30 August 2010

Hola Barcelona!


Maggie and I recently got back from Spain and what a great experience it was!  On our first night, Bree showed us around an affordable but hip bar precinct and we ended up in a small bar that could fit no more than 20 people.  The indie Argentine bartender and the one other customer at the bar loved us and we scored a number of free shots and beers :)

The weather in Barcelona was hot and humid so we decided to venture out of the city to a beach at the Forum.  It was a great place to explore, with many modern and majestic structures (pictured) along the path to the beach.  The beach was beautiful, despite it being located against a backdrop of what seemed like factories.

The following day we joined a walking tour of Gaudi’s famous buildings; La Pedrera, Casa Batll√≥ (pictured) and Sagrada Familia.  Gaudi was an eccentric architect and I was in awe with each of his buildings.  I had wanted to be an architect after high school but a family friend had talked me out of it.  I’m sure if I’d followed that path Gaudi would have been a huge influence for me along with Anish Kapoor.

Later that day we found ourselves exhausted after reaching the top of Park Guell.  It boasted a stunning view of Barcelona and a man dressed in a tight leopard print outfit rocked out some sweet tunes to make the occasion even more memorable (pictured).

The central beaches of Barcelona (pictured) were a stone’s throw away from our hostel so I couldn't resist visiting one, despite being told that the further away from the city you go, the better the beaches.  There I got a tan, was hassled by roaming locals who would constantly offer massages and over-priced snacks, and appreciated how liberal the beaches were (although when you see a man standing completely naked in the middle of the beach, it can be a bit overwhelming!).

One night a group of us visited a bar that offered 500 different types of shots for €2 each.  Each shot had an unusual name and recipe, and many of them involved the drink or the bar around it being lit up in flames!  The Kill Bill was filled with tobasco (do not try it!) and the Monica Lewinski is to be drunk out of a dildo whilst the drinker is blind-folded.

The final place of our Barcelonian visit that deserves mention is the Museu Nacional d’Art.  We stumbled upon this place by accident, while searching for the Magic Fountain (which was not so magic as there was no water in it).  We didn’t actually go to any art exhibitions inside it because we couldn’t afford it, but we still managed to explore the inside of the building.  The design of the building was in my opinion, a perfect fusion of modern and ancient Spanish architecture (pictured).  Also, the view from this museum rivalled that of Park Guell (pictured).

Oh! I should mention something about all the dreamy food we had but I'll write about that in my later posts on Valencia and Madrid.

Aardios amigos :)

17 August 2010

Skye High Scotland

When I first arrived in Edinburgh I had no intention to explore the rest of Scotland.  However, it only took a few glances at some postcards in a souvenir shop for me to change my mind.  Armed with a camera and some tees, I was inadequately prepared as I set out on my adventure through the Highlands.  Just because it is summer does not mean you don't need a thick sweater, a windbreaker, gumboots and thermals.

The first stop was a visit to Wallace Tower in Sterling.  I'm going to digress from the topic of William Wallace (the national hero of Scotland) because I would prefer to write about Hamish McKye Denovan (pictured) who is not only bigger than Wallace, but he is also more hairy and more red.  Hamish is a Highland Cow and is therefore awesome.

After visiting my favourite Scot, we made our way through the dramatic mountain landscapes of Glencoe and then followed the blissful shores of Loch Lochy (pictured).  Loch means Lake in Scotland, but Loch Lochy does not mean Lake Lakey.  That would be sweet if it did.

We spent the night in Fort Augustus, more commonly known as the home of Loch Ness.  The Loch Ness is impressively wide, deep and long; I learnt that if you took all the water from England's lakes, streams and reservoirs and poured it into a basin the size of Loch Ness, there would still be room for more.  Therefore England has nothing on the Loch Ness (ie. England < Loch Ness). I brought my 300mm lens with me on the cruise and managed to snap a very rare shot of Nessie the elusive monster (pictured).

The following day we passed the beautiful Eilean Donan Castle, a castle perched on the shores of Loch Duich.  Our main destination of the day was the Isle of Skye (pictured).  It was one of the most breathtaking sights I have ever witnessed.  It is surrounded by luscious green mountains piercing through the clouds above.  Mountain sheep scatter the mountains to give the impression of white mountain freckles.

We passed through a kissing gate to reach some more impressive sights on the island.  The purpose of a kissing gate is to prevent livestock from passing through a gate.  Being our playful selves, we decided to follow folk tradition and refused entry to the next person until we presented them with a kiss.

That night a klansman dressed me in a kilt that had been sanitised by being soaked in urine (as this was how it was traditionally done, apparently).  The only redeeming factor was that he later told me it was the exact same kilt that had been worn by Sean Connery and Mel Gibson (while he was here to film Braveheart)!  Later that night we partied the night away in kilts.

On the final day we visited Culloden Moor (pictured), the site of the defeat of the Jacobite uprising, followed by the Cairns of Clava, a mysterious rock formation similar to stone henge.

