Adventure? Alpaca my bags!

Anyone who knows me or has been reading this blog for a while knows 2 things about me –

1. I love animals

2. I love anything a bit peculiar

So of course anything combining both of these things is a winner in my eyes.

Long story short, a couple of months ago I decided I wanted to go llama or alpaca trekking. As you do. I wasn’t really bothered which, although when I was a kid I was always a bit wary of the llamas at animal parks as I was terrified of them spitting on me (I also thought they spat yogurt but that’s neither here nor there).

Anyway, as it happens, I found a deal on Groupon for alpaca trekking at a place called Alpaca Annie in New Romney, Kent. A farm specialising in alpaca care, trekking and alpaca wool products. They seemed like a friendly bunch so I thought I would give it a go! Dragging hubby along with me, our alpaca experience involved learning a little bit about the animals, followed by taking them for a walk and then feeding them some carrots.

Just taking our alpacas for a walk. No big deal.
Just taking our alpacas for a walk. No big deal.

There were 8 of us in total and we were led by a bubbly and knowledgeable lady named Lara who had a real enthusiasm and passion for the alpacas. We were brought to a pen with 8 alpacas in (one alpaca per person) where we were told that they must walk in a particular order. We must also not stand directly behind the alpacas as they don’t like it, so the human trekkers all walked on the left while the alpacas walked on the right.

Lara brought each alpaca out one by one looking for a human volunteer to pair up with. My guy was called Splodge and was the baby of the group. My husband’s alpaca was called Four Ervin and was described as the ‘studmuffin’ of the group.

We're going on adventure? alpaca my bags!
We’re going on adventure? alpaca my bags!

As we began walking, the alpacas obediently trotted along beside us, stopping to nibble on the grass at every available opportunity. Four Ervin occasionally preferred to gaze wistfully into the distance while all his field-mates got their fill of the lush grass, much to my amusement.

Alpaca grass pit stop number 367
Alpaca grass pit stop number 173

At the halfway point we paused for pictures and a snack. We were each given a handful of carrot sticks to feed the alpacas with. Splodge happily gobbled whatever I offered him but still found time to munch on the grass. Four Ervin on the other hand wouldn’t entertain the idea of a mere human feeding him carrots, no thank you! Fortunately my husband got the opportunity to feed some of the younger alpacas carrot sticks later on.

Yes I know I'm gorgeous!
Yes I know I’m gorgeous!

I thought alpacas would be quite cuddly animals, but Lara informed us that they only really like being touched on the front of the neck with the back of your hand. At the end of the trek, our alpacas returned to their field and then we were able to go into the nursery pen and meet some of the youngsters.

Fooooooood!
Fooooooood!

Some of the alpacas were quite bold and wanted the carrot sticks, whereas others were still quite shy around new people so would avoid us. It was enjoyable being able to get up close to these cute critters.

My fan club
My fan club

After our alpaca encounter, we were all presented with a certificate to say that we had been on a trek – I thought this was a nice touch. Our experience lasted approximately an hour in total and after that we decided to have an early lunch in the farm coffee shop which I would also highly recommend.

Heeeeey you guuuuuuuuuuys!
Heeeeey you guuuuuuuuuuys!

If you love animals and fancy doing something random then why not take an alpaca for a walk? And no, you cannot ride them!


Find me on twitter @quirkylilplanet for more of this kind of stuff and nonsense.

Alice in Wonderland Restaurant – Quirky dining in Tokyo

When we were planning our trip to Japan there was one place in particular I was desperate to dine at and that was the Alice in Wonderland restaurant. I am a big fan of Alice in Wonderland, and the Disney animation was always my favourite film as a child and is still one of my all-time favourites now, so I couldn’t miss this opportunity – especially as Japan is well-known for its theme restaurants.

When I was researching into it I found that there were a few Alice restaurants in Tokyo, but we chose to go to the one in Ginza which was called Alice in a Labyrinth. As we flew to Japan on my birthday, we decided that the restaurant would be the perfect place to celebrate a belated birthday meal… or my very merry unbirthday if you prefer!

My Alice in a Labyrinth Rules:

1. Make a reservation. The restaurant is small. Ask your hotel concierge if they wouldn’t mind making dinner reservations for you, thus avoiding any disappointment of being turned away when you get there.

2. Allow extra time to get there. You don’t want to be late for this very important date! This place is difficult to find. We caught the train to Ginza and were planning on walking to it from the train station but after going round in circles, we hailed a taxi and asked the driver to take us there (we even had a printed map). I think the driver struggled a bit to find it too!

