travel

Cornwall with Storm

Another year, another team holiday. Cottages, barns, beaches and freshwater pools in Cornwall all to ourselves. Four days with no work and all play.

This year the Storm team headed off to Cornwall for some much needed relaxation and 'team time'. We were lucky to have an amazing venue, surrounded by the Cornwall countryside We walked, swam, had BBQ's and bonfires and generally made the most of the amazing weather.

 
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Bath From Above

My home, from a different perspective.

I finally did it. My trip up the Abbey tower was long overdue and one that had been calling out to me for so long. I live 20 minutes walk from Bath’s no1 landmark and actually work less than 60 seconds walk away. Have I been inside? Of course, and it's amazing, but ancient exteriors don't compare to what's instore for you when you take on the 212 steps to the top of the tower. Looking over Bath from 160ft in the air is an incredible sight, one that everyone should experience during their time in the city.

 
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Tenby with Storm

Our yearly team holiday, a serene beach and mansion on the Pembrokeshire Coast all to ourselves. Four days with no work and all play.

This year the Storm team headed off to Tenby, Wales for some much needed relaxation and 'team time'. We were lucky to have a pristine beach right on our door step, surrounded by giant cliffs and deep caves. We walked, swam, had BBQ's and bonfires and generally made the most of the amazing views. For me, Waterwynch House was a photography dream.

 
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Rome

Pizze'.

There are so many amazing things to talk about when describing Rome - the people, the culture, the history, the art, the architecture, the foo- THE FOOD... It's actually tough to know where to really start.

With my girlfriend, Gemma being Italian, and me a dedicated fan of anything culture and carb related, Rome felt like the number 1 choice for our first holiday together. Being ‘city workers’, locked to our desks and iMac's, we’d made the decision early on to get out and storm Rome by foot as much as we possibly could. Sticking to our promise allowed us to see Rome at it's best.

My most memorable moment was having that feeling that someone is stood behind you, looking at you intensely, only to turn around and be completely overwhelmed by the famous Pantheon. ‘Pantheon’ meaning 'honour all gods’, commissioned around 27 BC – 14 AD, is a giant, ominous temple, now church/tomb, with 40ft tall doors and pillars that loom over the buskers and diners like the scariest bouncer at the club. It's incredible, and inside even more so.

The Colosseum was another highlight of the trip, but weirdly lacked any interesting facts about the epic structure once you were inside. I'd honestly learnt more from Google’s 'Did you know’ notifications during my 15 min wait in line than I did once I'd explored every nook and cranny the Colosseum had to offer. The Vatican and Sistine Chapel the other hand, located a short 5 min walk from our hotel, found in the perfect all-round location, had both more information than you’d ever need and one of the most intense tourist experiences you’ll ever have. Getting through the gauntlet of ticket salesmen and the busy airport like entrance to the Vatican is totally worth it just to witness the unbelievable paintings inside the Sistine Chapel. The only downside was Gemma and I deciding to be grown-ups and respect the dress code of the Vatican, despite melting in the 35c heat, only to find that everyone else wore tank tops and the shortest of shorts.

Let's talk food. Though really enjoyable, pizza is pizza, gelato is gelato (except when it costs €20 for two...it was good though). Pasta on the other hand is a different story. Rome completely changed my understanding of what Italian food really is, after having the best meal of my life in the form of a simple carbonara (pictured below). Since, I have dedicated myself to recreating that meal and think i'm getting closer...maybe that's another journal post?

 
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Hong Kong

A dystopian sci-fi city straight out of my teenage dreams.

“Come, come” waved our airport taxi driver, a sleepy looking short man with a fleeing hairline and oversized t-shirt that had seen better days. He looked at our collection of luggage and pointed to the boot of his red Toyota Crown Comfort. Having put the first of four bags into the shallow boot, it was clear that any more than a backpack would overload the car and render the lid useless. “More, more”. We passed him our remaining luggage and stood in disbelief as he stacked all four bags on top of each other, pulled out a green bungee cord from the back pocket of his baggy jeans, and proceeded in hooking the cord to the lid and car bumper. The car resembled one of those burgers that has all the best bits hanging outside the bun. He turned around, gave us a thumbs up and put on his best toothless grin and said "good, yes!”. He’d done this before.

