Saturday, 30 August 2014

A return trip: Five destinations to rediscover

Moving to London has meant a substantial increase in travel and, I'll admit, I sometimes get caught up in this mad desire to just see as many new places as possible. I'm not saying that this is a bad thing; getting to experience new cities or countries could never be negative.

Nonetheless, I sometimes lose focus of the amazing places I've already been lucky enough to visit. When the opportunity to be part of's Top Destinations to Go There campaign came along, I couldn't resist.

The challenge? Pick five places that you'd like to revisit or rediscover. There are so many places that I wanted to include here, but these are my top choices for a return trip.

Paphos, Cyprus

The beach near the Rock of Aphrodite. Wacky-looking anti-pebble swimming shoes recommended!

I went to Cyprus with my mum back in 2012 with very few expectations. Within a few hours, I had fallen in love with the island, with its rich, complicated history, beautiful coastline and friendly people.

Having studied ancient history and mythology back at university, the island is full of significant archaeological finds and sites. Many of these reside in Paphos. Often overlooked as obviously touristy, I couldn't get over just how much there was to see in Paphos.

There are tiny 12th Century stone churches, the eerie Tombs of the Kings - a massive subterranean necropolis - as well as the archaeological park of Nea Paphos. It's here that you can see over 2000 square metres of some of the world's best preserved Roman-era mosaics. 

Petra tou Romiou, the alleged birthplace of the goddess Aphrodite, is a short bus ride away. Covered with large pebbles, it's a beautiful beach to while away a sunny afternoon.

The combination of all of these elements has resulted in this nagging feeling that I have to go back to Paphos and re-experience all of those sights - and sunshine - once more. 

Railay, Thailand

Me, in rockclimbing mode.

One of Railay's beaches, as seen from a cave that I managed to climb into.

Monday, 25 August 2014

The Blog Hop, and the writing process

I started the Lines of Escape blog back in 2011, and it's been almost a full two years since I moved to London from my hometown, Cape Town. Reaching milestones always makes me want to commemorate these moments in some meaningful way, and Blog Hop seems to be the perfect way to do just that.

Blog Hop allows bloggers to to give some insight into their writing and creative processes, while simultaneously learning about other bloggers and their own writing journeys. A huge thank you goes out to one of my favourite bloggers and good friend, Kirsten from Kirst over the World, who nominated me for Blog Hop.

The idea is that all of the Blog Hoppers (I may have just coined a new term there) answer the same set of questions, and then nominate three other bloggers to take part in the Blog Hop.

Here goes.

What am I working on/writing?

Apart from writing this, I'm busy doing some research on an article about Chinatown that I'm writing for Eating London, a blog that I regularly contribute to. For Lines of Escape, I'm preparing for my upcoming trip home to Cape Town by creating a wish list for my time there. The reason for the latter is that I know that I want to do way, way too much every time I go home, so I'm forcing myself to focus in on a few things/places I really want to do/see.

Slightly more boring but more challenging (at least for me), I'm putting together a pitch for an article for one of my all-time favourite publications. I don't know whether I'll succeed with this, but I find that writing pitches has been one big learning curve. 

Me, shortly before I left Cape Town for London.

How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

That's a tricky one. Apart from being able to travel more often on a budget that suits me, my favourite thing about being in London has been the fact that I get to meet fellow travel writers and be exposed to all sorts of writing styles.

I never really planned to be a travel writer. I did, however, always want to write. Ever since I could, I've loved reading and I've loved stories. My parents often tell me about how I used to read as though I was a starving child, going through books so quickly as though I was devouring them. It wasn't long before I was writing my own stories. Actually, I came across these notebooks, filled with loopy, juvenile writing, just before I left Cape Town. I couldn't help but laugh at the stories I had conjured up - visitors from other planets, magical lands and heroes who rather resembled my first childhood crush.

I continued writing fiction right up until I started university... and then I just stopped. There were various reasons, but I think self doubt was one of the biggest forces at play. I left university and started working, and this was when my desire to write stories made its return. And this is where Lines of Escape came into the picture. 

