Friday, 5 August 2016

2016 Reading So Far

In 2015 I read 24 books, and being the competitive soul that I am, I'd like to beat that figure in 2016. So far things aren't going too badly; it's the start of August and I've just finished book no.19.

Here's a list of the books I've read so far this year:

Not the Killing Type - Lorna Barrett
See Delphi and Die - Lindsey Davis
Tulip Fever - Deborah Moggach
Buttons and Bones - Monica Ferris
The Case of the Murdered Muckracker - Carola Dunn
Thread Reckoning - Amanda Lee
V is for Vengeance - Sue Grafton
Stitch Me Deadly - Amanda Lee
The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton
Dropped Dead Stitch - Maggie Sefton
By Hook or By Crook - Betty Hechtman
Death of a Cad -MC Beaton
Threadbare - Monica Ferris
The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins
Last Days of the Bus Club - Chris Stewart
A Night on the Orient Express - Veronica Henry
And Then You Dye - Monica Ferris
The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection - Alexander McCall Smith
Dark Fire - CJ Sansom

No real surprise that lots of them are cozy crime books, all from series that I've read several of already. My favourite cozy series is still that by Monica Ferris, set in a needlework shop.
Non-cozy, but still crime/mystery and also a series, is Dark Fire by CJ Sansom (the second in the series), set during the reign of Henry VIII. I was introduced to the series by my book club and I really enjoyed the first book; this second one took me a while to read (it's over 500 pages), but I know I enjoyed it as I found myself looking forward to going up to bed each night so I could get a few pages read.
A couple of disappointing reads - The Minaturist and The Girl on the Train, both of which I'd heard really good things about but both of which I found rather lacking.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Let's Play Catch-Up: Travels in 2015 - Israel

We certainly got about a bit in 2015! After Sri Lanka and Dubai in August, we headed off to Israel during the October half term holiday. Hubby had to go for work, so DC,George Bear and I tagged along.

I must admit to being a bit nervous about travelling to Israel; hubby had been twice before for work and said it was absolutely fine, but taking DC along added to my worries - no-one willing puts their child in danger, do they? My worries were totally unfounded and we had a great few days in Tel Aviv. Our hotel was right on the beach, and this was the view from our room - not too bad, eh? I had no idea what to expect from Tel Aviv, but I certainly hadn't expected it to be so 'beach-y', if you get what I mean?!?
We arrived late on the Sunday evening so these photos were taken on Monday morning when DC and I headed out for a walk along the promenade that stretched all the way from our hotel down to the old port of Jaffa.

 We managed to avoid the rain all along the way

 right until we got to Jaffa, when the heavens opened and we had to take shelter under a porch
 Luckily it was a passing shower and we were able to carry on exploring.

When hubby finished work that evening we went out for a delicious dinner at a very good Italian restaurant
and afterwards we had some freshly squeezed juice from this fabulous stall.
 The following day, DC and I spent the day in Tel Aviv and around the beach.

And the day after that was road trip time! Hubby didn't have to work so we hired a car and headed south east. We had wanted to visit Jerusalem but hubby's work colleagues had advised against it, which was a pity, but it meant we were a bit more adventurous!
 Can you see the Sea?

First stop when we reached our destination was the cafe, where they served bagels bigger than your head!
 Next stop - the cable car.
Up, up and away....

This is Masada, the rock fortress where King Herod built palaces and fortifications between 37-31BC. The Roman historian Josephus tells us that in 73AD the Romans laid siege to the fortress and the 960 inhabitants chose to commit suicide rather than be captured. Archaeological finds don't (yet) confirm this, but who knows.

 You can see the outline of one of the Roman camps really clearly here.
 And another one here. Having studied Ancient History at university, I found this all fascinating. And, even better, hubby and DC were really interested too.

 The bath house
 with remains of the ancient version of underfloor heating!

 After our educational visit, it was time to relax at the beach...
 and float our cares away

 Yes, you really do float in the Dead Sea

 but no one tells you how difficult it is to get out with any of your dignity in tact! It's almost impossible to get your feet on the ground to walk out, so you end up bobbing around, turning over and generally looking like a right wally. Oh, and you really do not want to get any of the water in your mouth - bluuurggh.

The next day was our last. We spent the morning and lunch time in the centre of Tel Aviv, enjoying lovely food again. Then it was time for a last couple of shots of the beach before heading home.

We had a great time and I'd definitely recommend a visit if you get the chance.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Let's Play Catch-Up: 2015 Travels - Dubai

A four-hour flight from Sri Lanka and we were in Dubai. I must say it's somewhere I've always wanted to visit, but hubby wasn't too keen, so when we saw that our flights to Sri Lanka had stop-overs in Dubai both ways we thought we should take the opportunity to spend a few nights there rather than making a special trip. We were able to book a fantastic hotel for a really good price, and I must say, we were VERY impressed with it; so much so that I fear no other hotel will ever live up to the standards of the Waldorf Astoria!

Our room was lovely - spacious, luxurious, a super comfy bed and lots of little extra touches like a personal concierge, a bag to take your bits and bobs down to the pool, robes and slippers, complimentary bottled water, a coffee machine, great turn down service where they left the radio playing on a special station designed to help you drift off to sleep and probably lots more I've forgotten.

The bathroom was very plush, with Salvatore Ferragamo toiletries and a tv at the end of the bath.

The view wasn't the best, but then this was one of the cheapest rooms so we weren't too bothered.
Best of all was the air conditioning, which was VERY welcome...
The grounds of the hotel were just as luxurious
although the pool was a lot more crowded than any we had been used to in Sri Lanka!

We ventured out on our first evening to The Dubai Mall which was immense, pretty much every shop you could think of, plus restaurants, cafes, an aquarium, an ice skating rink and so much more. There was even a Cheesecake Factory so we were in heaven!
Right outside the mall is the Burj Khalifa, which is the tallest structure in the world - so tall that it needed two photos to get the whole thing in!

Plus the amazing Dubai Fountain which puts on a show set to music every 30 minutes in the evening.
The next morning we spent more time by the pool
and in the sea - look how clear it was!

And then back in the room to cool off - a view of the famous Burj al Arab luxury hotel from our balcony.
You can see why we needed to make the most of the air-con in our room!
Later in the afternoon we went to visit another mall (in an effort to keep cool, you understand!); and we found M&S!
Plus our favourite US fast food eatery
and best of all

 which did takeaway!
 The following morning was spent by the pool again, before it all got too hot to handle

 at which point we went inside for afternoon tea
 so very civilized!

before setting off for our last evening in Dubai. What else to do when you're in the country that boasts the tallest building in the world

We went up at about 4.30pm so we could see the city in the light and the dark, but unfortunately we got a bit bored after about an hour so we only saw the start of sunset and then gave up in favour of...!
And a spot of shopping - Mummy's favourite supermarket!
And that was our last night in Dubai. The following morning was spent relaxing on the balcony
and making the most of the sunshine and pool

and who could resist a dip in the bath with the TV on!
Then it was time to say 'bye bye, Dubai'.

We weren't overly impressed with Dubai (or what we saw of it); it was VERY expensive and there are plenty more interesting and attractive places in the world that we would rather go, but I'm glad we got the chance to experience it and tick it off the list. I wouldn't say no if someone offered me a free trip there (especially for the hotels), but we won't be rushing back otherwise!