Sunday, May 24, 2015

London Trip Highlight: Meeting A Blogger Friend

One of the highlights of my London trip was having an awesome opportunity to meet a blogger friend that has been friends with me for more or less 7 years. Due to our diary-like blogs, we felt that we had known each other in some ways and when we met, it did feel like meeting an old friend and the bonus part was that we found out many more things we had in common. :-D We are both not good at finding directions (Nikki doesn't actually live in London), so we were glad to have Google Maps on our mobiles he he he he...We had fun being tourists in London for the day!

Prior to our meeting, we had decided roughly on the places we'd visit. First breakfast, then off to roam around the city and then lunch at Chinatown. Planning the meeting was fun, but experiencing the day itself was the most fun of all! :-D Here is what Nikki wrote about our meeting and I'll just have some bits to add here. 

We chose Balthazar at Covent Garden for breakfast. We had browsed through the online menu prior to our meeting, but still that day we had a little trouble to choose because we wanted to try so many things LOL!!! We ended up choosing the same dish: Scrambled Eggs and Cornish Crab. It was yummy! For drinks, we had water and coffee latte to wake us up a little.

Here's the beautiful Nikki at Balthazar.


And a pic of us together. 


And a pic of our food:


And because I'm a crazy Asian, I just had to take a pic of myself in the toilet HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHHH...Ahem...actually, someone in Tripadvisor has advised us to go check out the toilet in Balthazar. I'm serious. So we did LOL!!!



Then we moved on to Covent Garden market, but it was still closed (we were a bit early), so we roamed around the area while waiting for the market to open. 
Here are some photos:

There's an explanation for the weird-looking horse statue behind me.


This is the huge lion statue in the same location:


While walking around the place, we also saw this gorgeous bakery and as we both loved cakes, we decided we'd go back to this bakery later on. 

This was the window display that stopped us on our tracks and made us drool. 



The thing was that we didn't write down the address or remember the bakery name or take a photo of it (this photo was taken after we had cakes there), so we had a bit of a fun time trying to find it again after we visited the Covent Garden market HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH...but we did find it again eventually. Here's the site for the bakery: BB Bakery.



Here are two pics of Covent Garden market. I found a T-shirt for myself and a belt for R2 (I was very tempted to buy other lovely stuff too from this market, but I had a budget to follow HA HA...). We also looked around at some shops there on the ground floor and saw a bit of a group of musicians performing their music. Another day when I went there again, there was an opera singer belting out her song (incredible strong lungs!). 


From there we went back to the lovely bakery and had different cakes. If I remember correctly, a package of tea and a cake cost £8.50. Again we had a hard time trying to decide which cake to choose as they all looked so gorgeous! I told Nikki it would be more fun to go there with a group of friends because then we could each choose a different type of cake/muffin and we could take turns trying different cakes/muffins he he...

Here are some photos of us and our cakes. My teapot is so pretty, isn't it?  





The whole place was so pretty that even the toilet was pretty! Yep, I must be weird because I keep taking photos of toilets ha ha ha ha...


After we filled our bellies with cakes, we continued our way towards Chinatown. On the way there we also saw some street performers. The guy below was in chains (the two young guys were helping him out by tying up the chains around his body) and then he had to escape within a certain amount of time. It looked painful, but of course he managed to escape he he...



And this guy in uniform actually posed for me when I took out my mobile and prepared to take a photo ha ha ha...Note: notice the sun? Yep, it came out for a little bit that day he he...


And we finally arrived at Chinatown! YAAAAAAAAAYYY!!!!! Here's the beginning of one end of Chinatown. Yep, so many people trying to take photos of themselves with the Chinatown gate. I bought some food and snacks to take home from one store that sold Asian food stuff and I promised myself I'd get back to Chinatown for more before I had to fly back to Finland he he...


It started raining when we were in Chinatown, but we were way too full to have a proper lunch, so we decided to rest our legs and just had some light dim sum. It was great to have lots of places to choose from and the one we chose was kinda quiet, so we could chit-chat and relax there. 

Purple dim sum, anyone? Unfortunately for some reason they've put on some purplish light on top of the tables, so the dim sum looks like this, but it was just the perfect portion for the both of us. :-D 


After dim sum we headed to the tube to go to our separate ways. It was certainly a day to remember! I have very fond memories of this meeting and I hope it's not going to be our last. Either way, though, I'm thankful that blogging brought us together. I'm looking forward to meeting Nikki again, wherever it may be. :-D Thanks SO MUCH for taking time to meet me in London, Nikki!!!!! 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Impromptu Trip: Two Operas

Apologies for the neglect, my beloved blog. I was so busy with work, then I got sick enough that made me choose to take antibiotics as I had already booked an impromptu trip and when I got better, I only had time to prepare for my trip. I went to London for a few days to meet some friends and to watch an opera. I ended up watching two operas instead of one.

