Wonderful Wednesday 41

16 August 2017

A few weeks without a Wonderful Wednesday as things were a little busy in the happygolucky-household and I just didn't get the time to sit down and write my little weekly catch-up. This week's is slightly shorter than usual too as we've had a visitor staying with us since Friday and so I've just snatched moments here and there to share a few things that have made me smile since we last spoke.


♥ A book you just can't put down... A friend lent me the book 'Restless' by William Boyd and I wasn't able to put it down all week, devouring it in about 4 days (and it wouldn't even have taken that long if work hadn't got in the way!) It made my morning and evening commutes fly by and it was one of those books that you spend all day just longing to get back into. In a nutshell, it's the story of a woman who discovers that her mother was a spy during WW2 but it is so much more than that. Thrilling, fascinating, an absolute page-turner. If you're looking for your next read, I couldn't recommend it more (if that isn't clear enough already!) I've already lined up 'Any Human Heart' to read next, which is another of William Boyd's books and apparently amazing.

♥ Friday night curry... Is there anything better?! We've had my mother in law staying with us for a few days and we celebrated her arrival on Friday by treating ourselves to a curry, delivered from a local (really tasty) curry house. I think it's made even more special when you know that you've planned it that evening and then spend all day looking forward to it, planning what you're going to have. I practically ran home. 

♥ Pre-birthday excitement... My birthday isn't until the end of the month and it's not an age to celebrate (trust me) but we wandered into town on Saturday to have a little look for things to put on my birthday wishlist. There's a bag in John Lewis that I've been coveting so that is firmly in the top spot. How exciting!

♥ A sunny Sunday at Kew Gardens... We used to live 2 tube stops away from Kew Gardens and only went once for the Illuminated Trail at Christmas, which was absolutely stunning. We had a slightly longer commute this time but it was still so worth it and I really don't know why we hadn't visited more often when it was that close! It was a glorious day to visit, the sun shone all day...although it felt slightly chilly for a few moments after the heat of the Palm House. We were there for about four hours and I don't know if we saw even half of the gardens - next time we'll be back with a picnic. Not planning to go on the Tree-Top Walk ever again though, that was a special kind of terror. 

♥ Neighbourhood puppies... Now this is partly a good thing and partly a really bittersweet pleasure considering how much I want a dog but there seems to be a sudden influx of puppies in our local area. I've been tackled a few times by an excitable little hound on my way to and from work or to the station over the last week and it's been absolutely wonderful! Their owners are always so apologetic too but is there anything better than an excited puppy jumping up at you?!

♥ Hampstead wanderings... This gets a special mention as it was actually the week before last. We've had two sunny Sundays in a row in lovely London town. My husband was away for a few days last week, returning on Saturday night and we decided to make the most of our Sunday together by going for a long walk on Hampstead Heath. Lots of people had the same idea as us but the size of the Heath means that you just don't feel like you're all on top of each other. We chatted, ate ice cream, dog watched and admired the brave souls swimming in one of the ponds. 

The area around Hampstead is really lovely too, with gorgeous houses like the one at the top of this post, lots of tempting coffee shops and Daunt Books where I could happily while away a few hours. I picked up a new book that's been on my list for a while ('Life After Life' by Kate Atkinson, if you're interested!) and chatted to the staff while paying, who then recommended another few books to me - the to-read list is growing ever longer!

♥ Do let me know what's made your week a little rosier by leaving me a comment below or dropping me a tweet (I'm @happygoluckycat) or better yet, why not join the fabulous bunch of #WonderfulWednesday bloggers? Pop over to their blogs for a dose of mid-week happiness - SallyMichelleHelenKateJoSamanthaKerri, LauraSarahPetaElLauraSarahMimmiMartinaLynseyKatieDebbieKelly and Em (I think that's everyone - shout at me if you're not on the list!) - and then join me in counting down the days until the weekend. It's in sight! 

Stepping back in time in Solunto

6 August 2017

This is the last of my Sicily posts (from this trip at least!) and I've completely saved my favourite thing 'til last. A little happygolucky-fact, a childhood love of the Indiana Jones and the Mummy films led me to a Classics degree and dreams of becoming an Egyptologist. Alas that was not to be (student loans had to be paid off somehow!) but I'm still at my happiest wandering around an archaeological site and can find my way to the Egyptian/ancient Greek and Roman rooms in the British Museum blindfolded. 

When I was researching Palermo in the weeks leading up to our holiday, I kept coming back to a tiny section in the guidebook recommending an ancient Roman town, about a 20 minute train ride out of Palermo. Apparently, the fact that it's a steep 30 minute walk uphill puts a lot of people off and you can wander the partially-excavated site undisturbed. That was enough to move it right to the top of my must-do list - how often can you visit an ancient site without jostling through hordes of tourists?! So, was it worth the walk in the July sun? Abso-bloody-lutely.

