European Cities & Towns
Ah, we are now in the most magical city in the whole European continent - PARIS, FRANCE...
Grandeur, nouvelle cuisine, fashion and the good things in life - PARIS has it all! Art lovers will definitely want to conquer the Louvre and Orsay museums; the frivolous flock to the Moulin Rouge; the young-at-heart feel at home in Paris Disneyland; the devout congregate at the Notre Dame Basilica... and the sophisticates search out the BEST restaurants for nouvelle cuisine here in the city that never sleeps - PARIS.
Yes, Paris has EVERYTHING to intrigue and offer a first time visitor at ALL seasons. Style and sophistication give a special sparkle to an otherwise boring everyday life here. Even the simplest clothes are worn with great flair in this capital city. Wanna know more??
Do surf on to my PARIS travel page for an indepth look at one of my favorite cities in the world!!! Xie Xie (that's Chinese for 'Thanks!'). :-))
Photo Above: A glimpse of Champs Elysees... at dusk.
Our next destination is a paradise for food lovers. IF you're a food-lover, then you must check out the bustling city of LYON, FRANCE.....
Yes, travelers certainly don't call LYON the food capital for nothing! LYON is also a busy (busy!) commercial center which has its roots in the highly prosperous silk industry and it's also known the world over as a gastronomic place (See? I can't seem to stop emphasizing this fact!). ;-))
Interested to know what else LYON has to offer?
Please do surf on to my LYON travel page for more details.... Gracias!
Photo Above: Our lovely hotel, the MERIDIEN PART-DIEU located inside the CREDIT LYONNAIS TOWER (yes, the pencil-shaped building) @ the Financial District of LYON. Very nice!
"THE FRENCH RIVIERA, FRANCE...."
Our next stop: The South of France and visit the many villages dotting the FRENCH REVIERA, FRANCE....
Ah, yes. This is the fabled COTE D'AZUR indeed - or in English, the FRENCH RIVIERA consisting of strings and strings of magnificent beaches and resorts. The most famous and glitzy resorts must surely be CANNES, NICE and MONTE CARLO* but there are still many, many more little villages and towns scattered along this southern coast worth exploring.....
Welcome to the playground of Europe... as the yachts anchored at the marina of ST TROPEZ can testify. But hey, these aren't just cities for the rich and famous too, ya know. Why don't you check out my NICE travel page and you'll know exactly what I mean. :-)) Terima Kasih (that's Bahasa Malay for 'Thank You').
Photo Above: A sweeping view of the famed marina in ST TROPEZ.
"MONTE CARLO, MONACO!"
Next, the glitzy city of MONTE CARLO here in MONACO.
This principality seems to attract a very special brand of people - the Glamourous, the Elegant and the Sophisticated. You'll notice expensive yachts docked gunwale to gunwale in the glamourous port of MONTE CARLO. Legendary MONACO is every woman's and man's dream come true. The lifestyles of the wealthy and very wealthy are perpetrated by the darkly tanned and tuxedo-clad who gamble the night away in Monte Carlo's famed casinos.... while the lifestyles of the famous bring the noteworthy to the Royal Palace to party with the Royal Family. My, life is sure one big party for these folks! Me? Envious??!! Never!!! :-)
Monaco is also famed for its cultural activities.... boasting a magnificent national orchestra, a highly-reputed opera house (!!) and some lovely museums. If you have the time, you MUST visit the stately Cathedrale de Monaco.... This was the church where an American actress named Grace Kelly married the Ruler of the Principality, Prince Rainier III. If only all such dreams have a happily-ever-after ending.....
If you wish to find out more about this entralling city, please take a look at my MONACO travel page. Merci!
"THE SCHWARZWALD, GERMANY"
Do you know which country is Europe's MOST INDUSTRIALIZED nation? Yes, a united GERMANY since 9 November 1989.....
