An “Oh Lord” Moment at Lord’s Cricket Ground

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A cloud of guilt encroaches upon the introduction to today’s light-hearted tale. To think of my parents’ selfless grafting throughout their working lives, to think of the hardships they went through in order to give us the best possible start in life, the precious pennies my Dad wasted, yes wasted on tennis coaching, badminton lessons, hockey sticks, even a basketball lesson once, blinded by his hope that my sister and I would one day evolve into sporting champs.

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That we had no hope of doing so was apparent to most (including ourselves) but my Dad ploughed on. Not all children are capable of all things but try telling that to a proud parent, whose judgement is shrouded in bias and heartfelt belief in their omnipotent babies.

Lords Cricket Ground Blog Event

Generally one bowls better when one has one’s eyes open…

Still, my Dad is an intelligent and deeply perceptive man and I suppose it wasn’t a ludicrous assumption in his mind that we would one day feel at ease in at least one sport, particularly when we were cut from the same cloth as he and his brother – university champions and trophy holders in badminton and tennis respectively. I may have spent my lifetime blaming my short stature for my lack of sporting abilities but shorter individuals have gone on to acquire greater accolades.

I paid homage to my high school music teachers recently here but I struggle to even recall the names of their PE colleagues, perhaps a reflection of my dis-engagement with games lessons.

top London cricket grounds

It was a trend, however, that would extrapolate beyond the borders of physical sporting competences, merging seamlessly into sport-watching territories. I haven’t the foggiest how rugby works, or how anyone can keep a straight face when watching a scrum/huddle and my father stopped inviting me to the cricket after the time I asked him where the wicket was, whilst we were seated at The Oval, one of the most eminent cricketing grounds in London.

Lord's Cricket Ground Blog Post

Fortunately, my unanticipated interest in tennis and football have spared me from complete disowned status by the men in my life. (For a glimpse of me in my football element, check out my night at the Maracana football stadium in Rio.)

Never would I have imagined, therefore, that 2017 would be the year I would play cricket with a former England international player.

Allow me to rewind.

Marylebone Cricket Club events

An Exclusive Evening at Lord’s Cricket Ground

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3 Days in Berlin for £300 #CheapflightsChallenge

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£150 a head, I pondered. Even my primitive mental arithmetic skills had allowed me to slice 300 in half with refined precision. I reflected on how far this could carry me in my own city, with its rocketing cost of living. I reflected on my city, which visitors from around the globe repeatedly denounce as inordinately expensive. My London-savvy brain rattled off a list with the chaos and velocity of jelly beans from a sweet dispenser:

  • A meal at a swish restaurant, complete with fanciful amuse bouches and dainty petits fours.
  • A pair of boots from the high street (or an empty cardboard shoe box from Russell and Bromley.)
  • A hair cut, colour and blow dry.
  • Two well-located theatre tickets.

Such funds could whittle down into an emaciated mess within a matter of hours in London so surely the proposed task was impossible?

German Parliament

The German Parliament Building

My index finger hovered tentatively over the mouse as I re-read the email, the uncertainty of my decision-making reflected in its feeble, wavering movements. The idea of accepting the challenge and failing with a wide berth filled me with a premature sense of shame, yet giving up without trying was more unpalatable still.

Berlin street art paintings

I looked back on the diversity with which I travel, exploring everywhere from Argentina’s glaciers to wacky museums in Budapest. I remembered how I loved the cosy Pisa B&B and the luxurious Bali hotel villa in equal measure and took pride in the fact that I thrive on playing around with budgets and accommodation types in order to get the most for my money.

Berlin city break

I wasn’t raised to shy away from a challenge, let alone one that was focused around finding value for money, something my parents always taught us so well and thus, with a confident “count me in”, I accepted, determined to pull this off with aplomb.

Bundestag Reichstag Building Berlin

The Cheapflights Challenge

My Cheapflights Challenge was to use a little pouch of dough (£300 to be precise) to plan a fabulous 2 night getaway for two adults to Berlin. Within that budget, I had to include flights, accommodation, activities and spending money. “You will never be able to do that” I kept hearing from those around  me.

I sang from the same pessimistic hymn sheet.

I would soon learn, however, that you do not necessarily know what is achievable until you try it.

bear monuments Berlin

Bet you didn’t know you can find bears in Berlin

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In Search of Style in Gangnam, Seoul

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Long before I understood anything about life, I understood music.

Miss R, my ever-optimistic high school piano teacher, failed to give up on my sight-reading skills, despite all the evidence that suggested she was wasting her time. Mr H had drawn the short straw with the shoe box room in the corner of the music department and even he shovelled his cynicism beneath a gaping smile of sincerity when I declared my ambitions to play electric guitar on an international stage one day.

statue monuments Seoul

Time has eroded the links of cognition that once enabled me to play those piano sonatas with such poise. So too has it earned me regret for allowing my musical skills to seep away but as an angsty 14-year-old, stomping around with the conviction that I knew best, I may not have been in any mood to listen to my parents but I listened with intent to REM on 1992’s iconic Automatic for the People.

