Singapore – The Gorgeous Green City – Where the happiest people in Asia live!

trees keep the whole place healthy and balanced

Singapore – The Gorgeous Green City – Where the happiest people in Asia live!Singapore - Raffles fountain

I’ve always wanted to visit Singapore to see the iconic locations for myself.

Singapore - Raffles

It’s a total joy, everywhere you look is greenery alongside stunning modern architecture.



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Venice, Italy – So Much More Than Glass and Gondolas!

invoking thoughts of women in masks and powdered wigs roaming through the city after attending yet another outrageous masked ball in the 15th century.

Venice, Italy – So Much More Than Glass and Gondolas!

I’d heard Venice was smelly, damp, expensive, sinking and outdated. Well they got that wrong!

Venice canal
Stupidly big boats are not friends of Venice

OK, maybe it’s sinking, actually it’s tilting and sinking. Yes it’s pricey. However it certainly wasn’t smelly and it was so packed with gorgeous art, stunning architecture, history and irrepressible wow factors that I would have forgiven the city the smell anyway.

Venice - pillar



Venice is awesome, you arrive at the airport and get the boat, yes boat, from the airport to your hotel.

On the island there are no cars, which is no wonder as the pathways wind adventurously between the high and ancient architecture.

  Continue reading “Venice, Italy – So Much More Than Glass and Gondolas!”

Doha, Qatar – Through My Eyes

Next time you have a stop over, make it a few days and explore this jewel in the Middle East.

Doha, Qatar – Through My Eyes

It’s a city packed with surprise architecture…

Here are just a few of my favourite images of this beautiful, bustling, breath-taking city.

Doha, Qatar is a joy and a real hidden treasure and it hosts one of my favourite museums.

The souq ranks as one of the best in the world.

Next time you have a stop over, make it a few days and make the most of this jewel in the Middle East.

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Volterra, Italy – History and Handbags High in the Tuscan Hills

Painters, artists and writers have been drawn to this part of the world across the years.

Volterra, Italy – History and Handbags High in the Tuscan Hills

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I was lucky enough to spend a week working in Tuscany. I know, sorry, stressful but someone had to do it, I’m such a martyr for my cause eh? On an afternoon off I was driven to this joy of a ancient mountain town, Volterra.

I’d seen it from a distance across the valley from the work location. High in the clouds first thing in the morning, safely nestling above the expanse of green valleys and hillsides later in the day.

I’m glad I wasn’t driving the roads are winding with huge drops to certain death on one side, although as a passenger I’m not sure which took my breath away most, the vertiginous drops or the STUNNING panoramic views beauty of nature all around! So if you do drive you may miss out on the numerous opportunities to look past the trees and extreme drops to the famous Tuscan views.

Volterra Tuscany view from the town over hills
Breathtaking!

Painters, artists and writers have been drawn to this part of the world across the years. It is a calm, light, green, panoramic countryside and it’s very easy to understand why so many found it inspirational.

‘I am a product of my native land, Tuscany, Italy’ – Andrea Bocelli

We arrived in Volterra and parked in a municipal underground car park. Ignoring this very concrete 1970’s spiral of a carpark as anything other than a convenience, we got walking shoes on, credit cards and cameras at the ready and started the wonderful stroll. Starting with a view over red tiled roofs and out to the far fields rampant with greenery and various farmed crops.

This gem of a town hidden high in the Tuscan hills is worth the drive. Don’t miss the panoramic views near the car park on the main road into the town. The heavy red tiled roofs sit solid and reassuring as you look out over the valley, on the edge of town, although the brickwork is quite wonky in places. No doubt after years of carrying the burden of the deeply ridged terracotta tiles. It all adds to the sense of place, rooted strongly to this mountain top in this country of earthquakes and tremors.

The Romans built an impressive theatre here, wow they must have been fit to hike up those hills! No straight Roman road would climb this high. Surprisingly they still trekked all the way up here, despite the lack of straight roads to ascend the hills,  and built amongst other things a huge theatre.

