Kayaking London

Since finishing all my treatments, I now have my life back and I feel particularly enthusiastic about trying out new things. I have the attention span of a two year old so, I naturally like to try new things all the time but BC (before cancer), I would sometimes put things off or think that I would do them one day…now, I just go with it. This resulted in me signing up to do a kayak tour of London by night through the Meetup group uDare Adventures.

I have been a member of that group for a couple years now but I haven’t been able to do many of their events. Partly because of timing issues and partly because the last year has been focuses on my health, so when this new event came up, the day after I finished my treatment, I was like “hell yeah, I am doing this”. Few days after I signed up, I was a little worried that maybe I had over estimated my fitness capabilities as the fatigue side effect from radiotherapy hit me hard.

However, I still had a couple weeks before the event so I decided to wait and see…I am glad I did.

The weather took a turn for the worse over the last week and I was worried as well that it would be a miserable experience but I wasn’t going to skip it because of it…again, I am glad I didn’t.

The tours are run by Kayaking London tour company and we got 3 experts with us to keep us in check and safe. Although the river was relatively calm (and the rain had actually stopped a few hours before), there are heaps of boats going up and down it and when it’s dark and you only have a little bike light at the back of your kayak to identify you, you are quite glad that an expert is ensuring you don’t get run over.

I didn’t know anyone in the group but that never stopped me. I originally paired up with a girl who I met at the gate but the coaches had recommended to try to mix the boys and the girls to make it more even so I ended up pairing up with R. He got the rudder controls at the back and we had difficulties aligning ourselves at first. I am a control freak by nature so I found it hard to trust him with it and kept trying to steer from the front…which is counter productive but as he was having issues managing the pedals I was nervous we were going to end up in the bridge…but halfway through the first leg, he got the hang of it and I started to relax and only worry about my own paddling.

We paddled from Chelsea Harbour where the kayaking club is to Big Ben and back. The tour took about 2.5 hours. After that we went to the pub for a drink. I had to leave quite quickly as it was getting late and we were on the wrong side of town for me. As it were, although the actual journey back should have taken me no more than 40 mins, it took me 1h15 because trains were only every 15-20 mins and I missed the first one by a minute…Oh well…I got home for midnight, like Cinderella, although the pumpkin effect is carrying through to today as I had to take a shower as I kept splashing Thames water on my head and there was no way I was going to bed with dirty river water on me…yuck. I now feel shattered but happy I did it.

And for those following…no Mr Piggy didn’t come. I couldn’t take the risk to drop him in the water!

Below are some of the pictures I managed to take with my iPhone (through a waterproof casing, so no flash possible).

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Daily Prompt | Earworm

On this blog I normally write about my travels but I haven’t been travelling much lately. Although I am about to go on hols (tomorrow) but as it is back to the home town, it doesn’t really feel like travellin’….saying that, it stills put me in a jolly good mood, especially with whilst the sun is shining over London and “I feel like dancing tonight” (from All Time Low, Album Dirty Work) and that song has been wiggling in my head for the past few days…thanks to my new membership to Spotify!

Thus concludes my participation to today’s daily prompt!

Happy Summer!

ps: and Mr Piggy is coming with!

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Casa de Bacardi – Sitges, Spain

A couple weeks ago, I got treated to a short trip to Sitges, a small town (25,000 inhabitants) near Barcelona. The trip was organised by a hotel who invited a few potential clients (events organisers) to come check out their property and the area.

I can tell you that after the past few months of hospital appointments and feeling tired, this was very well received on my part.

The trip was short – got there late afternoon on the Friday and left Sunday evening, but it was packed with all the things that I needed. Namely: sun, good food, good wine and relaxation… We were a small group of London professionals and the sales pitch was only kept to a minimum…

Here are some of the views of the hotel and the town…if you wonder why the post is called Casa de Bacardi and why there are so many pictures of the famous rum, it’s because the founder of Casa de Bacardi was born and raised in Sitges and emigrated to Cuba when he was 15 (there, a little bit of culture there too).

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Itchy feet

This year, thanks to dealing with breast cancer, isn’t supposed to be a travelling year. I have set myself to plan for a holiday next year so as to celebrate being clear and free of the cancer (one can hope) and to celebrate the fact that I will turn 40 (I can hardly believe it). Strangely enough, it is not daunting me that I will hit that big milestone. As a single woman without kids I should be terrified as it will mark a big scary jump on my biological clock but somehow, because of aforementioned cancer, it has lost its scariness. I suppose being faced with a life threatening illness (even if it hadn’t reach the heavy stage) makes you appreciate all the potential birthdays you will get.

