London Rooftops: Peckham

One lazy sunny Sunday afternoon I needed something fun to do in the sun, but more than that I needed somewhere fun to eat. It’d been a weird week, one of stress at work and weird city humidity despite otherwise cloudy weather. Sometimes a gal’s just gotta treat herself after a hard Sunday morning doing some life admin!

So we found ourselves headed (after a moment of indecision about just going somewhere we know instead) to nearby Peckham, where two neighbouring buildings are head-to-head in the best rootop stakes.

#1: Frank’s Cafe, London

Offering the least-obstructed view of the city from the perfect vantage point of southeast London, Frank’s is an informal bar set atop the repurposed Peckham Multi-Storey carpark. It’s been an ever-popular evening spot, but now modern art installations combined with potentially the best views of London make the photo-worthy pink staircase (so many stairs…!) worth it.

We came here around lunchtime on a Sunday, which ended up being super quiet but great to explore the installations up top.

The drinks weren’t too pricey (around £7 for a cocktail) considering the view, we had so much fun perusing the skyline and testing our knowledge of the names of every individual building. This place seemed like it would get pretty busy later in the evening, but was pretty chilled at midday.


From here, we saw a neighbouring building with a similar rooftop bar so we went to check it out.


#2: Bussey Building Rooftop

We’re used to our local Brixton, Peckham’s more gentrified neighbour, so this was a nice chance to explore a similar-feeling area without all the added ‘jazz’. Peckham is more raw, less pretty and more attitude.

Up more steps we climbed, to the top of the Bussey Building where a cool oasis lay. Here was music (which sounded like one of my own playlists…) and a colour-block pop of fun. The drinks were slightly more pricey than Frank’s at around £8 for a cocktail (£5.50 for a glass of prosecco), and of course being behind Frank’s it does have a slightly more obstructed view. The vibe here was awesome though, really fun and summery. There was a food stall as well that served the BEST (but messiest) burgers I’ve ever had. 10/10 for fun

I’d recommend going to both to see which floats your boat more, but I get the feeling Frank’s is great for a night with a group of friends and Bussey would be my prefered place for a fun date night 🤗

Things I Want To Do In 2018

It may be a little bit beyond the new year, but I guess spring is as good a time as any to plan the year and set any travel and experience goals! These aren’t big, but that’s the point. Nowadays glamorous travel bloggers seemingly seeing the world for free, access to more and more remote travel destinations has become entry level and a badge of honour. I sense a sort of travel snobbery evolving, so I want to try and keep it real this year.

I have really felt the pressure to see and do more, but my education in slow living is teaching me to try and make smaller, more tangible experience-based goals. I would of course also love to visit far-flung and remote places, but I also want to feel simple pleasure and easy bliss. Life isn’t just one long bucket list, because what if one doesn’t complete every task? Have you then failed at life? Call me melodramatic but it is something I think about. I do have a list of places I want to go and things I want to do, but I also try and find a balance. I don’t have to use every bank holiday weekend for an international city break, or every week’s holiday to sprint off to Asia. It’s fine to dream small, because sometimes big things happen too.


Sleep under the stars

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There is nothing a city-dweller loves more than taking advantage of the lack of occluding pollution when visiting less urban spots. Use a cool stargazing app, I use Night Sky, which can identify the planets and constellations when the phone is pointed towards them. I’m obsessed with the heavens, and have been since I was a child. When I am out of the city, staring up, I imagine what it must have been like hundreds, thousands of years ago. No hard scientific evidence, weather forecasting, news on CNN. No way of knowing if what you are doing was right, or what might happen in the future. There’s a certain kind of hope that lies in the sky, either that we are not alone, or that the gods are watching over us. It’s fascinating to me, and something I hope to teach any future kiddies of mine all about.


Watch the sun come up on a beach

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Watching the sun go down is easy, you fall into it after a lazy afternoon and before happy hour. Actually waking up extra early and watch the sun come up, though, takes extra effort. Dawn is my favourite time of day, as an introvert having the true peace of knowing most people are still tucked up, asleep, is so calming. I always talk about having a lie-in on holiday but still find myself up before everyone else, slowly sipping a coffee on the balcony while everyone else dreams. I’m South African, I love beaches, so combining my two favourite things equals an empty beach and plenty of awesome photos.


