Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: people

Sneem, a knot in the Ring of Kerry

Of the four days I spent in Ireland in June with two friends, the little village of Sneem, situated on the Ring of Kerry on the west coast of Ireland, left the deepest impression in my mind. The word “Sneem” means “knot” in Irish. On that rather grey day, Sneem was a dash of colour in the mist. We stopped for a short break during the long drive around the Ring of Kerry, spending perhaps no more than two hours in Sneem, yet its modest charm was what made it such a unique part of the Irish experience!

It was a rainy morning as we drove on the Ring of Kerry but as we approached Sneem, the rain subsided! The welcoming colours of the village invited us to stop, park our car, and get off for a walk around.

The village was very quiet when we arrived at 11am. We spotted a church not far from where we parked and promptly headed in its direction. It was a Sunday morning and that was when we realized that most, if not all, of the villagers were attending worship service at the church, which would end at 11:30am.

We walked to the area behind the church to the main attraction of Sneem – some mysterious structures of pyramids! There was a block of stone with the words “The Way the Fairies Went” inscribed on it, so this must be…the home of the fairies?! I quite liked this place. It was serene and the fairy bit added a touch of mysticism to the entire surrounding.

Walking past the pyramids…

…keep going to reach this tranquil place where we stayed awhile.

Back in the village, we stopped by the bridge with rapids running under it.

At around 11:30 we returned to the place where we parked, which was right outside of an information centre/gift shop that we had intended to enter but was closed until 11:30. We figured that the villagers probably all went to church and would be back at 11:30, and we were right! The little shop opened and in we went.

The people you unexpected meet along the road often leave the deepest impressions. Here we met John, the shop owner. Upon hearing him speak French with some ladies, I asked, “D’òu venez-vous?” (“Where are you from?”) He told us that he was born in Normandy in France and moved to Sneem many years ago with his Austrian wife. He is a deacon at the village church and is now studying Greek because he wants to better understand the Bible, and he finds much peace in running this small shop in this quiet village. We chatted for around 10 minutes before I bought something and left, but not before we took a photo with him! It’s always so interesting to listen to a local share his stories, and if there was one part of our visit that would make me remember Sneem, it was John. Such a short conversation but so delightful!

And that ended our visit to the little village of Sneem, the knot in the Ring of Kerry, my favourite place in the Ring! ❤

26 days in China, part 5 – Wenzhou

Getting closer and closer to my hometown in the far south of China, but not before I stop by another city in Zhejiang province…Wenzhou! Like every other stop on this long trip across China, Wenzhou is home to a couple of friends whom I wanted to visit. In fact, over the past years, I’ve met many people in Europe who came from Wenzhou, having heard so much about THEIR hometown. So this time, it was finally my turn to go and see the place where they grew up and lived before their adventures in Europe.

First visit: WY the wine lady! I met WY in Bordeaux when she was studying vineyard management, and she is currently very successful in the wine business in Wenzhou. If I remember correctly, it had been almost three and a half years since I last saw her in Bordeaux – too long! I brought her a little bottle of English mead (honey liquer) as a gift. Not sure if the taste beats any of her wine, but the bottle is certainly cute and delicate ^_^

Having dinner at WY’s place means we’re gonna have some good wine, guaranteed. In fact, WY’s flat turned out to be wine haven as she had racks and racks of wine of all sorts well laid out in her living room. What a way to live! People in the wine business truly amaze me because I can’t tell a good wine from a bad one to save my life. Doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a glass or two though, whether it’s red or white! Here’s dinner with my mom, YY (another friend), YX and MC (from Malaysian, whom we were with in Hangzhou and Huzhou), WY, and WY’s sister. Cheers, and let’s dig in to the hot pot!

After dinner, YY, my host in Wenzhou, welcomed me and my mom to her flat, where we stayed for two nights. I met YY in Glasgow but this was the first time I was meeting her two adorable sons, Jack and John. You certainly didn’t think she was the mother of two 8-year-old twin boys, huh! Anyway, even though I only spent two days with the boys, I felt like we could have become best buddies. They are so active and intelligent and just so quirky that it was pure fun being around them! My mom instantly fell in love with them as well, heh! I really felt bad that I had to leave them in the end 😦

Here’s John (or Jack?!) teaching me how to hold the violin properly. I had tried to learn to play the violin by myself years ago but failed miserably, so it was good to have a teacher! OK…I was so bad at it that he gave up teaching me and just decided to play me a song instead 😛

Day two in Wenzhou, and my host YY took me to a village in the nearby mountainous regions where the TV series “One family in Wenzhou” was filmed. I don’t know much about the series, but I liked the tranquility of the village surrounded by nature and fresh air, away from the big city. Without a true local as a companion, I would never have known such a place existed!

