Penguin Classics

I’m a English Literature graduate and as much as I love contemporary and varied books, I have a special place in my heart for the classics, especially Austen and the Brontë sisters.

I’m slowly collecting my favourite Coralie Bickford-Smith Penguin Classics  and I can’t get over how beautiful and unique they are.

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My latest addition is The Picture of Dorian Grey and I love the black depth of the cover against the silvery white delicate feathers, very reminiscent of the darkness of Dorian’s vain wish contrasted with the fragility of morality.

These new designs give the classics a new lease of life and re-engage readers with their enduring stories. I think giving them a new look and such beautiful, intricate designs really helps to maintain the place of the classics within literature which is hugely important with the decline of the arts and arts degree courses.

Series: island hopping in the Caribbean – ST. BARTHS

Often know as St. Barts, this island is hugely popular with celebrities and people with a lot of money to spend, and it’s not hard to see why!

The island’s port is a tender port which means it isn’t large enough for large ships or cruise liners to dock, this means the port is far less touristy and bustly which is a nice change and is probably why so many private and high profile figures enjoy the island. However if you do go on a large cruise liner or ship it does mean that you have to catch a tender from the ship when it is anchored, to the shore. The limited number of tender boats on the cruise liners mean this process can take quite a while especially with a choppy sea and unanchored boarding stage, It makes a very long and difficult task for elderly, disabled, unstable or children/prams to get into the tender boat as it isn’t attached to the boarding platform of the main boat. Having to time your day around when the tender boats are taking and bringing back also cuts your day short and means you can’ vender too far into the island.

St. Barths is expensive. The streets are full of designer stores and there are plenty of luxury chains, restaurants and yacht trips if that floats your boat (no pun intended). Even knick-knack shops or snacks are more expensive. On a budget I opted for a reasonable (but still not cheap) snorkelling trip out to a reef on a catamaran.

I’m a strong swimmer and pretty adventurous when it comes to the sea and exploring so this trip was fairly tame for me but I would completely recommend this for families, those with young children or those that aren’t confident in the water. The trip was run by two French brothers, both experienced snorkelers and divers who live on the island. They provide you with all the equipment as well as water and sandwiches for the trip back to the shore. The actual snorkelling reef area is enclosed by large rocks so although it is a way from the shore, it is largely untouched by currents and is around 2 – 6 metres deep. They give you a feel safety briefing before and your life jacket can be inflated as much or as little as you like depending on your confidence.

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It’s the chance to see some beautiful fish and marine life, build confidence swimming in the sea or just float gently on the water and watch the world beneath you, it really does cater for anyone from children to the elderly.

I spent the rest of the day on a beach after the boat trip. There wasn’t enough time to go exploring on the rest of the island so we walked through the town and found an, albeit beautiful, beach (feature picture).

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I would say that St. Barth’s didn’t live up the the hype that I’d heard about it, being the exclusive and sought after destination for celebrities to holiday or own property. But then again I’m not a celebrity and I didn’t have the budget to let me experience St. Barth’s like I was one!

 

 

tips:

  • if you’re just there for a day trip, either take food/water with you or plan for it to be an expensive day!
  • lots of suncream and a hat, as always.
  • booking excursions in advance can be helpful but I found there was plenty to choose from along the port.
  • if you’ll be arriving on the island by a tender boat, make sure your whole party is comfortable getting on the tender from the main ship – it can be a unpredictable and choppy experience!
  • swimming gear is a must if you don’t want to spend money, the beaches are still free!

Series: island hopping in the Caribbean – ST. MAARTEN

If I thought the port of Antigua was touristy, St. Maarten was twice that!

St. Maarten is super interesting because the whole Caribbean island is in fact part of not one, but two European countries! We docked in Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side of Sint Maarten, whilst the other 60% of the island is the French owned Saint-Martin.

I had imagined the French/Netherland split would be purely symbolic on an island that looked completely as if it belonged in the Caribbean – clear blue waters as we took a boat along the coast, colourful buildings and enough fresh coconuts to keep you refreshed all day. However on booking a tour of the island we learned that the split is excessively in evidence: one side speaks french, the other dutch, they have difference currencies, different electricity/water/call providers. Ridiculously, it would cost you less to make a mobile phone call to mainland USA from St. Maarten than it would to call someone on the opposite side of the island because making a call from the French to the Dutch side would incur international calling charges.

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This time we took a bus tour around the island which was a great way to experience both nationalities on the island and their differences. The tour stopped at various viewing points for photo ops and a walk around whilst the guide was extremely entertaining and informative. Even as we crossed over to the french side of the island, all road sides, billboards and stores instantly changed to french language and there was even the opportunity to pay in Euros. This meant the main shopping area on the beach front on the French side is extremely cheap as it was in line with mainland France prices however without the import tax on goods coming from within the caribbean.

tip: The Philipsburg port shops where we docked on the Dutch side were extremely expensive with many designer brands, so if you’re hoping to do a spot of shopping on St. Maarten, make sure you hold onto your money until you get to the French side.