Any how, this was not meant to be the subject of this post. I am not here to talk about my boobies or my ticking clock but about my itchy feet!

I am not sure I will be able to wait until next year to go on a trip somewhere I haven’t been. First I have been invited to spend the weekend in a plush hotel in Barcelona early June. That’s one of the privileges of my job. It’s what called a FAM trip – don’t ask me what FAM means, I don’t actually know; what I do know is that it means a free weekend away flights and accommodation included, thank you very much! I have already been to Barcelona so I have done all the touristy things to do there.

NYC Skyline, courtesy of Google Images

NYC Skyline, courtesy of Google Images

Yesterday, one of my colleague was talking about trying to find a destination in Europe for a 5 days trip and I was giving her ideas of where to go and that made me long for a break away. I then went onto lastminute.com to see where I could go for 4/5 days myself (so I don’t take too many days off) and by myself (so I don’t have to rely on anyone else to be free) but without actually doing a group tour holiday and my eyes settled on New York. A city break would be ideal and I have never been to the Big Apple.

As you may have read before, I have a tendency to obsess a little when I start thinking about something like a holiday so of course, I went straight to Amazon and bought myself the Lonely Planet New York City guide so I can start looking at what I can do over 4 days and where would be best for me to stay without having to spend my time in the transport and be safe if I travel alone.

NYC Skyline, courtesy of Google Images

NYC Skyline, courtesy of Google Images

I am thinking I could go in Sept/Oct this year considering I will have been done with all the active treatments relating to my breast cancer (I have finished chemo end of March and I am about to have the operation on 21st May, so I should be finished with it before summer starts…well if summer ever starts here). It will be the opportunity for me to check out the city that is the background for many of my favourite tv shows, such as CSI:NY.

NYC, courtesy of Google Images

NYC, courtesy of Google Images

Considering the operation I am going to have and the fact that following removal of lymph nodes you have increased risks of infection, it might not be possible for me to so my African safari next year or even go anywhere which requires shots so I might have to go back to the drawing board for my grand holiday.

NYC Skyline, courtesy of Google Images

NYC Skyline, courtesy of Google Images

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The importance of a healthy obsession

I have always believed that have a slight obsessive-compulsive personality. I mean I sort my CDs, DVDs and books in alphabetical order and by genre! I am not as far gone as to sort my kitchen cupboards that way but, I do like symmetry and order…I also like to be prepared so when I decide something, I do research…Now that I have decided that I want to do a safari next year (doctors’ allowing) I have started the research. Google helps and of course, I have received my new travel guides…which combine two of the things I love most: travel and books!

My Lonely Planet Guidebooks!

My Lonely Planet Guidebooks!

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My next holiday – Part II

So last time I was pondering where I would go travelling next, my sights were set on Costa Rica.

I got the guidebook and all and wham…the next day I was diagnosed with breast cancer and all thoughts of holiday went out the window. 2013 will be a travel-free zone. No exotic holiday for me until I have been cleared (it’s all going in the right direction luckily). So it leaves me to look to 2014 for that and what do you know? It will also be the year I turn 40. Yup I know, some people get all scared by this number but to tell you the truth, I am kind of looking forward to it.

Therefore I have decided that because of that, 2014 should be a year of celebrations for me…the whole turning 40 but also – and hopefully – being cancer free. And what better way to celebrate than going on a holiday of a lifetime? That’s right, not much and that’s also a fun project to work on whilst I am recovering from chemotherapy.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I was still keen on Costa Rica and then a friend of mine posted pictures of the safari he went on whilst on business trip to Kenya and suddenly all thoughts of Costa Rica are gone! I want to go on a safari! I want to see African elephants in the wild and lions, zebras, cheetahs…and all sorts of other wildlife! So here I am, excited and obsessed at the same time, about this new project. I have a year at least to plan it and save for it as it is not a cheap holiday but I am sure well worth it.

There are few countries which can be selected for a safari. Kenya is the most obvious and from what I read the most travelled. Many recommend Tanzania instead and from the little I have read so far, I think it might be my preferred option but I am waiting for the guidebooks to arrive so I can drool over the pictures and start proper research. If I am going to spend this much money on a holiday, I want to make sure I get the optimised options.

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Costa Rica or not Costa Rica?

The more I think about it, the more I want to go but now I am not sure when would be the best time for me? Should I go in Feb or Nov next year? I have just received the Footprint Guidebook from Amazon and I think I will ponder on that, maybe check for when the weather is best but it’s the Caribbean so Feb or Nov should both be ok right?

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Finding my next holiday

Today I have had a fairly dull day at work. It’s Friday, it was sunny out there but cold and dead in the office and I had no back log work to clear…so I started to think of where I wanted to go on holiday next.

