Tag Archives: bar

Snorkel Safari, 2017

The next day I decided to treat myself to a manicure and pedicure at the hotel spa. The beautician was from Jamaica and entertained me with stories of her life on the islands.

After pampering, we had a little more beach time and took in all the water sports on offer out front of the hotel. There were jet boots, parasailing, beach volleyball, two person sailing boats, paddleboards, water skiing and banana boating.

We decided on a snorkel safari that included riding on Jet Ski’s to two different snorkelling locations.

Having never been on a Jet Ski before, I was quite happy for my husband to drive. After donning life jackets, packing our snorkelling gear and a few short instructions on how to drive, we were ready to head off.

We went slowly at first, but found this was too rocky. So we sped up and were soon sailing past our South African tour guide.

At the first snorkelling site, I was lucky enough to see a small black stingray trawling the bottom of the ocean.

The second snorkel site, near the cruise ships anchored in Georgetown harbour, was much deeper and better.

We saw large schools of blue fish swimming in between the crevices of the rocky reef, bright green parrotfish and even bigger schools of silver fish that swam right up to the surface and past your face.

Then we had another Jet Ski race back to the beach, just in time to get ready for dinner back at the hotel.

There were tables were set up by the pool for dinner. The pay-as-you-go family sized canvas lounging chairs were finally free as daytime was over, so we settled in for some pre-dinner drinks.

A DJ set up near the pool, which was deep blue in the moonlight. The night ended with much dancing here, fireworks on the beach and a nightcap at the hotel bar.

Related posts: Rum Point, 2017Crystal Caves and Stingray City, 2017Caribbean rum, 2017Grand Cayman, 2017,  Isla Mujeres and Cancun, 2011

It’s not how good the music is, it’s who you’re dancing with

I heard this saying the other day and it made me think.

The dance floor could be the coolest one in the country with the hippest people and the best beats. But if you are there by yourself, with people you don’t really know and don’t really like, then its really not that much fun.

The funkiest cocktail bar with the best drinks can end up being a dive in the basement if you go with the wrong people and the music is too loud. The best restaurant in the trendiest suburb can be lack lustre if you go with people who aren’t that fussed with fine food.

Of late I have been catching up with a few friends from various parts of my life and it made me remember that these people are in my life for a reason. No matter what we are going through in our lives, even if it means we can’t catch up as often as we would like, when we do see each other life seems better when shared with these people.

There are the old work friends who I’ve kept in touch with because it’s not just about the job we did together, but I actually really like them as people as well. Their lives are diverse and interesting and they offer different perspectives on life.

There’s the wives of my husbands friends who have been around for over a decade or more and are now my friends in their own right. They make restaurants more fun and Saturday nights a family bonding experience for everyone.

And there are the special friends from near and far who and know my history and me better than I do myself. It is for these friends that I am truly grateful as they have the ability to pull me out of a dark place for a reality check and make me smile no matter how bad life can seem at the time.

Friends remind you that you are not alone, you are not crazy and it’s actually the rest of the planet that has gone mad.

So whether your daily soundtrack is Portishead or Ministry of Sound, it’s the people you are listening with that can make all the difference in the world.

Related posts: Real Friends vs Digital Friends, Friendship: Great Expectations?, People vs Place, By special request 

Hong Kong, 2013: Part 2

One afternoon, my husband, daughter and I caught one of the double decker trams to Soho. For a toddler, the journey is often better than the destination and for my husband he very much enjoyed revisiting one of the Soho bars that he went to last time he was here for work.

I liked that the bar was cool and had an indoor fountain as well as tasty cocktails. We also took a ride on the longest escalator in the world and saw some local market stalls in the area.

On the way back to the hotel we stumbled upon some modern art installations inside a train station. There were mural of rainforests, kites and a Chinese dragon.

The next day we took the iconic Star Ferry to Kowloon. The colourful ferry was striking and the old wooden boat was lovely.

On the other side, we were greeted by the tall stone clock tower and the views back to Hong Kong were great. The buildings on this side were older, apart from the modern museum, and had flashing neon signs.

We stumbled upon a children’s fun run sponsored by Kinder and took a walk along the strange Avenue of Stars that had bronze statures of film makers, Bruce Lee and the handprints of Jackie Chan.

The Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade was a bit of a disappointment, but it did have a cool modern dragon fountain. They sure do love a fountain in Hong Kong as we were to discover even further with a visit to Kowloon Park which was basically a park of fountains, lakes and even a waterfall. Plus the cartoon art installation featuring Dragon Ball-Z and a big Panda that we found.

Lunch was had in an modern air conditioned café near the ferry terminal where high chairs were not a problem, before we caught the ferry back to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong was not as overwhelmingly busy as I expected and there was more to see than I had thought. It was an easy and cheap stopover with a one year old and I could see why so many expats enjoyed living here.

Related posts: Hong Kong, 2013: Part 1, It’s an Asia Thing

Isla Mujeres and Cancun, 2011

Isla Mujeres, the Island of Women, famous for the statues between it and Cancun on the mainland which were sunken for the pleasure of scuba divers.

The ferry over from Cancun was quick and the water was even bluer than Tulum.

My husband and I stayed in a lovely little hotel on Playa Secreto, the quiet side of the island, which had a sandy courtyard filled with hammocks.

No cars were allowed on the island, so people got around on golf carts, although the island was so small that you could walk everywhere and didn’t really need one.

The main street was short and lined with restaurants and gift shops. We took a seafront walk along Bahia de Mujeres to see the lighthouse and had lunch in a Cuban restaurant.

My husband wanted to go scuba diving while we were here and I was happy to join the dive boat to go snorkeling. The dive boat instructers were confident fellows and kept me entertained while we waited for the divers to resurface.

We saw the statues of so many different people- standing, sitting and engaged in all sorts of activities- it was like nothing I had ever seen before. We also saw a turtle in the wild, which I had never seen before and was amazing. He was so quick!

That night we ate in a seafood restaurant with tables and chairs on the beach and found a funky bar on the main street that had high ceilings and a mural of a rainforest. We also discovered the La Adelita Tequileria.

You could hire a deck chair at the busier Playa Norte by day, or sit on a swing in one of the many bars that lined the beach, by night. It was on one such swing that we got acquainted with a lovely Swiss girl called Jasmin who was travelling through Mexico by herself, but had met many like minded travellers such as ourselves along the way to keep her company as desired.

We discovered that we were staying in the same hotel and met in the sandy courtyard on occasion to play cards and have a few drinks between beach visits. Jasmin was travelling back through Cancun and didn’t really want to go by herself. We had already decided that we wanted to avoid spending too much time there; so the three of us travelled back to mainland together to stay one night in a Cancun motel.

Jasmin was on a mission to get a one-person hammock and we were happy to join her quest. We found one in a nearby market, squeezed between the many restaurants and closed nightclubs.

And so our Mexican journey came to an end. It really had been the best trip ever, maybe it was the place, perhaps it was the company or just that it was that blissful time between get married and having kids.

Related posts: Tulum, 2011, Chichen Itza, 2011, Campeche and Merida, 2011, Palenque, 2011, Oaxaca, 2011, Mexico City, 2011

Oaxaca, 2011

It was a long bus trip to Oaxaca, distance was a factor I hadn’t thought of fully when we decided to come to Mexico- everything was a little further than I thought. It’s hard to pick a favorite place in in the country, but Oaxaca definitely made the top three, so it was worth it when we got there.

My husband and I stayed in an authentic hotel with gothic style rooms and courtyard gardens. Perhaps it was a mistake to try the local mescal- a moonshine version of tequila- after such a long trip. One shot in the Alice in Wonderland themed bar and it was down the rabbit hole for me.

The next day, we wandered down the Alcala, a closed off walking street lined with buildings, to the main square with the usual Cathedral and state Government palace. The iconic Hotel Monte Alban also overlooked the square that was filled with the sounds of musicians and the sights of the market.

I bought a pair of earrings from a local mountain tribe seller and an Alebrijes lizard. Alebrijes are wooden painted animals, originally made as toys for children, that are unique to Mexico. They were so colourful and beautiful that I wish we had the foresight and luggage space to buy more.

We went to an authentic mole restaurant in the house of a local woman to try mole, as Oaxaca claims to be the originator of the popular Mexican sauce. First time around, I thought it tasted like dirt. Another evening, we had mole with duck in a fine dining restaurant called Los Danazantez that had a lovely open air courtyard of water features and a large wooden bar. It was better second time around, so I can see how the locals have acquired a taste for it.