Seoul travel blog posts

I have no recollection of my first shopping purchase, my first crush or my first restaurant but I do remember my first live gig and the first only time I crowd-surfed in a cloud of euphoria across a hundred thousand revellers.

Music was a medium I understood when life was a phenomenon I thought I understood.

A Plan for Gangnam

I wonder what derision my 14-year-old self would sling my way now if she caught me watching the Gangnam Style video on YouTube. Could she comprehend (could anyone) just how an indie-music loving, naïve teenager turned into a 30 something year old woman who travelled to Gangnam solely because of the worldwide acclaim of its eponymous Korean pop number.

rainbow fountains Seoul

Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountains

South Korea’s capital has far more to boast than Psy’s renowned record but one can’t argue with (at least) 2.8 billion You Tube views and one balmy Saturday night during our visit to Seoul, we somehow found ourselves alongside Seoul’s savvy adolescent masses in the bar and club laden district of Gangnam.

Just how this surreal evening unfolded, launching with rainbow fountains and ending with rainbow cakes is about to be revealed.

rainbow crepe cake

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Travel Tips for Santorini

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When I recently shared a collection of travel tips for Japan, I must admit that self-deprecation aside, I was rather wary of it being a dull read. After all, my blog has never been about reproducing content from guidebooks written by seasoned travel professionals nor will it ever be an obedient slave to SEO tactics.

beautiful views Santorini

Much to my surprise though and serving up a much-needed boost to my unpalatable flickers of self-doubt, many of you liked that post. They may not go down in history as the most inspired pieces of creative prose but the feedback filtering my way suggested that I was under-estimating the value of such posts so after recently travelling to Santorini, I thought I would share a few pointers again for those who have never been. Don’t worry, it’s still filled with plenty of my archetypal waffle but hopefully with a practical spin!

famous Oia blue church viewpoint

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An Epic Indian Wedding in Delhi

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If somebody proposed flying 4000 miles to a different continent for only 5 days with the primary purpose of attending a party, would you do it? Assuming you weren’t being hand-delivered a diamond-encrusted invitation to sit next to George Clooney at the Oscars, I think it’s fair to say that most of us would at least need to give some consideration to the decision. There are annual leave days to count, flight prices to check, jet lag to contend and work commitments to adhere to.

Best Delhi Weddings

A Truly Epic Delhi Wedding

Add to this the fact that I have never been much of a champagne-sipping, stiletto-wearing socialite, wherever the party happens to be at – but when it comes to weddings, I AM SOLD. Whether I’m roofed under a rustic barn with a raucous Scottish ceilidh or mucking into a plate-smashing Greek shin-dig, I LOVE a good wedding and if I am ever out of a day job, you’ll find me studiously inspecting the fine print of the wedding crashers’ manual, front to back 😀

Delhi Ladies Sangeet Party

Party Number 1 & Her Last Few Days of Freedom 😀

There is something about the fairytale flutter of newlywed butterflies whirring round the stomach of a beaming bride, something about the sense of adventure and hope and the promise of partnership that gets me every time and with two weddings already under our belt by the end of January this year, we stepped on board our first international flight of 2017 to watch one of our nearest and dearest take her vows at a Delhi wedding of epic proportions.

The Beaming Bride & Groom

The Radiant Bride & Groom

First though, a little introduction for those of you who have never been to a Big Fat Indian Wedding; it is never one day, one party or one outfit.

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Making Plastic Food in Osaka, Japan

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Of all the strangest blog titles I never thought I would be drafting, this one perhaps takes the biscuit (apologies for the pun, which you will soon learn is all too relevant).

In truth, alongside my recent article about the bush walk to the nudist beach in Croatia, this surreal moment in Japan ought to have won a free pass into my weirdest travel moments round-up. However, with so much inspiration for that post blossoming from Japan and with the intention to pen another article devoted entirely to those “Only in Japan” stories, this particular travel tale was demoted to the reserve team.

travel advice Osaka Japan

As someone all too familiar with the uncomfortable feeling of being in a school reserve team, a wave of guilt swept in about my elitist tactics. Apologies, quirky little Osaka experience. Today is your moment to take centre stage; may you shine brightly.

Osaka travel blog guide

If you are making your maiden voyage to Japan and have more days at your disposal than we did, allow yourself more than one night in Osaka. The city is a thriving, energetic foodie playground with an exhaustive menu of activities that promises not to have you fingering your Lonely Planet in a frantic state of boredom.

quirky activities experiences in Japan

In time, I hope to condense my time in Osaka into a helpful guide for you but until then, let me tell you about our impromptu craft experience.

