Tuesday, 27 December 2016

My Camino walk



In mid- September this year, I embarked on a journey across parts of Northern Spain. All I had with me was an 8-9kg backpack, my mom (a more seasoned hiker) and a hope that this would be a good journey for my soul (and my body, especially my slightly wobbly thighs). The walk would be over 21 days (as that’s all the time we had). The basic plan:  walk as far as I could every day and try not get any injuries.


When I was first told about this walk I was not keen on any part of it. Walking for weeks, carrying a heavy backpack and staying in bunk bed hostels did not sound like any “holiday” that I was going to sign up for – but here I am, about to tell you about my personal Camino de Santiago journey or, as I like to call it, “the insane time I decided to take a very long walk and try not to lose my mind” or “why I wouldn’t want to be a real pilgrim, part 1”…

Here are a few facts about me before my Camino:
  • ·      I had never done any kind of hike this long before (or any big hike actually –     Does Lions Head count?) 
  •     I had never owned a pair of proper hiking shoes until I got my Salomon’s a week before the trip. 
  •         I did not train at all before, I was medium fit… but in no way a gym bunny.
  •          This was never on my bucket list (or any list of mine,  for that matter)
  • ·      It was spontaneous –booked and paid for tickets 2 weeks before we left

 Note: Now I am not telling you any of the above facts to make you think like I’m awesome for doing this without any experience. I am sharing this to let you know that if you want to do this pilgrimage, and you think it’s impossible because you are not very fit or a hiker, it is possible (seriously if I can do this, you probably can too)


Ok, so maybe you asking - What is the Camino de Santiago? Well, it is the name of the pilgrimage routes that take you to the shrine of the Apostle St James, in the Cathedral of Santiago Compestela, in Galacia (in Northern Spain). It also takes you past many churches and cathedrals along the way. People do the route for many reasons ranging from spiritual growth to using it as a retreat/sabbatical, etc. In a nutshell, its meant to be good for the soul and pilgrims have done it for centuries. Now its popular with tourists and the religious. 


The Camino can be done in many ways. There are a few routes and people walk anything from a week to 7 weeks to complete it.  The original walk is from France and ends at the Cathedral in Santiago (it’s about 850km). Many people, however, walk only a part of it.

We chose to walk from Burgos to Santiago, which is about 500km walking distance and around 21-24 days of walking (depending on how much ground you cover per day)



My essential Camino packing list:
  • · *   Good, all terrain shoes (I highly recommend Salomon’s)
  • ·     A sturdy, mid-sized backpack with waist supports and a rain cover.
  • ·         A waterproof, lightweight jacket
  • ·         A warm, zip up top
  • ·         A pair leggings and/or hiking pants (full length)
  • ·         A pair of shorts
  • ·         2-3 easy drying t-shirts/tops
  • ·         One sports bra and some underwear
  • ·         Head torch
  • ·         Travel towel
  • ·         2 pairs good socks (I often wore stocking socks underneath them)
  • ·         One luxury item – maybe a travel pillow or jar of nutella ;)
  • ·         Medical kit – plasters, ointment, painkillers, KT tape
  • ·         Comfy sandals – for after walking all day to air feet
  • ·         Sarong or scarf - Handy to sit on or use when colder
  • ·         Fold up, small bag (to use in shower or use as day pack when you get a        break from backpack)
  • ·         Travel sized toiletries
  • ·         Copy of John Brierley’s book ‘Guide to Camino De Santiago’ and a pilgrim passport (which you will use along the way to collect stamps to record where you have been)

Biggest travel tip I have: Pack light! Always carry water and some fruit or a snack.


Most of the walk is a blur to me now. You walk through so many small villages, a couple of cities and across a lot of farmland, that eventually your brain just can’t recall them all (so keeping a journal for your own memory is a good plan). 


The one thing that sticks out to me the most about this pilgrimage is the quiet and the open spaces you are often in. There is a lot of both between cities. If you decide not to bring along any music, you will find that the silence almost forces you to think a lot and this can be annoying, but also good.

