Monthly Archives: December 2009

Personal & Quirky Reflections & Intentions

As we shift from one decade to another I’d like to share with you what I’m really grateful for.  Please do share your thoughts, resolutions, gratitudes, intentions …  

I am really grateful for:

  • My son Alex, who’s grown from a toddling 2 year old to the threshold of teenagerdom and brought us such joy, fun, enrichment and learning…
  • My Mum, who died 7 years ago and whose wisdom, beauty and grace is with me every day. I thought I had lost her when she died but have learnt that she is all here all the time …
  • The rest of my family for ‘being there’, keeping me sane and sharing the good and bad times, even when we drive each other crazy 🙂
  • Dear friends who share the journey, allow me to fail, be ‘out of order’ and forgive me every time … and for those friends who I have lost touch with but who are still in my heart ….
  • All the very special clients, colleagues and people I have worked with – thank you for sharing your lives, loves, aspirations, hopes, problems and dreams – such a privilege …
  • Living and working in such a beautiful part of the world
  • Good health and that of those around me
  • The luxury of being able to look forward to the coming decade from the warmth and safety (hopefully!) of my own home
  • For learning the difference between desiring what I don’t have, and being content with all that I am blessed with …

My INTENTION for the coming decade is to live as much as possible in the PRESENT, to appreciate all that is good around me, to share what I can with others and be open and  positive to whatever DESTINY may have in mind in 2010 and beyond  …

I wish you all that you wish for yourself in the coming year, with an extra dash of magical  quirkiness 🙂

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Quirky Christmas Past …

I recently wrote this article for a Twitter friend, Stephanie @TravelDesigned. You can see the original here   If you have a quirky Christmas memory please do share it … Leave a Comment below.

Aswan, Egypt

In the early 80s a group of us spent one Christmas and New Year in Egypt.  On Christmas Day so we left our VERY basic hostel to find a cheap restaurant open which served festive fare and a drink. As you can imagine, in a predominantly Muslim country on a Saturday, that was not so easy … Eventually we found a little place by the Camel Market (not on that day), with a big table outside.  We were offered Roast chicken and chips with local beer… Perfect.

Whilst we waited (for hours) for the chicken, we drank warm beer and relished the hot sun, safe in the knowledge that back home in the UK it was probably raining and definitely cold.  The chicken was the toughest, ropiest old bird you could imagine – but we enjoyed it anyway as we reminisced about our favourite Christmas holidays, exchanged REALLY cheap and fun gifts, toasted absent friends and congratulated ourselves on having a very unChristmassy Christmas Day.

 Pattaya, Thailand

In 1990, a friend and I escaped from Hong Kong to stay at a luxury hotel in Pattaya, which looked absolutely dreamy. What we didn’t know was that during the Vietnam War, Pattaya had been a favourite place for soldiers to chill out and ‘relax’ – and their legacy lived on …

 Having arrived on Christmas Eve we decided to eat out in Pattaya the next day, so after a relaxing day by the pool we wandered into the town.  What a shock that was.  It was late afternoon and still daylight but all the bars were busy and it was obvious what delights were on offer for Christmas here… We wandered up and down Soi 6 barely able to contain our amazement. Some of the bars and clubs had festive decorations amidst the neon – I’ll never forget one sign which read ‘A Merry Christmas to all our Customers’ above a lap-dancing club offering some very exotic acts …

 Eventually we found a vaguely respectable bar where we had Pad Thai noodles and fended off the attentions of some very drunk Australian guys who’d clearly partaken of a fair bit of Christmas cheer.  As their propositions got more extreme we decided return to our hotel and leave Pattaya red light district to its own unique Christmas festivities!

 Queenstown, South Africa

“We’re having a Braai on Christmas Day – just family and a few mates …” thus was I introduced to Christmas Dinner, South African style. I was staying with my boyfriend’s family on their farm just outside Queenstown. The weather was fantastic; warm, sunny and fresh. On Christmas morning we exchanged presents, drank sparkling wine and opened cards showing Santas and snow-covered carol singers outside typical English churches; all very incongruous with the African veldt outside the back door.

