27 November 2012

Liebster Blog Awards - With a Little Twist

I was kindly nominated for one of these awards by Danielle who writes the blog, Living in Sin.  I was delighted to be nominated again having been previously nominated by Bookjunkie.  I also kind of feel though like I shouldn't be taking part as I've already done it before.  On top of this I am meant to nominate eleven other blogs and because, as usual, I'm behind on blogging most of those I follow religiously have already been nominated by others. 

However this time it is a little different from before.  This time you have to post eleven random facts about yourself and then answer eleven questions posed by the person who nominated you.  So I thought it would still be fun to give you some facts and answer the questions posed to me even if I couldn't nominate anyone else.  However if anyone reading this writes a blog and hasn't been nominated or just wants to share their random facts and responses with me please feel free to do so in the comments.

So here are the official rules: 

  • When you receive the award, post 11 random facts about yourself and answer 11 questions from the person who nominated you.
  • Pass the award onto 11 other blogs (make sure you tell them you nominated them!) and ask them 11 questions.  Sorry I failed on this point!
  • You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated you!
  • Make sure the blogs you chose have 200 or LESS followers 

Eleven random facts about me
  1. I am a campanologist (at least when I'm in the UK).  For those who don't know what that is, it means I ring church bells.  My Grandfather did and my Dad too and when I was about eleven I decided it might be fun to try as well.  When I was younger I would go to weekly practices, ring for services, take part in competitions and ring for weddings.  My Dad still does it and if I time a trip back to the UK right and there is a wedding I'll always get roped in to help out.
  2. I was in my early 20s before I took my first flight on an aeroplane, which given how many Asia to Europe and vice versa flights (and other flights) I do now seems mad.  My first flight was to Rome with one of my best friends on our first girly holiday on our own and I loved the experience.  Actually other than my husband she is probably the person I've flown most with (we took a lot of holidays) and I've still never taken a flight with my parents.
  3. I'm a bit of a London tube geek on the quiet (though it's not so secret now).  Anyone who follows me on Twitter may have rumbled me as I will share random tube trivia at times.  I'm most fascinated with the disused stations on the network, many of which were bricked up when taken out of use and were left exactly as they were, for example, they still have the posters/adverts on the walls from that time period.  I think it's this history and the stories that those walls could tell if they could speak that interests me.  My friend brought me a book specifically about all the disused stations and their history which frankly I thought was a fabulous present.  Even better when I lived in London one of my possible routes home took me past a bricked up station.  I'd read that if you peered out the window of the carriage you could detect a subtle change in the brick work which I can confirm is true and many a journey you'd find me glued to the window waiting for my bricked up station to go whizzing past!
  4. I worked in a Chinese takeaway whilst I was studying for my A-Levels.  This was an amazing job and I thoroughly enjoyed the two or so years I worked there.  I got paid weekly cash in hand which at that time was perfect as my expenses only consisted of new clothes, CDs and nights out.  I also got free food (of my choice) each night.  Whilst it's very different to Chinese food here it gave me the opportunity to try things I would probably have shied away from.  I also benefited if they cooked too much of something or made an error in the orders.  They were very generous to me too, my boss liked to bet on horses and if he had a good win would often share some of the winnings with me!  They also took an extended holiday to Hong Kong whilst I worked for them, as that's where their family came from, and brought back a souvenir for me, which I still treasure.  Hong Kong seemed so far away and exotic to me then and somewhere I was never likely to visit.  Little could I have imagined then that I'd be living in Singapore someday and have had the chance to visit that far off, exotic place myself.
  5. I (sort of) made the news in our local newspaper when I was a few days old.  My Dad owned a butchers shop at the time and of course everyone knew he was about to become a father and wanted to know what my parents had had etc.  As my Dad owned his shop and had a huge glass window he came up with the idea of announcing my birth on the window for everyone passing to see.  So plastered on the window were the words, 'Nude Flash!  It's a girl, 6lb 14oz'.  Of course this attracted the local press and apparently the next day my Dad was woken up very early by a reporter asking if he could do a piece and take a photo.  In one of my parents photo albums is, of course, a copy of the article that appeared in the paper alongside a photo of my very young looking Dad, thumbs aloft by the window as well as the original photo.  I didn't actually feature myself as my Mum had had to have a Cesarean and both her and I were still in hospital, but even now random people I meet back home will tell me that they remember seeing the sign in the window when I was born.
  6. I briefly steered a cross channel ferry.  In the days when children could do things like go into the cockpit of a plane etc. my Dad managed to get me and him up on to the bridge of a cross channel ferry to France and the ship's Captain let me have a go.  To be fair it was probably on some kind of auto control and it was only minutes but as a young child that was pretty exciting!
  7. I used to ride horses when I was younger and part of me would love to do it again.
  8. I have never had my hair cut in Singapore.  I've lived here over two years but always hold out until my next trip back to the UK where I can go to my trusted hairdresser.  I guess that's the beauty of having long hair!  The only downside is new people asking me for tips on good places to go to get their hair cut and having to admit that I have absolutely no idea.
  9. I have never used our condo swimming pool.  I'm not a massive swimmer or fan of messing around in pools, yes even in this heat.  I'm happy to sit by the pool with a drink and a good book, at most dangling my feet in, but that's it.  I can't even remember the last time I went in a swimming pool but I think it may have been when I went to Gibraltar for a friend's wedding and I was perhaps 24 or 25 then.  I don't even own anything to wear in a pool so even if the urge came over me I'd have to first go and buy something suitable.  I've thought many times I should at least buy some swimwear but I suspect it would never get used even if I did.  Pool/beach holidays of more than a long weekend are not for me though having the opportunity to read is appreciated.  For me it has to be broken up with some sight seeing to keep me entertained too.
  10. I'm left-handed, something that regularly seems to fascinate people.  So much so that whilst I'm writing they'll suddenly announce 'ooh you are left-handed'.  I know it's not as common as being right-handed but it still amuses me that people find it so weird they feel compelled to comment.  Do any other lefties get that??
  11. I'm fascinated by the paranormal and completely believe in ghosts.  I've always been interested and I think it stems from the fact that my Dad's shop which my parents live over is haunted by two ghosts.  I fully accept that many don't believe or have doubts and want proof but for me they definitely do exist.
The eleven questions I received to answer

