Friday, 29 August 2014

Top 10 books that have left a lasting impression

I was just asked in a challenge doing the rounds on Facebook to post the 10 books that have made a lasting impression on me in the past. I wasn't to take very long doing it to keep things really spontaneous, and I did stick to this rule although I had to go back and look up the author on more than one occasion.

Since posting my list I have thought of a few more, The Magus by John Fowles, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving and The Wasp Factory by Ian Banks to name just three. So here in no particular order are my top 10 books that have left a lasting impression:

Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd. Dark and brooding and very scary I can't pass by a Nicolas Hawksmoor church without thinking of it.
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth - passionate and takes you to another time and place entirely.
The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake - why this hasn't been made into a film I will never know.
Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain - a truly gripping account of love and war.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - full of surprises and shocks. There are some bad people out there...
The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde - a laugh out loud caper that is just so very clever.
Perfume by Patrick Suskind - the descriptions of fragrances and smells are still evocative.
The Thurber Carnival by James Thurber - a collection of his New York Times stories, very imaginative and a little bizarre.
The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window by Jonas Jonasson - a brilliant take on the momentous characters and events of the 20th century.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - Vronski was my first love too.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A weekend at the Edinburgh Fringe

So once again the call to go to the Edinburgh Fringe was just too much and we booked a flat near the centre and a train from Kings Cross and within 6 hours found ourselves on the Royal Mile! A first for us was booking via AirBnB. Having heard so much from so many people about how absolutely brilliant it is we decided to take a chance and really weren't disappointed. Not only was the flat we had chosen beautiful (high ceilings, comfy beds, well equipped kitchen) it was within walking distance of the University of Edinburgh and all the major sites. Clean, welcoming and also really good value for Edinburgh in August I would highly recommend a search of Airbnb wherever you decide to go - you don't know what you'll find!

Anyway back to Edinburgh. Last year I wrote loads about what I saw and what it was like - and really it is the same every year. Colder than London, wet at times but also there is always something new to experience just around the corner. And Edinburgh itself is the most fantastic city if you've never been. Gothic at times, beautiful but hard, and yes reminiscent of Hogwart's (well J K Rowling did write her first book in a cafe here) it is a city on so many levels both architecturally and culturally. Wide city streets with roadside cafes are in abundance, but so are underground clubs and dark pubs - all life is here.

Here is a selection of photos from our weekend for everyone to enjoy. Maybe I'll see some of you on the Royal Mile next year?

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Orofluido - hair oil that shines

I have dry and dyed hair. I do get complements on it from strangers not for the quality and shine but because of my 'Cruella DeVille' streak which is helped along by a willing hairdresser. I would love people to say something about shine (how vain am I but my hair has always been my best asset). So I put Orofluido to the test and it really does give you a veil of shine even on dyed white hair. I was really impressed as it doesn't weigh down your hair, or make it oily, it just gives it shine.

So what makes Orofluido so special?

They have gone back over the centuries to our ancestors for their inspiration. The Berber women of Morocco still use Argan Oil, the ancient Egyptians used a treatment based on Cyperus Oil and also Linseed Oil. So there's an awful lot of heritage and wisdom behind the make-up of this new hair product as all three of these natural oils are used. The scent is lovely too - with bergamot, amber, vanilla and patchouli with a bit of cyclamen thrown in. I tested out the Shine Spray but there are there are lots of other products in the range from a hairspray to shampoo and deep mask conditioner. Check them out and let the shine in!

Orofluido Shine Spray, £, 11.90, Feel Unique.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Beautiful and fascinating - Zadar in Croatia captured our hearts

Everyone talks about Dubrovnik (as I will be doing in another blog post) but there are so many other places of equal beauty in Croatia and for some reason Zadar, I don't feel, is really given enough of a push by the Croatian Tourist Office, which is a real shame and people are missing out!

It has had a chequered history due to being a powerbase for the Yugoslav army during the recent war and was bombed. So it is very varied in it's architecture from the hyper-modern to the Roman. The sunsets in the bay have to be as beautiful as you will find on the face of the planet and were Orson Welles' favourite.

We headed down to the seafront for sunset and to experience the music created by the infamous Sea Organ, an artwork played by the sea waves and which fills your ears with random notes a bit like a sea creature for the very deep. After nightfall a second art installation comes to life through solar panels and lights which 'play' random sequences of colour as you walk across it. Or sit, lie, stand - whatever takes your fancy.