An Introduction to Plastic Food (Sampuru) in Japan

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Visiting the Pakleni Islands from Hvar

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And then we saw five nudists on a boat, chit-chatting like long-lost friends, spurred on by liquor-filled libations and flush with the kind of soaring Vitamin D levels more conservative travellers would never be blessed with…


Most of us are familiar with those epic blockbuster movies that start by revealing the ending and then go on a trajectory, tracing the run-up, taking viewers through the tumultuous, gripping journey of the plot that led to the final dramatic conclusion.

Whilst my ramblings are a few millennia away from entering the realms of epic, it cannot be a bad thing to aim high so today, I shall attempt that same format with my post. Those of you who bore easily may wish to tootle off, since the punch line has already been delivered.

Palmizana Pakleni Islands

Palmizana, Pakleni Islands

Those of you, on the other hand, who remain intrigued about how two body-conscious explorers found themselves on a nudist beach within the depths of a tiny Adriatic island – read on now.

Visiting Palmizana, Pakleni Islands

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10 Reasons to Swoon Over Shangri-la Al Husn, Oman

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If my memory serves me well and my childhood visits to see family in India are anything to go by, then we, as a family, always had a tendency to try and avoid booking indirect flight options where feasible. After all, if a direct route is affordable, available and price comparable for a long haul adventure, then surely there can be no good reason to prolong an already stretchy journey.

Or can there?

Oman luxury travel

A couple of years ago, when we stopped off in Abu Dhabi en route to the Seychelles, my perspective on stopovers changed. It lent an opportunity to see a new destination without any extra effort and allowed me to reacquaint myself with the Middle East; it eased the jet-lag trajectory, added a contrasting dimension to our otherwise water-predominant holiday and showed us one of the most gleaming mosques we have ever seen, our number one Abu Dhabi highlight.

beaches in Oman

Shangri-la Al Husn, Oman

This year, therefore, after a hectic five days of Indian wedding debauchery, we used the stopover plan as the handiest excuse going to indulge in another luxurious Arabian adventure –  Hello Oman!

Oman hotel travel blog

That’s Oman 2017 (not our holiday time capsule of 2027…)

When I put out some tweets for Oman hotel recommendations, raving reviews arose time and again for the Shangri-la, Ritz Carlton (we had loved Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi) and the Chedi. After much deliberation, we chose Shangri-la, having previously had wonderful experiences at their Myanmar and Borneo hotels but that wasn’t the end of the hotel decision-making. With 3 entirely separate Shangri-la resorts all within one gigantic area of land and all falling under the one umbrella of Shangri-la Barr al Jissah in Oman, the next step was selecting which one most aptly suited our travel style.

luxury hotels Oman

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A Cherry Blossom Tour in Tokyo

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It is frequently claimed that to get the most out of your travels, you need to research and plan well in advance. Mostly, the people who make such proclamations are the serial spreadsheet sorts, who fail to see any thrill in putting together itineraries at zero hours notice, who prefer concrete plans over impulsive gambles and who must, no doubt, be secretly judging my style of travel planning.

cherry blossom viewing Tokyo

In my own book of travel tales, however, some of the most memorable and inspiring experiences from around the world were born from those very gambles – the surprise finds that I never studied, never considered and sometimes, had never even heard of. Piran in Slovenia was one example and the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina was another; the third and most recent surprise was the discovery of the cherry blossom season in Japan, one of the most delightful and unanticipated treasures I have unearthed to date.

cherry blossom season Japan

When we booked our Japanese adventure at only six weeks notice, we genuinely had no idea that our dates would fall within cherry blossom season, albeit the end of it. As someone who isn’t green-fingered at all and definitely doesn’t know their hydrangea from their chrysanthemum, this was nothing short of a coincidence.

Tokyo scenic photo locations

Never could I have predicted that our last-minute adventure would bestow upon us one of nature’s most inspiring marvels.

where to find cherry blossoms in Tokyo

Cherry Blossom Viewing in Tokyo

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The Captivating Colours of Havana, Cuba

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When it comes to Havana, Cuba, there are no clones. There are no “it reminds me of” epilogues or over-simplified comparisons, no white collars or corporate characters. But what Havana lacks in the Western World’s (often short-sighted) definition of prosperity and wealth, it more than compensates for in character and colour, its rainbow tones unapologetically lathered across every facade of the city’s corners.

Why Waste Annual Leave Cuba

With its eclectic patchwork tapestry of architectural styles, bustling neighbourhoods and street-side entertainers, I felt a little stifled trying to encapsulate this city’s energy into the tiny, black and white contours of the WordPress font.

colourful car architecture Havana Cuba photos

That was when it dawned on me that I was trying too hard to be a writer rather than the travel bug that I am; that if I wanted to express my Cuban moments in the most authentic way possible, then I ought to do so in the same way that the city had expressed itself to me – plainly and simply through its fearless palette of colours.

Havana photography

South Africa may be the official Rainbow Nation but Cuba’s vibrant landscape could quite easily put it in the running.

Vintage car taxi tour Havana

The Colours of Havana

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