Entries tagged as travel
- Agggggh I've collapsed. Long Monday (actually it felt short) with a cold :( October 8
- I listened to 5 seconds of the first track on @TheUkes album The Secret of Life and my heart felt soothed. ♥. http://t.co/wsZquPh5 October 7
- @patheuk hiya, I was wondering if you guys have a general enquiries email address? October 7
- Terrified of flagship #Primark about to open on Oxford St. Tottenham Ct Rd will vamp into as much a tourist mess as the one by Marble Arch.. October 7
- Then I googled a phrase from my poem. 119 results came up. Namely an interview w/ singer @bethjhoughton - lovely music! http://t.co/nFJ55YKW October 6
Entries tagged as travel
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Thursday, December 22. 2011
Loved this retro combination of Pepsi-Cola x European streets in Prague!
Our second day in Czech was probably my favorite. We did a day trip to Kutná Hora, 30 minutes from Prague and home to some UNESCO treasures. From the station it's a 40 minute walk to a cute village; on the way we stopped at a cathedral and then the famous Sedlec Ossuary -- a church decorated with thousands of old human remains, which I really didn't like actually. I don't mind the bones. It's the concept of the thing that I dislike. If this were a typical Christian tradition, OK, but I didn't see this as rooted in any sort of respect. Full of tourists, a cemetery right outside, and disrespectful. On the other hand, my friend said she liked it best in the whole town so to each his own, I guess.
But when we actually reached the town - it was lovely! On a Saturday there were almost no tourists at all, early November is not tourist season apparently. The museum dedicated to silver mining, which the town is famous for, was closed (oh well) but it was amazing to just walk around with scenery like this and hardly anyone around:
Right around the corner there was a sweeping view of a valley, with the Jesuit College and St. Barbara Cathedral in the background. Then we went to get lunch at a traditional tavern-type place called Pivnice Dacicky. I was getting used to seeing that all the tourists were Russian - we hardly saw any English people on our trip. And Russian works to communicate when English fails. Very interesting dynamic!
My lunch here was delicious:
Hot pear, seriously, have you ever had hot pear before? Such a good idea!! And the meal was something like pickled camembert cheese topped with onions, olive oil/vinegar and raspberry jam -- apparently usually served as bar food, but it worked just fine as lunch for me. It's called Nakládaný Hermelín and it's so good! Look here for a recipe.
That Saturday there was a festival going on! It was a wine event for St. Martin's Day (a traditional holiday for the celebration of a wine harvest), which fell on 11/11/11 this year. We suddenly stumbled upon a load of real Czech people enjoying their weekend in a small town. I bought a handmade basket for ~$2, asked for honey wine in Russian from a Czech barman, and we saw a gypsy performance in a tent. Pretty cool. We wandered around inside the college, there was tons of food and wine inside and it was set up like an art gallery. It's right near the Cathedral so is very interesting to see.
There were young Czech guys inside preparing feathers for pillow-making (my friend got a demonstration from them and learned how to do it herself, haha), people on stilts (kind of scary!!), a man with the exact same dog as me (I got a photo with him) and all in all it was a great day trip out from Prague. It was fun to see what the countryside is like (even if it's just the suburbs, nothing too crazy). And we walked everywhere because we couldn't figure out the bus system for the life of us. We stopped at an ordinary supermarket on the way back... Pretty cool!
That night we managed to return in time to see a 7 PM showing of Puccini's Madame Butterfly at the State Opera. If you have an NUS card (student discount card) you can get tickets for only 10 euros! The seats were in the back but this opera house is pretty small -- the view was just fine and they even let us switch seats when we saw that our subtitles were blocked by the chandelier.
The performance was well-staged, and quality all the way through, but I didn't feel much for the title character. Cio-Cio's actress, Csilla Boross, just didn't fit my image of her: in my mind she's meant to have a defined sense of filial duty that is stripped from her through her love of Pinkerton. And above all delicate, fresh, young and naive. But this Butterfly was more of a pillar, with oppressive stubbornness and overbearing dignity. She wasn't likable or particularly innocent.
