disruption to regular service

the last couple of months have been exhausting. i am actually exhausted, and there's literally no sign of slowing down, either. for the last week and a bit i've spent all of my spare time packing up my belongings one again, for the big move. i'm moving out. i moved into my bright room in a nice flat almost exactly two years ago to the day, but i've had a great offer to live with a great couple of humans, in a bigger room in a nicer area, and i'd be silly to not move. but it means i physically have to move. pack up, and move out. again.

i can't remember the last time i did nothing. i fill my time with things and stuff so i don't get bored, and then i complain of exhaustion. yet when i do nothing and laze about, i complain of boredom. will i ever be happy? who the hell knows. what i know is that i am looking forward to getting all settled in the new house, with my new flatmates, unpacking all of the stuff, and starting this next adventure. also looking forward to this weekend, when i continue to not stop, and head to wales with rebekah.

sadly that adventure, and the one that follows, comes without the internet for a while. yep, the internet guy is coming next friday, because i'm not great at planning things, and so that's the deal. i don't even have anything scheduled, because - as i mentioned, i'm exhausted, and am not great at planning things. well, and any time i've had to myself, i have actually just gone to bed and tried to sleep. "tried", being the operative word here.

this weekend away probably won't be the relaxing and peaceful one i need, but once i am all moved in, settled, and unpacked, i will stop. at least, i plan to stop. i've put it in my diary to stop, and i'm pretty good at managing my diary, but we'll see. until then though, i'm after any fab recommendations of what to see and do in north wales. will be hitting up port meirion and anglesey and other such areas, but restaurants or sights - give them to me.

see you in a week! 

colourful cabana

i'll be honest: ask me a few months back and i wouldn't have been able to name one thing about brasil, or be able to think of one reason i'd want to visit. didn't know what sort of food they eat there, didn't know what booze they drink there, didn't know much other than the women are smoking hot and are to be blamed for the the mass ritual abuse inflicted on women's lady gardens the world over because of that. other than that, ask me about brasil and i'd probably have said "seems hot", or "they're hosting the olympics this year, aren't they?" and that would have been it.

that was then. ask me now what i know about brasil, and my eyes will probably roll back into my head, tongue hanging out of my opened mouth, drooling, while i omit some unrecognisable noise that sounds something like "ohmiguhhhhhthefoohhnwyyyyneisssoguuuuuu". because you know what? if there's one thing i do know about brasil, is that they do good grub. and i don't make that claim lightly; over the last few weeks i've been doing my research, thanks to cabana.

a few weeks back i was lucky enough to head along to the barbecue chain's islington branch for a wine tasting event. did i know that brasil produced wine? no i did not. was i shocked to learn that not only do they produce an incredible range of white wines, but their sparkling offering is preeeeeeetty much the tastiest thing since that real-life italian prosecco? oh, very much so. would you believe then that, knowing what you do about me and the colour choices i make when it comes to wine, that when a glass of the miolo pinot grigio was offered to me, that i didn't turn it down? and not because i'm an alcoholic, but because after three glasses of faultless tipples i decided to never say no to a brasilian offering me wine ever again. it's a decision i am committed to.

the brixton branch though, that's a whole 'nother story. they've got a bar; a real bar. a proper, brasilian caipirinha and cocktail bar. it has a neon sign and all! so when we arrived last thursday for their menu tasting event, we were issued arrival happy-hour (two for one!) caipirinhas on entry, and i'm quite sure our glasses never stayed empty for long after that. they also have that brasilian wine i was harping on about earlier, and i am quite sure you're not supposed to mix rum and red wine, and yet... remember what i'd said about brasilian's offering me wine? a decision i am still committed to (despite slightly regretting).

the tables were decorated with guaca-molho, or, homemade guac with "bottomless corn chips" (£4.95) when we arrived, and soon enough, a selection of starters arrived. we'd tasted the delicious cheesey dough balls (£3.95) at the wine tasting event, so tucked right into them and their tasty garlic butter dip as soon as we could, before moving on to the chargrilled halloumi with guava dip - which was surprisingly sweet and tangy (£5.45), and the crunchy lula squid with malagueta mayo and zesty lime juice. 

