Travelling to Tbilisi, Georgia? My tips!

Georgia (in Europe) has been a bit of a hot-spot for a while now; everyone I know has been, or is planning a trip. The country offers visa-free travel for many countries, visa-on-arrival for many others, and has a simple e-visa process; it is definitely climbing up the list of destinations to visit.

Plus: for those travelling from Dubai (which is where I travelled from, obvs), there are direct flights with flyDubai, which is pretty convenient.

Georgia, as a country, certainly has a lot to offer. While I used Lonely Planet’s guide (from my library, woohoo), I also booked a variety of tours to find my way around the country. One was Taste Georgia (which I’ve written about here), and also Culinary Backstreets (post to come, will update the link when it’s ready). Unfortunately, I wasn’t there long enough to go beyond Tbilisi and Kakheti, but on my next trip, I hope to visit other areas such as Kazbegi and Batumi. On my list!

Now, when in Tbilisi, here are a few things you can do (not necessarily related to food):

Go on a free walking tour of the city…

…and you’ll see things like this:

I found this free walking tour after some web searches, and I’m so pleased I tried it. We met at the spot mentioned on the website, and Anna was our guide for the day. We walked across the Peace Bridge (the first photo on this post) to Rike Park, we took a ride up in the cable car to take some photos under Mother Georgia, and scrambled over to the Narikala Fortess where we overlooked the Natural Botanical Gardens.

And of course we saw many more things, before winding up in front of the “I heart Tbilisi” sign right opposite the Metekhi Bridge, where we took a photo with Anna. What I loved about it was the way she shared facts about culture, history, architecture, food, and so much more, into the few hours we spent with her. It was easily one of the most informative ways in which to learn more about Tbilisi in particular, and Georgian culture and history overall. I’d really recommend taking this walk early on in your trip – definitely a must-do.

Take the funicular up the mountain!

I’m a sucker for cable car rides, funicular railways, and all that sort of thing (I mean, I gratuitously took it while in Montmatre on Christmas Day 2016 while I was perfectly capable of walking, but that’s another story). So when I heard there was not just a cable car (which I’d taken during the free walking tour – see above), but that there was also a funicular… I could’ve screamed with joy. I rather think I did! The funicular takes you up to Mt Mtatsminda – you can obviously enjoy the views on the way to the top or back down, but there’s things to do once you’re up there. For one, there’s a building at the point where you disembark to eat and drink, and then you can walk further into the park, which has rides, a carousel and so on for entertainment. At the top, you’re also really close to the 274.5m-high Tbilisi TV Tower.

Take a touristy bus tour

Before you decide to do this, I will say that it’s quite a ‘touristy’ thing to do, and there are a lot of buses carrying out this route.However, it does cover quite a bit of ground and takes out the hassle of finding your own way to some of these sites. I found Holidays in Georgia on Facebook, along with a schedule of its tours and decided we should try it out. I used Facebook Messenger to buzz the company and a rep responded very quickly.

I walked off Liberty Square into one of the side streets – Kote Afkhazi – and I found the office where we could purchase the tickets. We bought a bus tour going to Mtskheta, Jvari, Gori, and Uplistsikhe. The tour started with the Jvari Monastery, from where you overlook the old city of Mtskheta.

Then we headed over to Gori, whose claim to (dubious?) fame is hosting the Stalin Museum. It was quite, quite odd if I’m honest – but it was a fascinating insight into the personality. Finally, we were at Uplistsikhe, which is basically a sprawling complex, with structures cut straight into the rock. There’s a lot of walking to do here, but the views are breathtaking, and it’s just awe-inspiring once you’re there.

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The trip lasted the whole day – and it was a convenient way to see a lot of the sights without having to worry about transport.

Other than this, let me know what else I need to do in Tbilisi the next time I visit! Or where I should explore within Georgia next.

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Book reviews: Discworld #31-35

And we’re back!

