Belgium Triangle

Mid week city break, anyone?

The thing I love about Europe is that everywhere is quite close – relatively speaking! Cheap flights on budget airlines and you can discover the Art Nouveau capital of the world! That actually surprised me! Okay, so this wasn’t my most planned or researched trip! I hadn’t even noted down the address of my hostel or how to find it! I sort of just decided to head to Belgium for a few days, then decided to stay in Brussels and visit Bruges and Ghent. They, pretty much make a triangle! Despite not knowing where my hostel was or how to find it, this turned out to be a great trip.

Teething issues!

I landed in Brussels and had the realisation that I had done zero – and I mean zero -research! I didn’t even take a note of the address of my hostel or how to get there! An empty stomach and no idea where to go… not a great combination! But thanks to a cheeky wifi connection – thank you O2 for dropping roaming charges to Europe – I was able to find my hostel which ended up being only 10 minutes walk from the station I was at!

Seriously unprepared for my first foray into Solo travel in a while! No travel charger, wrong plug connection, no bag for water, although walking around with only my MK traveller bag was awesome and light! SO I decided to introduce – THE EMERGENCY TRAVEL JOURNAL – an A5, 96-page soft cover book that fits in my handbag with my selfie stick, phone, hand cream, pen, passport and gum. My trendy umbrella hangs nicely off the bag too!

Brussels

After the hostel debacle, I headed into Brussels for the afternoon. Which means I navigated myself from my hostel to the Grand Place, in a meandering orientation style walk! These are my favourite – unrushed and you see some strange and wonderful things. Searching for specific landmarks comes later in my tours, I like to get a feel of the local area and find the big landmarks that make navigating the city easier! The Grand Place is exactly that, the heart of the city.

Brussels is filled with identifiable places from the Atomium, the Mannekin Pis, Palais Royale and Central Station. We have all seen Place du Luxembourg on TV at some point!

One thing that I enjoy doing is finding good places to eat or drink and returning for seconds or thirds. This is easy in Brussels with the L’Roi on the Grand Place, a great place on the corner of the square with a gorgeous view where you can drink beer and watch the tourists! Another place is the Moeder Lambic on the place Fountainas, a fabulous beer house with over 40 crafted Belgium beers! You can find one that you like or keep tasting until you fall over!

Bruges

After watching In Bruges, I have wanted to come to Bruges to see if it really is that beautiful! It is! Even when overcast and threatening rain! The canals are simple and stunning while the Begijnhof is amazing. The Begijnhof is a silent, square of giant trees planted by Beguines, emancipated women who wanted to live a life of quiet contemplation. The square is surrounded by the Beguinage Ten Wijngaarde, pretty housing for those independent ladies, now home to monks and a museum.

Bruges is an easy city to walk around even with my bad sense of direction! There are tourist maps placed along the route from the station to the Centre Markt. Which is straight out of the film and beautiful even without the market in full flow. All I could smell was strawberries as I walked through it!

The buildings are old, brick-cobbled along small streets.nThe churches tower over the buildings – some are so tall that you can’t get the full weight in a photo – not enough space to step back! There is a similarity to the buildings but they are not uniform.

Both McDonalds and Pizza Hut are not clad in their usual brightly coloured showy exteriors. I walked right past the McDonalds – only identified by a small sign outside. And yes it is a cheap place to eat while travelling!

Such a pleasure to stroll along the canal listening to the wind!

Ghent and the hard to find castle!

The train to Gent St Pieters was really enjoyable – I like trains – calm and chilled. I enjoy that. Peaceful, I forget how much I like train journeys. Definitely, something I miss living in KSA.

Ghent or Gent – WOW!

So unexpected and beautiful!

The churches, trams and shops all squeezed into tiny, windy streets that stretch for ages. Then it’s churches and cathedral – stunning. I spend much time meandering through the small streets looking for a castle that is not on a hill – most castles are on hills, or set in easily defensible places. Ghent Castle is not – you can’t even see the castle over the buildings. It’s kind of odd, although the castle overlooks the city, well the upper ramparts do due to their height but the actual castle is hard to find as it’s sort of hidden in a dip by the canal. Definitely, my favourite part – I even spent ten euro to see inside its dark halls and wander the ramparts. It is full of little displays of old weaponry, clothing and historical nuggets of information!

I have discovered that I really like walking around cities as seeing the architecture and getting a feel for the city!

