Mims' Musings

Archive for the ‘Travel Blog’ Category


Tim Peake’s Picture of London from Space

I have lived in South East London (right inside the green circle) for my whole life. It’s a 25 minute overground train journey to Central London (referred to as Central for short). The squiggly black line in the middle is the River Thames (pronounced “Tems” – please note my pronunciation guides are half serious, half satire on my own ridiculous accent). 

When I travel to other countries, I seek out the places the residents love to spend time, so I thought I’d share with you my favourite 5 London spots. Please feel free to comment with your favourites- either in London, or in your hometown!

1. Greenwich (pronounced “grenitch”) Park


Greenwich Park is just 15 minutes drive from my house and I’ve always loved it. My Dad always drove me here when I was feeling anxious, we used to pick chestnuts there in the autumn (I still try to) and it still makes me feel calm, like a landmark touchstone. Apart from beautiful views, I love visiting the Royal Observatory (where I used to work), and walking down the hill into the town and visiting Greenwich Market or walking by the river. 

2. Borough (pronounced “burra”) Market 


Food heaven, what more could you want? Endless stalls of enticing produce, my favourites are the Thai coconut pancake stall, and the cheese stall. There’s also a great takeaway pasta place which can’t be beaten. Plus there are brilliant restaurants around the market too, including one where everything on the menu involves chocolate! 

3. Southbank Centre 


There’s so much to do here, some of the best theatre, author talks, free art installations, a shops which are great for presents that are a bit unusual, endless restaurants, but my favourite thing is how much of the building you can access and just relax in. One of the top floors has a children’s library play area where little ones can crawl and run around, and another floor has sofas overlooking the Thames where I’ve spent hours reading a book, I’ve even fallen asleep there and no one has bothered me. 

4. Benjamin Pollock’s Toy Shop (Covent Garden)


I love the buzz of Covent Garden, but this toyshop is so special. At the back of the picture you can see their speciality- cardboard pop up theatres, I love just going and looking at the craftsmanship of them. Plus there’s always a selection of toys which feel nostalgic but are still fun today, and you wouldn’t find them on the high street. 

5. Cecil Court


Visiting this road is a must-do for any book lovers. It’s lined with shops rammed with antique books, first editions, as well as old second hand books at reasonable prices. There are also shop fronts with antique trinkets and a costume jeweller which has provided bling for films and tv shows, including Downton Abbey if you’re that way inclined. My favourite shop on this road is Marchpane, which specialises in children’s books, my most treasured copies of Alice in Wonderland and Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tales First Editions are from there. It’s rumoured that the road was J K Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley of Harry Potter fame, I’m not sure if it’s true but it feels magical anyway 

If you visit any of these places on my recommendation please do comment and let me know! 

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Did you spot the bird in the picture? Even I didn’t know it was there until I just loaded it up on the laptop. There’s another one below as well. (10 points to whoever spots it first).  Our last 24 hours of the trip started of beautifully, walking around the gardens at Kirstenbosch. Immediately we realised we should have done this at the start of the trip and spent more time there, it looks like an awesome place to picnic.

Below is a selection of pictures from the gardens, enough to produce my own ‘Protea of Africa’ Calendar. There were some truly beautiful things in that garden, including the King Protea which there’s a picture of below (it’s the really massive one), and the raspberry coloured Protea which is so rare it doesn’t have a name and could only be found on this one path we went down. At the gift shop I bought an egg box full of indigenous South African seeds and soil to grow them in, so hopefully some of them will survive at home.

 

Here’s me in my new rugby top, I’m sure you can all see the sense of relief that I’ve survived this epic journey. I’m not going to lie, it doesn’t feel like it’s flown past it feels like I’ve been away from home for an age. But now I’m excited to get back and see what lies ahead on my return. For one thing there’s the 800 page Mandela book to get on with!


Our last leg of the trip has all been based in Cape Town, so we’ve had a good chunk of time to explore Cape Town itself and some of the places near it.  On our first day in town we went to the Company Gardens for some lunch, where they had a display of Bonsai trees. Some of them were really impressively sculpted, and some of the trees were over 90 years old. My favourite one was an Olive Tree, although it did make me slightly sad that my Bonsai tree died!

 

 

Of all the times to forget to put my memory card back in my camera, the day we went up Table Mountain was the worst. Shocking in fact.  I did take some with my camcorder but I haven’t transferred them yet. However, I do have this great picture of the mountain which I took from the Waterfront. We were whisked up there in a Cable Car, and you never quite believe how high it is until you see it from the bottom again. It was a moment where the world below felt extremely small, but completely worth it. Although the mountain looks flat from ground level, it’s surprising how hilly it can be as you walk around up there. In fact due to my colourful history of ankle injuries I decided not to trek around it too much, but had a few hours of total silence on peace sitting on a rock catching a tan.

 

Another must-see in Cape Town is Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, but not released from prison as many people think. We caught a ferry there from the Waterfront, then there was a 45 minute bus tour of the island, and we were then led around some of the prison blocks by an ex-inmate. The above picture is of the actual cell that Nelson Mandela was held in for 18 of the 27 years that he was inmate number 46664 (number 466 in 1964).

