Reinvention

The queens of reinvention are Madonna and Kylie Minogue. Each has managed to change their public image, adapt to the era and be successful over decades- standing the test of time.

I think that, just like them, we all have the option and ability to reinvent ourselves if we choose.

Of course, the ordinary everyday person is not in the public eye as much as a celebrity, but in a way that almost makes it easier to change your image. If people have never heard of you before, they have no preconceived ideas of who you are and how you should behave.

The ability to adapt to the current era may be hard if you are not willing to change, especially with the accelerated rate of technological innovation. However, depending on the situation, why should you change? Unless you want to stay relevant of course.

To successfully reinvent yourself is the hard part. There are some parts of us that may never change, not matter how hard we try. Our beliefs and values can be fairly set in stone, until a life disruption causes us to rethink what we once held dear. And of course, it is very easy to fall back into our regular behavioural patterns, just out of habit.

Sometimes I think your personality is formed as a toddler, and it never really changes from that time. You are who you are, so why try to fight it?

Just look at Brittany Spears- no matter how hard she tries, she always seems to end us back in the same place. Mind you, she has made rather a success of herself along the way.

But if you do want to reinvent yourself and become a new person, I truly believe this is possible, if it is worth the sacrifice of your past that goes along with it. And sometimes shedding that past is exactly what you need to become successful.

Related posts: New beginnings, What is news?

Mexico City, 2011

I had heard Mexico City was dangerous, so was a little apprehensive about visiting. When I found out my husband had booked for us to stay in a rough neighborhood, this did nothing to allay my fears. When we got to the hotel, we were informed that the following day was a public holiday and there would be political protesters everywhere. Despite all this, I have never felt safer in any large city than I did on that Labour Day Monday in Mexico City.

Our hotel had a lovely roof top pool, which we never managed to utilise due to killer jet lag. In an effort to get back in the right time zone we walked to the Torre Latino Americano for a great view of Mexico City- it is huge. I had no idea how big until I got the birds eye view of the endless sprawl. My favorite building I could spot was the close by Palacio de Belles Artes with its beautiful multi-coloured roof.

We continued down Calle 5 de Mayo, which had many old mosaiced buildings, to the Zocalo main square, flanked by the Palacio National and the Catedral Metropolitana. The square had a political protest group in the middle and Aztec Indian dancers on a side street. Behind the Palacio National we found a skeleton statue as a shrine for Santa Maria outside the Templo de la Santisima Trinidad.

The next day was Labour Day and as soon as we stepped outside, we found that there were protestors everywhere and 4 different types of police. Despite the sheer numbers of people, it all seemed relatively peaceful.

One of the main streets- Paseo de la Reforma- was closed for the public holiday and there were families with kids walking, biking and roller blading along the wide road. I saw the biggest stone seat I have ever seen, along with many monuments and statues, including the Budapest-like Monumento a la Independencia with a gold angel at the top.

The Monumento a la Revolucion- a Paris-like arch- was a hub of riot police and protestors who had marched there along the flag lined Plaza de la Republica. Alameda Central park also seemed to be a hive of activity for the locals.

We decided to seek out the Mercado de la Merced, which we later found out is located in an actual dangerous part of the city. I did wonder why the streets were lined with prostitutes. The market itself was an explosion of colour in flowers, piñata’s and chillies.

Our next stop was the Arena Coliseo to see a genuine Luche Lubre wrestling show. It was very entertaining, and I am sure the extra spicy Doritos and cheap beer helped. After the show, my husband bought a blue wrestling mask and posed for a photo with a policeman. I suppose after the long day of protesters, a couple of tourists were no hassle.

The main thing I wanted to see in Mexico City was the Teotihuacan ruins. However, we discovered that it was the one day of the week that the ruins were closed, A lesson in always read the guide book carefully was well learnt, thankfully at the start of our trip.

That night, we were cheered up by dinner with Eugenio, who my husband had met through his rotary exchange program, and his wife Cynthia. They were lovely warm people, even though I had never met them before. We went to a fancy restaurant and they introduced us to fine sipping tequila and cactus salad- which was actually very yummy.

If this was only the beginning, we were in for a hell of an awesome trip in Mexico!

Related posts: France, 1997, Part 1: Paris, Hungary, 1997 

Australia vs New Zealand

There is a long-standing rivalry between Australia and New Zealand that I am sure goes deeper than if you play AFL or Rugby.

The first time I visited Auckland, I couldn’t help but see similarities between Viaduct Harbour and Sydney Harbour. Both cities also have tall viewing towers and a park called the Domain. I thought Auckland was basically Sydney, about 20 years ago.

Many New Zealanders actually come to Sydney to work for a while, and it was through these people that I learnt what Pinky bars were and discovered the differences in our accents.

Of course, you should never compare countries, but it’s human nature to do so.

