Tag Archives: Travel

Picture Perfect Polaroids #5

Hey Guys!

Hope you’re all well and having an excellent weekend. Time for me to share with you another polaroid I’ve taken recently.

This picture was taken in the beautiful city of Bruges, Belgium. There was the last lingering bit of snow on the ground and ice on the water. Bruges is one of my favourite places so to visit again was wonderful. I hope you like it!

Enjoy the last of January! I hope it treats you well. Roll on February, the month of love!

Big love all xx

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A Belgium Weekend Adventure 

Hi all,

Hope you’re all good.  

Can you believe it’s December?! I can’t. I’ve no idea where November went. I feel like I blinked and missed it. (I feel like I say that every month, let’s face it.) But, last weekend I went with a group of friends on the ferry to Belgium. I’ve never been to Bruges before. It’s just so beautiful. A day there was not long enough. The autumnal trees were also rather gorgeous! 


Despite the cloud, it was still so wonderful. I felt peaceful and calm. Sometimes we just need that space and tranquility. 


So, we went exploring, did a lot of shopping, drank some beer, went to the beer museum and mooched about the Christmas market. Bliss!


This was one of my favourite shops. It had so many beautiful Christmas things in. The window above was just stunning. I’d wish to see it again, honestly. Oh and the chocolate! Mmmm. 


This has to be one of the best weekends ever. I loved it. I will be going back. Bruges, you stole my heart. 


I hope you’ve enjoyed my photos and my little weekend adventure. I sure did! Christmas is on it’s way guys, lets do this!! 

Big love xx

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The Penguin Lessons – Tom Michell

  
Hey everyone! 

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and engrossed yourselves with numerous festivities. 

Today, I’m going to review The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell. I really enjoyed this book. The first person narration made it easy for me to feel like I was a part of this book and if I’m perfectly honest, I wanted to be a part of it. It left me wanting a little penguin of my own! 

Set in Argentina during the 1970s, the narrator explores the issues of this period: the collapse of the Peronist government and living with high inflation as well as his own adventures: hiking in the high Andes, wandering in the snowy, pine-covered wilderness of Tierra del Fuego. The core of this novel: the Magellanic penguin he rescued and befriended. 

‘It was a time when liberties, opportunities and attitudes were so completely different from those of today.’

At the start of the novel, in 1975, Michell was a 23 year old Englishman living in Quilmes, Buenos Aires. He has been offered and thus accepted a post as assistant manager at a prestigious boarding school. He had gone with the intention of exploring and meeting different people. His free time usually came at weekends and this is when he did his exploring. 

On one of his free weekends, he decided to visit Uruguay. It was here where he stumbled upon the penguin, well a vast number of penguins, to be precise. At first he did not  identify them as penguins due to the state they were in. They were lifeless, black, unmoving shapes, which were littering the beach as far as his eyes could see. Upon investigation, he could see that the penguins were covered in thick, suffocating oil and tar.  I was utterly heartbroken to learn that most of those penguins were dead or dying. Except one. 

‘Each wave that broke piled more birds on top of those already there. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. One valiant bird was alive: a single surviving soul struggling amid all that death.’

In the corner of his eye, Michell saw a tiny movement from one bird that was still alive. He rushed over to see a tar soaked penguin, lying on its belly, holding his head up and slightly shuffling his wings. In utter defiance, as he approached, the penguin struggled to his feet. The penguin glared at Michell. He took it as a view of rage for what has happened to him and his penguin family. Rather aptly, the penguin blamed man. 

Panic, adrenaline and compassion urged Michell to scan the beach to look for anything that would help him with this penguin. He only found a paper bag. He manages to find a paper bag. He gathers the bird, who is still relatively angry and places it in the bag. He has a vague notion as to how to help this bird and heads back to his friends apartment where he was staying. He tried a number things to try and remove the tar: butter, margarine, olive oil, cooking oil, soap, shampoo and detergent. It was a slow but steady process. 

Things weren’t as easy as originally thought. The penguin, still angry and still covered in tar, caused some hurt for Michell as a battle between the two continued. However, perseverance pays off. By the time the penguin resembled a penguin again, both were exhausted. Michell has blood pouring from his fingers. I felt physically tired reading it. But, it made me feel so sad that a penguin would be so worried about a human trying to save him. I guess that could be seen as a good thing! 

‘…moments, from being terrified and hostile, it became a docile and cooperative partner in this clean-up operation. It was as if the bird had suddenly understood that I was trying to rid it of all that disgusting oil rather than commit murder.’

