Finding the Best Skyline Views of Singapore at Night

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When you find yourself comparing travel destinations to loved ones in your life, perhaps the time has finally come to hang up your proverbial passport.

As the parallels started to pound my overactive imagination, I could recall the destination that made me feel at home, no matter how great the distance, no matter how much time lapsed. I could recall the glamorous cities that glitter, always energising those in their presence. I could recall the destinations that remain unpredictable, the ones that have left me with both intense frustration and puppy-dog comfort. And I could visualise the people in my life, who so snugly occupy each of these moulds.

Best Singapore Skyline Views

For Singapore though, I was stumped, perhaps because this was a country I connected with for far more superficial reasons that usually fail to inspire me. Singapore was not a destination, where I felt a seamless bond with the locals, nor was it a country where any specific sites resonate on in my mind. I would willingly re-visit if circumstance took me back but I would lack the intense longing to return that occurred with Bali, New York, with Tanzania, Italy or Argentina.

Skyline Views Singapore

Singapore, rather, was a destination that swept me up into its web of tantalizing, eclectic flavours from hawker stall cereal prawns to waterside crab feasts. It was a destination that amazed me with its technological advancements and a digital e-world that made my city, London, seem archaic. And mostly, it was a city whose illustrious skyline views at night would catch my fixed gaze and leave me wondering how a collection of twinkling skyscrapers could engage me with such force.

Best Photo Viewpoints Singapore

Singapore Skyline Views at Night

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An Inside Tour of Celebrity Summit Cruise Ship

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Before I went on my first cruise last year to the Caribbean, I rather naively assumed not much planning was required. Pick a destination. Pick a cruise liner. Pack your passport and you’re good to go, right?

Wrong.

Caribbean islands cruise Barbados

Hello Barbados

That there is the approach of a novice first time cruiser. The savvy cruise-traveller will already have considered the large ship vs small ship experience and have sifted through the array of reviews on Cruise Critic (the cruise world’s answer to Trip Advisor;) they would have bagged a bargain on drinks and internet packages and be able to counsel you on the pros and cons of independent excursions vs cruise liner excursions.

Winter Cruise Destination Guide

I’ve already shared my first impressions of cruise travel in general but if the terminology above sounds like a foreign language to you, you’re in the same mindset that I was in around about a year ago and I hope this post will give you more of a flavour of what to expect on a cruise ship and certainly on Celebrity Summit itself. I had no media affiliations whatsoever during this cruise and was just another regular, fully paying customer (who happens to enjoy blogging and blabbing on about travel!)

Celebrity Cruise Caribbean Cruise Liners

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15 Foods You Must Try in Japan

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Did anyone else gawp in bemusement during last week’s opening episode of the 2016 Great British Bake Off, when Paul and Mary appeared never to have heard of matcha? No? Just me then. I accept I may be on one end of the spectrum (stark raving matcha mad) but as two of the country’s leading celebrity bakers, I certainly didn’t expect them to be on the other.

It did help me to re-frame my perspective though as frankly, unless you fall into the categories of (a) world foodie (b) all-things-Japan obsessed or (c) happen to do your weekly shop at a Japanese supermarket, there is really no reason why you should know about it.

matcha soft serve Japan food highlights

Take my mother for example: her’s is one of those “name an ingredient and you’ll find it in here” kind of larders – and even she has never had a tin of matcha powder in there.

Green tea aside, I had forgotten that I have a serious miso-glazed weakness for plenty of other dishes found in the Japanese flavour palette and not long after arriving, I found myself on an inadvertent mission to sample as many as possible of the must try foods in Japan (trickier than you may imagine in a two week trip and I almost never ate the same thing twice.)

conveyor belt sushi Osaka

Must-Try Foods in Japan

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One Day in St Maarten – Marigot and Maho Beach

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Last year, Pumpkin and I made the uncharacteristic move of booking ourselves a break in December, a month in which we rarely travel long haul. With Pumpkin scheduled to work much of the Christmas and New Year week, we, like all well-trained travel addicts, took this as a green light to squeeze in one final voyage for 2015 before his work could hamper our wanderlust. Plus, the last remaining droplets of my annual leave were still untouched. You’ve seen the blog title. You know the drill.

first impression cruise travel

After a few days in New York City that always steals my heart, we flew to Puerto Rico to escape the fluid-filled sombre clouds of the British winter in search of Vitamin D and Caribbean Calypso, partaking in our first ever cruise.

Those of you who read my first impressions on cruise travel may recall that one of the aspects I found a little offputting about cruising was the way in which it leaves such little time in each destination. What I did find highly appealing, however, was the flavour it gives of destinations you may never have visited otherwise – or even have heard of for that matter. Exhibit 1 – St Maarten in the Caribbean.

