Archive for the ‘ Europe ’ Category

Daytrip to Hitchin Lavender Farm

There’s a few things I’ve learned in life: always throw salt over your left shoulder, keep rosemary by your garden gate, plant lavender for good luck, and fall in love whenever you can. – Practical Magic

I love flowers. They are a surefire way to make me smile.

P1250525For the longest time, my laptop’s wallpaper is a field of lavender. I was so keen to visit one since I first set my eyes on it. Originally planning to go there with girl friends, Mike was more than happy to leave me with them for that specific trip. He thinks it’s too girly a trip. But between our work schedules and travels, it was difficult to sync. My bf being the dearest guy that he is – and since he knows it’d make me so happy – brought me to one himself instead! <3

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First sighting of the lavender field – heart’s beating fast! :D

We went to Hitchin. Located just outside of London, it’s the closest lavender farm to us. It’s a 40 minute drive away. After paying for the entrance fee to the farm (4.5oGBP pp), we were given a brown bag and a pair of scissors each. We can take as many lavender with us – but we weren’t really there to cut flowers . I did cut a few stalk to keep as souvenir. If the rows of lavender there were connected from one end to the other, according to their website it’d reach 25 miles! Also, the farm has a cafe where you can recharge after spending time in the lavender field!  They sell lavender based products of course. I was looking for any lavender-based food to try. Alas, they only have (lavender) tea! Still, it was a day wonderfully spent with my dear Michael. ^_^

PS: Bees find lavender very attractive so there were lots of them. LOTS. They don’t sting and won’t bother you though so all was good. :D

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Entrance fee is collected by that tiny hut

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The Lavender Shop

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Lavender-based products included lotions and hand wash amongst others

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The shop has such a warm and cozy atmosphere

Some pictures we took on the field :)

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Have you been to a lavender field?
Hmmm.. where to next? :D

 

Spain’s La Tomatina Festival!

Have you ever joined a food fight? Or at least, wanted to be in one? Well then, pack up your bags and go to Spain coz this is where the world’s biggest food fight is held annually during their La Tomatina Festival.

Goin' loco over tomato!

Goin’ loco over tomato!

First things first, what is that festival all about you may ask? Held annually every last Wednesday of August in Buñol, Valencia, people throw tomatoes at each other for an hour of crazy fun!

It started the last Wednesday of August in 1945 when some young people spent the time in the town square to attend the Giants and Big-Heads figures parade. The young boys decided to have a place among the retinue of a parade with musician, Giants and Big-Heads figures.

The energy of these young people made that one participant fell off. The participant flew into a fit of rage, started to hit everything in his path. There was a market stall of vegetable that fell victim of the furious crowd: people started to pelt each other with tomatoes until the local forces ended that vegetable battle…

…Since then, the number of participants increased year after year as well as the excitement about La Tomatina Festival. In 2002, La Tomatina of Buñol was declared Festivity of International Tourist Interest by the Secretary Deparment of Tourism due to its success. – La Tomatina

Early morning bus ride to Buñol

Early morning bus ride to Buñol

It was only in 2013 – the year we attended – that the Spanish government started selling tickets for the festival. Tickets are sold for 10euros each. From Valencia, we rode a bus to take us to Buñol early in the morning. It was a 40minute drive. Still quite sleepy really. Upon arrival, we had to queue for our luggage to be stored. We then exchanged our tickets for bracelets. And then headed over to the entrance of the festivities all the while basking in the high energy of the people around us. There were groups of people wearing colourful wigs. Some girls wore flamenco dresses. Quite a few wore tomato outfits too! Foreign visitors wore their flag on their shirts or dressed in national costumes (ie kimono for the Japanese). It was pretty exciting! We got ourselves some drinks. And we’re ready! :D

The tomato fight begins after someone is able to successfully climb a greased pole to get the ham tied to the top of it. When this happens, water is fired into the air which signals the entrance of the trucks carrying tons of tomatoes and the start of the tomato fight. It is interesting to note that the town is preparing for this festival by covering the front of their houses with tarpaulins to keep it safe from all of those tomato juices!

