HTMW Recaps – March 2017

HTMW Recaps – March 2017

I normally add a quote to the beginning of each post that sums up or enhances my writing. However, I’m going to use my monthly recaps as an opportunity to sum up the month – be it the mood, the weather, my feelings… Anything really! This month, my truly favourite days were spent in Wadi Rum. As such, the quote from the legendary T.E. Lawrence this month sums up how I felt about this special part of Jordan.

‘No man can live this life and emerge unchanged. He will carry… the imprint of the desert… and he will have within him the yearning to return… For this cruel land can cast a spell which no temperate clime can match.’ – T.E. Lawrence.

Back in January, I announced I was going to start monthly recaps on my blog. If you missed last month’s, you can find it here. Now, as April gets into action, it’s time for my third recap. March has been really busy, not least because of my two week trip to Israel and Jordan!

Main Events

February was a quieter month for me, but March was pretty full on! Not only did we go away, but I also fitted in a weekend back in Wales, a fair few evenings out with friends and a Sunday funday spent with P and J seeing Jamie XX DJ live in Brixton. Like I said, hectic!

There were, as you’d expect, a plethora of highlights due to all the exciting things that I’ve been doing, but there were a few lowlights too.

The Highlights

  • Spending the weekend in Wales. Unsure when I’d next be heading back, I decided that the first weekend in March was the perfect opportunity to have the Friday off work and head back to Wales for a few days. It was lovely to escape the city lights and noise for a little while and unwind at home with my parents. I ate a lot, drank wine, walked the dog, spent hours learning Javascript code (something I seriously need to knuckle back down to in April!), spent time with my parents and basically didn’t leave the house until it was time to head back to London on Sunday afternoon. It was just the respite I needed before the month ahead, and obviously it was wonderful to spend so much uninterrupted time with my parents!
  • Seeing Jamie XX DJing at the Brixton Academy. One of my favourite bands are The XX. You may remember that I offered up their new album ‘I See You’ as my best album of the month in January’s recap post. So when tickets to see Jamie XX DJing came up for sale on Dice in February, I didn’t hesitate when P messaged me and suggested we go. Being slightly tipsy at the time probably helped too – that and the fact I used Apple Pay so only needed to provide a thumb print to confirm the payment… Too easy! Anyway, it was totally worth it. His set was really excellent, we had a few drinks to ease us on our way (but not enough to be hungover in work on Monday morning!) and enjoyed the set for about three or four hours all in!
  • Trying bouldering for the first time. I really wanted to see A before heading off on my Middle Eastern trip, so when she suggested we meet at Bermondsey and try bouldering together, I agreed, despite my reservations about the idea. Turns out, my apprehension was completely unfounded. We had a great couple of hours climbing walls, I managed to get to the top of several and didn’t fall off once! It also turned out to be a great place to sit and chat for a little while in between, so we caught up too. I enjoyed it so much I’m definitely going again and it’s a great evening activity to do with friends, especially if you don’t want to drink or go out for food.
  • Having an unplanned, random, fun night out in Shoreditch. I go for drinks on Friday night with friends from work on a fairly regular basis. Usually, we sit in a pub, get a bit merry and then go home around midnight. However, on this particular Friday, the drinks escalated somewhat, with G and I going to Shoreditch for some unplanned dancing and fun. I ended up heading home at 4am and I had an almighty hangover the next day, but it was worth it!
  • Eating some delicious bao buns at Flat Iron Square. The food in London is often hard to beat. I eat out fairly regularly (my budget hates me) and it’s been difficult to top the bao buns I have had a few times now at Flat Iron Square. This time around, I popped there after work with A to have a catch up before I headed away on my holidays and she went to Cuba for two weeks. I obviously eat vegetarian, and these little buns are to die for – melt in the mouth BBQ style aubergine, soft halloumi and all complimented by amazing sauces and crunchy onions on top. I generally get the sweet potato fries as well from this particular seller – best sweet potato fries I’ve ever eaten! Needless to say, A and I had a great catch up, ate our fill and enjoyed our time at the Square just as much as I/we always do!
  • Standing overlooking the City of David in Jerusalem and hearing the call to prayer echo over the city. I will be posting plenty about my time in Israel and Jordan over the coming weeks, but the highlight reel is right here! First up, Jerusalem. On our first evening in the city, we decided to walk the circumference of the Old City walls, and ended up at sunset overlooking the City of David on the east side. As we were watching the last of the sun on the opposite hills, and the city lights began to twinkle, the call to prayer started. It was the perfect moment. The chants and songs echoing across the valley from the multiple minarets only added to the atmosphere and we stood in a row, transfixed, until it was over.
  • Snorkelling in the Red Sea. We spent a day at a beautiful beach club during our time in Aqaba and, as well as all the sunbathing, reading, eating and swimming, we also went snorkelling off the pier. It wasn’t expensive, and whilst it wasn’t the best reef I’ve seen in my limited snorkelling experience (you may like to read more about my other snorkelling experiences in the Philippines here), it was fantastic to experience that other world under the sea once again. I even saw an eel, something I wasn’t expecting so close to shore!
  • Getting some silence in the Wadi Rum desert. Much of our time in Israel and Jordan was spent in cities and towns, where the call to prayer wakes you at 4am and there is the constant noise of car horns, shouting, clattering and general city disturbance. We spent two nights in the desert, and apart from the freight trains that rattled through occasionally, we finally had some of the peace and quiet that I’d been craving. I’m going to be writing a much more extensive post about our time in Wadi Rum soon, but let’s just say, the desert may well have been the highlight of our trip for me!
  • Exploring Petra, both by night and day. No trip to Jordan is complete without a trip to the ancient Rose City. We first experienced this Wonder of the World at night, following countless candles (real candles!) down a narrow winding path, through the Siq and ending up at the Treasury, the most famous of Petra’s rock palaces. It was simply beautiful. The next day, we headed back into the city and explored at length, probably spending about 5-6 hours hiking through the canyons and along ancient paths and roads to see as much of it as possible. Whilst Petra wasn’t my favourite part of Jordan (a bit too touristy for my liking!), I cannot write these highlights without including our visit to it. The palaces and caves carved into the rock are incredible and the colours and patterns of the rock were simply stunning.

