Tuesday, 29 July 2014

LfCT: Top eats in Cape Town

Dear Kasha,

I didn't think it would be possible to miss somewhere that I had only spent a few days of my life in, but I feel that way about Cape Town.

In December 2013 I flew out from London, escaping England's bitter cold for warm and welcoming South Africa. I was flying out to visit my boyfriend Owen who was working in Jo'Burg at the time: "meet me in Cape Town" is one of those things every girl wants to hear! Seeing him at the airport I felt crazily in love, not only with him, but with my surroundings. I had been mesmerised as the plane came in to land: the pastel-coloured rooftops, the intensely blue sea, the sight of Table Mountain from above; a swell of green protruding high above the city. 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Exploring the UK: A roadtrip to Cornwall

When I saw the topic for the latest travel link-up, I knew that the timing couldn't be more perfect. With the recent string of Bank Holiday weekends and the mostly consistent sunny summer weather, a staycation within the UK makes more sense than ever - and I definitely followed suit.

A few weekends ago, my boyfriend and I decided to do a road trip. We had a longing for some more beach time, thanks to our June adventure to Star Surf Camps, and we had heard about a part of the UK that was ideal for this.

Sitting in the South West part of the UK, Cornwall is a fair distance away (about 6/7 hours by car from London), but, as we discovered over the course of our long weekend, the destination is worth every minute of that journey time.

We chose to stay in a little village called Hayle, which is about a 15-minute drive away from St Ives. Our accommodation was a great chalet that we found on Airbnb, with the beach just five minutes away.

The holiday park.

The first sighting of the sea.

Hayle and the surrounding villages share a three-mile stretch of beach, and this is situated below a series of sand dunes called the Towans. On our first full day there, we walked the entirety of this route.

There are two main routes that you can take: walk along the beach itself, or follow the undulating path over the Towans. We started out on the Towans but couldn't resist going down to the beach and its inviting golden sand before long.

It wasn't the sunniest weather and even though our holiday park seemed fully booked, there weren't many tourists about. Instead we passed mostly locals, who were walking their dogs, hiking the Towans route or having a family day at the beach.

Walking along the Towans.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Visiting Bath's namesake: The Roman Baths

With Easter fast approaching, my mum and I decided to make full use of the long weekend by visiting Bath.

A mere hour and a half away by train from London, we arrived in the city on a perfectly sunny day. After checking into our accommodation, we headed straight into the centre to commence our sightseeing.

There are many things to see in Bath, but it seemed logical to begin with the attraction that gave the city its name: the Roman baths. Even though we were new to Bath, the baths were easy to find, as they stand right next to Bath's tall, richly embellished abbey. The second visual cue was the long line of people waiting to enter the baths.

Bath city centre

The Roman baths can easily be considered Bath's most-visited attraction, drawing in over a million people every year. I, for one, had wanted to visit for many years, as I remember first watching a documentary on this historic site while I was a teenager living in Cape Town. Fast-forward to the present when, upon conquering the queue and stepping into the ticket hall, I couldn't believe that I was finally here in person.

This site has a long history, with the Celts first building a shrine to the three hot springs here in honour of the goddess Sulis. This homage to Sulis stuck, and the town was renamed as Aquae Sulis once the Romans reached this part of the British Isles.

Roman Baths in Bath, UK

It was during this Roman occupation (dating from 60-70 AD) that the baths truly came into being. Various pools and chambers were created around the hot springs, and a temple was also built. 

After the Romans left, the buildings gradually fell into disrepair, only to be rebuilt in the 18th Century. In the Victorian era, the city of Bath became a fashionable place for holidaymakers, and the Grand Pump Room was added to the bath complex. It was here that visitors could drink the springs' water, which was said to have healing qualities.

All of this context was delivered to us via our audio guides, which are free for visitors to use. There are also free hourly guided tours of the bath complex. Admission to the baths is a little bit steep at £13.50, but, given everything I've written above, it was an easy price to pay.