Buildings are protected by tarps and other covers!

There are a few rules that everyone must follow:
Throwing tomatoes begin after the first water signal.
Tomatoes have to be squished first so as to avoid injuries.
Only tomatoes should be thrown around. No other projectiles allowed.
No tomotoes should be thrown once the signal to stop is given.

Still able to smile and go on with the tomato fight after being hit in the eye!

Some tips:
Wear clothes you wouldn’t mind throwing after as the stain is difficult to remove.
If you’re keen to take pictures, use a waterproof camera.
Wear goggles!!! Jess and I can’t emphasize this one more than enough. We were surrounded by Spanish guys who were taking most of the hit when she got hit in the eye. I looked at her. Told her it looked alright then we got back down to business. hehe Less than 5mins after, I got hit in my right eye! I ended up crouching coz of the pain so she looked at it. There were some bits of tomato that got stuck she said. That’s why she led me to a fountain to wash it off. I was only able to open my right eye after! Phew! I had taken my goggles off a minute before getting hit as it was covered with tomato juice! While I was recovering from my tomato injury, my travel buddy is chatting away to a cute Frenchman (her description not mine) who saw her sorting me out by the fountain. hehe :))

Top of the agenda after the tomato fight finished was to get a wash to be some sort of decent. Fire trucks parked were hosing down people for an impromptu shower. We then joined the massive queue to get our things back. Got on a bus back to Valencia and to our hotel. I was wearing a pair of sunglasses on the ride back. When we got to the hotel, I asked for a cup of ice at the reception. Too lazy tired to explain, I pulled my glasses off. No further explanations needed. They got me my ice. We were supposed to go out after our warm shower but we ended up falling asleep. Tired from a week’s worth of travel. :D

 

Have you been to La Tomatina? Are you wanting to go? It’d be great to hear of your experience too! :D

Day Trip to Plitvice Lakes

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Plitvice Lakes National Park

Michael, my boyfriend, and I love to travel. According to him, the fact that I’ve been to many European countries makes it difficult for him to decide on where else to go in this part of the world. I informed him I haven’t really travelled on the eastern side. ;) Setting our sights on it then, we chose to go to Croatia. More specifically, its Plitvice Lakes. Yes, we know people normally go there for Dubrovnik – but we kinda had our fill of old towns/ forts/ cities at the moment and would appreciate nature more.

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To get to Plitvice Lakes:

Fly in to Zagreb – capital city. Get on a bus from the main bus terminal bound for Plitvice Lakes – just double check with the driver if they’ll make a stop here. Travel time is 2hrs 20mins.
OR
Fly in to Zadar – city by the coast. Get on a bus bound for Plitvice Lakes. Travel time is 2hrs.
Last bus bound for Zagreb where we stayed at is at 6:30pm. I’ll advice to getting back to the bus stop well ahead of that as some of the buses would either get there ahead of their schedule – or later, but why risk missing your trip back?

I love road trips! Even if it means just sitting on a bus. The promise of an adventure is just so exciting!

I love road trips! Even if it means just sitting on a bus. The promise of an adventure is just so exciting!

Entrance Fees:

110 KN – 1 adult/day
180 KN – 2day ticket
55 KN – child

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Entrance 2’s bus stop

Don’t forget:

Wear comfortable shoes. You will be walking quite a lot. You don’t want your feet to hurt afterwards.
Water/ drinks to keep yourself hydrated.
Snacks if you’re like me who almost always seem to be eating! ;)
Camera to capture those moments – unless you’re not into it.
Shades/ hat for those bright, sunny days.

 

About to start our walking adventure. :)

About to start our walking adventure. :)

Lots of walking!

Lots of walking!

By the information counter near both entrance,  there would be boards which show you options on what route to take and how long it’d take. Pick the one that you’re comfortable with.

Paths are clearly marked with signs like this.

Paths are clearly marked with signs like this.

