Exploring New England: Day Four

A few Autumns ago I was wrapping up a mini road trip around New England. On day four I travelled from Hartford, Connecticut through Rhode Island, where I detoured to visit a corn maze, and finished in Boston, where an unexpected adventure awaited me that night.

I began by visiting the Mark Twain Museum, but I only looked at the outside before starting the drive to Salisbury Farm in Rhode Island.
Connecticut to Boston 030 Connecticut to Boston 035 Connecticut to Boston 042 Connecticut to Boston 051 (2) Connecticut to Boston 060 Connecticut to Boston 065 Connecticut to Boston 070 Connecticut to Boston 071 Connecticut to Boston 073 Connecticut to Boston 075 Connecticut to Boston 078 Connecticut to Boston 081Finding a corn maze open during the week had not been easy, and it was very quiet – eerily quiet in the deserted corn maze. The maze was made of the words ‘Boston Strong’, in tribute to the bombing at the Boston Marathon earlier that year.  Connecticut to Boston 093 Connecticut to Boston 099 Connecticut to Boston 100 Connecticut to Boston 102 Connecticut to Boston 110 Connecticut to Boston 115 Connecticut to Boston 119 Connecticut to Boston 120 Connecticut to Boston 121 Connecticut to Boston 127It took me some time to make my way out, and as I struggled through the ‘R’ I was forced to admit that I had overestimated my maze-routing abilities. Connecticut to Boston 147 Connecticut to Boston 021 Connecticut to Boston 132I was pleased to finally emerge from the maze exit, but I had another challenge awaiting me: driving into Boston in peak hour on day one of the World Series at Fenway Park. And so my road trip story ended after the traditional crisis and climax situation, followed by the wonderful resolution of arriving at a cosy hostel (HI Boston) and the bonus, unplanned activity of World Series Game One that night.


Haworth & the Bronte Parsonage

One of the first things I wanted to fit in to my two years in the UK from long before my arrival was a trip to Haworth to visit the Bronte Parsonage. I had finished my Master’s dissertation only a few months before landing in London and the Bronte sisters were one of my case studies, and through my research I found they were quite fascinating.

Charlotte, Emily and Anne grew up in the village of Haworth in Yorkshire, which happily is rather well preserved and still very small, making it easy to imagine what their lives might have been like there in the 1800s. IMG_9005 IMG_8985 (2) IMG_8982 (2) IMG_9002 (2) IMG_8980 IMG_9009 IMG_9027 IMG_9034 IMG_9014 (2) IMG_9015 (2) IMG_9040 IMG_9045 (2) IMG_9051 (2) IMG_9049 (2) IMG_9043 (2) IMG_9059 (2) IMG_9352 IMG_9363 IMG_9456The parsonage is on top of a hill on the outskirts of the village, with only moors and I presume some farms behind, and a cemetery, complete with the church where the Bronte family are buried, in front. The day I was there was so incredibly foggy and dark that it was difficult to see much beyond the stone walls that surround the house, but it felt like just the lonely place I had imagined — and that I’m sure inspired many of the well-known homes in the Bronte novels. IMG_9084 (2) IMG_9150 (2) IMG_9140 (2) IMG_9131 (2) IMG_9118 (3) IMG_9126 (2)IMG_9288The reason I was so fascinated by the Brontes, and so eager to visit their home (where the majority of their short lives were spent apart from brief periods abroad, but more importantly where they learned to write and composed some of what I believe are the most beautifully-written books) was because I think anyone that can write the way they did about human nature after rather uneventful lives with relatively little social interaction, not to mention their ages at the time of writing such books, must be incredibly intelligent with an almost supernatural understanding of the world. IMG_9128 (2) IMG_9154 IMG_9178 (2) IMG_9098 IMG_9185 (2) IMG_9213 IMG_9386 IMG_9334 IMG_9340 IMG_9412Perhaps I visited on the one day a year the weather is so poor, but in my experience the village, the parsonage and the moors in particular are just as mystical and gloomy as the most miserable places the Brontes wrote about, and in the end it was a day that fulfilled all of my Haworth hopes. I cannot say I wasn’t happy to return to the bright lights of London though!IMG_9446

Northey Street Market

If you love organic food, you’ll love this market. Sprawled underneath fig trees on Northey Street in Windsor, this market is home to fruit and vegetables galore; locally-made honey (nothing beats Aussie honey); nuts, grains and oils; cheeses; fresh juice; and plenty of inventive breakfast options. It’s popular but when I was there was far from overcrowded; just happy people doing their weekly shopping, enjoying the buskers and savouring laidback meals.

