Aching body? Try Yoga

Yoga wasn’t a part of my life until the day I accidentally stepped on the dog’s plastic water bowl, skidded along the floor and ended up on the ground in agony. A visit to the doctor and a CT scan later, I found out I had a bulging disc (what used to be called a “slipped disc”) which was pressing against my sciatic nerve, hence the agony.

The doctor thought only surgery would fix it but, being rather a coward when it comes to having sharp instruments near my spine, I thought I’d check my other options first. I started a morning routine of gentle yoga stretches specifically for the lower back and the piriformis muscle. It did the trick because within a month or two I could ditch the strong anti-inflammatory drugs I’d been prescribed.

That was back in 2004 and I haven’t had a problem since. I’m not saying yoga is the answer for everyone but it worked for me.

Yoga’s Range of Benefits

But yoga has a range of other benefits as detailed in the infographic below, courtesy of the Huffington Post, on how yoga can transform your body.


yoga infographic

Yoga is generally suitable for all ages, but if you have a medical condition talk to your doctor before embarking on a yoga regime.

Have you tried yoga? If so, I’d love to know what benefits you found. Feel free to add your comments below.

Afternoon Tea at Betty’s in Yorkshire

Betty's Tearooms in Yorkshire have become an institution. I was fortunate enough to have tea at their York teashop. I wasn't disappointed
Betty's Tearooms in Yorkshire have become an institution. I was fortunate enough to have tea at their York teashop. I wasn't disappointed
Betty's Tearooms in Yorkshire have become an institution. I was fortunate enough to have tea at their York teashop. I wasn't disappointed

There is something quintessentially British about afternoon tea, especially in a quaint British tearoom. So a visit to Yorkshire has to include an hour or two in Betty’s sipping beautiful Assam tea from bone china cups with saucers and eating delicious dainty cakes.

Tea and a delicious lemon cake with a dollop of cream

Tea in bone china cups and a delicious lemon cake with a dollop of cream. Afternoon tea at Betty’s in Yorkshire, England

The ironic thing is that the founder of Betty’s wasn’t British and wasn’t called Betty.

A mountain of macarons

A mountain of pastel-shaded macarons on display at Betty’s in Yorkshire

The founder of Betty’s was a Swiss man called Frederick Belmont who opened his first tea room in Harrogate in 1919. Now there are 6 “Bettys” in Yorkshire. The one I visited was down a narrow cobbled street in York under the shadows of York Minster. The tea rooms are on the first floor in a higgledy-piggledy warren of low-ceilinged, creaking-floored rooms.

Cakes at Betty's, Yorkshire

Delicate little cakes covered in melt-in-the-mouth fondant icing at Betty’s Yorkshire

Downstairs on the ground floor is the shop where you can buy all sorts of goodies such as teas, biscuits & cakes.

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It’s not certain who the “Betty”, the tearooms were named after, was. Some think it could have been the late Queen mother. Or it could have been a homage to a young girl called Betty who died of tuberculosis. Her father was a doctor who’s practice later became the site for was the first Betty’s tearoom.

For further information see Betty’s website: http://www.bettys.co.uk

10 Quite interesting facts about London

Samuel Johnson, the 18th century English writer, once wrote “When a man is tired of London he is tired of life”. He may have been onto something there. I always find London has an exciting vibe that just fills me with energy. Plus there’s so much to see and do, whether you’re into cultural pursuits or pleasurable.

To celebrate this amazing City, I’ve gathered ten fun facts you may not know about London.

1) Great Ormond Street Hospital, a children’s hospital located in Bloomsbury in London, owns the copyright for Peter Pan and receives royalties every time the play is performed. This has brought in considerable funding to the hospital.Peter Pan

2) Aldgate Tube Station was the site of a large mass grave  built in 1665 for the victims of the Plague. In fact there are several such pits scattered around London.

3) More than half of London’s Underground system is actually over ground.

4) There is a pet cemetery in Hyde Park.
Hyde Park's Pet Cemetery (c) Pedro Cambra - Flickr Creative Commons

5) The giant Christmas tree erected in Trafalgar Square each Christmas is a gift from the people of Oslo, Norway, in gratitude for the assistance given them by the British people during World War.

The Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree (c) Laura Bittner - Flickr Creative Commons6) The statue of George Washington in Trafalgar Square rests on soil imported from the USA as, after the American Revolutionary War, George Washington claimed he would never set foot on English soil again.

George Washington’s Statue in Trafalgar Square (c) Ham – Creative Commons

7) The Times New Roman typeface was originally commissioned by the Times newspaper in London in 1931 after receiving criticism that their newspaper was difficult to read.

A_logo_for_The_Times_(early_19th-century)

8) The River Thames has 21 tributaries spread through London some of which are hidden underground.

9) American chat show host, Jerry Springer, was born in Highgate Tube station when his mother was taking shelter during an air raid in World War 2.

