Split and Zadar, 2010

The bus to Split was a necessity as no boats were running up the coastline in the off season.  Nevertheless, my husband and I saw some of Croatia’s larger islands along the way as well as a walled fort. We even went through Bosnia, as the country owns an area of seafront along the coast.

Split turned out to be my favourite spot in Croatia. We spent hours drinking and people watching on the Riva and enjoyed every second. The seafront overlooked the port where you could catch a ferry to Italy, but not in the off season. This was becoming a bit of a theme for our trip.

The main attraction in Split was the Diocletian Palace which had a busy market in its basement halls where I bought a pair of earrings that go with everything. We emerged at ground level to see the roman ruins in Peristil Square and the Cathedral of St Dominus. Working our way around the old town we found the silver, golden and iron gates that mark the boundaries of the palace.

We found the main street, Paplice Palace and the tall rounded vestibule. We went inside one of the palace houses and to Vocni square. I found Narondi square most interesting with its mix of old, semi-old and new palaces surrounding the square. Out the back of back Diocletian Palace was a huge statue of a wizard called the Gregorius of Nin and the modern Grgura Ninskoy garden fountain.

It was fun wandering through the side streets of Split and I was pleased to discover that they had a Zara on Marmontova St, just past the Republike Prokurative square. We enjoyed many Italian style dinners and loved the little local guest house that we stayed in on a back street.

Zadar, our next stop, seemed very bizarre. We stayed in Villa Hresc on the lakeside and took a sunset walk into the old town. The main square had the Cathedral of St Anastasia, the round Church of St Donat and roman ruins. We also found the watch tower in Narodni square. My favourite was 5 wells square and shopping at the Mango shop that we found down a side street.

The city is more recently famous for its outdoor nightclubs like The Garden. Also new is the sun salutation and sea organ, which made louder noises as the waves from a passing cruise ship hit the instrument. We found the new seafront nearby and the ferry terminal where of course there were no boats running.

And so, the next day we caught the bus to Pag Island. I was starting to think we were never going to be able to never going to be able to get on a boat!

Related posts: Dubrovnik, 2010, Destination Thailand, 2010

It’s an English Thing

Whenever somebody asks me where I am from, I always pause to answer.

I was born in Weymouth, England to an English father and a Sri Lankan mother. We lived in and out of England for the first few years of my life, I went to pre-school there, and then we moved to Australia where I grew up in Berry, NSW and was brought up as an Australian.

However, my father never really lost his accent (I still pronounce garage differently to everyone I know), I received a UK passport at birth and have spent a few trips, including a gap year, back in England.

My grandmother never left Weymouth and I always loved going back to visit her. The green rolling hillsides, the little wishing well behind her house and the thatched rooved cottages. The typical English seafront, the rocky beach and the harbour filled with fishing boats. The gorgeous Dorset countryside of quirky towns, white cliffs plunging into the blue Channel and walks through fields picking blackberries along the way.

I also love the city of London. Red telephone boxes, double decker buses, Big Ben, the tube and my favourite Tower of London. I love the parks, the palaces, the plays and the feeling of being at the centre of the world when you walk down Oxford St. I like mixing with the hip crowd at Covent Garden, standing on the edge of Greenwich Mean Time and imagining what it would be like to live inside the houses of Notting Hill. I enjoy seeing the gold encrusted Buckingham Palace gates, Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square and the bustling Piccadilly Circus. It’s also fun meeting all your Australian mates in a London pub as they are living there temporarily too.

So of course, I am Australia, but I also identify with all things English.

I was brought up on Sooty and Sweep, Noddy and Blue Peter on the TV, Punch and Judy shows at the sands and reading Beatrix Potter and Rupert at bedtime. I enjoyed eating treats from grandma like Hula Hoops, Hob Nobs and Quality Streets.

It’s always fun to go shopping at Boots, Marks and Spencers, H&M and window shopping at Harrods. I love drinking at one of the many great traditional English pubs with the same names in different places like The Golden Lion, The Red Lion, The Swan, the White Hart, The George Inn, The King’s Arms; and running to get into a nightclub before lock out. I have seen people being out on the pull for a snog, have worn a thong on my bottom instead of my feet and flitted off to Europe for a long weekend to escape the long dark winters.

