Friday Photo – Burj Al Arab

Thought I’d kick off my new feature, “Friday Photo”, with a classic shot from Dubai.

The Burj Al Arab, is, I think unofficially, the only 7 star hotel in the world! Even though it was completed over 15 years ago, it’s still such a unique and iconic building. No matter where you see it from, it always manages to look amazing, but you don’t realise how impressively massive it is until you get up close.  

This photo was taken from the Souq Madinat – I’m sure a million people around the world have the exact same photo, but I still thought it was a nice way to kick off Photo Friday!

Book Blind Date

When I was a kid, I used to really enjoy choosing a new book to read. Books you were forced to read at school were generally a bit dull, stuff you would never chose yourself but you didn’t really have a choice.  However, every year, during the school holidays when we went on our annual 2 week break, I got to chose a new book for the holiday from the airport book shop! It was almost my favourite part of the holiday and was a great way of passing the impossible 2 hours wait between arriving at the airport and getting on the plane!

Now though I find choosing a book a bit of a nightmare! I don’t know where to start. Unless someone has recommended something to me, I’m always a bit lost. I’m not someone who always reads the same author and I don’t really have a favourite genre. It’s not helped by having a kindle either. Every time I go into the Amazon book store, ironically for choosing a book, I can’t see the wood for the trees.

So, that’s why I loved the idea of this book stand I saw recently outside Elizabeths Bookshop in Freemantle – a Book Blind Date! You don’t know what book you’re choosing, they are completely wrapped up and all you get as a clue is a few bullet points to describe the story! I don’t know if it’s a completely original idea, but I’ve never seen it before.

One of my favourite quotes is “a half-read book is a half finished love affair”. What better way to start an affair than a blind date.

@ElizabethsBooks

Only in “Straya”

Australia is a pretty unique country. Sure, it shares a lot of similarities with European countries, in particular with England, which you’d kind of expect, but I still think there are some things you see in Australia that are part of every day life there that you just don’t see anywhere else.

When we went back to Australia recently, I was surprised at how quickly I’d forgotten some of these little things – basically I think I had forgotten what a beautiful, sometimes brutal but brilliant country it is!

So while we were travelling around Western Australia on our little road trip I thought I’d document a few of the sights I saw that I haven’t seen in many other parts of the world!

For a start, Australia can be pretty awesome to look at:

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Looking out over Bunker Bay, Western Australia

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Evening sky set on fire in Shoalwater, Western Australia

However, despite the beauty it can also be pretty brutal at times.

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Check Twitter to see if you’ll have a leg bitten off today!

Yet there are some just awesome little things that I absolutely love about Australia:

1.) Where else do you get your post delivered by a man dressed in fluro on a scooter?

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2.) Does any other country have Driver Revivers?! These are Coffee and Tea Caravans, run by local community groups, offering a rest spot and a free cup of tea or coffee, a biscuit or even just a chat to tired drivers! They do an amazing job. We stopped at the one below on Easter Sunday and they gave us Easter eggs! Check out their website here to see how good they are!

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And lastly, no-one does the Ute (with accompanying immense number plate) quite like Australia!

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Exploring (a tiny piece of) Western Australia 

Over the Easter holidays, or Spring Break, or whatever you call the last couple of weeks, we got out of Dubai, and headed back to Australia. However, instead of going “home” to Sydney, we flew in to Perth, to explore a little corner of Western Australia for the first time.

We’ve got quite a few friends who live in Perth now, so it was great to catch up with them, albeit too briefly as always. A special thanks to Rebecca and Thom for their amazing hospitality and putting up with us for part of our travels!

After a weekend in Perth, we hired our tiny yet trusty Toyota and hit the road, heading south. Check out the map in the link above, (courtesy of Travellers Point), to get an idea of the route we took through South West WA. The region is famous for great beaches, world class surfing, stunning scenery and also, the beautiful wineries (and wines) of the Margaret River.

The small coastal towns of the area really remind me of Southern California. The beach towns like Yallingup and Dunsborough in WA for me have the same sort of feel to them as places like Laguna Beach, just south of Los Angeles. Really small, relaxed, surfing communities!

Bunker Bay is just incredible, unspoiled natural beauty where you could sit on the beach for a few hours and watch the waves go by.

