Category Archives: Travel

Seaside In The Spring

“Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside….” over the recent Easter week I visited the quiet UK Essex resort of Holland on Sea, just north of the bustling resort of Clacton – a promenade links the two resorts and is easily walkable (although in summer there is a road train running ). I have visited Clacton for my holidays as a small child and in 2004, my parents moved to Holland on Sea from London – it was always a dream of theirs to move to a bungalow by the sea. Compared to Clacton, Holland doesn’t have the amusement arcades, funfairs and the pier but I do prefer the laidback feel of Holland on Sea.

Lining the promenade between Clacton and Holland Haven Country Park are colourful beach huts – glorified sheds that have captured the hearts of many people.  Prior to 2014 the promenade fronted the railings and rocks of the sea defences – still a nice walk but most families headed to the beaches of Clacton and Frinton (the resort north of Holland on Sea). 

The promenade in 2014 walking from Holland On Sea towards Clacton

Since 2015 a major renovation project has been going on to reclaim the beach at Holland on Sea – the promenade and beach huts are still there but now they front miles of endless sandy beach.  The promenade is fabulous for walking – however dog walking is restricted to the promenade only in the summer months (May – October).  

Holland-on-Sea beach

Some beach huts are looking a bit tired at the moment but the winter season has come to a close and the dry, sunny weather has enticed the owners to paint their huts – the array of colours are dazzling – and some huts have scenes painted on them.

For Pinning Later

One hut as we walked past, was having an intricate scene painted not only on the outside but I also glimpsed the colourful painted scenes inside the hut too.  

The council has also erected some new beach huts on a reclaimed part of the beach which are available to hire on a daily basis.  

In the distance, you can see the outlying wind farm that lies out in the North Sea….

If you don’t want to boil up your kettle in your beach hut for a well deserved cuppa, then the assortment of cafes dotted along the prom will certainly provide you with your caffeine quota.  Alas, being out of season, I only found one cafe open aptly called The Beaches Cafe.  This cafe is a favourite with my mum as a tea stop on her daily walk. On this occasion though we indulged in lunch – yummy cod & chips, large jacket potatoes stuffed to the rafters with coleslaw, burger & chips, and my youngest son enjoyed his bacon & fried egg sandwich immensely!  The menu catered for those who want sandwiches, salads and toasted sandwiches too – as well as a coffee machine serving “real” coffee  and more delicate cups of tea if you don’t like a large mug of builder’s tea! My favourite part was the delicious ice cream – flavours included traditional vanilla, strawberry, chocolate as well as some more interesting flavours including lemon sorbet, rum & raisin, and my absolute favourite … maple & walnut! 

The Beaches Cafe also had a variety of beach equipment for sale from beach balls and fishing nets to blow up jet skis and giant whales.   Their shoes section had an array of boating shoes, flip flops and slider sandals for adults and children.

You could quite easily spend ages at the view from the window … although in summer, tables and chairs spill out over the terrace and  along the promenade itself…

As it is National Walking Month in May, I can’t think of a nicer place to have stroll…

Linda x

Photo Credit: Linda Hobden

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An Interview With Henrik Jeppesen

I love travelling. I am an avid armchair traveller too – watching documentaries about far away places, reading travel blogs and magazines like National Geographic. As a child I used to look at my globe and atlas for hours on end. Maps fascinated me – still do.  So this week I’m pleased to welcome onto the blog somebody whose Facebook page fills me with delight when a new photo or update is posted. He has made being a traveller a profession.  He has visited every single country in the world.  He has lots of stories to tell.  And he has taken time out of his busy schedule to chat to me! Welcome to the blog, Henrik Jeppesen! ….

On the island of Socotra

Hi! I’m Henrik, 28 years old. I’ve spent 3,000+ days to visit every country in the world.

From 2006 to 2016 you have visited every country in the world. What made you decide that you wanted to do that?

Inspired by watching TV and foreign films about the different countries around the world. Then I set a goal of visiting 50 countries and then 100 countries. I decided to go for all of them as I became more comfortable travelling.

I was a geography geek as a child (still am) with my head in an atlas or in a guidebook – I’m quite happy being an armchair traveller (reading & watching TV programmes) as well as exploring the world for myself. Did you have a fascination with countries as a small child?

Don’t remember exactly when it started, but might have been my early teenage years. Liked geography in school as it was one of the few things I liked about going to school.

You grew up in Denmark, so apart from your own country, what was the first country you visited?

Must have been a short trip to Germany. The first big trip on my own was to Egypt when I was 17.

Have you got any favourite destinations and why are they specifically at the top of your list?

Many favourites for different reasons. South Africa, New Zealand and Italy are three. South Africa as it has so much to offer. New Zealand for the beautiful nature and Italy for the food.

What place is your least favourite and why?

My driver went to prison in South Sudan for taking a photo of me in front of a building. They wanted to throw me into prison as well, but after they checked my camera, they let me go.

Corinthia Hotel Khartoum, Sudan 2013

We all have preconceived ideas of what a country will be like – what country totally took you by surprise and was totally opposite of what you thought it would be?

There are many, but Rwanda would be one of them. I had very low expectations, but it’s a surprisingly great country that feels well organised. In that part of the world you normally have a bad infrastructure and a lot of problems to deal with as a traveller, but not in Rwanda. It’s such a beautiful country as well. Paying 5 dollars for a bus ticket across the country is one of the best things you can do.

Your current aim is to visit every territory in the world – are you rattling through them at a pace?

No, I am taking it slowly like I did with every country. 3,000 days of travel is a lot and it will take me some time to visit every territory as well.

Rwanda 2013

I love travelling & flying but I hate airports! What’s your favourite and least favourite airports?

Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport, Israel is the worst airport experience. First, I joined the queue for foreigners where they asked me questions that no other airport in the world has asked me. They wanted to see my Eritrea visa, hotel reservation in Eritrea and it just felt like they didn’t believe a word of what I was saying. Horrible and other travellers have had similar experiences. The questions are one thing, but the security is the worst experience I have ever had at an airport. They don’t treat you like a human being and they make you feel so uncomfortable you don’t want to ever visit Israel again. They are searching every single little piece of your bag like no other airport. They are touching you like no other airport is touching you. They wouldn’t allow my brand new Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (a gift from my father), to be in its case for security and as a result, I got scratches on the screen. I complained, but the staff screamed at me and there was nothing to do. If you ever want to visit Israel, make sure you are at the airport three hours before on the way out and prepare for at least a couple of hours of absolute horror.
Favourite: Not sure. I also don’t like airports.

Henrik’s only car accident that happened near Cite Soleil in Haiti, the most dangerous place in the world.

Do you have a favourite mode of travel?

By car in the countryside of countries I like.

Some places are notoriously difficult to enter or are normally closed to outsiders, eg North Korea, Syria, Afghanistan. Which place was the most difficult to enter & how did you manage it? Which place scared you or made you feel most uncomfortable/unsafe?

There are different requirements for visiting the different countries around the world. Equatorial Guinea was really hard but managed to get my visa in Lagos (Nigeria) after writing about myself on a piece of paper. Saudi Arabia is very difficult for tourism so went on a business visa and had Radisson Blu sponsoring it.

North Korea

Let’s talk food. Which country, in your opinion, has the best cuisine so far? And the worst?

Best are Italy and France for sure. Worst was North Korea. I didn’t eat much there as it was just horrible. Thought I couldn’t go wrong with icecream but it was terrible as well.

Has it all been plain sailing or do you have any memorable disasters?

