Saturday, 22 November 2014

Climbing the Elizabeth Tower and seeing Big Ben

In August this year,  Hamish and I did something we rarely do. We took a weekday off work and played tourist in London. It also happened to be Hamish's birthday and London certainly came to the party and brought magnificent weather for our little day out.  The main reason for the random day off was actually to climb the Elizabeth Tower and see Big Ben up close and personal, we were lucky that the list of dates we had to choose from included Hamish's birthday - win win. 

I honestly cannot recommend this short tour more. First is 100% free. Also, it is only open to residents of the UK which makes the groups small and personal. Our group consisted of about 5 other couples and we had a brilliant tour guide who clearly loved the history of Big Ben and this tower and was truly passionate about it.  She was able to answer all our questions and somehow, managed to make what could come across as crusty old boring history, really interesting and intriguing.  

To say I loved every single split second would be an understatement. The fact that this tower and world famous clock is such a massive icon in London and England was not forgotten and when we were able to walk behind each face of the clock and actually peek out between the cracks in the white (and one pink) window panes I honestly felt a little thrill that I was up there and  right at that very moment, so many tourists were looking at the clock I was privileged to be standing, literally, right behind.  Hello secret photobomb. 

We were shown the actual mechanism of the clock and even got to watch it all tick over at quarter to the hour which was pretty cool (the geek inside me LOVED it!). The clock is an antique and requires a lot of love and care to keep it working so smoothly and accurately. In fact, the pendulum which keeps the time, is monitored frequently and if the clock is running too fast or too slow, old penny coins are added or taken off of the top of the pendulum. Seriously, this clock is kept so accurate by a little pile of pennies. I never would have guessed. 

I won't give away any more tidbits from this tour, just take my word for it, you want to make the time to do this yourself if you ever get the chance.  The entire trip takes about 90 minutes from top to bottom and you need to be fit enough to walk up a few flights of stairs. Don't worry too much about the stairs though, the guide makes sure the pace is nice and slow and there is also a rest point halfway up where you learn about the history of the tower and the bell.  The peak of the trip is standing in the bell tower when the bells chime - ear plugs are a requirement, but these are provided free of charge. Unfortunately, as you will be able to tell from this post, for security reasons, photo's are prohibited on the entire tour. 

If anyone wants more information on the tour or how to go about booking it, feel free to drop me an email :) 

Thursday, 4 September 2014

A room with a view: Grindelwald, Switzerland

This post was mostly written over the weekend, all it needed were a few final proof reads and some extra pictures (because you can never post too many pictures of this beauty of a place) before hitting the publish button and sending it into the world wide interwebs. Then, instead of being productive and getting straight to it, I plonked my butt down and started catching up on my bloglovin feed and came across Kaelene's post on her "Room with a view" which was linking up with Emma's September link up. Seeing as I have literally just returned from a long weekend which happened to have a room with the best view ever, I decided to bite the bullet and join in on my first ever link up.  Below are a few little bits and pieces we did during our short stay in Grindelwald, our room certainly had a view (hello Eiger?!) and the views from the car, train and every other aspect of our holiday were just about as spectacular.  So without further ado, a brief, by the numbers, recap on our time in  a mountain paradise.

1 Beautiful Chalet overlooking the Eiger and the Lower Grindelwald Glacier.

4 Breakfasts eaten on our little deck overlooking the most tranquil setting (we certainly won on the accommodation front). Below is what I woke up to for four days straight.... I know! 

4 Cable car rides on death-defying cable cars that are too steep and too high…hello sweaty palms.

1 Flying Fox ride down a steep stretch of a mountain at speeds of up to 84km per hour. I may have shed a tear of nerves as I was being harnessed in, Hamish may have laughed at this.

3 Avalanches seen firsthand – two in the Upper Grindelwald glacier and one on the train down from Jungfraujoch - these beasts grumble and roar like its nobodies business!

2 Trains taken to get to the top of Europe, aka Jungfraujoch.

1 Walk along the Jungfraujoch col at approx. 3400m resulting in a minor case of altitude sickness.

2 circuits walked around the Ice palace at Jungfraujoch (yes we liked this attraction, especially the slippery, slidey, smooth floor).

1 Cheese Fondue devoured in approx. 90 seconds. (You would of thought I would have learnt my lesson after the last time in Geneva!) 

4 Breakfasts eaten on our little deck overlooking the most tranquil setting (we certainly won on the accommodation front).

1 Game of chess played with Lake Brienz in the background.

3 Hikes up to stunning waterfalls, one of these walks also was not up an actual path but rather the steep (read sheer) debris of a rock fall. We discovered this at the top, but it’s okay, we lived.

1 Ride down the mountain on a Trottibike. No pedals are needed (hence the bike has no such thing). I think my hand was on the break 99.9% of the time and I was still going faster than I would have liked but I suppose that’s what happens when you scooter down a mountain.

1 Lunch eaten at a picturesque skiing town (Kleine Scheidigg) with the North Face of the Eiger as it’s backdrop.

1 Bazillion bells heard, just gently ringing from the necks of all the cows and goats, as they do in the Alps.

2 Times down the super slide with flashing lights at the Grindelwald leisure centre – this thing was like being in a euro-trash disco for 20 seconds a pop. (There are no pics of this, so you will have to use your imagination...)

1 Swim in the near empty indoor pool – with the glass windows and the view of the mountains behind us.

1 too many slices of Swiss cheese consumed (my name rhymes with the darn thing, I have no hope).

Cheese does this to me.

1 Unforgettable holiday to be repeated every single year. 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

I heart Buenos Aires

In 2012, I fell in love with Buenos Aires. It wasn't a planned love, in fact it was the opposite. After the beauty and breathtaking scenery of Rio, when we  arrived in Argentina, (exhausted from partying it up at the Carnival) the grey city landscape of Buenos Aires did nothing to inspire me.  I felt that strange pang of "homesickness" I sometimes feel when moving on to the next stage of a holiday,  for the part of a holiday that had ended, and I really wanted to go back to Rio.

Boy, was I wrong in my quick judgement of this city. I honestly have no idea when the transition happened. It must have been a gradual happening, because I don't remember suddenly thinking "wow, this place is amazing". But when we left, after just three days there, I felt heartbroken.

Something about Buenos Aires is unobtrusively magical. It isn't the architecture, which, while nice, doesn't hold a flame to some of the buildings in Europe. It isn't the city layout, which felt more practical than beautiful. It isn't the parks or beaches - bar one or two parks we didn't see too many and we didn't even make it down to the beaches. It is everything you can't explain. It is the culture, the friendly people, the atmosphere, the shabby-chicness, the vibe, the unassuming beauty that you have to look for to see.  Unfortunately, I only had my point and shoot at this stage of my travels, but hopefully some of the below pictures will help to portray more of my love for this city. Words seem inadequate and if I am honest, I don't remember the names of the neighbourhoods we visited, or the restaurants we ate at, I don't remember the advice I was given and the advice I swore to remember to give to others, it has all just merged into this beautiful, rose-tinted memory of a brief, but perfect romance.

After eating Argentinian steak, I can now say for certain, South African steak wins. Taste-wise they are just as good, but value for money and side dishes goes to South Africa....(wahey South Africa!!)
These guys agreed with me about the Steak...