next to arrive was the spicy chicken doughnuts (i mean, seriously! that cheesey dough ball just got playyyyyed; £5.45) and the malagueta lettuce wraps (£3.95) which were a little heavy on the red onion for my liking, but were incredibly yum and not too spicy on the mouth at all. i mean, certainly nothing the bottomless caipirinhas couldn't solve. this round's winners was everything ball shaped (and the malagueta mayo, which was sensational), according to everyone alive in the restaurant that night. 

full, but never really full, we were excited to see what was coming next. at the wine tasting event we'd sampled part of the brasilian chain's barbecue menu, and we had our favourites. there, the quava-cue ribs and the spicy chicken were the evening's winners (though we were quite tipsy and were excited to try again), but we'd been hearing rumours about the new steaks on the menu, and were keen to get some of that on the table. lucky for us, our prayers were (mostly) answered.

in lieu of the pork ribs (boo) we'd been served the pork and papaya sausage wheel (£11.95) - honey glazed and deliciously sweet, the sticky malagueta chicken (£12.95), and some sort of steak that we're not entirely sure about as it was a bit tough and couldn't quite make out the flavours (£15.95). there were also a bunch of salads and sides dotted around the table; sweet potato fries (£3.95), tomato and palm heart salad (£2.95), cassava fries (£4.45 and very undercooked)and a cold quinoa and squash dish (£5.45) filled our plates up while the spiced rum washed them down.

by the time the dessert was served, we were about four or five cocktails in, and down one glass of the tastiest red wine that cabana could offer. "full" is an understatement, to the extent that i had unzipped my dress as far as i could without spilling out of it and it falling off me - thank god for the jumper i was wearing over the top, hiding my shame. did we need to eat dessert? oh god, no. but with brasilian balls seeming to be the real star of the menu, the nutella doughnuts (£5.95) in powered sugar were hardly going to be passed over by anyone at the table. slowly but surely, the bowl of dessert dough was devoured, and we were rolled out into the night - bleary-eyed and full to the brim.

ask me now what i know about brasil. it'll probably still be "seems hot" and "they're hosting the olympics this year, aren't they?" as a first response, but "have you been to cabana?" as a very close second.

thanks very much for having us down, team cabana!

*i was invited down to sample the menus, but if i didn't love it, i wouldn't write about it*

celebrate england, on the isle of wight (pt two)

we woke early on the second day, despite our best efforts or actual desire to, as we had even more planned than the day before and the thought of having a lazy morning was not one that coincided with our full itinerary. with a quick breakfast at one holyrood and a giant cup of coffee to set us up, we headed off toward the bus station, wanting to make sure we allowed plenty of time to get there and on the right bus, bound for the first stop of the day: west wight alpacas.

and llamas! we met up with owner michelle, and katie and holly on her team, and were introduced to a few of their male llamas who we'd be hanging out with for the morning. with over 70 alpacas, 12 llamas and variety of other animals on site to choose from, we were excited to get our two boys - ramses and taffarel, harnessed up so we could take them on a walk around the farm (taffarel is the one what looks like rebekah, haaaaa).

the once-hobby farm is now one of the island's most well-loved attractions, with visitors coming from far and wide to talk a walk with the animals. not one person we spoke to that weekend was unaware of the farm's good work, and we were very lucky to get such a great day for our trek. in the forty minutes we spent walking our new pals we got to learn a lot about the animals on site, and what the idea behind the farm is; the breeding that occurs onsite isn't just for the fleece that is considered to be some of the most luxurious in the world, but also because the suri alpaca is one that has the potential to become extinct unless breeding programs like this are set up.

