Thursday, November 15, 2007

Christmas lights already?

I'm one of those people who denies Christmas is coming up until about the 10th December when I realise I have about five seconds to buy a million expensive presents for everyone. It's kind of hard to ignore though when such a fuss is made in London over something so seemingly small as switching on a few Christmas lights. Last week, Oxford Street was crammed for the traditional switching-on ceremony, with the switch-flicking being done by such 'high-calibre' celebrities as Leona Lewis (winner of the UK X-Factor) and Westlife. Admittedly, the lights are beautiful, even if every year they are centred around a tacky Disney movie theme (this year it is something called Enchanted I think, at least that's better than Ice Age 2, like it was last year). The lead-up to Christmas is definitely a beautiful time to be in London. Yes, it's dark and yes, it's freezing but there's nothing quite like walking down a frosty Oxford St in your coat and mittens with a million sparkling lights shining down on you. Try to ignore the frantic Christmas shoppers and it really is lovely.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Nerd abroad

I just love London. Last night I dragged Paul along to a book event in Waterstones (read: gigantic multiple storey book shop) so we could meet Patricia Cornwell. Yes, it's somewhat embarrassing that I love these book events, but I have been a fan of her Kay Scarpetta novels for a good ten years. She has just released her 16th Scarpette book so a book tour (and apparently her only book signing in the world for this novel) was held. It was actually a really good night - although we did have to go for drinks afterwards since, unlike the last book event I went to, there was no wine provided at this one. (I know, disgrace, what do they think I paid my 3 quid for?!) Patricia Cornwell was great to see though - she is really down to earth although, somewhat strangely, talks about her characters like they are real people. To the extent of answering questions in the form of 'I'll ask Kay and let you know'. But it was all done with a sense of humour so I don't think she's a real crackpot. I guess the other excuse is that she has been immersed in these characters for a good 20 years, so can be forgiven for beocoming quite attached to them. She also had these two massive security guards, complete with earpieces. Must be the downfall of being a forensic thriller author - I can imagine she attracts a few psychos. Anyways, book events are definitely my tip for cheap, enjoyable nights out in London (if you're into this kind of thing). You only pay £3 and you get that deducted off the price of the book being promoted if you buy it on the night to get signed by the author. Not bad (especially when you get the free wine). Tonight Russell Brand is promoting his new book at Waterstones. but I can't be bothered queuing. I think he might just be a little more popular than PC.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Spanish highlights

One of the best, and most unexpected, delights of our fab trip was a visit to the Arab/Hamman baths in Cordoba. We were walking through the dusty cobblestoned streets when Kimberely spotted this mosaic oasis and suggested we go for a spa and a massage. Not being one to complain about these sorts of things, I raced back to our hostel to grab our cozzies and then returned to a blissful few hours in the most peaceful and relaxing place I have ever been. After a brief flashing incident on my behalf (seems these things always happen to me) we first spent 10 minutes in the warm pool you see in this photo. Then we moved on to steaming hot baths in a darkened room lit by candles (very nice but a little weird if you happened to be sharing the same bath as a hairy spaniard - we tried to avoid him). After the hot water opened the pores you then were supposed to go into the next stage of baths filled with freezing cold water. But since this was pretty unbearable, I mostly skipped these and went back to the warm baths (probably negating all the good things that were supposed to be happening to my skin!). if that wasn't blissful enough, we then had massages. All for a smart 28 euro! Bargain if you're spending pounds, and not too hefty in Aussie dollars either..

Check it out - Hammam Spain

Friday, November 02, 2007

Back from Spain

I've been really slack with posting lately - been too busy with work, life and holidays which is not a bad way to be I suppose! The last two weeks were beautifully spent sunning myself in Spain, a holiday I have been wanting to take for a long time and which was even better since it was spent with a friend from home that I had not seen in ages. I revisited Barcelona (could still go back there a million more times), then flew to Seville, train to Cordoba, bus to Granada and then flying back to Majorca and back to good old Gatwick. Although I will always hold Barcelona in a very special place in my heart (this city just has so much to offer!), I have to say that Andalucia is stunning and definitely worth a visit. The Islamic influence in the religious buildings, history, architecture and even in the shops is so beautiful and interesting, and of course the sun shines hotter in the south!

Some highlights:

  • The largest cathedral in Europe in Seville - this place is gigantic and is home to the tomb of Christopher Colombus and a tower you can climb up for a view over the whole city.
  • The BEST TAPAS IN SPAIN (yes I'm going to go out on a limb and say it). This place we found by recommendation in Cordoba was everything you want from a tapas restaurant - authentic, fresh, extremely reasonable and completely delicious. It's called Meson San Basilio. Definitely the best tapas I have ever had. The tomate con sal (tomatoes with salt) is possibly the most simple, yet most delicious dish ever.
  • L'Alhambra in Granada - a majestic Islamic-inspired palace which sits on the hill overlooking the city. Filled with stunning architecture, dramatic gardens, peaceful courtyards and outstanding views over the city.
  • Our Spanish villa in Granada, Vista Alhambra - rooftop views over the city and directly next to the Alhambra. Completely reasonable for a self-contained apartment and lovely people. Many an afternoon was spent basking on the roof in the beautiful sun.
  • Crazy nights out in Barcelona - if I had any idea the places I was, I would recommend them! Oh, and Arab baths in Cordoba (these deserve their own post - it will come soon)

  • The sumptuous lifestyle in Mallorca - could anyone say no to million-dollar yachts, a stunning poolside (and beachside) villa and the best Japanese restuarant to be found in Spain?
  • There are more, many more, but for now will just put some piccies:
The beautiful Alcazar (palace and gardens) in Seville:
On the Costa Brava:
Once I get my Flickr account sorted out, there will be more... Meanwhile back in London, the clocks have changed and we're settling down for a cosy winter.