After the country's tragic lost in the Second World War, her people with reputations for hard work and earnest efficiency, have literally started from scratch to build a nation of power - a superpower like what it is today. But a unified Germany today is not without its own set of problems. Oh well... Some of the issues that have crept up within the last decade (1990s) are massive strikes, heavy taxes and many other unresolved issues.
Anyhow, this country has also produced some earth-shakers like Martin Luther, Karl Marx and Albert Einstein. And they all hail from the same intellectual hothouse as Goethe, Heine and Thomas Mann. Of course, Bach, Beethoven and Wagner need no introduction either. GERMANY also has some of the world's best museums; And nearly half of the world's best opera houses are in this country alone! Truly remarkable.
Personally, I've never been more astonished (than when I was in Germany) at the LARGE number of BMWs, Mercedes, Audis and other sleek sports cars on their autobahns! I mean, these are what we would term as 'luxury cars' here in Asia and needless to add, they come with a very cool price tag.... German drivers are also something else esp. when they are on the autobahns (read: dare-devilish)!! They certainly introduced a whole new meaning to driving (to me). :-)) You see, I thought the road limit was 130km/h but most of them were SPEEDING away at almost 180 - 200km/h!! And they would not hesitate to flash their headlights at you if you don't make way for them FAST. Gee, I certainly wouldn't want to be in their way when they are driving in this manner. I can imagine myself looking like a pancake! :-( Not a good sight at all and I'll probably be dead by then.... Touch wood!
O.K., the place I'm gonna introduce you now is one of my favorite places in the world - yes, THE SCHWARZWALD - or in English - The Black Forest. So, if you're interested to know what you can do to amuse yourself in the BLACK FOREST region of Germany, may I humbly recommend that you surf directly to my GERMANY travel page? Danke!
Photo Above: That's me at the beautiful lakeside resort town of TITISEE in end-Spring.... Amazingly, 90% of the lake is still frozen. Brrrrr....
If you have to pick just ONE castle to view in the whole of Europe, then it must surely be King Ludwig's opulent home (one of his many homes...) - the Neuschwanstein Castle in beautiful BAVARIA, GERMANY.
For a lovely shot of this castle (yeah, like those you see on guidebooks et al), just stand along Queen Mary's Bridge and snap away! It's just a 20-minute walk away from the castle.... so no worries... :-))
More details can be found in my GERMANY travel page. Happy surfing!
Our next stop in GERMANY is the captivating city of COLOGNE.....
COLOGNE, the impressive city in Rhineland (in my humble opinion) is famed for - wanna make a wild guess?? - yes, its twin-spired Cathedral, of course! No structure speaks more effectively for a reborn Germany than the impressive Cathedral (I think the German name for this landmark is - Kölner Dom).
Did you also know that this smoke-colored landmark took more than 500 years to build? Unbelievable! And today, it has somehow become one of the Nation's most powerful icon.
Besides the Cathedral, COLOGNE also have many other attractions to entice a foreigner. Art lovers will be pleased to know that there are at least 30 OUTSTANDING museums alone in this city! My favorite museum must surely be the Wallraf-Richartz Museum. For lovers of modern art, Museum Ludwig is THE place to go.
** From Cologne, you can also easily join an excursion to cruise down the Rhine River.
For more info, surf on to my COLOGNE travel page....
Oh, and that's me in the pic standing outside Kölner Dom... under the rain! Duh.
Let's scurry over to HEIDELBERG, GERMANY now, shall we?
For me, a perfect holiday would be to spend time away from the bustling crowd... as in - far from the maddening crowd, ya know?? So I must pat myself on the back (!!) for choosing to explore this lovely old university town called HEIDELBERG, located just 80KM to the south of Frankfurt (I think!)...
Situated at the heart of Germany, Heidelberg reeeally isn't a large town; boasting a population of less than 150,000 people (er... my guidebook said so!). I spent most of my time strolling in and around the Old Town which starts at BISMARCKPLATZ - the main hub for trams/ buses located at one end of the Hauptstrasse. You probably won't get to see too many cars in the Old Town area.... or at the Haupstrasse which has been pedestrianized!