Oaxaca is a town of colour, flowers, black pottery and pushed tin. At times, I felt like I was on the set of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet. It is also a town of churches and temples, so we visited Iglesia de Santa Domingo.

Inside was plethora of gold with the Santa Domingo family tree on the roof. In the grounds of the monastery next door there was elaborate courtyards with marble pillars and lots of painting of monks on the walls.

The view over the cactus garden to the mountains from one of the arched windows was beautiful. Also housed here the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca with many statues, gold painted balconies and saints on cornices.

That evening we visited a rooftop bar overlooking Iglesia de Santa Domingo and felt like we were on top of the world.

Related posts: Mexico City, 2011

Thailand, 2009

My husband-to-be (HTB) found himself between jobs, so we thought we would take the opportunity to take a week’s holiday. We went to the travel agent who saw that we were good candidates for a last minute off season wholesale deal for a week in Thailand.

We flew to Bangkok a week later and met up with Yam, a friend of my HTB and a Thai local, for dinner. It was the hottest time of the year, just before the monsoon, so was very humid even at night.

The next day we flew to Krabi and then took a two hour bus trip, including a vehicle ferry, to the island of Koh Lanta which is almost on the Malaysian border. Our deal was at the Cha Da Beach Resort & Spa which had a very imposing reception and impressive grounds.

There was a huge main pool with its own bridge, a game room with a football table and two other pools near Kaw Kwang beach. We picked the adults pool near the beach that had a pool bar and staked our spot.

Our deal included an Emerald Suite which had a romantic canopied bed, a lounge area and one of the biggest shower heads I had seen. To have a view of the ocean from the balcony was wonderful.

Not content with just seeing the inside of the hotel, we explored the cute little village of Ban Saladan which was a short tuk tuk ride away. Only two of the many fresh seafood restaurants built on stilts over the water were open due to the off season. We chose Ko Lanta restaurant, had our fill of seafood cooked how we requested it and took in the view of boats on the water.

My 31st birthday began with a pedicure at the hotel spa, followed by reading by the pool, swimming and cocktails by the pool. At sunset, we took a walk on the beach where my HTB completely surprised me by proposing. We went back to the hotel to congratulate ourselves with champagne and a chocolate sundae.

Related posts: Thailand, 2002

It’s a Spanish thing

I love Spain.

I love the colour, the life and the fact that people mistake me for being Spanish.

Flamenco dancing spectaculars, drinking Sangria and late night starts.

Tasty tapas, seafood paella and crème Catalan.

Nobody worries too much about owning property- why buy when you can rent right in the middle of the city where you want to live.

Parc de la Citadella where the cool kids hang out, Otto Zutz nightclub where the tourists go to party and Zara for all your fashionable needs.

The iconic La Rambla, the smells and sounds of La Boqueria and the friendly waitress in our local bar.

I love Barcelona, especially Parc Guell, and every time I go back I discover a new side to the city.

The brilliance of Gaudi, the deck chairs on the curving beaches and the famous 4 Cats bar.

The Moorish delights of the Alhambra, so many fountains and gypsies living in cave houses.

I am fortunate enough to have some Spanish friends who have shown me parts of Spain that I would not have otherwise explored.

The views from Mount Tibidabo, the sad story of Punta De Sau and the tradition of Plaza de Torres de la Maestanza.

Busy Madrid, beautiful Granada and cultural Seville.

I like the streets and alleyways of the cities and the gothic architecture of the churches.

A summer retreat in Xabia, white washed Spanish style villa’s and tall cliffs crashing into deep blue sea.

The lovely language, the good looking ladies and the passionate people.

It’s not just a country, it’s a way of life.

Endless fun, long summers in the cold climate of Europe and a no worries attitude that suits my Australian ethos.

I look forward to returning to Espana and discovering more about this wonderful country.

Related posts: It’s a water thing, People vs Place, It’s a French thing, Europe, 2003, Spain, 1997, Part 2: Beyond Barcelona, Spain, 1997, Part 1: Barcelona

It’s a water thing

Growing up five minutes from the ocean, perhaps it was inevitable that I have an affinity with water. I love swimming in the ocean, particularly with dolphins, turtles or any other safe sea creatures I can get close (but not too close) to, and will take any opportunity to go for a dip.