St Maarten island sign

Exploring St Maarten-St Martin in One Day

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3 of the Best Budapest Museums

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For Pumpkin and I, this year has been the year of returns. Long before we met, we were both eager explorers, continually yearning for new experiences but reaching quite contrasting destinations in the process. Pumpkin’s voyages comprised of multiple, long-haul, solo travel experiences, involving hikes in the Himalayas, sky dives in Australia, bungee jumps in Zambia and a limitless sense of adventure.

My journeys were a little less life-threatening in nature, more weighted towards cultural city breaks in Europe, palm fringed beaches in Mauritius, and tuk tuk tours in Thailand. Many a long afternoon in the dating stage of our relationship would be spent listening to each other’s travel tales and wondering where we could discover together.

Chain Bridge Budapest

Rediscovering Budapest

We soon learned the world is an enormous place and whilst he still hasn’t been to Rome or Barcelona and I still haven’t been to Cambodia or Namibia, we have endeavoured to spend the last few years pursuing new destinations together. We got soaked at the Iguazu Falls in Brazil, gazed in adoration at the orangutans in Borneo, snorkelled with sea turtles in Barbados and shoals of colourful fish in the Maldives.

Iguazu Falls view from Brazil

Iguazu Falls

We slept in a tea factory in Sri Lanka and marvelled at geysers in Iceland but in the last year, we have found ourselves returning to countries that at least one of us has already visited, with the goal of experiencing it entirely differently with our spouse in tow.

For Pumpkin, that was a revisit to Japan and for me, it meant accompanying him to one of my favourite European cities – Budapest. Nearly a decade had gone by since I travelled there and I was excited to see how the Hungarian capital had changed, to retrace my steps through the key tourist attractions and discover some newer, more quirky experiences on this second visit.

Budapest Pinball Museum

Flipper Museum, Budapest

Fortunately, Budapest has no shortage of historical intrigue even for the return visitor and aside from the key sights I had seen last time, this year, I found myself visiting 3 of Budapest’s best museums and parks and some of the quirky and most unique museums that we had seen anywhere in the world.

top attractions Budapest

Relics of Hungarian History at Statue Park

Budapest’s Best Museums

The Pinball Museum

When most people seek out cultural exploits in European cities, they look for historical sites, art galleries and establishments devoted to the performing arts. When Pumpkin seeks out cultural exploits, we end up playing arcade games at the Flipper Pinball Museum.😀

fun quirky museums Budapest Hungary

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The Bobbi Brown Afternoon Tea at Balthazar London

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If my sister was ever to give up her day job, I have no doubt that the world would quite rapidly gain a shiny new cake-maker, jewellery-curator or make-up artist extraordinaire. She may not be a blogger or writer but her list of artistic talents far extends mine. For her loved ones, this means slab upon slab of home-baked loaf cakes and sumptuous fresh lunches and for me, specifically, it means a free makeover every time she and I go anywhere together.

Bobbi Brown Afternoon Tea Balthazar

Cut from the same cloth, she too hates to waste her annual leave but she’s less for the foreign escapades and more for the London foodie ones. So it was no surprise that she was the first of us to hear of the creative, new make-up inspired afternoon tea hitting London this summer – the highly anticipated Bobbi Brown Afternoon Tea at Balthazar London.

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A Port Wine Tour in Douro Valley, Portugal

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As a woman submerged in a cosmopolitan city that (mostly) fuses communities and multiple ethnic origins, the concept of a life without cultural diversity feels uninspired and barren. Demographic trends in the UK have come a long way since the 1970s, when my Mum tells me she would have to travel in excess of an hour before she came even close to finding a shop that sold the spices she needed to cook the staples she had grown up with.

Douro Valley Wine Tour Travel Blog

A Day Tour from Porto to Douro Valley

Here in London, within just a one mile radius of my home, I can point you towards an Italian deli or a Polish supermarket and I can locate the pandan essence that I bought frantically in a Singapore supermarket, hoping to engage in some Asian-inspired baking without realising it was available minutes away from home in Greenwich.

The truth is, I live in such a multi-ethnic society that it is quite possible to travel the world, metaphorically, without ever owning a passport. I had sampled Parma ham long before I had heard of Italy’s Parma region. I had cravings for dulce de leche long before visiting Argentina and I came to know of Port wine decades earlier than I did Porto, a colourful city in Northern Portugal.

Port wine tasting Douro Valley

My earliest memory of seeing Port was at primary school, when I recall a my friends’ fathers receiving bottles for Christmas, beautifully encased in oblong wooden caskets.

I didn’t drink then (I was seven after all) though not much has changed even with the acquisition of years, which makes it all the more strange that Pumpkin and I decided to devote one of our precious two and a half days in Porto to head out on a wine tour of the Douro Valley. As the world’s first demarcated wine region, we were promised awe-inspiring views and a memorable day of Port tasting.

Douro Valley Boat Ride

So would I recommend it, even to the teetotal among you? I categorically would, as I now believe the UNESCO World Heritage Douro Valley is one of Europe’s best kept secrets.