Located high above the town of Porticello, on the slopes of Mount Catalfano, lie the remains of the Hellenistic Roman town of Solunto. It was founded in the 4th century BC on the site of an earlier Phoenician settlement. If the remains of the town around you aren't impressive enough, the sea views are spectacular too.

You wander along the main street towards the agora, but can also detour up the steep side streets and wander amongst the ruins themselves. There are the remains of the shops and poorer houses along the main street, with the larger villas higher up - some of which even have the remains of staircases leading to now non-existent floors above. 

The most exciting element of it all for me was the fact that could still see traces of the original paint on some of the walls, and mosaic flooring. It was absolutely incredible.

I think what made the whole experience even more magical for me was that we were the only ones there for practically the entirety of our visit and even when some other visitors arrived, there were only a handful. I think the walk does put a lot of people off but it really shouldn't. Granted, Solunto is not on the scale of somewhere like Pompeii but the intimacy of a small site makes you feel like you're stepping back in time, particularly when you can wander through the town so freely. If you're planning a visit to Palermo and fancy visiting somewhere very special, you must add Solunto to your list. Just don't forget your hat and make sure you bring lots of water!

Have you visited Solunto before? What's your favourite place to visit for a good ol' historical wander? It doesn't have to be classical - there are few things that beat a trip to a castle on a bank holiday weekend!

A day trip to Ustica

30 July 2017

The longer I make these holiday posts last, the longer I can pretend it wasn't almost a month ago now, right?!

One of our favourite memories from our week in Sicily was our day trip to Ustica - an island about 60km off the coast. It's a favourite summer holiday destination for the people of Palermo and there were plenty arriving on the boat with us, although it was nowhere near as crowded as it apparently gets later on in July and into August. 

Look at that shimmering reflection! This was when we first arrived in Ustica in the morning and the chap below captained our boat home in the afternoon - ciao!

If I was planning the trip again, I'd have booked a hotel on the island itself for a night or two because a day really wasn't enough time for this gorgeous place. The water surrounding Ustica is sparklingly clear and it's hugely popular for snorkelling and scuba diving, which I would love to try. So I would definitely recommend spending at least one night here, particularly to make the slightly expensive ferry fare go that little bit further!

I read that Ustica is actually the tip of a submerged volcano, which made perfect sense particularly on the flamingly hot (for me!) day we visited - when you walk around the island, you can see that the land itself is scattered with volcanic rock dotted with all manner of exotic cactus and stunning hisbiscus flowers.

The best way to explore Ustica is on foot. There are several different walking trails and it's only 8.7 sq km around so it's not the longest distance...although perhaps on a slightly cooler day! Apparently a full circuit of the island takes about 4 hours, although you'd want to stop for breaks en route - you could even break it up over the course of two day if you stay overnight, and that would give you a chance to enjoy a swim in the beautiful sea too.

Our guidebook recommended asking at the tourist office for directions/a map of the walking routes but when we Google-mapped the tourist office, there was no sign of it. We did however find the marine reserve information office, which we wandered into hoping they might have maps of the island that would serve just as well. Inside was the loveliest old Italian man! We can speak very little Italian (I've learned how to say "that was delicious", which I say at every opportunity but apart from a few other food-related phrases, that's it) and he spoke absolutely no English. We managed to communicate what we were looking for and he produced a map, pointing to a few routes that he recommended we try and a lot of other things, which I'm sure were all very interesting indeed but were all in very fast Italian! He came out into the street with us and pointed us on our way to our first walk - to the Rocca della Falconiera, a defensive tower overlooking the sea.

It was only a short walk but it was a very very hot day! The trail leads you first to a lookout point at Punta Omo Morto, where we stopped to reapply some more sunscreen and took in the beautiful views out to sea from one window and inland from another, over the island itself.

You then continue walking further up the path to the Torre Santa Maria, a Bourbon-era tower.

After a few hours enjoying a relaxed lunch, we headed towards the other side of the island - we only had an hour or two left on the island before our ferry was due to leave so we decided to follow a trail that passed through some pine woods to the summit of Guardia di Mezzo. We didn't get a chance to finish the trail but apparently if you followed it further, it descended to a part of the coast where you can swim in natural rock pools.

It was so incredibly beautiful - the air was filled with the smell of hot pine needles and the sound of the cicadas in the trees.

I sat on a rock at one point to have some water while my husband walked on ahead. He disappeared out of sight and I felt like I was the only person for miles around, it was wonderfully peaceful.

Where we ate

Between our first and second hikes, we stopped for some food just off the main square at the Ristorante da Umberto (Piazza della Vittoria 7), which could not have looked more inviting to two very hot, bedraggled English folk with its glorious shaded frontage and regularly-supplied chilled lemon ice tea! 

