Saturday, August 23, 2008


It has been a long journey and I'm glad to be at a place where I don't
have to run constantly. It'll be a while till this blog gets updated
as school begins real soon and I have no big travels anytime in the
near future, except for travels within New England, New York or
California. However, there will be a new blog dedicated to the
abstraction of things I see in life. It's still a work in progress and
in the meantime, I'll be revisiting this blog to fill in any gaps I
might have left out now that I'm beginning to upload my pictures. Till
then, I'm signing off for the weekend.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Being my second time in Paris (actually third, but the first one didn't really count as I was only in the city for a few hours), I've began to like Paris more. Such a beautiful city, with its grand avenues, majestic buildings and this time, I was able to enjoy Paris in a quiet relaxing environment, as most of the local has gone off for holiday. It was a different side of Paris I've never seen before. I'm off the London now to spend a few days before heading off to Boston next week. Overall, it has been an amazing trip and Paris was definitely a good city to end my grand tour.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Lisboa (Lisbon) has been a great city. Chic, bohemian, edgy, and gritty, those are just a few words Lisbon portrays itself and walking around the city has also showed me the colorful and artistic side of Lisbon. With new urban development, modern infrastructures and facilities, Lisbon is also preparing its citizen for the future. It was unfortunate for me that I only spent a short time here as there are still much to know about the city, its culture and its citizens but that, however I'll leave it till next time. I've arrived at Paris today, and will be spending the rest of the week here.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Andalucia Spain

The region of Andalucia is quite captivating. With its mountainous backdrop of the Sierra Nevada, cities like Granada inspires the traveler to close their eyes and relive the past of the great muslim rulers who made Granada their sanctuary. Scents of citrus trees, exotic wildlife and sounds of water flowing through the fountains and pools in the palaces of The Alhambra in Granada stops the lone traveler, who is passing by the region in search of eden should look no further. I based myself in Sevilla, an hour away by train from Cordoba and three hours away from Granada. A visit to these three cities is a must for travelers visiting this part of Spain. Words can only describe the sights but one must be in presence to experience the sounds of horses' hoofs drawing the carriages on the city streets, the magnificent landscape and sounds of water flowing in the courtyards of the many palaces and churches around the region. All three cities are quite amazing on its own and doesn't fail to impress travelers who wants to experience a different side of Spain. I leave Spain for Portugal today inspired by its beauty, its culture and its architecture.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Sunset? Sunrise?

It's actually sunrise at 7.30 in the morning in Spain. Amazing!

My First Cinqo

I had to catch a 7am train earlier today and decided to stop by the cafe at the station for a cup of coffee and a croissant. Later, I asked for the bill, took out a clean, crisp 10 euro bill I had acquire the other day from a vendor and paid one of the staff (we'll call her staff one). When I got the change back, it was 5 euro short. I told them the change is incorrect, and of course no one spoke a word of english and Staff One kept saying I gave her a 5 euro bill, and I kept saying no. Staff Two (She) who was handling the cash machine at the moment of course believe Staff One, but my question to her was how was she supposed to know when she was also taking another customer's money without paying attention. (I was standing at the cashier witnessing the situation at that moment) This went on back and forth, me speaking english and them speaking spanish. (Apart from everything else they said, I only understood the number 5)

The whole situation was so ridiculous and I stood at the cash machine till Staff Two came back and still kept telling me no, I gave them a 5 euro bill. Minutes passed and the only male staff walked in and seems to be asking what was going on. Staff Two and him were talking and somehow Staff Two took out a receipt from the customer before me, both of them looked at it and Staff Two took out a 5 euro bill and gave it to me without saying a word. And she didn't need to because clearly she wasn't paying attention and it was her fault, the other customer got more change than he needed, of course he didn't complain. I walked out saying "Gracias".

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Well, it has been a relaxing past two days at Valencia, and now I'm at Sevilla, in the Andalucian region south of Spain.

Valencia is architecturally a stunning city, crowded with its many Beaux Arts and medieval architecture. The city center, the old city is small and most major attractions are within a 5 - 10 minutes walk. Compare to its neighbor city of Barcelona, Valencia is nothing like it, though they are both less than 3 hours away by train. Valencia is smaller and signs of its medieval part can still be appreciated by taking a stroll along its narrow streets and alleyways. In terms of the city's architecture, if Gaudi was to Barcelona in the 20th century, then Calatrava is to what Valencia is in the new millennium. The City of the Arts and Sciences is a leisure and learning complex that houses many of Calatrava amazing architecture. It is also one of the largest leisure complex currently being build in Europe and consists of a performance center (second picture above), a science museum, botanical parks, an oceanography museum and a new agora (not sure what it's going to be used for) that is under construction at the moment. The land that the buildings are build on used to be a river that runs along the northern part of the city and since the mid 20th century, the river has dried out and has since been replaced with botanical gardens and sports facilities. It is certainly one of the most environmentally interesting use of land and resources.

