Thursday, December 2, 2010

Snow, snow, everywhere.

Day 6 and no signs of it ending anytime soon, not that I'm complaining.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Snow Day (well, night)!!


So as the snow literally batters down outside my window (seriously, it's been snowing for about 15 minutes and there's already an inch or so on the ground) I am excitedly planning which cozy outfit I will wear to venture out tomorrow and where I will go. The park will probably be an icy death trap tomorrow but I think it will be beautiful so I might try and get some pictures. Otherwise I can't see myself making it beyond Starbucks.
For some reason the snow is making me incredibly excited. It's a reminder that, despite all the craziness that happens at this time of year, it's a time of happiness.
It better not be gone in the morning ;).

P.S. I just went bounding into one of my flatmates bedroom to see if she wanted to go frolic in the snow. She was not impressed. Please tell me I'm not the only one who regresses to a five year old when it snows?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hello!

Hiya, just here with a quick update and a few photos of rare sunny days in Scotland. I've been kind of overwhelmed with school work in the past month and have completely neglected (but not forgotten) this blog. Hopefully with the holidays coming up I'll have some more time and something a little bit more interesting to post about.
Until then, please join me in remembering what blue skies in Scotland look like.

View from Stirling castle
Ruins of some fort I cannot remember.
Sunny day at a beach in Ayr.

Don't let these pictures fool you, it may look like a beautiful sunny beach resort but it barely even hit 20 degrees most of these days. Although with our below freezing temperatures right now it feels like I'm in a different country.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

West Coast is the Best Coast

I thought I would share a few pictures of the magical place that is the Pacific coast of Oregon, a place I occasionally call home ;).

Pretty amazing, huh?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hi from Hainan!

I actually wrote this post nearly a year ago but never ended up publishing it, so I thought I might as well now.
A popular holiday spot for expats living in Asia, Hainan island was somewhere I visited fairly often during my time in China. And here I am once again. There are more tourists and kids than I remember, not something I would have noticed in my youth plus I've definitely been spoiled with amazing holiday locations. It's your typical tropical island: golden beaches with clear blue water, palm trees, bars in the middle of swimming pools, but without a lot of the trashiness that can come with certain other resorts (Cancun, I am looking at you). If I'm being totally honest I can't tell you how much or little there is to do on the island. Every time I've been I've stayed in a huge hotel on the beach with plenty of pools and things to do. I've always stayed in Sanya, which is an area at the southern most tip and
where most of the hotels are concentrated. Like a regular tropical holiday, most time is spent on the beach. I took a banana boat ride and some friends went scuba diving. Overall, I would say this is a great holiday stop if you are living in Asia, but if you're going to come all the way to Asia from somewhere else I would hit up the Thai or Malaysian islands instead.



Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Getting Deals: The Hotel

I like to think of traveling as one of my favorite hobbies, and I know as well as anyone that this hobby happens to be a huge money drainer. A few relaxing weeks can quickly become thousands of dollars before you've even left your house. Money is probably the biggest deterent to a lot of people traveling (or at least, this is what I tell myself. Because why else wouldn't you want to travel?). One thing I refuse to skimp on is the activities, because if you're not going to visit the sites you want or do the activities you want, what's the point of being there?
So that leave a few things: accommodation, flights, food, and transportation.
Quite possibly the most important thing you need to do is set a total budget, then divide that by the number of days and work out what you have to spend on what. Once you start working out what you need to spend money on you realize that what may seem like a lot may not get you very far.

The first thing I do is look on discount hotel sites. Unless you're staying in a hostel or couch surfing (both good options, but not for me personally) you probably are going to be staying in a hotel. Sites I've used include hotels.com, laterooms.com, and lastminute.com. It's important to check a few different sites because often the same hotel will come up with different prices depending on where you're looking. It also makes searching quick and easy since you can pull up loads of hotels in one area, compare prices and see pictures of them all. Another great site I've discovered is hotelyo.com. They have huge discounts, often on really nice places in great locations. The only problem with this site is that there are only limited number of locations available at one time so this would be great if you are lucky enough to find where you want to go or are just looking to get away and don't mind where you go.