The English culture is not so different to ours which makes it easy to relate to and it’s those little details that help strike up a conversation with a visiting Brit come to Australia to escape the bad weather for a time.

So, I guess I’m not English, as you are from where you grow up. But it is nice to know that I have the experience and knowledge to morph into an English person if needs be.

Related posts: It’s a Spanish Thing,  Toys, People vs Place, England, 2006England, 1997

Dubrovnik, 2010

Choosing a honeymoon destination in Europe that neither my husband nor I had been to was a bit of a challenge, but we finally settled on Croatia and Slovenia.

The Croatian website had promised a room in Lapad Bay in Dubrovnik with a water view, but upon arrival we were notified that no rooms were available in that area of the hotel and were sent to their sister hotel up the hill and away from the waterfront. They didn’t seem to care that it was not what we ordered, or that it was our honeymoon.

My husband proceeded to sleep off his rejected objections (and the week of partying in Thailand) for 12 hours, while I read a book and tried not to feel too deflated that the honeymoon appeared to be over before it even began.

When he woke up, we restored our spirits by having some spirits at the hotel bar which did have a water view and was on a sunny patio. After a calming sunset, we strolled into Lapad town and found a lovely seafood restaurant (also on the water) with a waiter that was happy to be of service and our faith was restored.

The next day, we set off to explore the old town of Dubrovnik. We walked through pile gate, over the drawbridge and up the steps to walk around the city walls. The views from Minceta Tower were the best and simply breathtaking. Orange rooves, ruined houses with the towers of churches thrown in here are there.  Lovrjenac Fort next door looked awesome in its stoniness against the bright blue sea and we followed a tourist tall ship (with a motor) around into the harbour on our walk.

Having taken in the views, we headed down to Placa Stradun- the main street of the old town. I loved the large rotund Onofrio fountain and the strategically placed Sladoled ice cream shop at the bottom of the steps. We saw St Savior’s Church and Luza square with its Orlando column and Sponza palace; but the best part of walking around the old town was exploring the many side streets. We found the morning market in Gunduliceva Poljana and Buza Bar with the self-proclaimed best view in the world out to Lokrum Island. I had to admit that it was pretty good, and we stayed for a few hours, drinking and chatting.

Back in Lapad, we walked up the hill to a recommended local pizza restaurant for dinner which was packed and had a view of the port area that we would be catching a boat from the next day.

We departed from Gruz harbour the following day for our trip around 3 of Dubrovnik’s closest islands. The day trip included as much of the bad wine that you could drink on the boat. The first was a short stop at Kolocep Island where we had just enough time to walk around the small harbour. Next was a longer stay on Sipan Island where we walked around a ruined monastery.

The final stop was Lopud Island, where we forfeited the hike up the mountain for a walk around the gardens and lunch with more drinks at a bar on the seafront boardwalk. The islands were beautiful with their old buildings and the water was so clear. I was glad that we got to see a few of them before we headed off to catch the bus to Split.

Related posts: Destination Thailand, 2010

New Beginnings

At the moment, I am in the process of leaving the job I have been in for the longest in my career for a new role in a different industry, and it got me thinking about new beginnings.

New beginnings are exhilarating and exciting. Who knows what I will discover about myself, what new skills I will learn and whom I will meet?

Serial monogamists know what I’m talking about. Everything at the beginning of a relationship is perfect. There’s your first date, your first kiss, even your first difference of opinion is a milestone. Nothing is tarnished and life is good.

But once the shiny fades, and it is inevitably discovered that your new beau isn’t perfect, the temptation to leave and find another new beginning arises. It’s addictive.

However, if you stick around, you may discover that you’re not perfect either, that your imperfections balance each other out and end up with something more real. Something with depth and long-term prospects.

But at the end of the day, if you have tried for a new beginning in the familiar and your heart just isn’t in it anymore, it may be time to quit and go for a new beginning on the outside- especially if your happiness depends on it.

New beginnings in life can be scary, but they can also be interesting. One new beginning could change the course of your life forever. And isn’t that what this experience called life is all about?

Related posts: Emotion vs Logic, Pride vs The Fall, Dreams vs Reality, Adventurous vs Risk taker, Do you need trauma to have talent?, What is news?, Kicking goals, I first started writing

Destination Thailand, 2010

In 2010, my husband-to-be (HTB) and I returned to Kaw Kwang Beach where he had proposed one year earlier, to get married.

