Archive for May, 2016

Yes!! We went to Paris for Lunch! How marvellously indulgent is that. Having a British Passport really opens up the world.

When I first arrived in the UK back in 2001, I was on a South African passport with the accompanying ancestral visa.  Having this was, in my ‘book’, just the ultimate! It meant I could live and work in the UK, it also meant I could apply for visas to visit Europe and the USA…I really thought that was the ultimate.



But as the years went by, I realised more and more what a real gem the ‘little red book’ is, the places I could go……instead of having to apply months in advance, spending a fortune and having to take off a lot of time (sometimes losing out on work due to visa appointments), the time got nearer to my making the decision to become a British Citizen (although that was a given anyway…I really wanted to be a citizen of the UK from when I first arrived), and apply for my British passport…..and now I have it. 🙂




I have a list of ‘things I want to do’ when I get my passport, and one of them was to just book a ticket on the Eurostar and visit Paris for the day.  Thanks to my ‘wish angel’; aka my daughter, as part of the celebration of becoming a BC and getting that little red book, she, along with two of my sisters arranged a day trip to Paris for lunch!!!

Wowww, amazing!!! What an extraordinary feeling it was to be able to just get on the train and go….no visas, no limits! I didn’t really appreciate the freedom having a British passport would give me.

We set off really early in the morning of the 24th April, the day after my birthday and headed for Ashford where we were due to meet the Eurostar.

Paris for Lunch by Eurostar

5 minutes to go…..Paris for Lunch by Eurostar

To say that I had butterflies of excitement would be an understatement. I hadn’t ventured to Europe, or Paris for nearly 8 years…it just got tooooo expensive for the necessary visas, and after the trauma of getting a visa for our trip to Iceland I had decided I wasn’t planning any further trips until I had my British passport….but finally we were on our way!!!

Paris for Lunch by Eurostar

Paris for Lunch by Eurostar…and a bit of a selfie there 😉

Bubbling with excitement and barely able to keep my feet on the ground, we finally reached Ashford then whoosh, the Eurostar whizzed into the station and without further ado we were on our way!me and train I could scarcely contain myself.  My grin almost reached my ears. It was really awesome to be able to share this trip with my daughter and we chatted and planned and took dozens of photos…and we hadn’t even left the UK yet!!! LOLme and cj

Suddenly, like Alice, we were hurtling at speed through a tunnel and under the sea…or was that Nemo?

I still marvel at the engineering feat of the Eurotunnel. How extraordinary to be able to travel beneath the sea in a train…..okayyyy so it goes through a tunnel, but you know what I mean!

Before we had drawn breath we were in France…..although if you had woken up after a sleep you’d think you were in England….the landscape is exactly the same.  The modern accoutrements of roads and telephone wires, houses and bridges etc are of course somewhat different, plus they drive on the wrong side of the road on the continent, but other than that….the landscape is just the same.  I recall in 2008 seeing the rapeseed fields in England and after popping out the tunnel on the other side, seeing exactly the same fields in France.  It’s weird.

The excitement built the nearer we got to Paris and then we were there, on the outskirts and none too soon we drew to a stop at Gare du Nord.  The last time I had been there was in 2008 and of course prior to that, the most marvellous trip my daughter and I made in 2005 for my 50th.

Heading straight for the Metro we planned our journey through the maze and soon we were in the centre of Paris and a short walk from Notre Dame.

Paris for Lunch by Eurostar

the maze of the Paris Metro system – remarkably easy to use

Wow, that building is just awesome. I love that it stands on its own little island in the middle of the Seine; il de la cité….quite appropriate.

We didn’t go in but set off to find the restaurant that my daughter had in mind for lunch.  It was a place she had visited previously on a day trip, and felt it would fit the bill.  We tramped about, along the West Bank, down lanes and across bridges but the restaurant was nowhere to be found!!! Eventually she got onto google and located the place…right where we had initially been!!! LOL. By then I was beginning to despair and time was flying by.  As usual, channelling my inner tourist, I was really keen to see as much as possible, but as she reminded me, the purpose of the trip was to have ‘Lunch in Paris’…

The restaurant, la fourmi ailée, was an absolute delight. The interior is quirky, and very very French (naturellement)… 20160424_131621 - Paris for lunch 24.04.16

We made our way to a table at the rear of the restaurant and I spent the next few minutes simply gawking and admiring…..the place is a delight. Two of my favourite features were the painted ceiling and the books from floor to ceiling. We selected our meal and placed our order with the delightful waiter…oh that French accent….it’s amazing how the French accent combined with the language can turn a simple phrase like ‘clean up your mess and wash the dishes’ sound like music to your ears…unless you understand what’s being said of course LOL

