Travelling with a toy camera

Travel and photography are two of my favourite things in the world. So of course I mix the two at every opportunity. This time, I jetted off to Holland to see my partner, Thomas, where I bought my first ‘toy’ camera, a Diana F+ (in a Dutch pattern of course) and took it out on a road trip…

Unfortunately the film got exposed to the light when it was taken out (not my fault!). Anyway, maybe the burn marks are kind of cool in their own way. My absolute favourite is the horse picture. It is a double-exposure taken in the Hague, Holland. I took a shot of the grounds of Binnenhof (the Courtyard), then turned around and took a picture of a statue of King Willem on a horse – as luck would have it, there was a seagull perched on his head! You can see the clouds in the sky, it looks like smoke, and the horse statue has gone beautifully opaque so you can see the building in the first picture inside it. I love it! This is what film is all about.

All of these picture were taken in the Hague, Scheveningen and Brussels. The last picture was taken inside this awesome multi-themed cafe in Brussels, far from any tourist spot. My local friend, Laura, took me there. It’s a real hidden gem. Each room has a different theme, from music to travel and even an England theme. Each had tables to eat at, a library, and lots of memorabilia related to the theme. I can’t remember the name of the place though – hopefully she’ll read this and leave a comment on the page! (Update: It’s called Cook and Book).

Anyway, here are my Diana pics – enjoy!

New Year’s Dive, Scheveningen, the Netherlands

I hate New Year’s Eve. Normal pubs charge you money to get in, people seem to think they can act like complete idiots and the night is almost always a total letdown.

For years I’ve stayed home with a movie, a bottle of champers and my cats. This year, I had a new boyfriend and no fixed abode, so I decided to do something different. I was in the Netherlands over Christmas, visiting Thomas and his family, and our plan was to stay in and watch telly for New Year’s Eve. But when I woke up that morning, the first thing I thought was, “We have to do something fun for new year’s! We must go to the New Year’s Dive!” I excitedly told Thomas this the moment he woke up, and he sleepily agreed, so we booked a hotel in Scheveningen, jumped in the car and headed north to Scheveningen, a beach town near The Hague.

As soon as we got there, I felt ill. It was the worst timing. I had a fever, I was hot and cold and my bones hurt. Midnight was creeping closer and my desire to get out of bed was getting lower. But I was determined. So I downed a blackcurrant Lemsip, dragged myself out of bed and put on all my clothes. I looked like the Michelin man.

Realising that a taxi was a very expensive, and at that time, unavailable option, we got in the car on the off-chance there’s be parking somewhere within two miles of the beach. We drove around for ages, but all the parking meters had a 30-minute maximum. But our luck was in. Thanks to the fireworks maniacs of the Netherlands (they’re only legal between 10am and 2pm on New Year, no other time of year, so people go a bit mental) a parking meter had been obliterated by fireworks. No one would know how long we’d been there!

We got out the car and crossed the road. Right behind us there was a massive bang, as if someone had shot a gun right behind our heads. We looked back at the smouldering firework in the middle of the street – right where we’d just crossed. I felt like I was in Afghanistan, dodging landmines. I could have lost my legs! And it wouldn’t have even been for the good of my country!

As we walked to the beach, kids threw fireworks in our path and massive explosions were going off everywhere, the sound reverberating off the tall buildings and along the roads trees and trash were on fire. It was terrifying.

We got to the beach at about 11.15pm, and in contrast to the streets, it was completely dead. Hardly any people, bars were closed, no big bonfire as promised by YouTube videos of past years.

We walked up and down, disappointed, until I suggested we go sit on the sand and have a glass of wine from the bottle we’d brought. As soon as we hit the sand, we noticed a massive lit-up 2012 sign facing the sea. No one knew it was there! We sat facing the water, bracing ourselves against the odd sandstorm and discussing whether we would tell people that, while we’d spent NYE on the beach, it was actually pissing down with rain, freezing cold and not, in fact, in Thailand, as people might assume.

At 11.45pm we turned around to see if anything was happening. The beach was packed! People were playing with sparklers, the 2012 sign was flashing, and everyone was in a great mood.

As midnight struck, loads of previously unassuming white vans opened their doors and thousands of white balloons filled the sky. Fireworks went wild and a huge bonfire started up down the beach. What a difference 45 minutes can make!



The next morning was the famous New Year’s Dive. It involved 10,000 people wearing orange bobble hats and running into the ocean at midday. When we got down there the beach was heaving – it was taking place on the exact spot we’d been sitting the night before. The atmosphere was electric. A band played onstage, jollying up the crowd, and the originator of the dive was there too, although he’s about 100 now.

At midday, they counted down and everyone ran into the water and out again. It looked like fun and I cursed my sickness for stopping me from joining in. Next year I swear I’ll do it… Brrrrr…

Travel writer turned photographer

As some of my readers may know, I have ventured into the world of photography. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before – I’ve always resented being chained to a desk, and while I love working in journalism and being a magazine sub editor, I’m just not getting the creative output I need, except for via this blog of course, and the two books I’m working on…

It was on the trip to Canada that I made the decision to make a career transition. In fact, it was Thomas who suggested it. “You take great photos and you’re really good with people,” he said, as we walked up a mountain behind Lake Louise in Banff. “Why don’t you become a wedding photographer?”