Michell had zero confidence that the penguin would survive the night but, ready and waiting for him, very much alive was the penguin. He was hungry! Thus begins Michell’s relationship with the penguin. He names him Juan Salvador, or as he translates it, John Saved. 

Now the penguin had survived, more difficult questions and decisions were arising. What next? Should he take the penguin to Argentina? What could he do with him? 

Human kindness is demonstrated when Michell smuggles the bird into the country. It took great wit and skill to pull it off, but successful he was. The more time man and bird spent with each other, the stronger the bond between them became. 

Once at home in St. George’s College, a new world was waiting for them both. Juan relished in it. They met with new visitors, socialised with people, consoling the housekeeper, cheering on the sports team were the tip of the ice berg. He’s adorable. The description of his looks and engagement with humans is just beautiful. I fell in love. 

‘That was the first of so many times when I observed how completely at ease he was with humans.’

The students in the school too adored him. They shared responsibilities of feeding and looking after him. The dorm housekeeper turned Juan Salvador into a trusted friend and confidant. She shares all her problems and worries to him. Even the rugby team adopt him as their team mascot. This little creature brought out the best in all he met. With his natural swimming talent, he bought out a shy, lonely boys swimming ability. Another love struck teenager asks Juan for advice: Should he ask his crush out? His stares, his non verbal reactions, provided the answers that people needed. 

‘That was one of those extraordinary seminal moments that makes teaching so worthwhile. There had been a rebirth, a new beginning. The ugly duckling had become a swan and the most astonishing part was that the boy had not yet perceived that his life was on the cusp of a radical change.’

Michell certainly fulfilled his urge for exploration and the exotic. He found above and beyond this. Rescuing this bird helped him make a home for himself, helped him to bridge the gap between the old and the new in terms of his employment. He helped Michell make new friends and take risks. He also provided him with added experiences and adventures. 

Thus, the death of this little penguin, whilst on his travels, is the most difficult and uncomfortable aspect of the story. He’s offered no time to prepare or to even say goodbye. But, as the novel closes we clearly see how much this little penguin, this slight interruption to his life meant to him. 

‘Juan Salvador was a penguin who charmed and delighted everyone who knew him in those dark and dangerous days.’ 

A charming little book, with a heart warming plot and a historical setting makes this book a great read for just about anybody. The little sketches of Juan throughout are utterly adorable and break up the narrative nicely. Be warned: you will want a penguin after this! You’ll fall in love, hopelessly. 

Big love x

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The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George

  
This was one of the books I received for my birthday, and I wanted to get started with it right away. The cover and title incorporates two of my great loves: Paris and books. I know we shouldn’t judge books by their covers, but I always do, and this cover doesn’t disappoint. It has a timeless and vintage feel about it, and of course looks very beautiful. 

Originally written and published in German in 2013, we are lucky enough now to have a translated version, by Simon Pare, published this summer. However, it doesn’t read like a translated book. In fact the translation needs to be praised. It reads beautifully, like a song. The prose is delicate yet incredibly moving. There are also some incredibly humorous parts in the novel. The description of the Seine brought all my own memories from my trip back, showing how realistic the description is. 

The novel centres on Monsieru Perdu. French translation = Mr Lost. This sums up the majority of the novel and Perdu himself. He is completely lost and in search of the resolution he desperately needs. 

However, in terms of his work, he is more than a book seller. He calls himself the literary apothecary. 

“There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies—I mean books—that were written for one person only…A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that’s how I sell books.”

His floating bookstore in a barge on the river Seine is where he describes books for the problems of daily life. He has a talent, and after speaking to visitors to his boat, Perdu mends the broken hearts and souls of his guests by prescribing books. He is pictured as refusing to sell a certain book to a lady, because she isn’t ready for it. This is when he meets Max Jordan, the famous writer of one novel, who has become blocked and seeks relief from his swarm of followers. 

“That customer didn’t need Night right now. She couldn’t have coped with it. The side effects are too severe.”

The twist in the tale, so to speak, is that Perdu is unable to heal himself through literature. His life is marred and haunted almost by his great love, Manon, who disappeared, only leaving in with a letter, that he has refused to open for 21 years. It lies hidden, within his very sparse flat. The description of his own living space actually made me feel incredibly sad. There is virtually nothing there. The characters who show the most life at this stage are his two cats, Kafka and Lindren. 