Food poisoning in the Andaman Islands, India. In a destination without luxury hotels, Ixzire (with a Tripadvisor rating of 5) was one of the best options in the Andaman Islands, located between the Indian mainland and Thailand. While the property was fine, the dinner on the first evening was the beginning of the worst six months of my life. A fish curry made me seriously sick where I couldn’t breathe properly. After three days I tried to fly back to the mainland, but it was the worst flight of my life. The cabin crew gave me oxygen and asked for a doctor. I had to lay down for the entire flight. I couldn’t even sit up for landing. I arrived in Chennai, and it took me a week before I was able to fly again. The problems with my breathing ability came back multiple times over the coming months. Lesson learned. Be very careful about what you eat.

Interviewed By Yemen Today

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing when in travelling aeroplane mode?

I travel very light. Jeans, shirt and everyday-use shoes.

Do you go shopping for clothes/accessories whilst travelling? If so, which country was shopping a pleasant or otherwise experience?

I live minimalistic. Everything I own can be in a small backpack. Life for me is not about owning things, but experiences.

Bonaire in the Caribbean, 2013

What items of clothing/footwear/accessories are your “essentials” when travelling?

I try to avoid travelling places where I would need a jacket so I don’t need to travel with much clothes.

Boots or Shoes?  

Shoes. Lightest weight 🙂

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can follow your adventures

You can follow Henrik’s travels and get his tips on Facebook,Twitter, Instagram and his blog.

At the time of this publication, Henrik is currently exploring South Georgia Island – catch his beautiful photos of the island and its beautiful penguin inhabitants.  It certainly is an island that has captured his heart.  Dear readers, what destination is number 1 on your bucket list? Do share your dreams….

PIN FOR LATER: 

Linda’s travels – Madeira 2016

Linda x

All photos (apart from the pin later photo) have been published with kind permission of Henrik Jeppesen. Photo Credits: HenrikTravel.com;  Pin Later Photo: Linda Hobden 

 

 

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An Interview With Afrika Presents

On the blog today is Mara Menzies, Kenyan-Scottish storyteller and founder of Afrika Presents.  Afrika Presents draws inspiration from Africa’s rich stories and vibrant cultures when designing its products.  I was particularly drawn to their “The African Fashion Design Sketchbook”, a book that combines the history and beauty of African fashion textiles to children, with the aim of inspiring children to want to learn more about the amazing continent. I caught up with Mara recently to find out more…. Hi Mara and welcome….

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Hi, I’m Mara, a storyteller, founder of Afrika Presents, mother of 2 incredible children, dreamer, dancer, reader and traveller.

“The African Fashion Design Sketchbook” is a book that brings together the incredible history & beauty of fashion textiles from Africa to children. So what was the inspiration behind writing & compiling this book?

I returned home from Kenya and wanted a gift for my daughter and bought a fashion book where she could design a model and I found myself wishing that there was an African version of that so she could create, imagine and explore the things she loved but learn about her African heritage at the same time. Then I thought I’m going to do that and I did! African fashions and textiles are so beautiful and their histories are so intertwined with other cultures around the world but we never hear about that so I took the approach to make sure it was fun but informative too.

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You are a Kenyan Scottish storyteller – so how come you decided to start up your company, Afrika Presents?

Once the idea of the fashion book was born, there was so much else to explore that it made sense to form the company and think of what direction it could go. Being a storyteller is a real privilege as you share some very personal moments with small groups of people. I felt that there were so many stories to be told, so many other ways to explore such a vast and vibrant continent that it was impossible to do it just by myself. Through Afrika Presents, I have been able to work with a wider range of people – artists, designers, people experienced with the business side of things, and so many more.

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Africa has many rich stories – do you have a particular favourite tale?

There are so many to choose from but I do love an Ethiopian story about a woman who innocently throws a bone out of the window which is fought over by 2 dogs, which results in 2 boys fighting, then 2 women fighting, then 2 men fighting, then 2 villages fighting until suddenly the whole thing has spiralled out of control. Finally they realise that everyone involved could have stopped it before it reached that terrible point. Sacrifices are made and peace does return but the moral is that we must always think before throwing our bones out of the window. Of course the bone is symbolic of so many things in our lives but I love sharing this story because everyone gets caught up in the ruckus without realising where the story is heading and then suddenly BAM, they get it, and it is a wonderful feeling to take people on that rollercoaster.

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You are currently developing an app that will bring the pages of the book alive. That project sounds totally awesome, I must say. What parts of the app do you think will particularly grab a child’s attention in more ways than the book?

Yes, we’re really excited about it. There are videos, games and quizzes and we plan to continually upgrade the content too. I think the children (and adults) will really like the interactive elements as they can then test themselves and we live in a digital age so it is amazing to able to fuse pen, paper and the digital world.

What books did you enjoy reading as a child? What genre of books do you enjoy reading now?

I grew up in Kenya and my diet consisted of Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, The Famous Five, The Nancy Drew mysteries, a series of books about twins from various cultures, and we always had National Geographic magazines around the house. I also loved the books where you had to choose which page to go to to change the path of the story. Nowadays, we are lucky to have access to authors from all over the world. I love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Muthoni Garland as well as random books that I stumble upon, often with a traditional folktale structure. I’m currently reading The Book of Lost Things which turns folktales on their heads and is hugely enjoyable and thought provoking and I love books about Scottish mythology and mystical creatures. Scotland tells a great story.

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I have been to Kenya myself and was captivated by the beauty of the country – Mt Kilimanjaro was a particular favourite spot of mine. Have you got a favourite part of Africa? Any part of Africa you haven’t yet visited but is on your bucket list?

One of my favourite memories was at our farm in Kenya which is on the side of a valley. there was a silver river snaking its way at the bottom and quartz in the ground always twinkled at sunset. On one evening, somebody somewhere was playing a reed flute and it was just so beautiful. That is now my favourite place. I’d love to visit Botswana and Namibia and I love Malian music so will hopefully get there too.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I am seasonal in the sense that winter I close shop and wear boots, jeans and thick chunky jumpers and go for comfort over fashion. But in the summer I adore bright colours and patterns. I like shoes with small  heels. I can’t wear very high heels but I’ve always loved the grandeur of Victorian fashion and so the shorter, curvier heels make me feel part of that!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love raiding the charity shops and then tweaking what I find at home. I also find treasures in vintage shops. I do visit Zanjoo.com every now and again as they have some fantastic skirts and often match colours successfully that really shouldn’t work but always do. As I go to Kenya every year, I always find stunning fabrics and I have a tailor who makes beautiful clothes so I go with a wishlist. Otherwise I buy basics on the high street.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Now we’re heading for winter, it’s time for my annual boot splurge. I would love to own good quality boots in a vibrant red but they are hard to find! I sometimes find incredible boots for my 9 year old that I want in my size!

Boots or Shoes?

Flat boots for everyday comfort and lovely shoes or high heeled boots when I’m trying to impress:)

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about Afrika Presents.

Visit the website at www.afrikapresents.com and we’re at https://www.facebook.com/Afrikapresents

Thank you Mara for introducing your fab company! I have always been fascinated with the continent of Africa and my youngest son has the continent in the number one slot of his bucket travel list – he loves animals and the vast outdoors.  Like you I grew up with the stories of Raold Dahl and Enid Blyton; I read the National Geographic Magazine from cover to cover – and my children have grown up surrounded by the same … along with modern technology.  One African story I liked was about the baobab tree that I heard whilst in Kenya – it is known as the upside down tree as its branches don’t have leaves and they look like tree roots!  Dear readers, are you fascinated by Africa? Would you like to visit? Or have you travelled there already? Do you have an African story to tell? As always, do share – I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Mara Menzies.

