Things I love

  • ~Louis
  • ~Family&Friends
  • ~IceCream
  • ~MyKindle
  • ~CoffeeBreaks
  • ~Sparkles
  • ~Knitwear
  • ~Vanilla
  • ~AllThingsLUSH~
  • GossipGirlxoxo~
  • Chips&Ketchup~

28 March 2013

Chasing Railways

When we moved to Jordan, I thought that I wouldn't visit Wadi Rum more than a couple of times more than I already had (previous adventures found here). But then a friend, a British friend, mentioned that he was thinking of renting a car and driving across the desert to see some train stations that had been blown up in WW1 by Lawrence of Arabia. These stations used to exist on a train line during the Ottoman Empire that extended from Medina to Damascus and is known as the Hejaz Railway.

After my diva worthy questions on the expected standard of the toilet facilities, I decided to get over my unfounded fears of falling into quicksand and accompany Louis and our friends on the trip.

The plan was to drive down the Kings Highway, spend the morning at the Dana (pronounced "Dhana") nature preserve and then head over to spend a night in Wadi Rum before heading off towards the Saudi border in the morning. The term "highway" was, in my opinion of road classification, completely misrepresenting of what was the windiest, scariest, narrowest road I had been on in Jordan. Remember me showing off about my experiences with windy roads? Well, let's just say this was a little scarier...maybe because I haven't been on these types of roads for a while, but, that's besides the point. 

Anyway, we arrived to Dana late and only had time to see the village and have some lunch there. We then headed off to Wadi Rum to catch the last rays of sunshine. After dinner in the camp we were staying in we were figuring out the logistics of our desert trip. We had asked the owners of the camp to enquire/arrange for a guide to drive us down to Mudawwarah near the Saudi border where we'd find one of the train stations. From that point we would be able to head back to Amman alone, on a highway that runs parallel to the Hejaz Railway.

The bedouins in the camp were convinced that we were wasting our time because the train tracks had been removed by the government years ago and we wouldn't see anything interesting. They kept telling us that the roads were dangerous (and the sand soft) and that driving to Mudawwarah would take approximately 4 hours! Luckily, the friend planning the trip was unfazed, and kept repeating that we were here for the adventure and we weren't going back to Amman so easily. 

I'm so glad that we stuck to the plan. It took us less than 3 hours to get to Mudawwarah, a series of tents and a couple of brick buildings in the middle of nowhere. What was so wonderful though was that the train station there was completely in tact! In fact, there was a family living there, a group of girls and women who had taken it upon themselves to paint the inside walls in a shade of marshmallow pink(!). They welcomed me and my girlfriend (the gents were not allowed inside because it was a family home) into the station to have a look around. 

I was really happy to hear that one of the girls was studying for her high school finals this year and taking it seriously. When I asked whether she'd get married after high school, her and her mom told me that she was in fact going to university first :) It's so inspiring to see bedouin girls intent on education, since so many small villages still don't value educating the female population (I'm sure a topic for another time). 

I don't have many pictures of the trip as I didn't take my phone but here are some photos courtesy of J Halpin (thank you!). 

Have a great weekend (and Easter weekend if you're in the UK) everyone!


PS My mom is visiting for a week which I am so excited about! Guess where we're taking her?! Yes, Wadi Rum is on the agenda ;) Also hoping to do Petra and the Dead Sea so I'll post some pictures of our adventures when I get a chance!

That's the train station in the background and we believe these concrete slabs are track foundations.

Train station, completely standing! This looks like it would have been the station entrance. Love the blue and green paint :)

The tracks would have run on top of this stone path.

Definitely blown up station! Work of Mr. Lawrence!

Another blown up station. I was admiring the other side of the building where you could see more than one level.

14 March 2013

Weekly Wish List
Fun jumper from Asos

I love keeping tabs on new trends by browsing the websites of my favourite high street stores and then posting them on here. Recently, though, I've been completely uninspired by what I've seen, which is why I've been quiet on the Wish List front! 

This week though pretty corals and pastels have grabbed my attention, so here are some of the gorgeous pieces I'm wishing for this week. I especially love the different macs available and the leather Topshop bag (below). I love leather bags but it's difficult to find one without a designer price tag so I'm happy to see Topshop providing affordable and fashionable bags :) Hope you enjoy the selection!

Until next time!

Lovely Warehouse office dress and delicate Topshop playsuit

The essential spring piece - the Mac; short & boxy or flared & frilly, both adorable!
Topshop leather bag - so sweet!

05 March 2013

Dear England:

It has almost been six months since last I saw you. While I think of you all the time, I know the decision to leave you was for the best, at least for now. I wish I could say it's me and not you, but I'm afraid that would be a lie. I am in a place in my life where I need sunshine, and here, in what is effectively the desert, I get plenty of that. Like I said though, I think of you always. There are many things that my current residence cannot provide (despite the vitamin D) and I feel that you need to know about them. So here's a list, in no particular order, of why I instinctively want to board any Heathrow bound plane whenever I'm in an airport.