But the staging was good. There was an interesting bit of choreography choice for her final scene: she disappears behind the same dressing screen to die as where she had formerly changed into her wedding night gown. Submitting to die is like submitting herself to another fate, opposed to the fate she chose for herself with her husband, maybe?
But her famous aria was fantastic. I don't understand the technicalities of this kind of music (other than a great course I took at Waseda on opera history) but it was the high point of the performance and was when I actually reacted to the emotions. Plus it was stuck in my head all evening after that! Here it is - she's singing about her love's return. This is a different actress:
So, that was our second day in Czech, more jam-packed than our first. Our final day in Prague coming up.
Posted by Natalie Meyer at 13:42 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Friday, December 16. 2011
I'm writing this from a 5:50 AM train out of Lyon, France, on the way to Charles de Gaulle Airport and then back to California for the holidays. It's pitch dark and I rushed to the station after saying a quick farewell to an amazing host and my friend still tucked up in bed. Oh, and I'm eating Lyon sweets and gluten-free macaroons too. It's been a great trip!
Last week I was scrambling to complete my marketing summative work at LSE - and it was the most pleasant change ever when I exchanged that stress for the positive travel-related stress of this week, which was really a crazy trip for me on so many levels!
It started out as a simple visit to see a French friend who studied abroad in Georgetown. But she canceled on me at the last minute - leaving me with 4 days in France and no where to stay. I decided to go to Lyon anyway. And got very lucky because a Singaporean friend in my programme decided she wanted to come, too. It was the Festival of Lights last weekend - the city was packed and we couldn't find anywhere to stay!
So we did what any pair of 20-somethings might do -- we couchsurfed. I've always been curious about it and this was actually a fantastic experience. Seriously. Our host was a girl from Reunion Island (neither of us had heard of it before)... Mel has 2 black cat kittens and a really comfortable sofa bed! She was so nice and actually trusted us with her keys within hours of meeting her!
Me, quite literally couchsurfing
On the third night we had what I think must be a quintessential couchsurfing experience, the reason people do this sort of thing. Mel cooked us some authentic food from her home -- delicious fish curry and veggies -- and we provided the white wine and cheese and dessert. It was soo good and a really nice, low-key thing to do after a hectic day trip out of the city. And I skyped with her family in Reunion Island in broken French!
The language is the other thing - my French is nonexistent but just being there in such a real setting, not a hotel, with true locals, made me see how attainable learning French would be. When you use it it is so satisfying to receive even a semblance of understanding in return. My Singaporean friend was super enthusiastic about it.
As for the crazy parts of couchsurfing, Mel actually had 3 Italians staying with her the first night, andher friend from Marseilles. I legit woke up at 4 AM to a mix of English, French and Italian and a stranger sleeping next to me and two guys on the floor by our bed!! We never actually met them - we left early and they were gone that day. It was pretty amusing. The second night, after they had left and it was so serene in Mel's little flat, was like heaven after a long day out.
I knew a Lyon guy from my time abroad in Japan and he was kind enough to meet me at the station and show me around before my LSE friend showed up. So, he was our bodyguard as we made our way over to the couchsurfing place, thank goodness he came because we were soo nervous!! We were wandering through dark empty streets and worried about what our host would be like etc etc. But it all worked out.
I think the thing with couchsurfing is that it cements a really strong thing in human relations. Think about it, you have to know someone very well before you can impose on them to spend the night. But couchsurfing skips over all of that and goes straight to something that has the potential for the highest stage of human friendship, without ever having met the person. It's a brilliant idea.
I was also thinking about how when you visit a city and there are one or two acquaintances there who can show you around... Of course it's useful. But more than that, there's a feeling of constrained time that makes you hang out with that person more. And all that concentrated interaction really does make you good friends. It's just sad that it all revolves around a few days here and there. Why are my good friends scattered around the globe!? This experience has happened to me a lot in the past few years -- I've generally been on the other end of it though. It's almost traumatic to say goodbye!
Old bookstore my Lyon friend showed me in the medieval quarter
And this all leads into a really interesting discussion we've been having in my media classes about the idea of a young, global, and urban elite. For students in my LSE programme this sort of experience -- speaking 3 languages at once, meeting random acquaintances again in a new city, traveling with friends you hardly know -- is not crazy. But my family at home is going to read this and not even be able to imagine being on that same sphere of internationalism, of access to varied experiences and people. More than that, it's about the mindset: the confidence and also the willingness on each side to really exchange with each other. It's an unbalanced and privileged way of experiencing the world... But I love it so much.