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Spotlight On Maison Bernard Orcel Courchevel

Snow has already descended on parts of Canada, USA, Scotland and Northern England, heralding the start of the winter ski season in the Northern Hemisphere.  It seems most fitting, therefore, to introduce onto my blog one of the finest, if not the finest (in my opinion), alpine designer fashion  & ready-to-wear ski wear shop in the world – Maison Bernard Orchel Courchevel.  Founded in 1975 in Courchevel, Maison Bernard Orchel Courchevel  was named after the famous alpine skier.  Maison Bernard Orchel Courchevel is more than just a shop, as I found out…..

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Why did you pick Courchevel as the location for your shop?

Courchevel is a luxurious ski resort located in the French Alps, with one of the largest ski areas in the world: 3 Valleys.  The ski resort hosts the most prestigious international clientele.  This ski paradise is also one of the most luxurious places in the world with a high concentration of 5 star hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants and unique boutiques.

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What are your most popular products?

Just like every year since forever, Moon Boots are very popular.  The most popular shoe brand is Jimmy Choo, so it stands to reason that their moon boots are a great hit.

What’s new for the 2016 winter season?

Chiara Ferragni  Moonboots, some exclusive Fendi Sportswear, and the launch of Balmain Man at Bernard Orcel.

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What makes Maison Bernard Orcel Courchevel special?

Maison Bernard Orcel offers customers the chance to unwind and relax by being surrounded by beauty and quality.  Florence, the Head of House for 25 years, knows and recognises the very dear Bernard Orcel clientele. Like a real concierge, the whole Bernard Orcel team supports our customers during their stay in Courchevel for any of their requests. We offer our customers a shopping service at home. The collections (ready-to-wear or skiwear) are presented by a personal shopper from our team. Our seamstress is also at the disposal of our customers throughout the season to adjust and retouch their purchases.

Although you are in France, do you deliver worldwide?

According to the client’s wishes, we offer the possibility of a delivery service any time in Courchevel, and all over the world.

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What brands do you stock (ready-to-wear)?

Balmain, Brioni, Brunello Cucinelli, Chiara Ferragni, Dsquared, Fabiana Filippi, Faubourg 32, Jacob Cohen, Maison Ullens, Sartorial Tramarossa, Simonetta Ravizza, Stefano Ricci…..

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….And Skiwear?

AZ Atelier, Bogner, Dsquared Ski Capsule, Fendi Ski Collection, Jet Set, Kru, Toni Sailer, Zai, Zero Ski.   We also provide sales services and ski rental delivery directly into the hotel or chalet in Courchevel.    This service also includes the possibility to try and buy our skiwear collections. A full service from the ski outfit to the technical equipment!

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….And Shoes?

Buscemi, Emma Salimova & Ugg, Guiseppe Zanotti, Jimmy Choo, Ludwig Reiter, Santoni, Tod’s.

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Fashion & Art

Bernard Orcel has invited the famous artist Leo Caillard to exhibit his work as a tribute to the classic sculpture. The exhibition, entitled “Hipster In Store”, offers an unique alliance of fashion and art through sculptures of antiquity. Dressed in a contemporary way, the gods Zeus, Hercules and the goddess Diana enter our era wearing shirt, jeans and a little dress.

Shop Details

Bernard Orcel, Rue du Rocher Courchevel 1850, 73120 Saint Bon Tarentaise.

www.bernard-orcel.com 

Instagram:  Bernard Orcel

FB: Bernard Orcel Courchevel

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So, when you next go skiing in the French Alps check out Maison Bernard Orcel Courchevel  and have a browse amongst the rails and enjoy the unique art exhibitions too! What a shopping experience!  Dear readers, do you enjoy partaking in winter sports? Do you have a favourite skiing location?  

Linda x

All photos published with kind permission from Maison Bernard Orcel Courchevel.

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Meetings In Moccasins

Do you feel that you are on the hamster wheel of work, spinning round and round, day in day out?  Do you get so work focused that you forego those breaks/holidays? Yes?  My guest this week is Barbara Wittmann – business owner, leadership coach, IT consultant and a passionate entrepreneur – whose latest new book “Meetings In Moccasins”, shares the positive implications of slowing down, taking a leaf out of nature’s book and  from the ancient wisdom of North American cultures.  I caught up with Barbara recently to find out more….

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Hi! I’m Barbara Wittmann, 40 years old and live in Munich, Germany. I’m an IT Consultant, leadership coach and passionate entrepreneur. My quest for healthy concepts of leadership and growth brought me into the wilderness, where I explored the ancient wisdom of Native American cultures. I integrate their values and rituals into my daily business life with great success. I frequently travel to wild places to get away from my hectic business life, recharge and feed my soul. I’m a world traveller and love to connect opposites, as I believe that is the place where true innovation really happens.

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Congratulations on publishing your book, “Meetings In Moccasins” – a book that advises how to avoid the hamster wheel of work and shares the positive implications of slowing down and getting back to the basics of nature. What inspired you to put pen to paper?

I started my own business 10 years ago. The first years were rough in getting a foot on the ground, hiring my first employees and building a client base. Being an entrepreneur is quite the journey. It involves facing fears and frequently go beyond your personal comfort zone. I wanted to do it right and was hiring a business coach to speed up growth. I soon doubled and tripled my revenue and even founded two other companies. Here I wanted to escape the hamster wheel when I started my own business just to find out that I was in it again. I knew that I had to change things to stay healthy. I was at a point of questioning many things in my life and decided I needed to do some intense self reflection. I signed up for a Visionquest, which is based in the Native American tradition. I went out into nature to quiet my mind and see what is next. After sitting in solitude for three days and three nights I came back with the realization that nature is our biggest teacher when it comes to growth. I started applying the basic principles to my own organization to find out that by slowing down and getting back to basics I was happiest, had happier employees and clients. I felt my experience and journey was worth sharing, as our world needs to get back to a healthier pace.

Taking a leaf out of nature’s book, and adding elements of ancient wisdom from Native American cultures, readers will learn what it takes to achieve sustainable personal and professional fulfilment. Who is your target audience for this book?

The target audience for my book are business owners, entrepreneurs and team leaders. This book is written for all those who are curious on how to apply healthier concepts to their personal and professional lives.

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You have explored the ancient wisdom of Native American cultures. What, in your own mind, was the most valuable lesson you learnt from them? What attracts you to the Native American cultures?

What attracts me to the Native American Culture is the wealth of wisdom and the closeness to nature. It is a very distinct way of viewing the world and understanding the natural laws. Something that modern society has completely lost. We have all become so materialistic, that we are neglecting the wealth of knowledge of those who have come before us. For me the most profound teaching in the ancient ways is about how to see beauty in our broken world. The Navajo call the core of their teachings Beauty Way. I love that concept, because if we don’t see beauty in ourself, our action and the world anymore we have lost all connection to healthy relationships, gratitude and humility.

Although you live in Germany, is your book available to purchase overseas?

Yes, my book is available for purchase through my US publisher Balboa Press or simply through Amazon.

Are you looking at writing other books in the future? What topics would you like to cover?

This is definitely not the last book with my name on it. There are so many topics that I would be curious to explore deeper. I’m working with a lot of individuals and businesses. I’m always really touched by their stories. The next book might be one of stories on how implementing some of the practices in my book changed their way of doing things. This is just an example. Many more ideas cooking.

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

My all time favorite author is Terry Tempest Williams. When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice is one of the most powerful books I have read. I love poetry. When I go backpacking I always bring my personal collection of poems with me. That includes a broad variety from Rainer Maria Rilke to Mary Oliver.

