Christmas Week…

December 31, 2012

So Christmas is over, it really is a great time of year but I feel I have been too busy to fully enjoy it as I normally do. Looking through my photographs though, the few I managed to take through the whirlwind of visits I can see we had a lovely time.

This was my first Christmas as a wife here in the UK, and I was determined to start a few fun traditions for my new family.

The first is that we get our tree up as soon as possible, decorating my house has to be one of my favourite parts of the holiday season.

The second is that we will have an evening of Christmas shopping together, hopefully to finish off our list and then get drunk on mulled wine at the Christmas market, it isn’t hard that stuff is so strong…

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I had multiple Christmas dinners this year starting with my office Christmas dinner at Graze, where I ate delicious pheasant and a mulled berries crème brûlée.

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There was also a birthday party with friends where we had to dress as superheros, I came straight from another party and was given finger torches on entry… the coolest thing ever, also a great gift for kids, they are going in everyone’s stocking next year… so fun.

I also got to wear my sparkly bridesmaid shoes again…

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I had brunch with my friends and their children – my ‘god-children’ at riverstation’s bakery day, not many places can do scrambled eggs that I like more than my own.

I brought a ton of bread that I am not sure how we got through, all of it delicious. You must follow riverstation on twitter and look out for the next one.

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We also had our last wedding of the year the following day with a subtle winter theme and using riverstation’s own Christmas decorations…

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They had the prettiest canapés and red and blue (!) cocktails…

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I got given boxes of chocolates (from myself and my bosses)… I am obsessed with those salted caramels, and the Limoncello ones come in this beautiful tin and are amazing, very strong. They will be my pudding in January as one is more than enough!

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I wrapped a ton of presents, another favourite thing of mine, I love to find a theme for my wrapping.

This year I had brown paper and added a little sprig of Christmas tree and wrote on them in chalk pen, before wrapping in ribbon and jingle bells, I did want twine but my order didn’t arrive in time.

I wrapped my husbands presents in red paper and made little Christmas wreaths to make his a little different from the rest.

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Christmas Eve we went to visit my Mama and had our Christmas day with her and my brother and his girlfriend… starting off nice and healthy with nut roast and tons of vegetables, my Mum is vegetarian and I was so thankful for this light start to all of the eating!

That’s our Father Christmas jug, it seems everyone has their Christmas table traditional piece that come s out once a year and this is ours… also my Mum got out her Grans table-cloth… so pretty and still looking brand new.

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We opened our presents and all of us got utterly spoiled, my Mum picked out the prettiest necklace for me, something I wouldn’t have picked out for myself but I love it… making it all the more special.

Ditto with this bracelet from my Husband, a positive outlook is something both of us are very good at most of the time but it takes practise, this is for those days when I am not doing so well to remind me to look on the bright side. It’s also from my favourite shop.

Not to mention all the other presents including a little something in a Liberty bag from my Brother and his girl… a lots of thank you’s to write this year…

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Then on Christmas Day my Mum made scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, again must be done on Christmas day… and we ate some of the amazing Christmasy bread from riverstation…

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Before we left to come back to Bristol for dinner with friends and their kids… how fun is Christmas with children around?!

The hosts took care of the dinner and each of us brought a course… the canapés were amazing… we had goats cheese, tomato and basil bruschetta, bloody mary shots, pear and mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto, blini’s with salmon and creme fraiche and chorizo and prawn skewers… wow…

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The turkey and millions of sides was amazing, big thanks to Abigail and Matt for having us and cooking all of that food… we had so much fun hanging out with everyone, expecially the kiddos.

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I was doing dessert but with little time in December and no time before the day I brought one, some friends have an amazing company called Copoazu Ices and make amazing ice creams and for Christmas made ice cream cakes so I got one for us…

We had chocolate fondant, halzenut and espresso ices with red berries and marsala… YUM

It was insane. Highly recommended!

