Sunday, June 30, 2013

Summer Sunday: 24 Hours

Last night I went clubbing for a farewell and only stayed til 12.30pm. I missed the last tube and got stranded at Tottenham Court Road. 

Surrounded by drunks and rubbish at my feet, the only redeeming factor was the hypnotic aroma of fried onions from a hot dog cart. The smell wafted down the entrance of the tube. I caved and bought a hot dog as I waited for the night bus.

The street vendor addressed me by "luv" and wished me a wonderful night. Little did I know, there was a crippling traffic jam with whiplash false starts ahead. I felt sorry for the bus driver. 

Although I left the club early to salvage the next morning and to avoid drinking, I got home much later than expected. And felt a bit jaded for cutting my evening short.

The next morning we had brunch at Bea of Bloomsbury's Diner. It was a makeshift kitchen and dining area inside an arch of a railway bridge near Bermondsey. 

Brunch on benches. Retro music, random cutlery baskets and jam jar glasses. The buttermilk pancakes were good. It was uncrowded at 11am, perhaps too early for hipsters but great for us. (Grant is trying to stifle a cough here.)

It was a sun shiny day. I was looking forward to spending the afternoon with my girlfriend's at Winchmore Hill. We had lunch and went for a stroll around the park. It was hot and the mere sitting on a park bench in the shade was a joy.

I must be having a bad transit weekend. Getting back to the city meant taking a rail replacement bus. It was so hot inside the bus, my tongue was almost hanging out of my mouth!

It took an eternity to get to my next destination. I was tired but determined to stretch the day. A friend had a BBQ on his rooftop terrace and it was lovely to catch these sights of Barbican.

By 9pm it was time to go home. The sun was down and by then I was too shattered to function. I spent the rest of the night on the couch playing Candy Crush Saga (and as an addict, I'm not ashamed to admit it!)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Night Stroll With Sunshine

I love the lead up to summer equinox. 

It was warm and wonderful after work so I walked around my neighbourhood. Just for the evening sun which is a rarity. It's like receiving an bonus extension to the day.

Cute yellow flowers and daisies.

London phone booth around the corner from my flat.

Sunset at 9.30pm. Amazing! 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Weekend Of Southern France

I was kindly invited to stay at my friend's near Perpignan. Her parents have a house close to the Spanish border where they spend their summers.

I watched the landscape of Perpignan from the plane. There were vineyards, olive groves, cherry farms and snow capped mountains. The houses are white with terracotta roofs and there were swimming pools in the backyards.

The village where we stayed is called Villelongues Del Monts, 40 minutes drive from Perpignan and 2 hours from Barcelona. Some people spoke Catalan, a mixture of French and Spanish. The area is steeped with history and the village looked like it was trapped in time. 

It was 30 degrees and the sun was bright. Swifts glided through the sky. The sunshine lulled us Londonites into more relaxed state. As I'm a country girl at heart, I welcomed the fresh expanse of space around me. 

In my room, I pulled back the curtains to reveal an azure swimming pool, stone walls, lush trees and mountains. Had I found heaven on earth?

All afternoon we lazed by the pool, dipping in to cool off and play water polo. Us Londonites felt like this was a shock to the senses. Then my friend brought out flutes of sparkling wine from the supermarket for 2 EUR a bottle. And it was actually delicious! With the first sip, we were languid.

The family dog Milly. 

By 6pm, I was considerably more tanned than before. The sun was still bright so we went for a walk. It looked like the village was trapped in in time, so peaceful and quaint. There were only two restaurants, a boulangerie, a suprette and a karaoke bar which was rarely open. The streets were narrow and windy.

We had dinner alfreso at home and played scrabble. In bed, I realised I could'nt hear a thing. There was complete silence. Something I had growing up but didn't completely appreciate until I moved to the city.

The next morning we had breakfast and set off to Racou, a beachside village to start a coastal walk to Collioure. It was a beautiful walk with wildflowers along the way. My friend commented on the smell of broom, yellow flowering shrubs and heat rising from the earth. It was sweet and reminded her of childhood walks. 