People are mostly friendly too and greet each other with “Buen Camino” (which basically means “good journey”) all along the way. I found that there was a sort of comradery amongst pilgrims, which you grow to really appreciate on tough days.


Now I can’t tell you it was all easy or that I didn’t have one or two small meltdowns (think tears, swearing and a lot of “what the hell am I doing here”).  I do think the first few days really test your body, mind and can push certain people out of their comfort zones - but it’s much needed. Once you get past the first week of aches and develop your own sort of routine, it all gets a lot better and easier.

I was very fortunate, my wonderful shoes (Salomon Speedcross 4), kept me from getting any blisters. Though I did end up getting a very annoying shin splint in the last week of walking, which I managed to handle with a days break from walking, KT tape and taking it slower.

We ended up walking about 450km by the time we reached the Santiago Cathedral. We had mostly stayed in Hostels or albergues and a couple of nights stayed in hotels. We walked on average 20 - 25km a day (a few days only 15km). We carried our backpacks the entire time (some people do pay to get them sent ahead, but we wanted to keep it challenging).


Some things I learnt on the Camino:
  • ·         I am much stronger than I thought I was.
  • ·         You need very little to be content
  • ·         Challenging yourself and your comfort zone is the best way to grow.
  • ·         The journey is the lesson, the destination is just a goal
  • ·         I like hiking and the freedom of walking in nature.
  • ·         Sometimes not planning and just seeing where you end up is better
  • ·         Everyone has their own issues and we all deal with it differently. 
  •       Keeping an open mind is important.
  • ·         I would do it again    – I never thought I’d feel that way (as I was happy to put it behind me), but I would definitely do it again.

  If you have any questions about the Camino. Please feel free to ask.  

Monday, 29 August 2016

The Shortmarket Club


I finally got to have dinner at The Shortmarket Club (the swanky restaurant, by chef Luke Dale-Roberts) and it did not disappoint.
 

The vibe.... The atmosphere is pretty relaxed - with an open kitchen and bar area greeting you as you step in. The overall decor vibe is modern with a 1920's twist. The main dining area (aka where you want to be) is very impressive with its "butterfly wall", high ceilings and minimilistic table settings.


The service... From the moment my friend Karisa and I walked in, we were greeted with smiles and fantastic service. The waiters seemed to really know their stuff and everyone genuinely seemed helpful and friendly (which is not always the case in Cape Town eateries).

 

The Food... While a bit on the pricey side, the food was mostly amazing. I would highly recommend that you try the raw market fish or trout tataki for starter and the chestnut & fynbos roasted petit poussin for main course (all three were absolutely great). Oh and if you need to choose a sauce for any meat dish there, I can 100% guarantee that the Cafe au Lait sauce is completely yum (get it, thank me later). You can check out the full menu and all pricing HERE


Overall the whole experience was very good. Its an impressive date spot and a lovely place to meet up with friends/family for a fancier dinner or lunch. I will definitely be going back to try more from the menu.

The Shortmarket Club, 88 Shortmarket Street, Cape Town - +27 021 447 28 74

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Gulf coast love


I love Florida's Gulf Coast. It's beautiful, warm, relaxing and makes my soul very happy. In fact, there is nothing really negative I can say about it. It's paradise and I am so fortunate that one of my favourite people in the world lives there too, my friend Orsy.

This was my third trip to the Gulf Coast (you can read my previous post about it HERE) and as usual it was wonderful. I got to meet my friends adorable baby, swam daily and really relaxed.

When in Florida, I mainly spend my time between Bradenton (where my friend lives) and Anna Maria Island (which is a 5-10 minute drive from Bradenton, across a bridge)

Anyway, I could say a million wonderful things about this trip...but I'm rather just going to let some of my photos speak for themselves.... 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I cant wait to go back.

Monday, 15 August 2016

A day at Disneyland




I don't care how old you are, Disneyland is pretty damn cool. It's kind of like a crazy village filled with people who are standing in long lines for 5 minute rides, wearing ears, taking photos with life sized cartoon characters and buzzing from a major sugar high...oh, and strollers, there are so many strollers....

