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Gonna write another travelling song… 6 weeks of London, Edinburgh, Aviemore, Dublin and San Francisco

12 May

london to the highlands.jpg

 6 weeks ago, I moved to London. It seems like no time at all and like forever all at once.

To put it all in perspective (for my own sanity really), here’s the last 42 days in numbers…

  • 400 miles driven to London, with 30 boxes, 2 sideboards, 2 Parker Knoll chairs, 3 suitcases of vintage china.
  • 2 cats transported; number of times they yowled/objected, only 2.
  • 1 flat, left behind, all empty, ready for someone else. 1 flat found, so very different, but falling in love with it anyway.
  • 13,226 miles travelled back to Edinburgh, to Aviemore, to Dublin and, eh, San Francisco. (Yeah, spot the odd one out there.)
  • 55 Underground journeys, 84 Overground journeys, 36 normal trains, 1 boat ride down the Thames and 1 bus journey.
  • 2 weddings attended, 
  • 3 books read on my morning commute, only 1 one of which made me tearful in front of a carriage of people. (Note to self, sad books are not for reading in public.)
  • 28 days without a bed, 42 days without a wardrobe, 41 days without a mirror in the flat, 41 days where I’ve had potentially crazy hair or wonky eyeliner. 
  • 28 days without wifi, spotify, netflix. 42 days without blogging, the longest break I’ve had in 4 years. 
  • 1 day wearing a fake fur coat; 3 days wearing sunglasses and sunscreen; 38 days wearing summer clothes with black tights and winter boots.
  • 1283 photos snapped, 96 of street art, 9 of random neighbourhood cats, 6 of our local fox.
  • 36 hours spent catching up with old friends, 149 hours meeting fantastic new people.
  • Number of times it’s felt odd living in London: 0. 

And for those who prefer pictures to numbers (that’ll be me then), here’s some random snaps of the last 6 weeks.

adventure guide

Adventure Guide…

  neon legs

My neon legs at the Meridian Line…

san fran up and down - convo pieces

 San Francisco… and my shockingly long hair

shard shadow - convo pieces

The shadow of The Shard on a sunny morning…


I read a story about the widow of the actor who was the voice of the ‘Mind The Gap’ announcement… one of those beautiful, bittersweet ‘Up’ style stories that makes you smile and sad at the same time.

dear face – convo pieces

 San Fran street art… and the Google bike (which I fell in love with)

photo 5

InstaMax photos of a epically beautiful wedding

london eye - convo pieces

The London Eye snapped from the middle of the Thames (I was on a boat!)

blossom, blue sky - convo pieces

Blossom and blue skies in San Fran

aviemore - convo pieces

Mountains and blue skies in the Highlands

in love with a lamb - convo pieces

Falling in love with a lamb at the Southbank, London

travelling cats - convo pieces

Two cats leaving Edinburgh…


Snapping street art in San Fran…

tube... conversation pieces blog

Waiting in the Tube…


Bittersweet street art…

courage... conversation pieces blog

Positive advertising…

london sun set - convo pieces

The sun setting on a glorious London day…

new home card - convo pieces

Our first new home card…

P.S. If you’ve been so lovely as to send me a message about meeting for tea/vintage shopping/general hello-ness, I’ll be replying soon!

P.P.S. Extra points if you recognised the title of this blog post was inspired by Bright Eyes’ Another Travelin’ Song. It’s been stuck in my head now for 3 days straight!

P.P.P.S. Photos of me in San Fran by Miss_Glassy.

Adventure is out there… a weekend away from the world (well, from wifi, phone reception and tv)

10 Feb

A weekend away... Conversation Pieces blog

Sometimes you need to get away from it all… to switch off the world for a while, and go exploring.


Two weekends ago, we did just that. We drove off into the middle of nowhere* and went somewhere with no wifi, almost no phone reception and no TV. A very modern adventure indeed!


We showed up in the middle of a mini blizzard and woke up to a fresh blanket of white, crisp stuff.

(Edinburgh had been sorely lacking in snow so to say that I was delighted would be a complete understatement.)