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 Now Christmas Day became Christmas night and we drank so many bubbles followed by red wine, followed by port… that Boxing Day was a bit of a write off… we spent the day snacking on the sofa and drinking juice…

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After we had recovered we made our way to Hertfordshire and my in-laws house for our Christmas together, we had yet more presents and dinners with them at their lovely home…

We ate the Christmas Eve dinner of ham with dauphinoise potatoes and red cabbage with apple strudel for dessert…

They got their traditional Christmas table decoration out… robin salt and peppers, and the silver and the crystal…

 We ate the traditional smoked salmon, although this was specially flown from Scotland as a gift to our Gran who shared this with us, and it was amazing. I am going to remember that for next year… it was like sashimi and we cut the fillet into little chunky slices. Delicious.

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Then we opened our presents with some Champagne and I rested up with the amazing Audrey before it was time to fill our bellies once again…

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 Then we pulled our homemade Christmas crackers and ate more turkey with all the trimmings…

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We set fire to some brandy and enjoyed some Christmas pudding and coffee with my mother-in-laws favourite chocolates…

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We ate cheese, more cheese, and more cheese which my Husband and I had picked up from Arch House Deli before we came… and which AlfieDog managed to steal and then still hung around for more the next day…

He managed to get more than half of the stinking bishop we had brought in one big lump from the table… although we think he regretted it when it made him burp like a man!

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And we got spoilt all over again… with more lovely gifts and of course we gave ours too.

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 Lots of lovely time with our family. A great Christmas.

Now on to the New Years Eve parties… I am bracing myself, I could do with a night in!

I hope you all had a great holiday too.

x

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Byron Bay – Part Two

June 14, 2012

 The second half of our week in Byron was even more amazing than the first…

We saw beautiful sand sculptures at night…

Had some great picnics by the beach, I was obsessed with this juice…

This halloumi sandwich was form the corner shop… insane. It was so good. Not only is the coffee amazing in Australia so is the food options… no soggy supermarket sandwiches to be seen.

We enjoyed the garden at our B&B – Baystay

And ate tons of amazing fresh fruit for breakfast most days…

As well as some naughty tasty treat to balance this out. Loved the breakfasts at Baystay so much.

We ate more gelato… not every night but… okay every night, well you would too if you had to walk past this every night.

 
Saw even more amazing cars. This is actually my dream car, white E Type Jaguar with red leather seats and amazing wheels (I met one once when I was about 13 and ever since I have loved them) 

Wished we lived in beautiful neighbourhoods like this one…

In a cute house with an arch like this…

 
Or a lovely cladded house like this one…

Spotted houses for sale… and dreamt…

And ones with Ozzie Christmas decorations…

On Christmas Eve we ate a beautiful simple dinner or prawns and asparagus from the BBQ hosted by the B&B… Baystay (seriously cannot recommend this place enough!)

Also the owners Son proposed to his girlfriend on Christmas Day so we were able to celebrate with them a little the next day as well. Such a lovely thing to hear about on our honeymoon. He took her on an early morning walk to the beach and his Mum had hidden a bottle of Champagne behind some rocks for them.

With an amazing idea for a simple salad; cucumber and mango with coriander.

We woke up on Christmas Day in our little pad to the most amazing sunshine and opened our presents and cards.

My husband had wrapped mine so beautifully. I loved the travel stamped paper.

We opened the bubbles the B&B gave us and made Mimosas

And ate our breakfast in bed, croissants and lots of fruit, yogurt and granola purchased the day before.

Then we headed to the beach for a mini picnic

I will remember this Christmas Day forever.

We really missed our family and friends but I cannot tell you how special it was to be just the two of us on our honeymoon on our first Christmas together and I know it is going to make this year at home all the more special.

Then we BBQ’d at our B&B eating probably the healthiest Christmas dinner we will ever eat; BBQ prawns, wholemeal pittas, salad and halloumi.

We did manage to find some mince pies too!

Then we decided to go back to the lighthouse again…

The views are immense.