Hiking through woods and up and down hidden trails in the mountains, we encountered a series of waterfalls that dropped into pools with the clearest and most turquoise water I had ever seen. It was here that I wondered…are these the REAL Fairy Pools?! I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if the photos of the Fairy Pools on Skye were actually taken here…simply breathtaking! The bonus point was that this area is still quite unknown to the public, so we pretty much had it all to ourselves. As I was already sweating from the uphill hike, I had the urge to jump in for a swim! Oh, what a beautiful surprise. China, you never cease to amaze me.

Annie and YY finally take a photo together! I was so glad to have had her presence in Glasgow for a year and too happy to see her again in China, in her hometown. As with all of the other friends that I reunited with during this trip, I’m not sure when I’ll see YY again but I’m sure we’ll be in each other’s prayers 🙂

Before leaving Wenzhou for good, my mom and I had the opportunity to visit a local church for its Sunday morning service. I’ve heard many things about the expansion of Christianity in the Wenzhou area and was eager to join YY and her family for worship. First thing first – they weren’t kidding about the huge churches! One thing, though, was that I understood nothing from the sermon simply because it was delivered in Wenzhou dialect…oops. Still a great experience, especially the gigantic lunch feast that followed! If you hadn’t told me that it was a church meal, I would have thought that it was a wedding banquet. Rows after rows of round tables and at least 7 or 8 dishes prepared for each. And all that rice! There must have been hundreds at the gathering – I was really quite impressed!

As was the case in most of the posts in this series, I have to introduce the food. In Wenzhou, we were offered a much more home-styled taste compared to the other cities that I had visited. Top left: fresh steam crab prepared by WY. Top right: Wenzhou-style steamed fish prepared by WY. Middle: hot pot with a variety of small dishes prepared by WY. Bottom left: farm-style stir-fried tofu. I must say, if this wasn’t the best tofu I’ve had in my life, it came very close. I can’t imagine it being made in any complicated way – it must have been one of the simplest home-style dishes that the villagers made every day but somehow it smelled and tasted so wonderful. Bottom right: a type of root-like vegetable called “sheng di” in Chinese that has no direct translation. They look like creepy caterpillars but trust me, they were only vegetables. After having eaten at restaurants for so many days, it was great to finally have some taste of home!

As we left Wenzhou, I became more and more excited because I was about to board a flight to MY hometown, Guangzhou! Finally, after spending 10 days in various places near the Jiangnan area of China, I was able to say that the next destination was…home!

The hills are alive…on the misty Isle of Skye! (continued)

I couldn’t resist posting another entry about Skye after the first one. This time I shall let the photos speak for themselves. There were so many unforgettable moments and so many precious photos that it was difficult choosing just a set of them to share, but the selected few will give you an idea of the highlights from my first trip (13 people in total) to Skye, the Misty Isle.

I want to thank again Stuart from Misty Isle Tours for making the Skye minibus day trip possible for our large group by tailoring our itinerary based on our preferences and limitations – and the day turned out to be super lovely! And of course, my companions were beyond fantastic! Honourable mentions go to Amy the selfie queen, Henry the undefeated chef, Zed the self-proclaimed Pirate King, and my rival paparazzi, XM. Thanks for the memories, guys!

Northern Ireland part 3: Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, and the Dark Hedges

One does not simply visit Belfast without stopping by Giant’s Causeway. In fact I’ll say that my primary motivation for going to Northern Ireland in the first place was to see Giant’s Causeway, all the better with a group of friends. We embarked on a day tour that brought us to the long-awaited Giant’s Causeway, among other attractions nearby including the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, and the Dark Hedges.

Made up of tens of thousands of basalt columns, Giant’s Causeway lies on the northeastern coast of Northern Ireland and is by far the most famous attraction of the region. Let me just say this: Giant’s Causeway was impressive!! I’ve seen plenty of photos of Giant’s Causeway, but this is one of those places whose magic must be experienced in person – photos do not even begin to describe how cool it is! As my friends and I joined a tour group to get there, we only had an hour and a half to spend at the causeway, including the time it took for the bus to get from the entrance to the actual causeway (or a 25-minute walk each way). I could easily have spent a whole day there and if I ever revisit, I wouldn’t mind just sitting on one of those columns and staring out into the vast sea and at the crashing waves all day…!