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You frequently travel to the wild and untouched places of North America – Where is your favourite location?

I have a little vacation home in the Four Corners Region. From my doorstep I can literally hike into the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument. Other favorite playgrounds in that area include Canyonlands National Park, Mesa Verde & the Manti La Sal National Forest. Other places I really enjoy are Death Valley & the Sierras. And there is so much more to see. I just need more time to explore 😉

What place is at the top of your “Must See” Travel bucket list?

Hike the John Muir Trail
Travel to Iceland to see the Northern Lights
See wildlife in Africa
Travel the Australian Outback

When you’re not busy with your work commitments, what hobbies/past times do you enjoy to relax?

I love riding my road bike. I usually go out at the crack of dawn when I have the roads to myself. To me this is almost meditative. I love to cook and having friends over for dinner. This includes going to the local farmers market. Simply dedicating a complete day to relationships & good conversations. I go on walks or hikes whenever I can. This is my way of digesting my busy days and slowing down.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

When I started my corporate carrer as a consultant the right outfit was really important. Basically it underlined your competency level. In those days I really needed professional clothing as my level of experience was still low 😉 Today I can get away with business casual, as I know my stuff. You would find me showing up for a consulting gig in jeans, leather boots & a blouse. Depending on the topic and situation I sometimes show up at clients wearing a happy face T-Shirt. A good way to break the ice. For outdoor clothing I prefer modern and colorful functional clothing. Hard to find, as most outdoor outfitters choose earth colours. My all time favorite is a german brand called Maloja. They add colour and fun to outdoor clothing.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Even though there are many great online sites out there I’m still old fashioned and I love shopping in smaller stores in Munich or when I’m in the U.S. my favorite shopping spot is downtown Boulder. A must see is “Show Fly” and  “Goorin Bros Hat Shop.”

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

As I’m heading to Colorado in December on the top of my list are warm SOREL winter boots.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots are my favorite. I feel they are more functional and pretty much go with anything. My favorite are boots from BED STU.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your book.

www.barbarawittmann.de
https://www.facebook.com/ba.wittmann/?fref=ts

I love your travel bucket lists ideas, Barbara.  I have seen the Northern Lights not in Iceland but in the mountains of Northern Finland and I have been on safari in Kenya.  I share your dream to visit the Australian Outback (I’d love to see Uluru Rock) and Iceland.  I would love to photograph polar bears in Churchill, Canada, visit your wilderness area (Four Corners Region)  and do a exploration cruise to the Antarctic! So, dear readers, what’s on your travel bucket list? Do tell, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Barbara  Wittmann.

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Notes From A Very Small Island

Have you ever visited and fallen in love with a place whilst on holiday so far removed from your life at home? Would you upsticks and move to that idyllic place on a permanent basis?  Well, my guest and his wife did just that over 20 years ago! Please welcome onto the blog my guest, author Anthony Stancomb – Anthony & his wife discovered the beautiful Croatian island of Vis over 20 years ago, and decided to move there from the UK.  Following his best seller novel “Under A Croatian Sun”, Anthony has written a sequel “Notes From A Very Small Island”.  These novels mirror his own life on Vis …. And  after  reading the hilarious yet thought provoking stories, I couldn’t wait to catch up with Anthony to find out more ….

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Hi! I’m Anthony Stancomb.   I’m a retired art dealer who now writes books about life on the Croatian island I live on.

“Notes From A Very Small Island” is the sequel to your best seller, “Under A Croatian Sun”…. a continuation of the story of a British couple who are attempting to integrate into a rustic Croatian community, whilst the local population are attempting to handle its newfound EU membership. So what gave you the inspiration to write these novels?

I never thought of writing until after the first year when I realised that island life was so bizarre and so full of extraordinary goings on, that it was material for a book.

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The book is fun, humorous and yet it does provide a sobering food for thought for those looking at upping sticks and moving to a rustic community abroad that is vastly different from their homeland. The tale itself is full of the joys of living – the feasts, wine making & budding romances – but does feature sorrow, hardships, local politics & government red tape. What 3 main pieces of advice would you give to somebody looking at making such a move?

It’s important that : 

  1. You mix well with people.
  2. You don’t expect life to go on as it did at home.
  3. You need to find a place that inspires you.

As a child what books did you enjoy reading? What genre of books do you enjoy reading now?

I loved GA Henty and books of derring do! Now I read a lot of memoirs and travel writing such as William Dalrymple, but I still read many of the great new novels. It’s a wonder that we never seem to stop producing the most amazing pieces of literature that astound the world.

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You discovered the Croatian Island of Vis over 20 years ago and moved there permanently with your wife. What attracted you to Croatia, and specifically the island of Vis?

My wife, although born and brought up in South America, is Croatian by blood, but most of all, the island is one of the most unspoiled and beautiful places in the Mediterranean.

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As much as you like writing  travel books, is there any genre you would like to dabble in that you haven’t yet tried?

I am working on the bones of a novel that traces the life of an island family over four generations.

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You have worked in film & TV for many years as well as running your own business promoting British artists to galleries abroad and now you are a successful author – so, when you’re not writing what hobbies/past times do you enjoy?

I love DIY, boating, swimming, reading, and talking a lot!

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

All year round I wear shirts with collars and trousers that have pockets. My shoes are always lace-ups unless I’m wearing sandals on boats or beaches.

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Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Amazon for books! I don’t really buy anything else except food and drink.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I will need one more pair of black shoes this coming year, as my one pair is disintegrating, and maybe in the following year I will have worn through my pair of blue corduroys and will have to replace them. (I will probably spill paint on my brown pair of chino’s at some point, so I’ll most likely be replacing those with another)!

Boots or Shoes?

Boots aren’t really me. I’m more like Alec Guinness playing the British Consul in crumpled linen and a panama hat.

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your books.

www.anthonystancomb.com

Thank you so much for joining me on the blog, Anthony – your little Croatian Island looks breathtakingly stunning and I look forward to visiting Croatia in the future!  So dear readers,  have you visited anywhere that was your little piece of paradise?  Would you leave your homeland and start elsewhere anew?  Where would you go? Or have you done the same as Anthony?  Please do tell – I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Anthony Stancomb.

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The Life Negroni

Few cocktails have achieved cult status – but Negroni is one of them – probably due to its stylish Italian association, seductive taste and its fascinating history.  This week on the blog, I’m honoured to welcome Leigh and Nargess Banks, authors of the fabulous book “The Life Negroni”.  This book uniquely delves not only into the history of the Negroni, but also gives tips on composing the classic Negroni and the culture that surrounds the Negroni cocktail.  So grab yourself a Negroni and read on….

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Hi! We are Leigh and Nargess Banks and The Life Negroni is our first husband and wife team work! Leigh is a design and branding expert, working alongside companies around the world through Spinach (Spinachdesign.com) forming unique brand identities. He specialises in food & drink culture, luxury lifestyle and has worked with a wide range of companies from financiers, to boutique bars and restaurants, and fashion labels. I’m a writer of design, a cultural critic and founder of Design Talks (d-talks.com) making a living as a journalist, author and luxury brand specialist for publications including Wallpaper* and Esquire. I’m passionate about all things creative – be it art & design, cars & car culture, food and increasingly, cocktails!

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Your excellent book, The Life Negroni, published by Spinach Publishing offers an unique perspective on the cult cocktail Negroni. What inspired you to write your book on this iconic cocktail?