I had grilled sardines for lunch in Collioure, which were the specialty of the area. Our meals were delicious and fresh. We were still drinking outdoors at 3pm and the owners said we could stay even though they locked up for the afternoon.  

Us gals!

The church tower overlooking one of the town beaches.

An amusing sticker posted outside a store.


We walked back to Racou, stopping for a quick dip in the sea. We returned home and I was so tired I needed a nap. The sun streamed my room and I could faintly hear French chatter from a neighbour's BBQ. It was a very pleasant way to nap!

We had dinner at the Belgium resturant in the village. The owners were friendly and gave us the only unreserved table on the terasse with a view of the mountains. The sun went down with a pink glow at 9.30pm and even at that time, there were young kids riding bikes and the terasse was full of diners.

Crema Catalana, creme brulee made with orange rind. This had an imperfect crust but it was easily forgiveable as it was melt in the mouth dee-licious.

The next morning was the last for my stay. My friend talked about a "good looking breadman" who delivers bread every morning. He toots his horn and the neighbourhood comes out to buy bagettes and pastries from his van. We made a commotion when we heard him and scrambled out to the street. It was like an ice cream truck had arrived! 

Purely for journalistic purposes (of course), I took photos and a lady neighbour was laughing at me...or him or us.

To squeeze in more adventure before going to the airport, my friend's Mum's took me on a tour of the neighourhood. We rambled off-road, onto someone's vineyard and through  tall bushes.

Beyond the grapevines and bushes were the magnificent mountains of the Pyrenees. You wouldn't believe that there would be snow in summer, but here's proof!

Suddenly I thought I got bitten massively by insects because my feet and ankles itched like crazy. When I got back to the house, it looked like I had a hundred angry welts. That's when I realised I had walked through stinging nettles in flip flops!

It was my first and hopefully the last experience with the bastards. It still makes me grimace to this day thinking about the burning, swelling and maddening itch. My friend's Mum immediatly made me a bi-carb soda solution. After an hour of dousing myself, the welts calmed down and disappeared.

Alas my trip to the south of France was over. We arrived at Perpignan airport and there were passengers waiting outside, making most of the sunshine which was no longer to be by London. Farewell Perpignan, my stay was too short!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Real Summer In The South Of France

I type this with tears of exhaustion rolling down my face. I'm knackered but must stay up to tell you about my day.

It was like a beautiful dream. I flew to Perpignan to visit my friend (who moved there for the summer). As we descended, I saw the beautiful sunkissed landscape. There were snow capped mountains, amazingly in the middle of summer. The land was of fields, vineyards and white homes with terracotta roofs. Best of all, the sky was clear blue and it was hot.

My friend greeted us at Perpignan airport with her mum and dog Milly. We were brought back to her house in Villelongues. It was a peaceful village.

We had lunch and spent the afternoon lazing by the pool. We sunbathed and played water polo. We had 2 EUR bottles of wine which is suprisingly good. It seemed almost unreal that from the cold grey skies of London, I'm now in this splendid place!

By the time we finished with the pool it was 6pm. We went for a walk to explore the village. It was simply beautiful with old buildings, narrow windy roads leading to the mountains. Lots of greenery and tranquility. There are ideallic houses with gardens and  swimming pools.

We returned home and had an aperitif by the pool and ate dinner alfresco. Afterwards we played scrabble. We had much enjoyment, sunshine and laughs today.

And now I'm exhausted and need to sleep. Big day tomorrow too. Just had to stay awake to tell you about my magnificent day.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Hostel In Basel

Of all the hostels I've stayed in, Switzerland has the best. I stayed at the YMCA in Basel and it's only half an hour away from the airport.

My 5 bed dorm is female only and was super comfortable.

I can't get enough of Switzerland. I sing my praises to their cleanliness, practicalness, peacefulness-and hot looking people.

This morning I had sunshine and a lively conversation with two girls from California. I'm now rested and having breakfast.

I have an itinerary for today. Although I don't know how the day will turn out, I'm energized and excited. I feel like the world is mine!

Basel airport. Pick a country, any country!