Like with any organic food, prices are higher than your run-of-the-mill supermarket, but you get what you pay for. And if, like me, you were horrified by this recent experiment where a Swedish family switched to organic for a week with rather noticeable results, you might agree the extra dollars are worth it. IMG_7116 IMG_7118  IMG_7124IMG_7128 IMG_7129IMG_7134 IMG_7136 IMG_7143 IMG_7146 IMG_7147IMG_7154 IMG_7155 IMG_7159 IMG_7161 IMG_7170 IMG_7171 IMG_7173 IMG_7175 IMG_7186 IMG_7192 IMG_7193 IMG_7194 IMG_7199 IMG_7202IMG_7210 IMG_7213 IMG_7214 IMG_7216 IMG_7218  IMG_7242 IMG_7244 IMG_7245 IMG_7246 IMG_7253 IMG_7250 IMG_7258 IMG_7259

A day at Elephants World

Elephants have always been my favourite. When I was little I knew every line from Dumbo and used to embarrass my parents by walking around in public pretending to be an elephant, with my arm extended in front of my face in an effort to look like a trunk, occasionally emitting ‘elephant noises’ I’m sure were completely inaccurate impressions. So when I was planning my trip through southeast Asia I knew I had to see some elephants up close.

Prior to my visit to Elephants World I wasn’t aware just how damaging the trekking industry is for the elephants’ health, but I knew that riding one or seeing a show where they were trained to do completely unnatural things was not what I wanted to do. I wanted to go to a place where I could be among them. I came across a list of animal-friendly places to see elephants throughout Asia, which is sadly a very short one. Elephants World was the most practical to fit into my itinerary, so I went ahead and booked. IMG_6109 IMG_6119IMG_6134IMG_6145IMG_6154 IMG_6164 IMG_6199
At Elephants World the focus is on working for the elephants, rather than having the elephants work for the people. It is a sanctuary for retired and rescued elephants, most of whom come with a sad story from their past. The one-day visit includes feeding the elephants, preparing their food, and washing and swimming with the elephants in the river. It’s certainly not an easy day — it was hot and we really did work, but I enjoyed every minute and was happy to know I was genuinely contributing to helping this place fulfil its purpose. IMG_6206 IMG_6217 IMG_6220
Upon arrival we fed the elephants from a big basket of fruit and vegetables. I was a little intimidated at this stage, as I stood in front of this enormous animal which took each piece of fruit from my hands with such strength, but as the day went on I quickly felt quite comfortable walking near them. Every elephant has their own mahout who takes care of and directs them specifically, and they do a great job of monitoring their elephant’s mood and making sure visitors and the elephants are safe.

After the first feeding we watched the elephants go for a swim, then began preparing the sticky rice balls for the older elephants. IMG_6226 IMG_6241 IMG_6243
Some elephants are tied up but it is only temporary — they are new and need to get used to all the other elephants, and the other elephants to them. IMG_6252 IMG_6254 IMG_6257 IMG_6268 IMG_6270
A delicious lunch is included.
After lunch the elephants were delighted to take a dip in the mud pool. IMG_6276 IMG_6294
Then we prepared the elephants’ fruit baskets ahead of their afternoon feeding. This involved putting all the right fruits and vegetables in each basket according to dietary needs, as well as some hardcore scrubbing to ensure everything was clean. IMG_6302 IMG_6310 IMG_6315 IMG_6321 IMG_6324 IMG_6325 IMG_6326 IMG_6329 IMG_6331 IMG_6332 IMG_6334 IMG_6338
After lunch we finished preparing the sticky rice balls, then fed them to the two older elephants. We were joined by a cheeky elephant who wasn’t supposed to eat the rice balls, but kept coming to us and opening its mouth in anticipation of tricking the unknowing visitors. IMG_6341 IMG_6345 IMG_6352
After the rice balls it was time for the highlight of the day — swimming with the elephants. One of the things we learned that day was that elephants can carry up to 500kg on their neck and up to 100kg on their back; this is why the trekking industry, where elephants carry up to four tourists on a heavy seat, is so cruel. So, the elephants can happily swim with one or two people at a time — and they certainly seem to enjoy the playtime.