It all happened one hot summer’s night in Formentera. Intrigued by the sight of a deep red cocktail in a cool bar on this paradise Spanish island, we asked the bartender for the name. ‘The Negroni,’ he smiled as we watched him expertly combined sweet vermouth, bitters and gin over ice cubes, adding a juicy wedge of orange. The colour was intoxicating, as was that first taste. We immediately fell in love with the perfect balance of sweet and bitter, the challenging first note, the botanical aromas that followed… On our return to London, we began researching this drink, its history, its composition, the world that it inhabits. Each bar we visited and every aficionado we encountered – and there were many – unravelled further intrigue. We saw that the Negroni represents far more than a drink. The cocktail expresses a time in history… call it liquid history. It tells the story of architecture and design, of art and aesthetics, of fashion, of passion and free spirits.… And so The Life Negroni journey begun…

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Your book is very thorough and leaves no stone unturned – delving into the cocktail’s history, its ingredients, tips on how to compose the classic Negroni, interviews from aficionados and hotels/bars from around the world that champion the cocktail – accompanied by stunning photography. Was it hard to compile a book of this nature? Have you got a favourite part or chapter that you really enjoyed writing/researching?

Our mission from the start was for it to be completely unique to us, to be authentic, meaning we had to meet, visit and photograph, where possible, all the people and places mentioned in the book. We wanted to sample all the drinks, taste all the food we document. This was at the very heart of our project and something we are passionate about. So yes it did take just over a year to research, write and edit the book as we had to fit it into our other work commitments. It was, however, a hugely rewarding and enjoyable journey that took us to distilleries and bars around Italy, France, the US and in London where we met with some incredibly passionate and talented people. We hope the sense of adventure and discovery comes through the pages.

Do I have a favourite chapter? I love art and design and to be taken behind the scenes at the Campari headquarters in Milan to see the most incredible collection of Italian Futurist art work was behind thrilling… That said we are both crazy about road trips and our research for the ‘Negroni Grand Tour’ was pretty special especially behind the wheels of the stunning Bentley Continental GT convertible.

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How many cocktails did you have to sample as part of the research for the book?!

Ha! Too many to disclose 🙂

Spoilsport! 😛 OK then, so out of all the bars/hotels which was your favourite spot to enjoy a Negroni and why?

It is difficult to say as each and every bar we mention in the book offers a unique experience. For instance the bar at the St Regis Hotel in Florence, formally the Grand Hotel, is where, allegedly, the Negroni was first made popular in the 1920s so the experience is unique to the location. But then Bulgari Hotel Milano cocktails are perfection, Agostino Perrone makes a delicious Negroni at the Connaught in London, as does Aaron von Rock at the Lincoln Centre in New York (where our reporter got so excited she did a head stand!), and Frank Boxer creates fantastically simple ones at Frank’s Cafe & Campari Bar, the hip summer pop up in Peckham Rye car park. We suggest trying them all!

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Are you planning to write any more coffee table style books in the future?

Oh yes! We have a whole series planned…

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love human interaction! And as we live centrally in London, in Notting Hill, there are so many unique boutiques to browse through it leaves little time to shop online. I do, however, check out fashion blogs for inspiration, and in terms of following design trends worldwide, I am always online.

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about The Life Negroni

Our book is on sale from Spinach at Thelifenegroni.com, and we’re on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @Thelifenegroni where we post daily updates. Please #Thelifenegroni.

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Thank you Leigh & Nargess for the interesting chat.  I think this has to be the ultimate Valentines Day gift for your stylish sweetheart and a must have coffee table book for Negroni fans.  Who knew that a cocktail could be so interesting?! So dear readers, now that I’ve got your tastebuds going, tell me … What’s your all-time favourite cocktail? Have you got any cocktail based stories to tell? Where is your favourite cocktail bar? I’d love to know, so comment below!

Until next time, ciao! 

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Leigh & Nargress Banks.

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An Interview With Shaman John Norseman

According to the Washington Post, in a recent survey, more than 60% of people in over 40 countries are unhappy and unengaged with their current occupations.  The start of a New Year is a good time to reevaluate your life, learning valuable lessons such as walking away from all negativity.  So it is with great pleasure that I welcome onto the blog today my guest, John Norseman, who after 20 years in the business world, including being CEO of 4 major companies, decided in 2009 to leave the corporate high rises for the spiritual life of a shaman. Hi John, and welcome….

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Hi! ​My name is John Norseman, author of “Journey of a Shaman.” I was CEO of four major companies and lived in many countries. During that time I developed strong leadership and communication skills among people of many different cultures including USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Spain, France, Italy, the Azores, as well, of course, my native UK.

Congratulations on publishing your book, “Journey of a Shaman” – a motivational autobiography detailing your life journey as a former businessman to becoming spiritually attuned to the Earth and life as a Shaman. What was the turning point or inspiration that made you put pen to paper and write your biographical journey?

I was guided by Spirit five years ago to write the book, which is the totally true story of my journey through life with all its ups and downs as a practical, inspirational, motivational and self-help guide to help people change their lives to be what they want them to be. During the extended writing period Spirit put in my path various people of all ages and backgrounds who convinced me that this book should be written as the content I shared with them immediately helped them in a practical way. It inspired me to finish the book knowing that it would help a very large number of people.

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Your book shares life experiences with civil rights, friendship, love, death and finding your place within the world. Having been CEO in 4 major companies, what made you decide to leave the corporate world for the spiritual life of a Shaman?

The process of making a life changing decision generally occurs over a period of time and my decision was no exception. A key driving force in my corporate career had been to re-establish my self-confidence by earning the esteem of others. Throughout my career I had been aware that I was a practical intuitive but had never acknowledged those abilities. It coincided with two things which were achieving professionally and financially all I had wanted to achieve in my corporate life and deciding to find fulfilment in my personal life by ending an unhappy marriage and starting a new happy marriage. We started a small business and it was from that point at the age of 51 in 1992 that I started to expand my spiritual awareness that eventually led to my becoming a full time practicing Shaman in 2007 when we retired after selling our business. After that I was free to operate as a full-time Shaman providing Spiritual Healing, Spiritual Guidance and Spiritual Teaching.

Your book contains many valuable lessons that others can learn from, for example, “walk away from all negativity” and that “dreams and determination can help you achieve the impossible”. What in your own mind, was the most valuable lesson you learnt from your life experiences so far?

Unconditional true love at all levels is the most powerful force for good in the Universe. Few would dispute that it would indeed be a happier, more content, better world if people put more love into the world than exists today.

Although you live in the UK, is your book available to purchase overseas?

Yes, it has been available to purchase in the USA, Canada and the UK since July 1, 2015. It is available from Amazon, Google, Balboa Press, and other suppliers. In due course it will be available in all English speaking countries. Since June 18, I have been in the USA and Canada on a 6-month book tour and returned to the UK in December.

Are you looking at writing other books in the future? What topics would you like to cover?

Spirit guided me to write “Journey of a Shaman” in order to inspire, motivate and offer self-help to as many people as possible to help them find themselves, achieve fulfilment and peace of mind. I am now guided to focus upon spreading the messages contained in that book while still being a practicing Shaman. Therefore, at the present time I have no plans to write another book. It may well be that at some point in the future Spirit will guide me to write other books and if so, the topics would be revealed to me at that time.

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

I enjoy reading books that expand my spiritual awareness. One of my favourite books is “Power vs Force” by Dr Hawkins and is a book I refer to continuously in my work as a Shaman. I also read a book by Shakuntala Modi called “Remarkable Healings” which greatly impressed me with its content.

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During your lifetime you have lived and travelled throughout the world. Where in the world have you visited that most surpassed your expectations? Where have you visited that left you feeling slightly disappointed or not up to what you imagined?