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A Review of Pamela’s Restaurant and Cocktail Bar, Great Yarmouth

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If you earn in a city like Paris, New York or London, if you live the 13-hour-day-at the-office routine, whereby eating out is almost the easier option and if you have even a whiff of interest in global cuisine, I suspect your journey into the world of food snobbery will be a speedy, effortless and seamless one. It is easy for those of us who live not just in geographical capitals but also food capitals of the world to forget that the genius of food craft is not confined to our cities. London’s leading and award-winning chefs did not fall out of their mothers’ wombs in the glitzy kitchens of Michelin starred restaurants.

They, like us, had a variety of backgrounds and upbringings, grafted to try and perfect their chosen art form and found themselves in institutions they are passionate about as a result.

Pamela's Restaurant Great Yarmouth

Pamela’s Restaurant Great Yarmouth

Throughout the United Kingdom, in other cities, towns, villages and households, budding and established masterchefs are lurking behind unassuming doors, proudly dishing up their signature plates with aesthetic artistry and polished, professional service, bringing the joy of the fine dining experience to communities all over the country.

Pamela's Cocktail Bar Restaurant Review

Pamela’s Restaurant – Fine Dining in Great Yarmouth

Pamela’s Cocktail Bar and Restaurant in Great Yarmouth is one such place and we discovered it earlier this month when we ventured over to the Suffolk seaside to celebrate my father in law’s birthday.

silver service luxury dining East Anglia

My in-laws have lived in this area for well over three decades and Pumpkin’s earliest memories all stem from this region, yet it was Trip Advisor that led us to this elegant restaurant near the seaside. Love or hate Trip Advisor, there is no denying that there are some restaurant gems just waiting to be uncovered on it, if you can face sifting through the reams of subjective and often polar reviews.

restaurant scallop starter

Succulent Starter Scallops at Pamela’s

I rarely write specific restaurant reviews – travel writing alone keeps me busy a-plenty and there are more than enough food bloggers out there who do a far better job of the food chat than I ever could. But I simply couldn’t resist showing you what we found at Pamela’s and I hope that if you think of, hear of or visit Great Yarmouth one day, aside from the images of beach huts and fish and chips on the pier, you will also remember to look up Pamela’s.

Rum Baba Dessert Rose Pistachio

Rum baba with Rose Petals, Pistachio & Rose Ice Cream at Pamela’s

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Travel Tips for Japan

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A practical tips post…now there’s a domain I never would have imagined myself entering when I first started blogging. I’m forever grateful to those of you who follow along regularly, especially since I know my own particular flavour of writing is a bit of an acquired taste – long, essay-like sheets of prose, an ad hoc posting schedule that sees my articles emerging at best once a week and at worst, once a month. The truth is that those who know this blog best will know that brief, punchy articles, which get straight to the point, just ain’t my cup of tea. I’m no good at them and even when I try (case in point right here), I fail.

Once a rambler, always a rambler.

Bullet Train Travel Japan

Why then am I taking a change of direction this week to give you a post stuffed full of the kind of practicalities and logistics that have no place in the heart of a fairytale-loving dreamer?

It’s because, in reality, to make these travel pipe dreams come true, you do need some planning, all the more so when travelling somewhere as alien to your own culture, language and way of life as Japan was to Pumpkin and I.

travelling Japan Lonely Planet

My man did more than 98% of the planning for our trip so I’ll get the marital disclaimers out the way nice and early in this post by thanking him for that so I can get on with sharing some of the handiest tips we he found  :D

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10 Reasons to Love Greenwich and Blackheath, London

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Anyone who knows me well will know that the city of London is firmly entrenched in my heart. It’s not just home, it’s my past, my present and (hopefully) my future and I got lucky in finding a man en route, who moved here for work a decade ago but ended up more taken with the city than I am.

I cringe at sounding all Carrie Bradshaw New York City about it but I speak the truth when I tell you that life in London is a dream realised .

Greenwich London highlights blog

I grew up in the suburbs outside London in a peaceful and leafy part of the country that fringes the city, so near yet felt so far from the city I yearned to experience. When university applications came, I had to select four choices – I gave all my allocations to London universities and after I graduated, I worked my backside off to bag myself a London job.

London blogs

Yes yes, I know you get nada for your money living hre and that the air will always be just a little lot more polluted and yes, I am not oblivious to the ugly, unforgiving sides of London but this month’s link up topic is about home – and this is mine.

Greenwich London Highlights

Greenwich Views

So how do you immortalise half a lifetime’s worth of memories and moments of a city into one blog post? Simple answer is you don’t so I won’t even attempt it. Instead, this post about the home within homeBlackheath and Greenwich a little pocket of South East London that even many Londoners are yet to visit. Until I met Pumpkin who was living in this ‘hood, I myself had never explored the area so if you aren’t yet familiar with this part of London Town, here are 10 reasons why I love Greenwich and Blackheath so much.

Greenwich and Blackheath Highlights

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