Hire a canal boat with friends

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Picture this: a lazy Saturday, the mid-summer air is heavy, and you and a few friends are sipping drinks on the deck of a narrowboat, the length of a canal behind you. This has been my dream for ever, and I do solemnly declare that 2018 is the year I am going to do it. The only question is, what cocktails do I bring?


Have a gourmet picnic

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After years of London living, summertime requires an almost military-level of organisation in order to enjoy even an hour of sun in a nearby park. Tote bags, mismatched beach towels, and a few bottles of beer (never the opener though… sigh) are all we can scramble together in the sprint to enjoy the sun. This year I pledge to get a proper picnic set, ready to go at a moment’s notice, and take some proper homemade food to enjoy outdoors in style. Just add friends and prosecco.


Go on a cooking course

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Bread-baking, pasta-making, you name it I would love to do it. This year has to be the year this recipe-dodger (physically can’t follow them, it must be a genetic thing) actually learns to cook something intricate and fancy. Thai? Tacos? Who knows, but I can’t wait!


Visit the UK’s only desert

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You would be forgiven for not knowing that England has its own desert, and it is located on the south coast. In between Hastings and Folkestone, this area is more famous for its nuclear power station. Years ago only artists, poets and filmmakers inhabited the quaint fisherman’s cottages in eccentricity. However, there is a contemporary architecture scene growing along this portion of the wind-battered coast. The feel seems to be very wild west, very interesting, and promises to yield picture-perfect scenes for any photographer.


See an open-air performance

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I have been meaning to do this for years, especially as London’s Regent’s Park has a not-so secret outdoor theatre showing critically-acclaimed performances. I’m imagining a balmy-but-cooling evening, lots of prosecco, and some fantastic theatre.

At the end of 2018 I plan on re-sharing this list, but replacing the stock photos with my own. I can’t wait for some fantastic adventures!

A Perfect Brunch

Salon is a small restaurant in a covered market area in Brixton, South London. Self described as ‘fine dining without the fuss’, we put its menu to the test one dreary and slightly hungover Sunday morning.

Outside

You would be forgiven for walking past it without even realising, so unassuming is the store front, I have myself walked past it for the last few years. What initially started as a pop up above an artisinal cheese store became a permanent dining space, followed by the acquisition of a wine store next door.

The vibe is smart and polished, but relaxed and unfussy. Downstairs is a bar area, but upstairs is the dining room overlooked. The convivial atmosphere seems perfect for any occasion, a relaxed lunch with friends or an intimate dinner for two.

Menu

The menu is super varied, utilising local and seasonal ingredients. This is not your typical ‘brunch’ fare early on a Sunday morning, there wasn’t a waffle or pancake in sight. The oat milk flat whites arrived; simple and unadorned, and the food served by the chef himself.

Clockwise top to bottom: buttery corn bread, sriracha, kale and smoked salmon royale, sweet potato hummus on sourdough with confit bacon lardons, and hash browns.

Lemon meringue pie

Our eyes were definitely bigger than our stomachs (we even shared dessert, I mean who has dessert at breakfast?!) but it’s so worth it – and at a fairly reasonable price. The flavours hung on the palate long after we’d left, this is not a meal you want to pop a mint after! It’s really special when you find a spot that really speaks to you, somewhere that you could both see yourself working in and yet also feeling like home. I look forward to visiting for dinner and a glass or two of organic wine!

We Came for the Porter: Tour of a Brewery in Hackney, London

At Christmas we were bought tickets for a tour of our favourite local brewery, 5 Points Brewing Company in Hackney, London.

Located down a small cobbled street, under the Victorian arches of a train station is a relatively small and unassuming brewery. Conceived only five years ago, this relative newcomer solidified it’s place in our hearts a few years ago after a particularly memorable afternoon of IPA at an outdoor event at their London Fields warehouse. 5 Points are strongly community-oriented: their brewery uses 100% renewable resources, and is a living wage employer. It’s clear that sometimes in business, small is better.

The selection

The tour started with tasting a selection of 5 Points beers at shared long tables, while members of the team talked about the history and brewing process. This was great as we got a chance to get stuck in and avoid any long lecture-style talks!