Interested to know more: Surf on straight to my HEIDELBERG travel page for more details. :-)
Located at the entrance to the lovely Mediterranean... lies the beautiful country of GIBRALTAR.
Its strategic location and history has made The Rock of Gibraltar a very well known symbol of strength and every year, tourists who pop by Morocco or Spain will inevitably make a quick stopover to this lovely country. Like what we did. :-)
One of the things I enjoyed doing most in GIBRALTAR was visiting the Apes' Den. Here, you'd have the RARE opportunity to mingle with these cute semi-wild primates at close proximity. If you stand real close to them, these monkeys (apes?) will be at their absolute adorable selves and show you a glimpse of their everyday live(s).
These Apes are a species of tailless monkeys called Barbary Macaques and they can be found in Morocco and Algeria.... with those in Gibraltar being the ONLY free-living apes in Europe today.
Anyway, don't you think this barbary ape (see pic above) is just sooo cute?! Oh, and any resemblance to you and your relative(s) - whether dead or alive - is purely coincidental. hehe... :-)
For more fun and adventures, please take a peek at my GIBRALTAR travel page. :-D
IF you have seen and romanced the cities of VERONA, VENICE and ROME, you'd be quite astonished (to put it mildly) by the stark contrast around you as you head down towards the South of Italy.
Whilst the North boasts of a cool climate with a rich economic and cultural heritage, I found that the South is just the complete opposite! As we drove along the busy Autostrada, beautiful landscapes and lush vineyards change to reflect another scene - that of a sunny dry land and rows of humble homes, coupled with chaotic traffic jams!!
We are now in SORRENTO, ITALY.
The drivers here also possessed this marvelous ability to turn a 3-lane road into one with 5 lanes! I'm serious. Don't ask me how they did it; and I sure wouldn't want to get stuck in a traffic jam in SORRENTO either. Ever. As for the traffic lights, I realized that they were basically being treated like decorative ornaments i.e. nobody (as far as I noticed) seemed to abide graciously to the traffic rules here!
I really can't tell you much about this city. So, we quickly packed our bags and headed straight to the resort towns along the AMALFI and to the ISLE OF CAPRI where we felt "safer" and had a fabulous time. La dolce vita, at last!
For a sneak peak at what we experienced, please check out my ITALY travel page. I've basically combined my visits to SORRENTO, CAPRI and AMALFI all onto this page. So sorry if my experience in Sorrento wasn't as fun as you'd expect. :-(
"THE ISLE OF CAPRI, ITALY"
CAPRI was our next vacation stop after spending 2 days in SORRENTO (and boy, what an eye-opener!).
Anyhow, here we are at last all set to explore this idyllic and magical isle CAPRI! The only snag was to reach the island, we had to board the hovercraft (ugh!). You see, it is very well known that the waters off the Bay of Naples can get very choppy and rough. This is definitely not good news to folks who suffer from sea-sickness (like yours truly). :-((
Anyway, don't ask me what happened en route because I was busy popping pills to control this sea-sickness thingy that I was experiencing!
But man, once I reached the island, I had immediately forgotten all my "sufferings"... This place is AWESOME and it will spellbind you, I swear!!
If I have a choice, I don't ever want to leave this island!! :-)) Yes, all those good things you've been hearing about this isle is all completely true! If your dying wish is to see a fabulous resort, then please... it has gotta be CAPRI, ITALY! :-D
Ah, FIRENZE (or FLORENCE).
What an interesting city.
After extricating ourselves from the notorious traffic jams on the autostrada into FIRENZE (Florence), we headed straight to Piazzale Michelangelo for a panoramic glimpse of this stupendous city (see pic above) which still manages to retain its amazing Renaissance beauty and vitality!
Florentines like Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Cellini presided over Italy's cultural rebirth and the Medici court became the Country's political and economic standard bearer. The fruits of this period are still very evident in the city's seemingly endless array of museums, churches and palazzi!