The idea had been planted by the Cha Da Beach Resort & Spa manager as we had left post engagement in 2009. We didn’t want a big wedding, but we love to travel; and so the decision to have a destination wedding was made.

The resort were quite happy to accommodate our request and provide their first Western wedding ceremony (and third wedding ever), including accommodation upgrade to a Diamond Villa with private plunge pool.

We politely declined the offer of a Thai celebrity to perform the ceremony or a local band to play at the reception and proceeded to invite as many people as we wanted, thinking that we would be lucky to have family and a few friends there.

I am fortunate enough to have both a photographer and hair/make-up artist as friends so that was easily taken care of; and we purchased last minute table gifts of carved wooden candle holders from a local artisan in Ban Saladan.

Having our wedding Thailand was awesome as the people are so friendly and they added little cultural quirks that unintentionally made us smile, like writing “Welcom Black” in flower petals on our bed for our arrival.

As it was off-season, the only other people at the resort was a German family so we mostly had the place to ourselves. In fact, the day after the wedding the monsoon kicked in it poured rain at the exact same time we got married on the beach the previous day.

In the end, we had 50 guests attend from all over the world. It truly felt like an international wedding with guests from Europe, America, Asia and Australia. I was lucky enough to have a few of my besties and a couple of cousins in attendance which was fantastic.

Most people arrived the week before, so by the time the wedding day arrived everyone had gotten the chance to know one another as they had bumped into each other at the pool bar in the day, attended a large group dinner in town or a late night drinking session in our plunge pool. Some of guests even chose to explore the area by going on day trips with newly made friends they had met at the resort.

The ceremony was held at sunset on the beach and the little extras that I didn’t know about that the resort provided were very touching. They threw flower petals on us as we walked along the beach and all the lovely staff came to watch the wedding.

The reception was an amazing Thai seafood BBQ buffet dinner, it was hot and everyone was drinking. By the end of the night people were dancing crazily, had the food labels from the buffet on their sweaty heads and ended up jumping in the pool once we had left for the night. People are still talking about how much fun it was years later.

I would do it all again in a second and am looking forward to returning to Cha Da for one of our wedding anniversaries soon. Hopefully with a few of our wedding guests in tow.

Photography by Richard Miller.

Related posts: Thailand, 2009, Thailand, 2002

Good vs Evil

In the fight between good and evil, good always wins right?

But who has more fun?

Sure good is good, right, moral and proper and all that.

But evil is devilish, wrong in all the right ways and fun.

Otherwise why would tempted by and drawn to the evil?

In fairy tales, good always wins. The evil witch is defeated and the princess bags her prince.

But real life isn’t a fairy tale. Sometimes the bad guys do win, the evil witch never gets her comeuppance and you never find your prince.

So what are you going to do about it?

Believe in karma and that the bad guys will eventually lose?

Try to ignore the evil witch, forget about finding your prince and get on with life?

Or keep believing in fairy tales and hoping and searching until good prevails?

Obviously, I have posed more questions than answers in the fight between good and evil, but I guess that the whole point.

Nothing and nobody is inherently good or evil. We all have both in us and can change at any time depending on mood.

So, next time the bad guys win, think about the fact that perhaps their point of view is not really bad- just different.

And next time that witch is evil, just remember that she is still a person with some sort of heart that probably just got up on the wrong side of the bed (not that that gives them the right to treat you badly- but that’s just the way it is).

Finally, if you don’t find your prince, enjoy all that life has to offer as a single princess, after all Elizabeth the first never married and she ruled!

Related posts: Emotion vs Logic, Pride vs The Fall, Dreams vs Reality

Thailand, 2009

My husband-to-be (HTB) found himself between jobs, so we thought we would take the opportunity to take a week’s holiday. We went to the travel agent who saw that we were good candidates for a last minute off season wholesale deal for a week in Thailand.

We flew to Bangkok a week later and met up with Yam, a friend of my HTB and a Thai local, for dinner. It was the hottest time of the year, just before the monsoon, so was very humid even at night.

The next day we flew to Krabi and then took a two hour bus trip, including a vehicle ferry, to the island of Koh Lanta which is almost on the Malaysian border. Our deal was at the Cha Da Beach Resort & Spa which had a very imposing reception and impressive grounds.