Ok, maybe I haven't made it sound appealing...but even though its an odd place in many ways, it really is great... maybe not 'the happiest place on earth'  (I feel that may be taking it too far)...but great...yup, even if you don't have kids to take along...


My top tips for Disneyland:

* Go with people you really like  - no, really. The amount of time you have to stand in long ass lines and walk around is going to test some people, so being with people you really like wil help there to be limited silly arguments and way more laughing at how ridiculous it all is.
* Be prepared - Take a water bottle, slap on some sunscreen, pack a hat and wear comfy shoes (I saw a girl in heels there, I wanted to cry for her).
* Get there early and go straight to space mountain - If you are hoping to ever get on this fast ride you need to go early and do it first. Later in the day the lines will probably lead you to slap someone, possibly a child (or their parents) and then you may get arrested...
* Grab a Fastpass - The Fastpass system saves you a place in line for the most popular rides. Basically, you go wait in line for Fastpass ticket machine, then you can get a ticket to return at the time marked on the pass (which usually makes the wait A LOT less). Only catch is that you can only have one Fastpass at a time.
*  Give in to you inner child - buy the ears, dress like your favourite character, eat all the candy, take photos with Disneyland characters and go on the "kiddie" rides if you want (or go on Star Tours ride twice in a row)... Trust me - nobody cares and however silly you think something might be, there is definitely someone way crazier than you there.


Take me out to the ball game...


Even though I am no big sports fan, I find going to a baseball game is a lot of fun. I have luckily been to a few in my life - but this was my first time at Dodgers stadium and it was fantastic.

My American friends advised me that we had to do a Friday night game, as there would be fireworks (plus we could avoid the midday heat). So, we landed up going to a LA Dodgers vs Minnesota Brewers night game (Dodgers won!)

My favourite things about baseball games:

* The singing - it's awesome...and everyone gets really into it.
* The vibe - everyone seems to be on some kind of baseball induced high. It's contagious
* The dedication to wearing baseball supporter stuff - A few minutes in the stadium and I felt an overwhelming urge to buy everything from the Dodgers store.
* The shouting - People really get out their aggressions at a baseball game... I even noticed that it almost doesn't really matter what you shout, its just acceptable to shout stuff at games. So my advice is go and shout random crap, it's way cheaper than therapy
* The giant screens that show you the crowd and players - highly entertaining.

All in all it was such a memorable night.

 
 


Friday, 12 August 2016

My 'things to do" LA list


Like any big city, Los Angeles has something for everyone - especially if you are a fan of American film & TV.

You'd need weeks to get through the multitude of "must do" lists out there (I mean, it is the second largest city in the US after New York City). Having gone to LA a few times, I have managed to get more of an idea of what I personally think is worth seeing.

Sooo, here is my list of top things to see/do in LA. Especially if its your first trip and you have limited time.

( Note: I'm not going to lie, I'm sure with each visit back to LA, this list will get something new added to it or will be changed - and i may have forgotten something )


Venice Beach 


It's weird and wonderful...it's trendy and tacky.... The beachfront is lined with an ecclectic collection of shops & restaurants ranging from weed shops to nice restaurants. Its a great place to people watch or rent a bike to take a ride around :)

Eat LA favourites


There are certain food/beverage chains that are wildly popular in Los Angeles... and you should try as many as you can (because a lot are only available in California and you are on holiday... so it's kinda guilt-free, right?).

My top picks are:

* The Coffee Bean & tea leaf for there amazing ice blended coffee drinks
* In-N-Out burger for everything. The food is amazing and kinda life-changing ;)
* California Donuts (open 24 hours) - they make Panda donuts!
* Coldstone creamery ice-cream - trust me on this one..order cake batter flavour.