The staff were so helpful, pointing out the various gluten free options on the menu. Apparently all the seafood on the menu is sourced from the water around Ustica itself and so I decided to go with some octopus to start (just simply chopped, drizzled with olive oil and a fresh squeeze of lemon, and sprinkled with fresh parsley) followed by a pasta course (they had gluten free pasta!) - a spaghetti dish with a local fish that I didn't recognise but was quite meaty in texture. My husband (who isn't coeliac) had a fried local cheese to start which came with a pistachio pesto, and followed this up with some swordfish. It was all so delicious and we stayed there for a few hours hiding from the sun high above us, relaxing and chatting over a few chilled glasses of wine - that's what holidays are for, right?! 

If you planning a visit to Palermo, a visit to Ustica is not to be missed! Have you visited the island before? Did you get a chance to swim while you were there? That's the one thing I'm really sad that we didn't get a chance to do at all this holiday. Time to book another one perhaps...

Wonderful Wednesday 40

26 July 2017

Wednesday seems to have come around quite quickly this week - am I the only one to think so? I've actually been quite organised as well and started writing this on Sunday, noting down little snippets as I think of them rather than frantically wracking my brain the night before. And on that note, here are my highlights from this week...


♥ Another visit to the Harry Potter Studio Tour... I know, I know, it's not really that long ago since I visited it for the first time. You can read my full review here. We have some family visiting from abroad at the moment though and when they suggested a family trip to the studio tour, I couldn't possibly pass it up. Was it just as good this time? Abso-bloody-lutely. I was just as excited knowing what to expect, particularly visiting with people who hadn't been before so that I could see their faces at various parts. Wearing the Ravenclaw t-shirt I'd picked up on my last visit, I watched every video, donned some Ravenclaw robes to pose for a 'have you seen these wizards?' mugshot (perhaps slightly too smilingly but I was very excited) and exclaimed with delight at a bowing Buckbeak. The only thing I didn't partake in this time was the butterbeer - once was definitely too much for that. Once again, if you haven't been yet make sure you add it to your list when you're next in London.

♥ Teeny tiny baby clothes... One of my university friends gave birth to her second child a month ago - a gorgeous boy. I love it when my friends have babies because it gives me the excuse to go shopping for a gift and exclaim over the teeniest little outfits (I'm easily pleased!) I picked up some adorable little leggings covered with foxes, suitable for 0 to 6 months...if only they made them for adults too! Can't wait to see the photos!

♥ Curling up with a scary novel... Not terrifying, mind, but cosily scary. In fact, seasoned horror readers will probably roll their eyes at what is enough to give me the chills. I'm re-reading House of Echoes by Barbara Erskine at the moment - it centres around a woman called Joss Grant, who's an adopted child, who discovers that she's been left the family home - Belheddon - by her birth mother. After moving in with her husband and young son, she discovers that the house is haunted by something dreadful. She hears voices, senses some sort of lurking presence watching her, discovers old diaries revealing that her mother and previous generations were also haunted by this ghostly figure and what's worse, it's a presence which will not tolerate husbands or sons living in the house. It really doesn't matter that I've read it before, it's been a perfect read to curl up in bed with over the course of the last week as the rain has lashed against the windows. Granted, I haven't felt able to venture to the bathroom during the night all week but that's part of the fun, right?!

♥ Rugs, mugs and jugs (oh my!)... On Sunday, the mister and I decided to get the tube to West Hampstead and walk from there to the cinema in Finchley Road where we booked tickets to watch Dunkirk, which was absolutely incredible, definitely go and watch it. Bring tissues though, I stupidly forgot mine. We had a little time to spare before the film started and we decided to pop into Habitat, which had a sale on. I wanted to look at the mugs because we've had a few sad breakages recently and I found the spotty mug of my dreams - perfectly sized and shaped to ensure that you can cosy up with both hands around it, and have a decent amount of tea. Win win. We also spotted a lovely geometric-patterned rug, which was a steal in the sale - a few of our floors are just a little chilly in the winter so I've been keeping my eyes open for rugs for months now. One down, one to go!

♥ Home-made pesto... For perhaps the first time in my life, I've managed to keep a plant alive...even surviving a week alone (in a sink-full of water) when we were on holiday. That plant is a humble little basil plant picked up a few months ago when the supermarket didn't have an individual packet. Over the last few weeks, it's grown to great heights so we decided to pick up some pine nuts this weekend to make up a jar of homemade pesto. It's not something we'd ever tried before but it was surprisingly easy and so satisfying. We had it for dinner on Sunday (with about 3/4 of the jar left over), stirred through some Italian gluten free pasta with a delicious tomato salad on the side. Top tip - use a pestle and mortar rather than a food processor because it helps you to keep track of the texture as you add the basil, otherwise I've read that it can turn into slime before you know it...and no one would find that appetising.

