Saturday, 15 October 2016

Alone With My Camera in Barcelona

Sagrada Família, Barcelona

It was one of those conversations. I'm quite certain it began with the two of us communicating like adults but it had somehow become quite fraught. I began to backtrack. "Okay, Stephen, is there anything you'd like to specifically see in Barcelona?" I asked. "Well, don't you want visit Camp Nou?" he replied. Somewhat adept at this communication thing after 18 years together, I restrained myself from replying that of course I didn't want to visit a football stadium during my visit to one of the world's most architecturally and artistically important cities. I simply smiled sweetly and suggested that we part ways at Sagrada Família and that Stephen visit the hallowed grounds of FC Barcelona's football team and I'd embark on my planned 5 mile walk into the centre of the city. 

And so it was that I found myself alone on the streets of Barcelona with just my camera and a map to guide my way. 

Crowds at Sagrada Familia

Stephen and I had walked to the Sagrada Família together and once he left, I cast my eyes around for something to catch my fancy. The crowds were interesting to a point, but dissatisfied with the sheer number of selfie-sticks and mobile phones, I started walking. 

Catalan flag

Like many cities, it took a little while to get a feel for Barcelona. The first thing I noticed was the large number of Catalan flags draped over people's balconies. I was reminded of a friend who earnestly told me the last time I was in the region that Catalunya is not Spain. It made me smile to remember that. 

Man with phone in Barcelona

As I walked down the street I noticed this young man perched against the wall and I had to take his photo. I loved the relaxed vibe of Barcelona. 

Barcelona facade

Barcelona is a very pretty city and the architecture is quite spectacular. I loved how much detail each structure had. 

Monument to Narcís Monturiol, Barcelona

I quite liked this monument dedicated to Narcís Monturiol who invented the first combustion-engine-driven submarine in the mid 19th century. 

Cyclist in Barcelona

I soon learned that to cross roads in Barcelona is to take your life into your own hands. I'm happy to say that conditions seem less perilous for cyclists. 

Antoni Gaudí's Casa Milà

I soon arrived at Antoni Gaudí's Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera. Completed in 1912, Gaudí designed this building for Roser Segimon and Pere Milà. The building is built around a central space, designed so that the inhabitants can speak with each other. I wanted so badly to go inside but knew that I had to press on to make my lunch time rendezvous with Le Husband. 

Antoni Gaudi's Casa Batlló

A short walk from Casa Milà was Casa Batlló, a building restored by Gaudí and Josep Maria Jujol between 1904 and 1906. 

Casa Batlló - Gaudi

The building features Gaudí's distinctive oval Windows and reminded me, not for the first time, of Dr Seuss. 

Barceona bus stop

If you like people-watching and street photography, then Barcelona will certainly appeal to you. 

Casa Calvet

I finally arrived at the Casa Calvet. The plans for this building were initially rejected (on account of the area being exceeded) and Gaudí famously returned them, uncorrected, stating that the building would be severely compromised if not built to his exact specifications. It was built to his exact specifications. 

Barcelona street scene

Soon enough, it was time to head off to my meeting point with Stephen. 

Barcelona sign

I spotted this quote upon the wall and tried my best to translate it. I think it roughly translates to "And now I leave with regret and my heart breaks because I long to leave the streets of Barcelona".  I’d love to know the proper translation!

Catalan flags in Barcelona

I encountered more Catalan flags...

Puppet heads in Barcelona

...and some eerie puppet heads in a window. 

Pastries in a shop window in Barcelona

I spotted some delicious cakes in a shop window and was reminded how hungry I was. I kid, I didn't need reminding. 

Barcelona manhole cover

I admired this quirky manhole cover outside the London Bar...

Street in Barcelona

...and peered down this tree-lined street. 

Bikes for hire in Barcelona

I looked longingly at this quirky bike-hire business and promised that next time I would hire a bike rather than walking myself ragged. 

Statue in Barcelona

At last, Stephen and I found each other and it was time for lunch and a bit of relaxation. I must say, I rather deftly positioned this photo to avoid a rather rude shop front behind the statue. This poor girl seems doomed to overlook an adult entertainment establishment for the rest of her days. 

Thank you for joining in on yet another one of my epic walks. I promise to tell you all about Palau Guëll soon.

Wander Mum
Oregon Girl Around the World

Sunday, 9 October 2016

The World Garden at Lullingstone Castle

Wisteria and vine at Lullingstone Castle World Garden

Have you ever encountered a story so big that you simply had no idea where to start? This is how I feel about The World Garden at Lullingstone Castle. I want to tell you everything and show you every single photo that I took while I was there but that would simply be impossible. Where to begin?