I’d definitely say its worth seeing both sides of the island and going on a tour led by a local is a great way to do that and learn loads of interesting facts, especially if you’re interested in the history of the island.

tips:

  • book a tour in advance if you want to see more than the main port.
  • spend time in Philipsburg because even though shops were expensive, we got a lot of freebies and there are steel drums playing in the street, the atmosphere is brilliant.
  • save your money for the French side to avoid import taxes!
  • again, always take swimwear – there’s always time for a quick dip in the Caribbean!

Have you been to St. Maarten/Saint-Martin before? Let me know!

 

Series: island hopping in the Caribbean – ANTIGUA

Antigua was the first island I visited on my trip and it was definitely an eye opening start. The port town of St. Johns we arrived at was completely catered to tourists and was a wonderful first taste of the colorful wooden houses packed so closely together that is typically associated with the Caribbean.

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Although the town is clearly catered to tourists coming off the boat, the island boasts of having 365 beaches: one for every day of the year. So we decided the best way to see the island was by bike. and that was definitely the best decision!

There are plenty of cycling tours but I would recommend booking in advance to avoid getting ripped off by the seller’s waiting to ambush tourists as soon as you get off the boat.

Our tour took us through the heart of Antigua and we saw the agricultural heritage of the island, which is Antigua’s second largest industry after tourism. Our tour guide was very informative, an English man but who had lived in Antigua for over 20 years and was extremely informative about the land, the island history, the housing and architecture as well as being a safe and enthusiastic cyclist.

The tour took us through the west side of the island on roads and tracks, through villages and countryside, although we were in for a shock when we came across a headless cow strung up in a tree and being cut up by the local village butcher into cuts of meat for the locals, as long as you’re not too squirmish it definitely added to the overall cultural experience as young children ran alongside our bikes to try and keep up and old men waved at us from their house verandas as we passed by.

Our route ended at a beautiful white beach further along the coast with white sand, crystal clear blue sea and a fantastic caribbean beach bar for food and refreshments before we cycled back to the port.

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I would definitely recommend cycling around as the best way to see he island. Although the ride was fairly easy, it was very hot and with a few hills and harder bits I wouldn’t recommend it for young children, older people or those who struggle with exertion in the heat. However, it was by far the most efficient and exciting way to see as much of the island as possible. Incorporating exercise, sightseeing and a little beach time made it well worth paying for a trip rather than trying to make your own way around the island.

The essentials:
– lots of water!!

– hat to protect head from the heat whilst cycling

– swimwear

– money for tip. It is considered polite to tip and I thought this excursion was well worth it, especially considering how informative our guide was.

– suncream (all the time, anywhere you are)

-comfy exercise footwear.

Anyone else been to Antigua? Let me know your thoughts!

New Series: island hopping in the Caribbean

So over the next few Wednesdays I’m going to be writing a post about six different Caribbean Islands I visited earlier this year. It’ll be a summary of what the island is like, any advice and tips I thought were relevant at the time and what I enjoyed most.

This Wednesday 9th will be the first post and will be about Antigua.

Following weeks will be St. Maarten, St. Kitts, St. Barths, Dominica and Barbados.

So if you’re interested or have visited one of the islands before, have a read and let me know what you think too!

Holiday read: Wolf – Mo Hayder

So Wolf isn’t exactly light holiday reading, but there are few things I love more than a good crime thriller.

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I’ve read a few of Hayder’s Jack Caffery thrillers and they never seem to loose their edge. Skin was another favourite of mine, Hayder never seems to loose the dark and disturbing quality if her writing throughout the whole story and still leaves you completely shocked when you reach the twist at the end.

Because although you know there will inevitably be some sort of twist at the end, Hayder keeps yu guessing throughout and you never expect what it eventually turns out to be. I mean, without giving away spoilers, I knew whatever Mr Anchor-Ferrers was writing on the bottom of the rug whilst being held hostage ultimately meant that he had figured out what, who and how they had found themselves in that position, but I never expected it to be the person it was.

I always love psychological elements to crime thrillers and the mystery that comes with them, that’s probably why I love shows like Criminal Minds and Luther so much. although it might sound dark and kind if messed up that I enjoy it, things like the behavioural analysis in Criminal Minds is so intriguing; getting an insight into the psychosis behind what turns someone into a serial killer. That doesn’t mean I’d be able to do a job like that, although I’m good at detaching myself from emotions, profiling a serial killer and their motives by trying to understand their reasons for killing is not something I could ever understand or try to comprehend.

This Jack Caffery book did feel like the Caffery story was secondary to the actual plot, although it developed the existing storyline behind the disappearance of Caffery’s brother, it felt forced to coincide with the main plot. Previous books have followed Caffery whereas this felt like Caffery running to catch up to follow the already existing plot.

But Hayder’s writing is as brilliantly gruesome and violent as ever, her description of innards hanging in the woods is shockingly raw but her descriptions are authentic and are never too long but just enough to send the shiver up your spine, that’s the sign of a very good thriller.