♥ Drumstick Squashies... Now these are ALWAYS appetising. Have you heard of them? They're basically drumstick lollies but without the stick and softer in texture, squishier if you will. All the deliciousness of the drumstick-flavours without the frustrating paper wrapper, which I can never seem to unwrap perfectly. I have to hide them from myself or the pack will have disappeared in about 10 minutes. Give them a go!

♥ Do let me know what's made your week a little rosier by leaving me a comment below or dropping me a tweet (I'm @happygoluckycat) or better yet, why not join the fabulous bunch of #WonderfulWednesday bloggers? Pop over to their blogs for a dose of mid-week happiness - SallyMichelleHelenKateJoSamanthaKerri, LauraSarahPetaElLauraSarahMimmiJasminMartinaLynseyKatieDebbieKelly and Em (I think that's everyone - shout at me if you're not on the list!) - and then join me in counting down the days until the weekend. It's in sight! 

Wonderful Wednesday 39

19 July 2017

Really long time no post, sorry about that! I didn’t realise just how long it had been until I clicked onto the blog dashboard and saw that the last recorded wonderfulness was at the beginning of May. Sometimes life really gets in the way and not always in the best way. Onwards though, onwards. It’s Saturday morning as I sit and type this intro and I’m feeling happier and more positive than I have in a long time.

The view at the top of this post may have had something to do with that positivity – it was the view we enjoyed every morning while we were having breakfast while on holiday. Travel is good for the soul, you know.

Here are some of my snippets of wonderfulness from the last few weeks…


♥ Reading… Over the last month or so, I knew things weren’t great because I couldn’t read. I just couldn’t focus and as a book-lover, that made me feel so very sad. I’ve devoured three books in the last two weeks though (granted, two were while we were on holiday) and have loved both the stories I was reading, as well as just the act of reading itself. I’m on the hunt for recommendations for what to pick up next please! What have you enjoyed reading recently?

♥ The National Trust… Is there anything more quintessentially English and comforting than that?! A few weeks ago on a whim, my mum and I drove to a National Trust property relatively nearby – Ham House. We’d been there before and, as it was early afternoon by the time we arrived, we headed directly to the Orangery café to get some lunch.  Sitting outside enjoying the sunshine, we contentedly munched our sandwiches (gluten free too, mind!) with some crisps, all washed down with several cups of tea. There’s a kitchen garden outside the café, which was being tended on the day we visited.  There’s really nothing like watching people busily hoe the soil and tie up various trailing plants to give you a good appetite!

We then headed into the house to explore the various rooms that were open that day. As it was during the week, there were hardly any visitors and we were jumped on by the friendly National Trust volunteers who were eager to tell us all about each room as soon as we walked in.  I’m such a history nerd, I loved every moment of it!

♥ Gluten free Rice Crispies… or Rice Pops, if you will. A new addition to (my) gluten free store cupboard. It's funny the things you miss isn't it? I was always a Kellogg's Corn Flakes girl but alas, their inclusion of barley malt meant I had to avoid them after being diagnosed coeliac. But now Nestle have a gluten free cereals range and their corn flakes taste just as good as the cereal I remember! This week I picked up their Rice Pops and they bring back such good cereal memories (small pleasures eh!) They even snap, crackle and pop!

♥ Thoughtful gifts in the post… There’s something really special about receiving post and I don’t mean bank statements or bills! One of my dearest friends is a prolific letter writer and it’s rare that a few weeks go by without a letter or a postcard arriving from her. At the weekend, a jiffy bag landed on the mat containing the Time Magazine Harry Potter special from one of my aunts – an “I saw this and thought of you” gift. I’m really savouring it, reading sections at a time, but it arrived at the perfect time on Saturday to have a break from my usual weekend clean to make a cup of tea and put my feet up. It’s almost as if she knew.

♥ Palermo… I couldn’t not mention our holiday here could I?! If you haven’t read my Palermo post, you can find it here. It feels like a long time ago already, which means it's probably time to start planning the next holiday but I'm still happily looking back at our Sicilian trip for a little longer. I have a few other posts that I'd like to share so I'd better get those started before life gets in the way again.

That's it from me this week, relatively short and sweet! Happy Wednesday all!

♥ Do let me know what's made your week a little rosier by leaving me a comment below or dropping me a tweet (I'm @happygoluckycat) or better yet, why not join the fabulous bunch of #WonderfulWednesday bloggers? Pop over to their blogs for a dose of mid-week happiness - SallyMichelleHelenKateJoSamanthaKerri, LauraSarahPetaElLauraSarahMimmiJasminMartinaLynseyKatieDebbieKelly and Em (I think that's everyone - shout at me if you're not on the list!) - and then join me in counting down the days until the weekend. It's in sight! 

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