Perhaps it would be best to begin where it all started. In March 2000, Tom Hart Dyke was on a plant hunting exhibition in the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia when he was abducted and held hostage for nine months. Threatened daily with execution, Tom began to conceive of a garden where he would collect plants from every corner of the globe and lay them out in their respective countries of origin.

Tom returned home one week before Christmas in 2000 and immediately set about making his dream a reality. The result is The World Garden and I’m going to let you in on a spoiler: it is wonderful.

Seduction and abduction - The Story of Europa

The garden is a little bit like the British Museum – there are so many plants and there is so much to see that you could easily spend an entire day there and not see everything. Unlike the British Museum where I spent my first few visits in Ancient Egypt alone, I am proud to say that I visited every continent in the World Garden. It will surprise nobody that my favourite areas were Africa and the rain forests. I do like it hot and humid, that is for sure!

Because I’ve already spoiled everything by telling you how wonderful the World Garden is and because there is just so much to see, I’m going to tell you about my six favourite areas.

The Moon Gate at Lullingstone Castle World Garden

First, we need to enter the World Garden via the Moon Gate. You enter at the top of the world and walk through England with Asia to the left and North America to the right.

South America

Bird of Paradise at Lullingstone Castle World Garden

I loved the plants in the South America area. So many of them look familiar to me – possibly because the climate in Africa and South America can be similar and because millions of years ago, the two continents were one.

Passion flower at Lullingstone Castle World Garden

Hot & Spikey House

Cacti in the hot and spiky room at the World Garden

Walking through the Hot & Spiky House brought back so many memories. Firstly, cacti, agaves and aloes grow all over South Africa and suit our sometimes dry climate perfectly. Secondly, I once lived in a house with a massive cactus garden. Anyone who has ever collected cacti can tell you how expensive they are but luckily we inherited the garden.

Agave macroacantha in the hot and spiky house World Garden

And finally, one of my very first art projects in high school was to draw a yellow and green agave just like this. Well, we were actually meant to be drawing the entire cactus garden at school but I remember trying to get this one right.

Variegated agave

The Moroccan Blue Room

Blue Room at the World Garden

The Moroccan Blue Room was fashioned after the iconic Marjorelle Gardens in Marrakesh and the room had such a beautiful atmosphere that I could have stayed there for ages.

The Blue Room at the World Garden

The Cloud Garden

China Doll Tree in the Cloud Garden at the World Garden

I have a thing about indoor gardens. I remember going to an exhibition at Blackpool Tower when I was about five and they had steamed up the interior and brought in tropical plants and they had monkeys and tropical birds too. It was my first taste of life in the tropics, taking place a good four years before we moved to South Africa.

The Cloud Garden at Lullingstone reminded me of that – a specially constructed polypropylene structure built to create the ideal temperate environment for plants from New Zealand, South Africa and Asia.

Oak leafed papaya in the Cloud Garden at the World Garden

The Orchid House

Purple orchids at Lullingstone Castle World Garden

I have to tell you, I had a hard time choosing two photos from the Orchid House after managing to take almost thirty! That wasn’t why this is one of the best parts of the World Garden though. Oh no, the reason is because it houses the Dendrocnide moroides or Queensland Stinger, rumoured to be be the most dangerous plant on the planet. Actually, there are no rumours about it – the entire plant is covered in stinging hairs that transmit a neurotoxin and one touch can leave you with blisters and up to nine months of intense throbbing pain. I don’t have a photo of the plant because it scared the heck out of me!

White Orchids at Lullingstone Castle World Garden

South Africa

Baobab tree at Lullingstone Castle World Garden

I loved the South Africa section of the garden and wondered around aimlessly for the longest time, running my hands through the plants and remembering our life in South Africa. For instance, we used to have feathered reed grass just like in the photo above in our very first house in South Africa.

Red hot poker at Lullingstone Castle World Garden

And so it was that I took a journey around the globe in the World Garden and had the chance to see plants that I had never even imagined as well as plants that took me on a stroll down memory lane.

The World Garden at Lullingstone Castle is open on Sundays until the end of October. It will then close for the season and reopen on Easter weekend 2017. Definitely check out their website for all the Halloween activities.

