Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Year in Vietnam

I had a lovely Christmas and Boxing Day. Whilst I missed the Aussie sun, it was nice to be with the family, partaking in our usual Christmas rituals of presents, turkey, chocolate, wine - I even got some snow up in Leicestershire (although it did make my drive to Heathrow somewhat more of a challenge). But with the festivities complete I was glad to be jetting off to the Far East, even with the daunting thought of getting out of my winter wear and into a bikini after all the overindulgence of the past few weeks.

So here I am, tubby stomach and all, with my best friend in Vietnam. And, wow what a place! There is still so much to do, but thus far our trip has consisted of reuniting with old friends, sitting on miniature stalls at one of Hanoi's many street cafés, haggling at the market, sipping Prosecco at the beautiful Metropole Hotel, pagodas, temples, Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum, kayaking round the incredible sights of Halong Bay, seeing monkeys and a New Years Eve I will definitely never forget.

Our biggest challenge surprisingly has not been the language barrier - so many Vietnamese speak good English. Instead, it is crossing the road that poses the greatest threat. They don't use zebra crossings in the same way we do. Here you generally just have to walk out into the enslaught of traffic and hope for dear life that the mass of bikes, mopeds and cars coming at you stop or swerve round you. Quite the experience, I can tell you! But it's also part of what makes Hanoi. Bustling and lively, it's been easy to get quite attached to the place. 

In stark contrast, Halong Bay is definitely one of the most tranquil places I've been to. Those calm waters and stunning islands make for a very picturesque scene. What better place to see in the New Year! Although we did see it in early as our guide and the crew bafflingly decided midnight celebrations would be at 10.30! They didn't quite get it, playing Christmas songs, having double the countdowns and ensuing 'New Year's music', serving an interesting Hungarian red bubbly instead of the more traditional champers. But it was brilliant. They had a great time, so did we and it was certainly memorable. Here's to more wacky and wonderful moments in 2015.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The travel bug bites

The travel bug. Something you get out of your system once you've been travelling, right? Wrong. How can you ever shake off such an infectious disease?

I'm incredibly lucky. I've been to some amazing places - New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Mexico, Bali, Thailand, Finland. I've seen some mind-blowing views and experienced some phemonenal things. But I've merely scratched the surface of what this world has to offer.

That's why I'm embracing my 'illness' and heading off on my next adventure at the end of the month... bring on Cambodia and Vietnam!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Developing Wings

Change is a theme that runs throughout my blog; indeed its one that has run throughout my life over the past couple of years. As the saying goes, I keep launching myself off cliffs and developing wings on the way down... So here we go again, my next big change: my job.

This Friday marks the end of an era, an era that has lasted five years - and my, what a five years they have been. There's been website launches, photo shoots, trips to France, coffee, technical articles, national press coverage, more coffee, exciting PR campaigns, national TV, wine, food, new friends. There's been hard work, there's been pride, there's been laughter.

There are times at the moment when I wonder what on earth am I thinking!? And it is certainly scary to be leaving a job I know so well and love so much. But therein lies the problem. Whilst I may have to keep reminding myself of this - I made the decision to move on because I wanted to be somewhere that I didn't already know and love, somewhere new, with new challenges and new people.

It is with a heavy heart I am leaving behind my amazing colleagues and without doubt one of the best creative communications agencies around.

But after all, we have to keep moving.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

5 things I learnt at Oktoberfest

Big flashing lights, crazy rides, lederhosen, beer maids, wooden food huts, thousands of people, giant beer halls, lively music, beer, beer and more beer...

Oktoberfest in Munich is something everyone should experience in their life time. Having spent a long weekend there, here's five things I learnt about the crazy beer-fuelled festival along the way:

1. Beer is better at Oktoberfest

Why does beer taste better in Germany? Especially when wearing a traditional beer maid's outfit and drinking it out of a litre steiner?

I don't know the answer to this question. All I know is that it's true.

2. Traditional outfits are a must

My black and blue drindle is officially my new favourite dress. Having arrived with a cheap, short dress impulse bought online, it soon became apparent nobody does 'fancy dress' as such. With the exception of a few silly t-shirts and hats worn by those who didn't get the memo - and that were frowned upon by the Germans, even requested to be taken off in the most traditional (and our favourite beer hall, Marstall).