 

Having visited Alcatraz in San Francisco, I was surprised at how comfortable and somewhat beautiful Robben Island was. not at all like the imposing rock I was expecting after connecting it to Alcatraz in my head! Before catching the ferry back I bought a copy of The Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela. The gift shop rubber stamped it with a thing saying ‘Purchased in Robben Island’, which made it feel that bit more special. I look forward to reading it.

 

The following few pictures are of a few things we’ve done whilst based at my Uncle’s house in Cape Town. Below is the Rhodes Memorial, which doesn’t convey how windy it was when we visited it, a penguin that we saw in the Boulders area, a striking picture taken from Chapman’s Point, the Boschendale Winery, and a flower we saw growing in one of the vineyards.

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow will be our last day of adventure before we head home on Monday, by the time we get home we will have been travelling for 24 hours straight, so who knows what will happen in that time…


So, on we trekked down to Ballito, where my Uncle has a holiday house. We had a day up in Durban where we walked from one end of it to the other, (which turns out to be quite a long distance!). This is me in front of the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, which was built for the World Cup.

We were lucky enough to go in the SkyCar up the arch of the stadium, which gave us a great view of Durban. We were impressed with how beautiful the beachfront area is, but also surprised how quiet it was. This is why we ended up walking so far, in the search for a ‘town centre’.

We stopped at the International Convention Centre in Durban for a convenient toilet break, and I was delighted to find something called the Durban Peace Quilt on the walls. There were several quilts made up of panels, all in different shades of blue and with some lovely peaceful images. It really made me want to bump quilting up the list of crafts I want to learn!

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Unlike underpasses in London, where they tend to be half brothel/half toilet, the one in Durban is decorated with lovely tile displays of native flowers, the best named one being the ‘num-num flower’. I have to say, whichever creative soul thought of altering this flower should be commended, it definitely put a smile on my face!

After nearly a week in Ballito/Durban/seeing family near there, we moved on to Port Elizabeth where we saw more lovelly family, then began driving along the Garden Route to Cape Town. I’ve decided to include this picture because what happened next was our stop in Wilderness, at the Wilderness Beach Hotel. The rooms were nice enough. But what I may as well have been spotting in those binoculars, was in fact a TERRIBLE MEAL. At the hotel restaurant we waited an hour for our food, which then varied between Lukewarm to Freezing cold.  During the wait I’d lost the will to eat, then when my meal came the pork filling was cold, but I struggled on, took a few bites and realised the meat was rare. Then realised you can’t eat pork rare. I wasn’t very well that night.

We then had another stop before reaching Cape Town, in a place called Swellendam, where we had a great meal at Powell’s Coffee House, completely making up for the previous night’s disaster. Next door to the restaurant was a wedding shop where they were sewing dresses, if we weren’t in such a rush I would’ve spent hours in there!. We then arrived at my Uncle’s house where we’re now staying with my Uncle, Aunt and two cousins until we head home. This picture was taken today at Hermanus, where we had a great lunch and even spotted a few whales.

Although I would be lying if I didn’t admit I felt a little twinge when I saw this reminder of how far away from home we are!

So onward to the last part of our jouney we go. On the agenda are Robin Island, Table Mountain and I’m sure some adventures with my cousin who we’ve been playing poker with (note the lucky hoods!). Stay tuned for the next installment…


A mainly visual post today. Including highlights of our trip in the Victoria Falls area: the sunset cruise on the Zambezi, the Victoria Falls themselves (note the pretty rainbow!), the walk with Lions we did, Gem squash (if anyone knows where to get these in London please tell me!), the beach in Ballito where we’re now staying, and the souvenir from my Dad’s Aunt Maureen’s birthday celebration!

 

Enjoy!

 

For more information on the charity which runs the lion walks, please go to:


www.lionalert.org

 

 

 

 


 


 

So, here we are. After a tiny stopover in Paris, we travelled for 10 hours to Johannesburg.  Dazed and disorientated, a gathering of ‘Chefs on Tour’ at the airport didn’t help! Around 50 chefs, all gathered and waving flags, can be quite surreal to the weary traveller.

Pictured above is Johanessburg’s equivelent to the Oyster Card from what I can tell, called the Gautrain. We got the yellow line from O R Tambo airport to Sandton (just about visible in the picture!). As we were riding this cool looking gold train, my dad told me that it was built in the UK. As I observed how clean it was, how incredibly comfortable the seats were, and how fast and smooth the ride was, I couldn’t help but think, if it’s built in the UK why don’t we have anything that good?!

As we were staying overnight in Sandton City, we spent the afternoon in Nelson Mandela Square, where there’s a mighty impressive statue of the man himself! We spent hours going around the Labyrinthine shopping mall, watching a bit of the South Africa vs. New Zealand rugby game, then we all watched a movie.

Today we caught a flight from Johannesburg to Livingstone, Zambia. Then spent most of the day going through border offices, first at the airport to enter Zambia, then at the Zambia border to leave it, then a few minutes later at the Zimbabwe border to enter it! It was quite an experience. But well worth it once we got to our hotel…

This is part of The Kingdom Hotel, near the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. In this building is the Casino and gift shops, then when we’re staying is the pool, about 10 blocks of accomodation and a huge restaurant.