Earlier installments: Books 1-4, Books 5-10, Books 11-15, Books 16-20, Books 21-30

Monstrous Regiment: Discworld, #31

Can I say that this is absolutely my favourite??? I read this via a copy from my library, and I need to buy my own copy. There’s a war ongoing, and Polly’s brother Paul has been missing since he joined up. She decides it’s time to find him and the only way to do that is join the army. The problem? They don’t accept women. So she cuts her hair, wears male clothing and adopts ways of behaviour that include burping, scratching and walking in a ‘male’ manner. She signs up, along with a vampire, a troll, a zombie, and many more odd members. As she goes along with the charade, she finds that everyone is hiding their own secrets – and learns the value of a well-placed sock! Pratchett was a feminist, really, and it comes across in this book. Regular characters from Discworld have cameos, like Vimes, Willam de Worde and more. This book is the third in the Industrial Revolution sub-series.

A Hat Full of Sky: Discworld #32

The second Tiffany Aching book is excellent. I know I wasn’t enthusiastic about the first, but this one is brilliant. I went in with zero expectations and really liked it. Tiffany is such a resourceful young girl, and Granny Weatherwax such a wise woman – having them almost ‘work’ together was a joy to read. Tiffany is sent to apprentice with Miss Level, but finds that something is following her. The Nac Mac Feegles have sensed this too, and eventually go off to rescue the big wee hag.

Going Postal: Discworld #33

Forming part of both the Industrial Revolution and the Moist von Lipwig series, I enjoyed reading this book the second time around, about five years after I read it the first time. Moist is a 26-year-old expert con-man, who has literally and figuratively reached the end of the rope – or has he? Lord Vetinari steps in, and Moist is given another shot at life – as the man in charge of the now-defunct Post Office. With the Grand Trunk Company more sinister than ever, will Moist be able to resurrect the Post Office and make it profitable? In a way, now that I’m reading the Discworld books in chronological order, the more I appreciate Vetinari. His character is impressive, and the way in which he masterfully deals with the ‘enemies’ of Ankh-Morpork, while oddly enough knowing whom to give second chances to, is just applause-worthy.

Thud!: Discworld #34

Another one from City Watch, this one has a new character in it: a vampire joins the Watch! In the book, politics is thrust upon Vimes much to his annoyance, where he’s forced to hire Sally, and also deal with a problem between the dwarves and trolls when the subject of Koom Valley comes up. While the political arc is actually pretty interesting, it’s the human elements in the book – as with the others – that keep you engaged. Angua showing her insecurity, in a way, of Sally’s preening for Carrot, who’s oblivious to everything but the case and Angua’s well-being; Vimes wanting to be home at 6pm every day so he can read a book to his son; and a troll who just wants to understand what’s happening around him… The conclusion is pretty amazing, and hey, Death makes an appearance!

Wintersmith: Discworld #35

We’re in the third Tiffany Aching book, and I have slowly warmed up to this character. In this book, she makes a mistake. And because of it, the Wintersmith has fallen in love – with her! But this is causing havoc to the natural order of things, and it’s up to Tiffany to fix it and bring back the person he was meant to dance the dance with. Super happy to see Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg back again. It’s a bit of a coming-of-age story of sorts, but while it was a good read, it wasn’t a memorable one – for me.

Note: there is a 34.5, called Where’s My Cow? but I wasn’t able to obtain a copy, so haven’t penned anything on it.

Put those dancing shoes on – in Dubai

OK so I’ve always loved dancing. It’s why I enjoy Zumba as a form of exercise so much – it combines dancing and music to create a great workout. But I’ve already told you about where to try Zumba in Dubai (and I’ll keep updating that post as I try – and like – more places, so keep checking), so this isn’t about that. It’s about dance.

If you pop into my YouTube search history, apart from Stephen Colbert, John Oliver etc, you’ll find choreography videos. I discovered them quite by accident one night, and since then I’ve been hooked.

Some of these are ridiculously mesmerising – this one with Matt Steffanina and Dana Alexa is just mad cool.

And I mean, I’m currently in love with this choreo by Phil Wright – linking my tweet so you can click through both videos of the same song:

And for good measure, watch this choreo all the way to the end where he proposes to his girlfriend mid-filming – the choreography is great + it’s so sweet!

