Travel Books- Big Sur by Jack Karouac

Big Sur is a stretch of California’s coast between Carmel and San Simeon. Driving along the State Route 1, known for winding turns, seaside cliffs and views of the often-misty coastline is quite captivating. I visited California in 2014, on a long awaited trip to the USA.  Part of the plan was always to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco along the coast, stopping off at a few little towns along the way like San Simeon and Monterey.

Monterey has literary fame as it was once a major player in the ‘canning’ industry (canning fish), and written about by Steinbeck.  Now it’s holiday town, full of gift shops, restaurants, and people jogging along the beach.  I loved Monterey.  I didn’t care so much for ‘Of Mice and Men’ by Steinbeck though!

Before we went to America, a friend lent me Big Sur by Jack Kerouac, mainly for his description of the terrifying bridge high up over the water.  Well, in the end it was dark when we drove through much of it, and I never got around to reading the book.  Well actually, I tried but got bored quite quickly.  But it was on my to-read pile so I tried it again…I was right the first time!

books2Kerouac’s stream of consciousness style was hard to follow at times (especially as his consciousness was drunk most of the time).  Tired of his Beat fame following the success of ‘On The Road’, he decides to spend a quiet six weeks in his friend’s cabin in Big Sur.  Things don’t go to plan right from the start, as he fails to secretly return to San Fransisco as he ends up loudly announcing his arrival and going on a bender.  His self-destructive nature is, I suppose, what makes him interesting to people, I found it tiresome.

He does spend three quiet weeks alone in the cabin, feeding squirrels and writing boring poetry about the sea.  But the isolation offers him too much time to think and he starts to crack.  He heads back to the ‘gooky city’, meeting his friends again and heading out on another bender.  He gets word from his mother than his cat has died, a cat that he strongly associates with his late brother and he is plunge into a fresh depression.

He ends up heading back to the cabin but this times with friends and their kids.  Before they have to leave for a children’s play which Kerouac gets them thrown out of for being drunk.  But his friend Cody doesn’t mind and takes him to meet his mistress.  Which brings me to the misogynistic undertones running through the book.

…beautiful blonde wife of his in her tight blue jeans that makes Dave say ‘Yum yum’…

The book was written in 1963 and so is a product of it’s time, sure I get that. But all the men have mistresses, and share their women about.  Cody encourages some young idiot to join him wife on the beach, much to her general irritation about having men and sex forced on her.  There are a few nice stories about dancing girls.  I just felt a wave of sadness for the women in this book, stuck in marriages to drunken, idiot, philanderers.

Anyway, Kerouac meets Billie (the mistress) and they have an immediate mutual attraction, although he finds her equally fascinating and boring it would seem.  He spends the days sitting in her arm chair smoking and drinking while she is at work, and they spend the nights having sex.  She has a young son who occasionally wanders into the bedroom and she thinks it’s fine for him to watch.  Karouac, to his sort of credit, is a bit creeped out by this, but goes along with it anyway.  Later on, they go back to the cabin and the poor child tries to pull his mother of Kerouac so she takes him outside and beats him.  Good, cheerful, stuff.  She also has a delightful friend, who creeps onto little girls and threatens to kid nap them.

Basically, I would just really hate to be stuck in a lift with any of them…I was very curious as to how much of this actually happened.  Like, really, how messed up is the little kid in the book now, and does he enjoy reading about he flaky mum’s affair with Jack Kerouac? A quick google tells em the names were changed, but it also tells me the characters real names so screw you anonymity!  I assume he took some liberties with the truth as this is a ‘fictionalised autobiography’.  I don’t think Beat literature is for me.

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Stuff from Dubrovnik

Doing a bit of a sort out I found a bunch of stuff from some old trips, this is leaflets, receipts, and old tickets.  I have already scrap booked my trip to Dubrovnik, Croatia so I don’t really have much use for them anymore.  So I thought I would do a little blog post and reminisce.

Dubrovnik was an amazing trip, it was relaxing but we did lots of activities.  The most exciting was probably the scuba diving we did with Blue Planet Diving Centre.  It was a little terrifying initially, the thought of putting your head underwater and just ‘breathing normally’ so I had a little moment but after that I really enjoyed it.  Since it was our first go we barely went 5m deep!


We also walked along the Old Town walls (in the baking mid day sun with a million other tourists) which gave a great view of the Old Town.  And also a view of a few of the bombed out remains of little houses from the Croatian War of Independence.  We also took a gondola to the top of the hill to see the lovely view from up there, we felt that it was a waste of money really as we just walked down the hill to get back. There was also a little museum at the top which gave some more insights to the War, although not much was in English unfortunately.

It was also a trip of Island hopping.  We heading out to Mljet where most of the island is a National Park, we hired bikes and toured the park, we also swam in a picturesque lake which was lovely.  That ended up being a more expensive trip than anticipated though (cost of boat there, the cost of the bikes, and lunch).  We also took a little trip to a smaller island called, Lokrum where there were loads of peacocks.  This was the day after we had been out kayaking and I got very sunburnt on my legs and feet.  So every step in Lokrum was agony.  Good memories!