Sunset on Bunker Bay

Sunset on Bunker Bay

While we were in the town of Margaret River, we went on an awesome wine tour of the surrounding wineries. I’m not normally a fan of day tours, but the day out with Harvest Tours included calling on some smaller wineries, that only really sell through their cellar door, and who match their wines to locally made produce. Trying all the wine with various delicious meats, cheeses and chocolates makes the day much more interesting. And also, if you’re doing a wine tour, getting someone else to do the driving is a lot more fun!

Capel Vale Winery

Capel Vale Winery

If you want a really relaxing break, love beautiful coastlines and good food and wine, then a visit to the tiny corner Western Australia should definitely be on your bucket list. If you want to check out more of Western Australia (and there is a lot more considering the state makes up one third of Australia!)  – have a look here

And as for being back in Australia? My thoughts on that were summed up in the line of a song that came on the iPod while we were driving the gorgeous South Western Highway to Denmark – Nothing else compares……..

An Award of all things!

My blog has been properly active for about 6 weeks, in which time I have got quite addicted to it! My wife however, often mocks my enthusiasm for my blog. She does not feel the pressure of having to write regular posts to keep my (30) adoring fans happy. Therefore, it was with much delight that I was able to show her my blogs new Liebster Award, (very kindly awarded to me by https://adivir.wordpress.com/), to prove that at least someone appreciates my efforts! I now regularly tell her, “I am an award winning author!” Yet for some reason she still mocks – I don’t know why?

So, to continue this fine award tradition, first of all I have to answer the questions set for me by Shivangi . As an award winning author I should get used to doing interviews! Here we go:

  1. What is the meaning of your name?

Keep Exploring Stuff: My actual name or my blog name? I’m not sure what my actual name means, I would imagine it comes from something Biblical? My blog name is a bit of a play on my last name (Keep) and what I like doing (Exploring Stuff). Put the two together and you get this award winning blog!

  1. What is your blog site all about?

Keep Exploring Stuff: Well, simply, it’s about trying to see and do as much as I can, exploring wherever I am.

  1. What inspires you to write?

Keep Exploring Stuff: Hmmm, that’s a difficult one. I guess seeing something that to me is new and different.

  1. Who is your favourite film star?

Keep Exploring Stuff: This changes from time to time. Right now I’d say Matthew McConaughey. And although it’s not a film, his performance in True Detectives is outstanding.

  1. Which is your favourite creative work(could be anything)?

Keep Exploring Stuff: The Bends by Radiohead.

  1. Apart from blogging, tell us your hobbies?

Keep Exploring Stuff: So many to list! I love taking photos, listening to music, playing guitar and eating good food! And obviously travel, but that’s quite hard to call a hobby. And also a huge F1 fan! Got to see Lewis Hamilton win the World Championship in Abu Dhabi last year – incredible!!

  1. What is the best thing about you.

Keep Exploring Stuff: How does anyone answer that question? In a couple of weeks, my new (laser fixed) eyes!

  1. Which festival do you enjoy the most ?

Keep Exploring Stuff: Can I say Glastonbury?

  1. What makes you sad?

Keep Exploring Stuff: The occasional bout of homesickness, for both Australia and England.

  1. If you were God, what would you do first?

Keep Exploring Stuff: That’s too difficult! Probably cool the planet down 1 or 2 degrees, make some ice, save some Polar Bears?

  1. What is your next blog about?

Keep Exploring Stuff: Formula One.

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Now for my new nominations. There are some “rules” which it would be great if you, as a new nominee, would do in order to accept the Liebster Award:

  1. Link the person who nominated you (that’s me) to your blog post and let them know you answered their questions.
  2. Answer the 11 questions given to you by the nominator
  3. Nominate other bloggers (11) for the award that have fewer than 200 followers.
  1. Create 11 questions for your nominees to answer.
  2. Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them.

