Friday, 21 June 2013

Two Months to Go: What to Pack

A year ago, going to Southeast Asia was just a pipedream. Well, we're going. In two months. Hurrah! We're surprisingly organised! We fly out to Bangkok, spending three nights absorbing the sights, smells and sounds of this Thai city. I've heard a lot about Bangkok and I'm very excited to experience it myself. We then have a mixture of beach/ island stops and more built up city environments. 

It's difficult to know what to pack. I plan to travel light since I'll be spending a lot of time wearing my backpack in queues for planes, trains and boats. I'm not sure what size pack to take. I've already got a 60L but I think this will be too big for me for this trip.

I probabaly need to work out what I want to take and then decide how big a backpack I'll need to fit it all. In terms of clothing, I think the key thing is to take pieces that will go with other things, possibly in a similar colour palette. I had a little play around on Polyvore to create some travel outfits. Here's what I've got planned:

Flashpacker Travel Outfit Casual 2
Vests, shorts, and longer linen trousers are a travel wardrobe must. Then a bright patterned scarf will add a pop of colour and will also double up as a shoulder cover-up for temples and on cooler evenings. Shoes are my biggest pickle. I don't think we'll do enough trekking to justify packing walking boots, but I plan to take a pair of trainers, and then a pair of thinner pumps for exploring.

Flashpacker Travel Outfit Evening
A bit of evening glam. A while ago I wrote about multi way dresses. Well, I did some more research and I found a black one on ebay. I'm really happy with it, although I've found that it's surprisingly heavy because of all of the fabric. It will be a perfect travel dress because you really can style it in so many ways. I like the low V strapless look. Teamed with pretty sandals and some bright jewellery, I'll feel a bit more glam for evenings out.

Flashpacker Travel Outfit Beach
I plan on indulging in just a little bit of beach bum and good book time. Trusty flip flops will, of course, find their way into the bag. I want to take a cute sun hat but then they always get squashed in bags, don't they! I also want a new bikini that flatters my shape. I bought some new swimwear for honeymoon but I'm not sure it looks as good two years on! I like this wider strapped halterneck polka dot bikini with ruched sided bottoms.

Flashpacker Travel Outfit Casual

Finally, for relaxed nights watching the sun set over the sea, I've bought a couple of pairs of thin patterned trousers, like this pair from River Island, which could be teamed with simple block colour vests or tees and a chunky necklace or scarf. All of these would double up for sightseeing days and dinners, too.

I love planning holiday outfits and I consider myself to be a pretty awesome packer, once I've decided what I'm taking (it's all about tight rolling!). It's a bit different planning for this trip because I'll be packing for different environments and different activities. At least we don't need to pack any cold weather gear! Have you got any travel packing tips to share? What would be on your perfect holiday packing list? 

*My friend is currently on a travelling adventure and has so far visited areas of Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. If you fancy a gander at some informative, funny and well written posts about the adventures of a twenty-something in Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, you can check out my friend's travel blog posts here on 'Travelling in Rollers'.

Thursday, 20 June 2013


I was recently treated to my first Balinese massage by a work colleague after talking to her about my long term headaches. I've had several professional massages and always enjoy them but this massage was quite different. My lovely holistic massage therapist, Vicky, took time to discuss my headaches and postural problems and then spent an hour pushing, folding and pulling my body. Bliss! The treatment session ended with a Balinese tea ceremony where I graciously had to 'slurp' a little glass cup of tea in three noisy slurps, which apparently makes it more cleansing! The whole experience was wonderful!
I've always avoided talking during my massage but, as a holistic therapist, Vicky asked a few questions about my lifestyle. Chatting really added to the experience and, counter to what I'd always thought, it made it a more relaxing experience. One question that Vicky asked was 'do you find it easy to relax?'. I answered with a shaky 'err, I guess so'. I continued to think about this during and after the treatment.  Actually, I think I find it pretty difficult to relax.

It's so easy to get swallowed up in the day to day rush, to spend the evening sat in front of the TV, or to have a quick shower instead of a candle bubble bath. It's really rare for me to just take ten minutes to do nothing more than sit and relax. Then I wondered, how should I relax? I recently watched Eat Pray Love (a predictable but inoffensive Julia Roberts movie) where the central character sets off to find peace and direction. She travels to India for a temple stay where she learns how to meditate. A quick Google with 'relaxation ideas' as the search tag brings up countless websites about deep breathing and yoga. Is meditation the only way to relax?  

It seems I need to book in more regular relaxation slots. My Balinese massage was definitely relaxing and I've booked myself a series of four more treatments but I wondered what other people do for R n R? What do you do to relax? Is it a deliberate effort, or just something that comes with that activity? I've been to a few fitness yoga and pilates classes and I've now got a posture chair at work (doc's orders!), but what else can I do? I'd love to hear your ideas and get rid of this permanent tension headache for good!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Casa Morita, Brixton

We stumbled upon Casa Morita in Brixton Market when we were in London last month to see The Postal Service at Brixton Academy. We were spoilt for choice in terms of the range of eateries but it was a busy Sunday afernoon and places were starting to get busy. We were both in the mood for Mexican and noticed that Casa Morita had some tables free. In we went!

The restaurant is small and welcoming with colourful decor. Little pots of chilli sauce and cutlery tins decorate each table. The 'door' opens onto the market walkway and there's a fun, if not slightly 'hipster', atmosphere about the market itself. The menu at Casa Morita is small but each of the dishes sound tasty. I went with a chicken enchillada served with refried beans. It tasted far better than it looked! It was very flavoursome and not at all heavy. 