The heart of Valencia has never been about its beaches. However, the closest beach to the city is only a 20 minutes train ride away and it is one of the nicest beach I've seen so far. Compare to the city beaches in Barcelona, it might not have the best water sports or activities along the beach, but the fine soft powder sand is enough for me to appreciate its beauty.

I arrived at Sevilla late last night, but between Barcelona, Valencia and Sevilla, some might say that Valencia is too sterile or too clean and has lost its old charm within the old city. Even the central market seems organized, brightly lit and a pleasure to walk around. The building facades seems to have been clean or freshly painted. In either case, Valencia is still a beautiful city to spend a few days at. I enjoyed my two days at Valencia, and the reason being (apart from its architecture), there were very little or no foreign tourist. Things may change at the end of the month as the city is preparing to host the Formula One race.

As for me, my trip is coming to an end soon. From Sevilla, I'll be taking day trips to Granada and Cordoba during my time here. Next week, I'll be heading to Lisbon, Paris and ending my adventure in London.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Train travel in Spain sucks!

When those words from the title came out from me, I can't believe it either. First of all, getting a train ticket in August is impossible. The one night I tried to get a ticket in advanced, there were 250 people in front of me! I went the next morning, the line was short, only about 3 people ahead of me, but of course, I couldn't get the ticket I wanted because it was fully booked. I had to do a different route instead.

Secondly, the day I arrive to catch my train, everyone's luggage had to go through the xray machine! What's ironic is, they don't have a metal detector. So they don't allow guns, knives, explosives, etc (the usual) but they don't have a metal detector for passengers?! I could have took out my pocket knife and put it in my trouser's pocket and would have gotten away without any problem.

Thirdly, boarding the train is a pain. Passengers can't wait in the platform and had to wait in line till the gate opens. That's actually fine but the whole process is like boarding an airplane* where there's actually an attendant who takes your train ticket, scans it and give you your ticket/pass. What's annoying is people who buy their tickets online has problems with the documents, and as a result, is holding up the line.

Why can't it be a simple process, just like any other country where one can just go on to the designated platform, hop on board to the coach and seat assigned, wait for the conductor to come up to you, ask for your ticket, checks it and stamps it, and you're on your way to you next destination.

*( Riding the train in Spain is indeed like flying on board an aircraft. They have entertainment on board the train, and a crew members who passes out earphone is a little box. (Pictured above) One of the reason I take the train is because I don't have to wait in line and go through the security at the airport. Oh, and the crew member do actually kick you out of your seat when you're not sitting at your assigned seat. I actually don't care how good the service is as long as it gets me to my next destination. Life can be so much better when you don't try to complicate things. )

Adios, Barcelona

Barcelona is truly a colorful city, and it is not just because of Gaudi's architecture, but it's also the people and culture that encompasses this amazing city. The city is equipped with modern facilities and has a great public transportation system. Though it is not the largest city in Spain, (only the second) it is a huge city with many districts to explore. The old gothic district is probably where tourists hit most, but it is worth exploring the districts outside the old city to get a feel and culture of the city. However, I can't comment on how liveable the city would be because of my short visit, but as far as I can see, the city seems easy to get around, and there are activities, leisure centers and parks built for the residents of Barcelona.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

What should I get today?

In some of the metro stations in Barcelona, they have this huge vending that will sell you anything from a can of coke to a bottle of shampoo. Very handy for backpackers and travellers alike who just got in to the city and needed the essentials. This one is in Maria Cristina metro station.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Performing on the streets

Through my 2 months journey, I've encounter a lot of street performers. From Denmark to Italy, I've seen the Statue of Liberty, an Egyptian pharoah and many other lifeless performers who just stands on a pedestal to have their picture taken by pedestrians, even after someone gave them some money. However, it is in Barcelona that the streets performers here are by far the most creative and interactive I've seen yet. Above along the street of Les Rambles, we have the Invisible Man. They were also a gargoyle, a vampire, a Asian lady who dresses up with baskets of fruits and vegetables on her, an angel, a guy cycling with a puppet skeleton and the list goes on. My hat off to the city of Barcelona for such great inspirations.

Ola, Barcelona!

Got in to Barcelona late yesterday and will be spending a few days to explore the city. But first stop, the temple of the sacred family (Sagrada Familia) by Antoni Gaudi.

Me and my bike: Part II

Took a hilly 25 km bicycle tour to the Chianti Hills for some Tuscan landscape and wine tasting as well as a tour of an old villa owned by the Rossi family (of the Martini brand).