Travel sketching

I want to get more into sketching and watercolour painting, but I only really get aronund to it on holidays – not a regular practice schedule so it’s no wonder I still can’t make it look like I want…

For my long weekend in Warsaw at the end of January I made my first mini themed palette inspired by various posts and pictures I’ve seen online. I put together 6 half-pan watercolours in colours that fit the destination in a mints tin. I did a lot of research on places to go and got a feel for the colours of the city.

View of the market square. Bit gloomy due to the snowcloud but shows the city colours.

I think I chose OK but trying to paint a tree with no green was an interesting challenge!

It was a bit cold for sketching in Poland in January so I only did a couple of drawings outside, and did a bit of painting back at the hotel in the evenings. I bought myself an instant camera to add photos to the sketch book at the same time which was useful (of course as soon as I bought one I saw another I’d prefer but oh well…).

The cookie wasn’t actually burnt, I just got carried away with the colours 😄

Now I want to plan my next adventure and a new palette but there’s these things called exams and bills I need to think about too…

Palma de Mallorca

At the beginning of April I spent a long weekend in Palma de Mallorca for a relaxing break and some sunshine. A destination mainly chosen due to the cheap Ryanair flights from East Midlands airport, I didn’t realise the city is so beautiful or that there’s be so much to see and do, we easily filled 3 days. I’m not much of a travel blogger but here’s a quick breakdown some particularly nice places.

Where to go and what to see

The old city centre is fairly compact and easy to explore on foot – the map makes it look much bigger but nothing is too far apart. It’s a lovely city to just wander around finding hidden churches, little squares and surprise views. There’s a lot of nice Art Nouveau and early 1900’s architecture to admire, nice bars to relax at with a drink, and some very tasty bakeries 🙂

Some of my favourites places…

Le Seu (the cathedral)

A huge elaborate structure reflected in the water of the Parc de la Mar, built on a staggering scale with stunning stained glass, definitely worth a visit. There’s usually an admission charge but for about an hour over lunch between services on Sundays it’s free to wander around the main cathedral. The buildings are so crowded around the cathedral that it’s impossible to get a full view of the front of the cathedral, in the alley ways around the back you lose sight of it completely, quite an achievement for a building that size! There’s a section of old city walls near the Modern Art museum with good views across the roof tops, go in the afternoon for the sun to be shining onto the facade, or later on to watch the sun set behind the hills.

Castell de Bellver


The aptly named ‘Beautiful View Castle’ is on a low hill to the West of Palma, reached by a set of steps from the edge of the city or up the road by taxi or the City Sightseeing bus. We took the bus, it looks like a bit of a hike on foot. The castle is a lovely structure constructed all at once using mathematical principles and contains a few nice museum sections. The best part is the view from the roof across the harbour, city and mountains. And free entry on Sundays 🙂

Hort del Rei

A small park at the base of the palace the far side from the cathedral, it’s a calm oasis that’s stayed in my memory for the wonderful smell of the orange blossom and as a lovely place to sit and enjoy the sunshine.

Where to eat

The 5th floor cafe of El Corte Inglés on


View from the El Corte Ingles cafe

It’s probably because at the start of April the tourist season hasn’t really begun but we didn’t find a lot of restaurants open late. There’s a cluster of nice restaurants in the Plaça de la Llotja, next to the stunning Llotja (the old merchants hall which is open until 11 and looks wonderful inside when lit).

Beyond the city

A popular day trip from Palma is the old train ride to Sóller, followed by a tram ride down to Port de Sóller. At €30 for a round trip it’s not the cheapest day out but I had a great time. The old train used to transport oranges and lemons through the mountains to the city but now gets packed full of tourists – even in early April the train was nearly completely full. There’s not a lot of legroom but in the front carriage there’s a first class section with sofas which we ended up in by climbing into the nearest compartment as massed tourists attempted to board the train home, all much more luxurious!

The town of Sóller appears to be mainly the church, a few shops and cafes, and some wonderful views of the nearby mountains. Port de Sóller is a small beach resort and harbour reached by a tram that travels along the sea front. There’s a few view points around up the hills and some nice fish restaurants by the harbour. I suspect in the summer the beach will be packed but in April it was fairly quiet and a wonderful place for a stroll along the edge of the water. I had a great day out – fun transportation, lovely views and a relaxing time by the sea.

I’ve properly got the travel bug at the moment, I seem to be surrounded by people heading for exotic places… I need to start planning to next trip now!


Today seems like a good day to share my photos from last Saturdays trip to London. My brother lives down there now, and although it’s not a cheap journey it’s only 1.5 hours to get there and it’s slowly occurring to me that it doesn’t have to be a major event to go to the big city.

Yesterdays news was heartbreaking and incomprehensible, like all such events. I can’t stop myself from feeling a little nervous but I refuse to let a few hateful and destructive people stop me from enjoying living and travelling. London is a wonderful city to explore and with my irregular visits there’s still so much I haven’t seen, so I’ll definitely be heading back soon. And out to see the world too, I believe there’s still a lot of good out there.