Our route:

We started our walk in ulaz (entrance) 2. That’s ST2 there. We took the train/bus to ST3. From hereon, we walked downwards to P2 then to P1. In P1, we got on the boat that sailed towards P3. We then walked towards the big waterfall then to ST1 where we again rode the bus towards ST2 to catch our bus back. All in all, it took us around 5 1/2 hours. That’s us stopping for snacks and lots of photo ops or to just plain stop to soak it all in! There’s no need to pay for the bus and the boat as it’s part of the entrance fee. This might be a bit confusing but once you have your ticket in front of you with the general outline of the park, you’ll understand perfectly what we did.

The park's train/ bus. It'd take you from ST1 to ST2 to ST3.

The park’s train/ bus. It’d take you from ST1 to ST2 to ST3

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One of the boats sailing across the still waters of Plitvice

One of the boats sailing across the still waters of Plitvice

Good to know:

The park is open all year round.
There are toilets/ WC in ST1, 2, and 3 as well as in P3.
You can buy some food and drinks in the places mentioned above as well as the 2 entrance to the park.

I loved walking on their wooden pathways. Felt like I was a kid! It was well maintained too.

I loved walking on their  well maintained, wooden pathways. Felt like I was a kid!

We think a day trip is enough to see the whole park. Unless your main objective to travelling there is to take pictures and might wanna be there during sunrise/ sunset – the golden hour of taking photographs. If that’s the case, you might need more then. ;)

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We encountered many kids on a school trip and people on tour groups. Don't let it dampen your trip. We're all there for the same reason :)

We encountered many kids on a school trip and people on tour groups. Don’t let it dampen your trip. We’re all there for the same reason :)

Making sure he doesn't get his shoes wet.

Making sure he doesn’t get his shoes wet. :)

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He says it’s one of the most beautiful place he’s been to in Europe. I have to agree!

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Have you been to Plitvice Lakes? Planning on going there? It would be great if you could share other tips and suggestions! Or ask here if you have questions. :)

Happy travels everyone!!!

Inside: Carnival in Venice

It’s already February and am yet to travel. *gasp*

Where to, to start another year of globetrotting? Back to Italy! Where specifically? To Venice for their carnival! :D

First time in Italy. First time to visit Venice. :)

First time in Italy. First time to visit Venice. :)

The first time I travelled to Italy was 2 years ago. I travelled solo for a week and visited Rome, Florence then Venice. The most popular route. Typical? I guess. But for a reason most definitely! I keep telling my other friends who seem to shun touristy things that touristy places/ things are the way they are for a reason and it’d be a shame to skip them just to avoid the crowd.  Anyways, since I had been couchsurfing my way around bella Italia – and met many wonderful people and got to see places I grew up studying and dreaming of- … I wanted a break from staying at other people’s place and and to just be on my own and to treat myself I guess, so I booked for a room by the Rialto bridge  in Venice. It was perfect!

Sunset in Venice

Sunset in Venice

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I like how Venice is really just any other city except for the fact that it has canals instead of roads. Vaporettos instead of buses. Water ambulance, fire boat, etc. Awesome! I wasn’t really aware of Venice’s masquerades back then but seeing all of the masks by the streets, I figured, buy one and come back to Venice to actually use it in the festival season.

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And that’s what I exactly did last week! :D

With travel buddies, Shalinee and Jessica

With travel buddies, Shalinee and Jessica

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Venetian Carnival is an annual fest held in – as the name suggests – Venice. It is celebrated until before the start of Lent, 40 days before Easter. Here are pictures taken during the last Venice Carnival.

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The cons of visiting a place during a feast is the seriously huge crowd of people!

The downside of visiting a place during a feast is the seriously huge crowd of people!

P1100441Venice. Expensive. Touristy. Crowded. Still, it was a truly fun experience! We’re even thinking of going back to another carnival wearing a full costume. Should be fun! ;)

Best done with friends. If you wanna go there for romantic purposes, better go off season to avoid the throng of visitors – or at least to not have as many of them there.

