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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

I love a trip to Little India in Singapore. The area is so colorful and different than the rest of Singapore. You often forget that you are on this tiny island all together.

We had our first visitors in September and they wanted to check the area out. With the food and the visually stunning temples, this was not a hard sale for me. Here is a small collection of photos I took that day.

Temples, temples and more temples…

little india 1

temple

little india 3

little india 2

Beautiful shophouses

shophouses

Am I the tourist or is he?

tourist

Locals shopping for groceries

local shopping for bananas

Who can resist a coconut stand?

coconuts

British girl Amy’s first coconut.

chris and amy coconut

I think she liked it.

amy coconut

Note: Sunday in Little India gets very hectic. It can be overwhelming. Plan accordingly.

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Sun. Paella at La Pepica. Roman architecture in the city centre. Spontaneous street parades. Independent designer street vendors. Reflexology from my beach chair. 14 girl hen / bachelorette party. Sangria. Cava.

A great weekend in a beautiful city with a wicked group of ladies. I really do love Spain. Although Seville is so far my favorite Spanish city, it does lack a beach, a quality Valencia delivers highly on. Unfortunately my fancy pants camera is in the shop. Again. Well, technically it’s not in the shop anymore. It’s being held ransom in UK customs. Here are a few shots I took with my extremely vintage iPhone. Let me know what you think.

We were greeted at the airport by these lovely gluten free, vegan hen cupcakes. What a great way to start our journey.

Valencia has a thriving night life and the old city at night is absolutely breathtaking.

The silly sunglasses man made out like a bandit on us. Here is the normally gorgeous Anna giving the rest of us a fair shot at looking beautiful too.

Valencia Beach. If you get a reflexology on the beach, pick the lady with the Dora the Explorer bag and flowered hat. The rest pale in comparison. Kind of like standing next to Anna when she's not wearing those ugly glasses.

After some partying and beach time with the ladies, I took a later flight so that I could explore the old city myself. I am so glad I did as I ran across many spectacular moments in the short span of a Sunday afternoon.

The Cathedral.

The Cathedral.

The Cathedral.

Torre del Micalet.

Couple at Torre del Micalet.

City view from Torre del Micalet..

Fountain in Plaza de la Virgin

Child vs. pigeon standoff in Plaza de la Virgin.

A bit of modern architecture mixed in.

Valencia street view.

Random street performance. These ladies were amazing.

Clarinet player in the street performance band.

Costumed men joining the street performance.

And now I’m finding it difficult to get back to the mundane tasks that life is requiring. I guess that’s what Monday is all about. What do you think the people of Valencia are doing right now? With a current 24% unemployment in Spain, perhaps I should stop day dreaming and get back to work…. for now.

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Last month I had two BFFs come all the way from Texas to visit. Of course in the line-up of events was the obligatory trip to Stonehenge where my lovely friend, Jennifer, snapped this one.

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When your living abroad, traveling back to your home country for Christmas can seem like a whole lot of work. It’s not just the trans-Atlantic flight or the juggling of  family and family politics when you get there, it’s also that you are trying to do it at the most hectic time of year when expectations are really high. Sometimes it seems like a better return on your investment (price of tickets, time off work, etc) to see your family when things are less busy and there’s less pressure to squeeze so much in. Although, I’m sure my mother disagrees.

That’s why this year Husband and I opted out. Instead of heading to the States, we headed to Normandy to stay with Suse in her picturesque converted barn in the countryside. Since we were already going through the trouble of crossing the channel to France, I figured we might as well throw in some time in the Champagne region.

Visions of hopping from winery to winery tasting champagne replaced sugarplum fairies in my head. Unfortunately, since it was winter, bicycling the Champagne Route and ending up in Epernay turned out to be a damp, cold and unpleasant option. So instead of hopping on a bicycle, we parked ourselves in Reims to check out a few of the wineries there.

While in Reims, we toured the Taittinger and Pommery caves, two Champagne houses with two completely different approaches to their tours. Both included tastings at the end, but Taittinger took a grown up, classy and clear approach to explaining their process while Pommery made an odd attempt at turning their cellars into an art gallery. The Pommery tour came off a bit Disney-fied and frankly, weird. But there was still Champagne at the end so I can’t say it was bad.

Champagne fermenting in bottles at Taittinger.

I'll take them all, thanks.

I'll take these too, thanks.

The entire experience was very interesting historically. The caves of Reims, many of which have been there since they were carved out of the chalk subsoil by Roman slaves, have housed everything from monks, to refugees of World War II. You can even glimpse ancient carvings that have been made into the walls.

Wall carvings in Taittinger caves.

Wall carvings in Taittinger caves.

The tasting.

Other highlights in Reims include the Brasserie du Boulingrin, a traditional brasserie opened in 1925, and the Cathédrale Notre Dame, a beautiful gothic piece of architecture whose history goes back to either 400 AD or 1211 AD, depending on how you look at it, and includes Joan of Arc and the decapitation of Saint Nicaise. I have no photographic evidence of the hedonism we experienced at the Brasserie du Boulingrin, however, I can tell you that the highlight of the meal was the chocolate souffle dessert paired with a lovely serving of Calvados. Just thinking about it makes me melt into my chair. As far as the Cathedral goes, I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Notre-Dame de Reims

Notre-Dame de Reims

Notre-Dame de Reims

Notre-Dame de Reims

Depiction of the decapitation of Saint Nicaise

Rose Window, Notre-Dame de Reims

Rose Window, Notre-Dame de Reims

Post WWII stained glass windows.

