Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: flowers

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!

October 2019

The October 2019 post almost wasn’t going to exist. You see, I started this monthly summary thing last October (August and September both only had 6 photos and don’t count here), so September 2019 marked one whole year of doing it. I was going to stop at one year and perhaps continue onto something else, but I changed my mind. I realized that in the midst of a fast-paced lifestyle where one is so easily agitated, it is necessary to constantly remind myself to see, discover, and record those beautiful things in life – nature, people, events, etc. In doing so, I will then not forget to always express gratitude. So then, let the monthly summaries continue πŸ˜€

Tranquil afternoon in the Luoyan Scenic Area of East Lake, the last chance for me to see the rose garden before the winter set in. The rose garden (not real roses) wasn’t all that impressive (and that’s being euphemistic) but the Luoyan area was filled with some nice surprises…

…such as this boardwalk in a wooded area. The air was quiet, particularly because it was raining slightly that day and there weren’t that many visitors, which made it more enjoyable for me.

Sunset view from the balcony outside our office. My office faces the west so in the afternoon, we are often able to catch a perfect view of the sunset right as we get off work. This one in particular wasn’t all that spectacular compared to some of the other ones I’ve seen, but it gives an aura of tranquility and peace – and time to go home πŸ˜›

An assortment of flowers around the neighbourhood in October. The weather had been unusually warm this year up till mid-November, remaining at 20 degrees Celsius (or above) whereas last year, the temperature already dropped drastically by early November. I guess as a result of this, the flowers thought that spring came again…?!! According to some sources, the cherry blossoms at Wuhan University blossomed a bit in October…WHAT!! Foolish flowers being tricked by the weather – but hey I liked that I was able to enjoy their beauties again ^_^ Special attention goes to the sweet osmanthus (top right), whose fragance ubiquitously fills the atmosphere for about three weeks each autumn in Wuhan and has become one of my favourite things in this city!

This photo takes us back to France – the day after the wedding. As I mentioned in the previous post, our wedding venue had a fantastic pool that no one ventured to use as it was too cold – well, except for my brave newly wed husband. He had been going on and on about diving in for a swim and I even found swim trunks for him in Bordeaux for this sole purpose. I guess it wasn’t enough that he was thrown into the pool the previous night while he was in his suit, so he went for a proper swim early in the morning – even though he actually doesn’t know how to swim properly -_- That obviously didn’t stop him!

This was the goodbye photo at the Bordeaux train station. We didn’t want too many people to come and send us off, but three friends (one left early) did insist coming to bid us farewell. Please disregard the awkward and stretched shape of my face as I was the one taking the selfie and the angle was NOT advantageous for me. Otherwise I love this photo because everyone else looks so joyful and cute!

Mini team-building event with the company colleagues in my sub-department in Wuhan, at a popular bookstore called “Define Deer at Discovery” (don’t ask me about the translation…it makes no sense). The main destination was actually the sunflower field right outside the bookstore…

…tada! This was the day before the team-building event, where I brought my visiting friend Jade Blanche (emcee at the wedding). I thought that they weren’t planting the sunflowers this year because last year, they were in full bloom by the end of July, and the field was still empty in September this year. But then when Jian told me that the sunflowers were planted again, only later this year, I was beyond excited! Such lovely flowers full of energy and radiance!

Final photo obviously had to go to one of Jian and me in front of the sunflower fields, under the perfect lighting in perfect weather. The sunflowers have wilted by now so I guess I will see you again next year.

So as I mentioned at the beginning, the monthly posts will continue (if not, the blog will probably die because these are almost the only things I post nowadays). I am trying to regain some more time to blog but while it has been difficult, I will not let the blog die! We suddenly welcome winter this week as the temperature dropped sharply from the 20s to below 10 in a span of one day…my hands are freezing as I type this. Also big things are currently happening in life – no I am not pregnant (yet) – so stay tuned for updates in the next couple of months πŸ˜‰

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 fiancΓ© 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??

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 πŸ˜‰

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!

