Thursday, April 28, 2011

Leaving on a Plane

I'm leaving Oman in two hours time. And somehow the excited has been shadowed by something that happened last night, and today.

I've actually written a really long and emotional post on it.

But despite my heart telling me to not think and publish it, to voice myself out despite all consequences and neglecting all respects to people who matter in this subject; my head once against told me to hold it against my tongue, or in this matter, my fingers.

Well, It's a short 6 hours flight to Oman. I have my book and gossip girls on my iPhone, but somehow I have a feeling that I don't really have the mood for either. I'll probably just to stick to work.

Till Oman.


In the mean time,

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My AAX to Christchurch

Last year I travelled to New Zealand and had the grandest time of my life.

autumn happiness 17


I met so many friendly people, with whom I managed to hitch quite a few rides around the country and one whom I stayed with in Christchurch (Danny! Are you still in Christchurch?!)

A post here about my hitch hike experience down the Southern Island.

malborough wallpaper_wide


I travelled from Auckland in the North Island, then went down to Wellington, passed the ocean and Marlborough, few stops in between and ended up in Christchurch eventually. I wrote a post on my journey and stops here.


Among all, my stay in Marlborough Wine Country was the most unforgettable. I’ve been to several wine valleys before, but that was my first experience cycling in one, the weather was perfect (cooling but not too cold) and it was silly not to cycle from winery to winery.

my shadow


cycling in marlborough


Tried my first cheese soufflé there.

eating cheese souffle


Good wine, good food, good people.


Then by the time I hit Christchurch, it just was endless and endless of scenery and culture and architecture.

Cable ride up to see Akaroa was really pleasant.

hair in face
Albeit very windy.


The Art Gallery, which we went silly taking photos at the colourful steps.

nicole posing on colorful steps


And then I ran out of time when I hit Christchurch. I didn’t go further South and regretted for never having the chance to venture into Milford Sound, or even Mt Cook, which I heard is BEAUTIFUL.

That also meant I never visited Queenstown either.

:(

It wasn’t easy for me to fly there in the first place.

To save a couple bucks (well, more like a thousand ringgit), I flew down to Australia, did some legs there in Tassie before heading up to Sydney and flew off to Auckland.

Believe it or not, it was really much cheaper to fly into Australia and then to New Zealand back then. And I was a poor freshly graduated master student then.

If you were to fly straight, the flight ticket could cost up to RM4000.

Now, the good news is… Airasia X flies to New Zealand!!!

flying to christchurch


When I first heard the news, I was like... “FINALLY?!”

Then I went online to check out the new flights promo to Christchurch, which I also heard was only RM499 one way.

You can win a 7D/6N trip to NZ by playing the Faces go Places contest on the Airasia FB page. Three simple steps of choosing an activity, upload your face, and submit with a caption on the new photo while posting it on your FB wall.

Like this:
swimming with dolphins
I know, disturbing image.

Then we want you to share it with your friends and get loads of votes. Easy.


I can’t wait for New Zealand, and I can’t wait to rent a car to go back to Marlborough (car rentals are so cheap in NZ!).

Oh… and…

Mt-Cook


Wait for me Mt Cook!!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Oh Barcelona: the Secret Ravioli Place

The Spanish are passionate about a lot of things.

They're passionate about love, about their food (tapas is *heart*), their architecture (Anthoni Gaudi, nuff said), their religion (a Cathedral every 5 blocks away), their culture (the red crazy flamingo dance), and their Zara (no joke); it's insane not to think that they're today's France.

fashion window


columbus monument 2
Monument of Columbus pointing to the New World (though the statue is actually pointing east to Genoa - his home city)


colombus carving


lions and barcelona


My usual ritual in a new and strange city was to take a walk around the historical area that made that city famous in the first place. It was Khao San in Bangkok, Tian An Men in Beijing, The Bund in Shanghai, London tower in London, etc.