One of my long-term goals had been to watch The Phantom of the Opera. I first fell in love with it when I saw the movie on TV (not a musical). Then I found the CDs of the opera (London cast with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman) and I bought and read the book and fell all the more in love with it. I then saw the newer version of the movie with Gerard Butler in it, but I thought he still looked far too handsome to be The Phantom LOL!!! 

I must say that I was a bit afraid of having too much expectations, so I tried my best to not have any expectations at all. The movie with Gerard Butler is actually pretty similar to the opera version, but the difference is that in the opera show, any mistake can be seen right away. My friend who accompanied me to the opera then commented afterwards that some of the props were too old and they were a bit wobbly he he he he...I did notice it during the show, but I was much too immersed in all the drama and intensity of the show.

To cut the story short, I enjoyed the show. It was really dramatic and intense. I love the wardrobe and the props and the singing was perfect, as well. I can't help imagine how difficult it would be to sing, act, and move the heart of the audience. At the end of the show, it was so climactic that I couldn't help crying. The way the Phantom sang his heart out was just so heartbreaking. And yes, I did sing along (silently) with many of the songs he he he he he...

I wasn't exactly planning ahead to watch the second opera, but friends of mine had recommended it to me and because I still had some fund left for it (it's not that cheap to watch the opera if you want a pretty decent seat), I went to buy the ticket a few hours before the show started. This second opera is called the War Horse. I paid around £47 (around €65) for each ticket.

I had seen the genius artwork of the War Horse puppetry through youtube prior to watching the opera. Here goes in case you have never heard of it:



I got a seat at the very back, middle part of the stalls area and I was hoping that nobody would block my view as I'm pretty short. When people started sitting down, I felt a bit deflated when a couple came in and the guy sat in front of me. The guy was rather tall (almost a head taller than the woman) and he was blocking my view. I was almost tempted to ask them to switch seats, you know? LOL!!! But I decided to wait. Luckily for me, turned out there were two empty seats next to that man and next to me, so I moved to an empty seat next to me and it was the best seat ever! Because there were nobody right in front of me, I could get a clear view of the whole stage! WOOOOHOOOOOO!!!!! 

As usual, just like Phantom, the first act (before the break) is the build-up for the second act and the climax. Again I cried during the climax of the show. Very very moving. Both operas are different in how they use the stage. In War Horse, they use less 3D props/backgrounds/costumes, but they make more use of the space between the stage and the audience sitting in the front row, so I saw some of the actors running around in between the stage and the paths behind the audience in the front row. That's why I said I had the best seat ever! I could see everything clearly from the back. In Phantom, none of the actors ran in between the audience.

The Horse puppet and the puppet masters in War Horse were just superb. Brilliant! They really mastered the horses' movements and could manipulate the horse puppets in a realistic way. I also love the guy who played the duck puppet. Very entertaining! 

All in all I think both shows are on par with each other (though I'm a bit biased when it comes to Phantom LOL!!!). I don't know if I want to watch the both of them again next time I visit cities that have opera houses, but not because I don't want to. It's more because of the money restriction and because I want to watch other shows, as well.

Additional note: Almost forgot to write that the guy who sat next to me (who was then one seat away from me after I moved) actually started snoring about 15 minutes into the first act. Crazy! It was OK to sleep, but his snoring bothered the couple in front of him. His friend kept on having to tap his shoulder to wake him up. After the break, he never came back! I couldn't help thinking of the wasted money! Oh well...his loss! 

Anyway, I'm very thankful that I got very lucky with the weather during my London trip. It rained the first evening I was there, but the days after only got warmer and warmer. The last full day I was there, it was 22'C during the day and the sun was shining brightly. People were sitting outside and sunbathing. 

I'll write more about my London trip later, but here's a pic of my ice-cream and the River Thames at the back (yes, it was hot enough to sit in the shade) and a pic of me with Big Ben he he he he...The bad thing about travelling on your own without having a selfie stick is that you have lots of pics of the different places you've seen, but very few pics of yourself LOL!!!!  




Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Superhero

What is a superhero made of?

In my world, my superhero is the one who is able to make me laugh even when I'm angry and about to explode. And he does it so brilliantly every single time that I never had a chance to explode. Until this day I still wonder how on earth he was able to do it time and time again. But then again that's just one of his super powers, I suppose! :-D

My superhero is also someone who listens well and doesn't try to fix things for me. He is present and he's there for me, but he lets me do the work myself and he lets me find my own path. He doesn't criticize my choices, but he supports me to do whatever I choose to do as long as it's something that doesn't hurt myself or other people.

My superhero is someone who is able to make me love myself more when I'm with him. He accepts me the way I am and he is so very patient with my moods and my cranky self whenever she rears her grumpy head. He's also the only one who can make me feel like I'm a very funny person. 

My superhero doesn't like making me worry, so he'd send me an SMS to let me know when he will come home back late due to a job stint even before I have a chance to worry. 

My superhero isn't perfect, but I'm very thankful to have had him in my life. Thank you for being you, honey! LOVE YOU even more as time goes by!!!! This one's for you!