Catherine arrives on the scene, damaged herself from a relationship that went wrong. After meeting Catherine, who finds his letter, he is persuaded into opening it. He cannot believe what he has read, so he hauls anchor and leaves with Max, on a mission to the south of France. He has hopes of making peace with his loss, to find himself and who he really is, and to heal himself in order to discover the end of his own story. Max too, has high hopes of gathering material for his next novel. 

Whilst on their travels in the boat, they come across a number of interesting people and places. The description is just divine. I felt like I was on this journey with them. They have dealings with the police, spend some time with Anke, Ida and Corinna, meet some Brits when the boat ended up across the river and the wrong way round. Having little money, Perdu traded books for essentials that they needed. It seems to me, quite a delightful way of doing business. 

“Ahoy, you book paramedics. Doing some crazy cruising there!”

One of the most interesting characters they meet for me is Cuneo. He becomes the chef of the group. He creates the most stunning dishes that got my own mouth watering through the description. A lovely little touch at the end of the novel, is a selection of the recipes provided for us to recreate the magic at home. This really is a nice touch, and again for me, another love (baking/cooking). 

Their journey calmly continues, but is abruptly brought to shock as the men witness a woman swirling about in a raging storm in the sea. They haul her in and we learn she is called Samantha, she actively fell in on purpose and wanted to feel alive. For me, she is presented as being the female version of Perdu. Their interaction is significant within the novel – but I won’t reveal too much here! 

“I wanted to know what it felt like to jump into the river in this weather. The river looked so interesting, like soup gone wild. I wanted to know if I’d feel afraid in that soup or if my fear would tell me something important.”

A short while after Perdu decides he needs to find himself on his own. Max meets a girl, falls in love and eventually finds inspiration for writing in a new form. For Perdu he needs to follow his journey to find peace within himself. One thing he does realise is that he needs Catherine in his life, and thankfully she feels the same. 

“I don’t know if it’ll work out or if we can avoid hurting each other. Probably not, because we’re human. However, what I do know now, now that this moment I have craved has arrived, is that it’s easier to fall asleep with you in my life. And to wake up. And to love.”

The end of the journey circles back to his original love, Manon and her husband. They meet, and without revealing too much of the story, Perdu is healed and able to move onto a new relationship. Max has published a new story that is doing well and the novel ends tied up in a neat little bow, dusted with happiness.  

Whilst Perdu is essentially telling this story, there are also two other strands of narration via letters. There are the letters of Perdu and Catherine. As well as this, there is also the diary style of Manon. I appreciated that her chapters has titles and a different font. She is an interesting character and appears to show no mercy. However she acts for others, but this is not revealed until near the  close of the novel. 

“I came because you went.”

I really enjoyed this novel. It’s had to place it in a particular genre. There’s food, travel, healing, love, death, hurt and of course books. Some famous writers are also dropped within the narrative e.g. Orwell and Wilde. My only criticism is that there were a lot of characters, whom I really liked, but they were only fleeting. I wanted more time with them, but then the book would have been criticised for being incredibly long! The relationship between Max and Perdu I did like, they become close like father and son which is incredibly touching. 

As well as the recipes at the end, there is also ‘Jean Perdu’s Emergency Literary Pharmacy from Adams to Von Arnim’. Here there is a list of books, what they treat and a list of possible side effects. Again, I saw this as a lovely touch and another reason to make this novel stand out from the crowd. 

My only wish, and curiosity almost, is that I could visit and be recommended a book from the magic healer. Maybe in my dreams, or imagination? 

BL xx

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The Hundred-Foot Journey – Richard C Morais

 

This is a delightful little book, consisting of 200 and something pages. It was a quick read with beautiful description. It’s a fast paced novel, with 5 years whizzing by in a paragraph. If I’m honest, there are pros and cons to that. For me I’m not sure that passing through time that quickly is as effective as it could have been. Did nothing of any importance and relevance happen in those five years? However, it spans a number of years and a few thousand miles from India to France. Overall, I really enjoyed it and for me it was a great summer read.

The novel focuses on Hassan Haji. He is born in West Bombay, the city which is now known as Mumbai. There is repeated vivid description of food and the country. It really brought the dishes and places to life. I felt as if I was there, with the food trickling down my throat. The novel begins with description of the smells of his childhood from his grandfathers restaurant downstairs.  We learn a lot about his family and their passion for food. “I suspect my destiny was written from the very start, for my first sensation of life was the smell of machli ka salan, a spicy fish curry, rising through the floorboards to the cot in my parent’s room above the restaurant.”

