Aegina, Greece

I fell in love with a small island in Greece while reading a book that ended its tale in a small island in Greece. This made the island all the more special for me, as if I was meant to be here at this time. Aegina is a short boat ride away from Athens, it is everything every guide book has ever promised you, or so the rich of Athens will tell you, who come here to get away from the city.

It is easy to forget just how smothered we are in the UK, everything is set out for you and made safe, and yet here, ironically in another island you can breath again, you are free. In Aegina you can drive around tiny cobbled lanes, skirting around the stray white nondescript cats of Aegina and the fish caught that morning, you can park your hired scooter or quad-bike (the choice is yours) any where you like, never worrying about fishing for the last bit of change out of your pocket for parking.

What is there to do but sit back and relax? Explore the island in your own time, driving past giant cactuses and fields of pistachio trees. Visit the majestic Temple of Athena, drive up the long winding mountain to walk around the ancient Greek ruins. Pistachio’s are grown on the island and celebrated every September with the festival of Fistiki (Pistachio). Aegina produces every type of thing you can think of to do with a pistachio, and it is a delight to wonder around the island and find them all! My personal favourite being pistachio butter, very much like peanut butter.

I am looking forward to returning to the island of Aegina, a rare feeling for me as I am usually enthralled but always eager to move on. But, I would also like to see more of Greece. To stay in Athens and Thessaloniki.

 

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Grab Your Media Pack!

This is the kind of life I always imagined for myself; travelling to other countries and writing. I love to travel, but it is good to have a reason as to why you are travelling. I always find that this way, you are more likely to find unusual, less touristy destinations, that you may never have discovered unless you are travelling for work. This weekend I am in Salou in Spain, just an hour away from Barcelona. I am the Copy Editor of the Paintball Magazine and we are here to cover the big international paintball games, called the Millennium Series.

Salou, Spain

It has been great catching up with a few people I met at the last Millennium Series in France last year. A writers life can be a very solitary existence, so it is great to get the opportunity to get out and interview people for magazine articles…and I find people are always happy to talk to the media! 🙂

A New Travel/Literature Blog

It has been a year this month since I last posted an entry on this blog. It hasn’t been a year since I wrote anything, on the contrary my short, ‘River of Blood’ was published in Bunburry Magazine and will be published in print in an Anthology later this year. I finally gained the courage to send off a short story, and I am glad I conquered my fear of people reading my fiction. As Eleanor Roosevelt states,

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.”

Bunburry Mag

Bunburry Magazine

But sometimes you just need to switch off, and write for yourself. In September I started a Masters at Exeter University in Creative Writing and English, which has got my fingers tapping harder than ever before. So, now I think it is time to write in the open once more…

All I Want is to Walk into the Wild..

“There is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun”

Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

When I left home I went on an adventure. I went to Israel to work in a kibbutz. Within the month I had left my friends and went on my own. I sat on the bus to Tel-Aviv alone, scared and alive for the first time in my life. I didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing. Every morning was a new sun, a new life and new experiences.

8589130438502-into-the-wild-wallpaper-hdThis is how life should be. We should wake up every morning to a new horizon, new adventures not knowing what to expect. But we don’t. We plan and organise. We wake up to the same sun as yesterday, the same job, the same bills, the same neat organised life we work so damn hard to maintain.

Chris McCandless refused to do this. He kept going when I came back. He walked into the wild while I returned to the dogmatic belief that a University degree is what you must have in life. I was already living, I should not have returned, now I am only existing.

Life isn’t about existing, it’s about experiencing. Chris McCandless wasn’t reckless, he had the energy of  youth. To experience every moment.

I now walk into the wild…

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Vientiane, Laos (November/December 2012)

Some of my favourite memories in life are of the moments I have spent alone. The few days I spent in Vientiane, the capital of Laos I hardly spoke to anyone and had a lot of time to reflect on the recent changes in my life. I had breakfast every morning in a little cafe around the corner from my guesthouse. The owner seemed happy to rustle up a plate of scrambled eggs on toast and the tea was wonderfully hot. This was good as breakfast in Laos usually comes with a large stodgy white baguette, reminiscent of the French colonial years. I sat outside on the balcony catching up with my notes and planning my day’s activities. Every evening I watched the sun set along the Mekong River and strolled along the night market.

On my first day in the capital I procured a map from the guest house and decided to take a walk around the city to gain my bearings, much to the chagrin of the owners of the many colourful Tuk Tuk’s along the streets. I was searching for a bookshop called the Book Cafe. Dr Robert Cooper the owner of the bookshop had been helping me with some of my research on Laos and had invited me to come and say hello while I was in town.

The Book Cafe, Vientiane

The Book Cafe, Vientiane

On my wonderings around Vientiane I found the Laos National Museum. I love the quiet solitude of museums and art galleries. The building was built in the 1920’s as a French colonial residence and holds a staggering collection of bombies and some wonderful displays of the history of a little known country that is the most heavily bombed country in the world from the U.S.A secret war.

The National Museum, Vientiane

The National Museum, Vientiane

A lovely Tuk Tuk driver showed me around Vientiane, dropping me off at various destinations and trusting that I would return each time without a single Kip in his pocket. The honesty of the people in Laos is so refreshing and it makes the small country such a relaxing destination for the woman who likes to travel alone. The national symbol of Laos is the That Luang temple and although the gold ornate temple has become a very touristy destination, it is one I feel that should not be missed. I was asked to wear a traditional mid-length Laos skirt as I walked around the temple, later I bought the skirt.

That Luang

That Luang

Later my Tuk Tuk driver took me to Patuxai, also known as the Arc de Triomphe of Laos. As someone who has been to the top of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris its Laos cousin is a poor representation. But I enjoyed walking along here as the sun set amidst the stately colonial buildings and watching the monks as they ambled amidst the tourists.

Me at Patuxai

Me at Patuxai

My favourite experience in Vientiane was being invited to the celebrations of a traditional Lao wedding. Tables and chairs had been set up blocking a whole street for the wedding party. A live folk band played the Khene, a bamboo mouth organ while we ate. According to Lao legend the Khene was developed by a woman on a long walk alone while trying to copy the song of the garawek bird. I love this story and felt privileged to be a part of the celebrations.

Khene bamboo mouth organ played at a traditional wedding celebration

Khene bamboo mouth organ played at a traditional wedding celebration

One of the best things about travelling is discovering food from around the world and I really enjoyed the food in Laos. Sticky rice is the staple food in Laos and eaten with your hands. The most famous meal is called Laap; spicy minced meat on a bed of herbs, traditionally served raw but in many restaurants it is cooked for tourists unfamiliar with the dish. If you are unsure you can order the tofu Laap which is equally delicious. Another fantastic meal recommended to me is fish cooked in banana skin, a strange combination that really worked!

Laap

Laap