‘Roman Theatre of Volterra’

Spend a few of your euros to see the historic sites, you can get a multi saver although as time was limited I just chose to spend time at the ‘Roman Theatre of Volterra’. As I wandered around paved pathways and stared awestruck as mosaic floors and marble columns, still standing all these years on, I knew I was walking in the footsteps of Roman poets and actors in leather sandals alongside Roman goddesses in long white robes and gold headdresses.

They had the right idea building here, truly near to their gods in the clouds, although I can imagine them moving elsewhere in winter. This place is HIGH!

Continue reading “Volterra, Italy – History and Handbags High in the Tuscan Hills”

5 Things To Do In Doha, Qatar – The Up And Coming Jewel Of The Middle East

The good thing about Qatar is that whilst it isn’t cheap, it isn’t prohibitively expensive so try it now before the crowds.

5 Things To Do In Doha, Qatar – The Up And Coming Jewel Of The Middle East

I’m sure most of you have heard of Dubai, but Qatar may not be on your radar, unless of course you’re a soccer fan. In which case you’ll be aware the FIFA World Cup will be held there in 2022. I’m not going to dig any deeper on that, just please don’t judge a place or its people until you’ve been there.

Dubai is leading the field in this area in the development of tourism but Qatar is not far behind, and with all the positivity and enthusiasm I’m sure they will soon be not far behind. The good thing about Qatar is that whilst it isn’t cheap, it isn’t prohibitively expensive so try it now before the crowds.

The modern hi-tech airport in Doha is an award winner and their staff are probably the friendliest airport staff I’ve come across. I’m impressed as I’m sure it’s not easy to keep your calm when stressed travellers are shouting in every language you can imagine. The taxi rank is easy to find, the taxis are all aqua blue.



You’ll no doubt be ferried down the city centre roads which are 6 lane motorways. They are packed with the biggest variety of 4x4s doing U turns and lane jumping you’ll see. If you don’t need to drive, don’t, it’s a skill here so let the taxis take the strain. The taxi drivers are mostly Indian, I asked ours if he liked driving in Doha or India. He laughed, much preferring Doha, as in India he advised us the traffic is just as chaotic but there are people, cattle, dogs and tuk-tuks as well. He thought the actions of the Ferraris, Bentleys and 4x4s were much easier to predict!

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If you’re heading across the globe you may be offered a stopover in Qatar, you can do much worse. Try to arrange a long weekend in Doha, it has some real gems.

1. Museum of Islamic Art

Doha_Museum_architecture

I could easily spend a full day here, on a regular basis. It’s a huge well designed modern museum, packed with well protected and well labelled artifacts from across a huge swath of the ancient and modern muslim world.

The various galleries span three floors. The fourth floor was closed on our visit, I think probably to prepare another exhibit. There was a temporary ‘threads’ exhibition on the ground floor, all of which was stunning in it’s beauty and history, it included unique an no doubt highly prized historic pieces. The whole museum is an educational, artistic and informative haven from the heat. If I lived in this city this would be a regular haunt.

Doha_jewelled_falcon

The cafe at the entrance is worth a visit too, although menu quite small, it’s ideal for a drink and snack. The free parking and free entry is great, and unexpected.

They should ask for donations as I’m sure all the tourists and locals alike would give generously. The fund could go towards continued protection of our art and histories, vital work in these troubled times.

Continue reading “5 Things To Do In Doha, Qatar – The Up And Coming Jewel Of The Middle East”

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, Scotland – A Night at The Museum with Awesome Art Classics

The exhibits are displayed in smaller rooms, well spaced so browsing and taking your time is easy and enjoyable.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, Scotland – A Night at The Museum with Awesome Art Classics

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, Scotland - A Night at The Museum with Awesome Art Classics

Product:

Art Gallery, shop and cafe

Location:

Argyle Street, Glasgow, Scotland

Van Gogh

Overview:

This gallery is housed in a beautiful, classical architectural jewel of a building in Glasgow city. We parked up in the cheap on-site car park and walked through the small gardens to the entrance. Entrance is free, with a voluntary donation of £5 minimum, it’s well worth the donation!