His grandfather lives a poor life in Bombay. He sleeps on the streets and delivers lunch boxes to the workers around him. Business starts to make a profit as he cooks for the American and English soldiers based in the city. This becomes a success, so he buys property and opens an official restaurant.

Hassan’s father takes over the business, realising that he too is deeply ambitious and business minded. He moves the location of the restaurant uptown to be closer to the hustle and bustle of every day life in wealthy Mumbai. However, despite the restaurant doing well, his father’s actions cause tension between the classes. Eventually the lower class riots, breaks into the restaurant, destroys it and kills Hassan’s mother. The effects of this death are written with great feeling. There are some lovely, tender moments between Hassan and his mother within the novel.

It is obvious that they cannot stay in Mumbai. So, Papa sells the property and the family pick up and move to London, where they live with relatives. Papa struggles with what to do now. He takes a trip to Harrods, and whilst enjoying the sites, smells and sounds, he is demoralised. The failing of the new business  ultimately comes down to Papa walking in on Hassan kissing his cousin. This leads to a family argument and Papa decides to pack up and travel across Europe, sampling the foods and searching for a new home.

The family settle in a tiny French town in the Alps called Lumière. The car breaks down outside an exceptionally sized property – as fate would have it! They decided to buy the property. The family decide that this will also be the place for their new restaurant. Across the road is an inn called Le Saule Pleureur. “Our Period of Mourning was officially over. It was time for the Haji family to get on with life, to start a new chapter, to finally put behind us our lost years.”

Nevertheless, more issues follow the family. They meet high-and-mighty Madame Gertrude Mallory, who owns the inn across the street. She is incredibly strong minded and traditional. She disagrees, and is disgusted at the invasion from the east that disrupts her elegant fine dining vibe across the street. The competition brings out the worse in Papa and Madame Mallory. They each try to sabotage the others business. Ultimately this has disastrous consequences as Hassan gets pushed into a stove by accident.

For me, the only time we see any compassionate feeling comes from when she tries Hassan’s food, but this is because she’s thinking of herself. After the accident Mallory decides that because of his talent and her guilt, she offers to teach Hassan to become a chef. Papa grudgingly agrees and Hassan moves across the street to Le Saule Pleureur.

For the next few years, Hassan spends his time as Mallory’s apprentice, learning everything he needs to know about a French kitchen. It was quite a nice touch that Hassan is shown to have a loving relationship with the very genuine sous chef Margaret Bonnier. Again I quite like how this part of the plot is developed, with a lovely link back to his mother. “She was like Mother. Didn’t say a lot, but when she did, my heavens, it would hit you harder than any of Papa’s tirades.”

The time comes for Hassan to take a step into the culinary world as an individual. He accepts a job working in a kitchen in Paris, leaving his lover and family behind.

Over time, Hassan climbs the French restaurant ladder with ease and he always suspects that this is down to Mallory’s help and teaching. She is adamant in her denial of this. Shortly after, he decides to open his own restaurant, Le Chien Méchant. He earns his first restaurant star and life beings to accelerate again.

His success means that Hassan is moving in circles with legendary people in the culinary world. He meets legendary restaurant and food mogul, Paul Verdun, who hears about Hassan and his food. They have the same methodology, classical old world cooking methods. There is a clever link to modern methods which are showing as arguably threatening and undervaluing tradition. “Paul really had affection only for you, Hassan. He once told me that you and he were ‘made from the same ingredients.'”

Again, there is a realistic portrayal of life as Hassan has to cope with the death of his Papa, Mallory and Paul Verdun. Hassan struggles to keep his life going and this is reflected in the emotive language used. For me, this was very poignant.

Change comes and Hassan decides that the small and petty details of the world he’s a part of is driving him mad. He gives his restaurant a total makeover and decides to go back to basic cooking to show off the best ingredients.

This makeover earns him his third star, thus enabling him to establish his continued success in the culinary world. Margaret comes back into his life towards the end of the book. There is a real sense of overcoming the trials of life in this novel. I appreciate the fact that Hassan and Margaret aren’t officially together at the end of the novel as this would have given it a fake fairy tale ending. Leaving the end as both being happy is enough to keep me satisfied.

A charming and well written book with some of the best description I’ve read. It does come with a warning, it will make you feel very hungry!

Big love x

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