1) What is your favourite thing about the place where you live?

The ease of getting around and convenience of getting home after a night out.  It's so nice not to always have to be clock watching to make sure I don't miss the last train home, (my previous life as a commuter living out of London meant work nights out always revolved around the last train) and knowing when I got the train the ride would still take me over an hour as well as then getting from the train station to my home.

2) If you could be an animal, what would it be and why?

I've always thought I'd be a cat (provided I had a good home).  I adore cats and just imagine it being an incredibly relaxed life.

3) If you could only eat one type of food for the rest of your life (ie. a cuisine like Thai or Italian), what would it be?

A tough one but I think I'd have to say Italian, just because on every visit I've made to Italy I don't think I've ever had a disappointing meal and even the most basic of dishes has been amazing.  I'd possibly have to move to Italy if I was going to eat nothing else, but I think I could cope with that!

4) What is your one place you love so much you actually wouldn't want to share it with people?

I adored Prague when I visited but I guess that isn't a hugely secret place.  I also love sitting on our condo balcony on a Sunday with my husband enjoying a cup of coffee.  Again, though, there is at least one other person who knows about that place!

5) What is your favourite song and why?

I have well over 2000 and growing (nearly 3000) songs on my fruit music playing product so this is a tough one to answer.  I listen to pretty much all and every type of music as my eclectic tastes will verify.  My favourite songs do vary and there are many but I guess one consistent favourite for many years has been Vincent by Don McLean (the same guy who sang American Pie).  Vincent is about Vincent van Gogh and in my opinion is absolutely beautiful and can bring tears to my eyes.  

6) Do you have any odd fears? (e.g. mine is those statue people, the ones with the metallic painted faces)

I hate spiders but that isn't really that odd I guess.  I'm not a fan of clowns either, or deep water (see my swimming confession above) but again not that weird.  I don't think I have any really odd fears if I'm honest.

