18 October 2014

Guildford to Gomshall - a walk in the English countryside

Sometimes a gal just needs to get out of London and into the wilderness.

A few weeks ago it was time to breathe in some fresh air and swap London's endless concrete and brick for some nature, so I joined friends on a leisurely day walk from Guildford to Gomshall.

Never heard of these places? Neither had I - but I was amazed at how far I felt from London, when in reality we had only travelled by train for forty minutes to find ourselves in the beautiful English countryside...

Strolling through the North Downs - Guildford, England
strolling through the North Downs - Guildford

We strolled along dirt paths, spirits high even if there wasn't much sunshine - for we were in the countryside.  And it was just us, no other people to be seen or heard...

Strolling through the North Downs - Guildford, England

The signs along this walk were few and far between, and yes us city folk did get lost a few times. Thank goodness for GPS. When signs along our route did appear they were beautifully illustrated.

Walking signs - Guildford to Gomshall, England

We munched on wild blackberries...

Wild blackberries - Guildford to Gomshall, England

... and came across some history too. This is an old WWII pillbox situated a few moments walk from St Martha-on-the-hill, one of the most remote churches I've come across.

WWII pillbox - Guildford to Gomshall, England

As we got closer to our pub lunch in Shere we stared longingly into some of the local vege gardens, and grew excited by a giant yellow pumpkin and neighbouring scarecrow. 

Shere garden - Guildford to Gomshall, England

Don't you just love the look of English country homes?

Shere village, England

At last it was lunch time and we treated ourselves to local fish and chips, and ale.

Fish & Chips - Shere village, England

Now, I would like to be able to say that we continued on our way after lunch. But the truth is we were enjoying ourselves far too much at the pub so decided to trade a "few" more beers for the rest of our walk. It was a Saturday you know! 

One day soon, next year, some stage we'll go back and finish the adventure.

Have you ever walked from Guildford to Gomshall? Or do you have another favourite day walk from London? If you are after some fresh air my favourite day walk is Deal to Dover.

16 October 2014

raspberry and almond cake (aka Bakewell Tart)

Raspberry and almond cake is my all-time favourite cake recipe for three reasons: it's super easy to bake, super delicious (rarely lasts a single hour in our house once out of the oven) and the finished cake is impressive. I cannot count the number of times people have asked me for this recipe.

So today I share with you.

I wish I could take full credit for this great recipe, but alas I cannot. I originally stumbled this great bake on the BBC Good Food website and haven't looked back since...

Homemade raspberry and almond cake, aka Bakewell Tart
homemade raspberry and almond cake, aka Bakewell Tart

Ingredients
  • 140g ground almonds
  • 140g softened butter
  • 140g golden caster sugar
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250g raspberries, or a pot of quality raspberry jam works just as well
  • 2 tbsp flaked almonds
  • icing sugar to serve
Method
  1. Heat your oven to 180ºC  and grease a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin. 
  2. Throw all your ingredients - the ground almonds, butter, sugar, flour, eggs and vanilla extract into a bowl together and mix until well combined.
  3. Spread half the mixture over the bottom of your cake tin. 
  4. Scatter your raspberries over the top, or alternatively add a nice thick layer of raspberry jam.
  5. Dollop your remaining cake mixture on top of your fruit/jam and roughly spread.
  6. Scatter with flaked almonds to finish off and bake for 50 mins until golden brown. 
Homemade raspberry and almond cake, aka Bakewell Tart

Dust with icing sugar and serve warm from the oven with vanilla ice-cream. Yum!

Homemade raspberry and almond cake, aka Bakewell Tart

I'm off to eat cake...

13 October 2014

travel & my expanding waistline - Belgium

Travel is good for the soul. Every time I arrive somewhere new my excitement is brimming and happy emotions flow.

However, I am starting to realise that travel is not so kind to my waistline! Travel and eating are integrally linked to me - like sleeping and dreaming. One of the things I love about travel is trying new foods wherever I go. So when my parents, hubby and I visited Belgium last weekend I knew we would be sampling a lot of tasty eats.

Belgium is famous for it's food. And we wanted to taste everything...

1. Belgium Beer
Beer in Belgium rages from pale lager to dark stouts and flaming red brews inbetween. There are about 180 breweries in Belgium and almost every individual beer has its own uniquely shaped glass - to improve the drinking flavour. My long-time favourite is Kriek Belgium beer - made with fermented sour cherries. Delicious!

Belgium Kriek cherry Beer
my first Kriek beer of the trip - straight from the can and amazing!

2. Belgium chocolate
It's a terrible thing walking through a city in Belgium - every fifth shop is a chocolate shop and temptation is everywhere. 

If you're after the best don't go cheap. Our AirB&B host from Bruge told us if were were paying less than 15 Euros per 100 grams then expect to be buying chocolate from China!