London in a weekend

When I was living in Bordeaux, Paris was easily within reach. 3 hours by high-speed train and you’re there – and it would cost as low as 20€ one way! Even if I wasn’t able to get a hold of the cheap ticket, being a student and under 27, I was still entitled to reduced rates, so visiting Paris was like taking a stroll in the backyard. In the UK, the equivalent to Paris is obviously London. However, visiting London from Glasgow isn’t as straightforward. The most direct way – by train – isn’t necessarily the fastest, as it takes at least 4.5 hours to get to London. If I choose to fly, the flight itself is a little over an hour, but fussing with airports here and there would easily add another 2 or 3 hours to the trip. The biggest issue is cost. A one-way flight would set me back around 10Β£ (if I’m super lucky) to 25Β£ (approximately 13-33€), whereas the train…anywhere from 40-100Β£, as I don’t qualify for student discounts anymore.

So what I’m trying to say is (1) take advantage of being young and travel with your discounts and (2) it is not so easy getting to London 😦 As a result, London hasn’t really been “a stroll in the backyard”, and I didn’t get as many chances as I wanted to visit the British capital ever since settling down in Glasgow. The first “real” chance came two weeks ago, when I decided to spend a weekend in London and explore the city casually. I had done all the major tourist attractions 5 years ago and so this time around, all I wanted to do was wander, take the red double-deck buses to random places, people-watch, and hopefully like this metropolis more than I liked Paris πŸ˜›

The weekend was quite rainy but I had a stroke of good luck as the morning of my arrival was still relatively rain-free. My first destination was Hyde Park, which had a beautiful rose garden where I could sit down and enjoy the presence of flower, the sun (gasp), and people.

Summer? While the weather wasn’t very convincing, the flowers in the rose garden certain did scream, “Summer!” It happened to be the day where the celebrations for the Queen’s 90th birthday was taking place at the nearby Buckingham Palace, and while I did pass by the huge crowds, I opted to spend my time more tranquilly rather than join in the festivities. I’m sorry, Queen. I respect you, but I think seeing your bright neon green hat for one split second was good enough for me. Please excuse me while I enjoy Hyde Park instead of going to your party πŸ™‚

Located at Hyde Park Corner is the New Zealand War memorial, which was established to commemorate the loss of New Zealand’s lives during the two world wars.

The one place I really wanted to visit was what was known to me as “an area around Hyde Park”. I remember passing by on a bus and seeing some very interesting sculptures along one large avenue, and thinking…I must go and see them up close! I didn’t end up going to the actual avenue – and I WILL get there next time! – but I did see cool sculptures here and there. Sculptures, along with murals, are my favourite types of city-wide public art. I’m sure there are so many more to discover around London!

As I was supposed to pick up some friends from Euston station in the afternoon, I stopped by King’s Cross, which was right next to Euston. This is where Harry took the train to Hogwarts! Quite an impressive structure, inside and out.

While wandering around the King’s Cross area, I passed by this very colourful corner, which is located at Belgrove Street and Euston Road, and I liked it! It seems like London is full of surprises and awaits more exploration!

One of my missions during this stay was to take a trip to Lanka, a cake shop run by Japanese pastry chefs. This little place was recommended by a friend, and while it took a bit of travelling to reach as it wasn’t centrally located, it was definitely worth the trip! With my companion, we ordered a green tea panna cotta and a yuzu mousse. I think the panna cotta had the strongest green tea flavour I’ve ever tasted out of any green tea flavoured food – good stuff! The cakes were rich in texture but not overwhelmingly heavy, and the best thing was that they were not too sweet. Truly a perfect balance of taste, texture, and aesthetics! If we weren’t already full from having lots of snacks and street food before hand, we would have certainly ordered other ones :O

That was the end of the first day and the rest of the time was spent with some of my buddies catching up and wandering. As a result I didn’t take many photos on the second day. I will say, though, that while London is crowded, has terrible traffic, and is super expensive, I don’t dislike it nearly as much as I dislike Paris. In fact, I might even go as far as to say I quite like London, just like I did 5 years ago. For some reason London intrigues me more so than other huge cities, and I will gladly go back for a truly solo trip where I could get to know more of the city and its secrets. I’ll have to have another long weekend though, and hopefully score some plane/train tickets that won’t empty my wallet. Oh, and a train trip back to Glasgow that doesn’t experience a 5-hour delay (longer than the actual trip, which was only supposed to be 4.5 hours) would be nice, but that’s another tale for another day…

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