*If looking for accommodations and you realize that Venice’s hotels are out of your budget range, look for a place to stay at in Venice Mestre. It’s in the mainland and much cheaper. And besides, it’s just 15mins away by bus. :)

AAU Trip to Rome

Second attempt at making a video out of the pictures of a trip. This one’s with my workmates in London as we embarked on a whirlwind overnight trip to the eternal city of Rome. First flight in, last flight out. If I’m with people who are up for all of my crazy ideas… these are the sort of things that would ensue! lol

Enjoy watching! :D

 

Bucketlist 101

We all have a travel bucketlist – a list of places we’d love to go to and visit at one point in our lifetime.

I realized that the more I go out there to see more of the world, the longer my list becomes instead!

This travelbug, once you get it… it’s hard to get it out of your system!

Where to next??? :D

Where to next??? :D

I’ve tried making a list of dream destinations. It’s actually hard as I didn’t want to be biased on any one continent.

One almost always has a map in their room if they're crazy about travels - almost! ;)

One almost always has a map in their room if they’re crazy about travels – almost! ;)

 

Do I write the name of the city or of a specific building or monument in there? Rome vs. Trevi Fountain, Colosseo, Pantheon, etc.

Do I specify any activity or just the name of the place? Ride a gondola in Venice vs. (just) Venice

Anyways, I sort of made it! Yay! Haha Have a look and tell how many you’ve places you’ve visited in this list! Just click on any of the pictures in this post. ;)

Going crazy over tomatoes in Spain!

Going crazy over tomatoes in Spain!

 

Sunset over Portugal :)

Sunset over Portugal :)

 

Where is your next destination?
Related posts:
Where Have You Been in 2013?
Travel Wish List for 2013!
2012: Exploring Europe
Must See Travel Movies
Songs and Travels: My Travel Playlist!

Where Have You Been in 2013?

It’s that time of the year where people are making lists (again) of the year that was and which will be followed closely with what they want for the coming year. Kinda mandatory for bloggers I guess. haha Before the year started, I listed 12 places I wanted to visit and in the end, I had been to 10 of those. Not bad if I may say so. Add the fact that I ended up travelling  instead to some countries I didn’t consider. :D And since part of the fun in travelling includes planning for them and reminiscing about the trips themselves… I’m happily sharing my 2013 in travels! ;)

Morocco

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It’s my first time to set foot in Africa and was I excited! Morocco was a different kind of beauty from what I’m used to (South East Asia’s lush green forests and crystal blue waters). It’s a rugged, harsh and stark kind of beauty. Differest, yes, but still beautiful!

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From Marrakech’s UNESCO-World-heritage-site-old-medina, to the snow-topped covered mountains of High Atlas to the sandy coastline of Essaouira, Morroco seems to have it all. Too bad the Sahara dessert is a 5hours drive away from Marrakech according to our guide that’s why we weren’t able to go. A good excuse to come back for sure!

Philippines

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To say I’m excited to go on a trip back home since relocating to London is an understatement! My bags were packed and ready to go a month before my trip! haha
Sea. Sand. Sun. Sky. Family. Friends. Amazing food. = Home = ♥

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Travelled all over the islands coz I’ve got friends with me who were in the country for the first time. Went to my usual faves: Boracay, Cebu, Bohol and Palawan. Did tons of stuff like swam with whalesharks, island hopped, trekked, went on a firefly tour and much more! It is definitely more fun in the Philippines!

Hong Kong

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It’s my nth time in this small but very dynamic city! I LOVE the foods here! There’s this really affordable Michelin rated dimsum place in Kowloon (and they now have a branch in HK island) that you gotta try! The place is called Tim Ho Wan. ♥

 Macau

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From old temples to humongous casinos.. this is Asia’s own version of Vegas and what a city of contradiction and mix of Portuguese and Chinese heritage it is!

 Singapore

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Singapore is South East Asia’s melting pot of culture. They have Chinatown, Little India, and Arab Street. This mix also manifests itself in their food and it’s really good! They say the country is a foodie’s paradise and I couldn’t help but agree! Aside from that, they’ve got some pretty cool buildings like the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Gardens by the Bay (pictured above).