New Zealand most surpassed my expectations, partly because of the stunning scenery and partly because meeting Maoris whom expanded my spiritual awareness. The place that left me feeling slightly disappointed were the Cape Verde Islands which I visited as a refuelling stopover while crossing the Atlantic in my own boat. In the past the Cape Verde Islands were owned by Portugal but are now fending for themselves. There is great poverty and the Islands show adverse effects of climate change. Verde means green and the islands are now brown and very dusty.

If you could visit any place in the world to give you some book or spiritual inspiration, which place would you love to venture to and why?

I do not have any preconception. One of the important lessons I had to learn on my journey through life, was to follow my heart instead of my head. I learned to hear the guidance of Spirit, to go with the flow and to recognise that if a door was closed I was not meant to go through it. Therefore I know that when it is perfect time to visit a place in the world that will give me inspiration that I need, my heart will tell me. Because I have travelled the world on business, I am most content at home in Cornwall, England.

When you are not writing, what hobbies/past times do you enjoy?

Boating has always been my favourite hobby, particularly on the open sea. I also enjoy walking on long sandy beaches and cliff tops overlooking the ocean. I find tranquillity and beauty in untamed environments and a real need to be close to water.

Personal Now – What outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Having experienced a long and active life, I need to begin by describing what I wore during my teenage and early twenties years. The “swinging sixties,” rock-and-roll and fun clothing. I was very much a “dedicated follower of fashion” and my favourite pastime was rock and roll dancing. My favourite shoes were silver crocodile skin winkle-pickers with Cuban heels. The latter being somewhat unnecessary as I stand 6’ 2” tall in my bare feet! However the shoes went well with my flared trousers, wide belt with large buckle, ruffled shirt and stylish jacket with high collar, square shoulders and wide lapels. In those days I weighed only 133 lbs and so carried off my peacock attire quite well! In my business years I wore Saville Row suits, a Burberry raincoat and Church’s shoes which were all exceptional quality and in keeping with being a CEO! In my leisure time in those years, I wore chinos and casual shirts. Once retired from 2007, I generally wear Lacoste polo shirts in a wide range of colours, Paul & Shark shirts and sweaters with German cotton trousers and deck shoes. I also now have long hair which I wear in a plait. It was a great relief at retiring at age 66 to declare that I would not have my hair cut again especially when crossing the Atlantic Ocean in my own boat!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

No but my wife does! I am very driven by the products I like and buy them from retail shops where I can try them on. The shop I like best in Cornwall is Trevails in Truro, the capital of Cornwall. Trevails has a men’s department which has good clothing.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

My love of walking in rugged conditions means that I need sturdy shoes that fit my wide feet and last more than a couple of months! I have found that Hotter shoes, which are handmade, serve that purpose and I shall soon stock up for the winter!

Boots or shoes?

When I was younger I enjoyed wearing ankle boots and Chelsea boots. My current lifestyle has led me towards sturdy shoes for comfort, walking and several smart pairs of shoes for formal occasions.

For more information and to purchase a copy of “Journey of a Shaman,” please visit www.JohnNorseman.com. 

The other website/social media sites are:
http://www.johnnorseman.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Journey-of-a-Shaman-459677624224944/timeline/
https://twitter.com/JohnNorseman

Thank you John for a fascinating interview – a brilliant start to kick off the New Year.  I never tire of hearing travel stories – it’s sad what is happening on Cape Verde Islands but hopefully tourism would help to ease the poverty and bring awareness of climatic change in real terms.  A friend of mine who visited the islands was similarly disappointed.  Dear readers, tell me your travel stories – what places pleasantly surprised you and what places didn’t quite meet up to what you had expected/anticipated! Do share!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of John Norseman.

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An Interview With Author Anita Dennis

I do like a true life love story that beats all the odds and features a prince! Well, my guest this week, US author Anita Dennis, has a story worth telling for she fell in love and married the professor of her college anthropology class who just happened to be the chief of the Mende tribe in Liberia, West Africa. Apart from coping with racism, Anita had to adapt to experiencing a different culture too. When her husband died, Anita penned a memoir of their time together – “Beyond Myself: The Farm Girl & The African Chief” – travelling around Africa, meeting presidents, sleeping in mud huts…. and I’m so pleased to welcome Anita onto the blog to find out more about her transcontinental life and marriage…image

Hi! I’m Anita. I’m a Christian white woman who grew up on an Ohio farm. In my childhood, I wanted to be a writer, but felt I had nothing to write about. Little did I dream that I’d one day I’d have adventures most people can only imagine. Marrying my anthropology professor took me to remote villages upcountry in Liberia, West Africa, where I was the “chief’s wife.” The year I lived in my husband’s father’s village was the most challenging. I ate elephant meat, faced strange insects, participated in my son’s secret Poro society graduation, and served God as a lay missionary.

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I was lucky enough to read a preview copy, thank you, of your latest book, “Beyond Myself: The Farm Girl and The African Chief” – a memoir penned by yourself after your husband died, about your extraordinary life together. It is a memoir full of love, life, hardship and adventure. So when you first met your husband, Dr Ben Dennis, professor of your college Anthropology class what were your first thoughts when you found out he also happened to be chief of the Mende tribe in Liberia?

I first noticed the tribal marks on his cheeks, which gave him a distinctive look. The minute he spoke, I knew he was a foreigner because of his strong accent. I was curious when he told me he was an African. It wasn’t a problem until I fell in love with him, since I couldn’t imagine living in Africa! He reassured me that his life and work were in America. And at that time, he wasn’t thinking of going back. I was crazy in love and believed him.

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Was it easy being accepted into the Mende tribe? How difficult was it to adapt to the African ways as opposed to what you was used to in the USA?

I experienced culture shock during my first trip to Vahun, my husband’s father’s village. In fact, upon our return to Michigan, I wanted to divorce him. I had seen the other side of his life and I couldn’t imagine living in a mud hut. The Mende and Gbandi tribes, on the other hand, were very welcoming. The Mende people told me, “We don’t look at a person’s skin; we look at their heart.” On my first trip to Vahun, I was accepted into the Mende tribe and renamed “Baindu” during a 3-day ceremony. I slept on a traditional mud bed in a conical hut only briefly. We stayed at the commissioner’s mud-block house, which had concrete-plastered walls and a galvanized zinc roof. There we slept in a wooden bed with a Western-style mattress. The relationship among Mende brothers rattled me the most, because I was considered their wife as well! When my brother-in-law said he was going to sleep with me that night, I was shocked. Later, I was extremely relieved and thankful it was a Mende joke!

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As a child what books did you enjoy reading? What genre of books do you enjoy reading now?

I loved adventure books as a child because I wanted more than anything to escape the farm and see the big world out there. I now enjoy Christian books that give me encouragement. I love reading the Bible because it keeps me connected to Jesus, my Saviour.

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You also served as a lay missionary whilst in Liberia in the 80s. What changes to the country, if any, did you witness from when you was in the country in the 70s. Do you still visit Liberia?

Liberia experienced tremendous social change from the 70s to the 80s. With the new road over the Kamboi mountain range, the village of Vahun grew as more farm land was cleared and Mendes from Sierra Leone returned. The greatest change came in the military coup of 1980, when the indigenous tribes of Liberia rebelled against Americo-Liberian domination. Ironically, the Free Negroes and freed slaves who returned to Liberia before the Civil War, treated the sixteen tribes living there as they themselves had been treated in America. Because of my husband’s health and his death, I haven’t returned to Liberia since 1984. My sons intend to spread their father’s ashes in his Mende and Gbandi villages.