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Stuff From Shanghai

I found a bag full of ‘stuff’ from a couple of trips I had taken a while ago.  I had already scrap booked these trips and I didn’t really want to hold onto to all of it but it did bring back a few memories.  This is the stuff I found from the trip I took to Shanghai, China in 2009.20180204_174518Above- My sister took me on a little trip to visit a place she liked to go to buy little cups.  I can not remember where that was, but we did indeed buy some tiny, handmade, cups.  The kind without a handle, that you can imagine drinking green tea out of, they were wrapped in the orange Disney paper you can see top left.  Whisk was a fancy place we went for lunch, I remember getting a chocolate torte for dessert.  I remember significant things.  I think the white business card in the middle was for a lottery or gambling, the blue blob of toothpaste on it is Haibo.  Haibo was, obviously, the mascot of the Shanghai Expo and he was EVERYWHERE in Shanghai whilst I was there.20180204_175209Above- We went to a small Art Gallery, and the only thing I remember is my sister making me and her boyfriend (now husband) stand in a very hot window, in full glare of the sun as she spent 20mins trying to take a picture.   The photo, top left, shows where we were standing.  On one day we went to a shopping centre and I felt compelled to buy something.  You can’t really browse without a sales assistant insisting on helping which was interesting given that we were speaking totally different languages.  When I’d picked my item I went over the till to pay, she took my leggings and gave me a receipt and sent me to another till.  At the other till I handed over my money and was given another receipt.  I took this back to the first till and got my leggings (with the delightful orange mushroom label pictured).  Seemed like convoluted way of doing things but that’s the style in China.   20180204_175250Above- I took and used my Lomography fisheye camera.  How I wish I’d been able to take a better analogue camera, the fish eye thing got really old really fast!  Top right is an exciting photo of the TV screen in the taxi (like the future) which instructed me to ‘please do not forget the things you take’.  We went to an English language bookshop on my last day and I obviously bought something, wrapped in the brown paper.  I think it was something odd like Frankenstein, and the font had been printed so small I never actually managed to read that copy!

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Planning Our Trip To Paris

We have just booked our sprint trip to Paris, which is for my birthday.  Easter falls the weekend before my birthday this year which is a mixed blessing.  On the on hand, I have the long weekend off work already which is nice.  On the other hand it’s a busier and more expensive time to travel.  Also the Easter weekend is the most logical weekend to visit some family as we have the long weekend off work.  So the plan is to get the train down to The South on Thursday night, and come back on Monday.  Then fly out to France on the Tuesday, which is my birthday.

Really, I’d prefer not to travel on my birthday but getting the train back to West Yorkshire on the Monday, and flying out on the Monday would be too much.  For some annoying reason we can not get direct flights on the Tuesday from our local airport so we have to trek to Manchester Airport which is a couple of trains away from us.  We mulled over getting the plane from an airport near boyfriend mum’s house but then we’d want our return flight to land at a different airport to be nearer home, which increases the cost. Or we could have got the train from London but that would have meant getting home from London after our trip which is a pain.

And a simple holiday to Paris was becoming too complicated, so we just booked the flights from Manchester.

Now I get the fun of planning the trip.  At the moment it’s a little tricky because we can’t really rely on great weather in early April so I don’t know how much wandering around we’ll want to do.  And Paris is pretty big!  We’ll only have 3 full days so I want to make the most of them, but not plan too much and make it a stressful visit.

I’m thinking we take a look at Sacre Coeur, walk along the Seine, visit the Lomography store, eat croissants, pop into the Louvre, stroll past the Arc de Triomphe, check out Oscar Wilde’s grave, and maybe head up the Science Museum.

The croissants excite me the most.

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Running In The Country


In the past year, since I moved house to live out in the sticks, I have been taken my runs surrounded by the beautiful countryside.  So yes, obvs, I stopped my runs every time to take photographs of the country…and myself.  20170221_095257

This exciting photo of sheep was taken on the top of a but hill which I can no longer be bothered to run up.  In the midst of winter as we are, it’s pretty dark when I do my evening runs so you can’t see anything anyway.  And my day time runs on the weekend are usually lashing with rain so it puts me off making the trek up the never ending hill.  The lovely fields and farmland around you means it feels quite isolated, although there are super fast cars zooming past you constantly.Unknown Person

Below is my more common running route, which still involves a hill but less of a hill.  I have, madly, signed up for a 10km run which means I need to get training.  Right now thought I’d quite like another biscuit…20170810_074335

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A Trip To The Peak District

We went on a little trip to The Peak District, we went on a short walk in the very cold windy weather, and then went to a pub for lunch.  I had brie!  Here, are a few snaps of the day.

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2017 Travel Review

My biggest trip this year was not that far in physical distance but represented a major change in my life.  In February I moved in with my boyfriend which was exciting and, as it turned out, not too dramatic!  But I have been on a few more interesting journies this year too.



