Ubud Rice Paddies Bali

Ubud Rice Paddies Bali

After packing up our life in London, we were both in need of some relaxation and downtime en route to New Zealand. For months, my Instagram feed had been full of enticing blue hues and images of tropical swimming pools, so I knew the just the place to unwind.

Bali.

I had visions relaxing by infinity pools reading, stretching out in yoga classes, eating delicious local cuisine and of course some exploring. Bali didn’t disappoint and that’s exactly how we filled our days on holiday. It’s a place where you can do as much, or as little as your heart desires.

We decided to stay in Ubud for the first few days – the ultimate zen paradise filled with yoga and amazing food, all while being surrounded by rainforest and terraced rice paddies.

The beautiful tropical climate hit us the moment we stepped off the plane. The sticky, humid air was a welcome hug after leaving London’s cooler Autumn weather. Tired from our flight with sunshine streaming in the car windows, we were both nodding off in the back seat during the 90-minute drive from the airport to Ubud. Jolting awake as we bounced our way along the roads catching glimpses of local stalls and temples.

Desa Sanctuary The Village_Ubud Bali

Nestled amongst a tropical garden, we arrived at our accommodation and checked into our rustic hideaway just out of Ubud, Desa Sanctuary. Aside from our first night where we had a very unwelcome guest – a large Huntsman spider on the wall (I hid in the bathroom while Mike dealt with it – spiders are NOT my thing), the rest of our stay was comfortable and the staff friendly.

After a quick freshen up and outfit change, we were eager to venture into the main centre of Ubud to take a look around. Being 2km out of town, we opted to hire a scooter as our mode of transport and set off in our new surroundings.

First stop was The Yoga Barn for a snoop and to check out their class timetable. It didn’t look like much from reception, but follow the garden path and you discover their studio, retreat and café set in an expansive and tranquil rustic setting with pathways leading you to all sorts of romantic garden nooks.

Finding a spot at the outdoor cafe, it was time to re-hydrate and get into the swing of holiday mode.

The Yoga Barn Garden Kafe

A carrot & turmeric shot for me and wheatgrass with lime for the boy.

The Yoga Barn Turmeric and Wheatgrass Shots

And of course, a compulsory fresh coconut.

The Yoga Barn Fresh Young Coconut

You know your coconut is served with a whole lotta love when it comes out with a love heart cut into it (I may have been a little more excited about this fact than Mike was).

The Yoga Barn Fresh Young Coconut Love Heart

If you want to detox, this place looked like a great option. Their Garden Kafe menu is full of delicious food, including a great range of vegan, Ayurvedic and Macrobiotic choices. If you are looking for healthy food in Ubud, this is a good place to start.

While sipping away, we ran our eyes over a local map to get a feel for the area and see what Ubud had to offer.

The Yoga Barn Fresh Young Coconut and Map Reading

Thirsts quenched and stomachs grumbling, we decided to move on to try somewhere different for dinner. A couple of days later we did go back to The Yoga Barn for dinner and their food is delicious. I tried the Balinese pumpkin & tempe curry with red rice (new rice obsession) and a date almond shake.

Back on the bike, we weaved our way around the streets until somewhere grabbed our attention and luckily came across another Ubud gem – Atman Kafe. I’ll show you more in the next post, but for now I’ll give a sneak peek at some of the incredibly flavoursome food and you’ll see why it became one of our most frequented spots to eat.

We started with coconut crusted mahi-mahi (one of the main reasons we kept going back). It had us hook, line and sinker – fishing pun intended. The delicate fish pieces were cooked perfectly and the coconut coating was fried crispy golden with just the right textured crunch. The food was fresh and the flavours combined with the lime juice, coriander and tomato sambal were unbelievable.

Healthy Food in Ubud Atman Kafe Coconut Crusted Fish

My main was one of Atman Kafe’s top sellers – their Balinese curry. A bowl full of fresh herbs, tofu, capsicum, chill, spinach, beans, garlic, onion and lemongrass in a coconut milk and turmeric soup. All. The. Goodness. It also comes with a side of white and red rice and extra chilli if you need more of a kick.

Healthy Food in Ubud Atman Kafe Balinese Curry

And Mike’s choice – Mie Goreng. Fried noodles with vegetables and topped with a fried egg served with the same delicious tomato sambal as the coconut crusted fish. And, just to make sure he didn’t go hungry, two chicken satay sticks with a generous dollop of a crunchy peanut sauce on the side.