The Lowlights

  • Seeing a darker side to Petra. Unfortunately, whilst Petra was a highlight, it also provided me with one of March’s biggest lowlights too. During the day in Petra, tourists are offered rides on horses, mules, donkeys and camels, or in horse pulled carriages. I found myself growing angrier and angrier as the day progressed, seeing the way that these animals were being treated. I found that particularly the horses were made to stand in the bright sunshine without shade during the hottest part of the day, with apparently no access to water (that I could see). Additionally, I saw several horses that were lame being used to pull carriages, their drivers made liberal use of their whips on them and, to my fury, I saw one boy walk past a horse that was doing nothing wrong and hit it for absolutely no reason whatsoever. In retrospect, I really really wish I’d gone to someone in the visitor centre on my way out and told them what I’d seen – it is suggested that you do this in the information pamphlet they provide you. However, I only read that after our visit was over. Damn! It makes my blood boil to see these beautiful animals being unfairly treated, and the ignorance of my fellow tourists makes my stomach sink. Can’t they see that these animals are suffering? I found myself scowling as overweight men mounted donkeys that sagged under their weight and whenever I heard the clop of hooves coming towards us my heart would sink. I read up about the animals working in Petra the day after our trip and I do understand that locals must make a living, but there really needs to be more education for tourists and travellers around the use and treatment of animals in these situations. Maybe then, they’d be less inclined to get in a carriage pulled by a lame horse and look on as the driver whips their horse repeatedly to go faster!
  • The terror attack on Westminster. I was sitting outside a cafe eating a pizza in Jerusalem when my phone notified me that there’d been a terror attack in London. I spent the next hour refreshing my news feeds and following the BBC and Guardian live feeds as the story unfolded and checking in with my friends in London to ensure everyone was okay. For a few hours that evening, I sat by reception in my hostel to get a good WiFi signal and continued to follow the story. I never felt scared, just concerned for my friends (until I knew everyone was safe) and sad that this atrocity had happened. I feel for the families that lost loved ones that day. Londoners won’t be cowed by these horrific acts of violence, but instead showed defiance, strength, compassion, solidarity and a dry sense of humour in the face of such terror. The reactions to the attack, from the signs on the underground to the amazing Crowdfunding pages raising hundreds of thousands for the victims’ families and the people coming together standing shoulder to shoulder on Westminster Bridge a week after the attack only serve to make me even prouder to call this city home.
  • My laptop charger dying two days into our trip! A major annoyance! I’d planned on posting numerous times whilst away, but due to my charger breaking, I wasn’t able to! As a result, I only posted twice in the entire month of March! I’m aiming to make up for this by posting way more in April, but it did irritate me A LOT at the time.