The four light beers

First up was the pils, robust and dry. This was followed by various iterations of a pale ale: XPA, pale and IPA. The surprise favourite at this stage was the XPA, or extra pale ale. It was crisp and bright with a citrus flavour and grassy smell. The pale ale packed a bitter punch, and the IPA was a welcome burst of almost creaminess with an almost perfumed finish. It’s worth noting that all the beers are unfiltered and unpasteurized, which is really evident in the strong character of all the brews on offer.

The resident packaging expert talking through the merits of cans vs bottles

Last up were the two darker options, the brick field brown ale and the all-time best: the railway porter. Both had rich, creamy coffee and chocolate flavours but the latter is just dessert and alcohol all in one neat package.

Brown ale

Most suprising was the relative small size of the brewery, the main floor occupying only one or two railway arches. We were given tbe opportunity to walk through the process from beginning to packaging (cans are superior for preservation than bottles due to better blockage of beer-damaing UV rays), leaving me feeling like I could hold conversation with even the biggest beer buffs.

The brewing process, from start to finish

Included in our tickets was a ‘beer haul’, AKA a goodie bag of cans to take home and continue our beer education. Beer homework, if you will. Possibly the best part of the goodie bag was the bag itself, a gorgeous sturdy tote perfect for next weekend’s farmers’ market!

We left having made new friends with two older east London gents, and with an extra free beer ‘for the road’ (I prattled on and on about the porter so one of the tour facilitators opened a ‘spoiled’ bottle for the walk home). The staff were really passionate and knowledgable; promoting an almost dream lifestyle of working with friends, being paid to drink beer, creativity and fulfilment.

Where do we sign up?

Sudden Stranger

A week of winter hibernation

We were on leave this week, and a planned Berlin trip scuppered by Ryanair cancellations lead us to have the sweetest week off at home. Doing next to nothing, hanging out, laughing, eating and sleeping. Little did I know that that was exactly what I needed after a very stressful and exhausting few weeks. I have just started a more senior role, and my final MSc module has just begun. It’s safe to say that I have had a decent amount of things on my to-do list.

The Saturday before our week off was my husband’s birthday. Family dinner at Ceviche (one of our favourite restaurants – try the Lomo Saltado flame-grilled steak and Don Ceviche) was followed by drinks in a craft beer pub with friends. This, of course, ended with a rowdy late-night pizza session at Voodoo Ray’s Dalston.

Monday was his actual birthday, which brought us to St John Bread & Wine in Spitalfields after a lazy day at home; and a fabulous 4 plate sharing meal of smoked mackerel, ox heart & chips, butternut & pearl barley, and a beautiful lamb stew. We paired this with a dry (and strong!) crisp rosé.

St John Bread & Wine

Drinks at Black Rock Bar in Spitalfields never disappoints for whiskey fans. It was voted UK’s Best Specialist Bar 2017 in the Class Bar Awards, and this is definitely well deserved. The staff are always so knowledgeable, and they just do make the finest cocktails around.

Black Rock whiskey bar

Tuesday brought another cosy day in, followed by a Queens of the Stone Age gig at the O2 (this doesn’t sound like a very relaxing week so far, but I swear we did very little during the days!). They played a furiously tight and yet chaotic set, my favourites being ‘The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret’ and ‘Sick Sick Sick’. The sound was incredible, and even from our seats the heavy bass was deeper than anything I’d heard at a gig before.

QOTSA at the O2

Wednesday and Thursday were more home-based. I desperately needed to find time for some quiet so enjoyed having the TV off (once I’d finally finished Netflix’s Punisher), and listening to the birds out in the large oak tree in our garden. I tried a gym session but my body was telling me it needed rest, so I did more stretching-based movements instead.

Friday, we relished in another lazy lie-in, and a slow meal at a great local Pho place (apr and concisely named) Pho in Balham, South London. The spring and summer rolls (not pictured – eaten too quickly!) were fresh, tasty and just what we needed. The beef steak pho (look away vegetarians!) was so warming with plenty of five spice and star anise – of course I then add a good shot of sriracha to make things interesting! The lunch deal was fantastic, £20 for a two course meal for two.

Pho

We stopped in at Milk Cafe down the road for a relaxing post-lunch coffee. I was disappointed to find out their only milk alternative was soy, so opted for a black espresso instead. The vibe was great though, as was a cute little card served with our coffees explaining the flavour profile of the blend used.