I am very tempted by Costa Rica…it seems to be the new destination of choice as I mentioned it to a friend of mine and she said she had been talking about this destination with her boyfriend.

My thing is that I want to go somewhere exotic where I can mix physical activities with a bit farniente and be part of a group even though I am travelling by myself. I know it would be probably cheaper for me to organise my own trip and pick and choose on site what to do but I can’t be ask to deal with the stress of picking out things to do. If I was travelling with a friend then it would be different but unfortunately – here is that word again – I don’t have any travel buddies. My last holiday as you will know if you have followed my ramblings, was in the US through a company called Trekamerica and I really, really enjoyed it (I think I might even have enjoyed it more if I had planned it better on my side). They are very good at making independent travellers tours. Some of the guys in my tour were travelling together but most were on their own and you just get paired for the hotel which makes it cheaper as you don’t have to pay a single supplement.

They do a Costa Rican holiday – actually they do 2: the reefs and jungle tour and the Surf and Volcanoes one. Both look amazing and would take about 10 days, which is I think the max I would be able to take in one go with work. Now the thing is I am wondering, should I then think about this one for next say September/Oct/Nov or squeeze it in for Feb/Mar as I will have carried forward 4 days from this year holiday count which I will need to take before the end of March.

I know that I need to keep some time for Xmas as the company shuts down at Xmas and also some time to catch with my girlfriends as we are planning a reunion in Brittany.

I have also decided that as I will turn 40 in 2014 (I know brrr..!!!) I want to treat myself to an awesome holiday and start saving for it and maybe get people to sponsor some of it (instead of buying me silly presents) and as I have always wanted to go to Hawaii, I think it would be perfect. I have always said that Hawaii was were I wanted my honeymoon…but I don’t think I’ll ever get one so why wait?

The issue I am having is finding the appropriate resources for that one. I don’t want to be stuck in one place, but Hawaii is not particularly a destination for adventurers…lots of couples and honeymooners and I worry that it might be annoying.

I want to learn how to surf, so maybe I should choose the Surf and Volcanoes trip to Costa Rica for next year, as there is some surfing lesson possible there, so I would be ready for Hawaii?

There are so many places in the world I still want to see and it is annoying to have to do it alone…and then again, what if I buy a flat next year? Will have I have enough money left to do a cool holiday per year?

Arrgh…so many questions, so many choices…

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London: Notting Hill Carnival 2011

I have been living in London for nearly 13 years now – yes, I know, it makes me feel old too! – and I have pretty much loved every minute of it…well maybe not every minute: I didn’t loved being unemployed for 3 months and having to sign in at the JobCentre every 2 weeks ; I didn’t love having to move every 2-3 years ; I certainly don’t love that I can’t really buy a flat in a nice neighbourhood without having to move away from centre….but there is plenty I have loved, honest.

In my early years in London, I lived smack in the middle of Notting Hill and for 3 years I got to “enjoy” the Carnival as a resident. The first year was exciting as it was new and I had never been to a carnival of this amplitude before. The 2nd year, I felt like I knew what to expect and therefore enjoyed it more whilst avoiding the scary parts…the 3rd year, I was over it: the crowds, the noise, the mess…I wished I had gone away somewhere else that weekend. Then I moved away from the area and never thought about it again, until last year.

A friend of my family back home in France, sent their 16 years old daughter to spend the August Bank holiday with me. She was keen to visit London and experience a little of the life there as she wanted to come study there later on. So, to show her what London was all about, I took her to the Carnival…here are the photos of the day…

All the photographs have been taken and edited by me (under my Photography name StardustDigital Photography).

A little walk down memory lane…this is the street I used to live on

I spent many a Saturday morning buying fruits and veg at the Portobello Market

Some candid photographs of interesting characters or just gawkers….

Birds of a feather…

I got my first piercing done there…it hurt like a b*tch!

I remember a private party we managed to sneak into there once…Got really drunk on tequila shots and a little light headed from the smoke inhalation of all the happy cigarettes being smoked around…

Long day, uh?

Everybody joins in….all ages, all colours, all genders….

Some people were really creative….and a little scary!

The Aftermath….

The weather wasn’t too great on that day but it was a good day nonetheless…saying that, we had enough of it after about 2 hours!

Hope you enjoyed the pictures…

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USA Tour: My final day….4th July

It was sad to say goodbye to a few people on the night before and on 4th I had to goodbye to my little gang…Heather, Melissa and Steph all left late afternoon. I had originally decided to go back to Santa Monica to hang out and see the fireworks but after seeing how long it took yesterday to get from there to the Hacienda, I gave up on the idea.