The gallery is spread over three floors, with cafe and shop to visit before you leave. The shop has some really well designed souvenirs, reasonably priced and not just the usual junk.

The exhibits are displayed in smaller rooms, well spaced so browsing and taking your time is easy and enjoyable. The downstairs rooms are a bit more chaotic as they are aimed at education of the young. Lots of laughter and running between the tactile displays shows they’ve got it spot on.

Continue reading “Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, Scotland – A Night at The Museum with Awesome Art Classics”

My Tiny Scottish City Break – it’s not just whisky and midges

The colours and light change and drift from bright jewels of purple to stormy greys and back again. Your camera will not do it justice.

My Tiny Scottish City Break - it's not just whisky and midgesMy Tiny Scottish City Break – it’s not just whisky and midges

OK, so I confess, I don’t like weddings and I don’t like rooms full of people I don’t know. So at the weekend where did I decide to spend a weekend, yes a wedding. A wedding where I wouldn’t know anyone. No one, except my other half.

To add to the overall joy of anticipation I also came down with really bad cold. I now had not only a sore throat, peeling snotty nose and no tastebuds, but would be exposing all the guests I met to my germs. Oh dear.

I put all the guilt of that on hold and went anyway. The guilt of missing out on the wedding, letting people down and wasting what was relatively the small fortune it costs to travel and stay in the UK being my main motivations. As any of you know who follow my blog, I’m currently earning about $1 per month from Amazon Affiliates so small fortune it is! 

Did I mention that the car broke down the day before too, so last minute train tickets had to be bought – ouch! Pricey!

Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle at sunsetBack to the wedding. It was to be held on the Saturday so it would be foolish to miss out on a chance to spend time in one of my favourite cities in the WORLD, so Friday became travel day.

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My Tiny London City Break – it’s not just palaces and designer shops

Here I identify a gap in the market. Reading glasses. Why don’t book shops sell them?

My Tiny London City Break – it’s not just palaces and designer shops

My Tiny London City Break - it's not just palaces and designer shops

London is a great city break destination. Not the cheapest city to visit but if you can afford a day or two it’s quirky and not just palaces and expensive designer shops, although they are there too.


Getting To London

Due to bagging a bargain first class ticket I end up in the Virgin First Class waiting room, lush. I’m a bit of a reverse snob so do feel a little awkward entering the ‘exclusive’ area with its lovely and surprisingly comfy designer chairs.

Virgin Trains First Class Waiting Room

(Note to self, write and ask Richard Branson for one of the spares, would be ideal for my hallway)

For some reason at Doncaster, luckily sunny Donny as usual, the first class carriage stops miles down the platform, well 100 yards at least, so I trekked off to the distant pillar with the helpful carriage number posted on it and waited for an on time train.

Doncaster Rail Station

Easy to find my seat, settle in, plug in charger for phone and log on free wifi. The wifi is a bit hit and miss but as it’s free and easy to log in I have no problem with it. Pinterest with its heavy image base didn’t load but I was able to do some emails, catch up with Twitter and start this post in my Scrivener app.

Free refreshments are in with the ticket price, although my train was the early one so the breakfast only menu was on. A little muffin didn’t quite do it, when I had my heart set on the chicken wrap but it’s free so who am I to moan.  I daren’t risk the chocolate Danish whilst wearing a white cotton top.

Arrival in London

Numerous teas later, yes you know I love my brews, I arrived in London.

Continue reading “My Tiny London City Break – it’s not just palaces and designer shops”

5 Reasons to Visit Wellington in Aotearoa, New Zealand

If you have any recommendations for people who wish to stay longer please let me know, I can only comment on the things I saw in my very few hours in this harbour of culture which sits at the feet of a tall and thriving metropolis.

5 Reasons to Visit Wellington in Aotearoa, New Zealand5 Reasons to Visit Wellington in Aotearoa, New Zealand

After driving for many hours with this view or ones very similar, we arrived in Wellington on the North Island of Aotearoa (aka New Zealand) I can think of a dozen reasons to do the same again, but here’s my first 5.

