Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Category Archives: Nature

East Lake, the gem of Wuhan

If there’s anything that makes living in Wuhan more desirable, it’s the East Lake. You may have heard of West Lake, which is a world-renowned tourist attraction in Hangzhou, China, but I’m sure not many people have heard of East Lake in Wuhan. I had mentioned East Lake several times in my previous posts, and I had intended to write a post dedicated to it, but it’s hard to describe and represent so much beauty in one post. But I’ll try.

Wuhan is known to some as “the city of a hundred lakes” because of the large number of lakes that can be found within the city limits. East Lake is the second largest city lake in China (the largest is Tangxun Lake, also in Wuhan) and a (mostly) admission-free category 5A scenic attraction. How big is East Lake? Well, huge! Don’t assume you can simply walk around it in one shot, as the shore length is supposedly >100 km. The vehicle of choice is definitely the bike, and this has been made easier by bike-sharing schemes in the city. In fact, public bikes usually are quite difficult to find near East Lake because of the high demand, so we often had to find them before we got to the lake area.

When cycling the East Lake, the outer shore is not the only route and is actually perhaps the road less taken. What’s great about East Lake is the system of interconnected paths constructed specifically for cyclists and pedestrians, known as the “East Lake Greenway”. These run through the entire lake region, connecting islands, parks, and different sub-areas, making it possible to explore something new with every trip. The map below shows the major paths of the different sections of the lake, but the smaller cycling/hiking paths within each region are not illustrated. Looking at the map, J and I have completed the orange, green, teal, blue, and the right half of the light purple segment by bike. I’ve walked the dark purple segment but have yet to cycle through it, and the red segment, which is the main one through the lake, remains untouched. Well I shall get to you…

Map of the interconnected routes in the East Lake Greenway system, from the official web site (in Chinese only, unfortunately).

I happen to live a stone’s throw away from East Lake and so it is one of the places that J and I frequent, especially on summer nights and weekends. During August last year, we went cycling three times within a two-week period, each time going a different route. Let’s just remind you that Wuhan is infamous for its scorching hot summers and is known as one of the “four big ovens” in China. So, going outdoor in AUGUST was unthinkable for me, but I got tempted and convinced. We did decide to go after 4 pm, when the heat has subsided a bit, so it wasn’t all THAT horrible – just had to bring lots of water. In fact, one thing I like about the greenway is that the roads are mostly flat, so there aren’t a lot of hills or rough paths and it’s a fun, leisurely ride most of the way. Along with the late afternoon wind, you almost don’t feel the heat that much and you can spend your time admiring the beautiful scenery offered by East Lake.

With COVID-19 ravaging the globe, we are still strongly encouraged to stay at home and therefore I haven’t made a visit to East Lake yet this year. But I will see you again soon, East Lake! Now you are wondering where the photos are – I am saving them for the end and here they are! Enjoy 😉

Light evening cycle in the Luoyan Scenic Area (blue segment on map, “luo yan” translates to “falling crane”). There was a tiny lone island not too far from the shore, occupied by nothing but trees. The skyline of Wuhan can be seen in the distance on the right.

Leisurely stroll in the Tingtao Scenic Area (dark purple segment on map, “ting tao” translates to “listening to waves”). A boardwalk stretches outward into the lake, leading to a small pavilion.

Another segment in the Luoyan Scenic Area, this time across from the “Wangguo Park” (“wanguo” translates to “ten thousand kingdoms”). It’s an abandoned theme park built years ago, with remains of Egyptian pyramids, medieval castles, and windmills.

Can’t remember where this photo was taken, but the greenness of it always refreshes my mood. It feels like this could be a fairyland unknown to us mere muggles…

I think this was still the Luoyan Scenic Area, but it’s clear that this was in the middle of summer as the lotus pads covered entire sections of the lake. And the remaining rays of sunlight are still trying to outshine the looming clouds that announce the arrival of night…good evening.

Nearing the northernmost tip of the light purple segment, Wuhan’s skyline is now clearly visible in front of us and feels easily within reach.

Almost arriving at the westernmost tip of the orange segment, the sun has decided to grace us with its last appearance of the day and give us a break from the heat, finally.