So while Zumba was satisfying my twinkle toes, I needed more. So far I’ve tried and liked the following two places. As with the Zumba post, I’ll update if I find more – and more importantly, like them. If I don’t like it, I won’t recommend it OR even bother giving it a bad review.

For actual choreography classes…

…head over for the Dance Pak DXB class, hands down. Held at Train SF in Al Quoz, this class is easily something I now look forward to every Sunday through to Tuesday. Nicole Olaivar, who teaches the class, is ridiculously inspirational. Her dance moves and facial expressions while dancing are mesmerising. She’s great at teaching steps and choreo, and also pointing out very honestly where we mess up – so that we can improve. Sunday and Tuesday are the choreo combined with twerking and strength building. She also now does one hour of dancing without choreo every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Give it a go (if you plan on joining GuavaPass btw, my referral code is at the end of this post)!

For some reggateon…

…head to DSt2dio. There are classes on Monday and Wednesday, with a great teacher and dancer, Juan Saturria. There aren’t specific songs/dances which you learn class on class; rather, this is more about the movements and steps in general that comprise the art form that is reggaeton. He has a way of teaching us the steps and movements in a way we can understand and always performs the entire dance once for us at the end so we can record and practice on our own time too. This studio offers quite a few dance classes, and while I haven’t tried all of them, if they are of the same calibre, I think it’d be totally worth it.

Both these classes are on GuavaPass, so if you want to sign up, here’s my referral code:  http://guavapass.com/refer?t=DevinaLovesGuava609

Discworld Books #21-30

Discworld Books #21-30

Welcome to the next installment of my Discworld adventure… 

OK so it’s definitely been a while since I updated this. But here are the next 10 (instead of five) in the Discworld series. I’m currently reading #33 – not long until the end!

Earlier installments: Books 1-4, Books 5-10, Books 11-15, Books 16-20

Jingo: Discworld #21

This is part of the City Watch series, and it’s essentially quite anti-war – which is great! Ankh-Morpork and Klatch look like they’re going to war, and it all gets messier and messier by the day. Vetinari has a meaty role in this one, and we get to see Leonard of Quirm get involved as well. Very pertinent, as using words and comedy, Pratchett deals with the issues of war, racism and much more ‘real world’ to get a point across.

The Last Continent: Discworld #22

OK I actually didn’t like this, which is surprising. I rarely NOT like a Pratchett book, I just think they’re average. This one, however… So it’s the sixth in the Rincewind series, which is already frustrating because if you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know I don’t like Rincewind very much! So this book is based in a continent that is suspiciously similar to Australia, but I felt like the jokes fell flat and it seemed all a little bit forced. As if it was easy to pick stereotypes or common jokes for this one. I’m also not 100% sure what the plot was all about!

The Sea and The Little Fishes: Discworld #22.5

A short story with the Witches of Discworld – I highly, highly recommend you read this. It’s focused on Granny Weatherwax and the annual Witch Trials, which she has been winning year after year after year. This year, the other witches want her to sit out. And then Granny Weatherwax turns terrifyingly…nice…to everyone. Find out more, you will enjoy this.

Carpe Jugulum: Discworld #23

I LOVED THIS BOOK! This is the sixth in the Witches series within Discworld, and it was an absolute joy to read. So, King Verence of Lancre and Magrat have had a child together, and as part of the celebrations, the Magpyrs of Uberwald show up – with his Verence’s invite of course. But these are ‘modern’ vampires, who like the sun and eat garlic. And they don’t want to leave. Agnes Nitt has a meaty role in this one, and of course, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg jump into the fray to save their home from the vampires. If there’s ANY vampire fiction you must read, make it this one. Plus: I’ve just found out this is the last of the Witches series (but not the last you’ll read of the Witches, so never fear)!

