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I’d heard Venice was smelly, damp, expensive, sinking and outdated.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.

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Truly Unique and Unbelievable – Damien Hirst – Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable

Wow. I know it’s in the eye of the beholder but maybe they went to a different show to the rest of us.

Truly Unique and Unbelievable – Damien Hirst – Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable

I’d first of all like to give FULL credit to all the artists and sculptors and workers who alongside Damien Hirst produced such a unique awe inspiring exhibition. (Actually two, in separate locations in Venice.)

Damien Hirst - Gold painted sculpture

You produced work that truly brought the ‘Wow’ factor, to almost every visitor through the doors.

Whilst being lucky enough to visit Venice, I also had chance to see this exhibition spread over two venues in the city.

Damien Hirst - coral

A fantastic contrast to all the historic art and culture which packs the city between canals and waterways.

 



I can’t even contemplate how you achieved it, how you managed to get such huge and outrageous pieces into the country let alone into the galleries.

Amazing!

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Vietnam – Through My Eyes

The cities are bright, busy and packed with energy

The countryside is wild and awe inspiring

Vietnam – Through My Eyes

Vietnam is a beautiful, breath taking country

The cities are bright, busy and packed with energy

The countryside is wild and awe inspiring

Taste the best coffee in the world

Go and see stunning dynamic Vietnam for yourself

It has some of the most iconic views in the world

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What to do in Rome (And an easy way to save money whilst doing it!)

Remember your memories are in your head. As much as it’s great to take photos, I do all the time, it’s also great to see stuff with your eyes not your lens.

What to do in Rome (And an easy way to save money whilst doing it!)

Off to Rome? Fantastic! Flights booked? Awesome! Now deciding what to do ‘when in Rome’ well, I’ve a few tips.

Colosseum
Colosseum

Firstly, there is no way you will ‘see it all’ on a short break to Rome. Just accept it.

The city is so packed to the rafters with beauty, history, art and culture, and tourists, you need to have a plan. Your plan could be ‘let’s just see how it goes’ which in most of my life tends to be a mantra of mine.

HOWEVER, I don’t suggest this for Rome. I’d suggest a bit of pre planning to make sure you don’t miss out on some exceptional, awe inspiring, breath taking and unique experiences.

When you arrive in Rome

We got the public bus from the airport, boy it was packed, and late, and hot and not fun with a large backpack but it was cheap and we arrived safely. The locals helped us find the right stop otherwise I think we’d still be on it! I guess you pay your money you take your choice.

Oh, and remember, there are two airports!

Roman rabbit
Roman rabbit – bit random

Where to stay in Rome

It’s not cheap, it’s a city and it’s a busy one. However you can bag a bargain if you shop around. I noticed the hotels offered with the flight companies didn’t have great reviews, so booked separately.

We stayed at the hotel Mimosa, I’ve posted a review on Trip Advisor if you want to get more details.

It’s in an ideal location for everything central in Rome, with helpful staff.

BIG TIP!

Talk to locals and staff, we found extra iconic Caravaggio paintings which weren’t mentioned in the guide books by chatting over breakfast.

If you are staying in a smaller hotel, you may find they lock up, not just at night. Make sure you read all the small print and can gain access when your flight arrives. Make sure they know you’re coming.

How to find things in Rome

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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.

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Le Penseur, Auguste Rodin – The Vatican Museum, Rome

Some of the most important art in the world is there and folk just barge you out of the way and literally run through the galleries

Le Penseur, Auguste Rodin

Le Penseur, Auguste Rodin – The Vatican Museum, Rome

Some say size matters, boy did they get that one wrong. Always choose quality over quantity!

I am so lucky, I have seen some of the most beautiful, historic, thought provoking stunning art. I’ve visited Paris to see Mona Lisa, despite what you may have perceived from the media images, she’s tiny! None the less she’s worth the trip. Wow! Amazing.

Whilst on a recent trip to Rome I was walking around the breathtaking Vatican Museum. A huge number of people almost run through that place. It’s bizarre. Some of the most important art in the world is there and folk just barge you out of the way and literally run through the galleries to get to the Sistine Chapel.

Shame.

Now the Sistine Chapel is just indescribable, although I will try in a future blog post, but please people…

slow down…

take a breath…

take in the beauty around you…

As I meandered through the long halls and enjoyed the galleries held securely in between, I was surprised to see an artwork I’d not even realised was there. It wasn’t mentioned in my brochures and my research had missed it, my bad.