~Oxford Circus - in particular Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Oasis, Warehouse, Uniqlo, New Look, River Island and the 3 H&Ms within 10 minutes' walk of each other. And of course, Vapiano's. 
~Itsu, Wasabi and the delicious sushi buffets available all week long
~Whittard's, oh how I miss Whittard's and Twinings too
~And Dragonfly tea, Cape Malay Rooibos Chai, Vanilla Rooibos, English Breakfast Rooibos and Early Grey Rooibos, all so good
~Gelato! Especially Scoop in Covent Garden and ZaZa in Canary Wharf
~Kings Cross
~All the green fields
~The relaxing drive from Potters Bar to London Colney (usually to pick up tea!)
~Covent Garden and the Lauduree & Paperchase shops there 
~Chicken katsu curry 
~The Thames (practically any river would fill this void)
~Pret a Manger!
~Decent Mexican food 
~Boots (the chemist) - buying contact lens solution will never be as cheap...nor will toiletries 
~And despite all the madness, Tesco. I miss Tesco and the 2 for £5 Haagen Dasz offers, the whole foods section, the unbelievable choice of cooking sauces and abundance of fresh, semi-skimmed milk.

So there you go, a few reasons why I miss you. But for now, this is how it has to be. 


01 March 2013

The Edge of the World - Cape Town Part 2 :)

Not only was it my first time across the Equator, Cape Town is the furthest south I've ever been. Thing is, Cape Town is located on the North side of Cape Peninsula, so you can actually go even further south by driving a few more hours to Cape Point (insert excitement here). 

I am having to borrow an image from Google so that I can show Cape Peninsula and illustrate the wonderful road trip that we took to the most southwestern part of the Peninsula.

Find image here

We decided we would drive down the west coast of the Peninsula, see Cape Point and then drive back up on the eastern coast, going through Simon's Town and of course, say hi to the penguins (PENGUINS!).

There are many bays around the Peninsula and as you leave Cape Town, you get a splendid view of Hout Bay behind you. Hout Bay is really small and although we didn't actually stop off there, it's one of my favourite bays because of its white, sandy shore and aquamarine water. It's just so secluded. And if you get the time, you can take a boat from there to seal island (yes, an island full of seals, my excuse to go back to South Africa since we didn't get a chance to see it).

Anyway, we drove out and looked back at glorious Hout Bay.
Hout Bay over there!
Chapman's Peak Drive

As soon as you leave Hout Bay, you have started the infamous, windy road known as Chapman's Peak Drive. Now, I like to boast that I have been on some incredibly windy roads (Sana'a to Hodeidah, 'nuff said) but I had never been on any where the ocean stretches as far as the eye can see. It is truly magnificent. The big blue ocean and the big blue sky. I love how it reminds me that there is a world that is bigger than us, a world that watches people come and go while it remains.

There are some spots that you can park the car and take some photos. I think we were very lucky because there was no traffic on our drive. Here are some photos of the views on the drive, although I'm not sure where exactly we had stopped off to take these.  

After skimming the coast of Chapman's Peak, you head inland to continue the journey south. The change in landscape is amazing - you move away from the sea and the coast and instead cruise along slowly rolling hills covered in trees. We stopped off at a little tourist village in Noordhoek called Cafe Roux, where we had some coffee and food. The food there is delicious and I would highly recommend it. And then we were off again!

The drive to Cape Point is really straightforward. You basically want to follow the M65 (south) and there are plenty of signposts to guide you along the way.

Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope

When you get to Cape Point you have to park your car and continue by foot up to the lighthouse. There is also a funicular that can take you up there. One you're at the top, you can look out to the tip of the world. So much blue! There was a strong wind that day, that made you think you'd be lifted right off the ground and over the top! It is said that this is the part of the world where the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean meet, though I couldn't discern a difference in the water. 

Along Cape Point
The Lighthouse at Cape Point

Love how they all point North!

That is the Southern most point in Cape Point

Looking back at the Peninsula

Once we finished running around Cape Point and seeing the vast Ocean, we drove back to the Cape of Good Hope. This is the southwestern tip of the peninsula but I didn't feel it boasted the same views as Cape Point. Sorry I don't have any photos of it!

Boulders Beach & Simon's Town

Like I said, the plan was to drive down the west coast to Cape Point, and then up the east coast back to Cape Town. Our first point of interest on the way back was Boulders Beach, or, as I refer to it, the PENGUINS. 

A few days after arriving in Cape Town we took the Blue Route open bus tour to see the sites of Cape Town. According to the recorded guide on the bus, one of the things you can say to annoy South Africans is "I'm gonna kidnap a penguin". Guilty. I think I said this to all my friends *grin*.

