Annie Bananie en Europe

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From high places: Brussels and Toronto

As I was going through my posts in the “From high places” series, I was surprised to find that I neglected several recent visits to Brussels, one of my favourite cities (if not my favourite) in Europe.

That’s OK. Brussels deserves its own post anyway.

Come to think of it, I went back to Brussels in 2015, 2016 (short stopover), and 2017 (just last week) and each time discovered a new viewpoint. My favourite, notwithstanding the slight reflection of the glass window, would have to be the one from the restaurant at the top of the Musical Instruments Museum. From here, you can see the imposing and magnificent town hall in the Grand Place, as well as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in the far distance, which I believe is the fifth largest church structure in the world (official source). Lovely buildings – I like both of them very much.

In 2016, I finally got up to the viewing platform at the top of the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History. Not as impressive as the previous view, but still quite nice.

And here’s the view on the other side of the viewing platform, facing east toward Merode station.

And last week, while visiting with my dad and sister, I discovered the garden and café on the fifth floor of the Royal Library. The view was similar to the one on top of the MiM, but I certainly wasn’t standing as high, and the view wasn’t as extensive. Regardless, the basilica still looks so grandiose, even if it was so far away.

After Brussels, I also found a photo of downtown Toronto that I took this year while visiting the University of Toronto with my sister, from the 11th (I think) floor of the OISE building. I was in a hurry because I wasn’t supposed to be in this room, and someone was entering as I was taking this photo…so I snapped and ran. Lots of reflection in the glass – oh well.

So the post wasn’t ALL about Brussels after all. Sorry, my beloved, but perhaps I love Toronto just as much.

From high places, part 6

Why hello there! I think the time has come to add another post to the “From high places” series, which showcases views of cities and towns from high vantage points such as towers, hills, and airplanes. Let’s see how many more I’ve managed to collect since the last post!

Amsterdam

 
I fly with KLM quite a bit and so I often have connecting flights in Amsterdam, which means that I get to see Amsterdam from the air from different perspectives as the plane takes off or lands (if I get a window seat, and I often do). Here are a few of them.

Beijing (read about it)

When I went to Beijing 13 years ago, I saw the Forbidden City from a hill in Jingshan Park, took a picture of it, and lost the photo. Then last year, when I went back to Beijing in December, I decided that I’d have to go back to Jingshan Park and retake that photo – and I did! Magnificent history right in front of my eyes!

Bilbao

 
Bilbao certainly had its fair share of hills and as a result offers many wonderful viewpoints of the city. The first three photos (featuring the famous Guggenheim Museum in the second photo) were taken on Mount Artxanda (reached by funicular) and the last one from Parque Etxebarria at the top of the Mallona stairs.

Conwy

Conwy has arguably the most majestic castle of all the castles I’ve seen, and the view from the top of the town walls was amazing. Seas, hills, castle – seems like Conwy has everything needed for a medieval tale!

Edinburgh

I’ve written about Edinburgh before and shown the view from the top of Arthur’s Seat, but there are plenty of other fine viewpoints around this hilly Scottish capital. On the way to Calton Hill, stop to appreciate the Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat on the opposite side and the city below!

Falkirk (read about it)

I visited Falkirk on a rainy day, mainly to see the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel, on which this photo was taken. If you look for the carefully, the Kelpies can be seen in the far distance on the right side of this photo.

Falkland

Not to be confused with Falkirk, Falkland was the starting point of the hike up the East Lomond Hill. I had to stop many times to take a break and catch my breath but the view over Falkland was certainly a welcomed treat!

Glasgow

Even though I live in Glasgow, I may be a little ashamed to say that I don’t know many places to see the city from up high! Well, The Lighthouse is one such place, but I would be surprised if there weren’t more.

Holyhead (read about it)

After visiting South Stack, I decided to walk back to Holyhead along the coastal path, which was to take me around an hour an a half. I ended up taking approximately two hours because of a detour to the summit of the Holyhead mountain, one that I was glad I took because I was rewarded with this view!

Inverness

I only dropped by Inverness for a short while during a day tour of Loch Ness, but I had the chance to see Inverness Castle and see the city by the river from the castle, which was situated on a hill. I’d love to go back to Inverness if I still have the chance before I leave Scotland!

Mississauga

Mississauga was featured in the first part of the “From high places” series, but here is a different point of view – downtown Mississauga from the air right before landing at Toronto Pearson Airport. The slender and defining shapes of the Marilyn Monroe Towers would be recognizable from any distance, though unfortunately the photo turned out slightly blurry 😦

Oban

I’ve been to Oban three times within the past three years but it was only during my most recent visit (last week) that I finally went to the looming McCaig’s Tower that is visible from the town centre. The uphill walk offered some great views of the coastal town and the Inner Hebridean islands (not shown here)!

