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Sunday, 22 January 2017

Sigiriya

19:25
My wife absolutely adores it when I incorporate a hike into our adventures abroad. Just look at her face, beaming with overwhelming joy at the start of the ascent.


To be fair her apprehension was well warranted due to the fact we didn't have the most appropriate footwear and the mountain we were climbing was peaking above the clouds.

Views on the way up showed the true extent of Sri Lanka's lush green land. I didn't take many photos on the ascent due to heavy panting/sweating/clambering up the rock, sandwiched in between large groups of tourists.


Our tour guide gave us a brief history whilst we had pit stops during the climb. The rock was claimed by King Kasyapa for a new capital around the 5th century. He built his palace on the top of the rock but decided that about halfway up he would build a gateway in the form of a pretty large lion (hence the name Lion's Rock - Sigiriya). All that's left of the lion now are it's paws and part of it's body. It is now part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.



Not only did you have to focus on climbing the steps as they became smaller and slipperier, you had to focus on keeping quiet to avoid the unwanted attention of some nasty wasps. I did not want to end up like the stick man on the signpost.

Once we got to the top we got caught up in a bit of a rain storm. We were grateful for the cooling shower however we waited for the sun to pop back out again before getting photos at the top! 





Saturday, 7 January 2017

Sri Lanka

17:50
Before reaching the paradise islands of the Maldives for our 'proper' honeymoon, we decided to take a 4 day pit stop in Sri Lanka to soak up some culture and eat large quantities of dhal. After a delayed flight (screw you Emirates), we arrived 6 hours late and missed the majority of the first day of our tour, Rather than exploring Colombo, we met our driver Kuruppu and began the long drive to Kandy. 

After a good night's sleep in a gorgeous hotel high up in the mountains, and a large buffet breakfast the morning after, we cracked on with a very busy few days. Our first stop was the Buddhist Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Shoulders covered and shoes off, we explored the rich history and architecture of this beautiful temple.








It didn't take long for Victoria to find (read: instruct Kuruppu to take us to) a jewel shop, where she was in her element, and I sat quietly drinking mint tea praying for the credit card. Happy wife, happy life so they say...

We then went on to the Royal Botanical Gardens where we saw some pretty flowers, bamboo taller and thicker than you could ever imagine and were bitten to within an inch of our lives. We were also lucky enough to see some of the resident baby turtles catching the rays by the lake.

Sticking with the garden theme, after lunch we then went to a spice garden and were taught about every spice/oil/cream they made from the plants... Got diabetes? Drink some tea. Got eczema? Drink some tea. Got a problem 'down there'? Dunk it in some tea. 

The honeymoon took an awkward turn when Victoria sat by and watched me be graciously manhandled by a Sri Lankan man with very strong hands, whilst she was being offered a wealth of creams to help her with her lady moustache...

Having soothed my weary muscles, we then trekked up a very large, gold and dazzling Buddha. Attempting to channel my inner Attenborough, I tried to snap the native monkeys but had to make a hasty departure when they decided to have a family brawl. 

There were a variety of caves at the top with numerous Buddha statues and intricate ceiling paintings from centuries ago.


There were also some slightly calmer monkeys at the top. They spent their time either fighting each other or lovingly grooming each other. 

Back at the hotel, I then went hard at the buffet. Food consisted mainly of different types of dhals/curries of varying heats. Or, if you were feeling a little less exotic, chips and onion rings were also available. 


The dessert plate became a regular feature of the trip, with us each taking turns to go and select some treats from the extensive buffet. Regular features were warm chocolate brownies, carrot cake and cheesecake. Delicious. But don't worry, we had plenty of anti-diabetes tea!

I then thrashed my new wife at a game of giant chess to end the evening. Not even a piña colada could lift her losing streak.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Eat Cake and be Happy

21:53
After spending some time in the house on the corner it was time to get out in the crisp open air of Riga. With the sun shining but the temperature just hovering around zero, we wrapped up warm and went for a wander. 

The architecture was impressive around the city, including this building, the House of the Blackheads. After being completely destroyed during the Second World War, it was fully rebuilt in 1999.

We then got a bit giddy when we saw a sign for "the most romantic café in old town".


 We meandered around this alluringly lit cobbled street...

And took a "Happy - we're about to eat cake" selfie.

Inside we died (like died dead) and went to Heaven. As a result we went to this café each day we were in Riga and tried a different cake each day. Not the cheapest café in town, however it had the most snug and cosy atmosphere where one could devour cake after cake (and copious amounts of black coffee in Victoria's case).



Nighttime soon fell and the only way to keep warm was to drink the local balsam. 40% proof, Latvians believe the boozy treat has medicinal purposes.

Victoria found it a wee bit strong.

To soak up the booze we went for a meal in a local taverna. The usual cold meats and cheeses were for starters which were delicious with accompanying pickles!

Mains was a Latvian pork stroganoff.

 Afterwards we then did a bit of bar hopping and got back on the balsam before calling it a night.


The morning after was spent finding somewhere for a piece of cake and also allowed time to contemplate how to fit my finger into such a small coffee cup hole. This cake had layers Mary Berry would be in awe of.


 We then did a bit more sight seeing with another day of glorious weather...

Before stopping again for food. This time lunch was a bit healthier and the café prided itself on wholesome organic food. 



Nonetheless no matter how hard we tried, we always came back to our little romantic spot to unplug, eat cake and be happy. 



To date, Riga is definitely up there with one of my favourite cities for cakes and baked goods.