The Fifth Elephant: Discworld #24

Another one from the City Watch – I really, really enjoyed this book. I think it’s because Carrot and Angua have some meaty roles in this one, and they’re among some of my favourite characters. In Ankh-Morpork a scone is stolen from the Dwarf Museum, and while the Watch are trying to figure out why, off to Uberwald goes Vimes and Sybil as representatives of Ankh-Morpork. It’s time for the Low King of the Dwarfs to be crowned. But Angua mysteriously disappears and Carrot, naturally, tries to find her. And…they head for Uberwald too. What happens next, amidst diplomacy, werewolves and vampires? This book is an absolute blast.

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My well-thumbed copy

The Truth: Discworld #25
OK so I’m totally biased with this book, purely because of my chosen profession. William de Worde (on that note, I just LOVE all the character names in the Discworld books). BTW this is part of the ‘Industrial Revolution’ series, which we’ve already come across with ‘Moving Pictures’, the tenth book in the overall Disc-verse. So de Worde is a person who sends reports, if you will, of happenings in the city to a number of people who pay him for it. And then, somehow, almost by accident, he ends up running Ankh-Morpork’s first newspaper, and becomes a journalist, with his nose to the ground for a good story. And then, there’s a murder… Honestly, even if you don’t like or read Pratchett’s Discworld series, definitely pick up this one if you work or are associated with the media industry. It’s such a fun story, with elements that you might actually identify with!

Thief of Time: Discworld #26

While this is part of the Death sub-series, there was more reading time for Susan, Death’s granddaughter than Death himself. That’s fine in itself, but I didn’t enjoy this book that much. I’m not exactly sure what it was, but I think I felt that the characters were going through the motions and there wasn’t much development or chemistry between them. In this book, a clock that could potentially stop time is being built, and the Auditors are involved. Susan sets out to stop them, and we even visit – through Death – the other members of the Riders of the Apocalypse. Nanny Ogg also makes an appearance – which was very cool btw.

The Last Hero: Discworld #27

So it’s another Rincewind book. It wasn’t all bad though (see: previous comments on not enjoying Rincewind books) – it’s tempered with the presence of Heroes. It’s time for Cohen the Barbarian to go on his final quest, with a band of old friends. They set off for the highest mountain within the Discworld – to meet the gods! The Last Hero is Cohen, who is determined to return to the gods something that the First Hero stole. And because Vetinari believes this will bring about the end of the world… he’s determined to stop them. With the ragtag team of Captain Carrot and Leonard of Quirm – and unfortunately, Rincewind – and assisted by Ponder Stibbons. Do they succeed?

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents: Discworld #28

I believe this is the first young adult novel that Pratchett wrote, and I absolutely loved it. Think Pied Piper with a Pratchett twist. Maurice the cat can talk (and we have encountered talking animals in the Discworld before) and so can the rats he hangs out with. This motley crew works with a young boy to scam towns or villages into thinking the boy can get rid of a rat infestation with his cat. But one town isn’t as straightforward as it seems… there they meet a young girl who joins them on an adventure which leads them to a mysterious and strangely powerful monster that no one can see. It’s funny as always, and despite being a young adult book, it does deal with fairly dark or serious themes – but then, quite a few Pratchett books do that. A book I’d really, really recommend.

Night Watch: Discworld #29

Part of The City Watch series, this is potentially one of my favourite City Watch books for the pure human drama. In this book, Vimes and his team were in pursuit of a serial killer, and in a series of unfortunate events, both are, essentially, thrown back in time. To a specific point in Ankh-Morpork’s bloody history, where Vimes – shall we say – meets people from his past. But will his actions change the  future? We shall see. The time travel element adds a nice twist, and it’s a book that will make you think, and maybe cry. Enjoy it.

The Wee Free Men: Discworld #30

This book marks the introduction of a new sub-series within the Discword: Tiffany Aching. A new witch! It’s defnitely aimed at a younger reader (I mean, it was in the young adult section of my library), so I’m not sure it was completely my cup of tea. However, as in Pratchett tradtiion, the writing is excellent. In this book, Tiffany finds herself working with the Wee Free Men, the Nac Mac Feegle who live in the Chalk (where she lives) to find her kidnapped brother. To do this, they must venture into Fairyland, and face the Queen of the Elves. What I really liked about this book was Tiffany’s characterisation – she’s a no-nonsense, sensible girl who is extremely curious and resourceful. It’s a great way to introduce a younger person to the joys of Terry Pratchett, and with a strong, intelligent female character no doubt. However, toward the end, I felt like it was a bit tedious to read, and I skimmed over a couple of pages.