There was a huge main pool with its own bridge, a game room with a football table and two other pools near Kaw Kwang beach. We picked the adults pool near the beach that had a pool bar and staked our spot.

Our deal included an Emerald Suite which had a romantic canopied bed, a lounge area and one of the biggest shower heads I had seen. To have a view of the ocean from the balcony was wonderful.

Not content with just seeing the inside of the hotel, we explored the cute little village of Ban Saladan which was a short tuk tuk ride away. Only two of the many fresh seafood restaurants built on stilts over the water were open due to the off season. We chose Ko Lanta restaurant, had our fill of seafood cooked how we requested it and took in the view of boats on the water.

My 31st birthday began with a pedicure at the hotel spa, followed by reading by the pool, swimming and cocktails by the pool. At sunset, we took a walk on the beach where my HTB completely surprised me by proposing. We went back to the hotel to congratulate ourselves with champagne and a chocolate sundae.

Related posts: Thailand, 2002

It’s a Spanish thing

I love Spain.

I love the colour, the life and the fact that people mistake me for being Spanish.

Flamenco dancing spectaculars, drinking Sangria and late night starts.

Tasty tapas, seafood paella and crème Catalan.

Nobody worries too much about owning property- why buy when you can rent right in the middle of the city where you want to live.

Parc de la Citadella where the cool kids hang out, Otto Zutz nightclub where the tourists go to party and Zara for all your fashionable needs.

The iconic La Rambla, the smells and sounds of La Boqueria and the friendly waitress in our local bar.

I love Barcelona, especially Parc Guell, and every time I go back I discover a new side to the city.

The brilliance of Gaudi, the deck chairs on the curving beaches and the famous 4 Cats bar.

The Moorish delights of the Alhambra, so many fountains and gypsies living in cave houses.

I am fortunate enough to have some Spanish friends who have shown me parts of Spain that I would not have otherwise explored.

The views from Mount Tibidabo, the sad story of Punta De Sau and the tradition of Plaza de Torres de la Maestanza.

Busy Madrid, beautiful Granada and cultural Seville.

I like the streets and alleyways of the cities and the gothic architecture of the churches.

A summer retreat in Xabia, white washed Spanish style villa’s and tall cliffs crashing into deep blue sea.

The lovely language, the good looking ladies and the passionate people.

It’s not just a country, it’s a way of life.

Endless fun, long summers in the cold climate of Europe and a no worries attitude that suits my Australian ethos.

I look forward to returning to Espana and discovering more about this wonderful country.

Related posts: It’s a water thing, People vs Place, It’s a French thing, Europe, 2003, Spain, 1997, Part 2: Beyond Barcelona, Spain, 1997, Part 1: Barcelona

Fiji, 2008

In the Christmas of 2008, instead of celebrating at home, my husband-to-be’s (HTB) family decided we would all travel to Fiji for 5 nights. We stayed at the Radisson Blu- one of the large hotels on the mainland at Denarau.

I had never been to the South Pacific, never really stayed in a flash hotel before, and never been away with my HTB’s family, which included two brothers, so it was all a bit different.

It was the hottest time of the year, so most days were spent lounging by the pool after the breakfast buffet and swimming over to the pool bar for 11am cocktails. The Blue Marlin was the voted the favourite.

If we felt a little more energetic, we would slide down the fun waterslides or take a walk on the beach. We read, played cards and ate a lot. Every night the firelighters would come down to the beach and light torches that reflected off the beautiful picture perfect sunsets.

After a few days of this, my traveller gene kicked in and I dragged everyone away from the safety of the hotel for a waterfall tour. The bus picked us up and drove us up the coast and into the green hills.

We visited a little village called Biasevu with children running around and went to the community hall for a traditional cava ceremony- strong stuff. Suitably fortified, it was time to trek to the waterfall.

Unfortunately, half way through the walk, it started to rain. Heavily. But our tour guide Nadine lent a helping hand and everyone made it across the river to Sava Mate Laya waterfall intact.

It was flowing quite a lot due to the rain, but I was still determined to take a swim underneath and get my head wet. A little wetter and a little wiser about Fiji culture, we headed back to our little piece of luxury, to enjoy it while we could.