So many friends to see and visit in such a relatively small country! See you guys in March!♥

So many friends to see and visit in such a relatively small country! See you guys again in March!♥

Malaysia

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First time to visit Malaysia. Had so much fun that I’ll visit again in a few months! :D

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Must do: picture in front of the iconic Petronas Towers (with high school mates, JC and James)

Slovakia

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After my 5weeks trip in Asia, I was knackered! I had to have a vacation to get over my vacation. haha First stop was Slovakia’s Bratislava. Admittedly, the only thing I’ve heard from others is that 1. You’ll see all that there’s to see in a day and that 2. It’s a cheap (financially speaking) city.

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Well, we saw a lot but we did kinda finished quickly and yes, lodgings were indeed much cheaper there! Food was cheaper too. My cousin and I would get tempted whenever they’d write “traditional dishes” on the menu (goulash, etc) hehe

Hungary

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Friends have been saying that Hungary’s Budapest is one of their favourite cities. Well, if awesome parties, numerous thermal baths, colourful history and beautiful architecture won’t do it for you, I dunno what would (maybe uhmm… good looking guys with amazing abs there? It was summer when I visited and they’d somehow walk around with their shirts off or with open buttons -_- haha)

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I ♥ Budapest!

Switzerland

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Chocolates. Watches. (Very expensive) train rides. Gorgeous scenery. It could only mean I’m in Switzerland!

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I kept telling friends that I found Italy’s Amalfi Coast to be the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen so far in Europe. I can’t say it with such conviction after seeing Lauterbrunnen (aka as Valley of the 72 waterfalls). The Swiss Alps is just something else!

Portugal

Quick stop in Portugal's Lisboa and Sintra with my travel buddy, Jess, enroute to Spain. Food here was the cheapest I've had so far in Europe and is very good! We did quite a lot of walking and the city had many hills so do wear comfy shoes. ;)

Quick stop in Portugal’s Lisboa and Sintra with my travel buddy, Jess, enroute to Spain. Food here was the cheapest I’ve had so far in Europe and is very good! We did quite a lot of walking and the city had many hills so do wear comfy shoes. ;)

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Daytrip to Sintra, a UNESCO world heritage site, then a jaunt to Cabo da Roca – westernmost point of mainland Europe. :)

Spain

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La Tomatina in Buñol, Spain is the world’s largest food fight celebrated every last Wednesday of August. Around 40 metric tons of tomatoes are thrown against each other! I got hit in the eye by an unsquished tomato (against the rules!). It hurts! T_T Wallowed in pain for a minute or ten – til I got everything out of my eye, then back to the food fight! haha

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With my very own Spanish guide, Jessica!♥

Italy

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View of the Pantheon from the inside looking out into the piazza.

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Posing in front of Fontana di Trevi with my workmates. It’s difficult when you have people who are so easy to invite and convince to go along with my silly ideas (ie: an overnight trip to Rome!) because it’s really gonna happen! :D

France

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Le Mont St Michel.♥

My fave group of people after CS Manila, CS Paris. Such a fun loving group!

My fave group of people after CS Manila, CS Paris. Such a fun loving group!

Greece

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A bucket list destination for me and many of my friends. Had such a wonderful time in Santorini. It’s best to come around late September-early October: not as many tourists and prices would have gone down by then. Pictured above: Oia sunset

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Amidst the ruins in Athens

Iceland

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Iceland is a country full of natural beauty. Winter meant aurora borealis while summer would be time for the midnight sun. Would love to go back and see more in the summer! Must do in Iceland: visit and swim in the Blue Lagoon. You won’t regret it!

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A short trip in this beautiful country with girl friends to celebrate my birthday. :D

2 013, you have been more than kind to me. To those who I’ve travelled with, to friends who took the time to meet me while I was on the road, to new friends and to those who’ve made a positive impact, and to those who were just always there for me no matter what… thank you so much guys for making the year that had just passed by a colourful and memorable one indeed!♥

See you all in 2014! Where do you plan to travel this year? People do say dream big since sky’s the limit! :D

Related posts:
Travel Wish List for 2013!
2012: Exploring Europe
Must See Travel Movies
Songs and Travels: My Travel Playlist!

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