Geek alert: Mystery Box ME

Do you like sci-fi (books, movies, everything)? Anime? ‘Verses like Star Wars, Star Trek (yes you can like both – look at me!), Firefly and more? Comics? Gaming? OK, well you’re going to want to know about Mystery Box ME, if you don’t already!

I’m not sure how I came across the geek-themed Mystery Box ME, but I’m really glad I did. If I had to hazard a guess though, I’d say it was something I found via the geek-in-the-know, @theregos.

Anyway, the premise is simple. You sign up to receive a… well, a mystery box every month. You don’t know what’s in the box, other than that it will arouse the interest of all geeks.

Here’s an example of just one month:

Other months have included a Batman-themed fidget spinner, a Baby Groot bobble-head, a t-shirt with Futurama’s Bender, a Deadpool chef figurine, a t-shirt with Serenity (the ship) on it, a variety of comics, and so much more.

The website lists all the subscription opportunities; you can buy a one-off box for AED 199, or take monthly plans, ranging from a three-month plan to a one year plan, with prices obviously dropping with the volume that you purchase. I find that it’s always worth it…opening that box has never disappointed.

This month, the website released a “themed” box – Star Wars. The website also currently lists a video game-themed box. These do list what you’re getting when you order the boxes. Definitely looking forward to more of these!

Check out the official website for more information and to order your own box!

Want to see more? I’ll end with one of my (many) unboxing videos… 

Literaturhaus at Nadi – an ode to literature at Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue

Literaturhaus at Nadi – an ode to literature at Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue

Earlier this month, I attended the launch of Literaturhaus at Nadi, which is a literary event that will continue to be hosted at Nadi Al Quoz every Saturday until September 30. The first Saturday was helmed by Afra Atiq, an Emirati spoken word poet. She was mesmerising, to say the least. This was my first time attending a poetry slam performance, and I really enjoyed it.

Afra used themes she identified with personally, and certainly themes a lot of people in the audience identified with as well, considering the applause she got in response! Starting off with an ode to true love (food, and its fickle nature), to schoolyard bullying, to being labelled ‘different’, to dealing with heartbreak, Afra used the power of words to really bring a sense of energy and empathy in the room… I know I was nearly in tears at some points.

I love the vibe Dubai’s culture and literary scene has right now, and Literaturhaus at Nadi seems like an amazing opportunity for people to sample what the city’s literary artists have to offer. It’s not just poetry, the programming offers up authors, historians, musicians and much more.

The events are free to attend, but there is limited space to do RSVP.

All info on the link here

Want to try Zumba in Dubai? Here’s where I go!

Note: I will update this list as I keep trying Zumba classes around town!

A few years ago, I discovered Zumba, and oddly enough, through work. My company regularly hosts “Wellness Weeks” every few months, and during one of these weeks, a Zumba dance studio (now unfortunately defunct) was offering classes. Since then I’ve been hooked.

After that dance studio shut down, I have been more experimental, trying different classes across Dubai. Right now, I’m exploring exercise classes in Dubai via GuavaPass (click here to get AED 100 off your first month through my referral link btw), and I figured I might as well share my favourite Zumba classes across the city – and to tell you it’s not necessarily about the studio, but it’s definitely ALL about the teacher. So even if the studio isn’t your favourite, if the teacher is, then you *will* return.

I’ve grouped these into the studios I have frequented, and mentioned who the instructors are. Happy dancing!!!