So it's a city with a modern heart and an ancient port. The old town actually sits on an 'island' which you get to via a footbridge and walking through the city gates you are instantly transported back to ancient times. Roman's used to sell their wares in the same market space that is used today and their architecture and buildings are everywhere. But unlike other places this is a highly modern city (it was heavily shelled) with modern buildings and a modern outlook. Being so close to Split and cheaply reached by Easyjet I would say this is a brilliant and different location for a long weekend for those wanting something out of the ordinary. I shall definitely be going again!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

News from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust

 The bumblebee is close to my heart and even appears in a tattoo on my shoulder so please take a look at the latest video from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Lots of celebrities (including Ben Fogle, Valentine Warner and Melissa Joan Hart) have joined in to help create the video and to tell us why it's important that we care.

Each celebrity was asked why they feel the bumblebee is so important to society and to add their voices to encourage public support of the need to save this dramatically declining creature.

Two species are now extinct and others have declined due to the removal of flowers (we have a good old-fashioned flower boarder in the garden to encourage all types of insects). Except slugs - just don't understand the point of them. How bee friendly is your garden?

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Next stop Plitvice Lakes and Waterfalls - our Croatia tour

Two nights in Trogir then it was back in the car and hitting the road high up into the mountains and farther north in Croatia to the amazing Plitvice Lakes and Waterfalls. The atmosphere and architecture change quite dramatically - it all becomes very Alpine, even the hotels and lodges on the way are like something from the Tirol. We stayed at the Hotel Degenija which has 4.5 stars on Trip Advisor (thank the Lord for Trip Advisor as we booked the whole holiday independently and online). Again I cannot praise this hotel more highly. Clean, comfortable beds, large airy rooms, marble floors - all perfect and excellent value. But the really star is the Plitvice National Park which has a variety of walks through the most amazing natural valley and mountainside with the most incredible lakes and waterfalls. I shan't go on here as the pictures speak for themselves other than to say that it is all very well organised from the pathways and buses to help you get around a bit to the facilities (restaurants, loos etc). All I can say is GO! If this was New Zealand they'd be making a movie there...

Monday, 4 August 2014

Postcard from Trogir - first stop on our Croatian tour

View of Old Trogir

Sorry I've not blogged in a while but I have had a bit of a break and been away for a glorious 10 days in Croatia. Not glorious in terms of the weather unfortunately (which was subject to storms and flash flooding) but glorious in every other respect. From the history to the landscape and the coastline, Croatia is back on the map as far as visitors are concerned and it is obvious they have decided to make this a place that is firmly on the 'cool' radar.

We flew in to Split airport on Easyjet - a mere 2 hours 15 minutes hop, and as we had time to kill before booking in to our accommodation in Trogir we decided to lunch and sightsee in Split itself. Of course we had a car  and it does make all the difference to your experience as there is just so much on this coastline to explore!

Split is home to Dioclesian's Palace which is still part of the living, breathing fabric of the place. Market traders still trade from inside the palace walls as do hoteliers and restaurants, businesses and banks. It is truly awe-inspiring and well worth a visit. Lunch was served in an internal courtyard and I couldn't resist grilled squid fresh from the sea!

Trogir is just 20 minutes from the airport and is one of the many walled towns you will find dotted along the entire length of the Croatian coastline. Each one has it's own distinct character and this is no exception. It is compact (you can easily get to know it well in just a day or so) yet with enough life to keep you amused. We stayed at the Villa Kampanel which was a 2 minute hop over a bridge to the main gate of the walled town. The perfect location to get away from the tourists at the end of the day there is a warm welcome from the young and enthusiastic team. It is only the second season of operating on a bed and breakfast basis (extra charge for breakfast) but they do seem to have got things right. Comfortable beds, brilliant bathrooms and airy bedrooms - we were very impressed for the £50 it cost us for a double room per night!

Here are some of the photographs from this part of our 10 day Croatian tour!

Split Old Town

Grilled squid with garlic


Split restaurants

Waterfront at Split

Medieval doorway in Trogir Cathedral

View from Trogir Catherdral

Croatian Flag

Seafood supper in Trogir

Trogir around the harbour

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