If you have the option of traveling in the off season and during the week, you can save a lot of money on the hotel. Actually a lot of cities are wonderful to visit during the off season as you avoid both the crowds and the extremes of the weather. If you're lucky enough to be able to travel during the low season, definitely take advantage of it.

Extra tip: If you are walking into a hotel on the day without a booking, often they will lower their price slightly to give you a deal (don't ask for too much of a reduction, $20 tops) since selling a hotel room at a slightly lower price is better for them than having an empty room.

Let me know of any other tips you have for getting great deals on hotels.
Happy traveling!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Culzean Castle, Scotland


These photos were taken on a recent trip to Culzean Castle in Scotland. The building itself was fairly interesting, although we accidentally went on an incredibly drawn out tour that made me want to sleep for a hundred years. The top floor used to belong to the Eisenhower's and they would stay there when they visited Scotland. The real beauty of this place though was the sprawling grounds. The gardens are beautiful and well-maintained, there is a duck pond, and it sits right on a clifftop at the coast. It would be such a wonderful place to come on a warm summer's day with a picnic (which in Scotland usually occurs one or two times a year, if we're lucky).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Athens

(Academy of Athens)
(Athens University)(National Library)
As you have probably heard Athens has been having some economic/political problems which led to a few strikes earlier this year and the bombing of a bank which killed three people.
We stayed at the Melia Hotel Athens, which ended up being really close to where the bank bombing took place. It was still all black and there was piles of flowers and photos outside, it was really sad.The ground floor restaurant in our hotel was closed when we arrived as there were lots of cracks in the glass from where rocks had also been thrown. A little disconcerting.

Anyway, the first night we decided to go out and see Sex and the City 2 since it had just come out. When we left the theater at around 11:30 p.m. the feeling outside had dramatically changed, there was literally no one about, but there were police officers with large guns walking around and we encountered a few guys who made very lewd comments. Overall, it left us with a very uneasy feeling and we seriously considered leaving right then and going to Santorini early.
We decided to stay though but needless to say didn't walk anywhere at night again.

Athens is not a very pretty city but it was nice to see the Athens trilogy, which consists of the National Library, Athens University, and Academy of Athens (all pictured above). We had a wonderful dinner one night at a restaurant in Syntagma Square, where there are a few fancy hotels. It was hellishly expensive (and I think we were the only ones under the age of 30 in there paying for our own dinners) but seriously yummy and had a lovely view of the acropolis.

So I'm adding Athens to the list of places I won't be visiting again but am glad I saw once.

Pic of the sunset from the rooftop pool at the hotel.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Avoiding the Heat

Today it's 97 degrees and tomorrow it's meant to be above 100 so I am taking refuge inside my air-conditioned bedroom. Being from Britain, I do not do well in extreme temperatures.

Anyway, yesterday I went shopping on SE Hawthorne which is a notoriously "bohemian" area in Portland-not somewhere I would usually shop, but I managed to find a rather cool sweater without even looking. I got it for $14 and the intense sequin detailing on the arms and the fact that it's 50% wool made me think it's probably worth a bit more so I thought it was a great deal! I am usually pretty funny about "vintage" shopping just because I don't really like the idea of wearing clothes someone has worn before but I ignored those feelings and bought this beauty anyway!

I would have tried it on but I can't even bear the thought of putting on a sweater and jeans at the moment.

I also picked up this painting at an antique store to hang above my bed. I'm trying to make my room a little more Grown Up, even though the only time I'm here is holidays and the purple walls are not helping. Maybe I'll make that a summer project, since it's unbearably warm I could repaint my room. I would probably just do it a neutral eggshell white as every time I have painted a color I get sick of it in six months, but any suggestions on fabulous colors I could paint my walls would be much appreciated!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

So now that summer is here I have been spending a lot of time watching movies, something I rarely have the chance to do during the regular year. It's one of the main reasons why I stay up until around 5 in the morning doing nothing but starting at my computer screen (yes, my life is that exciting).
Anyway, I decided to do a review of the movies I've seen in the last couple of days.