Posts This Month

Only one this month, due to the charger issues… More coming very soon!

Book of the Month

Walking the Lines – The London Underground, Overground by Mark Mason. I read this book before my trip away and found it absolutely fascinating. I gained a real insight into the city I now call home. Mark writes extremely well, and this whole adventure made me want to put on my walking shoes and get out to explore every corner of London. Given that I’m a bit of a train geek as well only added to this book’s appeal for me! Mark basically walks the entire London Underground network, visiting every single tube station on all 11 underground lines (he doesn’t walk the DLR or Overground lines). I learnt so much about the history and cultures within London, as well as heaps of interesting facts about the underground itself!

Pub Quiz Question: there are only two underground tube stations with all the vowels in their names – which two stations are they? Answers at the bottom of this post! No cheating!

I’ve been reading a lot this month though, especially since my laptop died and I couldn’t watch movies or TV shows during our trip! Some other worthy good reads from this month include ‘The Invention of Wings’ by Sue Monk Kidd, ‘Between River and Sea: Encounters in Israel and Palestine’ by Dervla Murphy and ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ by Agatha Christie.

Instagram Pictures of the Month

A lot of photos this month from Israel and Jordan, as well as a few from London and a couple of throwbacks from our trip through Europe last year.

Camels at Petra, Jordan. I took countless photos both on my phone and with my DSLR in Petra, and this is just a sneak peek from my phone of photos to come from Petra. I’ve been unable to edit any of my DSLR photos just yet, but they’ll be coming in April! This photo was taken near the end of a long day in Petra. The sun was beginning to sink below the horizon and people were climbing up to the temples and monuments you can see in the background of this photo to get the best view of the sunset. I strolled slowly, tired, stopping frequently to take photos on my phone. These camels just happened to be resting at the perfect spot for me to capture them in frame with the rock face behind them. I felt less concerned for the camels I saw in Petra, since they’re desert animals anyway and used to the warm conditions, and these two wore particularly bright colours which contrasted nicely against the orange-red rocks.

Petra camels March

Berenice Beach Club, Aqaba, Jordan. By far and away my most popular photo of the month on Instagram! This image truly captures the delights of the beach club we visited – bright sunshine, palm trees swaying in a gentle breeze, various shades of glorious blue and these wonderful vibrant pink flowers everywhere. I enjoyed working on my tan (kind of successfully, only minor burn) and really relaxing with an Agatha Christie on my deckchair. It felt like the first proper day of our holiday – only a week in! – and the first time I really chilled out.

Red Sea Aqaba March

Jamie XX DJ Set, O2 Academy, Brixton. The light show was almost as good as the DJ himself! I took a few photos from Jamie XX, and was surprised to receive so many likes on this photo I posted of the lasers at the show! I didn’t really consider it an amazing photo, but it does capture the scene nicely. It was my first time at the O2 Academy, which is an awesome venue, and I’m already looking forward to going back for future gigs! After we saw Jamie, we headed to Nandos for dinner, as I was starving, and I demolished a mushroom and halloumi burger, fries and mashed potato fairly rapidly… Carb on carb on carb, delightful!

Jamie XX Brixton March

And the answer to that pub quiz question? The two stations are of course (drum roll please) South Ealing and Mansion House! There, you learn something new every day.

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