3. Look up! The restaurant is on the 5th floor of a rather generic looking building. We were all puzzled when the taxi driver pulled up until I spotted the distinctly Alice logo when I looked up.

alice-in-a-labyrinth-ginza-tokyo

alice-in-a-labyrinth-restaurant

The restaurant is decorated beautifully in a wonderland design, complete with storybook corridors leading into the main restaurant which even had a giant teacup booth for larger parties. The lighting is low and despite the colour and quirkiness, the atmosphere was quite intimate.

After being shown to our table, our waitress who was dressed up as Alice presented us with the menu. It wasn’t just any old menu though, this was presented to us in a diorama type box. She did explain it to us but sadly we didn’t understand what she was saying due to us knowing very very little Japanese, still it looked pretty cute.

The menus themselves were tucked away at the back of the box and were pretty much like normal printed menus, although the cocktail menu was pop-up, so I’m not really sure what the box was all about but I liked it all the same.

Of course I had a cocktail! We also learnt that the little bell on our table was to be used for if we needed the attention of the waitress, a rather novel idea!

alice-in-wonderland-cocktail

We were brought over some bread and butter to nibble on while we waited for our main meals. I loved the little touches like the butter being in playing card suit shaped bowls and the little ‘eat me’ card that was sat on the plate.

For my main meal I ordered the Cheshire Cat pizza and my husband ordered some sort of beef dish although neither of us can remember what it was called. The food was tasty but I was a little disappointed that the dishes didn’t have much of a wonderland touch to them. They also weren’t very big – and that’s coming from someone who isn’t a big eater anyway!

The desserts, on the other hand, were much more impressive – both in size and presentation. Not sure what the dishes were called but my husband’s dessert involved something chocolatey, fresh fruit, a flaming alcoholic concoction and a cute biscuit shaped like Alice’s silhouette. My dessert was ice cream (my favourite dessert is ALWAYS ice cream!) and by coincidence, like my dinner, this too was Cheshire Cat related – complete with a dusting of kitty footprints in cocoa powder and a cat face made from pastry, cream and fruit.

alice-in-a-labyrinth-waitress

alice-dessert

alice-in-a-labyrinth-sundae

I loved all the decor within the restaurant and how you felt like you were walking into a storybook. Even the toilet doors had a nod to the King and Queen (of Hearts) on them!

I enjoyed my evening at Alice in a Labyrinth, mainly for the whimsy of it all. If you’re a hardcore foodie then you probably won’t be satisfied, but if you love everything Alice then you won’t be disappointed!


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Hyper Japan 2015

This Saturday I attended the Hyper Japan Festival at The o2 in London, an exhibition dedicated to all things Japanese. Naturally, being a bit of a Japanophile myself, I was eager to attend.

We opted for the Saturday morning slot (9am – 3pm) which was perfect as it wasn’t too busy when we arrived just before 9am but getting quite hectic by the time we left (around 2pm).

I will admit I spent longer choosing my outfit for the day than I have spent picking out some wedding outfits! Although I didn’t go full on cosplay, I wore some accessories I bought in Tokyo (cat tights, robot earrings, Alice in Wonderland bag) and threw on a light summer kimono over the top of a black skirt and pink top. I also pinned all my hair up and slicked on the red lippy and winged eyeliner… I guess I looked somewhere between a wannabe geisha crossed with a 90s girl band member.

However, I was happy to see that there were plenty of cosplayers walking around inside the o2 and I even asked a few of them if I could take their photographs, all of them happy to oblige. It’s funny because I saw more Harajuku-inspired outfits here in London than I did in actual Harajuku while I was there!

The festival was quite disjointed within the o2 as it wasn’t in the arena itself, but dotted around outside, where the restaurants are. We headed to the main section first where there were many stalls selling food and gifts. We posed for a picture with Domokun and were given some free Snapea rice sticks from the Yushoi stall – they were pretty good!

I personally found that alot of the stalls were quite expensive, which I guess is understandable as they are selling Japanese imports but when I paid around £5 for a box of KitKats in Japan (expensive enough!) I wasn’t prepared to pay £17 for the privilege here. There were many etsy stalls selling cute crafts and jewellery but many of these were UK based and appealed to the Japanese kawaii lovers rather than being authentic Japanese themselves.