Milk Cafe

Today was a day that felt lazy and like time wasted, but how often do people dream of an aimless lunch on a weekday, watching the world go by? We laughed and strolled and actually tasted the flavours of our food, more than I can say I’ve done in weeks.

Slow in the City – the beginnings of winter

Today we nipped out to Pop Brixton for some food. It is a lively market created from the skeletons of repurposed shipping containers, filled with nearly any kind of food stalls you’ve ever wanted to try. It’s somewhere we’ve always popped to as it is so nearby, but I never really took the time to take it in before. It definitely has settled in since it’s inception, and seems to fit right into the Brixton backstreet where it kind of stood out before.

There are also things I don’t like too much about the place (the whole idea of it feels a bit too hipster and like a symptom of gentrification at times, thus making me feel uncomfortable for being a part of that process), but there are things I like about it too. I like that it’s a place that is trying to give something, however small, back to the community it sits in. A lot of the stalls in Pop Brixton use compostable food packaging, and/or reduce food waste by donating extras to a local food pantry. Even if it is just a hipster fad, hopefully these little things will become the absolute norm in large city society.

Pop Brixton, made out of shipping containers

It was also a nice surprise to find a little herb garden out the back, like a return to something more simple than having an imported Belgian blonde beer alongside your Japanese gyoza. It may just be for that ‘rustic’ vibe, but I enjoyed perusing the chard, Thai basil, strawberry, coriander (nearly dead as usual – how does anyone succeed in growing one of them?!) and various salad leaves.

Top and bottom: makeshift planters at Pop Brixton

For him, the Miso pork ramen was on the menu from Koi Ramen; and for me some fantastic real-deal tacos from Maria Sabina (slathered in so much hot sauce that the chef showed concern. Edit: I not only survived but LOVED it!)

Koi Ramen Bar

Brixton Village market, a lot quieter than it’s newer, flashier cousin, had some pretty chilli peppers that I might go back for some day this week – I bet they’d make a mean hot sauce!

Brixton market chilli peppers

Walking home past Electric Avenue

 

Now to return home after a very low-effort afternoon, and think about the Thai basil I could be planting in my teeny-tiny window box ready for next summer.

Sudden Stranger, 2017

Spotlight: 18 Hours in Los Angeles

At the end of our California trip, we spent a whirlwind night and morning in Los Angeles. This is a how-to for finding a selection of pintrest-worthy hotspots in just a few hours.

 

 


 

The skyline of the city of angels appeared over the horizon of a six-lane motorway. It almost felt like we were emerging into civilisation after living in the wilderness – the freedom we’d experienced at the lake, and in the desert dissipated with every mile driven into the concrete heart of the city. We arrived at our hotel in Echo Park, a rather grim low end chain joint, but even this was covered by the almost trademark Hollywood glow.

Rosa Mexicano


For our last night in the USA, I had a Lakers game at the Staples Center planned. I was excited to go to Rosa Mexicano for a pre-game meal, as I have always been a fan of their New York location. The food was plentiful, and the heaped, fresh guacamole made table-side was luxurious. I dragged my food coma to our seats, way up in the dizzying height of the nosebleed section. After the game, we lost our parking space for over half an hour. Roaming the emptying lots, we laughed as we retraced our steps multiple times and in various different directions before we could retrieve our car.

Staples Center

LA Lakers v. Toronto Raptors


Our flight was at 4pm the following day. As soon as we woke, our bags were in the car and we stopped for fantastic flat whites and handmade pastries at Alfred Coffee on Sunset.

A good motto


It seemed like this was the embodiment of L.A; it was a bricks and mortar metaphor for a city built on facades, glitz and the money of some.

There were so many things I had hoped to see in L.A, we just did not end up having time for every one of them. However, we had a few hours to kill before our flight from LAX, and were up to the challenge of hitting a few spots on the way to the airport. To do this, I combined sights that were in close vicinity. First off, across the street from the cafe, were the Micheltorena Stairs.

Micheltorena Stairs


Next, we headed further west towards the Pacific. The Hollywood sign was visible to our right as we drove high above the city on the Rosa Parks freeway, even through the heavy morning cloud and fog.