Spring in Wuhan, China

If you’re not already aware, Wuhan, the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, has been under lockdown since mid-January (along with the entire Hubei province, where Wuhan is situated) in an attempt to contain the coronavirus. What this means is that all points of exit have been blocked (highways, airport, and train stations), and people in the city can’t get out. Technically it is still possible to get in, but it is perhaps the most difficult task on the planet at the moment. For Jian and me, who live and work in Wuhan, this means that after our trip to Japan, we were unable to return home, and we had been staying in the city of Dalian since February. It seems promising that as the coronavirus situation gets better every day in China, Wuhan will be “unlocked” soon (whatever “soon” actually means), but until then, we wait patiently.

Didn’t manage to book a free ticket to Wuhan University’s sakura festival last year, so I went to the one at East Lake. So many colours, but many more people… (not obvious here, but trust me)

Rapeseed flowers covering vast areas by Yujia Lake last March. Not as huge of an attraction as the cherry blossoms so the crowds were not as heavy.

I think back to last March, when spring covered the city of Wuhan in blossoms and fragrance. I always say that I hate the climate of Wuhan – scorching hot summers and damp, cold winters. But spring is the exception and that ray of hope. March is the time when the dampness finally begins to disappear, and we welcome the sunlight with open arms because we know it won’t be long before we wished that the sun would hide itself again. People begin putting away their thick coats, and the East Lake suddenly comes to life with joggers and cyclists who can’t wait to embrace the warmth of nature. Little wild flowers appear out of nowhere and dress the city in a colourful gown, giving off the most subtle but pleasant scent without the need of a single drop of perfume. The hibernating spirit awakes – this is spring.

Countless violet-pink magnolia buds on the east HUST campus, some already in full bloom!

Tulip festival in Jiefang Park, among other locations. Didn’t have to go to Ottawa or Keukenhof to see these beauties!

Except that’s not the case this year. The unexpected COVID-19 outbreak has put Wuhan into a prolonged pause in 2020. The city continues to quarantine itself, and though spring has already arrived, the streets remain empty, the parks remain desolate, and the city remains quietly asleep. I miss the gorgeous cherry blossoms at Wuhan University, the endless sea of rapeseed fields at Yujia Lake, the graceful magnolias that bloom on the biomed campus, the vibrant tulips at Jiefang Park, and the humble yet charming peach blossoms that line my way to work. I regret that I will not be able to enjoy my favourite time of the year in Wuhan, but OK, I ought to be less greedy and give spring a break. For once, the spring air will be clean and without human pollutants, and nature itself will have a chance to breathe and rejuvenate. Isn’t that a lovely consequence of this seemingly unfortunate event?

Pretty little peach blossoms were everywhere I looked en route between my workplace and the bus station. They are my favourite spring flower in Wuhan because they’re so delicate and cute!

Night falls in Wuhan. We are still waiting for the day the city becomes its vibrant self again!

After all, spring will come back again next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. For now, Wuhan, rest and heal. You’re almost there!

The falling leaves drift by my window

Autumn came and went like the wind this year in Glasgow and we seem to be already in the midst of winter in mid-November. If I thought that last year’s autumn colours were gorgeous, then I must say that they pale in comparison to this year’s. Maybe it’s because the weather had been unusually mild this year and we surprisingly haven’t gotten so much rain. Maybe it’s because I finally discovered how majestic that tree looks outside my office window. Maybe…Lady Autumn decided to grace us with her presence more sophisticatedly than she did in previous years. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Kelvingrove Park is a 10-minute walk from my walk and my office but I tend to overlook its proximity and hence don’t go there often. During the summer, it is a great place to have a picnic or a barbecue, and when autumn comes and the colours change, an afternoon stroll on a rainless day is quite relaxing. I’m glad I took a walk when autumn was at its best – two weeks later the branches would have all turned bald!

Of course, my workplace, the University of Glasgow, is itself the perfect place to observe the changes in season. Every corner is full of magic and I sometimes really do think I work at Hogwarts. The Main Building, especially its tower, at the centre of the campus likes to take the spotlight and appears in many photos of the university that I’ve taken. Already an impressive structure that I have the luxury of passing by every day, it looks even more exquisite in the midst of the orange, red, and yellow leaves. Now, only about a week after I’ve taken photos, autumn is no more, and we are left preparing for the onset of the delayed rainy season…

(By the way, the title of this post is the opening line of the beautifully classic song, “Autumn Leaves”. A few months ago I stumbled upon an instrumental “cover” of this song and fell in love with it – here it is to share with everyone!)