First up: Toy Story 3
Now I have to admit that about 75% of why I went to see this movie is because my little brother wanted to. The other 25% was because I vaguely remember enjoying the first one years ago (and then hating the second). So surprisingly I actually really enjoyed this! It was a nice family friendly movie, didn't run on for too long (about an hour and a half I think) and overall was nice and satisfying. Not sure I would've gone to see it with my friends but if you have anyone young you're taking to the cinema it's definitely something they will enjoy.
Rating: 4.0/5

And then there was Letters to Juliet.
I know this isn't everyone's opinion, but whenever I see Amanda Seyfried in a movie, I don't expect much. Let's be honest, the only reason she's in anything is because she's blond and pretty. But regardless it was a decent chick flick with a cutesy story about a woman who wrote to "Juliet" many years ago about her one true love and returns many years later, with the help of Seyfried, to find him.

Rating: 2.5/5

Alexis Bledel has continuously disappointed me since her departure from Gilmore Girls (anyone see Post Grad? that was painful). But I actually quite enjoyed this movie and I like both of the male costars (Jake from One Tree Hill and Jason from Friday Night Lights). The plot is interesting, it's about a mortgage broker working on Wall Street and his girlfriend and "the new guy." You are never really sure which point of view is right up until the very end and it definitely questions the trust we put in narrators.
Beyond the plot twist though, it's little more than your typical love story.

Rating: 3.0/5

And finally, Wild Child starring Emma Roberts. It's about a teenage girl who rebels against her father and gets sent to a boarding school in England her mother once attended. Despite her snarky L.A. attitude and many attempts to get expelled, she ends up fitting and and finding true friends. A chick flick, but a good watch if you're bored.

Rating: 3.5/5

Monday, June 28, 2010

Music I'm absolutely loving right now...


Dash & Will


Marina & the Diamonds


One Night Only

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Five Things I Hate About Traveling


I would definitely consider myself someone who has caught the travel bug. If I had the money, I would spend every free minute of my time exploring new and wonderful places. Traveling is something I've always loved to do and will continue to enjoy for quite some time. But even the most seasoned traveler can have a short patience when it comes to some of the little details...so here are my five least favorite things about one of my favorite things.

1. Airports. I don't know if it's my recent "traumatic" experience with easyjet (two canceled flights, one for "personal reasons" the other for the volcano, both of which they did nothing about despite us being stranded in a foreign country and numerous late flights that severely messed up other plans. we got so upset with the traveling at one point we didn't go to berlin and came back a few days early. Long story, needless to say, I will never ever fly easyjet again. If I need a budget airline, I'll go Ryanair) or just the general stress and chaos that seems to surround people in airports, but I absolutely cannot stand them. That, and no matter how much I fly, I'm still a little afraid of it. Any of that dropping up and down kind of turbulence and I will be clutching the person's hand next to mine so hard they won't be able to feel their fingers.

2. Packing. When I was younger, I loved packing. I would start packing a week before going on even the smallest trips because, to me, it was a sign that something new and exciting was happening. But now it has just become a chore. You'd think with the amount I need to pack and unpack I would be good at it, but no. I either way way overpack and end up only wearing a third of the clothes I bring or try and "pack light" and end up forgetting some key piece, like tights in the middle of winter.

3. Weather. When you're at home, bad weather really isn't that big a deal. Despite the constant moanings of many people when it rains, it really isn't a big deal to me. I just don't get it, I mean you can basically do everything you normally do when the weather sucks? Unless you were planning on walking around lots or having a picnic...things that most people only do when they're, you know, only holiday? But I digress, the fact that enjoyment on holiday is so dependent on having good weather always bothers me. At home if I was planning a picnic one weekend and it rained for three days straight, I would just go to the movies and have a picnic the next weekend...but when you're away you don't have that luxury...and the weather can put a serious damper on the whole trip.