Lullingstone Castle
Tel: 01322 862114 (pls leave message)
Fax: 01322 862115

Admission Prices
Adult £8.00
Child £4.00 (5-15 yrs old)
Senior citizen £6.50
Family £18.00 (2 adults & 2 children or 1 adult & 3 children)

I’m linking up to Wanderful Wednesday today with Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World.


Sunday, 2 October 2016

September: The Month That Was

Catalunya from the Air

All of a sudden, the year is three-quarters of the way through. How did that happen? The predominant theme this month has been me denying that summer is over and trying to stretch it out as much as possible. I had good reason for doing so too - my summer holidays only took place at the end of the month! Thankfully we were blessed with glorious weather and our fair share of sunshine and blue skies. I'm expecting snowmageddon this winter. 

Where I Am

I'd been burning the candle at both ends for so long that I knew something had to give and I took the unprecedented step of booking entire days off in my calendar. That meant that one day every weekend I wasn't going out, meeting up, blogging or studying and it was absolutely glorious. Every now and again, my fear of missing out kicks in and I look longingly at all the brunches, outings and adventures I'm missing and wonder if I'm making the right decisions. But I know that I am; I'll only be studying for one more year.  One more year and then I can go to all the museums, brunches and exhibitions my heart desires. For now, slowing down is doing me the world of good. 

What I Did

After a crazy August, September was definitely slower but we still got up to some mischief. A lot of it was not blogable - barbecues, family meals and intimate dinners - but some of it was. 

Lullingstone Castle

The World Garden at Lullingstone Castle

My mum and I finally returned to Lullingstone Castle to see the famous World Garden. You might remember that we went to the Medieval Weekend at Lullingstone Castle in May but that we didn’t have a chance to see everything. I can't wait to tell you all about our day and how we toured around the globe and saw samples of plants from every continent. 

We stopped off for lunch at The Plough Inn in Eynsford, one of my favourite restaurants and one that I've been visiting since I first arrived back in England in 2007. 

Brunch at The Drift Bar and the Fire Fire Exhibition

Fire Fire exhibition at Museum of London

September was all about friends, both old and new. In mid-September I met up with Vanessa, Sarah and Martha for brunch at The Drift Bar in Bishopsgate followed by a visit to the Fire Fire Exhibition at the Museum of London and desert afterwards at Pizza Express on London Wall. It was the kind of day that was full of belly laughs and great conversation and I can't wait to meet up with those ladies again soon. I know you’re all dying to know how the Fire Fire exhibition was – it is brilliant and highly recommended!

Santa Susanna and Barcelona

I was running on fumes by the time the 21st of September finally arrived but I'd survived and we were finally off on our ten day beach holiday to Santa Susanna. There was a lot of this…

Aqua Hotel Aquamarina, Santa Susanna 

… and some of this…

Santa Susanna Beach

… and it was absolutely marvellous.

It's certainly not the type of thing I can blog about but it was the most perfect, relaxing holiday I've had since we were last in Santa Susanna four years ago. The good news is that we spent a day in Barcelona and I've already got two posts scheduled about our adventures. 

What I've Been Thinking About

I've been journaling and blogging online since 2001 and I've noticed that there is always a summer slump, a time when things in the Blogosphere get rather quiet. It is inevitable because so many people travel and take time off, myself included, but it is also inevitable that the tiny doubts start to creep in. Is blogging worth it? Are my readers enjoying my posts? Should I carry on?

I've had those thoughts a lot lately but then I had a bit of an epiphany. I was composing a blog post and realised for the millionth time that my opening paragraph contained no keywords, which meant Google would not be sending readers to my blog. It was then that I realised that I'm okay with that. My blog is small and I'm never going to take it to a professional level, mainly because my absolute focus since 2010 has been on taking my career to the next level. I have massive respect for my blogging friends, for the quality of their blogs and their professional attitude but that cannot be my focus. I guess that means that no matter how quiet things might get, I'm just going to carry on writing posts that I hope my readers will like and that I enjoy writing. 

What I Blogged About

I'm quite proud of the posts I put up this month. I was still struggling with depression right up to the minute we left for Spain and so I'm glad at how I was still able to study, work, socialise and blog. Here is what I blogged about this month. 

Seaside Dining at the Lobster Shack, Whitstable

Prague: Walking Vinohrady to Old Town Square

St Paul's Bow Common: A Brutalist Masterpiece

Jacobean Splendour at Charlton House

An Anniversary Meal at the East Coast Dining Room, Whitstable

24 Hours in Tankerton, Whitstable

And over at Addicted to Media:

Saul Bass poster book: 20 Iconic Film Posters

Reviewed: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

Amnesty's Here I Stand: Stories That Speak for Freedom

New Music Friday: Mackenzie Shivers - Living In My Head EP

Reviewed: As I Descended by Robin Talley

That’s all from me for now. I’m about to crawl back into bed and hang on to the last moments of my summer holiday.

