Tag Archives: happiness

Pottering About :: A Visit to Stone Green Nurseries

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Things on the allotment front have now calmed down a little. We’ve harvested all of our main vegetables for the year, and our minds have now turned to preparing for next year. 

 I plan to do an update post showing you the progress we’ve made over the year, which is really quite considerable, considering that we both work full time, and that we have approximately no clues as to what we are doing. Apart from blogging, I’ve never really stuck with something this long before, and so I find myself quite impressed….with myself…..ahem. 

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A couple of weeks ago we made the journey out to Bethersden, to visit Stone Green Nurseries. The nurseries were originally set up to sell to trade, that is, Garden Centres and the like, but now they have about 10 open weekends a year where they sell direct to the public. 

Mr H and I have been looking for a couple of extra plants, particularly another fruit tree for the orchard area of the allotment, and some echinacea for our borders at home. I was also on the hunt for some raspberry canes, again for the allotment, but unfortunately none were to be found. 

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After a good meander, we came away with a 7 foot fig tree, a lovely thyme plant, some echinacea and a currant tree. We got 20% off as part of the open weekend and walked away having spent less than £30. A bargain in anyone’s books!

I actually really enjoyed the drive there – at the moment I am loving driving through deepest darkest Kentish countryside, with wistful dreams of moving further out there one day. A pipe dream for now…..

If you’re looking to add to your plant collection, I really recommend Stone Green Nurseries, and their next open weekend will be 24 – 26 March 2017. Keep an eye out!

1 Year, 12 Month, 365 Days, 525600 Minutes :: A Year in the Life

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I got married one year ago. 

For someone who considers herself to be quite in touch with her emotions, I often find it difficult to express how I feel properly in public. I’m conscious that despite his decision to marry me, the number one sharer of personal information, Mr Hello is a very private person, and over the time we’ve been together I’ve found myself to lean that way more and more. 

Despite this, I’m going to put my thoughts out there, into the universe for all to see, but also for me to look back on in the future. I’ve loved having such an extensive record of my life available to me, many memories that I’d filed away in my mind, and forgotten. I never want to forget my first year of marriage. 

Easy. In a word, this year has been easy in so many ways. The marriage part has been easy, and the strength of our union has made the professional challenges we’ve both faced this year easier

Mr H does not appreciate the brilliance of the Dixie Chicks, but who cares. This song is it.

Happy one year anniversary my love.

 

January Joy :: Done and Dusted

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This January has, far more than any since I moved to the UK in 2010, been about hunkering down and getting through. I’ve really suffered this year from the January blues, which I think is a combination of being halfway through my academic year, not exercising at all enough because of the pants weather, and oh yeah, the consistently pants weather.

Admittedly, however, it hasn’t been all bad. Here’s a minute collage of some of the nice bits of the first month of the year. Clockwise from top left:

  • An extreme buffet of cheese, crackers, veggie sticks, hummus and scotch eggs. A couple of episodes of Graham Norton with my husband and my Dad. Say no more, agreed?
  • Heading back to the allotment after a few weeks’ break. It’s grassy now, instead of muddy, but a lot better than we expected after such a mild winter. We feared our hard work in October might have been in vain. Once I’m on half term we’ll start terracing!
  • Achieving a goal: 30 days without a drink. As I said in my Dry January post, I don’t usually drink during the week, but when I found myself in social situations this month, it did take a bit more oomph to opt for a 0% lager instead of my usual glass o’ red.
  • ENGLAND vs AUSTRALIA. The Aussies won, by 15 goals (CCCCC’MOOOON!) and an English player was sent off! Never seen that before in a pro game. It was a messy game for both sides, but I really enjoyed introducing Mr Hello to my favourite sport.

I’ve got plenty of things to look forward to in February as well – a week’s holiday (which is 2 days in teacher-speak as I’ll spend most of it in my classroom!), a couple of friends going public with some GREAT NEWS, my first V-day as a married woman, which co-incides with 6 months of marital bliss!

So here’s to a great February. If you’ve had a kind of crap January as well, fear not, we’ll stand together in solidarity and flick the bird to it.  Then we can have a drink to celebrate! Yee-haw.

Living Brave :: 3 Weeks In

As I mentioned in my post on COURAGEworks, I’m currently in the middle of a course on vulnerability, created by the wonderful Brené Brown.