Next posts: our 3 day trips out out of Lyon and the other miscellaneous sightseeing we did! And food!
Posted by Natalie Meyer at 17:07 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Saturday, November 19. 2011
My Japanese friend and I planned a whirlwind trip to Prague last weekend, we jokingly called it our "best/new friend honeymoon" 新友旅行/親友旅行 (a play on Japanese "honeymoon" 新婚旅行 -- shinyu ryoko vs shinkon ryoko)… if that even makes sense in English. Anyway, it was GREAT!! I love traveling with friends. We had a super demanding schedule and were exhausted most of the time but it was so worth it.
I woke up at a painful 4 AM to get to my London Stansted 7:05 AM flight - and we were in the center of Prague by 11:30 AM to check into our hotel, no hitches there. The first surprise: it was freezing, literally -2 C and London seemed like Hawaii in comparison! For lunch we found a vegetarian buffet restaurant, Country Life, and we had our first introduction to Czech food. Super filling, the prices are definitely cheaper than London, and we felt pleasantly foreign in a room surrounded by Czech people, i.e. it seemed like an authentic atmosphere!
After that we sort of wandered around aimlessly toward Old Town Square, the cliched place to start a trip in Prague. There was a neat wine festival going on while we were there. We kept coming back to sample the honey wine at a particular stall - delicious when hot! There was a noisy Montenegro/Czech soccer game airing, complete with shouting fans and cameramen.
And luckily enough there was also a free tour on the sidelines, I'd vaguely read about this online, but the Sandemans New Prague Tour was great! We stumbled onto it just in time. And there we met a really awesome tour guide named Filip!!
Yes, Megumi and I actually got a picture with him and then proceeded to ask if we could friend him on Facebook. We laughed at ourselves over this for the whole trip, it was just too funny that we actually went that far, haha! But he's an expert tour guide, really engaging and cares about his city! Plus it's free. Definitely recommend going on this tour -- look on TripAdvisor here for it. It ended just past twilight on the river with Prague Castle in the background (which you can't see in the photo above) - simply lovely.
After that we rushed for a reservation I made at a fantastic place called Švejk Restaurant U Karla complete with gluten-free bread and beer. Traditional Czech style with live music too! I was so happy with this meal, it was the best thing I had in Czech. Get the salmon!
Afterward we tried to see the National Marionettes (Don Giovanni), but it turned out they were closed that day. So we had nothing to do but get some honey wine and have a drink in front of the clock (as it rang! - a really funny experience after witnessing our tour guide's earlier parody of it). Then we climbed the tower. It was actually quite magical, thinking back on how I had been in London that morning and now was in a beautiful city with the full moon in the distance and two more days of exploring before us was thrilling. The wine did a lot of the work too!
Probably equally as thrilling for me though was traveling in almost 100% Japanese language again, I haven't had many chances lately to speak it regularly and a weekend in Japanese was a breath of fresh air.
Here is Day 2, our day trip to Kutná Hora!
Posted by Natalie Meyer at 21:45 | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)
Thursday, November 10. 2011
Having survived our race to the harbor we boarded the 10:15 PM ferry for Gozo. We managed to get to our hotel but it was a lot like a rerun of what had happened on the way to the harbor, especially since a diversion (and Google Maps) led us into the narrow byways to the hotel, and more bumping through another unpaved crazy one-way lane (we even saw rabbits). The next day we drove out through a beautiful modern day road. How did we manage to miss that?
But. I really liked Gozo. It was a very interesting way to get used to Malta (if you can even do such a thing in 4 days).
We did have a lackluster lunch (at a place called Oleander in Xaghra, in Victory Square: don't go there, and especially don't sit outside, there will be flies swarming all over you) which tested our mettle a bit but after that a trip to the oldest freestanding ruins in the world made up for it. The Ġgantija temple ruins was very interesting, with hardly anyone there. A sun-weathered British lady was selling homegrown garlic, olive oil and cactus jam by the entrance. I took this photo of a long-lost traveler's autograph: G. J. Chapelle 1862. The columns were covered in carvings like this - I think more than anything it was these that contributed to the sense of its age... even if they are almost brand new compared to the thousands of years ago it was built!