What’s your favourite thing when travelling? Do you prefer feeling the life blood of the city or viewing museums and galleries?

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Chester, UK

I love having family who lives in different places! It means more places for me to visit and explore!

Where does your family live?

My youngest brother has recently moved to Chester. So guess where my second stop during my three-month long vacation was?

Yup, you guessed it!

Chester!

img_6708A lovely city, with a small town feel! In the sunshine, it is stunning, although I am pretty sure that even overcast Chester is pretty! Such an easy city to walk around, either by canal or along the city wall! The old town is crammed within the large Roman walls despite the winding streets the city does not feel cramped! Many tourists wander around, mixing in with the locals doing their shopping.

img_6711A strange mix of ancient stones and modern stores and restaurants, Chester is a lot of fun to walk around. From the Roman walls, amphitheatre and the rows of Tudor Style half-timber buildings, it is a wonderful mix of architecture making my meanderings around the old city very interesting.

img_6705I happily wandered around, stopping at coffee shops and bars to watch the folk shopping and sight seeing!

There is so much to do from visiting the Cathedral, the Race Course, the Zoo and an Aquarium, even Falconry events based out of the Cathedral!

You need at least a week to explore this lovely English City!

Staycation – Cumbria, UK

Can you spot the sheep on Silverdale Farm? - carikube.wordpress.com

Can you call it a staycation if you don’t live in the country?

Having travelled back to the UK for my summer holiday’s – a definite perk of being a teacher! I found myself enjoying a mini staycation to Cumbria. In a static caravan no less!

Where do you Staycation?

I have never stayed in a Static Caravan before – a campervan, old VW style yes, but an actual static caravan, nope! SO this was a new experience for me! I was pleasantly surprised, not sure what I was expecting but a neat, well put together mini home was not expected. It was just like a normal home but smaller and less solid!

Caught being cute on camera - carikube.wordpress.comFor my brother, his girlfriend and the dog the trip to Cumbria is something they do as a way to get away from the busy city of Liverpool and enjoy some quality walking time in the countryside.

Staying in Caravan Park near Arnside it was quiet and just like a small country village with green trees, grasses and even a pond! It was beautiful, definitely a good way to spend the weekend.

#carikube.wordpress.comI must admit it has been a long time since I did any English Countryside walking. We started out walking along the beach at Arndale, the overcast sky kept us cool and still allow for good photos. Quintessentially English, Arnside is cute, the beach was a mix of sand, mud and rocks. Watching the dog gamble about was great, he is such a happy pooch!

Summer crossings of the bay - carikube.wordpress.comAs we rounded the headland on the beach we discovered hundreds of people and dogs milling about! In the middle of the beach. Almost in lines, it was weird! We found out that during the summer the wide gets low enough for people to walk across the bay from one beach to another, there is a Sand Master leading the expedition and a tractor following them jut in case! Apparently, there are quicksand patches and places where the sand puddles are very deep, hence the need for a Sand Master to keep everyone safe!

Walking on the beach to SIlverdale - carikube.wordpress.comThe dog was not impressed, the vast number of dogs did not want to play, so we carried on with our walk to Silverdale!

Our route took us from Arnside to Silverdale along the beach, with a brief pause to watch my brother and the dog cavort in a giant puddle! Apparently, the dog can’t see when the water changes depth, so he would disappear into the water and pop up doing the doggy paddle! Hilarious fun!

We walked through Silverdale, stopping for refreshment at each pub! The sun had come out some chilled with a cold drink in the summer sun was amazing! Yes, the meandering through the village was slow and really chilled! It was late afternoon before we hit the forest to make our way over the hill (via a series of forest paths and windy footpaths).

Views through the trees of moss covered rocks - carikubeblog.wordpress.comI still think going up the hill would have been better in the morning but since we were in the shade it was great! English forests are so stirring, maybe it was just me but I was seeing ancient battles between bowmen, forest folk dancing and frolicking through the trees! Sure, the moss covered rocks evoked images of scrambling children and elves! I can’t wait for my masters to be over when I can sit down and write some of these scenes down!

#carikubeblog.wordpress.comThe view from the top of the hill was beautiful, a feeling of contentment and achievement washed over me as I looked out over the Dales. I am now getting whimsical and should sign off before I head off in a totally different direction!

I am definitely a firm believer in Staycations, where ever you live! Particularly, if you live in a city and can get away to the countryside. It was a beautiful weekend and as usual the dog got the most attention – he is a lovely dog!