They have kiwi’s and we have kangaroos. We have the better beaches, but they have the better snow. Historically, the New Zealander relationship with their native culture- the Maori’s- has been much more progressive than our relationship with the Aboriginals. Part of the New Zealand national anthem is sung in Maori and the haka is performed before rugby games.

They have Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and we have Hunter Valley Semillon. We have desert and they have glaciers. Australia was a well-known filming destination for movies such as The Matrix, but it seems like New Zealand has now cornered the market with productions like The Hobbit.

Australians are often accused for taking credit for New Zealand talent, such as Crowded House and Russell Crowe; but can we help it if global perception naturally attributes these to Australia?

After recently exploring more of New Zealand, I have fallen in love with the city of windy Wellington and the small town of Akaroa. Driving around the South Island, I was struck by the natural beauty of the country, and of the west coast in particular which reminded me so much of the west coast of Canada.

I would love to go back and explore Milford Sound and Mt Cook.

I hope that the rivalry between Australia and New Zealand is just skin deep. Personally, I like both countries and can see the advantages of each culture. Isn’t it time we all just got along?

Related posts: People vs Place, It’s all in the Attitude

Slovenia, 2010

From Croatia, my husband and I caught the train to Ljubljana, Slovenia. Having been disappointed with our honeymoon hotel in Dubrovnik, we decided to splash out for our last stop so we stayed at the Hotel Slon. Here, we finally got a free honeymoon gift in the form of a fruit plater, models milled around the lobby and I was excited to discover that there was a H & M next door. The surrounding area also had lots of old bank buildings, each one different.

There were dragons everywhere in Ljubljana- on lamp posts, on the town hall spire, on the castle gates and in the National Gallery. I finally caved and bought a dragon of my own to take home. It was also was a town of pretty squares. There was the colourful Presernov square with a Franciscan church and a scale model of city; Mesti square with the Rome-like Robba fountain; Stari square with the Hercules fountain and Gornji square with the medieval houses. The New square was no so interesting after all of these.

There were many bridges to cross in the city- the famous Triple bridge, Cobblers bridge and my favourite, the Dragon’s bridge. We found a great market lining the bank of the Ljubljana River and were amused by the statues of queuing people at the museum entry. There was an interesting water feature on the ground in an alleyway and the door on the Cathedral of St Nicholas also had much bronze detailing.

We visted a wine bar, had goulash that was so good that we went back on another night, and just enjoyed being in such an unexpectedly cosmopolitan city.

Forsaking the funicular, we walked up Studentovska St to Ljubljana castle for a stroll along the castle rampart. We saw the pentagonal tower and the beautiful ornate ceiling in the Chapel of St George. The view of the city from Razgledni Stolp tower was fantastic.

We took a day trip to Bled and walked around the lake. Bled castle appeared to be perched precariously on the edge of a cliff surrounded by snowy mountains. Passing the castle baths with bathing swans we came upon many Swiss looking houses.

Bled island in the middle of the lake had the baroque Church of Assumption and the prominent south staircase to the Chaplains house. It was nice to pass by streams feeding the lake and we stopped at a bar for lunch halfway around.

Others had caught boats, swan gondolas, horse and cart’s or the train to get around the lake, but I was glad that we took our time to see things like the resting dragonfly that landed on my husbands arm. It was a very romantic way to end the honeymoon before we made a short stop in England to surprise my grandma who had been unable to make it to Thailand for the wedding.

Related posts: Luxury Istria, 2010, Pag and Buzet, 2010, Split and Zadar, 2010, Dubrovnik, 2010, Destination Thailand, 2010

It’s a Canadian Thing

O’ Canada, land of the First Nations people, the Looney and the red maple leaves.

Home of good friends, good bands and good parties. Where I learned what a dyke was, got my belly button pierced and went drinking at The Keg after dinner at White Spot. Where my cousins introduced me to real maple syrup, maple walnut ice cream and bagels with real salmon.

Land of Arby’s, the Dairy Queen Skor Blizzard, Tim Horton’s and as many flavours of ice tea that you can think of. Home of Totem Poles, Le Chateau, ice wine and the biggest Chinese New Year celebrations I have ever seen.

Downtown Vancouver where you can see steam coming out of a clock in Gastown, pick up some lovely First Nations jewellery on Granville Island and dream of owning a house in West Van on the other side of Lions Gate Bridge.

A city so beautiful that it is blessed with both waterways and a surrounding trio of snow capped mountains. Where you can go tubing on Mt Seymour followed by a dip at Kits beach. Where you can walk the wires in Lynn Canyon by day and see the twinkling city lights from Grouse Nest restaurant by night.

The city which has one of the best aquariums in the world in one of the best parks in the world. Where I fell in love with otters, white Beluga whales and Canada Geese. Where I discovered UBC, the Pitt Pub and the mosh pit at Arts County Fair.