A return to the Champagne region is certainly on my list. However, next time there will be sunshine. And bicycles.

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I was given a tip to stop by the York Sculpture Park while traveling from Leeds back to London. Husband and I had some time to spare and thought, why not?

I wasn’t expecting anything major, maybe something along the lines of the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. I was surprised to find that this place was so expansive and impressive. We ended up spending the whole day exploring the grounds and exhibits.

 

York Sculpture Park is just one mile from Junction 38 of the M1 and is open daily except 24 & 25 December. Admission is free, parking is £5. 

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Leroy and Mariah were both in town visiting. We were at a pub looking through our travel guides  and trying to decide what exactly it was we wanted to do with our week. The contrasts were stark.  Husband was completely embarrassed by our public display of tourism. Mariah, ever the planner, had her wheels spinning. Laid-back Leroy was agreeing to every suggestion without too much enthusiasm. That is, until we mentioned visiting a few monoliths. The Discovery Channel buff in him suddenly perked up and Mariah and I knew we had to make it happen.

Since Stonehenge is a little cliche and Mariah and I had already been there, we decided to visit Avebury. Word was that it was better and the oldest stone circle in Europe. The stone circles are multiple in number, more accessible and integrated into the town. In fact, the town is built inside these massive stone circles.

Luck was with us as the sun was shining for our drive out to Avebury. We parked the car and quickly found the main attraction: strategically placed large stones. Although Avebury does not carry the iconic image that Stonehenge has blazed in our collective consciousness, the sheer number of stones and organization was much greater than that of Stonehenge.

Avebury

After a bit of walking around the stones we headed into the museum. I needed context for what we were viewing. The staff at the museum was a breathe of fresh air. Tourist sites have a tendency to make one feel like cattle. The people at Avebury seemed generally excited to have our company. It was a bit like dating the sister of the prom queen.

A walk through the stones.

Let’s consult Wikipedia for historical background.

Constructed around 2600 BCE, during the Neolithic, or ‘New Stone Age’, the monument comprises of a large henge, surrounded by a bank and a ditch. Inside this henge is a large outer stone circle, with two separate smaller stone circles situated inside the centre of the monument. Its original purpose is not known, although archaeologists believe that it was most likely used for some form of ritual or ceremonial usage. The Avebury monument was a part of a larger prehistoric landscape containing several older monuments nearby, including West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill.

In the Late Mediaeval and Early Modern periods, locals destroyed many of the standing stones in the monument, and a village was built in the centre of it. The antiquarians John Aubrey and William Stukeley however took an interest in Avebury, and recorded much of the site before its destruction. Archaeologists proceeded to excavate at the site in the 20th century.

It’s wild to think about someone chopping down this ancient stone arrangement to build onto their house. I guess it felt silly to go in search of new raw materials when these had been delivered right to your doorstep. Plus, the historical nature of the stones may not have been widely understood or respected in the Late Medieval and Early Modern times.

Stone Marked Road

One thing about Avebury that I absolutely can not recommend is the Red Lion Pub in the village. The service was more than atrocious, it was comical.  The food was just plain bad. They were out of half the menu. I don’t know how you mess up fried food that badly but the chips were terrible. We were treated like an annoyance by the kid behind the bar. They forgot to bring our dessert. They were out of coffee cups. Not out of coffee, just out of vessels (for there or to go) to hold it in because they had a rush of visitors a few days earlier. Not that morning. Not yesterday. A few DAYS earlier. Yeah, it didn’t make sense to me either.

Do not eat here.

Constructed around 2600 BCE,[1] during the Neolithic, or ‘New Stone Age’, the monument comprises of a large henge, surrounded by a bank and a ditch. Inside this henge is a large outer stone circle, with two separate smaller stone circles situated inside the centre of the monument. Its original purpose is not known, although archaeologists believe that it was most likely used for some form of ritual or ceremonial usage. The Avebury monument was a part of a larger prehistoric landscape containing several older monuments nearby, including West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill.

In the Late Mediaeval and Early Modern periods, locals destroyed many of the standing stones in the monument, and a village was built in the centre of it. The antiquarians John Aubrey and William Stukeley however took an interest in Avebury, and recorded much of the site before its destruction. Archaeologists proceeded to excavate at the site in the 20th century.

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Photo not mine.

I have two modes when it comes to making it to the airport for a flight. I am either extremely early or barely make it. The other weekend I happened to be extremely early.

Husband and I went to our usual Gatwick pub for a pre-flight beverage and sub-standard reheated frozen snack. I approached the counter and made my order. The bartender squinted. “Um, can I see some I.D?”

The legal drinking age in the UK is 18. I am no longer anywhere near 18. I call bullshit on anyone who wants to tell me I look younger than 18. Nonetheless, I’ll take this as a compliment. I know bartenders in the UK are trained to I.D. anyone who doesn’t look 25. I like to believe that I can pass for 25.

I go to retrieve my passport and make it back to the counter. “Ah, American” he says when he sees it. “You know, I love some American accents. Some of them are really nice. Yours is really nice.”

“Thank you,” I reply. This is a nice surprise. I usually get told that American accents sound like a British person with a mouth full of bubble gum.

He feels the need to go on. He’s compensating with friendliness for having asked for I.D. “Some of them are really bad. Like Texas accents. I hate Texas accents. They are awful.”

I thank him again as I grab my beer.

“Where in the U.S. are you from?” he asks.

“I’m from Texas,” I reply as I prepare to walk away.

His face goes blank and he lets out a stutter.

Awkward.

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