Chocolate shop - Brussels, Belgium
one of many chocolate shops in Brussels, Belgium

In Belgium chocolate pieces with a soft centre are called Pralines and the variety is endless. My favourite flavours this trip were dark chocolate raspberry and white chocolate passion-fruit.

A selection of Belgium pralines
Belgium pralines - yummmm

3. Belgium biscuits and cookies
In between the endless chocolate shops you'll find Belgium biscuit shops and other sweet treat shops. One of the most famous Belgium biscuits is the humble Speculoos - a type of spiced shortbread biscuit.

Window display - Belgium biscuit shop, Brussels
window display - Belgium biscuit shop

4. Belgium frites
Frites are immensely popular in Belgium, and it's no wonder as the humble french fry originated in this country. They are sold everywhere - in restaurants and street stands, and are served alongside almost every meal. Needless to say over four days we ate our weight in frites.

Belgium triple-cooked frites and salad
Belgium triple-cooked frites served with salad

5. Belgium hot chocolate
Hot chocolate comes in several forms in Belgium - but my favourite is by far the mug of steaming hot milk served alongside a dish of liquid chocolate heaven and cream, allowing you to 'mix your own' hot chocolate perfection. Oh, and chocolate is served on the side as well :)

Belgium hot chocolate
my perfect hot chocolate - made by me!

Belgium hot chocolate

6. Ummm... did I mention Belgium chocolate?

Earl Grey chocolate pralines - Belgium
Earl Grey pralines from my favourite Belgium chocolate shop - The Chocolate Line

7. Belgium waffles
Who could forget Belgium waffles? These are commonly sold as a sweet street snack as well as in tea rooms and restaurants. After several days of eating I was trying to be healthy and ordered my waffle with fruit (ha ha).

Belgium fruit waffle - Bruges
Belgium fruit waffle - Bruges

8. Belgium mussels...

9. Belgium fruit jellies...

10. Belgium pastries

11. Belgium steak

12, Belgium stew

13. Belgium pâté... and so on...

I'm off to the gym.

11 October 2014

I love my blog

I learnt something these past two weeks: I love my blog - my tiny fragment of the world wide web where I document my travels and pour my heart out every now and then.

I've been blogging fairly regularly now for about a year and until now didn't realise how embedded somewhere beyond the sea has become in my day-to-day life. I love writing about my adventures, sharing them with whoever wants to read about them, and most importantly having a record that jogs my memory and inspires me to make the most of life and continue exploring the world.

Of course blogging isn't everything. There are much more important things in life, such as family, which is the reason I've been away for a little while. And I think finding a balance between taking the time to enjoy what's important and recording it is probably one of the things lots of bloggers wrestle with regularly.

Me, my camera and a window display in Brussels, Belgium
me, my camera and a window display in Brussels, Belgium

So now my Mum and Dad have arrived safely home in New Zealand after a whirlwind month visiting the UK. I miss them already but am thankful for the time we had.

I'm am refreshed. It's amazing how after just a short break I can have so many new blogging ideas I want to explore. Yep, I'm feeling pretty inspired.

So I hope you are all doing well. I'm looking forward to sharing my most recent adventures with you and hearing all about what you've been up to. My Saturday afternoon plan consists solely of tea, biscuits and bloglovin'.

2 October 2014

Tower of London remembers - with 888,246 poppies

Blood Swept Lands 
and Seas of Red

On Tuesday I visited the Tower of London poppies art installation with my parents, which is on until Armistice Day (11 November). On this day the last poppy will be added to the sea of red that flows around this iconic London landmark.

Armistice Day 2014 marks one hundred years since the first full day of Britain's involvement in the First World War. I find it amazing that so much time has past, yet WWI still doesn't seem that long ago.

Tower of London poppies art installation

My Dad's father, my grandfather fought in WWI, and was one of the lucky New Zealanders that made it home again to his family after the war.

For me the installation is a bitter-sweet, beautiful reminder of our history. For my Dad the poppies had an even greater impact - and lots of memories and stories told to him by my grandfather came flooding back.

Tower of London poppies art installation
my mum and dad - taking in the sea of red

Each poppy that surrounds the Tower of London represents a British military fatality during the war. There are 888,246 of them.

Tower of London poppies art installation

If you live in London I strongly recommend you visit The Tower of London and take a moment to take in this scene. The installation is free to view - you don't need a ticket. And if you want you can even buy one of the poppies in the installation, which will be posted to you in late November.

Tower of London poppies art installation

When you've seen enough red to last the afternoon take a stroll down the the River Thames and reflect on how lucky we all are to be here and now, and enjoying the last of the Autumn sunshine.

The River Thames - London

Hope you're all having a good week. I'm off to Belgium this weekend with Mum and Dad. Can't wait!
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