So now I have to nominate 10 new bloggers. Check out my nominations below.

http://muddlingthroughmarlborough.com/

https://markhahnguitar.wordpress.com/

https://onewayticketon.wordpress.com/

http://wayfarerkate.com/

http://eatdrinkseeaus.com/

http://cycleaustralia2014.com/

https://slowmolife.wordpress.com/

http://travellight.org/

https://sillisoup.wordpress.com/about/

http://adventuroustraveltales.com/

Congratulations all, for also becoming an award winning blogger! I apologise if you have won this award before. Here are my 11 questions for you, hopefully not too difficult to answer:

  1. Describe yourself in 3 words?
  2. What’s your blog about?
  3. What do you find most challenging about writing it?
  4. Favourite place you’ve been to?
  5. What’s top of your bucket list?
  6. John or Paul?
  7. Favourite author (apart from me and my award winning blog!)
  8. If you were going to a fancy dress party what would you wear?
  9. What do you want to be when you grow up?
  10. Favourite album of all time?
  11. Paris or Venice?

A slightly different side of Dubai

At the weekends in Dubai, it’s very easy to spend your time moving from one shopping mall to another, from one cafe to the next, from a designer clothes shop to a frozen yoghurt parlour. This kind of thing happens even more in summer, when it’s not really possible to go outside.

So last weekend, making the most of the what feels like the last of the cooler weather, we spent a fantastic day exploring “Old Dubai”. Long before the days of Dubai Marina, The Palm and the worlds tallest building, Dubai was known in the region for being the center of fishing, pearling and sea trade, located at the mouth of the Creek that separates Bur Dubai and Deira.

Starting at Deira Metro Station we began walking up the Eastern side of the Creek. You can still see a lot of trade activity here today, with large dhows loading or unloading their cargo. Everything you can imagine seemed to be coming or going here, from washing machines, to bikes, to 22 piece kitchen sets!

Walking in the early afternoon sun was hot work, so we stopped at The Chelsea Arms, famously known as the oldest pub in Dubai! It’s at least 35! Continuing along the Creek, past the dhows renovated for Creek dining cruises, you eventually reach the famous Dubai Souqs – most famously markets for Gold and Spices. The Souqs are fascinating, packed full of people trying to get the best deal for whatever they’re buying. Walking through the Gold Souq, it wasn’t long before an Afghani trader was following us, trying to sell us watches.

You smell the transition into the Spice Souq before you see anything, a rich aroma of cinnamon, cumin and other spices wafting all around. However, it feels like there are more tourists looking around than people actually buying stuff. I assume the weekday trade is different.

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Highlight of the day for me was jumping on an Abra, a small wooden boat that, for just 1 Dirham (0.30c), will ferry you from one side of the Creek to the other.  They don’t feel at all safe, they don’t even have sides to them and fumes belch out over all the passengers, yet they provide great views of the Creek waterways, are an amazing experience of the Dubai of old and if you want to cross the Creek in 5 minutes, kind of essential.

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Beach Bum!

Whitehaven

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Places.” It might be because I grew up on the South Coast of England, and spent most of my long childhood summers at either East or West Wittering, that still today, the beach is my favourite place to be. I love everything about it. When you are on your way to the beach I think there is something special about the first time, from afar,  you set eyes on the blue ocean, sparkling in the distance. What Caroline calls the “Haaahhh” moment! I don’t think you can beat the smell of the fresh salt air, the sound of crashing waves or the feeling of swimming in the ocean. For me, I think it’s where I am most relaxed.

Not every experience at the beach is always so romantic. As a child, many a day, in the midst of an English summer, have I spent hiding under a blanket from the rain, eating ham sandwiches, and arguing with my sister over who got what flavour of crisps! However, now when I look back on that, it’s only with the best of memories.

These days though I’m an Aussie. No more wet, cold afternoons at Wittering for me! Nothing but long stretches of golden sand and waves to surf on! It’s fair to say, moving to Australia only crystallized my love for the beach!

I’m very fortunate to have been to possibly one of the best beaches in the world, Whitehaven Beach. This stretch of beach and surrounding water on Whitsunday Island in Queensland, Australia really needs to be seen to appreciate how stunning it is. If you ever get the chance to go, grab it! You will not be disappointed.

I’m also lucky enough to call Dee Why beach, on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, my home. Ever since we moved to Sydney we said we would love to live at the beach and just under 5 years after moving there, we made it!

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As I write this though, I am in Dubai, obviously not short of a beach or two, although in my opinion, they are not in the same league as the natural beaches of Australia. I can’t wait to get back, but until then, Kite Beach is not a bad place to hang out for the time being!

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