7) What is your favourite thing you own?

Two beautiful vases that I got from my Grandma's house after she had to be moved into a nursing home and her house was sold.  I'd be heartbroken if they got broken.  I think I'd also have to include all my books just for the pleasure they give me and also our kitten, George.  He has made our condo a proper home since he arrived.

8) Tell me your best joke

What's Bob Marley's favourite type of doughnut?

With jam in (you need to say it out loud and think of his song, Jammin')

9) Cats or dogs? Or something else?

Cats without a doubt but I like dogs too and actually all animals.

10) What small seemingly insignificant thing makes you happy?

Hearing bird song and Sunday mornings when neither me or my husband have to get up for work.

11) What is the one "old fashioned" thing you would like to make a come back?

It has to be manners, bad manners really really annoy me!

OK so I guess I copped out a little by not nominating anyone but I hope you'll forgive me and enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed thinking of random facts about me and answering the questions posed.

18 November 2012


My final Spanish post is about our day trip to Tarifa, a town on the southernmost coast of Spain.  From here you can, on a clear day, see the mountains of Morocco (see the photos below) and they are so close that it feels as if you could almost reach out and touch them.  You can get ferries to Morocco from Tarifa and on a previous stay in this part of Spain we did do a day trip to Morocco (though not from Tarifa) visiting Tangier and Tetouan.  We were lucky to visit Tarifa on a reasonably clear day (and very hot one) and were able to enjoy the views towards Morocco.

Tarifa got its name following an attack on the area by Tarif ibn Malik, a Berber military commander in 710.  After the Islamic conquest of much of Southern Spain the town was subsequently fortified in the 10th Century.  One of the main and most imposing features of the town is the Castillo Guzman el Bueno (the castle of Guzman the Good) which is more than eight hundred years old.  Alonzo Perez de Guzman got the name 'the good' when he refused to hand over the castle in 1296 to Don Juan and the Moors in exchange for the life of his son.

We spent the morning of our visit exploring the castle which is in very good condition and has information plaques to read as you wander round, making it a lot more interesting to explore.  From the top of the castle you get great views across the town and across the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco.  Although the castle is well preserved it is not a castle with room after room of beautiful furniture and paintings.  Rather there is more of a military feel with catapults, cannons and castle fortifications to walk around.  Great fun for my two Stepsons!

Castillo Guzman el Bueno
Cannon on top of the castle walls

After our visit to the castle (well worth it by the way) we went for a wander around the town.  There are lots of restaurants and coffee shops.  We stopped in one close to the harbour when we first arrived for a reviving drink.  As well as a lovely old town and the old town fortifications to walk around.  Tarifa has the type of old town with narrow streets, more of those beautiful tiled signs I fell in love with and plenty of whitewashed buildings.  Whilst wandering around this part of the town we stopped for another drink before finding a delightful Italian restaurant (yes I know we were in Spain) down a tiny side street for lunch.

Tarifa was well worth the journey, being on the tip of Spain it was a reasonable car drive from our base.  Before I visited I wasn't too sure that I'd particularly enjoy it, but the castle was great for climbing and  exploring, definitely a good place to go with children.  The town is also pleasant to stroll around with plenty of eating options for all palates, I'd be happy to return again if I had the chance.

Another of those beautiful tiled signs
Confirming that it is Africa you can see in the distance (and what you are looking at).
Another cannon!
View from the old town fortifications, the mountains in the distance are Morocco
View towards Morocco

14 November 2012

Curry Brunch at the Tiffin Room, Raffles Hotel

We had only our third set of visitors come over to stay not so long ago, my in-laws.  Of course whilst they were here we spent some time taking them to some of the main tourist sites and enjoying some fabulous food at great restaurants.  Most of what we did we've done before (not that we minded an excuse to do them all again) but one thing that was a first was the curry brunch at the Tiffin Room in Raffles Hotel.