Tired and Sad on Santa Monica beach

Towards the Pacific


Sticking to the ‘two birds, one stone’ method, we strolled a few minutes down the beach boardwalk until we found hidden between the modernistic millionaires’ homes a real-life Barbie house; the home of Barbie Creator Ruth Handler. It seemed like this was the embodiment of L.A; it was a bricks and mortar metaphor for a city built on facades, glitz and the money of some.

Barbie House, IRL


The drive southward, and ever closer to the airport, took us through iconic Santa Monica and our final L.A stop: Venice. Very different in winter to the lazy, sunny, surfer images I had seen, the quiet side streets off Abbot Kinney Blvd contained every dream bohemian house I could have imagined. We roamed the streets, waiting for our lunch reservation at an eatery I had always wanted to go to. The Butcher’s Daughter, on Abbott Kinney, is a vegetarian restaurant that serves food as beautiful as the surroundings it is in. We each had a huge mixed bowl, for him a tumeric latte and for me a cacao latte on the side.

The Butcher’s Daughter, Venice


Strangely, it was here we felt the most out of place on our whole trip. Slim, highlighted blonde girls dressed similarly in expensive knitted jumpers gossiped over coffee; tall, athletic-looking guys talked about crossfit, mindfulness and yoga over their food. As beautiful as this place was, and as tasty the food, we were outsiders in our hiking boots and unbrushed hair.

In a way, it was almost a perfect end to our trip; the only way to leave a place you love is to finally look forward to going home.

Mairead Daly, 2017

Lazy Beach Days: Ibiza Weekend

June brought a long-awaited trip to Ibiza for the wedding of two friends. I arrived to our house at Vadella Pueblo past midnight on my own, my own husband having arrived earlier for the stag party. The 40minute taxi ride to the little bay where we were staying for the weekend, Cala Vadella (Vadella Cove), was stressful conducted in my half-Spanish. It included many dead ends and wrong turns, literally, not linguistically, as the driver spoke to me in fast Spanish. I went to bed after checking all the closets for hidden intruders by torchlight, glad to put the journey behind me.

Cala Vadella, Ibiza

I woke up to the steady hum of cicadas, alone in the silence of our whitewashsd house, and able to actually see it in the light of day. I pottered around, looking through each of the rooms in turn. When I had left my hunger long enough in the empty apartment, I prepared to venture out En Español.

Barely a breeze

Walking down the quiet street towards the beach of Cala Vadella, I marvelled at the Balearic houses sitting perfectly in place under a flaring hot sun – whitewashed with cactus-lined pools.

The view from our front door

The road to the bay veered sharply to the right at the edge of a cliff, then wound steeply downwards. Through a break in the trees the sapphire bay opened up dramatically in front of me, and though it may sound corny it did take my breath away.

Cala Vadella from above

My husband joined me, and we spent our first afternoon together on the sandy beach eating bocadillos de jamón at Vadella Beach Bar and drinking fabulously strong mojitos para llevar from Restaurante Cana Sofia.

Cala Vadella

Laziness and hunger took us from our beach loungers to Cana Sofia when the sun started setting, where we had a meal of freshly prepared tapas under the vines. We sipped on ice-cold rosé wine and watched people walking the beach beside us.

We returned to our balcony to sip a €4 bottle of local cava, listening to the steady hum of crickets and cicadas and talking long into the night.

A long evening on our balcony

The heat woke me before sunrise, I returned to my spot on the balcony from the previous night, and watched the sky turn from navy, through light blue, to spectacular pink.

Timelapse of the sunrise

 

The second day was our wedding anniversary. To celebrate we did what we do best, headed down to the beach to do it all again. I swam through the azure water, one of my favourite things to do, and had a run-in with a rogue jellyfish producing a nasty sting. I had no idea at the time that this sting would ‘re-appear’ weeks later as the venomous stingers were still in my arm. We had a fantastic stone-baked margarita pizza from Cana Sofia (again!) which was covered in fragrant basil leaves the size of my hand.

We went home in the late afternoon to freshen up for dinner, and I was desperate to see a famous Ibizan sunset as clouds obscured the one the night before. On our walk back in to town for dinner, we stopped at the cliff, in a deserted parking lot. The sunset was better than I had hoped for, the sky seemed to be set on fire, and it gave both our faces a golden glow as we looked around. We could hear music, and walked closer to the cliff’s edge to see a huge sound system set up in a small cave below, the bass so loud I could feel it in my chest. Only two people danced around, and it felt like we had crashed a secret party.