Healthy Food in Ubud Atman Kafe Mie Goreng

Bellies full and eyes struggling to stay open, we retreated back to our rustic hideaway to call it a night. After extra thorough spider checks and the mosquito net firmly tucked around our mattress (just to be sure), we drifted off, ready for what the following day would bring.

First Image © Siim Teller via Flickr.

Tropical dreams,

Leaving London Postcards

Leaving London Postcards

Arriving at Heathrow this time on the Piccadilly line from our West London home was different. It was the last time I would make that journey. There was no return plane ticket. Only memories and an expiring visa in my passport marking the end of my welcome. The day had come.

It was time to go home.

Standing under the departure boards with my packed bags, the past three and a half years felt like they had gone by in the blink of an eye. How could my initial “one to two years” response to family and friends who asked how long I would be gone for have doubled so quickly?

Quite simply, London does that.

Time is distorted with its fast pace and endless offerings. A month often feels like a week, six months, two. It gets under your skin. Sometimes for the wrong reasons, but mostly for all the pockets of magic it does offer.

It was an instant love affair that started two weeks before the 2012 Olympics and after three months of countless laughs and adventures through South East Asia. A flat was quickly secured and not long after a job with my dream company; right in the heart of all the action. Oxford Circus.

Bank holidays and Christmas closure became opportunities for travel and maximising annual leave. There was always somewhere new to see. I ventured to destinations like Egypt, Croatia, Montenegro, Prague, Portugal, Greece, and one of my favourite trips, a cruise from Southampton on the Queen Mary 2 to spend Christmas in New York. If there was a chance to explore, I took it. It became a joke with colleagues about how much travel I seemed to do and how I must surely have twice the company holiday allowance.

In such a transient city – and for most antipodeans a ‘not forever’ city – most of the contacts I knew on arrival moved on within a few months, so new friendships were constantly established as people came and went.

Family and friends visiting was always a cherished time to look forward to, as well as being the perfect excuse to tick off the popular (usually avoided) tourist spots. Actually, who am I kidding? All of London is busy and what is a tourist attraction for some is part of someone else’s daily commute. It’s unavoidable. I think the beautiful and extraordinary surroundings are often taken for granted by locals rushing about their day. Even after three years, I still had to pinch myself walking to Piccadilly Circus after work. Closing my eyes now, I can still feel the mixture of excitement and awe as I took everything in.

In between all the travel (and work), spare time was filled with brunch dates, weekend markets, theatre, music gigs, strolling along South Bank, picnics in Hampstead Heath, pop-ups, shopping, deer spotting in Richmond Park, blogging events, afternoon teas in hotels older than New Zealand, walks along the Thames and tube missions to Camden, Greenwich, Shoreditch and Brixton.

Weekdays quickly became weekends – with so much to see and do, there was no reason to leave all the exploring and catch ups to only Saturday and Sunday. Every night of the week there is anything and everything to do. All part of what I miss.

Fast forward to two days before leaving, I was sitting on my bedroom floor – tired, frazzled and absent minded from everything to remember. Surrounded by belongings strewn everywhere, the previous few weeks caught up and I sobbed while feeling ALL the emotions as they came pouring out.

Moving countries takes its toll. Packing up your worldly possessions takes twice as long as you think, it’s stressful and a roller coaster of highs and lows finishing work and saying goodbye to cherished colleagues and friends. Those same people, who when you are living on the opposite side of the world also become your family.

There really is no other place quite like London. Others who have experienced the vibrant, chaotic, busy, beautiful and intoxicating city will know the all too familiar feelings. Moments of dizzying love, excitement, overwhelm and stress – sometimes all at once.

Every day I felt inspired by my surroundings. I explored and it was a time I learnt more about myself. With the anonymity that living in any large city gives, comes also a sense of freedom of being able to be yourself away from preconception and expectation.

Now I sit here, that other world feeling a distant memory away with an ache, a desire and a heartfelt longing to be part of that rush again. There are feelings of sadness for the past I know can no longer be re-created and mixed feelings of being far from where I was, but knowing I’m perhaps right where I need to be.

Who knew the hardest thing about London would be leaving it.

Home of course continued – friends got married, careers progressed, families were started and expanded and I find myself now trying to figure out where I fit in the dynamics of this familiar, yet very different environment.

New chapters are always an exciting time to start fresh. To re-set, re-evaluate and focus with the new knowledge learnt along the way. So, right now, that’s exactly what I’m doing. Looking forward.

But, London, I just wanted you to know you will always have a special place in my heart.

Loving & leaving London,