It's a real shame that I couldn't spend a longer time wandering around this city; taking in the sights of the Old Town and window-shopping along its bustling shopping and tourist district! Sigh.... That would have made my trip - PERFECT and more remarkable!
But anyhow, I still did enjoy myself tremendously.
Why don't you take a quick look at what we did in this town by popping over to take a look at my FLORENCE travel page. Grazi.
If you've come to ITALY from distant shores, you'd surely not want to miss seeing the world famous town of PISA.
PISA's most revered monument is definitely the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The city seems to bubble with pride not only for its tilting-to-one-side tower but also for its unsurpassable Duomo.
The dazzling Duomo is choke full of great art works - including Giovanni Pisano 's intricate pulpit and its burlesque Gothic reliefs. You must see it personally to know what I truly mean. It is widely believed that the swinging motions of the lamp over the center aisle (inside the Duomo) supposedly sparked Galileo's amazing discovery of the pendulum motion some hundreds of years ago.
Sorry, can't remember the date (I must have been sleeping in class)! :-((
Today, Pisa subsists largely on the daily tide of tourists from all over the world who come specifically to oogle at the tipping tower - which is now closed to the public.
If visiting Florence is in your travel agenda, then DON'T ever give PISA a miss. It is after all only an hour's train ride from the city of Florence.
For more details, please take a wee little peek at my little PISA travel page. :-)
There will never be a city so rich in history as the Eternal City - once home to the Roman caesars, popes and artists.
Welcome to one of my favorite cities in the world - ROMA here in beautiful ITALY.
Depending on how you look at it, ROME (or in Italian - ROMA) can either enthrall you or give you a major migraine!! ;-)
When it comes to schedules and opening times of shops, Rome can be mystifying and veeerrrry frustrating! Do note that the pennichella (Rome's infamous mid-afternoon siesta) and LONG meals ALWAYS take precedence over every other thin. Most shops are closed between 1.00PM to 5.00PM. Sigh....
You see, I had planned for a major shopping blitz in this city. Oh well.... Might as well I didn't shop like I'd wanted to; save me from spending unnecessarily! ;-)
Many of Rome's greatest treasures are hidden in the side alleys and its true charm lies in its ability to fascinate and surprise a tourist!
Yes, relish the quiet piazzas and the bustling outdoor markets at the end of every wrong turn. Some of the most magnificent masterpieces by the builders and painters can be found lined along the piazzas like Piazza Navona, the Campidoglio, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza di Spagna and Piazza San Pietro - all these being the creme de la creme.
Want to know more? What to see? What to eat? What to do? Where to shop? Then, please browse through my ROME travel page for an indepth look.
Photo Above: My little sister perching herself precariously inside the mighty Coloseum here in captivating ROME.
If I can come to this amazing city again... and again... and again... and again..., I'll be the happiest lady in the world! Yes, our next stop is none other than beautiful VENICE.
To stroll around VENICE without a care in the world is like Heaven on Earth. Getting lost in this city can truly be a joyous experience as you tackle the narrow maze-like cobbled lanes, streets and unexpected city squares.
VENICE and its activities centers around the Piazza San Marco, one of the most magnificent squares in the world! It is here that the awesome 900-year old St Mark's Basilica will leave you enthralled with its interior covered in stunning mosaics which displays an amazing collection of four bronze horses that the Venetian army snagged from Constantinople (modern day Turkey). If you have some time to spare, you must ascend to the top of the Campanile where you can catch a breathtaking panoramic view of the city and its major attractions. The Palazza Ducale (Doges' Palace) and the Bridge of Sighs will both leave you gasping for more. Another noteworthy attraction here is the Accademia Museum which houses an impressive collection of Venetian art masterpieces, amongst those are paintings by the great Bellini.
Shopping in VENICE is also a lovely experience as I walked along the winding streets and lanes with its many shops selling fascinating souvenirs. The good buys include their leather products, porcelain carnival masks that comes in every conceivable size (!!), costume jewellery and its trademark - Murano glassware.
C'mon in and see what we did here in this city by clicking onto this link and it'd whisk you straight to my VENICE travel page. Grazi!