Vancouver Island, home of the capital of Victoria, the Empress Hotel and China Beach. Where a trip through the Gulf Islands becomes an adventure in killer whale spotting and you never want to leave.

Seeing snow banks bigger than houses, making snow angels and going tobogganing. Discovering the real beauty of snow covered fir trees, the taste of hot toddies and learning how to snow plough.

Taking a trip on the Sea to Sky highway to go skiing at Blackcomb, only to find out that Big White’s better. Staying in a real log cabin, drinking with folks from the Yukon and meeting American snowboarders at Mt Baker.

Land of moose, black bears and a white rock a stones throw away from Seattle.

And that’s just the west coast.

The enchanting Casa Loma in Toronto, the icy blue Niagara Falls and the unexpected beauty of Niagara on the Lake.

Where you can dance with a cowboy in Calgary, find out what a cold nose really is in Saskatoon and go ice-skating inside West Edmonton Mall.

And I know there is so much more to explore.

Montreal, Quebec City and Lake Louise. New Foundland, Christina Lake and the Rockies.

One day…

Related posts: New Year’s Eve on the Island, 2007, Christmas in Canada, 2007, Canada, 2005, Canada, 2002, Canada 1997-1998, Canada, 1997, Canada, 1990

Luxury Istria, 2010

Buzet in the region of Istria, is not a place that springs to mind when you think of a honeymoon destination. For a few weeks of the year during truffle hunting season, it’s the place to go for the finding of both the black and white varieties of the fungus, but for the remainder of the year it appears to be largely deserted.

My husband and I visited the local tourist office where they were amazed that we had not hired a car, as buses were not frequent in the area. They gave us the number of a local man who could give us a lift if it was on the way to where he was heading for a small fee and a plan to find some sulphur springs that were not in the guide book while we were in the region.

The main reason we had come to Buzet was for a truffle degustation at Stara Ostarija. So we booked for dinner, hoping that our journey into the middle of nowhere was not for nothing. We returned to the restaurant at twilight for our six course slow meal and were the only ones in the restaurant. Now this was more like it, I thought to myself.

First course was soft cheese with white truffles on bread. Kind of like cream cheese with a nutty twist. The second course was hard cheese with black truffles, prosciutto and olives. Not unlike a mezze plate and very tasty.

With both black and white truffles, the signature dish was the third course of soup and it was most definitely the best course. Course number four was ribbons of flat fettuccine pasta with lashings of truffle shavings. I had had this dish once before in Rome, but not with quite as many truffles. I guess they don’t exactly have a shortage of them in Buzet.

By course five, meat with larger truffle shavings, I was beginning to get a bit truffled out. So by the time the desert course of cake with truffles arrived, I really could not stomach more than one bite. So that’s what truffles taste like, I thought, as we rolled ourselves down the hill and back to the hotel.

By the next day, we had forgotten our gluttony and headed to the Zigante Tartufi truffle shop to stock up on various truffle pastes and oils to take home.

We called our local man with a spa who drove us to Istarske Toplice mineral spa. We planned to spend the day here, as there was only one bus back into town that afternoon. The outdoor sulphur pool was closed, so we headed to the indoor pool, only to discover that no more than a thirty-minute soak is recommended for the sulphur pools.

After our short dip, we had lunch as the one hotel on site and wandered around the grounds. There was a mini golf course that was not in operation and some truffle hunting dogs in cages. I would have loved to have been here in truffle hunting season so that we could get a glimpse of these clever dogs in action. As is always the way, our procrastination almost caused us to miss our bus back to town and we had to run to catch it on the main road.

Of course, Buzet will always have a special place in my heart because it was my honeymoon. The town was beautiful and the truffle degustation was also the most romantic meal that we had on our trip that sparked a lust for degustation dining that continued when we returned home to Sydney.

Related posts: Pag and Buzet, 2010, Split and Zadar, 2010, Dubrovnik, 2010, Destination Thailand, 2010

Memory

Memory is a funny thing.

As a positive thinker, I usually only remember the good things about a place I’ve visited.

I forget the hours that we waited for a bus or how sore my feet got walking to a place, and just remember the wonderful monument that we saw when we got there or the cold drink that we consumed at the end of a walk.

The inconveniences that happened along the way become funny travel anecdotes that add humour to the story.

Perhaps there is a danger in always thinking the best of places. I often have to keep my expectations in check so as not to become disappointed with a return trip to a destination that I have visited before.

But almost always, the place is as good as I remember it to be and often better.

The times that it has not been so, is usually when key people have been missing. You know- the ones that made the place fun to begin with, or the people that were there for a pivotal time in your life.

Time and people can’t always be recreated, but a place can always be re visited, even if the place has changed. And this can prompt happy memories along with the creation of new memories with new people.