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Out of all the things you’ve experienced as a wife of a Liberian chief – what experience did you enjoy the most and what was nightmare experience?

I enjoyed the love and hospitality of the people. From the beginning, they welcomed me with open arms. When I suffered with hives, they were extremely concerned about me and worried about what they would tell my parents if anything happened to me.

The most difficult aspect of living in Vahun in 1983-84, was not being in control in a familiar environment. The house in the village we moved into had no kitchen or bathroom at first. We had no electricity or running water. The mosquitoes swarming around our heads as we slept there the first night panicked me. Later on, I could never seem to keep the kerosene refrigerator working. Every time things seemed calm, another challenge arose.

Hypothetically speaking, if Beyond Myself was made into a film, what actors would you pick to be the main characters of yourself and your husband?

That’s a fun question! A number of people have said my story would make a great movie. I think Eddie Murphy would be great for my husband and Julia Roberts with red hair for me – although I’m not as beautiful!

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I live in Florida, the casual place! I wear capris and cute blouses, sandals. I love bright colors and follow “Color Me Beautiful” (from the 1980s) for those colors that look best with my skin and hair. I love earrings that match my blouses. Purses that match my shoes.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I have to admit I’m a shopaholic and mall temptations abound! I’m always looking for a blouse that’s one of my favorite colors, or a style or print that’s unique. I usually find something at Macy’s, Penny’s, or New York & Co. I’m 70, but I like a youthful look.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Anything that flatters me. I love to see the new fashions – what’s out there.

Boots or Shoes?

Living in Florida has made me a fashionable sandal woman. I only wear shoes when I go up North.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your book

Website:
http://www.anitakdennis.com/

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/anitakdennis

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/anitakdennis

Ah, Anita, thank you so much for giving us a glimpse of your memories and I wish you all the best with your book. Your book has kept me spellbound this summer and I highly recommend that readers should put it on their “must read” list! For me, having no electricity would be a nightmare – although no doubt I would’ve adapted, a case of having too!  What, dear readers, would you find hard to be without? I’d love to know! So, do tell!

Linda x

Photographs have been published with kind permission of Anita Dennis.

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Dispatches From The Kabul Cafe

This week I’m so excited to be talking to Canadian journalist & foreign correspondent, Heidi Kingstone… about her work, life, shoe passion and her fab book about her encounters when based in Kabul in 2007/2008 – “Dispatches From The Kabul Cafe”.  Hi Heidi…image

Hi!  My name is Heidi, and I’ve been a journalist all my life.  I have finally written my first book, Dispatches from the Kabul Cafe, which is about expat life in Kabul, a place known as the ‘Kabubble’. I like to think of it as the Afghan version of the TV series Indian Summers. I spent 18-months living and working there and discovered an amazing world. The country is fantastically beautiful, and life is complex and difficult, a place where so many people have felt drawn in order to help, and Dispatches is about the adrenalin-fuelled excitement of living on the edge of someone else’s war. You don’t have to like politics, be interested in war or even Afghanistan. Dispatches is a series of stories, based fairly accurately on real-life, on things that happened to me or my friends, where you can find answers to questions like: Where can you buy 913 Kalashnikovs? How do you tell a friend her expat love is never coming back?What’s it like to date a mercenary?

Your book, Dispatches From The Kabul Cafe, published by Advance Editions, was launched in May 2015. It is based on your encounters and interviews with idealists, gunrunners, warlords, generals, power-brokers, fashionistas and ordinary women over a period of 4 years from 2007 when you lived and worked in Afghanistan. Described by many to be a travel book written in the style of traditional 19th/20th travel writers like Fielding, Sterne, Morris, Thesiger and Kinglake – and I agree, it is an armchair traveller’s literature delight! What or who inspired you to write your experiences in this way?

As usual, it was a series of events, triggered by my father, a psychiatrist, who suggested I write about daily life in Afghanistan. By this point, the world was suffering from information overload on the military and political front and on the tragedy of women’s lives, but there were still other aspects that I felt hadn’t been covered. Daily life in the ‘Kabubble’ fascinated me and rounded out the picture. As a result, the book grew organically into what it is, which is a series of vignettes based fairly accurately on real life. I wanted to write something atmospheric that gave the reader a sense of what it was like to be in this adrenalin-fuelled world where truth is stranger than fiction. Even though my book is nothing like his, I loved Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, which was about Vietnam during the French Indochina War in the 50s. It was a turbulent and historic period, and the louche expat scene of foreign correspondents, women, drugs and diplomacy was my inspiration. In The Karen Woo Story, you get some sense of that.

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During those years, you have witnessed women as heroines, as victims, as freeloaders, as rivals. The cast of characters in the book include Hasina, the revolutionary in Gucci sunglasses; and Ariana, who was desperate to leave Kabul and had high hopes that Brian could help her! I loved meeting these people via your book and didn’t envy your role at times (especially in Ariana’s case). Which person or incident proved most challenging or disturbed you the most?

It’s a tough call, but on balance I would say, Hasina, the girl with Gucci glasses. I liked her from the moment I met her, and she never ceased to impress me. I loved her unbound spirit and her intelligence, her openness, fearlessness, passion and honesty, her love of life and her commitment to making her country a better place, particularly for women. Violence against women is endemic in Afghanistan, and women lead tough lives and challenging the system is a Herculean task. But she confounded all the stereotypes we have of Afghan women or certainly the view I had that all women were meek and mild and victimised. I loved the stories Hasina would share with me about her family and experiences, she opened a window onto another Afghanistan. She is part of that exciting new generation of Afghans who are educated, modern and worldly, who are impressive people, and would be wherever they were. I was sorry to lose touch with her, and I think of her often, especially the times we would sit at Flower Street Cafe together drinking coffee, which we both loved. We also talked under the pomegranate tree in the garden of the house I rented about life and love and curtains, and, of course, her Gucci glasses.

One reviewer said “only Heidi would wander around Kabul in stilettos and lip-gloss”. I like your style but I’m sure it was a case of head covering and baggy clothes for most of the time. Despite the hardships, rules and nature of Afghanistan – what are your fondest memories of the place?

That was a quote from my brilliant friend Kate Fox, who wrote Watching the English, and she’s right. I did wear baggy clothes and cover my head, wear lip-gloss and stilettos. Another friend nicknamed me Heidi High Heels because of my steely determination to wear nice shoes despite the mud and potholes and the virtually impossible task of walking in anything but flat, sturdy shoes. I have so many fantastic memories, and it was one of the reasons I wrote the book, to preserve and share them. Like most women, I covered my head, but the scarf was almost always loosely wrapped, and luckily there were beautiful scarves made by Afghan women, which I still have and cherish. I went to the north of the country and saw women, who were involved in a silk project, do everything from nurturing the worms to spinning the silk.

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I was blown away by how beautiful Afghanistan is, it is incredible, and one of the most breath-taking places I have ever seen was Lake Band-e-Amir, the blue colour of the water, the jagged landscape, and walking through the ice-cold water which froze my bare feet. Particularly in the spring and summer, I would love to hear the sound of the ice cream man as he rang the bell and pushed his cart through the streets. And just like everywhere else, little kids would run out to buy ice lollies. I also loved to see the balloon sellers walking the streets. On one of the many times I went to Chicken Street, the main shopping drag in the capital, I sat with a carpet seller, who brought out a jar of raisins and nuts that had been marinated in a jar. He dug a spoon into the mixture and fed me a mouthful, it was delicious, unexpected, and I have to say, a little unnerving.