10) There’s a 1.5 acre roof garden open to the public above the old Kerry and Toms buildings in Kensington High Street. Until 2012 the Kensington Roof Gardens were the largest in Europe. They feature a Spanish garden inspired by the gardens of the Alhambra in Southern Spain, a Tudor garden and an English woodland garden. There’s even a pond with flamingos.

  1. Roof top garden, Kensington, London
Perth is one of the most isolated cities in the world. Here are some fun facts about this vibrant modern city.

Discover Perth – 7 Fun Facts

I love travelling, as you will soon realise if you visit this site regularly. I love airports, hotel rooms, little sachets of shampoo, mini bars…I even love aeroplane meals… weird, huh? But I am also lucky enough to live in a beautiful part of the world. Perth, Western Australia. 

However, Perth is a place that many people know very little about. I can recall showing someone from Canada photos of Perth and it surprised them to learn we actually had high-rise buildings! Perth may be a small city, but it’s modern.

Here are the 7 fun facts about Perth (and Western Australia).

1) Perth is the most remote city in the world. Just to clarify that, before you all email me to tell me it’s not true, I’m talking about other cities with a population of over 100,000. The nearest place with that criteria is Adelaide, which is 2,100 km (1,305 miles) away.

Fremantle Markets

2) The longest jetty in the world, at 1.8 kms, is in Busselton, Western Australia which is a couple of hours drive south of Perth.

3) Western Australia’s most venomous spider, the Redback, is a relation of the Black Widow spider of North America. The Redback likes to hide under window sills, eaves of houses. You can usually tell they’re around by their webs which are usually very messy and strong. Their bite, whilst it can be painful, is rarely fatal unless the victim is elderly, infirm or a child.

4) Western Australia is the 2nd largest State in the World.

Kangaroo Paw

5) Perth has the world’s largest inner-city park. Again, before you all write in to correct me here, I’m talking INNER CITY park. Perched on the top of a hill, Kings Park has some amazing views over the City and the Swan River.

The treetop walk in King’s Park
View of Swan River and Perth from Kings Park

6) Western Australia is HUGE!! Western Australia’s land area is 2.646 million sq. km whereas the land area of Texas is 678,000 sq. km. If Western Australia was a country it would be in the top 10 largest in the world.

7) Perth is Australia’s sunniest capital city.

6 Fun Facts about Wedding Cakes

As I have a shockingly sweet tooth, cake comes very high up on my list of favourite foods. I particularly love a rich fruit cake with marzipan and royal icing.

So to me, a cake makes the perfect celebration food but now cakes seem to becoming more like works of art than food items and none more than wedding cakes. Instead of a traditional, white-tiered wedding cake some couples are choosing cakes in black, red and even multi-coloured cakes or individual cupcakes instead of one big cake.

This gorgeous creation was by Elegant Cheese Cakes


Fun Fact 1

White wedding cakes became popular in 19th century when Queen Victoria had a white wedding cake to go with her white wedding dress. Until then, silver had been the popular dress colour for royal brides.

Her cake consisted of a single tier approximately 9 feet (3 metres) around the base and stacked with figurines of up to a foot (30 cms) high, of Britannia and the Royal couple dressed in the clothes of Ancient Greece.

Fun Fact 2

The trend of tiering wedding cakes, was reputedly inspired by Christopher Wren’s spire at St Bride’s Church in London.

Fun Fact 3

Going further back in history there is evidence that the tradition of the wedding cake dates back to Roman times. Then, wedding cakes were more like a type of bread made from wheat flour, salt and water (no sugar or other sweet ingredients). And, instead of the groom handing the bride a piece to eat, he would crumble it over her head. This was meant to ensure the couple would be blessed with lots of children.

Fun Fact 4

Further on in history people would pile little cakes up high and the idea was the bride and groom would try and kiss over the cakes. If they succeeded it was a sign that the marriage would be prosperous. This is reputed to be the origins of the Croquembouche, a French cake often used at weddings.

Fun Fact 5

The most expensive piece of wedding cake ever sold was a slice of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s wedding cake. It was auctioned by Sotheby’s in New York in 1998 and sold for $29,900. Seeing as the Windsors married in 1937 the cake would have been over sixty years old when it was sold. Definitely a keeper rather than an eater!

Fun Fact 6

The biggest wedding cake ever made was made by the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut, USA in 2004. Weighing 6.8 tonnes it took 57 chefs and had seven tiers.

So simple, elaborate, traditional or wacky…there are no limits when it comes to the choice of wedding cake.

This movie-themed wedding cake is from Amazing Cakes

An amazing cake with a top tier that seems to be floating! This is from Peboryon in the U.K.

Vindolanda is a Roman settlement in Northumberland close to Hadrian’s Wall

Exploring Vindolanda in the Rain

I’d never been to Hadrian’s Wall. So when, during an autumnal visit to Northumberland in England, I was given the opportunity to join a party planning a gentle stroll around a section of Hadrian’s Wall I eagerly accepted.