Iconic Fitness (previously known as CoreFit)

One of the earliest places I tried was CoreFit (now called Iconic Fitness), and while the instructors have changed from years ago, I’ve never been happier. One of the instructors is Jed (or @masterjedai as he is on social media) and the other regular is Leonardo (@zumbaleonardo on Instagram). Every now and then, the venue hosts Zumba parties, with not just Jed and Leo, but also Enzo Maglaque (see GFX, below) and Joseph DeLeon – I’d highly recommend these parties. High energy, full of fun, and great music and dancing.

CoreFit has Zumba classes every day, so take your pick! It’s located in Dubai Marina, right next to the tram station in front of Horizon Tower, and there’s usually quite a bit of parking – especially for the weekend classes! The studio is very large, so it’s great to spread out and dance without worrying about walking on someone else’s foot!

Couple of videos… One from Jed’s YouTube!

Another one from Leonardo’s YouTube:

Tempo Dance Center

So, Jed really is one of my favourite instructors and when I discovered he also taught at Tempo Dance Center in JLT’s Red Diamond building, I had to try it out. As I said, it’s in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, but not within the clusters. It’s towards the back on the road between JLT and Emirates Hills. Google Maps will definitely show you the exact way! Tempo Dance Center is on the first floor of the building and has three rooms for dance classes. I’d say about 10-15 people can fit comfortably, so do book in advance. There is parking below, but on some evenings it can get crowded, so bear that in mind before heading out there.

Dream Master Studio, Al Quoz

The first time I did Zumba was with Monica Pulgarin, and it’s really down to her that I’ve stuck it out so long. She now has her classes at the Dream Master Studio in Al Quoz, and these are a mix of Zumba Fitness and Zumba Toning. Often, she and another amazing instructor, Maira Lorena, team up for the “14 Day Zumba Challenge” which they share on their Facebook pages, so keep an eye out for these events, and don’t hesitate to sign up if you can commit to all 14 days. So, the challenge is two hours every night for 14 days, except for Friday. And it’s one of my most favourite things to do when it comes around!

GFX

There are two GFX branches in Dubai, one in Business Bay and the other in Mirdiff. I haven’t been to the latter, but have to the former. Every class I’ve done at this studio has had Enzo, and I will guarantee that he’s always going to put you through an intense workout. The studio is located on the first floor of the Bay Avenue Mall, and is compact, but can fit in a good number of dancers. He offers a regular Fitness class, and a Toning version, so you have a few options. I haven’t tried Mirdiff’s studio, but if anyone tries it out, do let me know!

So, which Zumba classes have you tried out? Let me know if there’s something I have missed and should try out.

Reading Discworld Books 16-20

Welcome to the next installment of my Discworld adventure… 

Earlier installments: Books 1-4, Books 5-10, Books 11-15

Soul Music: Discworld #16

The third in the Death series, Susan remembers the grandfather she forgot: Death. Upset after his daughter and son-in-law die, Death disappears (again). This time, instead of zombies, his granddaughter takes on the mantle. But during her work, something strange happens. One human doesn’t die. Music takes him over at the time he was meant to die. And then Music With Rocks In is born. This music is alive, and it’s determined to make its way. In a way, this book reminds me of Moving Pictures, which annoyed me ever so slightly. However, the book manages to hold its own.

Troll Bridge: Discworld #16.5

This short story with Cohen the Barbarian is a lovely little treat! Cohen wants to fight a troll to the death, just like the old days. But what he finds is that trolls are dealing with the passing of time, much like himself. The bridge troll and Cohen have a bit of a chat and find out they have more in common than they realise… a quick read, one for Discworld fans.

Interesting Times: Discworld #17

I first read this book in 2012, and gave it three stars on Goodreads. And you know what? I enjoyed it much more the second time around – four stars,if not 4.5. In fact, I’m not sure I remember the book as much as I did this time… The fifth in the Rincewind series, this one follows the hapless wizard (or wizzard, as it were) in his next adventure, where he is reunited with a friend from the past, along with a few barbarians. Maybe even Luggage. Sent to the Counterweight Continent, he’s thrown into a situation where people assume he’s the “great wizard” and barbarians are trying to take over. Guest appearance by Death at one point, wahey! Genuinely enjoyed this one, it really helped to have read the other books in the Rincewind sub-series, to really get into the zone with this one.