Achim was staying until the 9th but moving hotels. He was going to a hostel in Santa Monica. As I was due to leave early on the 5th, he kindly agreed to go watch the fireworks from El Segundo (we asked the hotel if there was going to be some around) and then make his way back to his hostel instead of me trekking the 2 hours back.

We spent part of the day by the hotel pool but the fog hadn’t lifted and we were literally shivering after we enjoyed the really hot jacuzzi. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the hotel patio, chatting away and reminiscing some of the funniest moments. You could tell that everyone was slowly losing his sparkle from having to say goodbye. Finally the time came and it was just me and Achim left. We decided to go explore where the fireworks was going to be to see what wee needed to plan for.

People were already getting ready and marking their spot in the street with deck chairs and blankets. The whole area had been cordoned off so there was no traffic.

The fog had finally lifted by late afternoon so it was warming up.

The fireworks were going to be launched from a baseball stadium which had been all closed off and you could buy a ticket for $3 and get a seat in the arena and enjoy the pre-fireworks concert. We decided not to.

We walked back towards the hotel to go get some supplies for an impromptu picnic. Originally we had thought of going to dinner in one of the restaurant and then wander back for the fireworks but seeing that a lot of people were already claiming space all around, we decided it would be safer to buy some food and drinks and lay our towels out and wait for the big bang… It took a while for the sun to set and we were so close to the airport that we think we saw Steph’s plane take off…

I am sure that the fireworks would have been nicer on Santa Monica but as it stand it wasn’t too bad…

I tried to take a few pics with my Nikon Coolpix but not easy without a tripod…

We left just before it ended as Achim wanted to be the mass exodus so he could catch the shuttle bus back to the airport, where he could catch another shuttle bus to get to Santa Monica…it took him about 2hours even at that time of the night… I am glad I didn’t have to do.

I had been lucky to have been alone in my room the night before so I was a little surprise to find that I had a room mate on my way back. She was also returning from a trek. We chatted briefly and then I turned off as I wanted to be at the airport in plenty of time…you know me, I am a nervous traveller 🙂

My flight was at 11am and I got there for 8.30am so I had plenty of time to kill. Did a little last minute shopping. I had started to develop the cold that had gone around the bus in the last week of our tour so I bought some medicine to help. I also had my first McDonald…somehow, throughout the journey I had managed to avoid it…not really out of choice as I like to try out McD in the countries I visit as they always have a “local” speciality. In India I had a McMaharaja which is a chicken curry burger, in Thailand I had a McThai…which is also chicken curry type but did taste different…and in LAX I had a breakfast burrito…which is not something you get in Europe for sure!

My flight back was dreadful. My cold developed full tilt and I think I got myself a fever at some point. I couldn’t sleep despite my earplugs and eye mask because I felt hot and cold all night and I couldn’t breathe with my mouth closed and I can’t really sleep with my mouth open. I watch a couple movies but I didn’t want to spend the night doing that…I was really happy to land on Friday morning and my commute back home was long…I wasn’t supposed to go to bed on arrival so I could control the jet lag but between the sleepless flight and the fact that I felt absolutely dreadful, I didn’t last very long….long enough to take a well deserved shower and to call my Nan to reassure her that I was a live if not well…

I had 3 days to recover from the jetlag before I was due to start at my new job…unfortunately for me, jetlag decided to kick the night before my first day and stayed with me for a few more nights…of course it did.

Taking stock…

My big highlights were:

San Diego

The Grand Canyon – of course

Yosemite – for the accomplishment of the hike

Baseball game and Alcatraz in San Francisco

Santa Barbara – the whole town actually, it felt like a place I could live in.

The people… I was worried about the American people…they can have a bad reputation for being obnoxious, loud and little too much overly Christian….throughout the trip I discovered how nice and friendly they can be, I was impressed by the customer service everywhere we went (regardless of tipping convention) and I didn’t get too much Christianity shoved back at me.

My fellow travellers…we had an amazing group and I am hoping to stay in touch with a few. We are already talking about when we see each other next and I believe the first reunion is going to be in Zurich (Steph’s haunt) to go skiing. Then, it should be Aberdeen…

And here’s for the memories

More Burt Reynolds action

The girls


With the top boys…


LAX in Vegas


Limo action in Vegas with Lisa and El


With the lovely Heather…


I can’t wait to go back out there…The country lived up to my expectations and the people surpassed them…Now I want to see it all…I want to go to New York, I want to see Miami, New Orleans, go to Boston and see Washington and I also want to see Canada…. Until next time…


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