Where do you go for a mini break?

Tibs on tour on Arnside Knott - carikube.wordpress.com

What to do with travel photos?

I have travelled to many places with much more to explore! I don’t know about other travellers but I have real trouble with my travel photos – yes, I post them on Facebook so my family can see them but then…there they stay unless you look through them!

What do you do with your travel photos?

In 2010 I had the great idea to turn my Japan photos into a photo book with Snapfish – the outcome was amazing – neat, compact and a little story to remember my travels by!

Nowadays most people don’t even print out their photos – I know one person who printed out their photos of their Japan trip and one who created photo books of their travel trips from the last two years.

I am sitting with photos of diving and my travels from 2014 up till now on my PC. In that time I have created one photo book from my adventures in Madagascar.

Hundreds of photos, wasting away.

Hidden from view.

Lonely and forgotten!

Screen Shot of my photo folders #carikubeblog.wordpress.comAfter looking through my travel photographs tonight, I wondered what I should do with them?!

Continue reading “What to do with travel photos?”

Charles Fort and Kinsale

Where do you call home?

Sometimes memories hit you in the strangest ways! You open an email with a link to the West Cork Times and voila – now you are homesick for Kinsale! I first travelled to Kinsale in 2008. Since then I travel there at least once a year to see my father who has retired to the small Irish village. It is now one of the few places I can happily call home!

Check out this awesome video from the West Cork Times:

I can’t wait to go to Kinsale!

Are you like me and many places you call home?

How to plan your packing for 3 months

How to plan your packing for a 3 month summer holiday - carikubeblog.wordpress.comBeing an international teacher means when it is holiday time I want to get out and see the world! This is a wonderful way to live. But when the term dates are changed, and I end up with three extra weeks holiday over the summer – two things happen:

  1. My colleagues and I become the most hated teachers’ on the planet, thanks to extra long summer vacation.
  2. I panic about how to pack for a three month holiday!

Three months is a long time – last summer I had 110 days and had to pack for a scuba volunteer project in a summer climate and winter with my mother. This summer I plan to travel around the UK and see some parts of Europe I haven’t seen yet (More on that in a later post). With the additional problem of taking some books back to the UK, as well as having to take my laptop, kindle and Ipad in my checked in baggage – the problem increased.  Even less space in my suitcase!

How do you pack for a long holiday?

My sister laughs at me, but I start with Pinterest – I have a board called Packing, that I pin all sorts of packing hacks, tips and methods. Recently, I have developed an interest in capsule wardrobes, I like the idea of a smaller wardrobe that makes more outfits. This will allow me to spend more money on travelling and fun stuff! Check out my Pinterest Board called Fashion for more details and ideas about capsule wardrobes.

My sister laughs at the way I start packing, I use a pencil and my Bullet Journal. This means I can pack anywhere even while on the bus waiting for the bank to open. I find that this method helps refine my thinking of which items I need – I can then pull out what is necessary and then add things I feel are necessary.  Or things I just have to take with me!

Steps to my slim line packing method:

  1. List the basics for clothes
  2. List extras that you might need to buy (this helps if you have limited space)
  3. List basics for toiletries (thanks to Boots and Superdrug I can pick up anything bulky like shampoo and conditioner!)
  4. List basics for makeup
  5. Once the basics are listed – lay everything out on the bed (this helps with colour coding and making sure everything matches).
  6. Pack it all – if it fits great! If it doesn’t – sorry high tops will have to only take the Converse!

My lists help me visualise what I might need and gives me an idea of what the basics are! Once, the items are out on the bed I can see what I have and add or remove items depending on my needs.

IMG_6528

So how do you pack for a long holiday? Let me know your tips and tricks!

 

Essentials for Carry On Travel

the essential items for carry on travel - carikubeblog.wordpress.comAs a frequent traveller, hand luggage is the bane of my existence. So many issues, so many ways to pack!

  • Too much, not enough?!
  • How long is the flight?
  • Long haul, 5-6 hours, 1-2 hours?
  • Will you be working/ blogging/ writing?

What to take?

