Brighton Rocks

Brighton is a mere 46 mins train ride from Clapham Junction. This week’s incredible weather made my impromptu visit an easy decision. The train was packed with happy faces, everyone itching to hit the beach.

I’d not visited Brighton since 2007 with an ex-boyfriend, and it was about time I returned to disassociate those memories and make some new ones of my own. This time the sun was shining and I could do as I pleased.

I headed for the marina and marvelled at the boat masts and blue skies, but felt saddened by the mass chain restaurants and little else to see there, so decided to hit up the infamous Brighton Pier and the gorgeous (albeit pebbly) beach, passing by via the incredible Brighton Pavillion (visited before, no need to see again on such a warm day!).

Brighton Pier is full of all the tack and gaudiness that you’d expect to find in a British seaside resort, but it kind of does what it says on the tin. I took photographs of the seafront but didn’t venture in to the arcades or towards the end of the pier with all the rides.

I spent the rest of my day lolling about in the pebbles finishing a great book, people watching, drinking rose in the sunshine and watching beach volleyball. I drank slush puppies and watched my tongue turn blue and ate ice cream and mussels (separately).

It felt like I was in LA, not Sussex!

Unfortunately, I didn’t see the donkeys or monkeys that I remember from a trip there in my ‘yoof’. Ah the times, they are a-changing…

If you’ve not been for a visit to Brighton recently, make it a priority on a sunny day, you won’t regret it (although it will almost certainly always be too cold for a dip in the sea!).

xx katieschaafs

P.S. retrospective Asia blogging is still yet to come…I’m working on it, kind of! 😉

P.P.S. picture editing and sizing is a huge source of frustration to me on this blog (and the reason my SE Asian blogging never really took off!). It’s time consuming and when you think you’ve got it right, you preview it and it’s all out of kilter again. I’m kind of a perfectionist about how this should look so I can only apologise for slightly shoddy looking format until I learn how to get better at this! 😦

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Singapore, what’s not to love?

What’s not to love about Singapore?

I felt super spoilt in Singapore, it being so easy to navigate, so clean, and the people so polite, helpful and friendly.

After the debacle of landing in Sharjah, instead of Dubai, I finally made it to Singapore with an easy cab ride to Robertson Quay to see Gerry, Mark and their kids Christian and Julian. Great set up, nice pool, central riverside location, fantastic hosts.

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My first full day I was supposed to just go for a local neighbourhood amble, but the must-see-it-all-now in me got the better of me and it turned in to a 4 hour stomp round the city taking in the riverside quays, the financial district, Raffles Mall and the legendary Long Bar in Raffles hotel. I threw my peanut shells on the floor, sucked up my Singapore Sling and soaked up the colonial atmosphere. At S$26 a pop it was about S$5 a slurp, but well worth it. I worked it off by getting lost in Fort Canning park, a lovely peaceful park that overlooks the city (many stairs, godammit).

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Day 2 I hotfooted it to the Botanic Gardens for a look-see. This place puts Kew Gardens to shame. Entry is free, aside from the Orchid Gardens, which at S$5 is bargain of the century. I was there soon after the gates opened and the place was already full of joggers, walkers, tai-chi and Zumba stylee classes. I made tracks for the orchids and have to being totally overwhelmed by the volume and variety of specimens. I can’t adequately put their beauty in to words, and will add shots when I remember to bring my damn cables to the internet cafes! (updating blogposts is time consuming and tricky on an i-pad, hence the delay in any posting (plus, now that I’m on my way, I’m not sure how/what I want to say, and whether it’s worth my time trying to post at the expense of actually experiencing my surroundings…I will do my best but no promises! I’d rather not post at all than post half-hearted badly laid out stuff  like this one, sooo…)).

After my floral adventure I made my way to Marina Bay Sands hotel, and decided that I was going to try to avoid the viewing platform fee of S$20 by heading to have a drink in the uber cool Ku De Ta club…turns out muggins here paid S$22 for a beer with less of a view. But at least I got the beer though, right?  ….it was only after a few sips I realised it was only 11.30 am…ach, I’m on vacation people, cut me some slack here! The whole Marina Bay Sands hotel and Gardens by the Bay are incredibly impressive, I managed to see the ‘Wonder Full’ laser show and Gardens by the Bay, both worth a look-see.

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I decided that next I needed to see Chinatown, which was fun, but tacky, and full of squawking Chinese trying to sell nasty lanterns to one and all.

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The remainder of my trip passed by without event. I caught up with Jared and Nat, Rachel and Mike and managed to see Little India, Sentosa island (a literal playground for Singaporeans!) and tramped my way round the city (with a few cabs thrown in in the interest of time-saving in the heat, you understand). On the subject of sore feet, I much enjoyed my reflexology foot massage in Chinatown’s night market and reached an all time new fashion low with the purchase of some lesbian shoes Teva sandals; it’s not going to be glamorous from here on in folks.