Raffles Hotel was one of those things I knew about Singapore before we moved here and is a must do on most visitors list.  Whilst the Long Bar is nice (though a real tourist trap) there are other bars there which are less busy and therefore far more pleasant as an occasional treat.  I was, however, expecting the brunch to be very busy, but there were only a handful of diners when we went which made it a far more intimate and enjoyable lunchtime.

We were a little early and so briefly sat outside in the hotel reception watching the comings and goings of the hotel and listening to the Grandfather clock striking the hour before we ventured in just after twelve noon.  As you'd expect the staff were incredibly attentive and continued to be throughout our meal.  I was actually getting over a nasty cold at the time which had resulted in a chesty cough.  I had a coughing fit in the restaurant and no sooner had I stopped then one of the staff appeared with some hot water with honey and lemon to soothe my chest.  I was really touched by how lovely a gesture that was.

The Tiffin Room

Tiffin means lunch or a light meal.  The Tiffin room at Raffles hotel has only been known as such since 1976 but the hotel website says they've been serving tiffin curry since 1899.  Naturally you do feel like you are stepping back in time a little whenever you visit this hotel but I guess that is all part of the charm of the place.  The Tiffin room maintains this feel as well, reminding me in part of an old fashioned traditional tea room.

The food, of course, is Indian (North Indian to be precise) and features both meat and vegetarian dishes and curries.  It was incredibly good, though if I'm honest I was expecting a few more dish choices than there were, especially given where we were.  That's not to say I struggled to find food to eat and was not full by the time we finished eating.  It's definitely not something you'd do every weekend but as a treat with visitors it was a very pleasant way to spend a Sunday lunchtime and afternoon.


09 November 2012

Expat Blog Awards 2012 - I've Been Nominated!

I received some exciting news in my inbox this morning, that I'd been nominated for the Expat Blog Awards 2012!  I'm up against some fierce competition, some amazing talent and fabulous blogs, but to even be nominated is a real honour for me.

Of course I'd love to win too and you can help me (if you want to) by clicking here and leaving a kind comment about my blog.

You can view all the other amazing Singapore blogs that have been nominated here.  

The judging panel will make their decision on the 15 December 2012, so please spare a moment to leave a comment for me - thank you!

Amendment - I've since found out that the Expat Blog Awards 2012 will be decided throughout December and they'll be publishing the results for several countries daily, beginning on the 4 December 2012.   So please do comment on my blog's link if you would like too.  Thank you! 

02 November 2012

Selwo Aventura

Whilst we were in Spain we visited a wild animal park, Selwo Aventura, which being in Estepona was just a short drive from our base for our holiday.  My husband had taken my stepsons to the park on a stay in Spain a couple of years ago but this was my first visit.

I wasn't sure what it was going to be like, for some reason I imagined it to be very basic and limited, but it was a lot larger than I had expected and there was a much bigger variety of animals there too.  With it being a lot larger than I anticipated, another blisteringly hot day and shelter limited in places, I was pleased to find that the park offered open truck rides around the animals.  I'd definitely recommend doing that as there are some steep climbs to parts of the park and the truck allows you to view the animals without having to walk the whole way around the park.  Though you can do that too if you want to.

As you can tell from the photos below there are all the usual animals you'd expect to see.  As well as monkeys, lemurs, hyenas, cheetahs, rhinos, hippos, lions, tigers, various types of birds and lots lots more.

The park also gives you great views of the surrounding mountains and Spanish countryside.  I'm not sure I've ever had such a great view from any other animal park I've visited.

Apart from the views it really is like many other wildlife parks in the UK and elsewhere with a good selection of animals and birds to see.  There is plenty to keep you entertained for a full day's visit.  The only downsides were that we couldn't take any food or drink in to the park so had to buy what was available inside.  In the height of Spanish summer not being able to even take water in seemed a little harsh and if you are a family group could potentially make for an expensive day.  In addition you also have to pay for parking (on top of park entrance fees) which was not cheap.  Maybe there are other nearby cheaper parking alternatives but for visitors who are unfamiliar with the area this on top of entry fees and refreshments means you need to ensure you take plenty of cash with you.  However for an alternate day out from visiting the beach or the picturesque towns in this part of Spain it is worth doing at least once.
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