Maybe only remembering the positives is idealistic and blocking out all the bad stuff is bad for your mental health, especially if it all comes back later to haunt you. But I would rather remember the good times and the fabulous feeling of a place than be sad that time has moved on places have changed.

Returning to a place that I remember is like opening the first page on a book I’m re reading. I know the plot and the gist of the story, but I can’t remember the details and how I got to the end. I feel at ease, but enjoy discovering the little bits that make up the whole and discovering new journeys- kind of like a choose your own adventure book (children of the 80’s will remember those!).

At the end of the day, nobody can tarnish your memories unless you let them, except for yourself. They are your own personal memories and wouldn’t you rather have good ones?

Related posts: Nostalgia

Pag and Buzet, 2010

Pag town was small and all white stones. There was a pretty harbour and a great gift shop where I bought a bracelet that goes with everything. My husband and I found St Mary’s church, Kralja Kresimiro square and the statue of Juraj Damatinac. We saw Ducal Palace, a ruined tower and the statue of Basic in the main square.

The main square was actually used by the locals who made Pag lace and Pag cheese, but we could never find the famous Pag lamb. Even though we were on the right island, there was sheep everywhere and every restaurant we went to had it on the menu; we were told it was out of season.

We headed to the summer beach resort town of Novalja the next day in the hopes of finally catching a boat. The town was mainly nightclubs and restaurants which were closed for the off season.

That night, bad weather threatened to cancel our boat trip. But the weather cleared and we finally caught a car ferry to Rijeka the next day.

We had to wait half a day for the bus in Rijeka with our bags, which meant that we couldn’t take off and explore the nearby castles. Instead we took turns sitting in a local bar and wandering down the main street past the Gradski Toranja city tower. I found a stone wheel fountain in Ivana Koblera square and a roman gate. I also saw the Jardrolinja office and thought about going in to complain about the lack of boats during the off season, but decided against it.

Our bus to Buzet left from the Florence-like Chuch of Our Lady of Lourdes. The bus was busy with school children and other locals, so we had to stand the whole way. I read in the guidebook that Istria is in the centre of the slow food movement region which means eating lots of tasty food over a long period of time. So after being denied the delicacies of Pag lamb, our interest in Buzet truffles, was peaked.

We stayed in Buzet new town where most of the locals live, that had one hotel, the Hotel Fontana, which was being renovated during the off-season. After an hour or so of walking down an empty road to a recommended restaurant, we gave up and headed back to the old town. The views from the top of the hill were beautiful. Being isolated, there were green hills, white cliffs, a few red roofed houses and not much else. The town was cute and it was nice to be the only tourists in a small place.

The old town itself was tiny, mostly deserted and it didn’t take us long to see the sights. We entered through the Mala Varta gate and headed for the bell tower in the main square of Titov Trg Zvonik, which is the landmark structure that gives the town it’s aesthetic appeal.

We walked around to the Mala Sterna baroque well, saw a baroque house, the Bembo Palace and the old bell tower of St George’s church which had one of its two bells missing. Heading for Vela Sterna well square, we finally found some people in a family of four playing near the fountain.

Related posts: Split and Zadar, 2010, Dubrovnik, 2010, Destination Thailand, 2010

Universal vs Personal

In life (in the western world anyway), there are certain universal experiences that everyone goes through. We are all born to two parents, have brothers and sisters, grow up, go to school, attend university, move out of home, get a job, get married, have kids and start a life of our own.

However, not everyone has siblings, the opportunities of higher education or wants to get married and have kids. In fact, if you believe the research, Gen Y is never going to move out of home, probably because they will never be able to afford the ridiculous property prices in Sydney.

And so, as much as we all have universal experiences that help us relate to other people, life is also intensely personal; and we are all individuals who react to certain situations differently.

The same goes for travel. When all my friends were taking the universal route of going to university and I thought I was going on a personal track of backpacking around Europe; I discovered that this traveling was actually another one of those universal experiences called a gap year and there were loads of other Aussies and people from other countries doing exactly the same thing.

We all followed the same general route, went to the same places listed in the guidebook and had similar experiences. We shared our take on places with new arrivals to the hostel and generally there was a consensus about the best places to go. But of course, as individuals, we were all into some bizarrely different things and our experience of even a very well known place was individual.

That’s why, even though the internet can tell you the universal experience of travelling to a place and I can tell you my personal observations, the best thing to do is go and see for yourself.

Not everyone likes the Eiffel Tower in Paris, wants to go bungee jumping in New Zealand or drink soju in South Korea. Your individual experience may be completely different to mine or anybody else’s, and wouldn’t you have hated to miss seeing a place you fall in love with just because everyone else told you it wasn’t worth the effort?

Related posts: People vs Place, Adventurous vs Risk taker