Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

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April 2019

It’s almost the end of May and I am only getting to the April 2019 post…very late, I know. During the past weeks I’ve been contemplating ending the blog for a variety of reasons, but perhaps not just yet. I might write a post about it – I say that about a lot of topics and never got to them, which is one of the reasons why I want to stop blogging altogether – but before that, let’s recap the month of April, the final reasonably comfortable month in Wuhan in terms of weather…

During the Qingming holiday (early April), J and I went back to his hometown in the countryside and enjoyed breathing fresh air away from the big city. We encountered a cat who seemed to be contemplating its own existence and pondering the meaning of life at a neighbour’s house…or maybe it was just in a daze and waiting for food.

One of the items on my bucket list was to fly a kite and it was achieved during this trip! Well, I’ve flown a kite before this, but not successfully. I was really young and only remember that the kite somehow didn’t work properly – in hindsight we probably just didn’t know how to handle it. This time, I was super ready! J and I reached an open area and the early April weather was just perfect, breezy but not cold! See that kite fly! Higher up, up, and up!

It’s nice to get away from the city once in a while, especially one with so much distraction like Wuhan. Going back to the countryside allowed us to spend some peaceful time where the only thing we heard was the wind in the air and carefree birds chirping.

But of course we had to come back to the city. April was getting warm but not so hot that it was unbearable to go for a walk outside after lunch. The area around my workplace offered some beautiful nature, though the types of flowers weren’t as diverse as those that I saw in March.

Oh hey, almost didn’t see you there, little thing.

This was taken near the station where I usually take the subway to go home after work, capturing the final moments of daylight emitting from the golden globe.

During a random walk on the HUST campus, J and I encountered an event held by a department celebrating their 20th (I think) year of establishment. Naval engineering, I think? There were performances and a small party in the pavilion in the middle of the small lake. I remember very clearly that I got angry at J that evening, though I can’t for the life of me remember why O_O

On the last day of April, I arrived in Nanjing before the entire nation went traveling for the Labour Day mini-holiday. It was definitely a good call because most people didn’t begin their travels until May 1, and so the crowds in the tourist areas of Nanjing were quite bearable. I especially enjoyed hanging around the Qinhuai River, which has quite a lovely atmosphere when it wasn’t smothered by people!

And in Nanjing, of course I didn’t hesitate going to the Fuzi Temple tourist area for the famous street food! Wow there were so many goodies that I couldn’t resist even though I was suffering from a bad cold. I realize that a lot of these typically tourist areas were remodeled to resemble an old town and are heavily commercialized, but even knowing that, I rather enjoyed Nanjing. Then again, that might be because I would rather be anywhere else than Wuhan…

It seems like I can’t write a post without dissing Wuhan or expressing my strong dislike for it, and I don’t think my feelings toward this city will change any time soon. May is also the month that marks the one-year anniversary of my arrival in Wuhan so hey, at least it hasn’t defeated me yet – or has it already defeated me by changing me into someone that even I dislike?

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March 2019

Spring is here! I’m hoping it stays awhile before the impending doom of Wuhan’s summer arrives and sucks the life and sweat out of me. March has been a month of generally good weather that made it comfortable for going out, especially to view the various types of blooming flowers, including tulips and cherry blossoms. But I’ll write an individual post about the seasons of Wuhan in the future. For now, let’s talk about spring and March 2019!

This month was all about nature and one of my favourite phenomena to observe is dramatic cloud formations. Like THIS. Let’s ignore the fact that Luoyo Road was madly congested in the opposite direction and enjoy the smooth ride on our electric scooter (operated by J, with me as a passenger), against this fabulous sunset hour!

Dramatic cloud formations #2 – at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology campus. Again I was on the scooter and I told J, “STOP! I need to take a photo of this!”

Dramatic cloud formations #3 – enjoying another sunset, before the sun turns into a monster in the summer. The road was rather crowded with people when I was taking this photo, but I was sufficiently distracted by the unexpectedly lovely scenery and wasn’t as annoyed as I usually would have been.

Onto the flowers – first up, white magnolias in the technology park where my company was based. Well, I think they’re called magnolia, as that was what a colleague told me. One day they just appeared out of nowhere and sprouted and bloomed around the park. It instantly lit up my lunchtime stroll and I couldn’t stop myself from taking way too many photos of these beauties ❤

And here’s a collection of the many types of flowers that I noticed during my walks around the park. I can’t name them all or…any of them, to be honest. I’m going to guess the bright red ones at the top right are late-blooming plum blossoms (peak bloom happened about three weeks ago) and the others are various types of peach blossoms. Someone please tell me what they really are??

