Tuesday, 22 April 2014

My five essentials for Cape Town

For 25 years of my life, Cape Town was my home. I moved to London almost two years ago and have since come to love this new city as well.

Most people assume that expats are expats because they dislike something about their home country. While that may be true for some, it's definitely not the case for me. I moved because I wanted to start travelling the world - and I still adore Cape Town just as much as I always did. Cape Town, and South Africa, will always be my first home.

So, when giffgaff asked me to take part in their international campaign, where bloggers share need-to-know tips and information about their hometowns, I was very quick to agree. Another excuse to write about one of my favourite cities in the world? I couldn't resist!

Here are my top tips - and, simply, some personal favourites - that will guarantee a fantastic stay in Cape Town.

Where to get the best view of the city... Lion's Head  

Table Mountain & Lion's Head
Lion's Head standing to the right of the famous Table Mountain. It may involve two hours of climbing, but you'll be treated to the best views over the city.

Yes, I purposefully didn't say Table Mountain. If you want to avoid the crowds, as well as the hefty price for a trip up via the cable car, then I can advise a spectacular alternative: Lion's Head.

This peak stands to the side of Table Mountain, and it costs absolutely nothing to get to the top. Well, besides a little bit of physical exertion, that is. The hike up Lion's Head lasts about two hours, but you'll be treated to 360-degree views over the city and coastline as you wind your way up to the summit.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

In the past seven days...

A last reminder of this blog's beginnings as a deeply personal one, I keep posting 'In the past seven days' to cover events/adventures that can't be featured elsewhere on this blog.

I don't normally blog while on the road, but this is something I hope to change. Or rather, it's something I have to change so that I can keep up with all of my work!

I'm currently writing this in a little B&B on the outskirts of Bristol. Why am I here? I'll get into that, and more of this week's happenings, shortly.

Here's what happened in the past few days:

1. Ok, ok, enough with the mystery! I've spent my Easter weekend exploring  the UK region of Somerset. We spent two days in Bath and hired a car before heading into the countryside, with a lengthy stop at Cheddar Gorge.

It's been a thoroughly enjoyable trip that I've gotten to experience with my mum, and I'll be sharing more soon.

2. I got my first official long-term writing opportunity, and I can't wait to share this with you as well. Lots of news to share, it seems!

3. Wednesday night was a fantastic one. It was the lowcostholidays Blogger Awards, and I went along to support some amazing travel bloggers - and some of my amazing friends - who were nominated for awards.

LfCT: Spanish in the city

Dear Kasha,

In the middle of Cape Town, in a Richard Scarry-like road buzzing with people, shops, restaurants and a hospital, there's a little building with a rickety lift. In this building there's a little school, run by a real Spanish knight. 

You won't find his horse tethered in the parking lot, nor does he tilt at windmills. This Don José has come from Argentina to teach Capetonians all about his rich, magical world: the world of El Tango and El Flamenco, of Don Quixote and Pablo Neruda. A world where you drink maté, eat tapas and read One Hundred Years of Solitude as it was meant to be read - in Spanish.

These much prettier buildings hide a small school (and a real Spanish knight).

Of course, it helps to first know your Holas from your Olés. And this is where I go every week, to that little building with the rickety lift, Spanish dictionary in hand. The Latin Connection School of Spanish is more than twenty years old now - and so great is José's contribution to Spanish language and culture that King Juan Carlos gave him a knighthood. You should see how that small school bustles with students! In my class alone we have a high school student, a pensioner and all sorts in between, all huddled around the table with good coffee and chocolates as we chat, conjugate and scratch heads over the subjunctive.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Two days on Phi Phi island

After spending my first five days in Thailand exploring two major cities, I was ready to experience the country's world-renowned island life.

When knocking together the itinerary for this far-too-short two-week trip, I tried to fit in a wide variety of destinations. Some were cities, some were known for their relaxed vibe and some, including the location for this blog post, were known for their parties.

My trip fell into an awkward space between the Half and Full Moon Parties, so I ruled out Koh Phangan, the most famous host for these parties. I will come back to Thailand for that experience some day.

Instead, I picked Koh Phi Phi in the Andaman Sea. This island is firmly on the well-beaten tourist path, and I was excited to capture a glimpse of its reportedly crazy nightlife.

Of course, that's not all I wanted to see. Koh Phi Phi holds many charms, and I got to see a fraction of these over my two days spent on the island.

Hiking to the Viewpoint

This was one of the activities I was determined to complete whilst on Koh Phi Phi. 

Perhaps 'hike' is the wrong verb, but the way up to the viewpoint does involve getting to the top of a steep flight of steps, followed by a clamber up some equally steep pathways. At a push, you can get up there in about 20 minutes, and it's absolutely worth it.

Hangover buster: The stairway to the viewpoints.

Phi Phi Viewpoint 1.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

In the past seven days...

A last reminder of this blog's beginnings as a deeply personal one, I keep posting 'In the past seven days' to cover events/adventures that can't be featured elsewhere on this blog.

I write this at the end of one of the sunniest days in London this year. I think I represent everyone in London when I say that I hope this means that summer is finally on its way!

Here's what happened in the past seven days:

1. On Saturday night, we celebrated the birthday of a travel blogger and just generally awesome person - Brendan of the Travel Pop. It was a fun night out at the Queen of Hoxton in Shoreditch.

2. Wednesday evening was an insightful one. I headed over to London's Future of Tourism event at the Royal Geographical Society. The speakers were some of the biggest names in travel: Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures, Tony Wheeler, co-founder of Lonely Planet, and Lyn Hughes, editor-in-chief of Wanderlust magazine. 

3. It was the London marathon this Sunday. While I am nowhere near ready for running a full marathon, I settled for a run through my nearest green lung, Morden Hall Park.

Summer weather brings out the best in all of us; even Scully cat was excited to have found a patch of sunlight to sleep in.

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