Should we go to Sri Lanka tomorrow?

GP appointment. Physio appointment. Psychotherapy. Gastroenterology. Dietician. Rheumatology. Safe to say my health hasn’t been too sprightly these past few months and life has seemed to be one big appointment, just prodded in a different place.

Now for the next appointment: Heathrow Airport. Now I wouldn’t say I’m the strongest version of my self right now… so is it really a good idea to venture to the other side of the world to camp in a tent under the Sri Lankan stars, in the hope to cast my eyes on a dream of mine: a wild elephant… Mystical. Wise. Roaming free.

“Are you sure you’re up to this?” My Mum asks.

(Am I up to it?… Thing is, I’ve worked blooming hard to save up the $$$ to taste that fresh coconut fish curry & sip fine fragrant tea & feel a rich sun on my back & search for wild leopards. So yes. I’m up for it).

Yesterday I went for a stroll across quiet fields whilst listening to a podcast featuring one of my favourite authors, Matt Haig. He speaks openly about his own mental health struggles and was speaking about the power of not trying so hard. He had been trying so hard to ‘get better’ and to ‘put labels’ on his flaws, that this was actually winding him up even more, thus, making life even more of a struggle.

Perhaps my adventure will actually be an act of healing in itself?

If you’re a return reader of me ol’ blog (hi! Thanks!) you’ll know that 2 years ago I branched away from my beloved solo travel and went to India with my one and only Mum! The MamaDaughter adventures continued the following year too (India again, because we were hooked). This year I suggested Sri Lanka to use a couple of weeks annual leave. (Didn’t take much convincing, she must be addicted too now). She immediately agreed.

So now, time to pack the things that excite me the most:
Mosquito spray.
Imodium.

My stomach flutters and flicks with excitement when I think of a long haul flight. I just love it. It’s actually a length of time that forces me to slow down in life. For example, I often struggle to stay focused for an entire film as my mind will be flirting with a thousand other possibilities of what I could or should be doing in life right now that would be more productive (not a healthy trait and something I am trying to work on!) But on a plane, I’ll happily binge watch 3 films back to back. IT’S GREAT.

Also the plane food is great. I love the surprise. Even if it’s the surprise of tragic disappointment.

Speaking of tragic. I really don’t mind if I’m sat next to a complete loon. Or a heavy breather. Or someone that looks like they’ve eaten their family-size suitcase and so their stomach & side-back flop over half my seat too. You see, the weird and the distressing makes for a funny story and good writing material. I like it.

Let’s see if I get any decent writing material soon, ey? Will try to keep the blog updated. Bon voyage!

Visiting Barcelona: Always a good idea

You could say my trip started when I asked myself the question: why have I never been to Barcelona before? It’s a city rich in culture with mesmerising architecture cradling you on every street. It’s a city that offers exquisite tapas, sangria galore, and it’s always ready to cater to your fresh paella desires. It’s a city for the fashionistas, the beach bums, the health freaks, the foodies, the history geeks and the artists. It’s basically a must-see and therefore a must-go. To top it all, it’s so close (just over two hours flight, and you can get very very very cheap flights). So to answer the question, WHY have I not visited before? I really don’t know. This must change.

Me: “Lauren (colleague*), what are you doing a couple of weekends from now?”

*I use the word colleague very loosely. We’re great pals.

Lauren: “Nothing. Probably an Aldi shop. Maybe going for a run. Why?”

Me: “How about going for a run up Montjuic? In Barcelona. Let’s go.”

We then both did that thing that girls do when you jump around a bit and dance excitedly but you’re too excited you don’t really make any noise. (Note: no one else was in the office at this time).

We’re both the kind to save, save, save, and the odd splurge on an exciting last-minute travel plan, well, I don’t see anything wrong with that. We were lucky and found very cheap flights and cheap hotel. We’ll barely be in the hotel anyway, we’ll be too busy having fun, seeing new things and trying new food.

***

(Sighs). The concept of time is mad. Like the blink of an eye, it was about to start and then it was over. We went, laughed, ate great food, took some photos, got blisters, laughed some more and then came home. We’re back in the office.

Weekend trips away certainly don’t give you as much space or thinking time as a big backpacking trip and there isn’t enough time to feel part of a new community, BUT, they are very special in their own right. If you’re subject to the chronic travel bug, weekend trips to a new city will give you that quick fix, a boost of travel pleasure, if you may. In some ways they actually trump long-term trips as they’re less tiring and you’ll constantly have that energetic wide-eyed enthusiasm. (Unless you’re Lauren, having a sense of humour failure whilst getting harassed by locals selling mojitos and a foot massage on Barceloneta Beach).