My over all impressions of Singapore? I loved the easy feel of the place, the cleanliness, the proximity of everything, the scale of impressiveness in this relatively small city, the work ethic and can-do attitude, and the family-friendly vibe.

It was also pretty great to see one of my best friends some place other than mine, hers (pre-transfer) or All Bar One. I’ll be back for more Clark Quay riverside beers soon Gerry, I promise!

After six days I was ready to move on though, to the grottier grittier part of my trip.

Next stop Thailand, sa wat dee kha!

Who knew?

So, the LEAVING PARTY I didn’t really fancy having was…LOVELY (red wine aided, thank you Mr Malbec)..who knew I had so many lovely friends who wanted to see the back of me wish me well on my travels? Whilst we all have woes about a variety of issues big and small, let’s not forget how lucky we all are to have in each other such fantastic FRIENDS. You guys make my life fun, varied and happy.

I’m ready to split now, readers.  I’ll see you on the other side, with a tan, wild humidified hair and experiences that don’t involve involuntary frottage on SouthWest commuter trains.

Thanks for being so supportive and patient whilst I’ve waited for D-day, it’s been a long time coming, and I’m looking forward to actually having some tales to recount, rather than whingeing about my plans (or rather lack thereof), fears, and what the hell’s going in my backpack.

xx katieschaafs 

my most loved, below..

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Boy, oh boy!

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It is with so much joy that I’ve been able to meet this little mite who I’d otherwise not have met until April. I think we can all agree he’s perfect.

Huge congratulations to my sister and brother in law on their surprise arrival, 3 weeks early.

Now I can head off without the upset of missing his arrival – he obviously couldn’t wait to meet me either!

xx katieschaafs 

Are we nearly there yet?

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I’m on the home stretch now, and whilst work is still being a bitch to get through (instead of the easy wind down we’d hoped for), the light’s there, I can see it at the end of this bloody tunnel I’ve been crawling through.

I’ve tried to explain to friends that I feel quite embarrassed now about having known that I’ve been setting off for for longer an I’m actually going away for. Also, the reason I shouted so loud about travel was to make me FOLLOW THROUGH…it’s the only way I actually get myself to DO ANYTHING that’s out of my comfort zone…a bit like the time I threw myself off a mountain on a pair of skis with a  parachute (and a frenchman) strapped to my back, although admittedly a sturdy Val d’Isere hangover and a lame aversion to piste map reading also played a part in my quest for the quickest way down. The point is, I did it because it TERRIFIED me (and, as per above, because I’d told my ski-buddies I was going to), and aside from the hyperventilation and yelp-whimpering, I was EUPHORIC and proud to have pushed myself to do it.

My friends tell me I DO SO MUCH, but sometimes I feel I don’t really do ANYTHING. I feel like I’ve let life pass me by, and everything’s changed for almost everyone but me. I need to push myself more, and I’m looking forward to seeing if I’m perhaps a bit(/lot?) stronger than I give myself credit for. I have high hopes for 2013 and am hoping for some big changes. I hope I’m not expecting too much.

The next few weeks are going to fly by, and I’ve got some really special times to look forward to with friends and family over Christmas and the New Year.

Regrets, well: it’s safe to say I’VE HAD A FEW (and big thanks go to those who’ve helped me through them), but it’s now time to EMBRACE THE FUTURE.

I’m happy, and I’m looking forward to venturing in to the unknown and testing my resolve, patience, strength and fears.

xx katieschaafs

Fear of the Unknown, and other ramblings

…so we’re getting close to the wire now, and this isn’t really about the travel anymore; I’m starting to lose some sleep lately, I think, worrying about finishing up at work.

I KNOW.

I graduated in 1998 and have worked pretty much straight through since then. That’s a lot of desk time right there. 14 years in fact (I know, you can do the maths too..). How did those all those hours, days, months and years slip by so quickly? I have a lot in my life to be thankful for, but on this front I feel I’ve let myself down, by sticking at something that makes me unhappy.

So now that I’m stepping off the brain drain train, I’m wondering how I’ll cope without the routine of working life, and the everyday banter and familiarity that comes with the job. I sort of feel like I’ve decided to travel almost immediato to avoid making any other Important Life Decisions just yet, but I’m hoping the decisions will come easier after a break from the old routine (also, I suck at even the smallest of decisions). COP-OUT, but I still think it’s the right thing to do, as otherwise I run the risk of overthinking everything and getting my knickers in a right twist, and nobody needs to deal with THAT.

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Next year, I’m concerned about the culture shock, being completely out-of-my-comfort-zone, the ‘will I make friends?’ issue, the ‘how many scrapes am I gonna get into?’ concern, and mostly of being horribly homesick for my family. Having boarded as an expat kid and gone months on end without seeing my family, you’d think I’d have hardened up to this, but I’ve almost gone the other way…I totally need to (wo)MAN UP next year!

xx katieschaafs