Drink prices were reasonable (around £6 for a cocktail). I had a mojito, which was nice enough. M had a beer cocktail called a Michelada which was made up of his beer of choice, tabasco sauce, salsa and lime (I think). He wasn't too taken by it in the end. Serves him right for ordering the most obscure drink on the menu!

For us, the only thing that let Casa Morita down was the service. I liked the relaxed atmosphere but the food took quite a while to arrive and we'd ordered some tortillas to start, which we didn't get, and my drink was brought over after we'd more or less finished eating. 

I'd go back to Casa Morita because their food was delicious, the atmosphere was good and it was nice to eat more authentic Mexican food, rather than the 'American Mexican' I've become more used to. I'd just make sure I had a bit more time to spare!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

To You, Dad

"I don't know how to exist in a world where my dad doesn't" ~ George
"Yeah. That never really changes" ~ Christina 
Grey's Anatomy Season 3 Episode 12

My dad died, very suddenly, when I was 16.  How it has affected my life and the person I am today is immeasurable. It's influenced my relationships, my career, and the type of person I try to be. I aim to make him proud every day. Most days, it's just an awareness. A subtle feeling of something missing; something not quite right. Other days, like my wedding day and the day that I received my doctorate, that feeling is more intrusive. There are calendar days like today that have some significance, too. Today is Fathers Day in the UK. I can remember a Fathers Day years and years ago when I made my dad a card with a textured picture of a cooked breakfast and included a £1 coin for him to go to Asda and have a fry up treat. My five year old self was very proud! I wish he was here today. I wish I could take him for a fry up and share our news. I wish he could meet M. I wish I had taken more time to listen and learn his stories.  Lots of wishes! But, today, I am thankful for everything my dad was, and continues to be, to me. I am thankful for the influence he has on my life and hope that he is as proud of me as I am to be his.  


Thursday, 13 June 2013

Happy in... Paris. Part Two.

Okay, it's time for a format change for this second part: I've made the photos bigger! Blogging has been an adventure into making photographs 'work' on the web. I don't think the Photoshop frames do much to show the details in the photographs, so back to big images, albeit with big white gaps between.

We hopped on the Metro across to Champs Elysees and took standard tourist photos of the Arc de Triomphe. Unless you're there at an unusually quiet moment, you're basically going to have to risk your life jumping into traffic or end up at a distance away with lots of cars stealing the spotlight). We did spot a bride who didn't seem to be put off by the angry drivers as she braved it into the middle of the road to pose. We then headed down the crowded Champs Elysees at a pace. If I'm honest, I was disappointed. It didn't have any of the sophisticated glamour I'd imagined and we were shoulder to shoulder with aggressive tourists. We were conscious of time and so didn't stop to admire any of the shops but, in my mind, this just means that there's a return visit on the cards! I'm sure if we pick our time of day/ year right, I'd have a different experience.
Saturday evening we had a 10pm dinner reservation at a restaurant in Saint Germain, Le Petit Zinc. We'd manage to book this earlier in the day and it was the last available table in the restaurant. I don't think I've ever had a 10pm dinner reservation! It was great because we didn't have to rush our day and had plenty of time to head back to the hotel and get ready with some vino. The meal at Le Petit Zinc was great and the service was perfect. I had my first snail, followed by duck a l'orange and the most delicious crème brûlée I've ever tasted.
The next morning we packed and then headed out towards Le Marais and wandered through the quiet cobbled streets. It was a beautiful dry Autumn day and leaves on the trees were the most gorgeous shades of orange. We stumbled upon a market, Marché des Enfants Rouges, which I later found out was one of Paris' oldest markets, and ordered huge sweet crepes. We stopped for a bit of cafe culture and people watching; ordered cream filled chocolate eclairs from a patisserie; hired bikes and cycled through a couple of streets before realising we were feeling dangerously unbalanced on them in the busy traffic and returning them; ate even more sweet treats; and visited a squat with resident artists and bought an original painting to remind us of our trip to Paris.

After our morning of food indulgence and wobbly cycling, we walked through Le Louvre. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to go inside and explore; another good reason for a return visit. We did spend a good amount of time in the grounds and nearby gardens, though. The sun was still shining as we walked through les Jardin des Tuileries. Groups of people were sat out with picnics and wine, and children were playing with little wooden sail boats in the fountains. There had also been an art and design festival and sculpture installations dotted around so we made sure we got a good look at those that we passed. We stopped for a quick drink at a cafe and paid 8 Euros for an Orangina!

We had pre-booked tickets to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower and so we headed to the nearest Metro and made our way to Paris' most famous structure. It was a good job we'd booked ahead. The queues were massive and people appeared to have been waiting for hours to buy their tickets. A definite top tip if you're going to make a visit. The views from the top of the Eiffel Tower were amazing. The journey to the top is in two stages: First, take a lift up the 'leg' to the primary viewing platform. Next, queue for one of four much smaller lifts that will take you straight up to the top viewing platform where you can pay a silly sum of money for a glass of bubbly. If you can afford to dine at the restaurant, brilliant; you're going to get your very own lift straight up to the top. If not, well, be prepared to wait a while for your turn in the lift. So we waited and on the top viewing platform, champagne in hand, we watched the sun set over Paris. As we walked away to catch a Metro back to the hotel, pick up our luggage and head to the airport for our return flight, the Eiffel Tower lit up and sparkled away at us. Absolutely perfect way to end our stay in Paris!

I really enjoyed our weekend in Paris. Time went quickly and I felt there was so much more left to see. I hope to make a return trip to Paris and take more time to get right into the cafe culture, eat more macrons and explore new places.
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