I do love it. And yes I think I do love Paris in the springtime.  I’m so lucky to have my birthday in spring in the northern hemisphere….in South Africa I was an autumn baby (which explains why autumn is my favourite season), but of the joys of seeing the trees smothered in glorious clouds of pink cherry blossom, the parks alive with hundreds of spring flowers; a rainbow of colours….IMAG3174 - 2016.04.24 Paris for lunch

Although the weather was overcast and a bit wet, after lunch we set off to see ‘as much as possible’.  I really wanted to walk along the West Bank of the Seine to Pont Alexandre III.

paris for lunch

Pont Alexandre III

So after a second visit to Notre Dame we set off, but instead of sticking to the riverbank we did a sort of zig-zag and strolled along cobbled streets that meander here and there, leading to tiny squares, secret parks and hidden churches, enjoying the marvellous French architecture, patisseries, charming little shops and quirky lanes that lead you further and further into the depths of the city.

I adore how in Paris all the cafes have chairs on the sidewalks….they look so chic!IMAG3163 - 2016.04.24 Paris for lunch

It fascinates me that some of the houses and buildings still have the pockmarks from exploding shells and bullets during WW2 occupation.20160424_144156 - Paris for lunch 24.04.16  - CopyThe architecture is wonderful, in many places so old and deteriorating, so bad you wonder how it stays up, but that all lends to the charm. We discovered amazing street art, secret symbols and charming murals.

We managed to flash past some of Paris’s most well-known landmarks and saw a few in the distance.

We killed two birds with one stone….from a roundabout on the Champs-Élysées20160424_160116 - Paris for lunch 24.04.16 we could see the Arc de Triomphe,

paris for lunch

Arc de Triomphe

from Pont des Invalides we managed to see the Eiffel Tower in the distance,

Paris for lunch

the Eiffel Tower in the distance

while at Notre Dame we saw the amazing statue of Charlemagne,

paris for lunch


were just a stones-throw from Fontaine Saint Michel,

the famous ‘Metropolitain’ signIMAG3173 - 2016.04.24 Paris for lunch and the infamous ‘love-locks’ bridge.

One of the things I find most fascinating about Paris are the plane trees…they are so beautifully sculpted like soldiers in a row.IMAG3189 - 2016.04.24 Paris for lunch

All too soon we had to make our way back to the station.

paris for lunch

…is it really that late already???

On our way back to Gard de Nord we stopped for a quick look at the ‘Wall of Love’; now a landmark in its own right, this love-themed 40 square metres (430 sq ft) wall in the Jehan Rictus garden square in Montmartre, Paris, France. The wall, created in 2000 by calligraphist Fédéric Baron and mural artist Claire Kito, is composed of 612 tiles of enamelled lava, on which the phrase “I love you” is featured 311 times in 250 languages.

the wall of love

The ‘Wall of Love’ in Montmartre

We also bought and devoured one of the most delicious Nutella crepes I have ever had, and viewed the fabulous Sacre Coure in Montmartre….one of my favourite areas of Paris.

paris for lunch

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica and often simply Sacré-Cœur

Along the way we walked past the Grand Palais

paris for lunch

Grand Palais

passed through the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10thand 18th Arrondisement and stumbled across a protest march near Avenue Franklin Delano Roosevelt20160424_154701 - Paris for lunch 24.04.16

Then suddenly we were back at the station….6 hours in Paris had whizzed by and it was time to board the Eurostar for London….tired but elated!!

We had just been to ‘Paris for Lunch’.

paris for lunch

19 ; 01 à Londres s’il vous plaît

Paris both repels and fascinates me. I find some of the buildings to be quite ‘cold’ although the wrought-iron balconies are charming.

paris for lunch

I find the wrought-iron balconies on the buildings rather charming

The parks are wonderful and of course the famous landmarks are wonderful to see up close….or not so close 😉

Although I seldom visit a place more than once and try to see everything I can on any one visit, I suspect that there is so much more to Paris than meets the eye. I shall look forward to another such visit….it would be sacrilege not to! 😉

paris for lunch

Bonjour and au revoir Paris…..till next time




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Just a few months ago I became a British Citizen. In fact today is the 3rd monthaversary of my citizenship ceremony.


at my citizenship ceremony in Maidstone

I have a list of ‘things to do once I have my passport’ and one of those is the Camino.  I wasn’t really sure which section I wanted to do but since I have always wanted to visit Portugal, when I discovered that one of the routes is from Porto I decided to make that the route I would take.