Victoria and Albert Museum Cafe

In March, I received an early birthday present from my mum in the form of a trip to London.  We took an early(ish) train down there and headed to the Victoria and Albert Museum, which I always seem to end up at when I visit our fair capital.  We left early so that we could see a bit of London, mainly just the walk from the V and A to the train station but still…



Manhattan from The High Line

April 3rd this year was my 30th birthday so we took a special trip to America. We hit New York checking and Washington DC.  Highlights include checking out The High Line (an old railroad turned park), taking a trip out to Brooklyn, $4 a slice pizza, The Capitol Building which I fell in love with, and The Postal Museum (no, really, I love stamps).  The major lowlight were a three day migraine :(, the torrential rain, and being harassed by a waitress for not tipping her enough.



Arthur’s Seat

After a big (expensive) trip to the US we spent our summer holiday in a very rainy Edinburgh.  I guess it was classic British summer weather but it was still quite miserable, we were soaked as soon as we arrived.  We managed to climb up to Aurthur’s Seat, eat sushi, and enjoy a stroll through the Botanical Gardens so not all bad.  Also got to see my sister and niece!



National Art Museum

For my mum’s birthday, which is in December, mum, sister and I took a trip to Riga, Latvia in October.  Anyway, it was very cold but enjoyable.  We visited the National Art Museum and the, slightly less cheerful, Museum of Occupation.  The Eastern Bloc countries had such horrible experiences in the second half of the 20th century!  Riga has a lovely old town to explore, and I recommend crossing the river to visit the National Library.



Sunset over Greenwich Observatory

I finished my 2017 travels the same way I started with a trip to London.  We celebrated boyfriend’s birthday there in November.  Another holiday, another illness befalls me. Not really an illness but I had period pains throughout this getaway that seriously undermined my enjoyment, and put me in a slightly grumpy mood.  But we got to visit the Greenwich Observatory and see a Planetarium show, checked out a bunch of museums, bought expensive chocolate at Fortnum and Mason, and experience my first crushed avocado with poached egg on toast.


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OKA Sushi, London

Boyfriend demanded (ok, politely suggested) sushi for our first night in London.   As it was his birthday, and I like Japanese food, I allowed this and found us OKA which was highly rated and nearby.  london1

I didn’t realise it was located inside a little shopping centre and food court.  But it was all decked out for Christmas (this was in November), and it was a fancy yuppie food court.  This was a hipster holiday.  It’s quite small so I think we were lucky to get a table.  I got vegetable tempura, avocado maki, and Jasmine green tea- so pretty much my usual.  It was pretty good, although honestly not the best I’ve ever had.  I finished up with the matcha and white chocolate cake which I found a bit too sweet, especially with the accompanying ice cream.  Boyfriend was going to share one with me but they had nuts, he has an allergy, it’s not a good mix.


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London- The Natural History Museum

Collages1We headed into The Natural History Museum, which is always popular. It’s free entry, apart from the temporary exhibitions and I like it better than the museum in New York, although that may be because they charged me $26!

We visited the earthquake area where they still have the mock up of a Kobe supermarket, and you can experience the 1995 Kobe earthquake in the simulator.  We headed onwards to find the animals (ok let’s face it, I was looking for the dinosaurs), and saw some extinct specimens like dodos, and the skeleton of an extinct giant sloth.

It was pretty busy for a Friday afternoon and we had to push through the throngs in the popular exhibits.  Like the main hall where the skeleton of a blue whale has recently replaced Dippy the Diplodocus.  This was the controversial move, but Dippy was a plaster cast while the blue whale is a genuine skeleton.

Finally we found the most exciting part, A REAL LIVE (animatronic) T-REX!!!  It’s tucked around a corner but there’s always a little group of people getting their shots of the rampaging T-Rex (not really rampaging!).


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Fortnum and Mason and Harrods

Whilst in London I wanted to do a small amount of Christmas shopping, mainly just fancy chocolate!

Fortnum and Mason

So after dinner we headed to Fortnum and Mason for a wander around.  I had been in there once before and got very distracted by fancy tea, there Green Jasmine is fairly delicious.  I didn’t realise that it was spread over several floors.   Fortnum and Mason was, and still is, famous for it’s hampers which are very expensive wicker boxes full of luxury booze, chocolates, and meat type products.  I’ve never bought one myself, I wouldn’t want to eat most of the stuff in it and they cost in the hundreds of pounds.  london4

You really question whether the stuff is worth the price, I have found the tea nice and boyfriend enjoyed his £6 chocolate bar, although he valued it at about £4.50.  The fact that it’s so expensive becomes part of the appeal for people I’m sure.  But the £40 shower caps were my breaking point…(they were crappy plastic ones with flowers stuck on wtf?!?!)


On Friday morning we stopped off at Harrods before we headed to the museums.  It was Black Friday and boyfriend was having some kind of breakdown in advance of what he thought would be hoards of sale shoppers.  However, Harrods did not appear to have any Black Friday offers because why would it?  Anyway, we wandered in circles around the food hall getting frustrated.  It’s been a long time since I actually went for a look around in Harrods, it’s always horribly busy.  When I was a teenager I went upstairs to the kids section and bought a pen which was thrilling.  Anyway, they had some fun window displays with animatronic shop assistant.


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