want to know something horrible? a llama's gestational period is 370 days. that's more than one entire year. the day we visited, they were due another llama baby as its mama was at day 377 of her pregnancy. that poor old duck! we hoped she might give birth while we were there so nineteen-day old jolene would have a friend to play with, but no such luck. in fact, our luck was so bad that the baby was actually born later that day, after we'd already left the island...

we were on a tight schedule that morning as the bus that dropped us at west wight only ran hourly, and we didn't want to miss it. we were only in the farm for an hour, and when we jumped back on the bus, it was the same bus driver that had dropped us off an hour earlier. that wasn't the first time that'd happened to us either; we kept running into the same bus driver the entire weekend - from one route to the next. this time though, we were headed back to newport before jumping on yet another (new bus driver, thankfully. that would have been freaken weird otherwise) bus, headed towards ryde. 

we were off a few stops before that though - at least, we were meant to be, but the driver forgot to stop. thankfully a nice lady on the bus had overheard us ask him to let us off where we wanted to be, so when she saw us pass quarr abbey, she called out to the driver who pulled over right there on the road all apologetic. it was a short walk on a muddy path back to the entrance, so that wasn't the end of the world.

quarr abbey is home to a small group of benedictine monks who dedicate their lives to prayer, work, and community life. the abbey grounds are completely open to the public, who are free to come in and wander around the grounds to experience the calm and tranquil atmosphere, check out the art gallery where local artists show their work, or enjoy the facilities of the quarr abbey's tearooms where visitors can indulge in afternoon tea, or pick up locally-produced bits and pieces from the farm shop. we settled for a bit of cake and a fizzy drink out in the beautiful garden, while we let the morning's activities play over in our heads... i mean... we'd just walked llamas.

we went for a bit of a wander around the grounds and walking trails, and then followed the signs to the gothic abbey. it was whelming, at best, with not a lot of information available to completely understand what we were standing there, gawking at. we were approached by a lovely old lady and her little dog charlie - who we suspect could smell the llamas on us, who stopped to chat for a bit before we had to get on our way again. with a different bus driver again, this time we headed right back to where we started our weekend - in ryde - where our next stop was a only short walk away.

it was about a twenty minute walk along the seafront to our next stop, but we'd arrived about an hour too-early. how's that for excellent time keeping, eh? rather than head into our reservation at three buoys restaurant too early, we grabbed our first ice creams of the weekend, and took a slow walk in the sunshine up to the look-out tower that stood all alone on the beach. 

we couldn't quite believe the weather that had turned up for us that day, with the bluest skies we'd seen in months, and the pretty serve of clouds i think i've ever seen. with the tide out so far, we could see nothing but sand for miles, before a tiny sliver of water and then portsmouth just glistening there, far off on the horizon. we could have stood there and stared out across that stretch of water for hours, but... we had reservations.

we definitely over-stayed our welcome at three buoys, which i am not even sorry for, because when the food (and the service) is a good as what it was that day, you have no reason to leave. the staff were so welcoming and insistent, so who were we to say no to their incredible generosity? our lunch on the seafront was our last stop of the weekend, and one we could finally stop to savour. there was just so much to reflect on, as we looked out towards the mainland, that we both decided then and there that we would just have to come back. and hopefully plan for some warmer weather (those skies might have been blue, but it certainly was not warm).

with so many thnigs going on, we're not short of reasons to head back. there's all the festivals, for a start, and not just the ones you already know about (isle of wight and bestival, i mean); there's a walking festival where you too can walk with alpacas. there's the jazz music festival. there's the festival of the sea (and mardi gras!) which sounds amazing, and there's the fringe. and this is just in the next few months! 

honestly, there's so much happening on this island, and one short weekend was not enough. another massive thank you to visit england and visit isle of wight for having me over and for showing me such a great time. yes, this weekend was in collaboration with their #stgeorge and #celebrateengland campaigns, but if i'd had anything less than an amazing time, you know i would not have written about it. so, trust me when i say you'll have nothing short of an incredible time if you decided to check the isle of wight out for yourself.