I did end up buying a necklace though. Anyone who knows me knows that-

1. I love quirky jewellery
and
2. I love animals

It seems to me that I have a bit of a thing for baby pandas at the moment and treated myself to this super kawaii necklace from Little Moose.

kawaii-panda-necklace

We were in need of some refreshment so headed up to the Maid Cafe where we had Dorayaki (basically like two pancakes with a filling in the middle). I opted for strawberry and the maid drew a little face on my Dorayaki in chocolate sauce – much like the real Maid Cafes of Akihabara but much much less expensive!

After our yummy pancakes we watched a performance on the stage below. Although I’m a Japan fan I’m not really familiar with any J-Pop acts so I have no idea who the group were but the crowd seemed to love them.

Next we headed into the Hyper Game and Anime Park – a section full of people playing video games and shopping for anime. I know very little about anime and the queues to play the various Nintendo games were too long for my patience so I just stopped by to have my photo taken with Pikachu before moving back to the main section for some lunch.

I was surprised at the lack of seating and lack of sushi in the food section, but between us we had vegetable noodles, okonomiyaki, tempura prawns and gyoza. And later on we bought some ice cream from one of the stalls – I chose yuzu flavour (Japanese citrus) sorbet. Yum!

Hyper Japan was a good experience but I definitely didn’t need any longer there, I would have also liked to have seen a few more interactive stalls and freebies but if you need a kawaii culture fix then this is the place to come. Next time though, I think I would like to go cosplay for the full Japantastic experience!

New and Shiny Blog!

My track record for this time of year isn’t very good, July appears to be the month where I drop off the face of the blogosphere but fear not I am still here! And I have been tinkering away in the background doing a digital spring clean with a new blog design.

I’ve gone from this…

old-blog-design

to this…

new-blog-design

I would love to hear your thoughts!

There’s still a bit more work to be done but as well as a refresh I finally relented and set up a facebook page, so hop on over and give me a little like😉

Hope you’re having a fabulous weekend!

rainbow-lorikeet-by-quirky-little-planet

Weekly Photo Challenge: ROY G. BIV aka RAINBOWS!

This week’s photo challenge is the theme ROY G. BIV – or to put it simply, Rainbow.

I love rainbows but rather than posting a photo of one I decided to think outside the box. What could be more rainbow than a Rainbow Lorikeet? The clue’s in its name after all.

This photo was taken at The Wildlife Habitat, Port Douglas in Queensland, Australia and is one of my favourite animal shots that I have taken.

For more rainbow fabulousness check out this week’s challenge.

Hens on Safari – Wearing it Wild!

Yesterday was WWF’s Wear It Wild day where you can ‘dress to express your wild side’ all in the name of saving the planet and the endangered wildlife that inhabits it. I kept it fairly subtle and wore an elephant print top and elephant necklace (which you can see on my new instagram account) but I did donate money to the charity.

Although I kept my clothing low key, the idea reminded me of some other occasions where I expressed my wild side through my fashion choices.

kangaroo-onesie

This was taken at a New Years Eve party with a onesie dress code. I’m not really a onesie sort of person but I couldn’t resist this one – complete with a little joey in the pouch! And surprisingly, unlike most cosplay and fancy dress items, I have worn it more than once! The kangaroo onesie got another outing on my hen weekend.

Hen nights/weekends are meant to be wild – this usually means strippers, L plates and willy straws. But me being me, wild took on a totally different meaning at my hen weekend. We went glamping in a zoo! A unique experience for any animal lover. It’s not every day you’re woken up by the sound of an ostrich shaking it’s tail feather!

The weekend took place at the award-winning Livingstone Lodge at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent. We arrived at the zoo late afternoon and checked in at Livingstone reception where we were treated to a choice of champagne, Amarula or juice. I love Amarula (South African cream liqueur) so I got straight on that while we waited for the rest of the party to arrive.

Once everyone had arrived, our party of hens (or bachelorettes if you prefer) headed off for a private safari around the zoo, with our rangers, Sandile and Richard who were from South Africa and Zimbabwe and very knowledgeable about the animals. I had done the regular safari at the zoo before but a private safari for just me and my hens was so much better – we saw more animals and it was nice to receive VIP treatment.

The safari ended at where we would be staying the night – Livingstone Lodge, luxury tented safari-style accommodation with spectacular views over the waterhole and across the fields of Kent and the English channel.

livingstone-lodge

view-over-kent-countryside

The tents are all named after wild animals and are either double, triple or twin bed and include toiletries, slippers and bathrobes. Being the Bride, naturally I got given the best tent – the ‘Rhino’ tent which featured a four-poster bed and a prime position right infront of the water hole. And as there were more than 18 of us in my party it meant that we had the whole of Livingstone Lodge to ourselves!

rhino-tent-at-port-lympne

We had a bit of time to settle into our tents before dinner so I took the opportunity to bound around and visit everybody else’s tents dressed in my kangaroo onesie, before getting dressed for dinner and looking like this…

crazy-zebra-woman

My friends and family who came to celebrate with me also donned animal print – everything from onesies to face paint!