Check out some street art
 
 

If you are a fan of street art & graffiti, then you will enjoy finding some great art scattered around LA. There are specialised tours that can show you the best places or just cruise around downtown LA and see what you can find- HERE is just one list of some great street art you can go see in LA

I personally really wanted to find a pair of wings that are part of the Global Angel Wings Project (which started in LA) and get a photo, which I did. To read more about the project go HERE

The Natural History Museum 



It's the largest natural and historical museum in Western United States - Its an educational & intersting place to spend a few hours - Plus it has dinosaur bones! (I mean, do you really need more of a reason than that?). You can visit the Website HERE

Santa Monica Pier


The Santa Monica Pier is cool - theres a mini amusement park on it, a few food options, loads of people and sometimes street artists performing. It's also walking distance from Third Street Promenade, which is an outside shopping mall with nice places to eat and too much to buy.

The Last Bookstore 


It's currently the largest, independent bookstore in the world... So - If you love books, vinyl and art, you must go visit it. Check out the website HERE

Go to a Friday night ball game


Whether you are a big sports fan or not, a night baseball game is a lot fun (I will be doing a full post on my experience soon). The Dodgers stadium is very impressive  and at the end of a Friday night game, there are awesome fireworks. Put on some Dodgers blue and go....


Hollywood


Hollywood is very overrated (you have been warned). Most parts of it are not very pretty or glamorous at all and its usually super crowded -  BUT I feel like you can't go to LA an not go look at the Chinese Theatre, take photos of stars on the Walk of Fame, try get a good view of the Hollywood sign and buy some cheesy Hollywood memento to give to your folks (you know you want to).

LACMA 


The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is a must-visit for anyone who likes art. Just be sure to book for some of the more popular, pay exhibits. Check out the website HERE

 See LA from up high

 

LA is a big city and you don't realise just how big until you get to see it from up high. So, for two very cool ( both different) views of Los Angeles I'd suggest doing these two things:

1. Go have a drink at Perch restaurants top floor bar in Downtown LA at night
2. Go up to the Griffith observatory (added bonus is you can also see the Hollywood sign)


Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Viva, Las Vegas


 view of the Strip from the Bellagio


Las Vegas is only a 4 hour drive away from California - So, me and a few friends decided to roadtrip there and stay for 2 days.

Vegas is so many things.... crazy, weird, over the top, oppulent, sleazy, fun, exciting and interesting (just a few words that instantly come to mind). One thing Las Vegas is never is boring. there is always something to do, no matter what the time is.

This trip, I stayed in the Mirage Hotel. which is located right in the centre of the ever-growing Las Vegas Strip. Every Hotel on the strip has its own attractions and this one has dolphins and a great, tropical pool area (perfect for the desert heat)

 The Mirage Hotels pool

One thing thats cool to do when you are in Vegas, is to visit some of the other hotels on the strip. This trip we visited quite a few, including some of the most iconic ones (Caesars Palace & The Bellagio).

View of the Strip from the Mandarin Oriental hotel's bar
 Inside The Venetian Hotel

 A small part of the Vegas strip at night

One thing I have wanted to do for a while is visit the Las Vegas Neon Museum and this trip I finally got to.

As the website states " The Neon Museum campus includes the outdoor exhibition space known as the Neon Boneyard, a visitors’ center housed inside the former La Concha Motel lobby and the Neon Boneyard North Gallery which houses additional rescued signs and is available for weddings, special events, photo shoots and educational programs. "

I was most interested in viewing the Neon Boneyard, which is only available to view if you a book a one hour guided tour (which has limited availablity). We managed to get a 8am slot, which we moaned about a little  - but turned out to be a good idea in the desert heat.

The tour itself was very educational, interesting and absolutely worth the price. The signs were amazing to see and its hard to believe how much Vegas keeps changing and growing. The Boneyard is a photographers dream too... I got ridiculously snap happy and took about 100 photos. Here are just a few of the photos I took.....

 me,  getting very excited about all the signs

 
 

All in all, I really like Las Vegas... You cannot get bored there and there is always something new to see (no matter how many times you go).Will I be going again? I hope so.
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