You have written for Britain’s leading publications covering assignments to do with disease & poverty from Mali to Sierra Leone; life in Darfur; and water wars between Palestine and Israel. You have written extensively about your travels in Iraq & Kurdistan, and you were commissioned by Canada’s National Post to write a 4 post series on the “Worst Places In The World”. Out of all the places you’ve visited, where was the worst place? And what place really surprised you and was better/ nicer than you had previously thought?

I only spent a few days in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but it was magnificent. They say about the country that God gave it everything, diamonds, beauty, water, natural resources and more, but never peace.I fell in love with African masks in Rwanda and the DRC. DRC has a long and bloody history, yet it is such a beautiful country, with so much potential, which always seems to be the case – beauty and brutality. I remember wanting to photograph a woman who balanced a plastic container of odd shoes on her head. Her face had a hardness to it, and she turned away, making it clear she wanted me to stop. I understood her reaction, I would feel the same. Life is hard in places like Goma, and people are ingenious in finding ways to survive. I never forget how lucky I am to live in the UK and come from Canada. Certainly, our countries are far from perfect, but easier in terms of health care, education, standard of living, freedom, equality, tolerance – and peace and security.

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Growing up had you always had in mind to be a journalist/author/foreign correspondent or did you fantasise about being somebody completely different?

I started off wanting to be an archeologist as I have always been fascinated by different people and far off lands. Being a journalist combined my passion for telling stories about people and places, but it happened by pure serendipity. I went to see the editor of a magazine in Toronto about something totally unrelated and she asked me to write an article – on accessories – and I knew from the first word I wrote that I had found what I wanted to do. Over time, my career moved in the direction I had hoped it would.

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

So many! Except for science fiction of which I am not a fan, I have fairly catholic tastes. I love novels because you can just get lost in them, but also read a lot of non-fiction. In both Donna Tart’s The Goldfinch and Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, I have finished the books wanting more and feeling as if I had made new friends. In a Suitable Boy I felt like I could just knock on the door of one of those houses and join in the with family. That was the effect I wanted with Dispatches from the Kabul Cafe, that when you read it, you would feel as if you were living those experiences. I have been going through a long Indian writers phase, the books are incredibly powerful. It started with Indian-born Canadian writer Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, and subsequently Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland and The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. They are tragic, profound, and beautiful, and show how corrupt and evil people and governments can be.I also read a lot of books about Afghanistan – some of my favourites have been Frank Ledwidge’s Losing Small Wars, Rodric Braithwaite’s Afghansty and Sherard Cowper-Coles Cables from Kabul. I loved The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein too. I can thank my mother who is excellent at recommending books for me to read.

Although you’ve been to quite a few places in the world – what place/country holds the top position on your bucket list now as the place you most would like to visit, either for work or pleasure? What has been your favourite destination visited so far?

I would hop on a plane to travel just about anywhere. I have always wanted to go to Antartica. I find its serene beauty compelling – and I love penguins. And the South Pacific, inspired by Paul Gaugin’s paintings. When I was growing up I always wanted to visit Burkino Faso, and attend the Ouagadougou film festival. Oscar Niemeyer is one of my favourite architects so Brasilia is on my list, too. Every time I go to a new country, I think I need to move there immediately. But Africa as a continent is where my heart is and southern Africa in particular. Out in the bush in Botswana, Namibia or South Africa would come top of my list. Being immersed in the landscape and watching the animals makes me happy and is possibly where I am most at peace. I’m not a very spiritual person but I feel something profound when I am there. My first trip was a remarkable five-day bush walk with my then boyfriend, who was South African, through the Umfolozi, led by Ian Player. He was a great conservationist who helped save the white rhino, and his trekker Mqubo. 

What are your 5 beauty, fashion or footwear essentials that you always pack with you from the UK when travelling to your assignments?

Flip flops are an essential, I never go anywhere without them. I am addicted to Havaianas. A pair of sunglasses because you never know when you are going to need to add that air of mystery or hide behind shades. They are always glamorous – and useful. I have learned to travel with jeans just in case the weather suddenly shifted. You can dress they up or down. I also bought a silk sleeping bag case in Vietnam that rolls up into a small ball. It’s light and came in very handy when I was in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Either a pashmina or large cotton scarf. 

One reviewer quoted that you had “an eye for beauty and fashion in the most unlikely places”. In your travels, what has surprised you most in beauty and fashion terms when compared to the UK/Canada?

In India, it is of course the colours, the jewellery and the architecture, which are extraordinary. The legendary editor of Vogue, Diana Vreeland, said ‘pink is the navy blue of India’, and when you are there your eyes drown in colour and you get lost in the vibrancy and the mixture of patterns that surround you….and there is no black. In southern Africa, it’s just the opposite. The earth tones calm me. I love the mud cloths and colours that blend into the landscape, and the geometric designs. 

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I absolutely love the fashion this year, and amongst other things I am addicted to are jumpsuits – I have three – one in denim by Diesel, which I think is quite sexy as it’s fitted, a silk one by Joie that I bought in Dubai that is casual and elegant, and a more sophisticated one also by Joie, which is more grown up and good for day or evening. This winter I lived in Stuart Weiztman’s over the knee suede boots and McQueen’s high heeled ankle boots. My nude colour Louboutins see me through just about everything.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I love mixing and matching from high-end to high street, which means that there are endless and enormous opportunities! I seem to go in phases and I love Joie, they seem to cut for my shape, which makes all the difference. There are a couple of shops locally that I go to, and then of course Selfridge’s as it’s sadly not too far from where I live. And so many more!

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Every day I make the same vow: No more shopping. But it doesn’t last, and London is possibly the best place in the world to shop, good if you have discipline, not so good if you are a shopaholic. I bought a pair of mukluks a few years ago back in Toronto to wear in the winter and navigate the ice and snow. When I put them on I remember the sensation of such cosiness and luxury, I never realised shoes could be comfortable! There was a pair of black shoes that I saw a few times on celebrities in various magazines this season. They had an elegant high heel, a pointy toe, and three sexy straps that wrapped around the foot and ankle, and I absolutely loved them. As I was determined, with dubious success, to curtail my footwear intake I didn’t seek them out but I did make a mental pact with myself: If I ever saw them I would buy them. Like so many promises that we make to ourselves, it was hardly written In stone. So there I was in Vienna in June, taking in the sites between stops for Sacher Torte, Wiener Schnitzel and coffee with whipped cream, when I decided I needed some respite and I detoured into a side street near the famous Viennese landmark, St Stephen’s cathedral, where lo and behold there was a pretty unprepossessing shoe shop. With temperatures soaring above 30C degrees, and unable to resist temptation, I opened the shop door to a blast of cool air, and there, displayed on a plinth right in front of me, were the Gianvito Rossi shoes that I had lusted after. And, of course, not someone to break a promise, even if it was to myself, I tried them on. They were a perfect fit, possibly even comfortable, more fabulous in real life than on the pages of a glossy magazine, and in a moment Cinderella transformed into a princess.

Boots or Shoes? 

As I look in my cupboard and see all the boots and shoes that I love, it’s a tough choice. Boots can be incredibly sexy but if I had to choose I think it would have to be shoes. I’m a sucker for stilettos. 

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your book.

www.HeidiKingstone.com

my Facebook page is Heidi Kingstone

Twitter @superlotuslane

instagram @superlotuslane

Thanks Heidi and I so love those new Gianvito Rossi shoes! Don’t know if I’d brave heels along pot holed streets but I certainly would rock the sunglasses and lipgloss look! Readers, where’s the strangest/unusual place you’ve worn heels? Do tell!

Linda x

Photo Credits:  Heidi Kingstone; Mina Sharif 

 

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