July 23rd, 2008

DSC_0184, originally uploaded by jellybeanz.

Another month and yet another new city. Taking a slightly extended weekend to Tonsberg for the Slottsfjell Festival I found myself in a tiny little town, which apparently is the oldest in Norway. Since we were renting a house in a village just outside of the town, I didn’t really get to see much of the place apart from the festival site, and the harbour nearby.

What was particularly fun was the very lengthy duration of the day, with the sun only setting at around 11.30pm and it getting bright by around 3am. Especially since we stayed up late and woke up late, it was odd to wake up in full sunshine, even though it was only around 10/11am.

Hamburg in a weekend

June 10th, 2008

Fischmarkt, originally uploaded by jellybeanz.

Maybe this is the way to make the most of my weekends in the future. Out of the office late Friday afternoon, hop on a plane, land in a city in Europe at night. Straightaway launch into the nightlife of the city, stay up late and go to sleep in the wee hours of the morning (5am).

Saturday: take it easy and relax, enjoy a couple of nice meals and another decent evening out. Early(ish) to bed (1am).

Sunday: wake up ridiculously early to see the touristy market, laugh at the surrealness of it all, have a doze, wander around the city for a few hours, have tea, get plane, return home.

This was pretty much my packed weekend in Hamburg. Although I didn’t do my usual touristy things of visiting as many museums as possible, it still felt like I had captured a sense of the city. Especially by going out late both nights, and seeing where other twentysomethings hang out (the Golden Pudel Club was great, as was the bar where there were loads of sofas), it seemed like I saw more of the real city than on other visits (for example to Florence or Vienna). But maybe this was just because I had someone to show me around.

On the road again

June 10th, 2008

Originally, this blog was a diary of my 10 week trip around the world, over the Summer of 2007. That was my last ever lengthy summer holiday and along with photographs taken on the journey, I needed somewhere to write about what I saw. At the time, I saw the trip as my last chance to travel, since I would no longer have stretches of months of holidays.

Oddly, after starting my full time job in September, I am still travelling around the world, and visiting as many new cities as I had done on my round the world trip: Beijing at Christmas, Florence at Easter, Vienna in April and Hamburg in June. So I might still need somewhere to write about these places afterall…

Home Sweet Home

August 19th, 2007

My trip has been smooth (well pretty much, apart from the 9hr delay at Auckland) so something had to go wrong on the final leg. I am now at home in Oxford, but missing one of my bags that I checked in (the one containing all my gifts and souvenirs :( ) A 3 hour wait at Heathrow to collect just one of my bags wasn’t quite how I had imagined ending my trip.

Anyway, I am safely home, after 71 days and 7 plane and 3 train journeys. It has been an amazing trip and every week had its own highlights so it is impossible to pick out any thing or place as my favourite. Instead here are a few things I have learnt in the past 10 weeks.

1) Travelling alone is a lot of fun.
I didn’t realise how much fun it would be to travel by myself. Before I set off, I was actually quite worried about the fortnight alone in the United States. It turned out that those two weeks were perfect, as I had the freedom to do whatever I liked, and whenever I wanted to, and not have to worry about other people who might have been around. Travelling alone is expensive though.
2) But meeting people is great fun too.
I am grateful for the opportunity for this trip, as I was able to spend time with relatives I haven’t seen for years, and to get to know them better. In some cities I met up with people I had not seen for more than ten years, while in other places I had the chance to spend time with friends I don’t get to see very often back home. Especially in Seattle, where the travelling and sightseeing was starting to wear me down, it was so great to be able to see the city with old friends and new ones too.

3) Having no expectations is much better than having high expectations.
If I had to choose my favourite cities of the trip, the two places that would come up quite high in my list would be Melbourne and San Francisco. Strangely, I didn’t have great expectations for either. Melbourne was added to my itenery as I didn’t manage to make it out to Singapore, so I wanted to spend that money visiting somewhere else. As such, I didn’t do any reading to prepare myself. I was utterly stunned by the architecture in the city, especially as I didn’t know what to expect. On the other hand, San Francisco comes high on my list too, because it far exceeded my expectations for the city. I had chosen to visit the place because I needed a stop in California, and Los Angeles seemed like a daunting place to visit without a car. I loved every single moment I had in the city, from the free theatrical performances to the amazing art galleries and museums.

4) Starbucks is everywhere
Ten years ago, I might have seen McDonalds in every city I visited (well they are still everywhere too), but now Starbucks has really taken over the world. It is a frightening thought that I could have had a Frappucino wherever I went, and especially scary in Vancouver, where there were two facing Starbucks at the same junction.

Whale watching

August 18th, 2007

Orca, originally uploaded by jellybeanz.