And amazing skies… with wisps of clouds almost painted onto them.


Ok, so ‘nowhere’ is actually a beautiful little wooden bothy in the middle of field, near Dumfries.

But it felt like an expedition into the unknown. (Certainly the first weekend I have been without my mobile phone in maybe forever.)


We woke up to a different world of blue skies and all this untouched snow… and so much silence.

Gorgeous, perfect, beautiful silence. The kind where you can actually hear yourself think.


So there was only one thing to do… make like Shackleton and get trekking.

He wore the exact same wellies, you know.**


So off we went through scenery that we later wrote poems and songs about their epic beauty.**


Then we happened on these strange tracks… who or what could have made these?


And spotted some very unusual creatures, not native to our shores.

(By that, I mean the shores of Leith.)


And then over the hill… we reached the summit.

I think we both just stood stock still and stared.

Silently appreciating this beautiful view…

Well, as silently as you can while taking photos!


After which, we had to perfect our National Geographic cover shots.

For when they come a-calling.


I’m not entirely sure my explorer shot is as convincing… explorers do wear pink pom pom hats right?


And like all good explorers before us, we brought a sledge. A red plastic sledge.

Exactly the same sledge as Scott of the Antarctic had.**


Turns out sledging isn’t quite as easy as we’d remembered it being…


And my ‘landings’ need a lot of work. Yes, tipping yourself off the sledge at the bottom of the hill is not the most graceful of finishes.


After the big success of my sledging, I did an installation piece in the snow…

Turns out falling backwards into snow and waving your arms about is an utterly ridiculous way to spend 5 minutes of your life. Utterly ridiculous and brilliant.


And star jumps… it’s a little known fact that all explorers do this.**

(Yeah, ok, I’m beginning to see why the sheep are terrified of us!)


Then we headed back to base camp…


De-wellied. (That’s a word right?)


Made some tea. Had some biscuits. It’s what Ranulph Fiennes would do.


24 hours later, we returned to the real world…

… and reluctantly switched everything back on.

Since that weekend, I’ve decided to try and give myself an internet/phone break every now and then.

Simple things like putting my phone in the other room when we’re watching a movie, not checking my emails immediately on waking (or before going to bed!), not instantly taking my phone out when someone else does…

Doing a bit more of concentrating on being here in the now.

And remembering that adventure is out there

It’s what would every polar explorer would  do.***


**Historically accurate fact. (Maybe.)

*** Along with wearing a pink pom pom hat.

A trip to New York… or the holiday and the hurricane

19 Nov

Sometimes life is weird. And sometimes, it’s weirder than weird.

Back in the summer, my other half decided he wanted to take me to New York as a surprise birthday present.

So on October 28th, we went to New York…

Now if you were following the news at the end of October/start of November, you might have an idea that the surprise he’d planned was outdone by a bigger surprise…

Yes, we arrived in New York, just before hurricane Sandy (also known as Super Storm Sandy or the Frankenstorm) showed up.

We arrived at our hotel – just as a mandatory evacuation was announced. Unsurprisingly, some people were a little stressed by being told they had to find a new place at such short notice. Thankfully having stayed in NY before, we simply phoned a hotel we stayed at before and managed to get their last room. Lucky sods that we are!

The next day was my birthday… in a very shut New York. We were in midtown Manhattan, where there were only tourists and ‘crazies’ on the streets. (Yes, it did feel a bit like a movie!)

And everyone was in search of food… there were no cafes or restaurants open, room service was off the menu and even all the Starbucks were closed!

Finally, after walking through blocks and blocks of empty streets, we found a deli selling crisps, juice and giant pumpkins!

So we celebrated ‘worst case scenario’ birthday New York with a pumpkin instead of a birthday cake, eating Cheetos instead of food and bouncing on the bed… well, because who doesn’t do that in a hotel room? (If you don’t, you should. It’s like your constitutional right… or something like that.)