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I hope that after reading this, you might consider saving the pennies to visit a new city in the near future! Or how about a national park you’ve never been to or a new museum in your hometown? Keep doing things that excite you.

But before you go, I’ll leave you with my tips on where to go / what to do in Barcelona, should you be visiting soon.

  1. Dine at Les Quinze Nits on the Place Reial. AMAZING food, great prices! It was so good, we went here twice and I had (big statement) the best dessert of my life. The Catalonian special was a magical concoction of coffee gelato, crème brulee and rich melted dark chocolate. (Video evidence of my foodgasm is available upon request).
  1. Trek (run if you’re a keeno) up Montjuic to see the Castell de Montjuic. Top tip: if you want incredible views, go early before 8am. No tourists.
  1. Rent bikes and ride along the pathway, parallel to the beach. It goes on for miles and miles. This was our favourite activity!

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  1. Meander around the Gothic Quarter and be in awe of the architecture that towers over you. Don’t plan too much, just get lost amongst it all and see what you find!
  1. Drink coffee in Els 4 Gats. It’s cute, quirky and has a great selection of drinks. To make it even cooler, it’s a café that Picasso used to hang out in.
  1. Visit La Boqueria market, one of the best food markets in the world. They say, ‘if you can’t find it in La Boqueria, it’s not worth buying.’

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  1. Of course, do the classics too! See La Sagrada Famila, Park Guell and eat tapas to your heart’s desire!

Shout out to Lauren: I’m usually a bit of a loner and I use this blog to encourage solo travel. But Lauren, I loved every minute with you. Thank you for such a special weekend. And thank you for walking all of those miles with me to get that sandwich that I really, really wanted for lunch.

The Snowdonia Adventure with Me Old Man

It’s been over a month since I returned from India. In order to soothe my travel addiction, something new had to be put in the diary. Of course, money doesn’t grow on trees and annual leave isn’t an eternal force, BUT, there are ways around this my friend; there is always a way.

Long Easter weekend: ideal.

Go somewhere new in the UK: easy on the ol’bank account

Go camping: even easier on the ol’bank account (plus, more fun).

I suggested going with ‘me old man.’ He has been guilt-tripping me for weeks about not getting an India-adventure invite. Of course, I’m not going with him out of sympathy. I want to go to Snowdonia with my Dad, because, if you’ve ever met my Dad, you’ll know that he’s a bit of a legend.

A blooming irritating legend, but a legend nevertheless.

Turning 68 this year (although he thought he was in his 70’s because, you know, memory issues)… he may not be able to run a sub 2.40 marathon anymore, or survive for weeks on end in a tent with temperatures dropping to -40, but in my Pappy’s little mind (and mine too) – once a Paratrooper, always a Paratrooper. But actually, if we’re being accurate, after eight years, he transferred to the Army Physical Training Corps.

I sent him a text earlier in the week, telling him about the really bad weather (rain and storms) that was approaching the Easter weekend in Snowdonia. To which he replied:

“Skin is waterproof. We’ll be fine.”

Looks like we’re going then.

He was a bit grumpy on the drive there, but certainly perked up when we started to hike up Mount. Tryfan. That guy can shift! I’m pretty confident in my fitness levels but even I was huffing and puffing a bit trying to keep up with his military pacing. To say we went off-piste is an understatement. Paths are dull and boring apparently and so our search for Heather Terrace had me scrambling through what felt like miles and miles of shrubs and ugly rocks. I think I annoyed him by being constantly indecisive as to whether I was taking my jacket off or leaving it on. It was extremely cold and I was wearing thermals, long sleeve, jumper, thin jacket, thick jacket, hat and gloves, two trousers, two socks.

Dad never has much sympathy and so there’s no point complaining, as you’ll probably get one of three responses:

“Oh shut your face.”

“Stop being a wimp.”

“Pain is just a weakness leaving the body.”

As you can imagine, my childhood was really quite something.

As you can also imagine, the thought of bringing a guy home to meet my Dad – well, you just wouldn’t, would you?

Anyway, we reached the summit in good spirits. We sheltered behind a rock for a bit and had some snacks and coffee from the flask to re-fuel for the way down. A couple of other guys were on the summit too. One of them took out a bottle of water and a sausage roll from his back-pack, then, before our eyes, a seagull swooped down and snatched the packaged savoury pastry from him. Gone.

