Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: weekend

The hills are alive…on the Isle of Mull! (Part 1)

Because of of the abundant series of events that happened on the Isle of Mull, I wrote a 3000+ word recount of the experience, which you can read here. However, most people will probably find it TL;DR, and so if you just want the summary and the photos, read on! A complete series of photos of this trip can also be found on Facebook 😉


Summer is short in Scotland, and there are only a small handful of rainless weekends during the summer months suitable for travelling. Knowing this, I had to take advantage of every sunny weekend, because very soon, we’ll be back to 5 degrees and the sun will be setting at 4 pm. After Perth, I decided to continue my discovery of Scotland by visiting some of the islands in the west, starting with…the Isle of Mull!

My main motivation of going to Mull was to go to the original Tobermory and Calgary. Tobermory is a town 300 km north of Toronto, and Calgary, as you probably know, is one of the largest cities in Canada, located in the province of Alberta. It so happened that the names of both of these places were derived from places that exist…on the Isle of Mull in Scotland! Feeling like an adventure, I was ready to roam around Mull (or well, at least half of Mull), all by myself.

Getting to Mull

Being a ferry ride away from Oban, which is 3 hours away from Glasgow by train, Mull made a perfect weekend trip. As the train headed toward Oban, which began to appear soon after it reached the outskirts of Glasgow, I began to be amazed at the number of mountains (and sheep, elaborated in the next post) in the country. How intriguing you are, Scotland.

As transport on Mull would be problematic without a car and with very limited public transit available, I decided on a method of transportation that is quite new to me – cycling! And it wasn’t normal cycling either – I rented an electric bike on the island, knowing that I would have conquer some tedious hill. Not being the fittest person out there, I definitely needed the extra power boost provided by the battery and in retrospect, I couldn’t have done it without the electric bike! My route is illustrated below (map obtained here):

I began at Tobermory, going down to Dervaig, Calgary, then south and east to Salen and finally back up to Tobermory. Evidently, this was only the top part of the island. I wasn’t even going to get close to Ben More, one of only two island Munros (a Munro is a mountain in Scotland with a height over 3000 ft, the other island Munro being on Skye) slightly to the south of the loop. The route consisted of several toiling climbs, but also segments of fantastic freewheeling after the climbs, for a grand total of 42 miles – that is 68 kilometres! Was I ready for this? Did I really know what I was getting myself into?

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Reunion in Liège

The trip to Durbuy that I wrote about last week was actually a side excursion outside of the main trip that took place in Liège during my last weekend in Belgium. Seeing that Yi-Shiang and his family live in Liège, and that there are quite a few IDS-FunMat students in Liège, I figured I’d take the opportunity before I left Belgium to visit them. After all, it’s not so far from Louvain-la-Neuve (LLN), only 2 hours by train.

Ara and Alina found out that I was going to Liège, and decided to tag along as well. Then the group snowballed. One LLN IDS-FunMate joined after, and soon we almost had the entire crew from LLN going together, with a total of 8 people! The group would have a reunion (for some new guys, it’ll be the first gathering) with the people in Liège, about 7 of them. It certainly became a massive LLN exodus and a long awaited post-training school reunion!

I arrived in Liège on Saturday and stayed overnight while the other LLNers joined on Sunday. Yi-Shiang and Janet kindly hosted me in their home for the night. As they live on the 9th floor of a high-rise building, I was able to see the residential area of Liège from a high place (definitely included in the next “From high places” post 😉 )

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La vita è bella in Italia – Part 1, Bologna

Italy, the one European country that everyone seems to rave about. It’s time to see if it lives up to its image. 3+ years in Europe, and my first trip to Italy was a week ago. Absolutely overdue.

For this Italian adventure, Cinque Terre was the main destination for me. Ever since I saw the photo of Riomaggiore, I had wanted to step foot in this seemingly heavenly piece of land and hike between the villages. Of course, more on that leg of the trip will be posted in part 2.

First up was Bologna, simply because it was easy to fly in from Brussels Charleroi. It may not be as popular of a tourist destination as say, Rome, Venice, and Florence (and I will get to all three in December), but boy, what a surprise…! Let’s just say, it’s been a while since a city has wowed me, and unexpectedly, Bologna did it. City of arches, city of stairs…city of pure beauty.

Buon giorno, Bologna! I arrived at Bologna late at night and was due to catch the train to La Spezia in the afternoon on the following day, so I only had about 7 hours to spend in the city. My first impression of Bologna was one word: elegance. Amusingly it is the same word that I use to describe Bordeaux, over and over.

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Enfin, La Rochelle

It’s summertime, so that means it’s time to go to La La La La La…Rochelle!

I had wanted to visit this seaside city since last year because a lot of my friends have studied there, but we always failed to coordinate the timing. This year, our own little IDS group from Bordeaux finally got a chance to do a weekend trip to La Rochelle, courtesy of Mathilde whose family lives there.

You’d expect that by the end of June, summer would already be in full swing but NO. Summer decided to hide from us during that one weekend that we planned an outing. Not only that, but rain invaded most of our trip, as if it was jealous that we were having fun. Not cool, mother nature, not cool. (Full photo album on Facebook.)

Here we are at the old port, or vieux port, of La Rochelle. Yep, those are gray skies you see, and you it may not be apparent, but it was raining like mad. Everyone (except for me) was prepared with an umbrella, so I had to sneak under one or just rely on the hood on my jacket most of the time. Didn’t matter though, the group was in high spirits most of the time because nothing takes away the FUN when the IDS-FunMates are together. Take that, rainy weather!

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Saint-Émilion in late November

One day not long ago, I spontaneously added an item to my bucket list: to visit Saint-Émilion at least once in every month. I’m not sure why I decided to do that, but I thought it could be a challenge to make life more interesting for my remaining year (at least) in Europe. Also, I want to see how a town changes from month to month, from season to season, and what better place to go than charming little Saint-Émilion?

So far I’ve done April, May, June, July and now, November. If I plan out my mobility well, the rest of the months are well doable 😉 To add to the challenge, I have different company every time. So far only one person has gone with me twice, and that would be MM. In April 2011 I went for the first time with Chahat, a university friend studying in the UK at that time. In May 2012 it was with my Canadian crew Sharon and Cindy. In June 2011 the trip was spent with the Yihua family, MM, and Wan Zhe. In July 2011 there was Helene, Mengran, Xinning, SB, and MM again.

Before November was over, I decided to make my fifth trip to Saint-Émilion with a colleague. It was also the first time I brought Mr.Nikon with me, hurray! We caught the last weekend before it got too cold, and really, it might have been my favourite visit so far, thanks to so many things.

What makes Saint-Émilion such a charming and irresistible place that I go back again and again? You’ll see. (Click for full album.)

Mr.Colleague wondered whether there were still grapes on the vines in November. Well, who knew? Unless we found out, of course 😉 I remember in June last year, there were green grapes on the vines, but in November, even if there were any left, they couldn’t possibly be green or even purple anymore, right? Alas, we saw some dark blue grapes still stubbornly hanging onto their branches, though these were few. I kinda wanted to swipe a bunch, because they looked oh-so-sweet-and-delicious 😀

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