Dinner was served in the Laapa (Afrikaans for ‘meeting place’) and to my surprise my bridesmaids had decorated it with animal print balloons and animal print eye masks to go with our hen weekend theme of, you guessed it, animal print.

laapa-at-port-lympne

The laapa was decorated in an African theme, including cool masks on the walls and Amarula lamps on the tables (which I really wanted!).

amarula-lamp

Dinner was an African buffet plus breads and salad for starters, followed by a barbecue cooked on an open pit fire and finished off with dessert and then coffee, truffles and a cheese board. The food was really tasty although what with all the excitement I didn’t eat as much as I should have (same thing happened at my wedding too!) but my friends all raved about how amazing they thought the food was so – my compliments to the chef!

After dinner, my mum and the bridesmaids had organised some hen night games for us and then surprised me with a birthday cake because not only was this my hen weekend and easter weekend, it was also the weekend of my 30th birthday!

safari-birthday-cake

No one could manage the cake after all that food, so we decided to give everyone a piece the next day.

The evening was fun and soon enough it was time to leave the laapa and get some rest for our second safari the following day. It was quite bizarre falling asleep and waking up again in the zoo, but one of the highlights of my whole weekend was watching the animals being fed their breakfast – something you wouldn’t see otherwise. We got to watch feeding time from the verandas at our tents and the decking around the laapa – both very good viewpoints to see all the action below.

breakfast-time-at-the-zoo

view-from-livingstone-lodge

After a delicious breakfast, we boarded our safari truck for the second safari of our stay.

port-lympne-safari-truck

The ranger took us down to see the giraffes where we could all get out of the truck and observe them. The keeper did try to get the giraffes to come over to me but sadly the giraffes were having none of it!

hello-giraffes

giraffes

Once the safari was over, we were reunited with all of our luggage back at Livingstone reception, from there we were free to spend the rest of the day in the zoo at our own leisure, but we didn’t stay too long because it was SO COLD! I had an absolutely amazing weekend but unfortunately the cold weather put a mild dampener on it (I was glad I took that onesie in the end, believe me!). Livingstone Lodge is open from the end of March until October so we happened to be there on the first weekend of the season, which with the unpredictable English weather could be gloriously warm (as it was the year previously) or it could even snow (as it did while we watched the giraffes!). Still, it added to the experience!

I couldn’t fault Port Lympne Wild Animal Park at all – The Aspinall Foundation who run the zoo work hard to promote animal conservation through captive breeding as well as education, and the charity is “a pioneer in the reintroduction of endangered species to protected areas of the wild”. The rangers that looked after us on our experience were knowledgeable people who had previously worked in various parks and game reserves across Africa. The lodges were clean and beautifully furnished, the food was delicious and the animals all seemed genuinely happy and well cared for.

I would do this again in a heartbeat – but perhaps pick a warmer month next time!

For your own wild weekend check out The Aspinall Foundation website. Prices vary depending on time of year.

hens-on-safari

Moroccan special – Weekly photo challenge: On the way

As my Morocco posts seem to be quite popular and as I enjoy participating in the odd WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge, this week I thought I would combine the two!

This week’s theme is On The Way – sharing photos taken on the way to something else.

Firstly, a view from the aeroplane on the way from London to Marrakech…

view-from-the-plane

An intriguing and intricate door on the way around the souks…

moroccan-doorway

And the sun bouncing off of the 4×4 on the way to the Atlas Mountains…

jeep-to-atlas-mountains

What do you think?

For more photography, check out the WWPC.

Travel and Treasure

So I’ve been a little quiet on the blog for the past week or so but things have still been ticking away in the background. I’ve contributed to a guest post about beauty on the road over at Heels In My Backpack – so go check it out (after you’ve read this post of course!).

And I’ve been gaining some inspiration from the world around me, so please feel free to follow me on twitter and pinterest – let me know you found me through my blog and I will follow you back!

In my last post I mentioned this gorgeous necklace I bought while on honeymoon in the Maldives. Anyone who has been reading this blog for a little while knows I love a good souvenir, so I thought I would showcase a few of my travel gems.