And then… well, on Tuesday, New York was still shut. On Wednesday, the MoMA was open – and that was it. Which was pretty crazy. You don’t often see ‘I Am Legend’ style New York. By evening, whole blocks were in complete darkness with only the Empire State Building to light your way.

By Thursday, our lovely original hotel reopened (we’d been on standby at our emergency hotel) and we managed to persuade a rather nice taxi driver to take us there. (Not many had gas/petrol or were willing to drive to Brooklyn.)

It was a little more open than Manhattan, so we went in search of actual food… some shopping, and some street art. (Since street art doesn’t close!)

By the time, we’d had our first proper meal (it’s amazing how delicious a little seaweed wrap tastes when you’ve eaten only Cheetos for three days!)… we were beginning to feel more like we were on holiday…

We wandered about, we strolled, we sauntered, we meandered (yes, the subway still wasn’t working properly)…

But it was great… we snapped some street art, found a junk shop, did some thrifting (of course)…

Oh and we shopped. I splashed out on a lavender coffee, a pink bobble hat and a Leah Reena Goren dress. (It has kitties on it and pockets… essential purchase!)

And then… well, then my other half got very, very, very sick. We didn’t realise it then but he’d caught the Norovirus (the winter vomiting bug). And that was that.

(This sad sloth represents how we both felt about that!)

By Sunday, he was well enough to go out and explore New York again. (Matt Dillon is here to represent how happy we felt about that!)

We had 8 hours before we had to be at the airport…

So we went to a flea market, then took our unused Halloween masks to Manhattan…

And it was a gorgeous day. Look at that beautiful blue sky… Hello Chrysler Building.

And a cool crisp Autumn evening… Hello Election themed Rockefeller Centre.

And then it was time to say goodbye…

But there was one more surprise left. I got the Norovirus too. In an airport. In front of a whole queue of people waiting for their plane. Let’s just say it wasn’t my finest moment!

Back in Scotland, we decided that drastic times called for drastic measures – yes, it called for Elf.

“Why are you smiling like that?”
“I just like to smile, smiling’s my favourite.”

And everything was right in the world again.*



*Ok, that’s a bit of a lie. I was still very very very sick and had some really freaky feverish nightmares that may or may not have been inspired by Elf. But heck, it’s certainly going to be a trip we’ll never forget. We’ll be those old people going ‘We were in New York when…”. Hopefully I’ll leave out my spectacular puke performance in the airport though!

A rather cool day trip… to Scotland’s graffiti castle

9 Oct

I like castles. Visiting old, ancient ruins. Learning a bit of history. And wondering how on earth they kept warm. (Does anyone else think they’re too soft to have lived in the middle ages?!)

I also like street art. If you follow me on instagram (or saw my Barcelona post), you ‘might’ know that already.

So… a graffiti castle… well, how darn cool is that?

And in Scotland too!

Kelburn Castle is one of the oldest in Scotland… and the only one to have been given a makeover by four Brazillian grafitti artists.

It’s also possibly the cheeriest looking castle I’ve ever seen!  How adorable is that sun for example?

Though I really couldn’t decide whether certain bits were cool, creepy or both!

And with so many details you could stand there all day… yes that girl has a squirrel on her head and a kitten hanging from her sock. (Just your average day there then.)

Turns out there was more to Kelburn Castle than graffiti… there was a rickety bridge over a waterfall…

And a leafy valley that  was like something from Jurrasic Park!

It was here we decided to have a bit of a photo off… one of our new things since I got the other half his La Sardina camera.

And I think I can admit that he won with this shot. How ‘Lost World’ does this look?!

On the grounds, there’s also a maze. It’s one of those things that kids probably love but it freaked the heck out of me.

Yes, I see tiny little houses, all alone, set in the woods – and think horror movie thoughts!

Apparently there was a narrow tunnel you could crawl through to get into this… Yes, I thought it was too spooky to do that!

Oh and there were some creepy caves too… definitely like something from Lord of the Rings!

And then… well, then there were these guys. Chickens I think. (These piles of feathers are chickens right?)

And a goose that seemed intent on having a nibble of my other half’s boot…

And a whole lot of owls. Quite an easy spot the difference this one!