After that we stopped in Victoria. I really liked this town (the capital of Gozo). You can park by the main market and walk all the way up an old, old Citadel to see a sweeping view of the whole of Gozo, which you can see on the left. Gorgeous!!
It was really neat. I would have liked to spend more time there -- there were a few tiny museums (an old jail, folk lore, archaeology) that I didn't get a chance to go to. I remember seeing a stooped old priest (being greeted by the locals) walking serenely back toward his Cathedral, and I thought wow, how does he do this climb every day!!
We also visited the Cave where Odysseus was meant to have been kept by Calypso for 7 years, but I was a little puzzled to be honest, I wasn't even sure if there was a cave, or where it was, but there was definitely a lovely view of the ocean beyond.
And finally after that: the Azure Window, in the picture at the very top. It's really gorgeous, and it would be really enjoyable to take a picnic lunch and spend an afternoon out there (with sunscreen and sunglasses). Less known are the beautiful razor-straight cliffs on the opposite end of the Window.
Actually, I would have enjoyed a full day there more than what we did the next day, which was go to Comino, the so-called "Blue Lagoon" which has such clear water you can see to the bottom. It was worth visiting just to climb up to the top and see the old 17th century St. Mary's Tower in the distance. But there were too many people there, even at 4 PM, and the water was kind of gross to swim in…
By the way, the hotel we stayed at, the Kempinski San Lawrenz, was just fine. They even left my dad a late birthday cake when we mentioned it had been his birthday a few days before. But I don't think it was anything too special - breakfast was not amazing, the spa experience was a little jarring, and of course it is really bizarre to go out sightseeing like rugged explorers (ha) and come back to a place that is supposed to be 5 stars and work like clockwork. A little odd!!
The last leg of our journey back to the mainland in part III!
Posted by Natalie Meyer at 16:50 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Thursday, October 20. 2011
St. Paul's Cathedral in Mdina
Here's a long-awaited recount of the crazy times I had in Malta last month with my dad…
After flying from Amsterdam into the Malta airport we might have thought it was all sunny skies and deep blue Mediterranean seas before us, but actually we really had a huge hurdle of bumpy, unpaved, left-handed, stress-filled roads to make our 10 PM ferry first. I practically forced my dad to stop in Mdina, the "Silent City," on the way to the ferry port. I'm very glad we did (and all at the risk of missing that damn ferry) because Mdina is probably the best first impression anyone could get of Malta.
The biggest shock, though, was probably just getting into our rental car and seeing how crazily different the roads, houses, people, everything is from anywhere else we've ever been!! I'm not kidding you, we saw a kid on a horse and chariot racing through his neighborhood.
Anyway, at Mdina it was early evening so there were not many tourists around (just enough that we knew we were in the right place), and the first cathedral among many we would see was lovely. Most of all I love the limestone streets and houses, the labyrinths of neighborhoods. The cats and looking through keyholes are fun too.
I successfully yelped our way to a great restaurant, probably the second best meal we had on the whole trip, and our first taste of Malta cuisine. Fantastic fresh fish and soup and a gluten-filled dessert in a centuries-old cellar-type restaurant off the track from the cathedral, aptly called the Mdina Restaurant. Expensive, but way more value for our money than we got at many other places, and delicious too.
We had to rush out of that restaurant though as I realized that the next ferry came at 10:15, it was 9:30 when we left and we were still 25 minutes away according to Google Maps. Otherwise we would have to wait till 11:45. So with me using the reliable blue GPS dot as our indicator I guided my dad from Mdina to the ferry harbor…
If only it were that easy!! We finally made it in time, but only after a breakneck ride up a two-way mountain path the size of a one-way road, in the pitch dark and with potholes lurking in the corners!! Google Maps ought to have a "Tourist" button that will avoid those dodgy paths in the middle of no where. It got us there at last (and with only a few minutes to spare), but this was definitely not the relaxing resort vacation my dad had in mind!
Next up… two days in Gozo and our final day on the mainland.