While looking at packing pins on Pinterest, and travel blogs on packing there are a lot of options and suggestions. But there are also many different types of hand luggage/ carry on’s. For example, when I travel to Ireland to see my dad, I only take hand luggage (and a handbag) as the airlines charge for checked in luggage. However, when I travel for holidays or longer periods I usually take a suitcase/ backpack (depending on the type of travel) and hand luggage… and a handbag/ day pack. Usually with my Kindle, tablet (for games) and laptop (for masters assignments). While I do have Microsoft 365 and can open my documents anywhere – as long as there is the internet – I prefer my laptop to be with me as I can find a good spot (cafes, hotel rooms/ lobbies), connect and work away.

New rules and regulations introduced by the UK and US governments. 

OH NO… now my three essential pieces of tech are banned!

In March the following items: large phones, external hard drives, laptops and tablets were banned from the cabin on flights to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Tunisia. Living in Saudi Arabia, this affects me particularly this summer when I have planned a 3 month holiday based in my home country (UK).

Yikes – now what?

Firstly, I need to rethink my hand luggage from the “kitchen sink” to “essentials only”. Secondly, I finally get to write a packing post after reading them for years! So I reviewed my favourite Packing Pins and compared them to the stuff I take with me regularly – the aim is to travel super light! I have not travelled without my Kindle since I bought it in 2010 (yes, the same one)! I love having lots of book choices in the palm of my hand. June 3rd will be the first time I have not had it in my hand luggage. I really hope the airline has good movies!

Ideally, I would love to travel with a minimal handbag and no hand luggage – which so far never works out because of all my electronics.  This trip I am going to try to carry only a handbag once I am checked in!Small and neat bag I wish I could use for hang luggage carikubeblog.wordpress.com

But knowing my luck, I will be taking a bigger handbag!The bag I actually travel with...my Radley - carikubeblog.wordpress.com

MY ESSENTIAL HAND LUGGAGE ITEMS:

Baby Wipes (or equivalent) – for cleaning/ refreshing during the flight, most flights hand out refresher towels now so this depends on space and how far I have to travel after the flight!

Gum/ Mints – I don’t snack in general so I don’t travel with snacks but mints/ gum help with ear popping and fresh breath on shorter flights (for longer ones I take a travel sized toothbrush and paste).

Ear plugs and an Eye mask – essential when trying to chill or sleep, particularly when babies are around – on shorter flights I choose movies to watch and usually back to back as there are no cinemas in Saudi so I like to take advantage particularly if they have left the cinema circuit already!

Hand sanitizer/ wipes – for extra cleanliness, I like having them on hand for spills or to clean up coffee stains.

Hair brush, ties, clips – my straight hair tends to become static, during flights and it is easier to stick it in a ponytail or braid when sleeping, having an extra tie and clips helps if I fancy a change. The brush helps me feel awake and presentable on arrival!

Jewellery bag – I always carry my dive watch and jewellery for the vacation in my hand luggage as I do not want to loose it or have it stolen.

Journal and pens – For checking travel plans, keeping numbers, journaling,  post planning or creative writing, heck I even make notes of things to get in duty-free before I leave the airport – a very important thing when visiting people, last minute gifts are great! I like coloured pens and have a set of 4 BIC coloured pens that fit in my travel wallet – just in case!

Knickers – a change of underwear, in a zip lock bag which is great for keeping them fresh and storing the dirty pair. Additionally, a small bag won’t get tangled with anything else and jump out and surprise you as you dig for your passport!

Makeup – Eyeliner, mascara, lipstick to freshen up on arrival as I don’t like travelling in makeup – okay maybe a touch of eyeliner! While waiting for baggage, a quick trip to the bathroom to add a touch of glam helps to make me look less tired!

Moisturisers – Lip, face, hands, spray, eye drops to keep me moisturised and fresh.

Painkillers – Just in case but essential if I get a headache or when I travel with someone and they get a headache!

Perfume – I like to keep a mini size on hand for freshening up, I only wear deodorant before flying so keeping a mini in my bag helps on the other side particularly after difficult flights – it sort of clears the air for me!

Phone, charging bank and earphones – just in case the movies work before they had out the airline’s earphones, also good for audio books and music since no Kindle or iPad for reading! My charging bank fits in the palm of my hand and means I don’t need to carry my charger

Sunglasses & Glasses – Sunny’s are a must when landing in the day, sensitive eyes and all that! The glasses are in case I get tired – for example on a 3:50 am flight, watching or reading can make my eyes even more tired.

Travel Wallet – Passport, tickets, visas, money (multiple currencies), pens, credit cards and other paperwork things I might need before my final destination.