What have you been up to in September? Are you a blogger? What do you do to cope with the summertime slump?


Wednesday, 28 September 2016

24 Hours in Tankerton, Whitstable

Beach huts Whitstable

I love living in Kent and barely a week goes by that I’m not grateful for our decision to move here. Having said that, I also escape every opportunity I get and bank holiday weekends are usually spent in Europe or at least somewhere else on the British Isles. Imagine my horror then when a hen’s party was scheduled on bank holiday Saturday, thus thwarting our plans to escape to Poland.

With just Sunday and Monday to spare on the bank holiday weekend, I decided to surprise Stephen with 24 hours away. I knew what I wanted – I wanted to go somewhere that would allow pets because I wanted to take our Labrador Molly with us and I was hoping for somewhere by the sea. I also wanted something a little old school or rustic and was looking at Canopy & Stars for glamping options as well as Airbnb.

I’ve always wanted to visit Whitstable and found inspiration over at Mummy Travels where Cathy and family spent a glorious 24 hours with kids. Definitely visit Cathy’s post for ideas of what to do in Whitstable with children. With inspiration and a little bit of research, my plans began to take shape and my itinerary was set.

Where We Stayed

We found a lovely Airbnb apartment located in Tankerton, a quiet suburb of Whitstable. Our host Anna was absolutely lovely and very welcoming of Molly. She was also accepting of the fact that we were only staying for one night on a bank holiday weekend.

The flat was very quirky and decorated throughout with personal photographs. There was also a theme of love flowing through the entire apartment, which suited our romantic needs perfectly.

Love Airbnb Apartment Whitstable

If you’ve never used Airbnb before, I would wholeheartedly recommend it as an alternative to hotels or guest houses. It is definitely for people who would like to cook for themselves or will eat out but it is so much better than a soulless hotel or cottage. When you join Airbnb, you get a referral code so if you click here you will get £25 off your first booking and I will also get money off my next booking.

Where We Ate

We were only in Whitstable for 24 hours yet still managed to fit in three meals. We enjoyed a delicious seaside lunch at The Lobster Shack, Whitstable and had a romantic anniversary dinner at East Coast Dining Room. We also had a very bad breakfast experience at The Marine Hotel on Marine Parade. I won’t bore everybody with the details but you can see my review at Yelp if you wish. Suffice to say, avoid at all costs (unless you like rude and horrible service, in which case don’t).

What We Did

Stephen and Molly Whitstable

Warning: this is going to sound excessively dull to many people so proceed with caution.

Readers of this blog will know that I have a tendency to burn the candle at both ends and with that in mind, we planned to do absolutely nothing. Well, that’s not exactly true.

Yup, that is pretty much all we did and it was absolutely glorious!

What We Also Did (But Which Was A Bit Sad)

The Pier at Seasalter

The one thing we did do which was sad but also incredibly meaningful to us was to release Josey’s ashes over the sea in Seasalter. We chose Seasalter because it is a very quiet beach (we didn’t want to upset any young children!) but we wanted to leave my big dog in a place where she could frolic along the beach and play with the seagulls. I think she would have liked it and now I’ll always have this peaceful place to think of when we think of her final resting place.

What We Will Do Next Time

It is no surprise that we couldn’t fit anything everything in to 24 hours and after the wonderful time that we had, we will certainly return to Tankerton and Whitstable one day. Next time we visit, we’d like to squeeze in the following activities:

  • Stay in a fisherman's hut on the beach. Whitstable Fisherman’s Huts offer huts from £85 per night bed and breakfast and I have it on high authority that this is a great experience.
  • Catch the train from Whitstable to Canterbury East (via Faversham) and walk back to Whitstable along the Crab and Winkle Way. The route is well sign-posted and the walk extremely scenic.
  • I’m not entirely sure whether this would be in the same trip as above, but I’d also love to hire a beach hut and hang out at the edge of the sea for a couple of days. The difference is that the beach huts are far more rustic with less provisions. offer huts from £50/day or we even spotted one for £60 for three days.
  • Spent time in Whitstable town itself, photographing all the quirky shop fronts.

Have you ever taken a quick 24 hour trip somewhere? Do share the details below.

© 2008 - Mandy Southgate | Emm in London

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