With the title of 'city with most skyscrapers in the world' - 317 to be exact, a massive 60 more than the sprawling NYC, it's hard not to feel completely in awe the moment your ride drives into view of Hong Kong island. Having just completed my 5th flight in 10 days, and still processing the chaos of Manila and Boracay, I really didn't know what to expect from Hong Kong, but having some close friends from the outskirts of the city, I had been assured that I was probably going to have the time of my life. They weren't wrong.

By day the city is a non-stop highway of human traffic. I truly felt like an observer, almost a ghost during the day, pausing to take in my surroundings while the locals gracefully moved around my 6ft 4 stature, playing games on their phones and chatting amongst themselves. There is so much to see from the modern, glitzy streets of Times Square, the cultural sensory overload of the Kowloon markets, to the Po Lin Monastery and towering Tian Tan Buddha found on Ngong Ping Plateau, on Lantau Island.

By night, Hong Kong takes on a new character, one straight out of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. A dystopian, sci-fi city bathing its people in neon lights with building high projections towering above their heads. Surrounding us were pockets of lively, small rock bars that open onto the street, with drunken western businessmen taking the dance floor hostage, playing air guitar with their ties knotted around their foreheads. I spent most of my evenings in Wan Chai, stopping and staring in awe at the sheer spectacle as we crossed the high walkways that overlooked busy roads and led us into the amazing MTR underground rail system. The thought that repeated through my head over my 4 days in Hong Kong were “...how do I find a way to live here?”.

 
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Singapore

Ancient architechture. Futurisitc nature.

Singapore was the first stop of our two week epic. Looking out the taxi window, heading towards our hotel I had the instant feeling that someone had picked up LA and dropped it into a rainforest...then hired Deliveroo guys on motorbikes to casually zoom past my window and unknowingly tease me with real food after my 11hr stint from Heathrow.

Staying at the Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel on the glossy Orchard Road, and having the best time visiting the futuristic Gardens by the Bay, the viewing deck of the Marina Bay Sands, the Singapore Flyer and interactive art exhibitions of Future World, it was important for me to see the ancient parts of the city too. We jumped onto the immaculate MRT (mass rapid transit) and headed for Chinatown.

We made it, only to realise we had no idea where we were. We quickly hailed a taxi and asked our driver to take us to Singapore’s oldest and best temples.

Upon stepping out of the taxi, adjusting my backpack and camera strap, I turned around to be greeted by the incredible Thian Hock Keng - (Palace of Heavenly Happiness). Built in 1821, the temple of Mazu, a Chinese sea goddess, stood stoically in complete contrast to a clean cut, black saloon parked directly outside. Inside the temple were a of number statues dedicated to various deities, including Mazu and her guardians - two demons who were subdued and converted into her loyal generals. The wandering carer of the temple offered me the opportunity to pray to to the large green statue of the ‘General of Thousand Mile Vision’. Given that I was wearing a pair of prescription Ray Bans, the moment seemed as appropriate as it did epic.

The people of Singapore were some of the nicest and well spoken people i’ve met while travelling. There was one time...we were stood on an empty street looking at Google maps, when I felt a hard slap on the back of my leg. “Why do you have that?” said a short, confused looking lady, squinting, pointing at the bold outlined star tattooed onto my right calf muscle. “Because it’s cool...don't you think it's cool??” I joked back. Nope, not interested... “Who's that?!” She jabbed, pointing at my brother, Pete (who had joined my Dad and Elma in fleeing the scene to watch me squirm from a distance). “What’s his job? What does your Dad do? Your Mother, what about her?? How old are you? Where have you come from??” Shocked by her sudden intensity, I laughed and asked her the same back. “F**k you!” she responded, waved her hand in the air and kicked a rock into the street. She never did tell me if she liked my tattoo.

Singapore was the perfect start to our trip - chilled, good weather, amazing views… “How do you like Singapore?” my Dad asked. “Yeh awesome!” I replied. “Ok good, because Manila is gonna be an eye opener for you!”. That was probably the No1 understatement of the year.