This necklace, being a honeymoon memento means alot to me, so I try not to wear it too often because I’m scared of breaking it or losing it, but when I do wear it, it does attract a lot of attention.

quirky-necklace-from-the-maldives

Although there isn’t a particularly fascinating story behind it, other than I happened upon it while in the island gift shop, I thought I would share it as it’s so unique and reminds me of that special time.

jewellery-from-the-maldives

I’m normally one for quirky costume jewellery rather than expensive jewellery that I will probably break, and while I don’t stroll down the street jingling like Mr T, I am a typical female when it comes to jewellery shops – stood agaze at all the sparkly pretty things around me. I’m like it in shops at home and I was like it in the souks of Marrakech.

It sounds completely cliché to refer to the souks as ‘Aladdin’s cave’ but that is pretty much what they were! A labyrinth of small stores packed to the brim with tea sets, jewellery, pashminas, spices, leather, shoes… so much colour and chaos it is easy to become distracted. I ended up buying 3 bracelets in Marrakech.

moroccan-bangles

The multi-coloured one came from a fixed price store at the entrance of the souks, but for around £5 GBP who could argue! The pink one was a hasty purchase to use up some dirham, but what makes it interesting is the hand symbol on it is the Hand of Fatima –  which is said to bring protection and good fortune.

moroccan-jewellery

My favourite of the three bracelets is the silver one. This is one I haggled for in true Moroccan style. Although I don’t think I’m ever taken very seriously as a customer, with the help of hubby (who is from the school of ‘don’t ask, don’t get’) managed to get a decent price for it that both I and the seller were happy with.

We didn’t stop at bangles, we took home a tagine and a couple of pashminas too (some were gifts)! All in all I had fun in the souks and urge all you jetsetting magpies to not miss them when in Marrakech!

My favourite things about The Maldives

1. The feeling of awe when we arrived.
We caught an early flight from Sri Lanka to Male, then arrived at our island via speedboat. It was incredible stepping off of that speedboat onto the wooden pier and into a picture postcard.

Arriving at our island
Arriving at our island

2. The scent of our water bungalow.
Sadly, we haven’t invented smell-o-vision just yet but I will never forget walking in to our gorgeous water bungalow and seeing petals scattered on the bed, the bright blue sea and sky from the windows and inhaling the aroma of whatever reed diffuser they had placed in there. Sometimes it’s the small details that count.

Petals on the bed
Petals on the bed

3. The peace and quiet.
A tropical island like this only invites a happy, calm and tranquil atmosphere, even when surrounded by other holidaymakers.

Enjoying the peace
Enjoying the peace

4. The island band.
In contrast to the peacefulness, we adored watching The Wood at Kuramathi perform. ‘Billionaire’ by Travie McCoy and Bruno Mars will always remind me of the night we spent dancing under the stars, sand between our toes, to the island band (who I hear have moved on, possibly to a different island).

The Wood at Kuramathi
The Wood at Kuramathi

5. The cocktails!
Hands down the best cocktail menu I have seen. I enjoyed the Ninja Turtle – which had black pepper in it! Worth going all inclusive for (although the food was tasty too!)

Performance and cocktails
Performance and cocktails

6. Movies under the stars.
If we weren’t watching The Wood in the evening, then we were sipping our cocktails on beanbags and loungers watching a movie on the beach. We saw ‘A thousand words’ starring Eddie Murphy and ‘Little Fockers’ starring Ben Stiller. Very romantic! Haha!

Movies on the beach
Movies on the beach

7. The wildlife.
Seeing the stingrays being fed at dusk, the cute little crabs skittering about the sand, the heron majestically perched at the edge of the infinity pool, the contrast of the flocks of black and white birds at the sandbank, the lizards in the little garden of the outdoor shower of our beach villa – you haven’t lived until you’ve showered naked outside with lizards eyeing your behind!

Poolside heron
Poolside heron

And let’s not forget…

8. The marine life.
Snorkelling in the crystal clear turquoise ocean, that close to all those brilliant, beautiful tropical fish. And yes we did see a couple of sharks.

Shark!
Shark!

9. The infinity pool.
Infinity pools always have something a little more luxurious about them. Lovely to cool down as you gaze out to the horizon.

To infinity and beyond!
To infinity and beyond!

10. The spa.
I would love to be wealthy enough to have a regular spa day but we went for a relaxing soak with champagne and fruit followed by a full body massage (him) and a Thai foot massage (me).

I want to live here!
I want to live here!

