Day 6 – 4th October – LAS – SFO


This morning we had a very early start, after a long day yesterday. We got up at 4.45 to get ready for our flight over the Grand Canyon. We checked out of our hotel, and after a nervous wait for the bus to pick us up, we made our way to Boulder City Airport where the tours depart from. After checking in, we met our two pilots, who were lovely and made our way to the plane. This was a very small plane. I was a tiny bit nervous, I’d never been on such a small plane. We took off, and made our way to the Grand Canyon.

We were extremely lucky, as during the night there was a huge thunderstorm. Big strokes of lightning filling the already highly lit Vegas and trembles of thunder. Luckily, the storm cleared and we were able to fly, as we would have been gutted if we weren’t able to do it.

The views were out of this world, the trip the other day to the Grand Canyon was good but this was on another level completely. The pilots said that it was one of the best flights for a long time, with the clouds diffusing the light making the colours of the canyon really stand out.

We then landed, and made our way back to the hotel. We chilled by the pool all afternoon. I really wanted to take a dip, but it wasn’t too warm, there was a gentle breeze in the air. By the time it got to 3pm it was scorching, but we had to leave the hotel around 4 to catch a flight.

We left the hotel and headed to the airport to catch our flight to San Francisco. We touched down at about 9.30, and after collecting baggage arrived at our hotel at around 10.30pm. I managed to sleep on the very short flight but was absolutely shattered and pleased to hit the pillow. The beds are so comfortable here. I’m looking forward to exploring San Francisco tomorrow!

Day 4 – 2nd October


Today we headed to Zion National Park in Utah, the last of our stops on this three day tour. Zion is another name for Jerusalem. On the way down to the park, through the signature red roads, we passed Checkboard Mesa. The rain and wind erodes the rock, creating a chequered pattern.

A mesa is an isolated, flat-topped hill or mountain with steep sides that is smaller in area than a plateau. A butte is also a flat-topped hill with steep sides, though smaller in area than a mesa.

We saw more beautiful orange rocks with outstanding views on a small trail walk to see a waterfall. It was nice to stretch our legs after spending a lot of time on the bus.

We came across the Sego lily, which is Utah’s state flower. This poisonous plant was traditionally used by some indigenous tribes during religious rituals as a potent hallucinogenic but after time they realised it was deadly.

Many of the cavalrymen chosen to serve in the West’s new national park lands were buffalo soldiers. The term “buffalo soldier” was first used by Native Americans of the Cheyenne tribe to describe African American regiments sent to the West during the Civil War to fight against Plains Indians. It is said that the tribespeople saw a resemblance between the African American soldiers’ dark, curly hair and the matted fur between the horns of a buffalo, and that they also respected their bravery in battle. After the war ended, many of these buffalo soldiers were re-assigned to patrol the Western frontier, including in national Parks.

After we completed the trail we got back onto the bus and went for a buffet lunch. There was so much choice, and for an all you can eat it was surprisingly lovely. We then headed back to Vegas. In three days we travelled over 1000 miles thanks to our great driver Ricardo.

We freshened up and headed to Fremont Street. This part of the strip is full of casinos, live music and DJs. We decided to go on the zip wire here. Knees trembling and a heart rate pushing 120 as I was dangled in mid air. It was really fun whilst doing it though. The thought is always worse than the deed! We then grabbed a drink and danced the night away. There were some real characters here, including a lady lacking in clothing on her bottom half. They were having a dance off! It was a real laugh!

Day 3 – 1st October


This morning we stopped at the Carl Hayden Visitors Centre and Glen Canyon.

The dam here took 3.5 years to do all the preparatory work, beginning in 1956. The work involved building the road, bridge, town of Page, diversion tunnels and electrical lines. It then took a further 2.5 years to raise the 710 foot / 216m dam. This surprised me, as it didn’t seem very long to build something this big. In England it would have taken a lot longer?!

Workers called highscalers used these little seats to travel down the Canyon face during the dam’s construction. They blasted and chipped the rock to prepare the Canyon walls for bridge footings and dam abutments. The seat was so tiny, and didn’t look too safe. Certainly wouldn’t have passed health and safety tests today. Highscalers still maintain the concrete surface of the dam and the adjacent canyon walls. Although thankfully, now they use harnesses and much stricter safety regulations!

We then took a cruise along Lake Powell. This lake was in Planet of the Apes and also a Britney music video! Our cruise went around Antelope Canyon, created from flash floods and named this because antelopes migrate here in the winter.

The cruise was amazing we went right into the Antelope Canyon, winding round with more of the layered sandstone. The colour comes from the sand which is coated with iron oxide. This rusts and creates the beautiful autumnal colours.

We travelled to Utah, and took a visit to Bryce Canyon, which I think has been the favourite part of the trip so far. You could trek down to the bottom, I didn’t make it all the way down but the views from the top were absolutely outstanding. More of the beautiful layered rusty sandstone which had been eroded away created columns of stone.