So for the last 5 weeks I’ve been in the same time zone, travelling up roughly parallel to the edge of the Pacific Ocean. One activity I had planned to do somewhere along the way (even when I was in the southern hemisphere) was to go whale watching.

Finally on my last full day of my trip, I finally went whale watching! Our boat took us into the sheltered sea around the Gulf Islands, and we saw five Transient Orca Whales. According to our guide, these whales were usually harder to spot than the other common type of Orca, the Resident.

As well as seeing the whales, we also saw lots of seals sunbathing on the shore.

The Seawall

August 17th, 2007

Sculpture in Yaletown, originally uploaded by jellybeanz.

Downtown Vancouver is actually a peninsula, and around the edge of most of it is a seawall. Today I walked around two bits of the seawall, first in Stanley Park and then after lunch in Yaletown.

Stanley Park is huge, my one hour walk covered just less than half of the 8km perimeter. Luckily there was a free shuttle bus so I didn’t have to walk the whole way round! That bit of energy saved meant that I could walk the opposite end of the sea wall down in Yaletown too. Yaletown is really different to the Vancouver I have experienced so far. For the last couple of weeks I haven’t really ventured much into the city, but experienced a more suburban Vancouver. But Yaletown was full of high rise apartments which reminded me of shorter version of Hong Kong apartments. It turns out land in Yaletown was owned and developed by the same developer who build lots of apartment blocks in Hong Kong.

A recap

August 15th, 2007

Grizzly Bear, originally uploaded by jellybeanz.

I’ve been a bit lazy over the last couple of days, well with these blog entries anyway.

So, over the weekend, I bought some new camera lenses (I accidentally dropped my camera in Victoria, and my lens was broken), took part in a cooking competition (my cousin and I won with our apple strudel), went to a Science Museum, sat on a beach, ate Japanese food with a friend I hadn’t seen for nearly 18 years, saw some meteors and today I went to Grouse Mountain.

I had been waiting for a clear day to go up the mountain, and today was just the right day for it. From the top of the mountain I could see beyond the airport to Richmond, and it was only the haze in the distance that prevented me from seeing further. The top of Grouse wasn’t only about the views, but there were also lots of tacky tourists attraction, like a couple of bears, a birds of prey show, a 15 minute chairlift journey (in the Winter they use it for the skiing) and the lumberjack show. Actually, the lumberjack show was really good fun, though I did sit through it singing the Lumberjack Song in my head.

Vancouver Island

August 11th, 2007

DSC_0067, originally uploaded by jellybeanz.

This morning we left the house at 7.30 am to catch the ferry to head over to Vancouver Island. Our first stop was the Buchart Gardens. A pricey, but beautifully maintained botanical garden with lots of wonderful colours. I never thought looking at flowers would be this much fun.

After a couple of hours in the company of flowers we headed into Victoria, to the Royal BC museum. Apparently this is supposed to be one of the best museums in Canada, and some of its exhibits were pretty great. Half the top floor of the museum was given over to full size reconstructions of difference scenes from Canada’s past, ie street scenes, mining, industry and so on. My cousins certainly had fun wandering into all the different buildings and corridors. We also saw an exhibition of artefacts rescued from the Titanic. They are making so much money out of the wreckage now, with exhibitions like these, but there were aspects of the exhibition which were very well done. Each series of rooms unfurled the story of the Titanic and how it sank, however I couldn’t look at the objects on display without thinking of the film. However, what I was particularly impressed by was the use of volunteers dressed in costume and dotted around the exhibition to tell the story of the sinking. They were able to convey the setting of the Titanic far better than the objects that were on display.

Another bridge scene

August 9th, 2007

From Granville Island, originally uploaded by jellybeanz.

After a whole week spent recovering from the excitement of the past month, I am now back exploring a city by myself.

Yesterday (Tuesday) I went to the Vancouver Art Gallery. Its main exhibition of Modern Masters was pretty disappointing, but the smaller exhibitions upstairs (one of a Chinese artists and another of an American one were pretty exciting.

Today I explored Granville Island (which isn’t really an island at all). The touristy side was pretty crowded, but the arty half of the island was really nice to explore. I also got the sky train (driverless train) to Commercial Drive.

Yet another public holiday

August 7th, 2007

Messing about on the lake, originally uploaded by jellybeanz.

I’ve been pretty lucky in going to places just when there is a public holiday. I hit two in Hong Kong, and today was a public holiday in Vancouver.

For this day off, my cousins were invited to spend the day at a friend’s grandparents house by a lake, and so I tagged along too. Harrison Lake is about 2 hours’ drive east of Vancouver, and it is a lake surrounded by mountains on all sides. It was a beautiful place to spend the afternoon. While all the kids (and the dog) spent the time splashing around in the lake, I took the time to read and to take in the surroundings. Without visiting relatives here, this definitely wouldn’t have been a place I would have seen.

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