This is what’s known as the ‘Gorge Bridge View’, (not because it’s Gorgeous like I thought….), it’s about a 5 minute walk from our hotel and as you can see, it’s amazing! On the left side there’s a bungee jump, and a zip line that goes all the way across, which I’m actually semi-tempted to go on.

Just behind where this gorge is, we could see the spray from the Victoria Falls themselves. Tomorrow we’ll go see them properly- exciting!!!
And so ends the first installment of our African Adventure….make sure you don’t miss the next installment, subscribe! (enter your email address in the top right)


It’s been nearly 2 weeks since we got back from our venture up North,  so it’s about time I wrote about it before I forget, and also because there’s so many more blog posts which I have lined up, like an interview with comedian Daniel Sloss, a write up of the Stitched Science event at the Science Museum, and whatever adventures this weekend brings (you better subscribe in case you miss  any of those!)

 

Anyway, on Day 6 of our trip we went up to Edinburgh. The drive took a little longer than we expected, and then there was the nightmare of realising our car was too tall to fit in most of the car parks. The result was a briefer trip to Edinburgh than most of us would’ve liked! At least I can now say I’ve officially been to Scotland (just Wales to go and I would’ve covered the UK!).

 

For lunch we found Loudon’s, a Cafe that reminded me a bit of the Leon food chain, in fact I wonder if it’s a related company. I was blown away byhow they made such simple food amazingly delicious. I had a gammon and smoked cheese sandwich and thinking about it makes me want to go recreate sometime in the near future. Considering the gammon was as good as the special occassion Christmas ham that we have, the prices were so reasonable! Actually everywhere seemed reasonable compared to London.

On our whistlestop tour we popped into Edinburgh Cathedral. I was quite distracted by the whole experience of the Royal Mile, but I made sure I spent a minute or two looking at this amazing stained glass window. I just love how all the colours are so vivid and how you can see all the detail from far away.

Whilst promenading down the Royal Mile I swiftly realised that what I thought was a mild dislike for bagpipes, is in fact a full blown detestation. The moment of realisation was when we walked into a shop and there was an overwhelmingly annoying noise which sounded hauntingly familiar. We then realised that it was Coldplay being covered by someone on the bagpipes. My ears still haven’t recovered to this day! Thus a new philosophy of mine was born:
Coldplay is Coldplay and Bagpipes are Bagpipes, never the twain shall meet!

Seriously. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

 

 

I feel that I needed to include this picture of Edinburgh Castle, although we didn’t go in we could see it from nearly every angle while we were searching for a car park. When we walked through the grounds to get to the Royal Mile we saw the stands being assembled for the Military Tattoo, I’ve never seen it on TV but hope to catch it this year.

I was so happy I got to see one genuine thistle. I bought a thistle charm for my travel charm bracelet which is soon becoming full.

As per tradition, I wanted to make sure I got a football shirt from Scotland, to add to my ‘sportswear of the world collection’, comprised of an Irish Rugby shirt, my Scotland football shirt, an Ateneo Volleyball Shirt (from the Philippines) but not an England or Arsenal shirt yet. (shocking…) I was so happy when I found the Scotland shirt in my size seeing as we only had half an hour to acquire one. Colin got the yellow one as well so now we look like a beautifully sporting pair. Also his is beautifully sunny and bright!

On Day 7 we had an amazing lunch in the Treehouse Restaurant, Alnwick. I wanted to go there as soon as I learned of its existence when we arrived, and it didn’t disappoint.

Every last detail was thought of, each chair looked like they were made from tree trunks and there were plenty of fairy lights, candles and an awesome open fire. It felt like we were in some sort of fairy tale. I wish we had such magical place near London so I could celebrate my birthday there!

 

This is the food I had there, it’s mainly here so I can remember how much I love Minute Steak.

After all the fun of Treehouse dining we then found that they had rope bridges! Properly wobbly ones! Greatly unsteady and fun once I got over my initial fear of bouncing on them!

 

After lunch Colin and I went to Barter Books in Alnwick which is one of the biggest second hand bookshops in the UK. I was hoping to find a nice bargain to treat myself with, so imagine my horror when I realised the cheapest books were £30 and there were many that were £500 and above! So as amused as I was by the train set that runs between the bookcases we swiftly exited with our wallets still intact.

Day 8 was spent driving back home. We had a stop in Durham where we managed to catch up with Ian who was a great guide through the vast landscape that is Durham! He also led us to La Spaghettata which was a great meal to end the trip with, now that I’ve been enlightened by Vodka pasta my life will never be the same again.

 

That concludes my account of our Northern venture. I now feel a bit better about covering a bit more of British ground, but my geography of England is still awful as I was reminded last night while playing on a Pub Quiz machine. It’s not my fault though! At school geography was about rivers and mountains and how they were formed and stuff.

Check back soon to catch up on my latest shennanigans, and if you haven’t already- Subscribe!!!!!


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