We made our way back to Kanab where our hotel was. We headed to an amazing restaurant where I had fresh fish tacos and shared key lime pie, and pecan caramel cheesecake which was obviously sent from heaven as it was so, so delicious. The service was great too, welcomed us in as if we were family. It was a great end to a fantastic day.

Wedding Cake


Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, if you want keep up to date with my adventures on my Instagram @mariablackstone… I tend to post more regularly on there.

I have been busy with a new job – I am now working as a Graphic Designer for a wine supplier (lucky me), I have been away to Menorca and Belgium and spending the summer enjoying myself, and getting out as much as I can before I go to study in September. I have a wine course to go on next week, and am then starting a graphic design course a few weeks after that. I’m excited to learn lots of new stuff but apprehsive about the battle I will no doubt have with my energy levels. 

I also made my first ever wedding cake for a friend round the corner. I did a tasting for them and they chose vanilla and lemon – perfect for the summer. It was decorated simply with roses, berries and herbs from their garden. I was super pleased with the result and was amazing to know that people would enjoy all my hard work and efforts and that I could be a small part of their big day. 

If you’d like a cake for your special occasion, please do get in touch and I can discuss options and prices with you. 

A girl with an appetite for all things creative,

Maria x

Quick Tomato Salad

Recipes, Uncategorized

Tomato Salad.jpgUse the best of the summer’s tomatoes in this delicious, herby tomato salad. I served mine with lamb fillet marinated in garlic, rosemary & lemon & some buttered new potatoes. But it’s perfect on it’s own, served with some crusty fresh bread to mop up the juices. The perfect simple supper.


  • One or two large tomatoes
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes ( I used red & yellow from my mum’s garden)
  • Handful of flat leaf parsley
  • 2-3 basil leaves (I used purple basil from the garden)
  • A few chives
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil


  1. Chop your tomatoes how ever you please, I sliced mine in big thin slices & halved my cherry tomatoes.
  2. Roughly chop your herbs, and add these to a bowl with the tomatoes
  3. In a cup, lightly whisk your vinegar and olive oil, and season to taste. You can add more oil/vinegar to suit your taste. I like mine quite sharp.
  4. Add this to your tomatoes & herbs and mix together. Add more seasoning if it needs it.
  5. Place into your serving dish & enjoy!


A girl with an appetite for all things creative,

Maria x


Day 10 – 22nd February

Photography, Uncategorized

The birds woke me up this morning, rather than my alarm. Earlier than I had hoped but I had slept fairly well and decided to get up for breakfast. If only waking up for work was that easy. 

I had an amazing breakfast, the hotel is more catered for Europeans, and given the size of the hotel the buffet was extensive. I had some delicious fresh passion fruit, pineapple and pancakes. Then had a roti with an omelette. I sadly can’t stomach curry this early in the morning. It’s not quite the same as having left over take away. The eggs here are so fresh and I wanted to make sure I filled up so I didn’t need lunch. 

I wasn’t going to head to the shops this morning, which was organised by our guide – however he mentioned we would visit a batik factory and I knew I couldn’t pass up the photo opportunity. It was extremely interesting seeing the process and how talented these ladies are. I remember doing it at school and finding it quite difficult. I decided to buy 2 silk scarfs, spending a small fortune but I really haven’t spent overly much this holiday, so thought why not?! This experience was on my list of the top things I have done on my trip along with the elephant safari! 

I then came back to the hotel and chilled by the amazing pool. I took a dip in the pool – the water was so warm and refreshing! I read a bit and sorted out my batik photos. I am meeting my group in a bit for the final time before having dinner together. I am starving! So can’t wait to eat lots and lots of delicious food. 

I may head down to the beach tomorrow evening to see the sunset as I think I may have missed it today. The beach looks okay but isn’t overly beautiful. 

A girl with an appetite for all things creative,

Maria x

Day 8 and 9 – 20th & 21st February

Photography, Uncategorized

Yesterday we left the hotel and headed on a very, very bumpy road to Wilpattu National Park. Here we went on a safari. For me this wasn’t a patch on the previous elephant safari. However we did see some deer, lots of birds, monkeys, land monitors and a crocodile. We also saw a sloth bear and did spot a leopard which the park is known for. However I didn’t really ‘see’ it, only something that moved as it was very far away. Some people got good pictures however I didn’t as my lens wasn’t powerful enough. We then headed back to the hotel. 

This morning we headed to some more temples. Three complexes full of stupas, buddhas, baths and temples. As much as they are beautiful I am now dreaming of relaxing on the beach. I did enjoy a king coconut, which I was unsure of but it was quite refreshing!
We stopped for lunch and had a nice buffet, I needed to eat as I was feeling rough from the heat. In one of the stupas we had to take our shoes off (obviously) but the ground was so hot, walking on it gave me goosebumps. I felt a little sick after this but nothing some water, food and an ice cold glass of Diet Coke didn’t fix. 

We then headed to our final destination. A three – four hour bus journey to Marawilla, staying at a hotel called Club Palm Bay. I have emailed someone about a taxi to the airport on Saturday so hopefully he will give a good price. He came recommended from Carmen, a girl on my trip. My guide is also trying to organise something for me. 