Stood on a humble pillar, within a small off shot gallery sat this gorgeous man. He wasn’t drawing attention to himself, he sat quietly, some visitors almost knocked him from his pedestal in their haste to pass him by.

Who was this tactile, bronze, muscular naked figure quietly demanding my attention? Silently calling out to me to reach out a hand and almost tentatively touch his shoulder, I resisted the temptation, as you do with a forbidden love.

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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.

Continue reading “My Tiny Scottish City Break – it’s not just whisky and midges”

5 Reasons to Travel on the Tranzalpine Railroad, Aotearoa, New Zealand – Christchurch to Greymouth

If you live at the top of a mountain, where it rains, a lot, I guess you need a sense of humour.

Tranzalpine Railroad, Aotearoa, New Zealand Christchurch to Greymouth5 Reasons to Travel on the Tranzalpine Railroad, Aotearoa, New Zealand – Christchurch to Greymouth

1. The Tranzalpine train link between Christchurch and Greymouth, Aotearoa, New Zealand, is one of the world’s most iconic rail journeys

I know why. It’s a cliche but the scenic route is truly visually stunning. It is hard to capture the number of oohs, aaahs and wows that you hear. Both your own and fellow traveller’s as you watch the highs and lows of the terrain through the huge picture windows. The train has an plug in audio commentary for travellers to learn as they go along, I’d recommend tuning in to it. Embrace your inner tourist and listen to the experts, you really should learn something about the area.

2. You can relax and look at the amazing scenery without distraction

The route goes up to the infamous Arthur’s Pass high in the mountains. A windy place occupied by a tiny community. Some people go there for a day or three, no doubt to go hiking or mountaineering. I salute you. The terrain didn’t look hospitable, even on a sunny day. It is hard to imagine how bleak it would have been for ‘Arthur’ and any other pioneers. As we learnt on the train commentary the original terrain would have been basically dry grasses, most of the greenery we now see has been imported over the decades / centuries. Bleak indeed.

Land of the long white cloudThe ‘land of the long white cloud’ is illustrated quite clearly, although the weather change dramatically through the day and from one side of a very long tunnel and the other.  The palm trees in such a desolate place was a surprise, especially when I’m told my garden in Sunny Donny isn’t warm enough for one.



3. The train has an open sided carriage to allow for clear photography

The very breezy and chilly open cabin is fantastic. Take your coat it is more than a bit nippy! Put your camera around your neck or on a wrist strap. You let go of it up here you sure as heck ain’t going to get it back! Don’t stick your head or hands out in a tragic selfie fashion either as unexpected bridges and tunnels pop up unannounced. Tranzalpine viewsI laughed at the thought of having something similar in a fairly mild UK climate, maybe across the Pennines. Our UK system is so totally dominated by Health & Safety it wouldn’t get past the drawing board. Well done to the brave souls allowing a truly immersive travelling experience in the open air.

I chatted with one guy who lives nearby and travels regularly in the open carriage just to get back in touch with his local area and its beauty. What a great idea. How often do you do that where you live?

4. It’s an education

Braided River in New Zealand

Do you know what a braided river is? No, me neither until I discovered it’s one ‘braided’ by the debris and gravel brought down by the waters from the hills. They are dramatic, beautiful and a little intimidating. I can imagine the powerful waters just rushing down one day, taking everything in its path on its torrential journey.

If you live at the top of a mountain, where it rains, a lot, I guess you need a sense of humour. I hadn’t expected to see such imaginative art in a garden at the rail track, so who ever you are – WELL DONE!

Corrugated Iron ArtworkCorrugated metal art in a ‘thing’ in Aotearoa (NZ), no idea why but you see it in the most unexpected places. It’s a personal choice I guess but local art adds character so is always a bonus.

5. It gets you from A to B, what more do you need

Oh yes, and the day I travelled was the day I discovered a strange jelly type sweet (I’m reserving judgment on that one, excuse the almost cannibalistic joining of the two dissected bodies) and Peanut slab! Peanut Slab & CoffeeDEEP JOY!!! Anyone travelling in Aotearoa you HAVE to try it (peanut allergy excepted of course)

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Why are the Blue Mountains blue?

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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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