You may not be as into self-helpy stuff as I am, but if you are at all interested, do read on. I’m usually turned off by things that claim to have the secret to ‘changing your life’ or ‘unlock wealth’, but I am very pleased to report that this course promises neither.

This class is about “being brave, and showing up in our own lives”. It’s about recognising that vulnerability is the root of all human connection, creativity and joy in our  lives. It’s crazy when you think about it.

I’ve always been an open person, in fact I think this blog is testament to that fact. There ain’t much I ain’t willing to share, to be honest, but something that’s rung true for me in the last lesson or so, is that being such an open book isn’t always being wholehearted and vulnerable. I’m learning so far to think whether the people have earned the right to hear my story, and what is my intention in sharing parts of myself.  Maybe it’s time to hold back a little.

This certainly isn’t a way of saying I’m no longer posting here – in fact it’s the opposite. There’s nothing here that I’m embarrassed about or wouldn’t want people to see. But in my personal and professional lives, I’m going to *try* and remember the truth of being wholehearted and vulnerable, and live those values as best I can.

So, in short, the course is great. It’s thrown up a few questions for me that I haven’t yet answered, and that is exactly what I hoped it would do!

 

This Week I am Grateful For #7 – My Husband

I recently realised my Gratitude series has been left fallow for far too long, and thought it was high time to reinstate it.

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At the risk of totally embarrassing Mr Hello, (who is incidentally a rather private person), this week I am getting all emotional and publicly stating how chuffing grateful I am for him.

We’ll have been married for 6 months in a couple of weeks (the photo is from our first day on honeymoon in Warsaw), and in the true style of our relationship, have lived each of those months leaping from one point of high stress to another. It’s amazing how much you can bear when you know that someone has your back.

He’s gone and left me on my own this week (work), and therefore is not around to tell me to pull myself together – so I’ll do what I damn well want and take this moment to say: Thank You J.

Feeling Kinda Festive

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One excellent thing about hosting a family Christmas this year (albeit on the 19th, not the 25th) is that I have rather a large assortment of decorations that I bought for a large party earlier this year, which will get another airing! Waste not, want not indeed.

I absolutely adore Christmas, and while I don’t believe it has to be a perfectly styled event (not that there’s any chance of that actually happening), it’s one of the few times of year that I take particularly seriously. Bonfire Night? Nah. New Years? Meh. Christmas? YOU BET YOUR BUTTONHOLE I AM ALL OVER THAT.

It’s not just the gifts, the food and the time off work, although the combination of just those three is pretty darn great, but it’s the ritual. Having grown up about 3 hours away from my extended family, Christmas was one of the few times a year where I got a full-on family hit. My grandma did an amazing, and slightly scary tree every year, and I loved the hustle and bustle of the week or so we’d spend in Perth. Christmas Eve with my Dad’s family, Christmas Day with my Mum’s. This all seemed to happen every year forever, until all of a sudden I was grown up, and it didn’t.

~

This year will be the first Christmas Mr Hello and I share as a married couple, as a brand new family of our own. I am really looking forward to creating our own rituals, and some brand spanking new memories. 2015 has been a helluva year, and so I want to see this baby out with a glass of something fizzy in hand, with some excellent company and something cheesy both on TV and on my plate. Who’s with me?

Wedding Roundup: Portraits on The Pier

There’s no point having your wedding reception at a venue called Sun Pier House if you don’t take advantage of the actual Sun Pier. After we’d downed a drink and had a bit of a natter with the guests, my wonderful maid of honour and sister T rounded us up for some formal portraits on the pier.150801_Sam+John_Slideshow_weheartpictures0065150801_Sam+John_0208

Mr Hello and I aren’t generally a fan of staged wedding photos, however we had seen some great examples in Hector’s work and so were quite happy to spend half an hour getting a bunch of photo frame ready shots.

This is something I would definitely recommend to someone in the midst of wedding planning. Find a photographer whose work takes your breath away. Don’t choose someone and then ask them to take photos in a specific style – find someone who is an expert in the style you love. We did, and I couldn’t be happier. In fact the day we got our wedding photos back was the first thing that broke my Ice Queen heart and had be quietly crying on the High Street. I adore our photos.

