June 2, 2015
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Just a note before the actual post begins: Almost a whole month without a blog entry… 😦 Seems like the new life in Glasgow has kept Annie quite busy. As a result, I’ve decided to try a different way of blogging, focusing more on imagery than on words, which often take more time to formulate than I could afford. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. I do want to keep up with the blog, but it simply takes too much time to write, and so I will compromise. There will still be text, but the descriptions won’t be as elaborate as those in previous entries. Of course you can click on the images for the full view and a short caption of each. I hope you will still enjoy the photos 😉
Budapest, another city whose name begins with the letter “B”. If you didn’t know, I tend to end up liking cities beginning with “B”, for the most part – Bordeaux, Bologna, Brussels, Bratislava, Barcelona…Bruges is the exception. Though it is all coincidence, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that Budapest deserved to be visited with high expectations. Aside from the fact that it is yet another city beginning with the letter “B”, I’ve heard nothing but good things about this Hungarian city from my friends who have been there. (Come to think of it, it was the same with Barcelona.) So then, this was Budapest…
Budapest by night
Prague had a castle; Budapest had a castle. Prague had bridges; Budapest had bridges. Tell me then – how could I not compare the two cities when I had just travelled from Prague to Budapest? Sorry to fans of Prague but Budapest beats Prague in night scene, hands down. Charles Bridge, you have nothing on the Chain Bridge in Budapest ❤ And the parliament building – need I say more other than that it was one of the most stunning structures I've seen?
August 21, 2014
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Since I had been blogging about Paris in the previous two posts, I thought I’d throw in this one to end off the “series” – let’s talk about the “City of Light”. Yes, that is a name for our beloved Paris, or…your beloved Paris, for I don’t love it. I’ve done enough “Paris-bashing” in my blog that regular readers should know that I have never been fond of the city, for more reasons than I care to elaborate.
Yet, I don’t deny that Paris is beautiful, glamourous, audacious, dazzling…more so during the night than in the daytime, that is. I feel like Paris undergoes a makeover when it transitions from day to night, transforming from an ordinary, overcrowded tourist destination into an elegant, mysterious lady as she puts on her night gown. And as darkness falls, the city’s secrets unfold as she shows off, not with any modesty, her diamonds and jewels, revealing why she is indeed the “City of Light”.
There is history significance in calling Paris the “City of Light” (or “Lights”) but for me, the reason is simple – Paris gleams in the night with its millions of lights. Just look at this photo of the Champs-Élysées taken on top of L’Arc de Triomphe during Christmas, which till this day remains one of my very favourite travel photos (taken by me). The Ferris wheel at the other end – Place de la Concorde – isn’t always there, and I was lucky that it was there. And the lanes of traffic on the self-proclaimed most beautiful avenue in the world – with the sidewalks lit in blue, the entire scene looks like a national flag stretched out from top to bottom (though interestingly, out of all the tricoloured European flags, none of them are in the order of white, red, and blue, either horizontal or vertical.)
August 14, 2014
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Last December, my dad had the chance to visit France when I was still there completing my studies. He took two and a half weeks off work and went all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to attend my Ph.D. thesis defense in Bordeaux, which was one of the most life-changing moments of my 26 years on this planet. After the defense, we headed to Paris for two days, the nth time for me (where n > 5) and the first time for the father. For him, it was finally time to see whether the Paris that he had heard so much about would live up to his expectations.
The official “dad is in Paris and here is proof with the Eiffel Tower right behind him” photo. He was generally pretty impressed with Paris, remarking that most of the prominent landmarks (namely the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Montmartre, L’Arc du Triomphe) were indeed quite worth the fame and reputation. It must have been somewhat of a culture shock too, since he hadn’t traveled for quite a while prior to this trip, and North America (or Toronto, really) is nothing like Paris in terms of architecture, atmosphere, and customs.
June 5, 2014
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Iceland is my most favourite place so far in Europe. There, I said it.
To me that’s a pretty bold statement and I had to contemplate a bit but yes, I decided to make the proclamation that Iceland has replaced Switzerland as my favourite European travel destination.
For a long time I couldn’t bring myself to blog about Iceland because I worry that no amount of elaborate descriptions or breathtaking photographs can ever do Iceland justice. It also pains me to remember my trip because it reminds me that such a dream-like place exists on earth, and I’ve been there. Yet I’m not there now, and if that place I’m talking about is Iceland, that thought is enough to make me slightly depressed.
Truth is, if there was one European country I wouldn’t hesitate visiting again, it’d be Iceland. Maybe it’s the friendly people. Maybe it’s the breathtaking scenery. Maybe it’s the smell of sulphur and the mystery of the hakarl…okay not really. Maybe it’s the serenity of even the largest city, Reykjavik. Every breath I took, I fell in love with this place more and more.
First impression of Iceland from the plane: barren. Cold, barren, deserted. From the aircraft window, the landscape already attracted my wandering spirit and I couldn’t wait to see what this country had to offer. I took Icelandair in 2010 when I first stepped onto European soil, and it is the same airline that takes me away from Europe and back to North America. This trip was planned as part of a correspondence on my way back home from France to Toronto, where I thought I’d take a 3-day stopover in Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland. After a very mild mid-winter in mainland Europe, I finally arrived to some real cold…if -1 degrees Celsius is even cold at all.
November 16, 2013
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During the Cinque Terre segment of my trip to Italy, my colleagues and I stayed in La Spezia for two nights. La Spezia is a city slightly to the east of Riomaggiore, the southernmost town in Cinque Terre. It is easy to access any of the towns in Cinque Terre by train, making it an ideal location for us to set as our home base.
In case you’re not up to date, you can read the first part about Bologna and the second part about hiking in Cinque Terre.
In the two previous entries, I didn’t mention much about food, but the things I’ve heard about real Italian food in Italy, saying stuff like “pasta is just different and BETTER in Italy”, got me really excited to try some good ol’ pasta and pizza. Pictured above are the spaghetti alla cuccarese and “Balmy” pizza (with stracchino cheese and balsamic vinegar, among other ingredients) that Kana and I had on our first night in La Spezia. OK, the spaghetti was delicious, but what really caught me off guard was the pizza, which I had to honestly say was the best pizza I’ve had in my entire life. NOT KIDDING. I think it was the first time I tried stracchino cheese and that feeling of melt-in-your-mouth goodness is to be cherished forever. And the crust – perfect thickness, warm and crispy. Ahh. How could I ever eat a pizza outside of Italy ever again?