Country Diaries

Month: January 2017

Goa’s beach paradise

Rose-gold shimmers across the beach. A blood red sun takes its final bow, slipping into the silver Arabian Sea. I sip my frozen coconut drink and think, “Goa, you’re alright.”

We travelled to India last week, the journey slightly fuzzy around the edges due to numerous refills at the A380 bar.

I’m blaming the handsome Irish bar man, “Go on ‘av another,” he’d urge. So I did.

 

For a few panic-stricken minutes, I lose my passport at Dubai Airport and Jim sighs very loudly in my face. The passport is found, and we’re on to Mumbai, and our final connection to Goa.

Welcome to India

I am wildly excited, and slightly delirious with jet-lag, when we finally arrive at Goa’s International Airport – joining a motley crew of hippies, backpackers, loud Brits and locals.

Face-pressed against the window, I gorge on my first sights of India en route to our hotel in South Goa.

A woman in a bright blue sari carries a water jug on her head. Coconut sellers crouch at the roadside, faces shielded from the pounding sun.

Children play in arid, red dirt and holy cows meander by with a lazy flick of the tail.

Holy 🐮!

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Two days ago we were driving along winding country roads in England, a procession of hunting dogs and riders in top hats clattering by. Now, here we are, in India.

The perils of driving on English country roads! 🐴

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India’s west coast paradise

Goa is the most westernised part of India, a recommended good introduction before braving the mayhem of the cities.

Divided into two states – north and south – Goa is home to over twenty beaches. And they are all idyllic – clear blue waters and soft, gold sand fringed by palms and coconut groves.

Palm trees for miles 🌴🌴🌴🌴

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The area is also notorious for its party scene, a result of the many hippies migrating here in the late sixties.

We skip the Goan trance parties and local lethal ‘moonshine’ – cashew feni – for some good old-fashioned sunshine and rejuvenation.

Delicious coconut frappe by the pool. Loving Goa's tropical climate after a few chilly weeks in the UK. 🌴🌴

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The days pass slowly as we fall into a lazy rhythm of breakfast, pool and early evening stroll along the beach for sunset, drinks and dinner.

Tourists, locals and expats gather on the beach nightly to watch the spectacular Goan sunsets. No two nights are the same as the sky explodes into gold, pink, red and orange.

Kingfisher and seafood while bathing in the rose-gold hue you only get from a truly awesome sunset.

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Thali,  a feast for the eyes, and stomach

The local food is fantastic – aromatic Goan fish curry, fresh seafood and coconut-flavoured curries. The best food I sample is a delicious, colourful vegetarian thali.

Delicious Goan vegetarian thali. This colourful feast included a fab pineapple curry and coconut crepes.

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‘Thali’ is a way of serving food in lots of little dishes, generally served with roti and rice. The pleasure of thali is sampling a number of dishes, savoury and sweet all in one hit.

My favourite thali included  colourful pineapple curry and a red spinach and coconut dish, followed by sweet coconut crepes and a tart, lassi drink.

A friend told me she crept up a dress size while travelling India.

“Well that won’t happen to me,” I smugly thought at the time. “I’ll eat lovely healthy veggie and fish curries, lay off the rice and actually, I’ll probably lose weight.”

I may have spoken too soon. The food is insanely good and the ‘healthy’ veggie curries are served with mounds of steaming rice, roti and garlic naan.

I’ve been hitting the hotel gym in a desperate bid to work off some of the calories.

Sadly, the lure of the delicious food is far greater than that of the gym.

Goa has been blissful and I know we’ve barely scratched the surface of its natural beauty and old charm.  However, it’s time to pack up and head off – the cities of India beckon!

 

Smitten with Britain

I’m afraid tumbleweeds have been blowing through this blog recently. A broken laptop and dodgy wifi in the English countryside have rendered me digitally absent.

The good news is, I’m back. And lots of lovely things have been happening.

We arrived in the UK early December by ferry from Zebrugge – a closely-guarded secret from family and friends who believed we were temple-hopping in Cambodia.

First glimpse of the UK travelling undercover on the Zebrugge – Hull ferry

Elf yourself

We’ve had a marvellous time turning up on doorsteps unexpected, giving family members the shock of their lives.

My absolute favourite was crashing an elf-themed party in the lovely Surrey countryside.

Here, we surprised Jim’s sister who nearly keeled over when she saw us. Once she had recovered – aided by some fortifying white wine – we made merry with dozens of strangers, all dressed as elves. It was the best.

A special Sydney visitor for Christmas

In other good news, our beloved pug, Winston, joined us from Sydney for Christmas. Quite the international jet-setter!

I talked a couple of blog posts back about the challenges of bringing your dog overseas, and here when our plans fell through last minute. So, as you can imagine, we’re delighted he’s safely here and enjoying bolting around English fields.

Introducing the little one to the joys of brisk country walks. His first experience of muddy fields and frosty grass! 🐶🌿🌿

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Jim’s sister got a second surprise on Christmas Eve to find him sitting in front of the fire wrapped in a large, red silk bow. You can watch the video here.

We’ve spend a lovely Christmas and New Year with family across the UK from London to the north, exploring beautiful countryside along the way.

Beautiful (and noisy!) geese at dusk over Rutland Water 🌅

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Quintessentially English villages

For years Jim and I have dreamt, discussed and deliberated a village we have never visited. A picture perfect village with honey-coloured cottages nestled in the heart of the English countryside.

The village is Castle Combe, arguably England’s prettiest village. For the past five years, it’s been the much-loved desktop background on Jim’s laptop.

We’d spend many a Sydney evening, ‘driving’ up and down the main street on google earth – exploring cobbled backstreets and zooming in on particularly lovely cottages.

Shortly after our arrival in England, we headed for the Cotswolds to finally see it for ourselves.

Cotswolds country

The Cotswolds in southwest England boasts beautiful countryside and timeless villages built from golden Cotswold stone.

Quintessentially English, Castle Combe is a step back in time, sitting peacefully in the heart of rural Wiltshire.

The day we visited was chilly and plumes of grey smoke rose from the chimneys of houses dating back hundreds of years.

An ethereal mist hung low across the surrounding fields and stream at the foot of the village.

We could hardly believe our luck when two otters appeared, their sleek heads bobbing along before ducking under the icy water and out of sight.

 

Hunting for the perfect village

Castle Combe is one of the many charming villages we explored in December in search of the perfect place to live when we relocate permanently later this year.

Counting 🐑🐑🐑. Brisk winter walks in the English countryside. 🌿

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Rutland is a small but beautiful county in mainland England that also captured our hearts.

Even in winter, rolling fields spread out like soft green pillows, dotted with quaint villages and chocolate box cottages.

This adorable cottage reminds me of the one from my favourite Christmas rom-com. Any guesses? 🏡🎄

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See you in spring, Blighty

Christmas is over and the road is calling us once again. January is a great time to escape England – a couple of particularly grim and grey months now loom. We’ll be back by spring when the realities of house and job hunting will begin.

We’re headed for India and I’m looking forward to lots of new adventures over the next few months.

Hope you’ve all had a great start to 2017 – here’s to a fantastic year for all of us!

Fireside Christmas gin with cinnamon and cloves.

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