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Both the bride and groom’s party wore navy blue. We asked our friends to choose whatever they wanted to wear, as long as it was navy blue. Some were a little hesitant, because they didn’t want to choose something and then realise I hated it, but after I reassured them that I was not fussy at all, they went ahead with the idea.

We both just really wanted our friends to look like themselves, and feel comfortable in what they were wearing.

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I am actually yelling at our nephew R here saying ‘get him right in the face!’. Nothing like a fresh bunch of flowers in your chops, hey?

 

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I really adore these photos of Mr H’s family. I think they sum up the family I’m marrying into so well!

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Classic Dad shot. He thinks he’s being a comedian by blocking me out of my own wedding photos. (I actually think this shot is hilarious, so perhaps I have actually inherited his sense of humour).

 

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I think my Mum looked absolutely wonderful. This suit is pretty much exactly what I imagined her with and she totally rocked it. My sister kept getting called ‘Liz’ by Mr H’s family, because they thought she looked like Elizabeth Taylor – I actually have to agree!

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T was chief joozjer. She kept barking at me to move a piece of hair (much appreciated) and would also spin around and show her knickers to all of Chatham just to make Mr H laugh in the photos. What more could you ask for in a bridesmaid?150801_Sam+John_0244 150801_Sam+John_Slideshow_weheartpictures0086 150801_Sam+John_Slideshow_weheartpictures0085 150801_Sam+John_Slideshow_weheartpictures0082 150801_Sam+John_Slideshow_weheartpictures0079

I really love these photos against the exposed brick wall. I may be about to totally break the wedding mystique here, but this wall is actually the back of Staples in Chatham. Very glam, very cool.

I suspect that in post-production Hector picked out the blue of Mr Hello’s suit, the blue in the wall and my eyes. The photo of me looking over his shoulder makes my eyes zing! Such precious photos.

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We could not have been luckier with this mural – it was painted perhaps a week before we were married! Talk about timing.

These formal shots to me show the love and joy that we felt on our wedding day. I don’t find them saccharine or overly romantic – the romance was there, we didn’t need some carefully posed shots to remind us of it! The main point is that I don’t look back at these photos and cringe. I look back and my heart sings.

That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day, isn’t it?

 

This post is made in loving memory of my Uncle. He very generously helped our wedding day to be exactly what we hoped it would be. Vale.

Wedding Roundup – Party Time!

Once we arrived at Sun Pier House, it was straight into our ‘cocktail hour’. I use the term ‘cocktail’ incredibly loosely, in fact I shouldn’t really use it at all, because no cocktails were in fact, served. There was an abundance of champagne, wine and beer, which I expect more than made up for it.

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Full credit where credit is due – our wonderful wedding party showed up on Friday to help us decorate Sun Pier. For the most part the venue is exactly to our taste, but there was some extreme pom-pom action we wanted to incorporate, and the odd vintage doily never really goes astray, now does it?

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My sister and I had run up the white bunting ourselves. You may remember in my former life I had a little bunting business. So the skills were there to be used. I had been tempted to go for a very cutesy bunting wedding early on, but as the big day approached I realised my tastes had changed, so in the end I went for (lots of) plain white bunting – festive but not chintzy.

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The pom-poms were sourced from various places, the fan shapes and the pom-pom wreaths from Tiger, but the vast majority were brand new from Ebay.

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My sister picked up our plain card guestbook from Paperchase in the days before the wedding. My Mama, also known as the calligrapher-extraordinaire, illustrated the front and also was the muscle behind our seating plan, which was a limited edition print from IKEA, of all places!

We also caved in to our inner hipsters and bought a Fujifilm Instax Polaroid camera, for a visual guestbook. I am not going to lie here, that darn thing was expensive. Like £90 or something stupid like that. But it was  a hell of a lot of fun, and if we never use it again, we both feel like we got our monies worth. We passed the camera around for our guests to take photos, and then peg them to our ribbon wall.

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This ribbon wall was an inspired idea by Mr H. I had bought these reels of 2cm wide ribbon for the tops of the ribbon sticks, but hadn’t ended up using it all. On our prep day, Mr Hello used the hooks that Sun Pier House already had to display their menus, and wound each spool of ribbon around them, forming a great backdrop and, bonus, somewhere to hang our polaroids!