Ruth and Emillie Wedding Greenwich Yacht Club-86

And so here I am, a wedding photographer!

So if you’ve found my travel blog looking for somewhere off the beaten path for your honeymoon, and you haven’t yet booked your photographer, get in touch!

In case you were wondering, my photography business is Anna Pumer Photography. My name’s not Pumer, but my mum’s maiden name is, and it’s pretty damned original (my Lithuanian granddad invented it when he moved to England). So I chose to use it!

And here I am, check me out!

Why the UK isn’t so bad after all

Just like every other British person, I love to moan about Britain. What awful weather we have. Why must the bin man only come every fortnight? My Waitrose sausages aren’t as good as they used to be, can I have my money back?

I have always dreamed of moving away, to Australia, Canada, even Spain. They have sunshine, laid-back attitudes and loads of fun. What does England have? Nothing. I thought…

That is, until I went exploring last week to discover more about this rainy, miserable country.

My partner and I decided to set off to Somerset – Bath, in particular. Why? I don’t know. Because it’s not too far from London, it has nice countryside and because they make cider there, I guess.

My boyfriend is from Holland, so I really wanted to showcase the best of Britain. We started off by driving past Stonehenge, entirely unexpectedly, which brought back memories of childhood holidays for him and feelings of disappointment for me. It’s a lot bigger in the pictures, isn’t it?

We then made our way to Bradford On Avon, where we were going to be staying on a farm for two nights. It’s a gorgeous little town with narrow streets, old buildings and winding country roads. The sun was shining, our B&B was lovely and we felt pretty good.

As soon as we’d dropped our stuff off, it was time to go to Bath, where we were going to visit the Thermae Spa.

Getting to Bath was easy. Driving around the city was not. It’s not a big place, but my god it’s confusing if you’re behind the wheel. For a start, the Sat Nav suddenly had no idea what it was doing. I expected it to say “I give up. This city is a mess. You’re on your own.” Instead it tried to make me drive down streets that didn’t exist and sent me down the same roads three times. Google maps had no better an idea of what was going on there, and the maps app on my iPhone had no interest whatsoever in helping me out.

So we drove round and round and round. Signposts were everywhere, but every one of them pointed down a road that had a no entry sign. You literally couldn’t get anywhere. I started going mad. I also expected the Thermae Spa to be outside of the city, and to have its own car park. If I’d known it was smack bang in the middle and had no car park I’d have dropped the car off the moment we hit the city limits and walked.

Anyway, after an hour of driving round and going mad, we asked for directions and finally found a car park, ditched the wheels, and headed spa-wards for a relaxing four hours of hot-water bliss.

The spa was like an oasis of calm in the middle of a mental-breakdown-inducing city. The girl who met us at reception completely sympathised with our situation, and said the first time she’d come to Bath was from Birmingham, and she’d arrived in the city, driven around and gone mad, and turned around and gone straight back to Birmingham without even getting out of the car.

So I felt like our eventual arrival at the spa was a miracle. We quickly stripped down to our swimmers, grabbed a robe, towel and slippers and a wristband that times your stay and opens and closes lockers, and jumped into the indoor spa pool. It was full of people bobbing about on blue foam sticks, and warming up in the bubbly area. I was disappointed with the temperature, though. Earlier, we’d been shown the VIP pool, where they have a small fountain of natural spring water bubbling up from underground, and that water was seriously hot. But the spa water was as warm as the bath is when you decide it’s time to get out. But to be fair, I like my baths so hot I almost get blisters.

The spa also has a beautiful rooftop pool, which is a great place to be at sunset. The steam rises off the water and the sky glows orange as you bob about in admittedly tepid (for me) water. The main incentive to stay in was that the outside air was freezing. It is November after all.

The best bit had to be the steam room. It’s one big room with four small, round, glass-walled compartments inside. Each steam room compartment had a different aroma, from eucalyptus to lemongrass. In the middle of them all was a waterfall shower, and to the sides were hot and cold showers. It was wonderfully hot in the steam rooms, and a perfect way to end the evening.

I used to think spas were boring, but this place, with its chilled-out atmosphere and rooftop pool makes me think there’s something in it after all.

After the spa, we grabbed a Chinese from a restaurant full of Chinese people (always a sign of good food), then drove out of Bath as fast as the Sat Nav would allow (not very).

The next day was uneventful, as Thomas had to work (he convinced his boss to let him visit me once a month for a week at a time as long as he still did his work), so we sat in a cute cafe in Bradford On Avon eating lots of food and drinking lots of tea.

The next day we went to Wales, to visit one of our fellow Trek America group members. Tristan lives in a farm on the edge of the Brecon Beacons, and the area is just gorgeous. Rolling hills, fresh air, nice people. Plus, Tristan’s farm was awesome and he has five cats and three dogs, so I was very happy. They also had a few ghosts, a fact that scared the crap out of me.

We spent our time wandering the hills and playing with the dogs. Went to see Skyfall, and the cinema had 95% old ladies (the other 5% was us). They were clearly just there for Daniel Craig.