And be up here on such a gorgeous day was worth it.

 
I love this photograph, it completely epitomizes Australian beaches to me; huge, spotless and pretty untouched.

We got back to central Byron at dusk

 

It was a beautiful evening but the wind was picking up which meant everyone was at the beach.

Because the waves were huge! There were only a couple of surfers brave enough and they were getting pulled out by speedboats. My photographs didn’t pick them up but this was so cool to watch, they were very talented guys.

And on Christmas Day night we went to the Italian on the Pacific, which I really wanted to write a full post about but my photos are very dark. We drank beautifully made cocktails, ate amazing tuna tartare and I had the most tender beef fillet and we shared their famous tiramisu.

I highly recommend you visit for a special dinner if you go to Byron Bay. We then had a moonlit walk back to Baystay before leaving the next day to go to Sydney.

I was so very sad to leave, I would love to spend some more time here.

 

Such an amazing first Christmas as a married couple, just the two of us in a sunny amazing town.

I love Byron… here are my recommendations;

Byron Bay – Part One

My favourite cafe – The Top Shop

O – Sushi

Bayleaf

The Owl and the Pussycat

Treehouse

St Elmo

So I mentioned in my Hua Hin post that I would share more of our hotel. This is because I loved it so.

I think much of this love came from the horrendous journey we had to get there, and our rubbish ‘hotel’ the night before.

This was pure luxury.

Our room was so calm, all natural colours and materials.

Our bed… I named this the cloud. It was like sleeping on a fluffy cloud, so soft.

One of the reception areas. That is where I collapsed when we arrived at 11pm after the typical Thailand bus break down journey.

Another airy reception area with fun chairs.

They had a huge DVD library. I found this. Amazing.

Our terrace, shaded by a big tree overlooking the pool. Heaven.

I loved this nook.

I actually loved the vanity area. So much room for all my stuff. I properly unpacked here. Also we had a room on the end of the row, and so it was huge! So much bigger so if you do take my recommendation and go here request a room on the end, upstairs.

Lovely green gardens.

The hotel pool area…

Whenever I was lazing by the pool, the hotel kept bring free drinks and fruit. It was sweltering so I was grateful every time.

And the second hotel pool overlooking the sea.

The breakfasts here were amazing. A huge buffet of all kinds of everything.

And an army of chefs to make your hearts desire, from the cutest little pastries to eggs every which way.

Every day I tried to have something new. Mostly bircher muesli, fruit and pastries…

And they had all kinds of jams, passionfruit was the best.

Green juice anyone? Mango jam was also a winner. So need to make some.

This was our last day, I filled up big time for a long journey, eggs and everything else. Pink juice is so pretty.

 
Love Putahracsa, highly recommend it. The staff were the best, so helpful. There is a strange thing that the hotel is split into two by a road so half (the main pool and normal rooms) is on one side and the private villa rooms and the beach and beach side pool are on the other. It really didn’t bother me as each side had a restaurant (although I think breakfast is only on the main side) and a pool.

Amazing few days in Hua Hin, a lot of this due to an amazing cloud!

Hua Hin – Thailand

March 16, 2012

Friday friday friday!! So happy you are here!

A little look back at our visit to Hua Hin in Thailand today, it was our ‘honeymoon spot’ in that we treated ourselves to a posh resort in a resort kinda town to just chill out for a few days after jetting about the islands before we went to Bangkok.

Getting there was our worst journey yet… we had the classic Thailand breakdown after deciding to take a bus.

It was supposed to be a 4-5 hour journey at most, I think we ended up taking the whole day, into the night.

When a bus breaks down in Thailand they don’t send a replacement, you just have to wait while they fix in. After a few false starts our driver gave up and called for help.

Luckily were by a little roadside place so I tried to not get grumpy by drinking fanta and reading my book while we waited… and waited, and waited.

Finally the next bus was about to drive past us and they arranged for it to stop and pick us up. Amazing. We even got a seat.