The day dawned windy and wet and our party of thirteen dwindled down to five. The rest opted to spend the morning sitting in front of a warm fire with the Sunday papers.

I had no idea what to expect and half-thought (hoped) there’d be somewhere we could park with far-reaching views where we could sit and look at Hadrian’s Wall from the warmth and dry of our mini-bus. Silly me!  To see Hadrian’s Wall, walking has to take place. The five of us therefore had a quick vote and decided we’d first go to the Roman remains at Vindolanda, the nearby site of a Roman fort.

Vindolanda - Roman Fort in Northumberland UK

Vindolanda – Roman Fort in Northumberland UK

I’m not sure why we thought this plan would keep us any drier. By this time the rain was falling sideways and the Roman excavations were not under cover. “I’ll try and do most of the talking inside in the entry display area” our guide told us helpfully. I suppose she wasn’t too keen to get drenched either.

She told us that the work there was carried out by volunteers, and had begun just over 40 years ago. At that time it was thought that two successive Roman forts had been built on the site but as they years went by, they discovered about nine forts had been demolished and rebuilt. The painstakingly slow work will probably take another hundred years to complete

Vindolanda Roman Fort - Northumberland UK (copyright D Bennetto)

Vindolanda Roman Fort – Northumberland UK

Talk over, it was time to pull on the raincoats, seize our umbrellas and head out to view the excavations close up. First stop was down the paths towards the remains of the village where the camp followers would have lived just outside the fort.

The camp followers comprised of the soldiers’ relatives, merchants, craftsmen, slaves and priests. The soldiers were generally well paid and in silver, so most armies would attract a number of civilians who, once the soldiers had set up a permanent base, would settle themselves close by.

The rainy walk continued to the bath house on one side of the excavations.

The Bath House at Vindolanda - Roman Fort in Northumberland UK

The Bath House at Vindolanda

These were quite social places and probably used by civilians too. Our guide told us that Roman soldiers didn’t use soap but oil and steam to sweat all the dirt out of their pores. Afterwards she showed us an instrument which looked like a wooden hook called a strigil  which the soldiers would use to scrape the oil, sweat and dirt off themselves into a special receptacle.  After I’d recovered from the yuck factor I learnt that there are places in the world today where oil baths are so popular they’re even considered a draw-card.

Strigil - Roman Republic and Empire made

Roman Strigil (Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Creative Commons)

Standing there gazing out over the remains of the fort it was hard to get my head around the fact that these ruins were originally buildings constructed between 1,600 and 1,900 years ago. What was life like back then? What would it have looked like?

Check out this YouTube video to get an idea.

Vindolanda is located at Bardon Mill, Hexham NE47 7JN

For more information visit the official website http://www.vindolanda.com/

Langley Castle in Northumberland was built in 1350 by Sir Thomas de Lucy. Set in 10 acres of beautiful gardens and woodlands it is now a popular hotel. With its seven-foot-thick walls, big log fires and cosy atmosphere the Castle is a peaceful refuge to escape the world for a while.

A Weekend at Langley Castle

I’m an expat Brit and I love Australia, my adopted country, but if there’s one thing I really miss about England it’s the rich sense of history. So a weekend spent at a medieval castle in the North of England was my kind of heaven.

Langley Castle built in 1350

Langley Castle in Northumberland  was built in 1350 by Sir Thomas de Lucy.  Set in 10 acres of beautiful gardens and woodlands it is now a popular hotel. With its seven-foot-thick walls, big log fires and cosy atmosphere the Castle is a peaceful refuge to escape the world for a while.

The approach to Langley Castle provides an impressive first view.

The mysterious, yet romantic atmosphere that envelopes the dark stone walls has set my mind buzzing with questions.

The seven foot thick walls of Langley Castle provide a safe and cosy haven to escape the outside world.

 

What has happened behind the seven foot stone walls in the past? Who has lived here? A brief note in a guide about the castle mentioned that it was gutted by fire just 46 years after it was built then left empty for 500 years. I did some digging around on Google and found out it was possibly attacked by the forces of King Henry IV.  But it’s curious as to why it would be left derelict for so many centuries. Maybe these are the kinds of questions that led writer, J.K. Rowland, here in search of inspiration for one of her books.

Langley Castle was eventually purchased in 1880 by Cadwallader John Bates, a historian and also the High Sheriff of Northumberland. He began the restoration of Langley Castle but sadly died in 1902 before the work was complete.

The main staircase in one of the towers at  Langley Castle houses a prime example of a "guarderobe" which is basically a medieval latrine.

The main staircase in one of the towers at Langley Castle houses a prime example of a “guarderobe” which is basically a medieval latrine.

I would highly recommend a visit or to this magical place.  You can find further details on the Castle’s website here