4. Not speaking the language. Until I traveled this summer, I actually can't recall ever being somewhere I didn't speak a single word of the language. Of course when I was younger I went places in Asia I couldn't speak the language, but I always had parents or friends to do interpreting and would always learn a few key phrases and words to get by on. But this summer, we went to five countries in the space of five weeks and the "key phrases" just didn't stick in my head. That and the fact that I left my Greece guide book at home didn't really help matters. Needless to say it led to some interesting situations, when my hand gestures just didn't quite cut it...and I always feel like such an idiot when I can't speak the language (although I know I shouldn't, since no one can be expected to speak them all). It is pretty cool though when two people start going through the languages they know in an attempt to find a lingua franca...which is how I ended up conversing with an Italian in French.

5. Er actually that's about it, I pretty much love everything else about traveling. I probably could find some other things to complain about but I feel like that list is sufficient as I don't want to put anyone off traveling!!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lazy Days of Summer




Since I have no super exciting trips planned in the near future (at least for a month or two) I've taken to photographing places around and about with my Holga camera in an attempt to stop myself from slipping into a mind-numbingly bored state while spending the summer at home.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Photos from Rome (part 2)

Please listen to this song while reading this post, as it was playing in my head most of the time I was in Rome (thanks to the Lizzie McGuire movie...yes, I should probably stop admitting that these terrible chick flicks made me want to go to some of the most wonderful places on earth).

These are the final noteworthy pictures from Rome.


Trevi Fountain


Roman Forum



Museum (...the type of which I have already forgotten)



We stayed at the Kame Hall which was in a good location, nice and clean, and since it's not a proper hotel, not too expensive. As I mentioned before, all the main attractions are within reasonable walking distance of each other...so if you find a hotel near one attraction, you won't be too far from the others. There were no restaurants for breakfast or lunch in the hotel, but since we were so close to pizzerias, cafes, and shops it really didn't matter.

I'm already trying to work out when I can afford to go back as it is a truly magical place.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Santorini, the most beautiful place on earth?

Okay, so I have to admit that what made me want to go to Santorini years ago was:
Yup, I am a sucker for bad chick flicks but The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants just made Greece look so beautiful. Combined with the fact that pictures of Santorini are absolutely everywhere, it's a place I've always wanted to go.

I think we chose the perfect time to go (late May) as we still got wonderful warm weather with mild nights but we avoided the scorching heat and hordes of tourists (something I was very surprised at, a couple of times a day big groups of tourists would come in from the cruise ships and then completely clear out a few hours later).

We stayed in the Aressana Hotel and Spa, which was a little cheaper than the original place we wanted to stay but I am glad we chose this one instead as it was in Thira and walking distance to everything we wanted to do (although Oia was a beautiful city too so I would stay there as well). The hotel itself was nice, it had everything a hotel needs. We didn't try the spa though as it was horrendously overpriced. Breakfast was included and was absolutely delicious, I'm already craving this pastry/ cake thing that was half sweet and savory and covered in powdered sugar mmmm I have no idea what it was, but it was delicious!

We went to Oia for the evening to watch the sunset from the ruins of the castle. It's supposed to be one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. To be honest, the sunset was nice but nothing special. The coolest thing was actually seeing the hundreds of people who came to watch the sunset. Some brought picnics and sat there for hours to get that perfect view.
We also rented quad bikes which was great fun. Lots of tourists seem to rent quad bikes or dune buggies, as the island is pretty small it's a great way to get around!
There are also some great little boutiques in Thira which don't close until midnight so we spent a couple nights just wandering around through the winding streets trying on clothes. The beaches are nice in Santorini, but not the nicest I've ever seen. They are black sand because of the volcanic ash which is pretty cool. Overall, Santorini just had a lovely atmosphere. It was the perfect combination of authentic Greece and a tourist resort, I will definitely be back!
And now a few pictures for your viewing pleasure...

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