Soon it was time to head home, and I realised that I don’t hate the UK after all. In fact, it’s absolutely beautiful and has so many really nice people (and complicated cities, but who doesn’t like to punch the steering wheel in frustration?). As long as you’re not inside the M25. Which is where I live. Until I buy a farmhouse in the countryside…

Trek America part III – reporting straight from Holland

It’s been a while since I last posted, and there’s a good reason for that: my memory is terrible and I can barely remember what happened on the Trek America trip to the Canadian Rockies in September – and in what order. But I have a little helper in my blog writing today: Thomas! As you might remember (or know, if you were on the trip), Thomas is the Dutch guy who likes wearing checked shirts. I have since seen his wardrobe and counted them – he has eight. And a pair of checked trousers, but I will be making sure they stay in the wardrobe.

Anyway, another thing you should know about Thomas is that he has an incredible memory. In my last post I got several dates and activities mixed up, and this has upset him greatly, so I am going to be editing it so it’s correct – and writing the following installments of the Trek America trip with his help. So here I am, in Holland, blonde beer in hand and surrounded by lots of confused Dutch people, tapping out the blog with Thomas’s help.

So where did I finish the last post on the Canadian Rockies Trek America trip? Oh yes, not being asked for ID when I bought Bailey’s. You’ll be unsurprised to learn that the Bailey’s didn’t last very long at all – especially when I bought hot chocolate and made it with two parts Bailey’s, one part chocolate powder and one part hot milk. Amazing.

Next on the agenda was Wells Gray – a national park centred around adventure and outdoor activities. We met up with our tour guide, Heather, a South African girl who told us a delightful story about how she once used a pit toilet in Belize and fell in. She decided to go into a lot of detail when she told us this story. I won’t go into it, but let’s just say it involved a lot of maggots.

Anyway, Heather first of all took us to see some upstream salmon trying to fly over rocks. She told us most of them don’t make it and they die. The rest get caught and barbequed in Teriyaki sauce.

As usual in these places, there was a public pit toilet that you could smell from 50 metres away, so we took turns to pee 55 metres away from the pit toilets, in the bushes (I discovered that 50m away from every pit toilet in the country is a tree surrounded by toilet paper and stinking of pee. Hence the 55m). We then got back in the van to drive to our next destination – the canoe centre. The plan was to pair up, get in canoes and paddle across a lake for two and a half hours to a remote piece of land that is inaccessible apart from by boat.

I squeezed the biceps of all the boys to see who the best canoe partner would be. Unfortunately Tristan, outdoor enthusiast and canoe instructor, was taken by Erin. And Grant had already picked Julia. Kenneth was part of a couple. The only boy left was Thomas. So I was stuck with him and his zig zag canoeing skills. We were soon being called a married couple by the rest of the group, as we bickered the whole way. Him saying I wasn’t doing anything, and me saying his steering was terrible. We had the booze cooler though – and thinking that was a good thing to be carrying was the only thing we agreed on. We needed it.

Being a competitive group, we raced most of the way and got there much quicker than Heather had expected us to. I think they base their timings on the elderly and infirm.

Arriving at our campsite, which consisted of a couple of benches, a fire pit and – oh joy – a pit toilet, felt like we were in a scene from Lost. There was nowhere to run from the bears here.

The first half hour was spent wrestling each other – literally – for the flattest, softest spot to pitch our tents. Tristan had the best spot, cos he’s good at that sort of thing, and Thomas and Grant nicked our spot because we were too slow at pitching the tent. In the end we found what seemed like a great spot – which turned out to be on a slope, and I spent the night wriggling up the tent from the corner. I also managed to put the cap of my water bottle on wrong and woke up in the morning to jokes that I’d peed the tent. The funny thing is that the same evening, we’d played ‘I have never’ and discovered that three people in the group had had experience of a partner peeing in the bed. Lovely.

Talking of that evening, it was possibly the most drunken and eventful of them all. We found out a lot (too much) about everybody, and with more alcohol came more sordid details. It was just as two of the group started to strip off to go skinnydipping in the freezing cold lake that I decided to slink off to bed.

The next morning the rest of the group was too hungover to get out of bed, so Kathryn and I went for a wander in the woods. It didn’t last very long – too much talk of bears and thoughts of breakfast.

We left straight after breakfast – another canoe trip across the lake. Back in the van, we warmed up and started driving to Wells Gray Ranch, where we were promised steak and beers. On the way we stopped at a waterfall, next to which we cooked hotdogs – with onions and everything. I must admit I barely glanced at the waterfall – the lure of hot dogs far too enticing.

When we got to the ranch, we were given the choice of a free upgrade to a cabin. Sounds luxurious and romantic, doesn’t it? The room had 10 beds, no lights and lots of cobwebs. But it was one degree warmer than the tents, and it had rectangles of foam covered in plastic, which was better than lying on the hard ground with just a skimpy yoga mat.

That night was filled with the promised steak and beer, plus hot chocolate, a warm bar and most importantly, wifi. I quickly shot off an email to my mum. Didn’t want her thinking I was lying dead in a ditch. Again.