We arrived at our hotel at about eleven o clock after being dumped way outside of Hua Hin. Luckily my Husband is amazing and found us a taxi even in a deserted spot in the middle of no-where.

Hua Hin is very touristy, it is where Thai’s holiday as well as foreigners. The Royal Family even have homes here.

On our first  night here we visited an amazing night market… I drank beer (!) and we wandered around stalls eating bits of everything.

I didn’t eat any bugs though… I am never going to be able to eat bugs. I could barely look at them to take this photograph.

This was where I spent most of my time while we were here. It was ridiculously hot here, we had two pool areas and this one was away from the sea with little or no breeze.

Amazing though, my tan got real good after our time here. I have never been so tanned in all my life… fully spf’d up I must add, I am at least a 30 spf girl, higher on my face.

 

 
Beautiful pink skies happened most nights in Hua Hin.

One evening when shopping we found a wine bar, that turned out to be a bar from a vineyard just an hour from Hua Hin, so I got to enjoy some beautiful wine and cheese here, and more at the Vineyard as they have buses take you from their bar.

Thailand has this great sushi chain as well, it is something around £5 for all you can eat sushi and soup you make yourself at your table by chosing a base and dropping different things in from the conveyor belt. It’s great too, so busy that everything is fresh and it’s being replaced all the time.


I loved the crazy 7-11 drinks in Thailand. Neon!


We also got a chance to go the vineyard in Hua Hin, owned by a son of the Red Bull tycoon. It was amazing. More on that on Full as an Egg very soon.

Lots of ice cream parlours in Hua Hin, love that. This is coconut and chocolate.

 Lots of places for drinks too. Lots!

This was the road we left on to go to the station, decorated for the Kings Birthday which was happening while we were in Bangkok, beautiful lanterns all the way up the main entrance to the town.


The station here is amazing, lots of people come just to look.


 
We booked a first class seat which as far as we could tell just meant we got a cup of cola and a weird fruit pastry thing. but the train was so much better than the bus, beautiful countryside and no breakdowns.

Hua Hin is great, very touristy and lots of huge resorts, it can also get sleazy if you hit the wrong street after dark but we had a wonderful hotel which I’ll share more of soon that none of that mattered we just enjoyed that and the amazing markets and the vineyard. I can see why it the Bangkok weekend away spot, a two-hour train or 3 hour drive and you’re by the sea in the sun.

Probably not everyone’s cup of tea, you cannot swim in the sea here, and the beach disappeared when the tide is in but great for a few days of luxury bliss. Fond memories for me for sure.

Ranong – Thailand

March 13, 2012

After leaving Koh Lak we had been in Thailand for almost 4 weeks and had to get a visa extension.

Our original plan was to travel around Asia a little more but we got stuck in Thailand, as so many do.

So we read a fairly easy and cost-effective way to do this was to go to Ranong and do a little mini trip to Myanmar – Burma.

We were a little worried about doing so, not because of our own safety but because of the moral implications of giving money to the government there, you can read more about the situation here, but in the end we had little choice as this was the closet and cheapest option.

We decided to stay in Ranong, which is where the boats go from for just one night as when we were looking for accommodation I found nothing but very tired hotels and the cheapest backpacker accommodation ever.

We chose the latter and regretted it finding an amazing hotel with a rooftop pool for £20 a night after we arrived. Always the way.

This is where we spent the late afternoon…

And the early evening… watching the sun go down.

It was such an amazing sunset I literally took over 100 photographs.

I’ll spare you though and show you only a few.

Ridiculous right?

I think I should sell this photo to the hotel for their publicity!

This is the b, where we should have stayed, it is brand new so I didn’t see it on the internet. We paid a few pounds for fluffy towels and access to the pool for the day.

It was the saviour after a rough day and a real Thai town without much to do.

After walking around in the day and eating rubbish food in a market (I think the only bad food we ate) we felt a little flat about the town, but it did come alive that night and there were a few more eating and drinking options than we saw in the day.