From the top: view over Greenwich to Canary Wharf, Buckingham Palace from St. James Park, Big Ben viewed from Westminster Pier, the Tower of London, the Shard, and Tower Bridge.

Down in the big city

London is only 1.5 hours from here but it still feels like a big adventure. It’s everyday life for so many people but I’m not used to the crowds and noise and size of the city. There’s so much there that I’ve never seen, and I could have a great shopping trip if I ever go without other plans that keep me busy!

I spent the afternoon of the Friday by myself in the Victoria and Albert museum – there’s some amazing displays of world art and culture, fashion, jewellery, sculpture, antiquities… It’s easy to get drawn in for hours!

From left: V&A Museum entrance hall, Natural History museum, V&A Museum courtyard

Of course it’s getting dark so early now. Unfortunately the full Christmas lights weren’t lit when I was there, but Christmas is definitely approaching. I love visiting Liberty’s – I can’t afford much in there, I now have my diary for next year but I managed to resist the fabric this time 🙂 We also did a lot of wandering around some of the more well known areas. Sometimes I just need to be somewhere different, and London has plenty of distractions!

From top left: Liberty’s, Carnaby Street rebel Christmas lights, Leicester Square Christmas market, Covent Garden market

Thoughts and plans

I have come to the realisation that my life is fairly boring and very ordinary. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing – I now have a nice apartment, a well paying office job, some good friends and I’m working on the social life, and I few hobbies I enjoy. But I also have a desperate urge to travel and get out there.

I’ve possibly been reading too many travel blogs but the vague idea to book cheap flights to Bergamo is now a sketched out and budgeted 5 city trip across northern Italy. Not that I really have the time or money, or it’s something I’ve ever considered before. I have a list of big trips (Iceland, southern Germany/Switzerland by train, the Norwegian coast by ferry, back to Japan…) that are expensive enough without going all out on a passing urge for a city break. I think my main problem this week is that after nearly 4 weeks medical leave I’m tired and not used to working. I also have no plans for the entire rest of this year beyond 2 trips to the theatre, which is slightly depressing and leaves a big void for the imagination to fill – and I have a good imagination!

I’m sure plenty of little things will happen to fill the gap, but I won’t stop dreaming yet 🙂

Anyway, here’s the plan (squashed up against my work notes) that probably won’t happen:

The end of the adventure

A few more pictures from the end of my trip. I’m now back home with laundry and leaflets all over the floor, and it’s already feeling like a bit of a dream… Back to work on Monday, and I’ve got a bag of strangely flavoured Kit Kat’s for the office!


Yakushima waterfall



Yakushima is a small island to the South of Kyushu. It’s mainly National Park and UNESCO world heritage site, ancient forests with thousand year old trees, and views of smoking offshore volcanoes! It’s a beautiful and wild place.


Great Buddha, Nara


Messenger of the Gods, chaser of tourists


Kofuku-ji pagoda, Nara

Nara is an ancient capital of Japan and full of temples, shrines and deer. The big attraction (literally and figuratively) is the 16m tall Great Buddha, the largest in Japan. While I was there the monks were circling and chanting, it felt like a very special place.

The deer are the messengers of the gods that carry people’s prayers, they’ll also eat anything and chase tourists for food! There’s numerous sellers of deer biscuits in the park with deer gathered around and tourists trying to bribe deer for good photos 🙂 The deer are so calm, I saw people stroking them and posing next to them, but there are warning signs around because they are still wild animals.


View of Kyoto from the Kyoto tower, including Higashi Honganji


View of Kyoto from the Kyoto tower

Late afternoon views of Kyoto with temples. So many temples!


View of Tokyo including the Tokyo tower, from the Shinagawa Prince Hotel

I booked my last hotel in Tokyo on one of the upper floors of a fancy hotel. I then spent the entire evening admiring the view! The orange spike centre back of the picture is the Tokyo tower, and to the right are the train tracks.

Now to adjust to the right time zone…

Ongoing adventures


Nagasaki harbour


Nagasaki Peace Park


Nagasaki atomic bomb hypocentre

I have a lot of complicated feelings about Nagasaki, but the main feeling is how could anyone allow that to happen? The visit has definitely solidified some views I didn’t even know I had.


Unzen 'hell's'

I’m always overly excited for anything volcanic, smoking vents and sulphuric smells included 🙂


Nice view from a hill I forgot the name of...

A lot of Kyushu island looks like this, wild green mountains.


Sakurajima volcano, Kagoshima

Kagoshima is 4km from Sakurajima, that’s a little too close to a smoking volcano to be entirely comfortable!

Tomorrow I continue southwards…

I went to the (Japanese) supermarket and I bought…


Chocolate roll, green tea cakes, watermelon, koala biscuits, panda biscuits, grape juice and chocolate. I shouldn’t be let loose in there again! Or the ¥100 store, but with 3 weeks here who knows what I’ll end up with…

Not much else to report yet, today involved a temple and a zoo (and excited children!). Tomorrow – the big city 🙂