All above: that golden glow

 

We concluded the night with an enormous, and first ever, paella, followed by a beer on the beach. I can still taste the flavour, it was so rich and savoury.

Ibizan sunsets: plenty bang for your buck

The next, and final, day was the wedding day. We struggled to a achieve any semblance of ‘pretty’ in a heavy heat, but made it to the other side of the island in time regardless. Experimental Beach was a venue within Las Salinas nature park, a UNESCO world heritage eco-system area, and a large exporter of salt. I knew we were drawing near in the taxi when we passed salt ponds and piles. We were greeted at the venue with a citrus-crisp white sangria, and we had enough time to look around before the wedding got started.

The venue before the guests arrived

After a beautiful ceremony where two friends were promised to each other for life, we ate and drank in the glare of the setting sun, and danced for hours under a navy blue sky.

The venue from the beach

 

Ibiza was a surprise, it was somewhere I hadn’t really planned to go to due to its reputation for a wild party island. What I saw was completely different, our quiet bay was such a refuge from City life, the local food so spectacular. I found the locals on ‘our side’ of the island to be some of the most friendly I’d ever met. I loved the peace and being close to nature once again.

 

 

 

By Mairead Daly

High Desert: Palm Springs, USA

Make sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this road trip

 

The first morning in Palm Springs, I knew in my bones I was somewhere else. The light was so different, a hazy glow, that even going through everyday routines felt foreign. Even on the stroll for breakfast and the first coffee of the day, the street seemed to be covered by a halo. Breakfast was from Koffi, an egg-ham-cheese bagel for him, and a fruit parfait for her. Even in late December, the weather was mild enough for a t-shirt.

Koffi coffee

Houses on E. Canyon Drive

Tiredness from the previous day’s mammoth drive, we stayed local and ran some errands. Ed enjoyed the laundromat, the waiting room peppered with heckles from locals aimed at the political coverage on the small television.

At the laundromat

That night we ate at King’s Highway, the restaurant at Ace Hotel. We ate real-deal tacos, and had fabulous cocktails (including a spicy chilli margarita).

King’s Highway at Ace Hotel

Holiday season in the desert

The following day, we ventured south-east towards the Salton Sea. First stop, Shields Date Garden for a famous date shake. I would recommend sharing one with at least one other person, it is huge, thick and heavenly.

The route to the Painted Canyon

Shields Date Garden

At midday, we headed further south-east through citrus grove after citrus grove, the fresh sweet scent lingering in the air. It amazed me to see such vibrant life erupting suddenly from the bone-dry ground. Around two kilometres of dirt road led to the mouth of the Painted Canyon, in the Painted Hills. It wasn’t hard to find the Ladder Canyon, a picturesque slot canyon waving and weaving through the ochre-red rock, following the carving force of water years before. I walked, slow as a trickle of water, running my hand along the curve of the canyon.

The mouth of the canyon trail

Slot canyon path

The namesake ladder

After navigating our way safely through the canyon (someone else was not as lucky and was being airlifted out with a broken leg), we ate pre-packed Reuben sandwiches from Vons supermarket and drove to a destination beyond the scope of our satnav: Salvation Mountain. We reached the nearest town, Niland, barely a one-horse town, and had to just drive into the desert, hoping we could find our destination. And find it, we did.

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

The view from Salvation Mountain

 

Cirrus clouds flecked the sky, the sun sat low in its winter position in the sky. Looking around from where I stood, all I could see was complete desolation. It was a fantastic feeling. We continued along a dirt road through Slab City, an off-grid community of activists and anarchists, to East Jesus. As the sun slowly lowered in the sky, shadows brought all the sculptures to life in a completely different way. The sound of gunshots peppered the air and, not sure if they were a threat or not, the vibe felt well and truly wild. My imagination ran wild thinking of what life was like here, hidden deep in the desert, free of legal and social convention. On the drive home, the haze-covered, malodorous Salton Sea lay to our left and a mile-long cargo train racing us to our right. Phone batteries dead, we turned on the local radio station; Alice in Chains, Led Zepplin and Black Sabbath blaring out the windows as we drove into the fading sun.