Stirling (read about it)

Stirling wasn’t a city that left a deep impression on me, but it was still worth exploring as a day trip from Glasgow. Here’s a view of Stirling from the Wallace Monument.

Warsaw (read about it)

 
Warsaw – ah, yes, Warsaw, as seem from the top of the Palace of Culture and Science. What amazing views from every angle! I was so mesmerized that I was sad to go. To make it even more spectacular, I was there right in the midst of a thunderstorm – how cool was that!

That’s all for part 6! Be right back as I continue to hunt for more high places… 😉

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!

Street art in Glasgow, part 2

It’s been more than 6 months since the initial “Street art in Glasgow” post, and last weekend, I finally got some free time to track down some more murals and street art in this city, following the official “mural trail”. They really are everywhere, and so impressive too! I didn’t manage to find everything that was on the trail, but I did stumble upon a few surprises that weren’t part of the official trail. Let’s take a look.

Let’s start with my favourite one of them all, which I think was completed very recently. This gigantic mural is the work of artist Sam Bates, otherwise known as “Smug”, whose hands were the creators of several other works, including the girl with the magnifying glass in the previous post. I wasn’t aware of the existence of this mural as I was walking in the opposite direction on High Street. I saw someone take a photo of something behind me, and as I turned around, I was awed. Such beautiful piece of artwork with so much detail and colour, but the Man and the Bird (which is what I decided to call it as I don’t know if it has an official name) also elicited emotional resonance in addition to the visual pleasure. Oh, and this isn’t currently on the mural trail, so it was definitely the best surprising find of the day!

This is Glasgow’s Tiger, an installation that can be found along the quay of the Clyde River in downtown Glasgow. Previously, it had been a fiery tiger drawn in a different style (which I haven’t seen), but it had been replaced with the image of a realistic beast watching the river. While the tiger looked solemn and majestic, some people seemed to enjoyed using it as a backdrop as they danced to some music in its presence!

In an unassuming parking lot on Ingram Street in the heart of Merchant City, another piece of artwork by Smug revealed itself, named Fellow Glasgow Residents. Apparently this mural is supposed to represent the different types of animals found in Glasgow’s green space, appearing through what looks like holes in the wall. The three images form one long stretch from left to right and is so impressive that it makes one wonder if this is really a parking lot or a magnificent outdoor gallery… 😛

This lively mural on Argyle Street seems to show an unconventional type of bar – one entirely managed by animals! We’ve got an elephant, a shark, a walrus, a bear, a rhinoceros as the bartender, and a zebra and a moose having a relaxing drink. What a place! I wonder if the Scottish would like to frequent such a place – perhaps the zoo staff went on strike and the animals escaped?

Clutha, a piece installed at the Clutha Bar, is a work by Rogue-One, another artist who has contributed many pieces of stunning work to the city, with the Flying Taxi and the Cat with the Caged Birds featured previously.

I often pass by the Hip Hop Marionettes, another piece by Rogue-One, when I cross John Street. Taken from the description in the official mural trail brochure: “We thought that an interesting concept would be to have body-poppers or break-dancers in puppet form. I took my influence from a Beastie Boys cover and a Run DMC picture.”

The walls of some of the buildings in the University of Strathclyde also have some very colourful paintings that make you wonder if they are the entrances to art studios instead of offices and classrooms. The painting of a girl about to open a door located at the corner of Grahma Hills Building had me confused for several weeks, as THE DOOR was so realistic that I thought it was A REAL DOOR. I thought it was smart to paint a girl opening a real door, but when one day I finally realised that the door was a painting…it was a moment of utmost epiphany. Is this what art does to you?!

Continuing on with the Strathclyde series, just above the girl opening the door is this long, giant mural of what seems to depict classroom life at Strathclyde. It kind of reminds me of the days in undergrad, with rows and rows of desks and benches and many sleepy students that didn’t sleep till 3am the previous night…though the ones on the wall seemed (mostly) wide awake!

Further along George Street, we have a technology-themed and an ocean-themed mural here amidst some of the science buildings of Strathclyde. Seems like Strathclyde (and the city centre as a whole) has a lot of these full-length building murals, and I am genuinely impressed…once again!

As I have mentioned at the very beginning, I haven’t completed the mural trail and some of the murals on the trail actually eluded me even though I supposedly passed by the spots where they were supposed to be. So, knowing me, I will set out again to find those that are still scattered around the city, and a part 3 will be posted!

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