11. The sunsets.
What’s not to love about a glorious sunset on a tropical island? Part of our stay included a free sunset cruise which was a pleasant little boat ride, including champagne.

Sunset cruise
Sunset cruise

12. Souvenir shopping.
The island had a gift shop and because I collect foreign coins but was sadly paying for things using U.S. dollars rather than the Maldivian rufiyaa, I bought a souvenir pack of coins. This unusual necklace caught my eye too so I treated myself – it’s one of my favourites.

A gift from myself, to myself!
A gift from myself, to myself!

13. The sandbank.
At the tip of the island there is an exposed stretch of sand where you can walk and feel truly like you are on a deserted island on the edge of the world.

The Sandbank
The Sandbank

14. Photogenic scenery.
It’s almost impossible to take a bad photo on this island it is so beautiful.

Paradise
Paradise

15. The seaplane experience.
Departing by seaplane is definitely something worth experiencing, just to see all those tiny, stunning islands below you dotted in the Indian Ocean.

View of a random island from the sea plane
View of a random island from the sea plane

We stayed at Kuramathi Island Resort.

14 fabulous films to ignite the wanderlust within

movies-to-inspire-wanderlust

I’ve previously talked about books and movies inspiring people to get out there and see the world, so I thought I would share some of my favourites. So in no particular order, here goes…

1. Lost in Translation – Japan

It may come as no surprise that someone who writes a lot about the Land of the Rising Sun would choose this film. Some call it a beautiful and touching story of loneliness and friendship, others would argue that this movie is just plain dull (err… Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson and Tokyo – what’s not to like?!). I would encourage anyone with an interest in Japan to watch it and it may even inspire you to have your own ‘Lost in Translation’ moment like I did!

lost-in-translation-tokyo
Make like Scar-Jo on the Shibuya crossing

2. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – India

Another movie I have written about before, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is similar to Lost in Translation in that it tells a story of friendship and people who are thrown out of their comfort zone – namely a bunch of retirees who didn’t expect to be spending their golden years in chaotic India. I haven’t yet been to India but it’s on my list and I’m looking forward to watching the sequel to this film.

3. The Beach – Thailand

The Beach is one that sparked a whole generation of backpackers to grab their passports and fly to Thailand to discover their own secret beach paradise. Based on the book by Alex Garland, I have to say that in my opinion, Hollywood pretty much butchered it. There are quite a few differences between the movie and the book (I much prefer the book) but don’t let that stop you from enjoying the film and all that lush scenery.

4. Eat, Pray, Love – Italy, India, Indonesia

Another film adaptation of a book, this is the story of a woman named Elizabeth Gilbert and her journey of self-discovery after a divorce. She travels to Italy to eat, India to pray and Bali to, well, I’ll let you find out. This time round I enjoyed the film much more than the book as it was a lot more condensed and not as intense on self-talk, plus all those shots of Bali made me want to go there even more than I did before.

5. Hector and the search for happiness – China, Africa, USA

This movie, rather than being about “finding yourself” is about finding what makes people happy. Hector is a psychiatrist who jets off to China to do just that. This is a bit of an odd choice to include on this list because while it inspires travel and being happy, quite a few dark things happen to Hector on his journeys which could quite easily have the opposite effect!

6. The Inbetweeners 2 – Australia

Perhaps another odd choice if you are familiar with The Inbetweeners tv show (the British one, not the travesty that is the American version). While I didn’t find the first movie as funny as I had expected, I loved the sequel! Sure, cringeworthy things happen all the way through, but I bet it has inspired even more students than ever to head off on an adventure Down Under.

7. The Hangover – Las Vegas, USA

The Hangover is probably a grown-up version of The Inbetweeners – lads getting carried away and all that! I love any movie set in Vegas but the first Hangover movie is definitely the best. It’s far fetched but you’d be disappointed if it wasn’t over the top in this city of excess.

the-hangover-las-vegas
Viva Las Vegas!

8. Sex and the City 2 – Abu Dhabi, UAE / Marrakech, Morocco

And now for the girls getaway… Sex and the City 2 – I’ve written about before in my girl’s guide to Marrakech, although the movie is based in Abu Dhabi, it was actually filmed in Marrakech. Definitely one to make you crave your own glamourous and exotic journey to the Middle East when you watch Carrie and pals living it up in that swish hotel.