I can’t quite make up my mind whether to walk it all in one go, or rather break it up into 2 stages.  So in September of this year I plan to walk the Camino from Porto to Santiago or maybe just the first stage. It will all depend on how I feel at the time LOL

I have completed part of Chaucer’s route to Canterbury and in order to practice for the Camino I am going to continue the journey and complete it before I leave for Porto (hopefully; time being an issue).

My passion is London and the history of the city, and I have explored and visited many of the areas where Chaucer lived and worked,


a wooden structure depicts the Algate house Chaucer lived in 

and on one of my recent work assignments I discovered part of the ‘pilgrims way’ and immediately set out to walk the section nearest to where I was working.

IMAG2659 - Kent April2016

The Pilgrim’s Way – Winchester to Canterbury

passportI am a 61 year-old single parent of a most wonderful daughter aged 35+. Born in South Africa, I crossed the seas in October 2001 to visit my sister and her hubby who were living in Ireland at the time. I loved Ireland and after deciding that London was where I wanted to live, I returned to SA poste-haste to obtain my ancestral visa (my grandfather had the good sense to be born in Wandsworth) and never looked back…..after living and working in the UK for the past 15 years I recently obtained my British Citizenship and relevant passport and hope to put it to good use.
Since getting my passport on 30 March I’ve been from Dover to Calais, specifically so that I could see the White Cliffs of Dover.IMAG2395.jpg

My daughter and I went to Paris on 24 April for lunch (courtesy of her and my sisters Sue & Caroline – thanks guys, it was amazing)

My next trip is to Brussels in July to spend a few days with my friend Valy,

and of course I’ve been to South Africa, but since I used both my passports, it only semi counts as a trip post UK passport 😉

It has been my dream for some years now to walk the Camino as well as spending a few days to explore Santiago. My father (deceased 2015) has cycled the Camino a few times, the last being in 2015 a few months before he died at the age of 85…although he didn’t complete the route due to deteriorating health. One of my younger sisters was with him at the time and they managed to fit in a visit to my brother and family in Hungary…..I’m going to visit them in Budapest for a few days before my #Camino2016.kevin & timi and family
I have lived in the UK for 15 years now and have travelled extensively both in the UK and in Europe and 3 times to the USA.  Prior to my departure in 2001  I travelled extensively in South Africa, and during the 6 months I lived in Ireland between October 2001 and March 2002 we travelled all over the island and then some….I’ve been to just about every county.

I plan to buy a motor-home in 2021 and start travelling the length and breadth of the UK with occasional trips to the Continent. It’s so easy it would be a shame not to.

traveler and sun

heading for the sun and surf…suitcase following close behind

I look forward to meeting fellow pilgrims in September.
Here is an extract from the site http://santiago-compostela.net/

Walking the Camino

Walking the Camino is not difficult – most of the stages are fairly flat on good paths. The main difficulty is that few of us have walked continuously for 10, 20 or 30 days. You learn more about your feet than you would ever have thought possible!

Origins of the pilgrimage

The history of the Camino de Santiago goes back at the beginning of the 9th century (year 814) moment of the discovery of the tomb of the evangelical apostle of the Iberian Peninsula. Since this discovery, Santiago de Compostela becomes a peregrination point of the entire European continent.

The Way was defined then by the net of Roman routes that joined the neuralgic points of the Peninsula. The impressive human flow that from very soon went towards Galicia made quickly appear lots of hospitals, churches, monasteries, abbeys and towns around the route. During the 14th century the pilgrimage began to decay, fact brought by the wars, the epidemics and the natural catastrophes.

The recovery of the route begins at the end of the 19th century, but it is during the last quarter of the 20th century when the authentic contemporary resurge of the peregrination takes place. There is no doubt that the social, tourist, cultural or sport components have had a great importance in the “jacobea” revitalization but we cannot forget that the route has gained its prestige thanks to its spiritual value.

Buen Camino 🙂

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20160423_161749 - 23.04.16 Dover Castle & Road Trip

Dover Castle and St George’s Day 2016

Having my birthday on the same day as St George’s Day certainly opens it up for attending amazing events.  No less this year.  Since I wasn’t in the mood for the long train journey to London to watch the Morris Dancers at Leadenhall Market, or attend the St George’s Day Festival at Trafalgar Square, (as well as which I’ve done that before a few times), I decided instead to head over to Dover Castle for the St George’s Day Festival. It also helped that I have an English Heritage membership 😉20160423_154929 - 23.04.16 Dover Castle & Road Trip

Dover is not too far from Broadstairs by train, so early on the morning of Saturday 23rd I hopped onto the train and made my way there. I’ve visited the castle before and ohmyword, it is extraordinary. England’s biggest castle, the size of the place leaves you breathless, both with wonder and physically! It takes a good few hours to explore all the nooks and crannies and walk the perimeter.  And there is so much to see.