“F***’in seagull has taken me sausage roll! Still had the wrapper on! What an f***’in’ joke! Did you see that!?”

We all burst out laughing.

The summit of Tryfan is famous for the twin monoliths of Adam and Eve, a pair of rocks some three metres high and separated by 1.2 metres. Dad, wanting to prove that age is just a number, jumped from one to the other with great ease.

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We took our time on our way down and enjoyed the views. They were cloudy views, but views nevertheless. There’s something about hiking – even though it can be exhausting at the time, there’s something so therapeutic about it and I never really want it to end. It’s blissful not to have to think about day-to-day life, no diary, no problems, no anxiety, just climb, and keep climbing, and see beautiful things.

It’s not all glamorous though. You become dirty and stinky and this time, the cold, damp conditions had made my chilblains flare up. Ouch!!!

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Dad told me about a guy he once knew who described hiking like so:

“It’s like banging your head against a brick wall… It’s lovely when you stop.”

***

After filling our stomachs with tinned food, we continued to wear all our clothing (including jackets and hats), got into our sleeping bags and tried to go to sleep.

Didn’t sleep. Swear I was lying on a rock. And Dad’s snoring, don’t even get me started…

But when you get back to the comforts of the everyday – the heating, the clean fluffy socks, the bubble bath, when you get back to all of that, no matter how gross the situations were when you were ‘roughing it’ whilst travelling… I sure do miss it.

When back at home and flicking through some of the photos that were taken, this one of me (below) makes Dad laugh.

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“You look like a page out of that book, ‘Where’s Frank?’

“You mean, Where’s Wally?”

“Yeah, that’s the one.”

The countdown to India

For the last few years I have fantasised about India. The fragrance, the textures, the tastes and the noise. The decadence and the dirt. I knew that one day I would do whatever I needed to do in order to visit the country that was a mysterious, enticing dream to me.

Cue January sales.

It’s happening. Last minute deal. Absolute steal.

I’d happily go and travel alone again, I thought (much to my parents’ horror). Or – do any of my good friends want to go with me? ANY TAKERS? That would be cool. I knew as soon as I saw that deal online that I was definitely going to go (subject to work giving me the OK, which luckily they did!)…But I knew the chances of any of my friends also wanting / able to jet off to New Delhi in a few weeks time was pretty slim.

Alone it is.

I thought I should be a good daughter and keep my Mum in the loop. I sent her a text message.

 “Hey Mum. I’m going to book a trip to India tonight. Wanna come?”

I smiled to myself at my hilarity. Of course Mummy Mulligan won’t want to go to India. Carolyn Routine Mulligan. Carolyn Everything Must Be Clean Mulligan. Carolyn The Biggest Worrier In The World Mulligan.

Beep Beep. My phone buzzed.

Hey Mum. I’m going to book a trip to India tonight. Wanna come?

“Yes.”

I’m sorry, what?

Of course, I gave her a call to clarify that she meant to agree to something else. Such as Dad wanting confirmation that dinner would be at 6pm like it has been every evening for the past 30 years of their marriage.

To my disbelief, my Mum wanted to travel to India with me. And not just lie on a beach and be served cocktails (she wouldn’t like that anyway because she gets sun stroke really easily). But she actually wanted to travel through the North of India with me, exploring, travelling by train, making our way to the foothills of the Himalayan mountains.

I am beyond excited! I know I make fun of Mummy Mulligan, but she knows I love her dearly and she knows she is one of my best friends.

MUM AND DAUGHTER ADVENTURE.

But now the departure date is very fast approaching, I think it has dawned on her what she has signed up for. When I was trying to explain to her what the humidity would feel like – she gulped and her face turned grey.

She has turned to buying Yakult drinks and over-priced probiotic tablets in an attempt to prepare her stomach for what’s to come.

Her Google search is an obsessive repetitive list of ‘Weather in Delhi’ / ‘Tourist scams in India’

She is losing sleep at night at the thought of not being able to drink Yorkshire tea.

“I’m taking my own teabags.” She told me.

I’m going to just let her be and do her thing. But I can’t wait to see her face light up as we sample chai tea together. The real deal.

The countdown to India begins!

 

!!! I feel I must mention that whilst writing this blog post my Mum text me. I’m not even making this up. Do you know what she sent?

“Shame weather is terrible. How is your foot? Have you been taking Yakult?”