As I mentioned previously, peak plum blossom season was approximately three weeks ago (early to mid-March). On a gorgeous Sunday, I went to the plum blossom garden at East Lake and it seemed like every resident of Wuhan was also there – it was so crowded! Can’t blame them though, the weather had been so horrendous for weeks prior to that, so even the slightest sliver of sunlight was able to attract anyone to spend the day outdoor. Though crowded, the garden was beautiful and the plum blossoms were magnificent! I might even have to say that they are my favourite March flowers, compared to tulips, magnolias, and yes…even cherry blossoms!

This shy feline friend of mine appeared around my neighbourhood one day and kept trying to run away from me, but stopped to stare every few seconds. It reminded me of the fox who asked the Little Prince to tame him before they could become friends, and if I could have, I would have brought home this little fella with me. I wonder if it’s still lurking around somewhere nearby…

Almost-obligatory-monthly-photo of me and J, this time in a Ferris wheel (which you probably can’t tell). I was smiling but that was to hide the fact that I was hella scared. And J tried to make me look down at the highest point of the ride… not cool at all.

This height-free photo was certainly a lot more pleasant, phew. Apparently in addition to white magnolias, there were also red/rose/violet magnolias blooming in an area around where I live. Here’s a rare capture of a candid (or intentional?!) goofy moment. It seems like my fiancé isn’t all about all that serious research and teaching stuff, after all!

I still don’t like Wuhan but admittedly the city has been made a lot more bearable with nature’s beautiful exhibitions in March. I can’t emphasize enough that I’m NOT looking forward to the arrival of summer, which is inevitable and the single most detestable thing about Wuhan. Summer, please skip us this year??

Day trip to Stirling

A collection of photos from a spontaneous day trip to Stirling, Scotland in July, 2016 – enjoy!

Northern Ireland part 2: Spending time in Belfast

During my long weekend trip to Northern Ireland with my girlfriends, we stayed in Belfast as the base of our explorations. I did no research what-so-ever before I went and we were pretty much going around the city spontaneously, visiting whatever we could find. As a result, I didn’t actually get to see a lot of the main “attractions” or landmarks of Belfast (though my friends did as they arrived several hours before I did), but we did have a blast doing exactly what we intended – spontaneous exploration 😉

On Saturday morning we headed to St. George’s Market, and it was there that I encountered the almighty CAVE HILL BELFAST BAP. Yup – take your entire breakfast and stuff it between two buns and you’ve got a beast of a sandwich. It’s got an egg, bacon, sausages, and a hashbrown – it was supposed to come with black pudding too, but we opted to leave it out. It was quite appropriately named as Cave Hill is a large hill near Belfast, and just look at that monster! Aside from trying a variety of food from the booths, the ladies and I wandered around and admired the handicraft of the many vendors in the market. I was so in love with the clay critters that were on display that I bought an entire set of eight of them – an elephant, a ladybug, a penguin, a pig, a sheep, a cow, a large snake, and a small snake – and now they sit in my living room ^_^

Public art was also aplenty in Belfast. Among the ones we saw was “Eco” by French artist Marc Didou, which stood in Queen’s University. According to a source, “The piece is made in response to the artist’s investigation of digital imaging techniques and represents the reflection of a head refracted in water and the sonic echo used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)”. Other interesting ones include a huge political mural (a lady actually stopped to explain its history to us…but sadly I don’t remember what she said) and a Charizard on a heater in our hostel, which isn’t exactly “public” art, I suppose. It certainly seems fitting to have a fiery Pokemon on a heater during the cold winter days – at least it keeps the guests warm!

Among our group of girls were two who were flower enthusiasts, so we knew that a visit to the Botanic Gardens was in store. Again the rose garden reminded me of when the Little Prince saw the garden of 5000 roses, each one beautiful but untamed. We ended up spending quite a lot of time in the gardens!

Special attention goes to this beautiful feline, who was in no rush to enjoy the sun in Belfast that day. Badass cats will cause my demise one day. One sharp stare and this beauty has already stolen my heart.

On the final night of our stay at the hostel, four of us decided to play Monopoly, which ended up in all sorts of hilarity. Highlights included one girl who kept ending up in jail and me owning the Botanic Gardens so that the two flower enthusiasts kept landing on them and paying me a massive amount of rent (how convenient!) Still in the end, one of them won mercilessly, and even my Botanic Gardens weren’t able to save our “merged corporate” (consisting of the three losers). What fun!

 
And I will end with some group photos taken with the girls, many of whom have already left. How I loved to see each one of their beautiful smiles! Our memories definitely extend beyond this Belfast trip, and maybe someday in some corner of the world we will reunite as a group again! Next entry: Giant’s Causeway tour!

The subtle side of Hallstatt

Part 2 of the Hallstatt posts brings out the subtle beauty of the village hidden in the mountains, waiting to be uncovered. During the unexpected hike, I’ve already discovered the trails scattered around the small village, but Hallstatt is so much more than that.

Tiny green, flower-like plants were sprouting from the rocks, very cute and delicate. When you look closely, each of them looks like a mini-rose that has turned green with envy but without the vicious thorns to launch an attack or even to defend itself…

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