9. Tomb Raider – Cambodia

As someone who played (and completed!) the first few Tomb Raider games on the PlayStation 1, Lara Croft was a bit of a teenage hero of mine – a strong female character going on adventures around the world to find hidden treasures, and then returning to that fabulous mansion with swimming pool and butler – jealous! Tomb Raider sees Lara Croft (played by Angelina Jolie) running around Angkor Wat in Cambodia – a place that looks so mysterious and beautiful (despite the tourists) that I imagine photographs don’t do it justice.

10. Just Go With It – Hawaii

Starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston – the plot of this movie seems a little strange and silly – Sandler’s character convinces his assistant (Aniston) to pretend to be his ex-wife in order to cover up a lie he told his girlfriend?! Far fetched, yes, but I say – just go with it! The lead actresses in this movie gave me serious hair and body envy but most of all I was jealous of the laid-back holiday vibes and Hawaiian sunshine – why haven’t I been to Hawaii yet?!

11. Blended – South Africa

Another Adam Sandler movie, but this time with Drew Barrymore as leading lady, where they find that one bad blind date leads them to holidaying together with their respective children at a family resort in Africa. They have lots of fun on safari, riding quad bikes and other shenanigans, that I even felt a pang of end-of-holiday blues (as you do) when it was the last night of their vacation!

12. Mamma Mia – Skopelos, Greece

Mamma Mia did for Greece what The Beach did for Thailand. With a soundtrack of ABBA songs, Mamma Mia is set against a backdrop of the blue skies and white-washed buildings of Skopelos Island. Even if ABBA isn’t your thing, you can’t deny that scenery looks stunning.

mamma-mia-church-skopelos
Agios Ioannis Chapel

13. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Iceland/Greenland

Walter is a daydreamer. He fantasizes about these exciting scenarios and amazing adventures, yet his life is pretty humdrum – until his job is threatened and he decides to embark on an adventure to track down a missing negative from a mysterious photographer. Filmed in Iceland (but set in Iceland and Greenland) this movie inspires us to live life to its fullest.

14. Up – Venezuela

Last but not least, no movie list is complete without an animated offering. One of my favourites, this film is sad and touching but also funny and uplifting – quite literally when the lead character, an old man named Carl Frederickson, ties thousands of balloons to his house to lift it up and away on a journey to Paradise Falls, South America (a fictitious place inspired by Angel Falls in Venezuela). A place he and his late wife had always dreamed of going but never quite got there. Perhaps one of the most iconic and memorable quotes from this film is ‘Adventure is out there’ and I couldn’t think of a more apt way to end this post!

What are your favourite movies to inspire wanderlust?

Dining out Icelandic style

On the carnivore scale I sit a lot closer to bunny rabbit than T-Rex, infact I’ve thought about going vegetarian but I can’t quite commit to ditching a juicy cheeseburger for a mushroom burger just yet (Food fact #1: I hate mushrooms but really wish I didn’t).

Anyway, when we were in Iceland, my husband was keen to try some of the unusual meats they had there. While I wasn’t that bothered, but still a little curious, we decided to go for Icelandic tapas – a taster of the local cuisine without the full-on commitment of an entire meal of something unfamiliar. As they say, when in Rome do as the Romans do.

We dined at Tapas Barinn in the centre of Reykjavik, a cosy little Spanish-inspired restaurant. We decided to share a tapas set menu – the Icelandic Gourmet Feast – good for curious tourists and indecisive folk like us. The Gourmet Feast consisted of a shot of Brennivin (Icelandic spirit) followed by 7 courses, the first being smoked puffin with blueberry brennivin sauce.

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Smoked puffin

I tried puffin. I can’t remember much about the taste but the texture wasn’t great. And I felt guilty eating it… puffins are kinda cute.

Following the puffin we were presented with some assorted seafood dishes, unsurprisingly seafood is big business in Iceland. We had Icelandic sea trout with peppers-salsa, lobster tails baked in garlic and blue ling with lobster sauce.

Lobster tails
Lobster tails

Next up was the lamb dish, another popular meat in Iceland. Now, I don’t actually eat lamb but, as I said before – when in Rome (or Reykjavik). I must admit it was really tasty!

The last of our savoury dishes was minke whale with cranberry sauce. I was quite wary of eating whale but I was reassured that the minke whale is not an endangered species. Whale to me was a bit like steak but really salty, I was more interested in the ginger mash it was lying on a bed of (Food fact #2 I love ginger – I think it’s hereditary!).