And there was cake and tea too – but we did the un-bloggy thing and just ate it, instead of taking pictures. (Yes, it does happen some times.)

Then there was just time for one more look at the castle… I do think it would take you hours to take this all in!

And then it was time to go home… well, with a little trip to Glasgow Ikea on the way. Which might have broken the spell somewhat really!

Mollie Makes, Japan and me (and tales of a cat cafe!)

1 Sep

So I’m guessing by now most of you know I have a thing for Japan?

Well before we went earlier this year, the lovely Mollie Makes commissioned me to a do piece on crafty, cool and fun places in Tokyo and Kyoto.

As you can imagine I was over the moon… until I realised I was about to do only my second ever photography/write-up piece in one of the most amazing places on Earth. How on earth could I do it justice? (Yes, cue massive stress on my part!)

But I have to say I’m really proud of how the feature has turned out… thank you Mollie Makes for giving me the chance to do this!

As well as my ramblings, you can also read about Ebony from Hello Sandwich who’s photo collage workshop I went to… she’s uber nice, one of those people who instantly makes you feel comfortable, and super crafty in a way I can only admire!

Anyway, the magazine was out yesterday so if you pick it up, let me know what you think! (In a ‘I hope you all really like it’ kind of way!)

Now, if you follow me on Twitter, you might (most likely not really!) remember me saying I took a ridiculous amount of photos in Japan… thousands in fact! Yes, it’s probably my most documented trip EVER. So I wanted to share with you a few things that I didn’t get round to blogging and didn’t end up in the feature… outtakes if you will!

And when I say outtakes, what I really mean is… pictures from the Cat Cafe we went to!

In Shimokitazana (probably my favourite area in Tokyo we went to) as soon as we left the train station, we spotted this sign… cat cafe!

Now I can’t remember if we knew about cat cafes on our first trip but it was on our ‘to do/only in Japan’ list so we decided that now was the time.

So we went up the stairs, opened the door and well, there was a man with a desk who politely told us that you pay by the hour and you pay when you leave (in case you love the cats so much you want to stay longer). Kind of like karaoke but with cats instead! He took our drinks order and then directed us to the cat room…

Now… anyone who has cats knows they quite clearly have a mind of their own, and the cats at the cat cafe were no different. First up, was this guy – ignoring all the comfy bedding put out for him and sleeping in a plastic bowl.

Then there was this noisy powder puff of a cat… yes also ignoring the beds/bedding and napping in a box.

One of the Japanese customers was intent on getting this cat to like him… putting a cosy blanket on his knee, rattling cat toys, making kissy sounds… the cat was having none of it! I wanted to explain to the poor Japanese man that this is the real cat experience… they do what they please!

My husband made friends with this stripey purr machine and was quite chuffed that he’d won over at least one of the cats!

And me… well, I happened upon a cat who looks like an even more freaked out version of the Fox Owl Cat!

Oh gosh, look at that expression! I felt rather bad for giggling every time it looked at me!

And here they are for comparison… though now I put the pictures together, I think the Fox Owl Cat might be the weirder of the two! (In a nice way!)

I guess the strange but maybe not too surprising thing about the cat cafe was that it just made us miss our own fluff balls. The Japan cats were cute but not a patch on the Velveteen Cat and the FOC!

Anyway, that’s it… that’s me done with Japan posts!

(Well, until my next trip of course!)

Still smitten with NYC… the High Line and the secret whispering gallery

20 Aug

About this time last year (well September to be precise), we took a trip to NYC… I blogged part 1 and then sort of forgot to do part 2.

So here it is. Better late than never… my favourite (and free!) spaces in New York.

And a few of my random NY tips that I don’t have pictures for but they’re here too!

One of my absolute favourite things was the High Line. (Yes, we got this shot by lying down on the ground! Yes, we got strange looks. Totally worth it though!)