I always enjoy going to the beach, walking along the sandy shores, dipping my toes in the water and running from the waves. I remember long summer days by the sea and had my first kiss on the beach.

Wide-open spaces leave me feeling restless for the feeling of the sea breeze in my hair again. I feel land locked and only sighting the ocean shore makes me feel at ease again.

I have been lucky enough to grow up near some of the most beautiful white sandy beaches in the world in Jervis Bay and visit other beautiful beaches in Mexico and Malaysia.

Even if you can’t get in the water, getting on the water by boat will do, or a walk down a promenade, or even a bar with a water view.

All of the best road trips I have been on have been along the coastline, like Big Sur in California, the Great Ocean Road in Victoria and pretty much the whole of the South Island of New Zealand.

My search for waterfalls is a bit obsessive. I have been to Iguazu and Niagara Falls as well as countless other less famous waterfalls. I plan not to rest until I see Victoria Falls, Gullfoss and a waterfall on the beach in Norway.

I also love a fountain, which is probably a lot of the reason why I love Spain, Rome, Versailles and all those other big gardens with lots of fountains. I mean, how can you not admire the Trevi Fountain?

Unless you were unlucky enough to go when they were restoring it, in which case there is always the Fountain of the Four Rivers and all those other gorgeous fountains in practically every square in the city.

So, yep, that’s me, water baby in search of any beaches, waterfalls or fountains I can find. I wander where my search for water will take me to next…

Related posts: It’s a French Thing, Random Public Holiday Ramblings, USA Road trip, 2007: Part 2, Malaysia, 2006, Canada, 2005, Argentina, 2005, Europe, 2003, Italy, 1997, Part 1: From Rome to Florence, Spain, 1997, Part 2: Beyond BarcelonaEngland, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988

Spain, 1997, Part 1: Barcelona

Sarah and I arrived in Barcelona train station to lots of paraphernalia about the 1992 Olympics which still remained on the walls.

We walked through the famous Las Ramblas (not knowing what it was at the time) to meet one of my Dad’s friend’s from Weymouth- Leigh- who had a flat right in the middle of the city and was letting us stay with him.

Leigh took us to Sagrat Cour at Mount Tibidabo for a view of Barcelona. We also went to the monastery at Sant Cugat and ate patas bravas in the town square.

The real life in Barcelona begins at night and Spain is the home of the free pour.

So, that night we went to 4 Cats– the bar that Picasso used to go to, Barri Gotic at night and the Dipuctacion Provincial with the balcony where the football team stand when they win a game which a very important landmark to Leigh and most of the locals who are lovers of football, but not to me who didn’t know the first thing about soccer.

I was much more interested in the French bar that we went to next that was called Pastis and sold wine out a barrel. Leigh took us past the Columbus monument and to the newly renovated port area with modern architecture and neon lighting.

Finally, we went to dinner at midnight. This seemed ridiculous to me who is used to eating dinner at 6pm, but in Barcelona, to have dinner at 11pm is normal and to go home at 4am is an early night.

The next day, Leigh took us to the small town of Vic and Ponta de Sau which is a village flooded to make a dam. You can still see church steeple sticking out of the dam lake. Very eerie.

We continued our tour of drinking plus a little sight-seeing with lunch in a hotel near the dam lake and onto a bar overlooking Barcelona at night called Bar Tomas.

1am found Sarah and I at the Bikini night club with its pink neon sign and boys telling us that we had beautiful eyes, although I am not sure how they could tell on the strobe lighted dance floor.

Sarah and I met up with one of my Australian friends from high school at cafe in front of Segrada Familia. He had fallen in love with a local and was now living in Barcelona.

We went to Montjuic Olympic park to see the Olympic stadium and the telecommunication tower that was the symbol of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.

On numerous occasions, the locals thought I was a native Catalan, which may have contributed to Barcelona becoming another one of my favourite cities in the world. Perhaps I had found the city where I belonged? If I could keep up with the night owl hours.

Republished on Travel Spain daily paper.li.

Related posts: France, 1997, Part 2: The South of France, France, 1997, Part 1: Paris, Belgium, 1997, Holland, 1997, England, 1997, I first started travelling, By special request, Home is where you make it, I first started writing