Minke whale
Minke whale

Saving the best for last, the dessert course! I do have a bit of a sweet tooth so the white chocolate Skyr mousse with passionfruit coulis was of course my favourite dish. Skyr is an Icelandic yogurt that is a big part of Icelandic cuisine, you can’t go to Iceland and not eat Skyr, although it is pretty much just thick yogurt, it makes for a good breakfast or dessert!

Dessert!
Dessert!

So that was our tapas with an Icelandic twist, but what else?

Well in England, where I’m from, fish and chips is a popular dish so we thought we might as well try what Iceland has to offer! The restaurant we ate at was called, unimaginatively, Icelandic Fish and Chips. The fish is so fresh that the menu varies day to day so I can’t quite remember what I ate (I chose it from the menu on the blackboard) but it looked like this-

Icelandic fish and chips
Icelandic fish and chips

The chips were more like potato wedges but were pretty good. We also ordered some dips to go with our dishes, including Skyronnaise (it’s that Skyr again!) and of course, the obligatory pot of tomato ketchup.

So if you’re ever in Reykjavik, why not try Spanish style tapas with a twist or British inspired fish ‘n’ chips – all served with fabulous Icelandic flair!

A view from the top: Empire State Building – New York, USA

Continuing on from A view from the top: Sigiriya – Sri Lanka, I’ve decided to write a bit of a #throwbackthursday kind of post on perhaps one of the most famous landmarks in the world – The Empire State Building in New York City!

I had always wanted to visit NYC so jumped at the chance to go on a University trip which just happened to coincide with my 21st birthday. Of course, any trip to New York has to have the Empire State Building on it’s itinerary!

view-from-empire-state-building

Even if you’ve never been to New York, no doubt you will have seen either the inside, outside or view from the Empire State Building on television or in the movies or even in the video of the music collaboration between Jay-Z and Alicia Keys (bet you’ve got that song in your head now!)

Pros – You’re in NYC baby! Although my photos aren’t the greatest (it was before I had a decent camera and knew about megabytes, megapixels and stuff like that) with the wonder of modern technology and a good eye you will get some awesome shots from up here.

Cons – It’s not as romantic as the movies might lead you to believe (I am looking at you Sleepless in Seattle!) and it can get quite crowded up there.

Surprises – This may not be a surprise to everyone, but for me I found that when I was approaching the Empire State Building on foot, it was a lot smaller than I imagined. I know that sounds crazy but everything is tall in New York so the Empire State blended in more than I had expected (sorry!)

Verdict – You can’t go to New York without visiting the Empire State and if I ever get back to the Big Apple you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be going back up there – with a snazzier camera too!

inside-empire-state-building

Las Vegas in motion – Weekly photo challenge

I enjoy taking part in the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge and this weeks theme of Motion gave me the perfect opportunity to showcase a few snaps from when I visited Las Vegas.

The hotels themselves put on quite a spectacle, with perhaps the Bellagio fountains being the most famous of them all…

bellagio-fountains-las-vegas

But let’s not forget The Mirage and its impressive volcano outside…

mirage-volcano-las-vegas

As well as the dolphins on the inside. I had to be quick on the button to capture this dolphin jumping out of the water…

dolphin-jumping-out-of-water

To capture the essence of Las Vegas, I played around with shutter speeds on my DSLR to get this shot of cars streaking by on the strip with the casinos in the background in all their neon glory.

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Viva Las Vegas!

st-marks-square-at-dawn

Venice at sunrise – Weekly photo challenge: Early bird

I love a weekend summer morning. A bright, fresh, brand new day ahead of me gives me a sense of optimism and freedom – especially if I have no plans for the day. Ironically, I am not really “a morning person” and as much as I love a sunny morning, I love my bed and my weekend lie-in more. However, sometimes we have no choice but to get up before sunrise and sometimes we are glad that we did.

After a long weekend in Venice, our departure was an early one, but this was one of those ‘drag yourself out of bed’ moments you can look back on and be grateful for. St Mark’s Square at sunrise is wonderfully peaceful and a complete contrast to the the square during the day, overcrowded with tourists.

st-marks-square-first-thing-in-the-morning

These photos were taken at approximately 5.30am, when there was just us, one or two early morning wanderers and the pigeons up and awake. Oh and not forgetting a bride, groom and photographer… although I wasn’t sure if they were genuine newlyweds or if they were actually fashion models. I didn’t like to ask, but either way they were avoiding potential photo-bombers.

venice-at-dawn

If you’re in Venice, try to take a walk at dawn. But shhh keep it to yourself otherwise everyone will be doing it!

venice-at-sunrise

For more Early Bird inspiration, check out this week’s photo challenge.