In Barcelona, it's the old city.

road off la rambla

Having taken a hand-drawn walking guide from my host, I took it to the oldest part of town to have my first glance of Espanol.

entrance to plaza


Here are some of the scenes I've seen on my walk that day.

Went through a Plaza, or an old city square.

plaza

building in plaza


entrance to plaza


Walked down the cobbled streets and watched a man pushed with difficulty two gas tanks up.

slanting road


Yea it might not look like much but that street was pretty uneven when you try to roll mini wheels on it.

The old city consisted of lots of narrow and misleading lanes with buildings very close to each other from across the street, it sort of reminded me of the old Edinburgh in Scotland, only richer;

gap


and once in a while you would find yourself in an opening space, either in front of a formal and majestic building or going through another plaza.

old city


old city 2


I spotted a filming in production that day, quite a big project and they sealed up quite a part of the old city to shoot the film, I saw a lot of sports cars and was peaking through the crowds and barricades to see if I could spot anyone famous, like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie, before being shooed away by the officers.

Some of them even tried to flirt with me. -.-

Walked passed this bakery that reminded me of the patisserie in France.

more spanish pastries


It tempted me enough to want to walk inside and buy myself a piece of gorgeous loaf of something to chew on; but I was on a mission that afternoon, so I walked on.

You see, the night before while my host sat me down and drew my walking tour on a piece of paper; he also circled out some of his favourite food joints around town, and one, which he particularly loved, was situated in the old city.

And he did mention it was a little difficult to find. As I still found it difficult to read street names when there were so many lanes clashed up together, sometimes at a single junction, and they're all equally small, narrow and short. You could walk through a street and not realised you just finished an entire street on its own.

Tucco he said.

A quaint cafe that served delicious and cheap ravioli.


So the mission to find this cheap and scrumptious ravioli dish in Barcelona began.

After many turnings and walking back and forth, and pretty sure I quite literally walked passed the street where the cafe was at least twice, before finally finding a colorful sign on top of this tiny take-away look-a-like cafe.

tucco


You could see why it was a bit difficult to read the word "Tucco".

But anyway, I was famished by now and walked in to look at my options for lunch.

tucco ravioli shop


There were a few selection of pastries and a simple menu list of home-made ravioli dish: from salmon and spinach to bolognese.

spanish pastries


I placed my order, tomato-based salmon ravioli, and went to sit at the tiny bar held up against the window.

ravioli and diet coke
I think Diet Coke slow become a staple to my diet at this point of my life.


tomato base ravioli


It was a little soggy, well, it's home-made I supposed, and bigger than I normally had; but then again I never had home-made ravioli. But it was pleasant. Tucked away in a quaint joint in the old city of Barcelona, I already like the sound of it.


ravioli for lunch


Vamos a comer! (it means let's eat)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Big Europe Trip

So this was my second big Europe trip. First one I did back in 2004, took two and a half month and across Scotland, Ireland, Northern England, Italy and Northern France.

This time, I was doing it shorter and across Spain, Portugal and Southern France.

To cap it, here's a route map I spent 20 minutes creating for your visual aid.
See how nice I am?

map of europe trip


Basically I flew in to London, then took a budget airline to Barcelona, spent a few days, took a local transport to Madrid, then to Seville to see the world third biggest Cathedral;

then find a way to reach Lisbon in Portugal, and up north to Porto for some Ports (yum);

finally leaving Portugal and into Marseille, France via another budget airline (juggle between EasyJet and Ryanair), then met up with a reader in Lyon before heading back to London to spend Christmas with relatives and also, spending my day in London on Boxing Day!!

heart shape candies
heart shape candy is <3 !


long narrow candy shop
narrowest candy store I've ever seen.


candy names
Now you can choose your candies via their names!


Well I figured out the rest in between Barcelona and Porto & Marseille and Lyon when I was there; since I had no idea how long each place I wanted to stay for, or how I could get from place to place.

barcelona street
One particular fashion street in Barcelona old town.