I read quite a bit of advice on A Practical Wedding that said if you want to include an impromptu element in your wedding, it’s really helpful to ask someone in your party to take responsibility for it. That way, you can forget all about it while you’re talking to everyone, because you know you have someone trusted going around. It was invaluable to have my wonderful bridesmaid N in charge of the Polaroids. She flew all the way over from Australia for the wedding, and I could not be more grateful. I like to think the Polaroid duty also helped her to meet people, but perhaps that’s wishful thinking!

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Luckily, due to the shape of the venue, we were quite easily able to include a little ‘kids zone’, where we put down some astro turf (left over from our Mr H-designed centrepieces), added some puzzles, wooden blocks, crayons and colouring books and let the kids run wild. Sort of.

I had bookmarked the idea ever since I read something similar on Franky’s wedding round-up on Love My Dress. I thought it would be a great way to keep the kids entertained when the grown-up side of things got too boring, and would give their parents a bit of peace so they could enjoy a drink! I’m pleased to say I got excellent feedback…

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Before too long we were sitting down for our main meal. We went for a Middle Eastern style buffet, catered by our great local restaurant Café Moroc. Partly because we knew we had a lot of vegetarians and vegans in attendance, and we all know that Middle Eastern cuisine is big on the ol’ chickpeas, but also because we really like that kind of food and have had some great meals there before.

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It was delicious and I ate so much at that point that I didn’t manage to have any of my wedding cakes. Dis. A. Pointed.

I have two little regrets about the food. Well, little niggles at least. Firstly, we ran out of time to make signs for the food, and I wish we had made the extra effort because my veggie pals had to faff around and ask people to taste things before they ate them. Not very hospitable of me! Oh well…lesson learned.

The second niggle is that there was heaps of food left over and I forgot to tell the caterers that we wanted to keep it. Mr H and I would have loved to have binged on hummus for the next few days, but it was cleared away before we had the chance. Again, lesson learned, and in the grand scheme of things, not a big deal.

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We then moved on to the speeches. We never wanted endless speeches or toasts, and I am so delighted to report that the speeches by both of our families were everything we could have wished for at the start of our marriage.

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Mr Hello blubbed delightfully throughout the whole thing. He was the focal point of this part of the day, for sure. As discussed in my ceremony roundup, I am evidently an Ice Queen because I remained composed throughout. It’s a strange thing. Definitely a combination of trying to remember it all, not being able to believe that it’s actually your wedding, and the slightest amount of unexpected stage fright. Anyhow, just call me Elsa.

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My Dad sang some wonderful songs, one was a version of Waltzing Matilda with amazing references to Rochester within it, and a couple of others. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand, let’s just say that.

My sister’s speech was the one that almost tipped me over the edge into Emotionville. She’s bloody great and I am so lucky. She did however, bring up an ear biting incident that happed A LONG TIME AGO SO JUST GET OVER IT ALREADY.

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Mr H’s lovely sister K had then organised a game to get us all in the party mood, complete with papier mâche representations of our goodselves. I am pleased to report these remain in our household. So hilarious, and strangely, so anatomically correct.150801_Sam+John_Slideshow_weheartpictures0133

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Then we boogied! Our first dance (which is a completely weird experience, let me tell you) was to Come and Get Your Love by Redbone, because every time we heard that song, we couldn’t help but dance.150801_Sam+John_Slideshow_weheartpictures0137

I am a very earnest dancer. And singer-alonger, it seems.150801_Sam+John_Slideshow_weheartpictures0138

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I cut some serious shapes, believe you me. We chose to hook up our laptop and used our own curated playlists for the evening. It was great, it was cheap and we had exactly the music we wanted, although if I did it again, I think I might have put a ‘no touchy’ sign on the laptop to stop people from skipping songs. Hey ho, again, a minor detail which had no real impact on the day.

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I’m not sure if you can tell by my face (note: you totally can), that I was so delighted to have so much of my family there. We are all scattered all over the world, and it meant so much to have people who have known me for much longer than the five years I’ve been in England with me as I start this next phase of my life. I love my family.

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We snuck off at a couple of moments for some quality husband/wife time, which I truly recommend, and we also got some more formal shots done, which I will share with you in the next couple of days.