There are two options at Oktoberfest: normal dress (which even then is questioned) and traditional lederhosen and beer maids outfits. The latter is not only more fun, but the dresses hold you in in all the right places, and if you're blonde make people think you're actually German - always interesting!

3. Italian men get a little overexcited

Being mistaken for German did have its disadvantages, however. Namely the effect it had on Itlian men, who felt it was not only acceptable, but necessary to make comments, take photos, grope, kiss, even follow you. It was like they were on heat. Not cool.

4. The Germans don't do Jäger bombs

Jäger bombs... a beautiful British invention. Definitely not German. Jäger? Yes. Jäger and red bull? No.

We knew this from a previous trip to Berlin, but it's an easy fact to forget once you've had a steiner or four. Alas, our after party at a wonderfully trashy Munchen bar, involved drinking a wonderful concotion of Jäger and red bull, poured like you'd have a vodka and lemonade. Surprised it didn't blow our brains off!

5. Curry Wurst is basically sausage, ketchup and some curry powder

Curry Wurst is an essential when you're in Germany, no? Well, no.

I managed to avoid Curry Wurst on previous trips to Germany, and now I know why. There's nothing exciting or appealing about a bit of sausage in glorified ketchup with a bit of curry powder sprinkled on top. I'd recommend steering clear.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

A weekend full of adventure

Jam-packed with cycling, golf, bowling, skating, football, cocktails, the most amazing swimming pool, good food and good friends, all set in the stunning setting of Sherwood Forest, what's not to love about a long weekend at Centre Parcs?

It was always likely I'd enjoy an adventure weekend - when I was younger I loved school trips to activity centres, such as PGL and Bowles, but a lot of years have passed since then - nevertheless, Centre Parcs didn't disappoint.

Even with a trip to A&E for my friend's rapids-inflicted injury, it was a spectacular long weekend. Waking up to see a multitude of wildlife out the window, from ducks to hedgehogs, moorhens, stoats, and our resident squirrels, Simon and Sammy; hopping on our bikes and cycling everywhere; hot chocolates at the country club; catching up with old Uni friends; it all made it very special. Plus, to top it all off we got to watch my beloved Leicester City beat Man U 5-3!!! Definitely one to remember.

I'd recommend Centre Parcs to anyone - I know I'll be going back. After all, we all need a bit of adventure in our lives!

Friday, 22 August 2014

La vie est pleine de petits bonheurs

Translated means 'life is full of little pleasures'. It's one of the phrases I discovered on my recent trip to France, one of the phrases that I loved. And one which elegantly sums up my lovely little break in Limoges.

When you only have a few days away, it's important to make the most of them. To me on this trip it didn't mean see as much of the country in as short a time as possible, rather it meant relax and enjoy the French way of life for a few days. I learnt some new phrases, practiced my French, ate lots of croissants, cheese, duck and mergeuz (some amazing spicy sausages), and drank lots of coffee and red wine.

Sure, we did some more active things than just eat, drink and attempt to speak French. We visited Etang Saint-Estèphe, a wonderful lake with a beautiful beach, and la Grotte de Villars, some stunning caves with prehistoric drawings inside; we even had our own back garden Olympics, with giant Jenga, Boules and Badminton. But it was the combination of lots of little things that made the trip truly wonderful.

Just out of interest, here's another French proverb I came across, which I enjoyed:

'It's the tone that makes the song.' Or as we say: it's not what you do, it's the way you do it. Alors...

Monday, 21 July 2014

Dancing in the rain

Yesterday as the skies opened above Dartford Park and the rain began to pour, I couldn't help but wonder why on Earth I'd let myself be convinced it was a good idea not to shelter in the nearest pub, and instead stay in the open air, soaking up the live music and 'festival' atmosphere.

One sodden playsuit, two cosmos, a mud fight and a hell of a lot of laughter later, I knew why.

It's not very often we just stand out in the rain, splash about in the puddles, jump in the mud, and truly embrace a storm. When I think back to the times that I have, it has always been ridiculously fun! In Orlando, we danced around Universal in the rain; when I was 15 we allowed ourselves to get soaked en route home, jumping in puddles like we were 5 again; and yesterday we rolled around in the mud and danced to The Beat like noone was watching (even though I'm pretty certain plenty of people were) - each and everyone of those times have been truly brilliant!

So ask yourself this: Why wait for the storm to pass, when you can be having a ball dancing in it?