We drank many cheap cocktails at a bar on the main street.

The next day we headed to Myanmar. It was simple enough, we arranged with a taxi the previous day to pick us up early, and take us to the border, there he hooked us up with a boat which took us out of Thailand and to a port in Myanmar. Both the Thai and Myamar officials seem to be more than used to people popping out and in again.

One tip! Wear modest clothing, I wore shorts and a vest and for my photograph when re-entering Thailand was told to put a t-shirt on. Only one official seemed to care but it’s not worth the risk.

It was a beautiful day for a journey, and since we were on simple fishing boats with a few others (1 tourist and 2 Burmese who work in Thailand) we were very glad it was.

We even got some glimpses of some golden Buddhas in Myanmar.

I wouldn’t recommend Ranong if you are taking a holiday but as part of our long trip in Thailand it was one of the more interesting places we visited, especially because of our little trip to Myanmar.

You literally land on a small island, that is Burmese but not the mainland, and the general tourist cannot even enter the mainland this way. You are not even allowed to go beyond 3 miles from the border on your 48 hour visa they give you when you arrive.

We had to go straight back and it was a shame we couldn’t stay and look around a little, but we learnt a lot about the way these countries sit together on this day. It was very interesting and I know very little about the situation there so intend to find out more now I am home.

Koh Lak- Thailand

March 9, 2012

To cheer myself up on this very grey Bristol day I am going to tell you about Koh Lak.

Take a look at this…

 

This was the main street, we hired a moped for our time here and spent lots of time zipping up to the main strip of restaurants from our hotel.

We stayed in a little guesthouse kind of hotel, that shared a pool with the next door hotel, it was a proper sun trap and a place I spent a few hot mornings sheltering from the sun and diving in the cool water wherever I couldn’t take it anymore.

Generally this was after eating a mound of French toast at breakfast… I needed a lie down after eating this. So good.

We are on mainland Thailand so found a little bit of jungle and had a walk to explore.

I finally got to get on a tuk tuk here as well, and I have to say I prefer the moped!

It was fun but I felt like the guys bike was going to detach from us at any moment.

We ate at the most typical Thai looking restaurant ever…

And ate delicious Thai curries.

And the best part was that we went to the Similan Islands on a snorkeling trip.

You start the day at the dive shop, with coffee and doughnuts and The Times, little shouts of home like this were great this far into the trip.

I have mentioned before I get seasick, I am never normally sick but the Similans are an hour away by speed boat so I was pretty ill this time.

This is me after we arrived on the large dive boat… where we spent the day. It wasn’t too bad but I never felt great on the boat.

This is why it was all worth while.

We spent an hour snorkeling in the above bay, and after my experience on Phi Phi I was confident and enjoyed every minute of it and saw tons of fish and an octopous! Amazing, amazing.

Then we boarded the dive boat again (which stays at the Similans during the dive season and people do live-a-boards, meaning they stay here for a few nights) and had lunch, a huge buffet of amazing Thai dishes plus tons of fresh fruit and biscuits which were the saviour to my seasickness that day.

Then we went on the desk and put our feet up for a snooze before our second swim.

An amazing day, highly recommend getting to the Similans, they are a protected national park too so very unspoilt which can be rare in Thailand.

Colourful fishing boats great us when we arrive back on dry land.

My husband spotted this gem (?) for sale. Luckily I get sea sick so we couldn’t even think of buying it.

I should also mention that while we were staying here there was a bikers convention. There were Harley’s everywhere much to my Husbands delight, who is obsessed with motorbikes.

There were also bikers everywhere which was strange, hanging in the pool with 10 bikers and their girls was quite funny to say the least… the things I heard!

And the main reason I think you should visit Koh Lak and why it is so under-rated… the beach.

Pretty perfect huh?

We spent most days here at least for a little while, there is an amazing spot right at the end of all the restaurants where we ate some amazing fish and had this view.