The final stop before returning to Edinburgh was a dreamy forest/waterhole (pictured) which I wish I knew the name of.  It reminds me of a place I hold very close to my heart near Brisbane; a place that only my closest friends would recognise.

Peace, Love, Unity, Respect

14 August 2010

I grew a fringe at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival...where to begin?

Think puppets, musicians, beatboxers, magicians, unicyclists and flamboyant costumes.  Now picture these against a backdrop of cobble-stoned streets, ancient buildings, beautiful hills, old monuments and a majestic castle (Edinburgh Castle, pictured).  This is what comes to my mind when I think of the Edinburgh Fringe Fest.

The Royal Mile, Edinburgh's High Street, was bursting with entertainment at every corner.  There I saw the world's most pierced woman, bucket drummers, fairies, a goldfish with a tuxedo (pictured), jugglers, a beat-boxer who simultaneously played harmonica, and an amorphous tights man from Japan (he would change shapes in his show, pictured).  In addition to this street of crazy characters, there were over 700 bars and almost 400 entertainment venues to stumble upon in the laneways of Edinburgh.

With a program boasting over 300 pages (each page summarising dozens of shows), there were numerous shows going on at any one time, each day, from about 9 o'clock in the morning til the wee hours of the following day.  I was lucky enough to score several free tickets during my week at the festival, simply from being in the right place at the right time.  I also managed to meet Triple J host Sam Simmons (who was really friendly and weird) and an American comedian (I forgot his name) who got us into a fun VIP party on my last night there.

My favourite shows (in order) were:
  • Nina Conti's 'Talk to the Hand' (ventriloquist)
  • Stick, Stones and Broken Bones (shadow puppeteer from Quebec)
  • Sam Simmons' 'Fail' (weird one-man-show/stand-up)
  • Barbershopera's 'Apocalypse? No!' (melodrama opera musical)
  • A Midsummer Night's Madness (RnB/Hip Hop rendition of Shakespeare play)
  • Continent (Japanese miming)
  • Oxford Alternotives (a capella group from said university) 
    Quite often I just needed to get away from the hustle and bustle of the festival so I was delighted to learn of all the tranquil and beautiful places to visit around Edinburgh.  I especially enjoyed visiting Arthur's Seat (see previous post), Calton Hill (pictured), the Princes Street Gardens (pictured), several museums (for instance, there's a Writer's Museum and they even have a Childhood Museum filled with old toys) and cute coffee shops (I ate at the cafe where JK Rowling worked on her Harry Potter books!).

    Edinburgh has so far been my favourite city in Europe, although it may no longer be after my visit to Barcelona next week.

    08 August 2010

    Arthur, Holly and Justin's Seat

    Edinburgh is currently jam-packed with tourists.  Its population has doubled this month because of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  Holly and I decided to make a nice escape to Arthur's Seat on the outskirts of Edinburgh a few days ago.  It was a 3 hour return walk/hike and we were rewarded with magnificent views, luscious green grass and cool breezes.

    I'm currently caught up in the craziness of the Fringe Festival.  It deserves its own post which I will write up later.

    Peace out homeboyeees and homegirlz!

    01 August 2010

    Brighton up sunshine!

    It's almost been two weeks since I arrived in London and I'm finding that my day trips outside of London are my most memorable experiences so far.  Maybe I've been in London too long.  Perhaps I'm just over the big-city lifestyle.  I'm not too sure, but when RB suggested we go to Brighton this week, I relished that opportunity.

    After an hour on the train, Katrine, RB and I arrived at the beautiful beach-town of Brighton.  The first thing I wanted to do in Brighton was to get a happy snap of the famous face-in-the-hole cartoons on the pier (pictured).  It was the first thing we did and after that I was ready to leave Brighton!  But Katrine and RB had other plans.

    Katrine really wanted to try the national food of England: fish and chips.  There was no shortage of fish and chips restaurants around the pier, but we decided to go for a walk away from the beach to find a not-so-commercialised fish and chip shop and it was well worth the wait.

    We visited the Royal Pavillion (pictured), a holiday home for King James IV.  I had never been so impressed by the interior design of a building.  Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take photos inside, but I can tell you that it was oozing with rich colours and meticulous detail.  There was an interesting Asian influence in most rooms.  The fascinating thing was that back then, none of King James IV's staff had ever been to Asia, so the building represented a very odd interpretation of Asian art.  For instance, in the dining room, there was a one-tonne chandelier decorated with nine giant bronze dragons.

    English people are funny.  A day in the park for them is like a trip to the beach for us.  Whenever I visit a park in London, there are big groups of bikini-clad girls and topless guys.  Ironically, at Brighton Beach, this wasn't the case...I felt like we were the only ones stripped down and willing to swim!

    The pier itself is undoubtedly the highlight of Brighton.  It was filled with amusement rides, arcades, stalls, deck chairs and plenty of happy faces.  We chilled out on the deck chairs for a while and it was the most relaxed I'd felt in years (pictured).  Hopefully I'll return to this beach-town in a couple weeks to experience the night-life and visit a friend I met in KL who returns to Brighton next week.

    Gossip Girl