My biggest take-away from the wedding reception was that Mr Hello and I are so totally loved. We’re loved by each other, by our families and by our deliciously wide circle of friends. What a better way to start a marriage.

Wedding Roundup: The Ceremony

The ceremony is quite literally, the main event of the day. The bit that most people feel the most nervous about. I can honestly say in my heart of hearts, that I did not feel remotely nervous about walking down the aisle towards Mr H.

I couldn’t have been looking forward to it more. What was strange, however, and especially so given my background in drama, is that the closer the wedding drew, the less I looked forward to having ‘all eyes on me’, so to speak. Perhaps I’m getting stage fright as I age.

When at last every hair was in place and every lip and cheek rouged, my delightful bridal party and I made our way, on foot, to the Rochester Guildhall for the ceremony. We couldn’t have been more blessed with the weather!

As with all of these wedding posts, these amazing photographs are by Hector of We Heart Pictures.

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A dear friend of ours was married in our town a couple of years ago, and she mentioned that her favourite part of the day was walking along the High Street, with people congratulating her. I now know the feeling, and it truly is wonderful.

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Having arrived 20 minutes late, my dear father thought it would be hilarious to tell me that we were ‘way beyond fashionably late’. Thanks Dad.

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We climbed the stairs and loitered attractively in the anteroom while the registrar ran through some last minute details with me.

Mr H and his family were already in the main chamber, and I really adore these candid shots of them, and our lovely nephew R entertaining his grandparents in the corner!

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My Dad is notoriously hot, and this photo of my sister cooling him down is one of my favourites from the whole day. There’s a palpable sense of anticipation, don’t you think?

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We’re not allowed confetti in Rochester, and so we improvised with ribbon sticks for our guests to wave in our faces in a celebratory manner. They were a hit with the kids, and continue to be a hit with many of the cats in the Rochester area, I’m told!

Mr H made a little wedding zine, which included the order of the day, some of our family history, the story behind our wedding rings – mine is antique, his is a family heirloom sized down from Z+1 to an R – as well as our decision to use my maiden name as our family name. We wanted to share these stories with our guests on the day, and they are now a lasting keepsake.

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Before too long, the bridal crew were gathering on the small stairwell, waiting to enter. My bouquet was in one arm, with the other was tucked firmly in the crook of my father’s. I had time for perhaps one deep breath, before we were off down the aisle!

I approached the whole being ‘given away’ with a lot of thought. I don’t particularly like the historical connotations, and Mr H and I both liked the idea of walking in together. But at the end of the day, I very rarely get to share such special moments with my Dad, and so I am so pleased that we made the traditional decision. I have no regrets.

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A sneaky wink – I have no recollection of doing this, but it’s a wonderful moment nevertheless!

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We were lucky enough to have two readings by wonderful friends. The first was Habitationby Margaret Atwood, read by my dear friend E. I couldn’t have asked for better! The second was an extract from the essay Knowing What’s Nice, by Kurt Vonnegut. I’ll link to  both here for posterity

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By the time you reach the top of the aisle, some little gremlin grabs all the clocks in the world and starts spinning the hands faster – the time absolutely flies.

Before I knew it, we were saying our vows to one another, the vows we wrote together:

I promise to love and cherish the life we build together.

I will care for you, and help you to be the best person you can be.

I will enjoy you when it’s easy, and be loyal when it’s not.

This commitment I make to you for the  rest of my life.

There was the obligatory stumbling over certain words and names, but it was all heartfelt and full of love.

I felt very conscious of what I was doing, and I suppose the seriousness of the matter prevented me from getting choked up – I was fully expecting to be a sobbing mess, but instead some serene goddess replaced me! It felt like my voice was very loud. “Clear”, people said, “Your voice was very clear”, and that means loud. Ho hum.

Rings were presented, and a with momentary panic about swollen knuckles, exchanged. Then we were married!

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Maximum ribbon stick action!

The Honeymoon: Warsaw #2

Grab a hot beverage, sit back and hope for the best of your bandwidth. I’ve got a cracking photo-heavy post for you today!

Ladies and gents, I present the final round-up of our Warsaw Honeymoon.

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I hope that these photos give you some indication of the weather we experienced. Barely a cloud in the sky, the entire time we were there. Now normally this would be something to celebrate, but on this occasion, relentless heat in combination with a scaredy-cat disposition did not work so well. We were too chicken to try to find somewhere to swim.