Aotearoa Mountain Landscape

1. People focussed city centre

I keep emphasising you should be making your own schedules, don’t always go with the guide books however…I’m my own worst enemy.

I listened when people said, don’t spend much time in Wellington. It was a mistake but I don’t do regret so all’s good. This mistake meant we only had a few hours whilst waiting for the ferry (to the South Island) to fully explore and enjoy Wellington.

Please try to stay longer as from my short visit it proved to be a place to enjoy at leisure, cafe culture and history well balanced for people to enjoy. A melting pot of cafe dwellers. Office workers in their precious downtime chilling out on huge water front floor cushions.  Children kayaking in the safe haven harbour. Trend setters lounging with the ever present phones in hand, selfie heaven.

OK, so it was warm and sunny and we found a gorgeous organic cafe with amazing take away food to eat at the harbour, oh and a craft market full of retro fabrics, crafts and local art, so maybe my view is biased.

2. Art and sculpture

Yes Wellington you do the ‘expensive’ or ‘mainstream’ pieces better than Melbourne (no one can beat Melbourne for street art)

Solace in the Wind

I love works by Andrew Gormley and this one reminds me of his work. Its also very ‘Prometheus’ don’t you think?

Solace in the Wind

‘Solace in the Wind’, the naked man leaning over the edge of the harbour as if being held up by a gust of wind, is the work of Max Patte – an Englishman who came to Wellington to work at Weta Studios (the effects company behind movies like Avatar and the Lord of the Rings trilogy). Patte was inspired to create the sculpture in response to his own feelings about the Wellington waterfront, a place that he found comforting during difficult times. While the wind might not feel solacing to everyone, it is an inspiring statement on the emotional ties we develop with places….”

3. Maori history and art as the norm not an added extra

The harbour area was the place we spent our time. The ‘powers that be’ have incorporated maori style artwork within the buildings and bridge structures so they are part of the built environment. They stand out for tourists but also become part of every day for locals. I love that idea and wish more local areas would embrace their histories with such enthusiasm. Until we accept that we are all products of multi-culturalism we will never Wellington Sculpturereally be at peace together. Art and architecture has a huge part to play in that (sorry just had to get that out of my system)

Make sure you don’t miss all the small plaques along the dock area, tributes to sailors, soldiers and citizens lost at sea or at war. Take the time to read them, they are both moving and informative. 

4. Ferry that ran on time

This small but often ignored fact is one which, to a traveller, can mean the difference between getting to a safe accommodation on time or not arriving at all. It can not be underestimated.



5. A comfortable, cosmopolitan, credible (and apparently safe) waterside dock

Wellington HarbourThe planners have incorporated old and new and in what looks like a fairly recently renovated harbour area succeeded in making a place for people. Young, old, local, traveller, all mingled in. A group of guys placing soccer on the faux grass pitch, maori art used as architectural pieces of value.

Brilliant, one up for town planners, credit where it’s due.

If you have any recommendations for people who wish to stay longer please let me know, I can only comment on the things I saw in my very few hours in this harbour of culture which sits at the feet of a tall and thriving metropolis.

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Art

I am going to try to blog once a daythroughout April. I have a new smart phone which I am still working hard to master, oh the forgotten joy of easily texting or searching on an older more comfortable device. I know I’ll soon be lost without it, but at the moment ‘switching to silent’ is a mortal battle to the death!

Anyway, as part of the a-z blog challenge I will persevere throughout April. My first blog for the month is…A is for Art!

The picture is take at Yorkshire Sculpture Park in, yes you guessed it, Yorkshire, England. If you haven’t been there you are missing out, it’s a great place for a walk, a bit of culture, a view of new and established artists work often made specifically with this grand location in mind. Sheep meander between the monoliths, you can too. Boots are a good plan in wet weather, but those who prefer hard standing can spend a while trying to find friends or celebrities names on the walkway to the gallery.

I love this place, but just one minor moan to the architect, why the blooming heck did you put the handrail on the cafe balcony at eye height! It makes relaxing to look at the panorama a neck stretching or scrunching experience I’d prefer to miss out on!