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Lisbon Trip #4: Pena Palace, Sintra

OK, let's continue with the trip, shall we? On Monday we went to Sintra by train (I thought Monday would be good because most museums in Lisbon are closed on Mondays). We bought the train tickets the day before so that we didn't have to queue at the ticket office. The tickets had no date on them (could be used like using metro tickets, no conductor on the train) and could be used any day. We arrived at the platform 10 minutes before the next train was leaving, so we didn't have to wait too long. I think on workdays there's a train to Sintra every 30 minutes. The round-trip ticket cost €4,30/person and the journey lasts 40 minutes.

Here's a pic of R2 on the train on the way back to Sintra.



When we left Lisbon that morning, it was sunny and gorgeous. But alas, it got cloudy as we got closer to Sintra. Here's what I saw right when we went out of the train station:



When we arrived at Sintra, the cold wind was blowing and I chose the wrong bus for us to board. I had read online that we could take the 434 (or was it 343?) bus to go to the tourist attractions because it was a hilly area. Instead we found a hop on and hop off tour bus, so we boarded that one. I was thinking of visiting two places at the very least, but I wanted to wait until the weather got better, so I took the hop on and hop off bus that went around the coast (it meant it would take us at least 1 hour before getting to one of the two places I'd like us to visit). Nobody actually stopped anywhere on any of the stops on the tour bus, though the driver did let us out for a little while on two stops to take photos.

Here is one of the stops where the bus driver let us get off for a few minutes to take some photos. It was crazy crazy cold wind!


We actually decided to only stop at Pena Palace (there was a stop before Pena where we were supposed to drop off, but due to my hunger and my need of toilet, we figured it'd be best to go straight to Pena instead). It was all in all a nice bus trip as we got to see many different areas of Sintra. It's definitely a beautiful place that's worth visiting on its own. Lots of lovely little houses here and there and palaces.

The ticket to visit Pena Palace and park (yes, there's a HUGE park around Pena Palace) was €11,50/person, but we also bought a bus ticket that cost €3/person to go from the entrance of the park to the Palace (it was an uphill walk - normally we don't mind walking, but it was SOOOOO cold that we'd rather take the bus instead).

The bus dropped us off right in front of the palace area. Here's a view of the crowd going inside the palace (yes, it was still cloudy at that time as the sun only came up later):


As I needed to go to the toilet and I was hungry, instead of going into the palace, we went to the restaurant right away HA HA HA HA HA HA...I had a duck quiche whereas hubby had a ham and cheese quiche with salad and I ordered a chocolate cake as well. I had hot tea, whereas hubby had coffee. They were very delicious and not too expensive, either. And boy, did it feel good to hold a hot cup of tea to warm up my hands! Here's what it looks like inside the restaurant:



The gift store is located below the restaurant, so we decided to buy some hoodie (the only thing available) there to keep us warm before roaming the palace. Here are some views of the palace and yes, thankfully the sun started to shine, though the wind was still VERY VERY cold and it could be VERY strong at times (it's very rare for the wind to be that strong in Sodankylä, so it took me off guard!).

Here are some photos of the Pena Palace (some photos were taken by mobile):






And here's a video clip I made of Pena Palace (the view of the palace from two different angles).


Here are some photos taken from inside the palace as we got to see different rooms in there. Plus I took some photos of the history, as well.















The last photo above is actually the King's bed if I remember correctly. I find this bed weird because even for a short person like me it feels so short (the length, I mean).

Anyway, after roaming the palace, we decided to skip going to the other place and wait for the bus back to the train station instead. We had to wait for about half an hour. Maybe next time we can visit Sintra again to check out the other places of interest there, but that day we were so cold and tired already, so we decided to go back to Lisbon instead.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Lisbon Trip #3: Castelo de S. Jorge

From the Lisbon Cathedral, we went to the next stop to visit: Castelo de S. Jorge. The entrance ticket was €8.50/person. We were lucky enough that there wasn't a long queue yet at that time and it had started becoming warmer.

Here's the entrance towards Castelo de S. Jorge. You have to be careful there because cars go through the gate, as well. I was really tempted to buy one of the paintings sold there, but in the end I didn't.



Here are many random photos from the inside of Castelo de S. Jorge. What I love about Lisbon is that there are so many different high places to visit to look around the city, but because of the different heights, it's easy to have an undisturbed view of the whole city from those higher points because no high buildings are blocking your views.

In the first photo below, you can't see it clearly, but there's a bridge at the back and a statue across the bridge. It's a Jesus statue, but we didn't go there. 









After walking around for a while and going up and down the fortress, we bought some drinks at the cafe while watching some peacocks chasing one another (some of them climbed up the tree above us). Some of them were really loud, but it made people stop and watch their antics (and take photos), too he he he he...And yes, the peacock below was covering the entrance of the cafe, but the kind-hearted waiter was gentle with it. :-D




Yep, unfortunately it got cloudy again, so we left this place. Here's a lovely looking building we saw outside:


OK, I'll end it here, but the next post would be about the lovely Sintra and Pena Palace.