 A Braai is a BBQ, SA style. On the biggest grill I’ve ever seen, was every kind of meat imaginable, including ostrich and Boerewors, a spicy sausage.  Huge buckets were filled with ice and beer, boxes of red wine stood outside the kitchen door next to a tall fridge full of white wine, soft drinks & mixers.  Two trestle tables were loaded up with all manner of salads, dips, breads and fruit, with a smaller table for the kids – and not a turkey or Brussel sprout in sight.

 By 4pm the party was in full swing and it was time for carols and the Christmas pudding. The farm workers joined us and as ‘Hark The Herald Angels Sing’ rang out into the African sky from over 50 voices, it seemed the best way ever to celebrate this wonderful season.

Whatever you do, wherever you are and whoever you are with, may your Christmas be quirky and bright 🙂

Passage to Indian dreams …

Last month The Big Journey Company moved in to my office. It is great to be sharing space with this up and coming tour company; they were nominated for The British Travel Awards 2009.  India & Sri Lanka

I’ve always wanted to visit India and in November the Big Journey Company is planning a tour there, The Golden Triangle and Ranthambhore Park  and fingers crossed I will be joining them!  As a lover of the Alastair Sawday books, I was delighted to discover Sawday’s India & Sri Lanka Special Places To Stay, and I spent a magical time looking through the book and dreaming of the trip.  (A version of this appears in an Amazon review for the book – see link.)

There are loads of wonderful choices – from palaces and luxury hotels to homely B&Bs, tree houses and tents – to suit every budget, including a fairly limited one like mine. All the places are chosen with Sawday’s unique approach to accommodation – “We look for comfort, originality, authenticity and reject the insincere, anonymous and the banal.”

I fell in love with exotic locations like Neemrana Fort-Palace built over 6 centuries and spread over 11 levels, Devra Udaipur with its organic farm and views across Lake Pichola, Savista Retreat and its musical preformances on the amphitheatre steps and Dev Villas with 7 ‘stylish safari tents’ and India’s most famous tiger reserve nearby.

(A version of this appears in an Amazon Review for the book – see link.)

Having indulged in a myriad of fab places to stay, I then spent a while wandering around the websites giving info about the region, including Rajasthan Tourism site which gives loads of helpful info and ideas for travel. What a fascinating place to visit – I can’t wait.

If you have any hints or tips for India travel, do let me know …

Cumbria Recovery & Festive Fun…

Just a quick update re the floods and Cumbria’s recovery. The slogan going around is ‘Cumbria’s open for Business’ to which I would definitely add ‘… for Pleasure too!’  Today the new footbridge, Barker Crossing, was opened in Workington.  Well done to the Army, Royal Engineers for getting it put up in only a week. The BBC have given it great coverage here – note the rain is still pouring down!

There is a rather lengthy and earnest article on Cumbria Tourism’s website from Ian Stephens, their CEO, which gives details of what’s going on in the bigger picture – riveting stuff about NWDA and how we are leading the country in Tourism – yay! Read it here …

However, as Christmas is coming, I was much moreBlackhall Yard Kendal drawn to how we are going to celebrate the festive season.  I especially love some of the quirky and fun events going on around the county.  All the towns and villages are bedecked with lights and decorations and the shops are full to bursting with hand-crafted gifts and delicious food.  I went Christmas shopping in Kendal on Sunday and found lots of quirky and beautful pressies  – and FREE parking!  (Apparently all South Lakeland Car Parks are free each Sunday until the 27th December.)

Holker Hall is hosting loads of great things including their Victorian Christmas extravaganza.  The Lake District is such a lovely place to visit at this time of year – there’s plenty to see and do so why not come up and see us sometime 🙂