All above: East Jesus

 

On our final day, slightly margarita-hungover and dreading the impending end of our trip, we spent time in the Moorten Botanical Garden admiring the cacti under a heavy grey sky. Hummingbirds darted through the air, jumping from leaf to leaf. An empty semi-circular arrangement of chairs lined a lonely glade under a giant aloe, and I thought about whose wedding it might be arranged for.

Top and bottom, Moorten Botanical Garden

 

 

Check out my follow-on spotlights on Yucca Valley/Joshua Tree and Los Angeles, the finale of out trip.

Lake Tahoe, USA

I thought I would go back over our honeymoon trip of a lifetime back over Christmas 2016 in a 3 part series including: Lake Tahoe, Death Valley, and Palm Springs.

I knew I was never going to be the same after our trip to a small part of the Wild West. We decided to take our honeymoon to the US over our first married Christmas, to put off the ‘whose family will we spend it with’ for another year. I could easily orientate myself on the flight route from San Francisco, CA to Reno, NV. I knew the wide expanse with no lights to my right to be Lake Tahoe, a deeper than black hole in the night, followed by the festive glimmer of Reno in the distance. To get to our condo, we had to drive over Mount Rose pass, which winds treacherously over its namesake mountain.

Flying over Reno, Nevada
Our condo was in Incline Village, right on the shores of the beautiful lake Tahoe.
During the days, we snowboarded at Homewood Mountain Resort, where we had a great 3-day beginners package deal. The mountain had excellent choice of terrain, and everytime you turned your back to the mountain you would be rewarded with the jewel-like lake. I literally felt like a different person when staring at the peaks lining the Tahoe bowl, and never thought I would have the chance to see such an iconic, all-American horizon in person. The base restaurant at Homewood served up the enormous plates of chilli/burgers/pulled pork required to keep us going all day.


The courtyard at our condo


The view from our window

Jet-lagged early mornings gave us a chance to watch the first snowfall out our window before any of our neighbours even stirred. Cup after cup of filter coffee passed the time from 4am twilight to fully-fledged day. I could just imagine a mama bear and two cubs trundling by, paws crunching the new snow.


The view from the lower Homewood slopes

A secret find of mine to surprise my beer-loving partner was Alibi Ale Works, where locals serve and drink fantastic brews. We tried the Rubus Nocturne, a barrel-aged dark raspberry sour, a pale ale, and Boysenberry Berlinerweisser. The porter was rich and deep giving us a warm glow to carry on our walk home. We panic-bought a couple of growlers of that to keep us going over the Christmas period when shops would not be open.


Alibi Ale Works, Incline Village, NV.

We didn’t eat out much in the evenings, jet lag and hours being flung down slopes rendered us useless past 6pm. Homemade margaritas, blue corn tortilla chips and pasta were generally all we could muster up the energy to put together.


Homemade margaritas

One of the first days, we visited Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows resort while we had a rest from mountain activities, ate delicious football-sized burgers fireside at the Plumpjack Inn, and strolled through the faux-alpine ski village. There was such a peaceful calm about the place. Due to the altitude, we could feel the sun beating down overhead in contrast to the ice cracking below our feet.


Squaw Valley, Ca.

We spent Christmas Day at Lone Eagle Grille, literally on the Incline Village lake shore. The Christmas meal was a buffet, not my usual choice, however it proved handy this time when we went back for the pork belly canapés too many times to count! We tried razor clams, crab, and had lamb that melted in the mouth. Cocktails were at the fire pit afterwards, all wrapped up and ruddy-faced from a bottle of rioja. I had a spiked hot chocolate that seemed made for this moment. It was this evening I fully caught the splendor of a Tahoe sunset, as previous evenings had seen snowstorms.


Top to bottom: spiked hot chocolate, sunset, fire pit

On our last morning, as we started heading south to our next destination, we had to stop multiple times for me to take pictures. The Lake really pulled out all the stops, almost as if sensing and regretting our impending departure. On these last few looks back, over the mirror-blue surface, I knew I would never be the same. I knew I would be back, and somehow, to own my own clapboard condo and stroll those lazy streets forever.


Top and bottom, our final views of Lake Tahoe.

Make sure to check out parts 2 and 3 of my Wild West restrospective, coming soon!