Maskerade: Discworld #18

The fifth in the Witches sub-series, this book is the first one where Magrat Garlick (last seen in Lords and Ladies) is absent. Having become Queen, she’s busy ruling Lancre, and the coven of three is now two. Sensing Granny Weatherwax is dipping into depression (and potentially turning bad), Nanny Ogg is keen to get that number back to three – picking Agnes Nitts (or Perdita) as a successor. But Agnes/Perdita has run off to Ankh-Morpork to become an opera singer, and she’s been thrown in the midst of a Phantom of the Opera-style murder mystery. The witches, naturally, arrive to get Agnes back … and then they have to figure out who the phantom really is… I’m really liking the murder mystery style of Discworld books, definitely a good read.

Feet of Clay: Discworld #19

A wonderful City Watch series book, this is third in the story of Captai Vimes and his band of merry men. This is a murder mystery, and Vimes and his team has to figure out whodunit – and who’s also poisoning Lord Vetinari! Throw in a few characters like dwarf Cheery Littlebottom, and you have a winner. We also learn more about Golems, made of clay, and their standing in the social confusion that is Ankh-Morpork – a lot through the eyes of Dorfl. A few places in this book made me want to tear up, but that’s just the nature of something written by Pratchett.

Hogfather: Discworld #20

I first read this in 2012, and picked it up again for my Discworld journey. It’s the fourth in the Death series, and so marks the return of my favourite character (Death FYI). This one marks the return of Death’s granddaughter, Susan. She’s trying to live a ‘normal’ life – as much as a Duchess and the granddaughter of Death can live a normal life – as a governess. But some things are trying to kill the Hogfather, the merry figure who appears on Hogswatch, and they’re nearly succeeding. And Death has stepped in… HO HO HO. The wizards make an appearance too, and what a merry bunch they are. All in time for the season.

Discworld Books 11-15

Welcome to the next installment of my Discworld adventure… 

Earlier installments: Books 1-4, Books 5-10

Reaper Man: Discworld #11

So, if you’ve been reading my Discworld series of posts, you will know Death is my favourite character. For me personally, this wasn’t my favourite book – which was a disappointment. The second in the Death series after Mort, the book explores what would happen if Death just wasn’t there. Death has been fired, and isn’t picking up the dead witches, wizards and others. Instead, he’s become Bill Door and is working on a farm. And … he makes friends, and shows, believe-it-or-not, empathy. In Ankh-Morpork, a wizard has died, and he’s tired of waiting for Death to pick him up. And so…he becomes undead and joins a society of the undead. Both stories are intertwined – the fate of Death and the fate of Ankh Morpork. A good read, but not my favourite.

Witches Abroad: Discworld #12

The third in the Witches series… the trio of Nanny Ogg, Granny Weatherwax and Magrat Garlick are slowly gaining ground as some of my favourite characters (Death, don’t let them beat you!). In this book, the three witches take a trip to Genua on a fairy godmother mission, when Desiderata passed away and left her wand to Magrat. And obviously Granny and Nanny had to come along, especially when they find out they weren’t meant to. Their mission is to prevent a young girl, Emberella, from marrying a prince, and thwarting a power-hungry witch in the process. Throw in voodoo, coachmen and pumpkins, and  a whole lot of sarcasm and common sense, and it’s a fairy tale for all!

Small Gods: Discworld #13

I first read this book in 2013 and gave it five stars. I read it again, and gave it five stars…again! In this book, the Great God Om has woken up as a turtle – and he just wanted to be a bull again. The Discworld is peppered with many gods, all competing for believers. He needs to find someone to believe in him, and make him great again. In comes Brutha, a novice, who believes. Imagine his surprise when he finds Om the turtle. Om’s challenge, should he choose to accept it: make Brutha make everyone believe in him again. Really believe. Or else he’ll become a “small god”… perish the thought.

