free until I get to my chosen destination, and then withdraw cash from the first ATM I see. Generally the exchange rate is just as good, if not better than the official desks at the airport.

travel camera :)
travel camera :)

That's it. All of the above plus your underwear, comb (much smaller than a hairbrush) and jeans should easily fit into a backpack. No worries! Travel ahoy! 

Don't forget your passport.
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