The four seasons of Glasgow

When people ask me what time of the year is Glasgow’s rainy season, I tell them that every season is a rainy season in Glasgow. At least that’s what it felt like during my one year as a resident of Glasgow.

Nevertheless, the city is still beautiful in every season, even though it sometimes seems as if summer doesn’t exist. Aside from the rain, which is a constant in every season, we do manage to see different colours at various times of the year – a green spring, a blue summer, a red autumn, and a white winter. If you mix everything, the overall impression might still be “gray”, and any rainless day is a cause for celebration 😉

Spring

Spring is the time of the year when life begins to revive after having been asleep for a few months. Blooming flowers are to be seen everywhere, painting Glasgow in vibrant colours and the hope of warmth. Ditch not your umbrellas and rain jackets, however! Rain is aplenty and will wash the city at any given moment, but a forecast of sun for five days in a row (!) reminds me that the toughest months of November to February are over. Weekends can now be spent outdoors, hah!!

Summer

Ah, summer. It is rarely warmer than 25 degrees Celsius in Glasgow, and I’ve heard that the Scots consider it a heat wave if the temperature rises above 24 – is that true, my Scottish friends? Daylight is abundant, and the first rays of sunshine through the window often wake me up at 4am while the sun does not set until 11pm. How awesome is that! Then again, it is easier to lose track of time during the summer – you think it’s only 7pm but all of a sudden it’s midnight. Wasn’t it still bright half an hour ago?!

Autumn

While autumn is my favourite season in Toronto, I’m not sure if I feel the same way in Glasgow. The temperature begins to drop, and the transition into winter is especially difficult to adapt to as gray skies and drizzling rain dominate the atmosphere. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. The sun becomes especially scarce and precious during this period of time, and we really do learn to appreciate every moment of sunlight. We do have some gorgeous red leaves, though, which is a source of consolation and at least adds some colour to my walk to work.

Winter

As a Canadian, I’m raised to believe that winter is incomplete without snow. Luckily (for me, perhaps unluckily for others) that there had been snow during the two Glaswegian winters that I’ve experienced, and I definitely prefer snow over rain! When I heard from my friends and family that the temperature went down to -15 degrees Celsius in January, I was quite glad to have avoided the bone-chilling shivers and thankful to be here with this gentle snow. This year, it really “snowed” only on one day, but that was enough to get me quite excited! Although the snow only lasted one day and pretty much melted away by the next afternoon, I was satisfied to say that it was a REAL winter, hehe.

And now, it is the beginning of February. Yesterday was Groundhog Day but I think the groundhog in Glasgow would have been pretty pissed off when he emerged from his burrow to see another rainy day. I’m not sure if spring is coming soon, but I’m happy to see that the sky is gradually getting brighter when I step out of the office at 5:30pm. And today was an entirely sunny day! What a gift! 😀

The question is not “Do you see my shadow?” but “Where’s my umbrella?” 😦 😦 😦

Somewhere over the rainbow

Somewhere over the rainbow…the sun is hiding, perhaps. I am not kidding when I say that I haven’t seen the sun in almost three weeks. Well, it comes out once in a blue moon after the rain, but always for a very short period of time and always behind heavy, grey clouds. What I ought to say is that I have forgotten what blue sky looks like 😦 Oh Glasgow, must you do this to me?

I guess you win some and you lose some, or the other way around. If there is no rain, then who could experience and appreciate the beauty of the rainbow? Thinking of this made me realize that rainbows are one of my favourite things to photograph, though I obviously don’t have as many photos of rainbows as I would have liked since it depends a lot on timing. Still, here is a compilation of some of my favourite rainbow scenes captured throughout the past years.

I can’t stress enough my NEED to get a window seat when I travel on a plane. The only exception is when I have to make a connecting flight within a short period of time, in which case I would compromise and go for an aisle seat. Then I would miss views like this. It was raining as the plane took off from Glasgow last December, and without high expectations of seeing anything glorious, I looked outside the window, just in time to see the opposite of the expected – a semi-rainbow hanging from the sky. Perhaps then, I loved rain a little bit more, even if it were just for a split moment.

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