And then after eating a ton of food we hit the sun loungers where I had this view…

And massage huts all behind where I had the best massage for £6.

My girl literally had a queue of people build up while I was having my massage, well-known even with tourists.

And I have to mention the sky here, we had one afternoon where these clouds appeared from no-where and we hot-footed it back to the hotel.

It was still blazing sunshine in the other direction but the storms come quick here.

 

I loved Koh Lak, there is a main strip with a ton of restaurant and dive schools and lots of little guesthouses and hostels as well as amazing resorts right on the beach where I believe you get so much more for your money than you would somewhere much more well-known like Phuket.

And that beach… I am dreaming of it today.

Krabi – Thailand

March 5, 2012

Monday Morning needs some Thailand memories.

We are now in Krabi, not somewhere I had ever heard of as a big destination but I really loved it.

We are back on the mainland, in a town/province that was devastated by the tsunami in 2004. It has mostly recovered but you can see little reminders everywhere, they also have some memorials.

I don’t think this boat is here because of the tsunami but it’s definitely redundant.

And lots of buildings looking worse for wear, again we were not sure if was directly due to the tsunami, although local fishermen told us it was.

The main town has crazy traffic lights.

 
You should definitely visit the night market, it’s more food to eat than ingredients to make food at home. There are a ton of tables all around the various stalls where you can eat your choices.

It was rammed with Thai people, from young couples on mopeds to whole families eating bits from every stall. It’s part of people’s food life here.

Mystery meat on a stick anyone?

This lady was the scary chicken satay stall holder. We hovered for a moment and were ordered to sit and eat. Although she was bossy we were glad we did.

And here is where we had the best Pad Thai in the whole of our trip. 30 Baht. This little old lady just makes Pad Thai. Nothing else. I think this is the key to a good one.

It’s not pretty but it was so good. I wish I could pop out for a Pad Thai on my lunch for this price.

Truth is I’d pay 5 times as much and it wouldn’t be anywhere near as good. Bristol can we get a great Thai restaurant please?

Then we ate this crazy crepe nutella thing… it was like some deep-fried pancake, and pushed me over the edge at the night market.

The next day we visited the actual market and my husband also had to try some fried chicken and I had to steal a bite. It’s not something I ever eat at home unless I make it myself but this was proper. So good.

These. I miss these. We even cooked up a plan to open a stall at home selling these chinese doughnuts with their green sauce, which I think is just sugar.

I first tried them on a cookery tour of a market and quickly got addicted.

I think this massive bag cost me 30 baht.

One of the biggest attractions is a mountain with some golden Buddha’s at the top.

You have to climb a lot of steps. I was ill on this day and pretty much fainted after 250 steps and had to give up. I didn’t stop shaking for 2 hours. Luckily my Husband made it to the top so you can see how amazing it is. 

I am still gutted I didn’t see this.

After this we visited some hot pools, these were amazing. Natural hot springs. We went with a tour guide, and they seem to co-ordinate with each other to share the pools and ensure they are not too crowded (although you will be sharing with more than a few others)

We had lunch with some locals… I am so not into bugs so naturally this massive one chose my water.

And my favourite place, the Emerald green pool. Loved this.

You have to walk through a bit of jungle for about 20 minutes to get it so it’s not massively crowded, and the water is so green and warm.

If you come to Krabi definitely go on this tour, you can do all three in one day and they are quite spread out so a tour is a great way to do. Normally we are the people who sack off going with a guide and try to do things on our own but it just made everything very easy, and meant that we didn’t have to pay high entrance fees to each place.

 

We were in Krabi for a few days and I felt like it was real Thailand, although there is tourist attractions and things to do, the town was proper and full of markets and very few places that just focused on tourists. Mostly it was locals; in the shops and the restaurants.

I understand there are lots of resorts outside of the town, amazing resorts, so if you want to go and have some Thai luxury I am sure you’d get more for your money here than on Phuket, and you can come into the town and sample proper markets and food and real life.