It's awesome you know. Figuring out a country by getting to know each city on foot, familiarize the landscape via buses and trains. I don't think I can ever get rid of such addiction.

intimissimi
saw this model on every intimissimi poster every where! From London to Barcelona to Lisbon! Gosh she's like the most gorgeous being on the street.


One thing I was most fascinated by Barcelona was the bicycle system. I've heard of it in France, seen it, never used it.

bicycles


It's like this less carbon footprint / fuel-saving project where it advocates people to cycle more and drive less to get to their destination. Last I heard it's supposed to be a free service; and since I couldn't read Spanish, I'm assuming that the service here needed some registration of some sort; and you get maybe like the first half hour free or something and pay minimal fee after that.

And this is a map of all the bicycle spots in Barcelona city.

bicycle spots


You can practically cycle everywhere. It's such a cool system.

Though I have seen teenagers vandalizing and abusing the free service by taking one of those bicycles and rode it down the underground and chucked it there.

I supposed if such system would be available in Malaysia, you would see all the bicycles being dismantled and sold for their parts.

I'm just saying.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Talking Car

Ever gone on a talking car?

talking car


Now you can hire one as your tour guide.

Spotted on La Rambla street in Barcelona.


This has to be the coolest way to tour a city.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Arrived in the Land of Graffiti

Hola Barcelona!

This is the La Rambla street.

la rambla barcelona


Sort of an equivalent to our Bukit Bintang street.

It's a tree-line pavement where you find all sorts of people doing all sorts of stunts, performing arts and music; littered with plentiful of tapas restaurants and cafe on both side of the road.

La Rambla


white man on toilet bowl


It's a super gorgeous street to walk on with your partner.

Which was why it was a little bittersweet to watch loving Spanish couples cuddling each other while walking down the street, from 20's to late 60's.

It was sweet, which made me a little bitter about being there alone. Poo~


There was this sight I could not forget, a really handsome couple, the man tall and good looking, the woman elegant and poise, both in their late 40's; they looked perfect for each other and so lovingly together. The husband (presumably) was teasing his wife and they both giggled and then hugged each other as they walked.


It made me conclude that Spain was the most romantic place on earth, more so than France or the city Paris, where French men are used to take in mistresses. I guess the meaning of romanticism has evolved through time.


Alright, back to the day when I left London and arrived in Barcelona in the night.

london to barcelona


barcelona bus station


I arrived the city of Barcelona via the two-hour-half bus and it was pitch dark by the time I dragged my pulley luggage out of the station.

It gotta be the most painful and tedious experience taking underground with no escalators and only stairs two storeys deep to get to my destination.

It took another hour and a half for me to reach my hostel from the station, after getting lost a bit on small dark lanes and smaller alleys having no idea what sort of building I was looking for.

barcelona street
imagine this lonely lane in the dark


morning alley
now imagine this lonely alley in the dark


Creepy? Hell yea! o.O

It didn't help there were a lot of Africans selling drugs at corners of these alleys in the night. >_< The entrance to my hostel was nothing of what I expected of. graffiti door


It's a giant two-wooden-door full of graffiti.

Along an alley that looked like this.

alley


According to the internet, the hostel was rated top in Barcelona.

I was getting worried I was getting my information wrong.

Needless to say I would soon realize that most doors to even the more up-scale places have their doors/metal slides vandalized by teenagers of the city.

Apparently it's art, and a culture. And the people welcomed it.

Here are some of the few more artistic graffiti on random walls and doors I shot over the next few days.

graffiti 1


graffiti 2


graffiti 3


graffiti 4


graffiti 5


Any-hoo, I called my host and pushed open the heavy wooden door to lead myself up another flight of stairs (gosh I hated stairs) and found myself in the most welcoming bed.

bedroom


Where I would soon learn another culture of Barcelona.

The city never sleeps.

earplugs


Which explained the free earplugs on the bed.