The formation and arrangement of the basalt columns were simply spectacular, and we were amazed at how they were able to form in such organized patterns. The entire place was such an inspiration and a wonderful work of art by Mother Nature. Of course, lovely places such as this get so much attention from travellers that you’d expect many others to go and admire its greatness, but that didn’t undermine the coolness of it all. Definitely worth going to Northern Ireland just to see Giant’s Causeway!

The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge was another stop on the day tour, linking the mainland to a tiny island called Carrickarede. From photos I’ve seen prior to the trip, I thought that the rope bridge would be super long, super shaky, and super scary to cross, but I was wrong! The photos deceived all of us and when we got there, we realized that the rope bridge was in fact quite short, and it took perhaps 10 seconds to cross. Boo, a little disappointing! However, the views on the way to and on the island were quite amazing. The waters beneath the surrounding cliffs were so crystal clear and green, and I even saw a huge cave that reminded me of the Grotto in Tobermory in Canada!

Along the way we stopped by several other places such as Carrickfergus Castle and the Bushmills Whiskey Distillery, but one that would probably interest many Game of Thrones fans (and one of my friends was such a fan) would be the Dark Hedges, which was apparently a filming location for GoT. I have never watched or been interested in GoT, so for me the Dark Hedges was just another cool place to be. And it was indeed pretty cool – I could see how a fantasy series would use such a place as one of its settings. The beech-lined avenue resembled the majestic entrance to a mystic land, perhaps hiding some secrets within the trees themselves and goading visitors to reach beyond the end of the road. I felt bad for the cars that were actually trying to get through though – it was certainly quite tough with all the people stopping there to take photos!

As with the previous two parts of the Northern Ireland series (read Part 1 about Bangor and Part 2 about Belfast), I end with some photos of my lovely companions, without whom the trip would have been so much less colourful. Northern Ireland was beautiful, but so were you girls! ❤

Northern Ireland part 1: An afternoon in Bangor

In July, I went to Northern Ireland for a long weekend getaway with a group of girls from my church. Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, is a mere 45-minute flight away from Glasgow. The accessibility made it a perfect destination for a group outing, and off we went to spend some quality ladies’ time!

The base of our explorations was of course Belfast, but we also joined a day trip that took us to the famous Giant’s Causeway as well as some other points of interest, including the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and the Dark Hedges, which will be another story for another post. This post is actually about the seaside resort town of Bangor, where we decided to spend one afternoon since it was a convenient half-hour ride by train from Belfast. We didn’t even need to make it a day trip – several hours was all that we needed!

Like many other seaside towns I’ve been to (Cherbourg, Oban, and Tobermory, just to name a few), boats were lined along the harbour of Bangor. Rows of colourful houses adorned the harbourfront, just like those in Tobermory 🙂

There was a path along the seaside and we all followed it and took a gentle stroll. The scenery was beautiful and I could understand why people would come to Bangor for the holidays or maybe even retire here!

You might think these are mountains and hills photographed from a faraway place but they are actually bumps along the seaside trail that are covered in green moss!!

If you’ve been reading my blog then you’d know that I love murals. There were several large murals near the harbourfront, but this one of a cafe would have to be my favourite. Pretty realistic, if you ask me. I wonder if an actual cafe used to be here…

In total, including me, 7 people went on this trip. These are some of my adorable companions. At that point, I’ve known most of them for a little less than a year, and this was the second time we all travelled together, the first time being the trip to the Isle of Skye. Most of them are leaving soon though so it makes me quite sad to have to send them off one by one. But that is precisely why we needed these group outings – to create memories that last! I absolutely love these girls ❤

The best part of our little side trip to Bangor would probably be the carnival that was taking place in the main square. Yes, yes, I know I’m almost 30, but in the midst of a fun fair, who wouldn’t be tempted to go on some rides? Though what I had REALLY wanted to ride since a long time ago was the merry-go-round, the girls and I decided to do bumper cars and the swinging-spinning thing (whatever you call it) instead. ‘Round and around and around and around we go…till we were dizzy! It was actually a lot higher and scarier than I had expected and I think we all felt like we were little girls again.

As for bumper cars, it was a bit disappointing that we were only allowed to go one way, but driving into other people and being bumped into were tons of fun nevertheless!

Let’s end with a group photo of all of us having ice cream before we left. I was the only one who had it in a cup instead of a waffle cone and I kind of regretted it, though the others told me that mine was a smart decision as ice cream dripping wouldn’t have been a problem. This will become a rare memory frozen in time because from here on, it will be so difficult for all of us to be together again, but I truly cherished these great moments shared with each and every one of you. Please take care, and see you later!

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