20160423_115012 - 23.04.16 Dover Castle & Road Trip

The Constables Gate, Dover Castle. constructed 1220-1227

The blurb promised an action-packed knight vs dragon festival.  It didn’t disappoint. Starting at 10am the events ranged from horsemanship, swordsmanship and medieval music,

St Georges Day Festival Dover Castle

medieval musicians

to a mock up village with craftsmen and women going about their medieval business.  We were treated to live cooking demonstrations, archery, swordsmanship displays, medieval music and jesters plying their trade.

I got there really early and made my way into the castle grounds, this time approaching from the top of the cliffs via bus, rather than walking up like I did the previous visit (insane idea).  Have you any idea just how high those cliffs are? You can see France from the top…hello!!!!

20160423_161448 - 23.04.16 Dover Castle & Road Trip

across the English channel to France

A cluster of medieval tents were set up here and there, and the villagers were chatting to visitors and demonstrating their trade and crafts. A colourful medley of sounds and colours – although I’m sure it smelt a lot more fragrant than it did during medieval times.

20160423_122613 - 23.04.16 Dover Castle & Road Trip

…medieval streets were most certainly not paved with gold!

The costumes were beautifully done, flags flapping gaily in the ever present wind – which at times can almost blow you off your feet.20160423_123748 - 23.04.16 Dover Castle & Road Trip High above the castle keep, the flag of England with the cross of St George flapped wildly in the wind alongside the Union Jack.

20160423_121623 - 23.04.16 Dover Castle & Road Trip

St George’s Day Festival at Dover Castle

I meandered here and there, exploring the interior and precincts of the castle enjoying the different displays before settling down at the west end of the green to watch the displays of swordsmanship as knights in their armour valiantly fought one another.  They are marvellous, although it does look awfully tiring.

20160423_123605 - 23.04.16 Dover Castle & Road Trip

the knight’s fight

Afterwards I made my way to the jester’s encampment for what was to be an hour of sheer and unadulterated fun and silliness.  Whoever they were, they were fantastic. A lot of the quips were definitely aimed at the older generation, but the visuals and tricks appealed to all ages…I was laughing so much at one stage I could barely hold the camera still as I was recording.

Then the coup de grace and finale; a titan battle between St George on his sturdy mount

St Georges Day Festival Dover Castle

St George on his trusty steed

and the fearsome dragon!!! LOL – right???!!!

This epic display filled the spectator stands (wet grass) as we waited breathlessly while St George fought off the evil Black Knight on his stallion….

St Georges Day Festival Dover Castle

The Black Knight and St George do battle

….before tackling the effervescent dragon. St George is his eagerness to slay the dragon raced up to the horrible green creature intent on murder!! His not so sturdy mount objected to the sudden halt, skidded on the wet grass, and reared up so high that St George’s rump met the ground with a thump!!

St George's Day festival at Dover Castle

St George lands on his rump with a thump!

The horse was retired, and on foot St George raced after the dragon, his armour rattling, wielding his mighty sword to rescue the virgin, and slayed the fearsome creature.  Hoorah! The battle was won.

St George's Day festival at Dover Castle

…and so the dragon is slewed!!! LOL

The weather as usual managed to provide 4 seasons in one day and we had a mix of sunshine, howling gales, a shower of rain and heavy black clouds that hung menacingly over the castle….threatening to lash down but not quite getting there. All we needed was a smattering of snow (not unheard of) and hail and we would have had a typical spring day in the UK. LOL

In all a brilliant day and superb way to celebrate my birthday. Thanks St George 😉 nice to have you on board.

I can highly recommend a visit to Dover Castle. It is by far one of the most awesome castles I have visited to date.  Mind you, to be fair, most of the castles I have visited are amazing…..all in their own special way.

Visit Dover Castle

St George is the Patron Saint of England

The horses used during the events were Atkinson’s Action Horses

You can reach Dover Castle via car, on foot (if you have the oomph to climb the hill), by bus from the city centre. The station is Dover Priory


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awesome list! Some of which I have already checked off, but some I never even thought about. thanks ever so much


Printable Packing List

So you are ready to walk the Camino de Santiago yourself? Are you starting to prepare and think about what you might need for your grand adventure in Spain? I have put together a handy printable checklist of the items you will need for your journey. It is free to download so enjoy and BUEN CAMINO!

DOWNLOAD AND PRINT THE FREE PDF HERE: Camino de Santiago Printable Packing Checklist

This post is sponsored by the good people at REI. For up to 60% off your outdoor adventure gear check out REI Outlet, click here.

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