Lords and Ladies: Discworld #14

Okay, this was a massive surprise – I fell in love with this book! The Witches Series is really fantastic. Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Eve is here! After the three witches have been out and about seeing the world (see book 12!), they are back. In Magrat Garlick’s absence, her wedding seems to have been planned with the King of Lancre. But something is afoot…elves? Fairy lights and twinkly beings? No. Dangerous elements. Evil. Mischief. And only Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax remember there’s more to the beautiful creatures… But the lords and ladies are trying to re-enter the Discworld… there’s a way to stop them. Will they? Absolutely intelligent and superb writing.

Theatre of Cruelty: Discworld #14.5

Short online read, a play on Punch and Judy, with Carrot and Death thrown in. Not my favourite, but Discword fans should read it. You can read it for free here.

Men at Arms: Discworld #15

The City Watch series is in its second outing after Guards! Guards!, and what an outing it is. Carrot is back, but so are some new recruits. While no one really knows what Nobby is, the Night Watch now has recruited a dwarf (Cuddy; a real one, no offence Carrot), a troll (Detritus), and a woman (and a werewolf, sorry for outing you Angua). And Sam Vimes is retiring! To become a gentleman and get married. In the midst of angst within the Night Watch, the royalists are coming back… and they seem to think a citizen of Ankh-Morpork may be the real heir. The Patrician is not amused. Neither is the Watch, especially when there are a serious of mysterious deaths. And a new and missing weapon called a gonne. Is this a murder mystery? Yes. Read it. Brilliance.

Travel tips: New York

Travel tips: New York

I visited New York, Boston and Washington DC for the first time through March-April 2016, and here’s a few things I picked up during my two weeks there – if you haven’t been before, hopefully this might help!

Before I forget: if you’re interested in purchasing a mobile SIM while you’re there, I bought a T-Mobile SIM card with a data plan included for $43.

In general, travelling in New York is quite easy because of the subway station and the ability to walk or use an Uber, which is quite affordable. Plus, if you’re in Manhattan, your life is made easier by the grid system – you’ll always know where you are!

The subway system was great, and I used Google Maps for most part to map my journeys. Buying a week subway pass costs $32, and you can purchase these either on a manned counter or one of the kiosks. Pay attention to weekend service announcements for subway lines; they do change a bit, so you should keep a perked ear out for alternative methods of transport.

Always figure out whether you can walk, it might actually be faster.

I arrived at JFK airport, and from there wanted to get to West 30th. You can, for this journey, take the subway, but if you’re not keen on trying a new mode of public transport with luggage… I used a shuttle bus service called NYC Airporter. PSA: They don’t give you change at the counter, you have to pay by card. I paid $17 and got off at Penn Station. Anyway, at general traffic levels, this should take about 1-1.5 hours. It took me approximately that amount of time; it was pretty comfortable. I just relaxed and peered out the window until I arrived at Penn Station, then walked it up 10 minutes to where I needed to go. If you do need to take the train though, you’ll want to get on the AirTrain JFK Red to Jamaica, and then transfer to another line.

I mentioned Uber at the beginning of this post. Just to give you an idea of how much it costs there – we mostly used UberX and UberPool – journeying from W 48th to W 30th (approx 2.22km) with an UberX cost $9.39 with tax.

And if you’re heading from New York to Boston at any point and don’t want to take a flight, I used LimoLiner, which I found quite convenient. I paid $99 and got picked up at the Midtown Hilton on 53rd street at 6th Ave. I settled down, had some food and drink…and there was even a movie. A comfortable ride, it took about 4 hours to get to Boston Back Bay. The bus drops you off at 39 Dalton Street, which is in front of the Sheraton Back Bay and across from the Hilton Hotel Back Bay.

BONUS TIPS: In Boston, if you’re sticking to public transport, just FYI you can get a “Charlie Card” or a “Charlie ticket” at most stations and use the tram system, which is pretty efficient. And one more: in Washington DC, I mostly used Uber, and when I did use the metro, I purchased a “SmarTrip” card at the vending machine at one of the stations.

Do you have any travel tips for either New York, Boston, or Washington DC? Let me know – I’m hoping to go back for another visit!