At first sitting on this very powerful, large animal was a little intimidating, but apprehension soon turned to laughter as my elephant kept dunking both me and his mahout. He held my legs with his ears — they were unbelievably strong — keeping me quite securely on his neck. It was truly amazing and though the whole day was wonderful, those few moments eclipse all the rest of my memories at Elephants World by far. IMG_6362 IMG_6371 IMG_6378 IMG_6377
A lot of people choose to do more than one day at Elephants World, or stay in Kanchanaburi, the town nearest to Elephants World, overnight. I chose to day trip from Bangkok and found it to be a very easy option. In the morning I took a 6am local bus from the Southern Bus Terminal (Sai Tai Mai), which is oddly enough actually in Bangkok’s west, for 100 baht. It was comfortable and convenient, and I arrived with plenty of time to scout around for a coffee before the Elephants World truck picked me up for the free transfer at 8:30am.

For the return journey to Bangkok I ended up taking a minivan, which stopped at the Victory Monument. That may have been a more convenient final stop but I did regret my decision as the minvan driver was 100% crazy — I really was unsure I was going to make it.

Souq Waqif

Qatar marked a number of firsts for me: my first trip to a Gulf country, my first visit to a souq, and my first dose of vitamin d for 2015. My visit to Doha was for work rather than play, which meant little time for being a tourist, but I did manage a visit to the souq — also a first — one evening.

Exploring a little then people watching as we sat at a cafe was an extremely relaxed way to spend an evening — though our meandering pace was not reflective of how lively and entertaining the souq was. Weathered men pushed wheelbarrows transporting goods through the narrow alleyways, performers on stilts entertained the crowd that filled the various squares dotting the souq, countless birds awaited new owners in rows of stalls, and bright, patterned clothing completely different from any fashion I’d seen actually on people seemed to be the main commodity available for purchase.

It was interesting, beautiful, perfect weather and we had no trouble finding our way through the modest maze of streets. I could easily dedicate several more hours to exploring, observing and tasting the many mouth-watering food options I noted with particular interest for any future visits.IMG_0264 IMG_0271 IMG_0273 (2) IMG_0274 IMG_0275  IMG_0278    IMG_0294 (2) IMG_0298 (2)  IMG_0303 (2)      IMG_0285 IMG_0295  IMG_0282 IMG_0320 IMG_0325 (2)  IMG_0331 (2) IMG_0317 IMG_0338 IMG_0343  IMG_0310 IMG_0351 (2) IMG_0358

Brick Lane Market

Brick Lane Market is one of my favourite weekend activities in London, which does not make me an original person. The market is definitely popular, but it’s also widespread with plenty of space, so it’s not quite as crowded as others and strolling through the network of car-free streets, carparks and non-high street shops is a perfect way to spend a Sunday. You’ll find a huge variety of stuff at Brick Lane: local designers, vintage clothing and costume jewellery stalls, books, bikes, teacups, hessian coffee sacks recycled into bags and cushions, and a lot of food. Street performers and the setting in the narrow east London streets full of street art creates a unique vibe you can’t help but slow down and enjoy. Arrive hungry — deciding what to eat will be the most difficult and enjoyable part of your day. IMG_3834 IMG_3835 IMG_3838 IMG_3843 IMG_3827 IMG_3832 IMG_3840 IMG_3845 IMG_3844 IMG_3849 IMG_3846 IMG_3857 IMG_3853 IMG_3889 IMG_3890 IMG_3861  IMG_3862  IMG_3881  IMG_3900  IMG_3907 IMG_3912 (2) IMG_3917 (2) IMG_3927 (2) IMG_3936 IMG_3937 IMG_3945 IMG_3910 IMG_3956 IMG_3963 IMG_3968 IMG_3970 (2) IMG_3972 (2) IMG_3976 (2) IMG_3977 (2) IMG_3978 (2) IMG_3979 (2) IMG_3982 (2) IMG_3981 (2) IMG_3984 IMG_3986 (2) IMG_3989 (2) IMG_3991 IMG_3993 IMG_3994 IMG_3996 (2) IMG_3997 (2) IMG_4000 IMG_4004 (2) IMG_4009 (2) IMG_4013 (2) IMG_4026 IMG_4028 (2) IMG_4031 IMG_4032 IMG_4034 IMG_4037 IMG_4038

Sunday markets in Aix-en-Provence

Though Google tells me it is technically a city, Aix-en-Provence felt more like a generously-sized town far removed from the lively Marseille where I was based — or anything else for that matter. The fact that I visited on a Sunday probably enhanced the relaxed atmosphere so obvious in every quiet street, but I’m sure it is just as charming any day of the week.