 
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Boracay

Made to party.

Before beginning our journey, I’d never heard the name ‘Boracay’? Who? Where?? I’d never seen this place, which in my mind given the nature of our trip could have only meant a few things - it’s tropical, it’s remote and it’s super quiet. Two out of three isn’t that bad.

Let’s backtrack. I wouldn't be telling you the truth if I told you that purely getting to Boracay wasn't one of the most intense experiences of my life, and possibly the most significant memory of my whole trip.

After jumping onto a tiny plane at Manila airport, we aggressively landed 45 minutes later in what appeared to be a lonely field...not in Boracay. Following the rest of the seemingly confused cabin folk, we exited the plane onto the field where we found ourselves being escorted into minivans with not a suitcase in sight. After short and slow drive down a dirt road, weaving around stray dogs, bulls and motorbikes carrying small families on their handlebars we arrived at a small, rough looking building. It turns out that this was the airport/baggage claim. But where was Boracay?

Now reunited with our baggage, waiting for us were some super small buggies. In we go, eight of us, suitcases on our laps. Pete and I being 6ft 4 cleverly invented ‘Tetris legs’ - locking our knees together to gain a few more inches of precious leg room, much to the jealousy of the equally tall American guy beside me who looked at us bewildered and said ‘this sure ain’t Texas, boys!”.

Waiting at the end of the buggy ride was what looked like a small port with some tiny boats and a crowd of locals waiting patiently by the door. “Ferry Sir! Ticket Sir! Paraglide? ATV? Vroom Vroom!” What was happening?

And there it was, Boracay, across the water. Amazing. Now we just need to there. “Yes, come! Here, yes!” Shouted a Filipino man, his face completely hidden by a straw hat, sunglasses and a black skull and crossbones balaclava covering his mouth and nose. A bold look. He then proceeded in dropping down a plank of old wood that was no wider than the length of my size 11 flip flop between us and his boat, which can only be described as a canoe with a lid. “Yes yes” he said, and waved Pete and I over. We had no choice, we were first up, we started a slow shuffle over the water, down the plank, 17kg suitcases held high above our heads. Finally reaching the boat, sweating with relief, we had to scramble up the side looking like spiders in a bathtub trying to balance our suitcases on the roof.

3,4..25,26,27...the boat was a magical bottomless pit and passengers just kept on piling in. The boat was so full that we all draped our life jackets across our bodies with a single arm, as the other was trapped and nowhere to be seen. A short journey later, we’d arrived in Boracay…”Paraglide Sir? Diving? ATV? Vroom Vroom!” - you had to admire their determination. Oh look, another buggy, and its smaller, amazing, in y’get. Suitcases on the roof, Tetris legs, dirt roads, bulls, dogs, family motorbikes, donkeys, streets no wider than the buggy - I was in a cartoon...“Hotel sir, for you”. We’d made it.

Having brushed ourselves off, unpacked and headed down a daunting alleyway constructed of corrugated sheet metal while dodging family motorbikes and dreaming of empty beaches and clear waters, we arrived at the beach... Two things instantly crossed my mind - “oh my God this is incredible” and “Jeez, i’ve seen less people in Heathrow.” We’d walked into what felt like an island wide party and it was amazing. Boracay is the party animal’s ace up the sleeve and Google Image’s biggest lie.

 

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Salcombe

Salcombe Super Group.

I love my friends, and I love spending time with them. Unfortunately things aren't quite as simple as they used to be, like the golden days when we worked together and were only separated by a staircase, or a three digit desk phone number at our design agency job where we first met. When Sophie told us she had family holiday home in Salcombe, and that her Mum had given us the thumbs up to stay for the weekend, to say we were all excited was an understatement. We usually say our emotional goodbyes at 3am after a few drinks, R Kelly's 'Ignition' and mouths half full of cheesy chips, so the idea of staying in the same house for the weekend was amazing. It turns out that Sophie casually underplayed how incredible the flat was, let alone the view that came with it.

That weekend, we took a serious break from our busy agency lives, relaxed, enjoyed each others company, ate, drank, partied, walked along the beaches and enjoyed the scenic views of Salcombe.

 
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