Lines of Escape didn't start out as a travel blog; it was a personal project to get me to write something - anything - at least once a day. It was filled with my thoughts, my favourite books, music and films, as well as my favourite spots in Cape Town. When I decided to move to London and make travel a priority, the blog naturally evolved along with my adventure.

So, when it comes to what makes me different, I suppose it's my writing style. I favour stories and attempting to capture my experience of destinations over writing top-ten lists. I don't have anything against lists, but I guess my ties to longer-form fiction writing are hard to break.

In the past seven days...

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

It's been a busy but awesome two weeks, and I'm looking forward to recapping it all here. 

Regency weekend at Apsley House

Today, I went along to a place I'd walked past dozens of times but never visited: Apsley House

Also known as Number One, London, this grand house is located near one of the entrances to Hyde Park and was once the home of the first Duke of Wellington. 

Apart from getting to explore the opulent rooms, there were talks covering topics such as the history and the dress code, as well as a little workshop on the popular dances of this era. For the latter, visitors were invited to learn the steps, which was a great touch.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

San Sebastian's Peine del Viento

When it comes to travel, certain destinations may evoke an expectation before you even get there. These are usually overly simplified expectations (for me, anyway): Paris makes me think of the Eiffel Tower, artworks and pastries, while I can't help but immediately think of Table Mountain and sunny weather when someone mentions Cape Town.

When I found out that I was about to spend three nights in San Sebastian, Spain, I thought of one thing, and one thing only: I'm going to eat SO much.

San Sebastian, especially its compact Old Town, is renowned for its numerous top-quality pintxos bars. Pintxos are small plates of food, but don't let that trick you into thinking that the size reduces the quality in any way. 

I'll be writing more on my foodie adventures in San Sebastian, but, while I was there, I was keen to see other facets of the city - ones that went beyond my default foodie expectations. 

And, to be honest, since I was consuming that much food, it was a good idea to find some active things to do in between the binge-eating!

The bay of San Sebastian
San Sebastian, with the golden sands of La Concha beach across the bay.

There was one place in particular that I wanted to see. I had come across photos of Peine del Viento in my research on things to do in San Sebastian, and I couldn't wait to witness it in real life.

To get there, you have to walk the entirety of San Sebastian's beachside promenade, which stretches from Old Town to Peine del Viento. The walk is a pleasant one; I passed numerous beaches, including the family-friendly golden sands of La Concha, and ice cream vendors enticed me to buy their wares.

Walking along the promenade, San Sebastian

After a good 25-30 minutes of leisurely strolling, I had reached my destination, and it was as beautiful as I had hoped it would be.

But what is the Peine del Viento? 

Right at the base of Mount Igueldo, the smooth stones of the promenade end, giving way to the sea, which pounds against the rocks here. This is where I found what I was looking for.

The colours look like they're part of the landscape, but the shapes of Peine del Viento give them away as something manmade.

The Comb of the Wind, San Sebastian
Peine del Viento - The Comb of the Wind

Monday, 18 August 2014

BlogStock 2014: World's first blogging festival

Last weekend, I got to attend BlogStock, an event organised by the Traverse Events team.

The object was to hold the world's first blogging festival and - as I'm sure all of the fellow attendees will agree - it was a runaway success.

Set at Aldenham Country Park in Elstree, BlogStock catered for bloggers from all persuasions: travel, foodie, fashion, lifestyle and beyond. The range of talks, debates, workshops and smaller, interactive tipi sessions reflected this variety of interests.

The festival grounds; photobomb supplied by Simon.

As a travel blogger, I was excited to attend talks by Contiki and significant writers in the industry. Two of my favourite sessions were Julie Falconer's (A Lady in London) talk on alternative strategies for monetising a blog, as well as Mark and Alex Richards' guide to writing consistent, quality content.

I'd been to travel conferences before, but the festival setting made everything feel a lot less formal and much more relaxed. For me, a person guilty of getting restless after hours in a generic brightly lit conference venue, BlogStock presented the ideal form of learning.

(Perfect) hair model: Kirsten.

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