It’s a section of old elevated rail line that’s been converted into a park. You basically walk from Downtown to Midtown on it, and get a great view of more unexpected New York sights (like the New Yorker sign above)…

And the Empire State building peeking out from behind this reddy church…

And amazing ghost signs (I was obsessed with these on our trip and would stop to snap them wherever I saw them, usually to the confusion of other pedestrians)…

And arty things… like this cool bird house installation. (Though I got the feeling this wee guy was none too impressed with me taking his picture!)


At the end (or the start I think, we might have walked it backwards!) we came across this street art… which I can only assume refers to the massively scary…

… HUGE CLOWN sitting nearby! Clowns completely weird me out – mainly because I watched Stephen King’s IT at an early age. (Even linking to this is giving me the shivers… and I didn’t even watch it!)

But the drunken panda street art made it all better. Mostly better. Ok, ignore the clown. Go to the High Line. You’ll love it. Pretend I didn’t mention the other bit.

Inside Grand Central Station, there’s an amazing ‘whispering gallery’. It might be hard to see from our slightly murky photos – but you can stand at opposite ends, talk into the wall and hear each other.

It’s the strangest thing to be leaning against a wall (as pictured) and be able to hear each other’s voices as if you were standing next to each other.

If you’re looking for it, there’s no sign… just go under the main station, towards the food courts and look for a sort of curved roof with four pillary bits.

It’s an obvious one but Central Park is a must-go to…

So you can hang out with Hans Christian Andersen and Alice in Wonderland…

But also to do some brilliant people watching… especially when they’re watching giant bubbles being blown.

This woman’s reaction to the bubble coming her way is just the best. That’s pure joy right there!

And if that’s not enough joy, why not treat yourself a silly ice-cream. We couldn’t decide who’s would win the silliest award…


Here’s my other random tips as promised:

Pick up a Time Out NYC magazine at the airport – that’s how we found out about comedy shows, pop-ups etc that we wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

Best view… I would say go up The Rockefeller. Most people do the Empire State but the queues are long and once you’re up there, well, you can’t see the Empire State if that makes sense! 😉

Rooftop bars we were lucky in that our hotel had an amazing rooftop bar… which was basically an outdoor club with a view of the Empire State and the Chrysler.

Best bakery... Two Little Red Hens. These guys do mini versions of all their cupcakes too so you can buy lots and not over-do it (too much).

Best breakfast (and lunch!) in Manhattan… Penelope on Lexington. There can be huge queues for this place so
it’s best to turn up not too hungry, put your name on the waiting list and grab a coffee nearby while you wait.

Best shop (certainly one of my fav!)… in god we trust in Brooklyn.

Best coffee Cafe Grumpy (the original is Brooklyn but it’s also served in a cool hotel bar that’s opposite the Public Library)

Getting about… we jumped on the river taxis for getting to and from Brooklyn/Downtown etc… might be a bit chilly but you get a great view of the city that way.

Oh yes, if you ever get the opportunity to eat some Fruit Loops at 3am on a deserted hotel rooftop… while the lights from the Empire State turn the whole misty sky red… then take it.

Honestly, it’ll be the best cereal of your life. In a crazy, only in New York sort of way!

Japan finds: a tape elephant, washi tape stamps and more

23 Jul

At the weekend, the lovely Lauren came round and took some pics of me and my flat for a feature I’m writing (and another little project too). Before she arrived, I was having a look at my own camera and discovered that I’d taken lots of snaps of my Japan finds and never shared them…

I took them so long ago (or it feels like so long ago) that the pictures next to them are all of Fab ice lollies! (Yes, it was back when we had some sunshine and I ate up to 2 Fabs every day! Very healthy I know!)

Anyway… normally when I go away, I buy nearly nothing. I think I worry about how much money I spend while I’m there and then when I get home, I go “I wish I’d bought xxx”. Always.

So this time, I treated myself to a few funny little cute things (you’ve already seen the biscuit maker and the egg moulds) but here’s some of the other things…

A pink elephant sellotape dispenser… an essential, is he not?

And of course more washi tape. It’s so cheap in Japan. So so so very cheap. And so pretty! And there’s so many more varieties (yes, that’s one with pins and safety pins on it!)