I thought I was lucky to visit on a Sunday because the markets taking place were a big part of what made me love the city so much, but while trying to find the name of the markets I visited, I instead found that Aix-en-Provence seems to have a different market any day of the week.

These markets were a mix of locally-made products of every kind — jewellery, paintings, crafts, clothes, plus various fruit, nougat and macaroon stalls. The marketeers were happy and laid back; the street was absolutely beautiful, thanks to the buildings, trees and various alleyways offshooting it; and it was sunny and hot. I had no map but as far as I can work out from studying one now, this particular market takes place along Cours Mirabeau in the old town. IMG_1835 - Copy IMG_1852 - Copy IMG_1862 - CopyIMG_1871 IMG_1873 IMG_1874IMG_1880IMG_1881 IMG_1903 IMG_1904IMG_1907 IMG_1908  IMG_1912IMG_1926IMG_1913IMG_1922 IMG_1928 IMG_1930 IMG_1939IMG_2237IMG_2239 IMG_1941 IMG_1946 IMG_1958

A weekend in London

Everyone loves the weekend, but weekends in London are especially amazing. There are always events of all shapes and sizes happening, a market I have yet to explore, a brunch spot to try and, my all-time favourite, many parks in which to laze or stroll about. ‘Doing nothing’ days are also great — just sleeping in and going to a coffee shop with my book is pure bliss. This past weekend my camera tagged along on my adventures and we had a great time.

On Saturday I did some research and planning for my upcoming trips (first up, a little road trip to explore the English countryside, then Serbia to visit a close friend from home and meet her happy little son who was still in her belly when I saw her last), then walked to Regent’s Park for the afternoon.
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On Sunday, I met a friend in Angel to explore the Chapel Street Market and the Camden Passage Market. We then walked along Regent’s Canal in search of a coffee, which we found in the delightfully eccentric yet warm and homey Coffee Boat. As far as I can tell this place is owned and run by the one super-friendly and hospitable guy, who does everything to ensure his customers feel welcome and are happy. It’s a very laid back setting — just perfect for a Sunday of people and boat watching literally on the water.

To finish off the weekend, my boyfriend and I spent a good couple of hours doing hand stands in the park. I have no photos of that sadly, but I do have sore shoulders — worth it!
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Lately in London…

I’ve snapped street art.
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I’ve gotten to know Regent’s Park.
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I’ve been watched by a robot.
I’ve started a discover-new-brunch-spots every week quest.

1. Dishoom — a Bombay-style cafe that serves delicious breakfast/brunch and Chai tea to die for.
2. The Modern Pantry — my favourite Earl Grey tea in London and an inventive, changing menu (pictured: a prawn omelette with coriander and other Asian-inspired deliciousness).
I’ve had the pleasure of drinking a lot of great coffee at charming (mostly) independent cafes.

1. Tinderbox inside Paperchase on Tottenham Court Road, where they serve enormous lattes.
2. Freestate, which also has delicious sandwiches and offers prime people watching.
3. The brand new Petita at The New Brunswick.
4. Store Street Espresso — a vibrant little world of its own on one of London’s cutest streets.
I found myself randomly walking past some Warner Brothers offices, complete with these awesome Harry Potter house emblems.
I’ve walked to Primrose Hill.
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We’ve had some rain.
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But we’ve also had some sunshine.
I’ve explored the neighbourhood.
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I’ve found a Tube ad I actually like.
I visited the Columbia Road Flower Market. I love my chili plant — only £2!
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I’ve eaten noodles in Chinatown.
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I stumbled across this gorgeous memorial garden — a tribute to St John’s Ambulance members killed during the World Wars.
My credit card and I became more thoroughly acquainted with Carnaby and Soho.
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And leaves have started to change and fall.
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