Plus, the audio guide includes a guided tour by none other than author Bill Bryson, which is an excellent bonus in my opinion!

We stepped out from the entrance hall onto the sunny upper level of the bath house, and there's nothing that can really prepare you for the next sight. A bright green rectangle of water is surrounded by columns that you'd normally find on ancient temples; looming beyond are the towers of the abbey.

It's highly likely that your visit will coincide with a school trip, but there is plenty of space and just as many angles from which you can enjoy and explore the baths.

Roman Baths in Bath, UK

Roman Baths in Bath, UK

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

LfCT: A Cape Town summer staycation

Dear Kasha,                                              

I wanted to tell you about my 'staycation' summer in Cape Town and how awesome it was to be here during the festive season.

Yes, Cape Town gets insanely busy at that time, but we found ways to escape the crowds.

The best way to do this was to go to the city's 'secret beaches'. I know there are a few, and we were lucky enough to discover two of them.

The first is relatively well known but still one of Cape Town's best kept secrets: Beta Beach in Bakoven. If you drive just past Camps Bay you'll come to this sweet little suburb. Park your car, walk down some steps, and the next thing you're on this gorgeous little beach with a stunning view of the Atlantic Seaboard. It is almost like a cove, with only a small strip of sand and white calm sea, protected by big boulders. Of course I had to go swim even though our ocean is freezing! That was great. The vibe at the beach is so chilled - everyone does their own thing and it's a lot less pretentious than other beaches on the Atlantic Seaboard. I would love to take you there when you're next in CT! 

The other secret beach doesn't even have a name and it is much less well known. We just spotted it off from the road and decided to go check it out. It is also just past Camps Bay. You walk down some relatively steep steps through quite a lot of reeds and plants- it's a bit scary but worth it! It's another gorgeous cove and we swam about six times - the sea was so lovely (but still cold!). People just have to discover this one for themselves...

As you know, I love eating healthily, and Cape Town has really outdone itself on this front. A new health food cafe, , opened on Sea Point Main Road in the St John's centre, and it is a dream for me to eat there! They offer lots of gluten-free, sugar-free organic options and all meals look and taste fantastic. It also really was the 'place to be' for all our Gauteng visitors and queues got quite big! I actually went there for brunch on my birthday as their breakfasts are particularly amazing - like a gluten-free, sugar-free protein pancake with nuts, bananas, blueberries and cinnamon, or the Bircher quinoa, which is both delicious and healthy. A little bird told me Nü might open a branch in Joburg - watch this space! 

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Exploring Cantabria: Cabarceno Nature Park

The sun was shining through the wooden shutters of my room's windows, and I woke up to my first full day in Spain's Cantabria region. Realising where I was and why I was there, I couldn't help but feel excited for what the day held in store for us.

As someone who loves animals, nature and conservation, the morning's itinerary was perfect. That day, we were heading to Cabarceno Nature Park.

Located just 15km out of Santander, Cabarceno is a popular day trip for tourists and locals alike. Over the course of the day, the reason for this popularity became increasingly clear.

Opened in 1989, Cabarceno does not consider itself a zoo. Spread over 750 hectares of beautiful karst landscape, parts of which were previously used as a mine, the park is home to animal species from five different continents. The welfare of the animals is the top priority, and all of these are allowed to roam freely in their massive enclosures.

Upon arriving at Cabarceno, we were quickly transferred to a Jeep. We had a lot of ground to cover after all; there are over 20km of road within the park, but there are plenty of walking and cycling routes too.

Our first stop for the day was at the elephant enclosure. 'Enclosure' sounds limiting in some way, yet the scale of Cabarceno is simply massive - and the park's size was what surprised me most. 

The elephants clearly knew that we were coming, as there was a row of them - of all ages - waiting for us as the Jeep approached. Getting out of the car, I marvelled at the size of the adult African elephants, as well as the multi-coloured hues of the landscape beyond them.

A baby elephant grabs a snack - loved its adorable mini-tusks!

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