MY FAVOURITE PACKING POSTS FROM AWESOME PEOPLE:

How to Pack a Carry On or Carry On Necessities for the Pampered Traveler 

What to pack in an Airplane Tote? 

Travel Tuesday Carry-On Essentials

My Carry-on flight Essentials 

 

Where will this year take you?

So it’s January, time to write a new list! Where do you start? 

I like to start at the end seems rather silly but it’s a good place to start. Start at the end of last year! 

What did you do? How much did you do? Where did you go? What have you crossed off your big list of life already? 

From there I choose a few things that I’d like to try and do, generally something for fitness, health, travel and something for broadening the mind. 

So this year my something to exercise is to play squash more, to dive more, to try more dive places around Jeddah. For health I want to try continue eating better less carbs more vegetables, and maybe learn how to cook a new soup. So that’s health and fitness! Next up travel!

I definitely want to go to Dubai this year for a weekend or maybe a week! after being subtly manipulated by my mother into a trip to Jordan, I guess Jordan is the place.

To broaden my mind, well based on last years learning to play the violin, this year I’m actually going to learn something to play a piece on the violin something simple but beautiful. 

There are several other aspects of life today I try to improve as well.  standard ones like to be more sociable, say yes to more things, try new restaurants, try different food, things like that. 

Making the choice to do something and being specific about it is the hardest part of making a list of things to do for the new year. As the weeks go on your plans will finalize and change as you might be inspired to change your plans. Just because you put something on your list and you don’t achieve it doesn’t mean you haven’t done anything. It just gives you a place to start. 

As every traveller knows it is not the destination it is the journey!

The thing about coffee

imageimageLong, short, quick, instant, milky, foamy, cream or sugar….heck in Cambodia they even have it with condensed milk!

Coffee – like marmite you love it or hate it! No one can really say it is just ok! The options of how you have it are endless and each country has its on variation and style.

My morning brew is usually an extra large latte of something strong. The last one was a spicy Sumatran while the current is a Strong African blend. 1/2 coffee, 1/2 milk with a dash of foam – allowing for maximum enjoyment on the school bus. imageI own an imageespresso machine which make much better coffee than instant which just seems so thin.

Sadly I am limited to 1 extra large coffee per day otherwise the caffeine overwhelmed me and I get hyper and a hyper teacher plus hyper children is a bad mix!

So I enjoy it on the ride to work or before the bus ride. My biggest problem when it comes to coffee is that I am incapable of keeping a travel mug alive for more than a couple of months. In the last year I have been through a cheap one, metal one, several expressive plastic ones. I drop them, leave them on buses, tubes, trains. There is nothing more frustrating than getting of a train or tube and realising your coffee is still of the train! Then trying to get back and have the doors slam in your face and watching your coffee disappear into the distance!

I usually console myself with mug shopping  and if I am in London, a trip to Broad Street market in Hackney for my favourite brew of all time. Filtered Monsoon Malabar with thick cream and a dash of sugar!

                               Yum, Yum.

Alzu, South Africa

The coolest thing about driving from Jo’burg, South Africa to Mbabane, Swaziland is Alzu. It’s a fabulous creation by the Alzu Animal Feed Manufacturer. A conservational idea to help educate people and show them something wonderful.

At it’s most basic it is a filling station/ rest stop with a twist.

In an effort to promote and protect the Rhino’s of South Africa, The owners of Alzu have created a mini game park with zebra, water buffalo, emu, ostriches, impala and rhino.

Yes I said RHINO’s!

There are several including a baby. Due to the disgusting habit of a certain kind of people in this world poaching rhino is still a big issue in the world with rhinos being culled for their horns. It’s kind of a hack and slash and leave the creatures to die horribly. Alzu is trying a unique way to stop this. The Alzu rhinos have all be dehorned and are protected by barbed wire, electric fences and armed guards. Strangely with all the people who pass through Alzu rest stop every one of them…yes everyone of them… stops to see the rhinos meandering about eating or drinking. Unlike a lot of parks that protect their rhinos out of the eye line of the normal people, Alzu rhinos are there to be seen by everyone.

What better way for people and children to see some of Africa’s finest creatures than by watching them while you eat your Nando’s or as you wash your hands in one of the rest rooms. If you want to learn more about protecting rhino’s you can pop downstairs and learn allsorts of cool facts about rhinos and what people in South Africa are doing to save them.