I digress. Boulders Beach is this lovely beach that has tens of penguins, just chilling. They are the most adorable things in the world! I'm not sure if it was the time of day that we were there or because it was summer, but they were all just laying on the beach, facing the same direction. I did spot a few penguin chicks, who, although cute because they are chicks, are a dull brown colour. There are two parts of the beach where you can see the penguins. The first one we went to we were on a fenced boardwalk, but the second beach you could literally go swimming with the penguins! *squeal* 

Here are some photos of the little guys! 


We then stopped off for lunch in Simon's Town, a small fishing town that has a quaint high street. We had some fresh fish'n'chips and then had a coffee in one of the little coffee shops. Driving back from Simon's town you see the train line and the cliffs. 

Table Mountain

So the other thing you can say to annoy South Africans is "When are you gonna build a hotel on Table Mountain?". But, this is the view of Table Mountain from Robben Island. Pretty dramatic, no?

Table Mountain is very temperamental, weather wise. Not only are the winds stronger all the way up there, the "Tablecloth" envelopes Table Mountain on almost a daily basis. The Tablecloth occurs when the clouds literally spread over Table Mountain and spill over the sides. The reason it happens is down to the temperature and air pressure that makes the clouds tuck themselves on the sides of the mountain. I've tried to take some photos to show the mist falling off the sides (it looks like a waterfall, stunning). 

The night we went up Table Mountain was not very clear - there were clouds floating along but it made it all the more beautiful. Here are some photos taken from the Cable Car (which was pretty scary if I'm honest!). 

See it really looks like a lion!
Once you get up Table Mountain, the best way to describe it is like a garden in the sky, with cobble stoned paths and dark green shrubs. You are free to walk around and there are some set walks if you have time. Like I said, it wasn't a clear night, but it made it all the more mystical because the clouds rushed passed us, consuming everything around us. Some clouds were low enough to actually BE IN. I felt like a Care Bear! 

The sensation of being in a cloud is so surreal. The cloud overwhelms you. Rushes by you. Covers you in cool, damp mist. And you think that this might be the best thing in the world. And you run around like a kid. And when the cloud you're in is really thick, you look behind you and it's all gray. And in front of you and it's all gray. And you look up and see the sun, a cloudy, round, silhouette. Then when it fades away, the clouds are still to your left, but to your right are majestic cliffs, the sea and the sun, being pulled down by the horizon. It really is phenomenal. 
You can see the clouds are ground level

Unbelievable sunset :)

Shark Cage Diving

If you're adventurous, I would really recommend doing a shark cage dive while in CT. To be honest, I was really nervous about the boat ride and whether I'd get into the cold, deep water. I surprised even myself by practically jumping into the cage when our turn came to have a dive!

We booked our trip with Shark Lady, who was recommended by our friend. I had also called them and they were cheaper than some other tour operators. It's an early start so prepare yourself! We were driven to Gansbaai, which is about 2 hours away from CT and where the trips head off from. Once we arrived at Shark Lady's crew house, we were given some breakfast (and red bush tea, of course) and a briefing about what was going to happen. 

We were really lucky because it was a clear, sunny day. We were also lucky because shark sightings in the summer are rare and the water is slightly more murky than in the winter. We dropped anchor about 25 minutes from the shore. The boat crew attract the sharks with "chum", a mixture mainly made up of fish oils. This just brings the sharks closer to the boat. The boat crew also throw a tuna fish head into the water, again attracting the sharks, but this does not serve as food! Although some sharks did manage to chew off the tuna head. (Chumalicious? Sorry, couldn't help myself!)

Shark cage diving doesn't require any diving experience. The cage that you get into is only about 3/4 in the water, and the rest is above. So you have your head and shoulders above water and then when you hear "SHARK!! AHEAD!!" you take a deep breath and go down! They do provide wet suits but the water is still freezing!

We managed to see 7 different sharks! They are really magnificent fish. They glide past you, with such little effort. But they are so powerful, and can turn in the water at lightening speed. I think watching the sharks so closely felt like a dream. It's almost like you're in an aquarium, a really cold and wet one. Part of it is the adrenaline rush, but for me I just love being part of something else's world. Like when you go snorkelling, you are allowed a glimpse at this other world, that continues without you. I find it humbling. 

Anyway, so these ginormous sharks just pass by the cage while you are literally hooked. It was amazing. For all that fear, I just wanted more sharks! More sharks! More sharks at once! Once in a lifetime experience. I only have one picture of me in the wetsuit and then a video of a shark...sorry! 

So that is pretty much from me about my trip to breath-taking Cape Town. I really hope that I'll get to go back to this beautiful land, as there is still so much more to explore. 

Before I go though, there are three restaurants that I have to recommend. If you ever find yourself in CT, I hope you will try them and love them as much as I do!

Buzbey's Grill in Seapoint - the BEST steaks in the entire world
La Vie, a little cafe that serves delicious food on the sea front
Saul's Burgers, also in Seapoint, a 24-hour burger and pizza joint that serves fantastic burgers and pizzas


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