We arrived at our hotel and it is beautiful. I am going to enjoy my time here. I will relax by the pool for the next few days and take a walk down the beach. Just waiting for my case to arrive to me room before going for dinner! 

A girl with an appetite for all things creative,

Maria x

Day 7 – 19th February

Inspiration, Uncategorized

I didn’t sleep all to well, the birds at the hotel were up early and making a lot of noise. We had breakfast which was fairly basic, but after the lovely buffet last night I wasn’t overly hungry. We headed to the Dambula Cave Temple dating back to the seventh-century. This is one of the most well-preserved temple & cave sites in Sri Lanka. There were 4-5 caves lined with beautiful Buddhist paintings and statues. This compared to the Temple of the Tooth Relic was far more interesting and impressive. We also saw the huge gold Buddha. 

After this we then headed to a farm. We had a delicious lunch here. The aubergine curry was especially delicious. This farm had around 700 acres of land. We saw buffalo, mangoes, bananas, rice paddies and coconut trees. They grow lots of fruit and vegetables. They have 1000 workers and they get paid 1,000 lkr per day. It was very interesting. 

After this we headed on an optional excursion to Minneriya National Park. This wasn’t on the itinerary so I was totally ecstatic at the thought of going to a National Park renound for Elephants. This was something I had considered doing in my free time at the end of the trip, but with a 4 hour journey each way it really wasn’t worth it. There are about 100-150 elephants in this park and we were so lucky that we got to see the majority. Buddhists see elephants as a sacred animal, and this has probably been the highlight of my trip so far. 

We went for dinner in a restaurant in Dambulla called Mango Mango, then headed back to the hotel for a good nights sleep. 

A girl with an appetite for all things creative,

Day 6 – 18th February


This morning we left the hotel at 9.30 after a delicious breakfast. I tried an egg hopper which is a Sri Lankan dish consisting of a rice flour pancake bowl, very thin and quite crispy with an egg cooked in the bottom of it. It was served with a delicious spiced onion chutney. I also had some croissants with some pineapple jam – this was very tasty. 

We headed to a Matale Spice Garden. Here we learned about the different spices they grow in Sri Lanka and also how they use this in Ayerveda. This was very interesting especially after the lecture we had yesterday. We then had a 10 minute massage using the oils and for me some Aloe Vera gel as I had a little sun burn. This was free but I gave a tip of 200lkr costing around £1. I wish I could do that at home! I bought some vanilla extract from the shop, it was cheap and smelt beautiful.

We then headed to Nalanda Gedige, a combined Hindu & Buddhist site influenced by India. We didn’t spend too long here and my mind was a bit preoccupied in my mind with the thought of climbing Sigiriya Rock. We stopped for lunch afterwards, I had a fair amount to eat for breakfast so just got some snacks from the supermarket. 

We then headed on to Sigiriya. It is a UNESCO listed ruin. The Sigiriya Rock Fortress had very impressive gardens. They have two principles – preserving nature, and symmetry. We climbed Sigiriya Rock, meaning Lions rock with approximately 1,200 steps each way. The rock rests 370m above sea level. Half way up, there were wall paintings called Frescoes. We couldn’t take pictures of this.

I DID IT. I climbed to the top. I now feel like I can pretty much do anything if I want to. I knew my great aunt of 79 climbed it, so I didn’t really have much choice but to get to the top. The views were amazing, and combined with my sense of achievement I really did feel like I was on top of the world! 

After climbing down, we headed back by bus to our hotel. We had a buffet dinner again which was delicious, vegetable curries, dahls and freshly cooked stir fry. Yummy! 

Off to a Temple tomorrow and hopefully an elephant safari. 

Night all, 

A girl with a creative appetite,

Maria x

Day 5 – Friday 17th


Today I decided to pluck up the courage and give the hike a go. We left at 6am without breakfast. 

It was a walk from our beautiful hotel, through the knuckles mountain range, so if I couldn’t continue I just needed to walk back. I decided to take it a bit at a time and after 2 hours I got to the top. The views were incredible, and along the way we saw little villages, and our local guide showed us spices and herbs like cloves, black pepper and lemon grass. 

On the way down I had a minor hallucination – thinking a dog was attacking me when in reality it was just my scarf… I was hungry okay. 

Afterwards we had some breakfast and then shortly headed on the bus to Kandy to learn about Ayerveda, meaning life knowledge. This talk was about the history of the traditional herbs used in the practice as well as a discussion of the difference in using a holistic approach vs. Modern medicine. This was quite interesting. 

We then headed on to the city centre and did a walking tour with our guide. We walked all around the lake in Kandy city and then down the main streets. We also saw an elephant and although he was well looked after it was sad to see him chained up. I really do hope I get to see an elephant in the wild on our safari. 

We then headed back to our hotel and enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner. After nearly 33,000 steps today I will certainly sleep well tonight! I have to climb 1200 steps tomorrow so am a little nervous.

Night all, 

A girl with an appetite for all things creative,

Maria x