I think for the most part this was because we didn’t really just want to go to a rec centre for an indoor swim, we either wanted to go somewhere we could swim outside (which we couldn’t find in Warsaw) or in a hotel pool. There’s where we got too chicken – we weren’t sure whether you had to be staying at the hotel to swim, or if, not unlike some other countries, you can just pay to use the facilities and then leave. This is where some prior research would have been handy. Oh well! Onwards we went, in all our sweaty glory.

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These sandals deserve a special commendation. I wore them for about 8 out of the 10 days, and I can’t see any sign on wear on them! Hooray for great quality sandals! I did, however, have to wash three black stripes off my feet each evening. Just a tad dusty…

Warsaw 5 Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaMr H and I did a little family history while we were out – this street is where my Polish Grandfather lived in the late 1930s. We now have reason to believe he was Jewish or his extended family was Jewish, so he was cutting it damn fine staying in Warsaw so late. A very lucky man!

On the Saturday, we hopped on the tram (yay, courage!) and ventured out to what we would describe as a Polish Boot Fair. This is right up our street, we love nothing more than a good rummage around other peoples’ belongings.

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You’re not allowed to take anything out of Poland that was made before 1945 without special permission, so this time we walked away empty-handed, not having seen anything we loved enough to go to extra effort for. Now that we’ve been once though, I think we’d have the confidence to go back again, for sure!

Warsaw 7 Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaIn our second week we visited the Museum of Modern Art, which was currently showing an exhibition regarding the emancipation of African Nations. This display, which I find totally engaging and wonderfully delivered, was of the postage stamps created for African countries after Independence. It was very though provoking, especially for a couple of design nerds like us.

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While many of the meals we enjoyed were in the touristy Old Town, the meal that has really stayed with me was this sharing platter from Abyssinia, an Ethiopian restaurant in the New Town. Ethopian in Warsaw – strange, huh? Strangely delicious, you mean.

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It was served on a giant pancake, which you tore off, filled with some beef, lamb, chicken, beetroot or dhal, and then ceremoniously shovelled into your face! What’s not to like?

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Just looking at these photos makes me crave it again. We were served with some honey wine, which was spicy and delicious even though I’m usually a little reserved when it comes to unusual drinks. Evidently the wasps thought it was delicious too, and about 4 of them put my I’m-Australian-bugs-don’t-scare-me street cred to the test.

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Elephant Belgian Beer Pub was, without a doubt, our favourite bar in Warsaw. Generally, Mr Hello and I aren’t huge beer drinkers, that is to say we both like beer, but are not particularly snobbish about it. However we were very tempted by the craft beers on offer at Elephant, in fact over the ten days we visited about four or five times, sampling probably two varieties at least each time!

It didn’t hurt that the owner looked like he could be my Uncle, and when we accidentally left some shopping there, they held onto it for us. That sort of customer care when you’re in a foreign city really makes a huge difference!

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So many beers, so little time.

A couple of days later we ventured over the river to Praga, the former industrial district, which is now home to Hipsterland. This part of Warsaw survived the Nazis to a large extent, and so much of the architecture is representative of a pre-WWII Warsaw.

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From walking around, we could definitely see there was more of a creative twist to this part of Praga, compared to what we’d already seen in the main part of Warsaw.

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Excellent architecture, but even more excellent signage:

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Unfortunately the hipsters of Praga evidently don’t rise before nightfall, as most of the bars  looked to me a night-time thing only. Next time we head to Warsaw (and there will definitely be a next time), we’re going to make a night out in Praga the order of the…day.

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Before we knew it, our time in Warsaw was coming to an end, and we capped off our last two nights with fabulous food and some delicious cocktails. I had a Muay Thai first, which was a little underwhelming (too much lime) but my Mojito was probably the best I’ve ever had (just enough lime!). For 20 złoty as well (about £4), I really couldn’t complain!

For those of you looking for an interesting city break, or a honeymoon where culture and relaxation are the order of the day, I really recommend Warsaw. Ten days was more than enough time to see what we wanted to see, but having said that, a little extra time there meant we were ready to come home, but felt refreshed and relaxed after the wedding.

What more could you ask of a Honeymoon?