I actually bought more than this but managed to leave a bag on the plane that had some of the rolls in it. And it was never found, sad times! (Or a good excuse to go back!)

I also ‘invested’ in these gorgeous wooden stamps… yes those three on top are washi tape stamps! Just when you thought I couldn’t get any more washi tape obsessed!

I also bought some doily stamps too… again utterly essential! (Not sure how yet!)

Does anyone else totally geek out over stationery? (I know Lynne from Tea For Joy would have been in her element!) I kept picking up pretty tags and fun stickers… and thinking ‘I need these!’

Oh and you know you really need some ‘puzzle point markers’… yes I don’t really know what they are either but I loved the way the animals were jigsawed together.

And how could I resist some bunny shaped paper clips?

All my important documents are going to have these on them from now on! Maybe… (Or at least anything I send to Cara from Peonies and Polaroids should!)

There’s a shop in Tokyo called Winged Wheel. It sells the most beautiful little letter-pressed things I have ever seen. (And they are amazingly, mouth-wateringly affordable! Yes, you can salivate over paper!!)

I bought myself some tiny business cards… which are way too nice to give to anyone!

Yes, those are sponges. Wearing outfits. Yes, I know. Insane but amazingly so. (I popped in to see Rachael from Hannah Zakari the other day and she has one too in her kitchen. So I’m in good sponge company!)

Um, yes, you can never have enough cute sponges right? (These cost the equivalent of 50p, it seemed rude not to get them!)

This is my little watcher… the Fox-Owl-Cat is always fascinated by me taking photos of things on the floor…

… things like these animal soy bottles. (I do eat a lot of sushi, so I’ve been using these already.)

And some Japanese paper balloons… again so cheap in Japan, it made me want to buy them by the boxful.

Just in case, you were wondering cats are not so impressed by Japanese balloons…

And so there you have it. Possibly the most random selection of stuff I have ever brought back from a trip. But good, happy, colourful random… which I think is a pretty good memento of Japan really.

So, my dears, what do you bring back from your travels?
Do you buy sensible stuff or silly souvenirs?

Sun, street art and celebrating in Barcelona

10 Jul

Last month, we celebrated our first wedding anniversary.

Instead of paper, we gave each other Barcelona.

7 days of staying in a top floor apartment in El Born.
With a winding, narrow staircase that went on forever
Windows that opened to rooftops, huge church spires
And the happy, relaxed bustle of life below.

7 days of proper sunshine.
Of brilliant bright blue skies.
Of bare legs and wearing sandals.
Suncream. Missed bits. Burnt bits.
Ice lollies for an afternoon snack.
Ordering Pimientos de Padron.
Cava with every meal but breakfast.

7 days of wandering in the Gothic Quarter.
Narrow little streets that twisted and turned.
Shutters that hid last night’s bars.
Shops that opened when they liked.
Everywhere the sound of chatter,
and surprises round every corner.

7 days of statues that changed their looks every day
And streets littered with colourful confetti.

7 of days gazing and then glazing
at early “Blue Period” Picasso works.
Of Park Guell, with its pretty tiled dragon,
stunning views, shady trees and talented buskers.
Of lying on picnic benches in the shade
and snoozing like strays or happy hobos.

7 days of blue tiles, watery windows, dragon-like roofs,
In a house that was more like an upright submarine.
For the first time really feeling like we ‘got’ Gaudi.

7 days of heading to la Sagrada Familia on a very hot day,
taking the lift to the top and standing, with shaking legs,
looking out at the city and trying not to look straight down.

7 days of heading to the beach. Picnic packed.
Cheese, bread, salsa, beer, crisps… all too warm
All too liquid by the time we reach the sand.

7 days of taking Polaroids – all of us, smiley and slightly tanned.
Of comparing our £2 cameras to the Impossible Project shop ones.

7 nights of staying out late, snapping street art,
(being stared at by curious locals as we posed),
of feeling like we didn’t have a care in the world,
and wondering what it would be like to live here.

Barcelona, I rather love you.

You were a rather perfect
first anniversary destination xx

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