The next interesting Italian town we visited must surely be medieval VERONA, home to history's two most famous star-crossed lovers who needs no introduction: (No! It's not Bonnie & Clyde!!) It's...Romeo and Juliet!!! ;-)
VERONA is undoubtedly one of the richest towns in Italy. As I strolled along the narrow cobbled lanes, I was awestruck by the number of very well-dressed Veronese who resemble Vogue models clad in Gianni Versace suits and expensive boutiques selling top of the range products. Here, you can find familiar brand names like Gucci, Ferragamo (my favorite ), Benetton, Armani etc... but don't expect an inexpensive price tag. :-) As a matter of fact, the things here are more costly than you could imagine! Sigh....
VERONA is indeed a historic town of marble villas and lovely piazzas. And while you're pondering over the existence of Romeo & Juliet or whether it's a myth.... click here... and it'd bring you straight to my VERONA travel page. :-)
Photo Above: VERONA's most famous and most groped statue. The Statue of Juliet. :-) Hands off, guys!
Greetings from the VATICAN CITY here in Italy!
Occupying only 109 acres within Rome (ONLY 109 acres??), the Vatican City is the sovereign territory of Pope John Paul II and the heartbeat of the Catholic world. Did you know that under the Lateran Treaty of 1929, the Pope remains the Supreme Monarch of this puny little State? The State also maintains an army of Swiss Guards - all descended from 16th century mercenaries first hired by Pope Julius II.
Oh, and get this : The Master Italian Painter - Michelangelo designed their resplendent costumes! How cool is that huh?
For more info, please take a peek at my VATICAN CITY travel page.
Greetings from the beautiful alphine principality of LIECHTENSTEIN.... a country which has managed to enjoy great peace and prosperity... snuggled between two neutral republics - Switzerland and Austria.
LIECHTENSTEIN is famous chiefly for.... wanna make a guess?? Yes, it's definitely the postage stamps, wines and the Royal Family... PLUS some pretty interesting tax laws. Because of the principality's very close relations with Switzerland, the Swiss Franc is the official currency and there are no border controls (as far as I can remember...).
VADUZ, the capital of this tiny principality has an impressive cultural attraction over at the National Art Gallery containing masterpieces by famous artists like Rubens, Van Dyck and Hals owned by THE Prince himself (the reigning Monarch) who lives in the huge castle up in the hills. The population of Vaduz stands at just a small 30,000 inhabitants... (more or less).
Our half-day stay at Vaduz was too short a time for us to do much exploring and forming lasting impressions....
So, the next best thing we did was to go souvenir hunting and buy up some nice, cheap chocolates (!!!), postcards and their famed postage stamps.
Find out what else we did here in this tiny principality by surfing straight to my little LIECHTENSTEIN travel page. Thank yooou!
"AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS..."
I don't know about you... but there's something about this beautiful country that seems to enthrall me time and time again. I'm referring to THE NETHERLANDS.
I've visited AMSTERDAM a couple of times already and yet each occasion I go there, it feels as if it were my very first visit! There's something unique about their food, their culture, their gardens... and even their brand of soccer (Dutch soccer players ROCK!). :-)) And have you seen their high-tech international airport in Amsterdam?? Awesome!
Millions of Dutch people in Holland (or do you guys call it - the Netherlands?) live below sea-level on reclaimed land protected by thousands of kilometers of dunes and dikes. Need I also mention that Holland's most talented artists included Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Vermeer? You can catch a glimpse of their masterpiece(s) in Amsterdam's huge Rijksmuseum, a powerhouse in the museum world.
One of the most exciting activities that I'd like to recommend you to do is to hop onto a glass cruiser and sail down the chain of canals in Amsterdam.... and later, lose yourself in the lovely tulip fields. :-)
There are more fun and exciting things that you can do here. Why don't you browse through my AMSTERDAM travel page for some ideas? Dank!
I love LISBON!
And here we are now... in beautiful PORTUGAL.
Torre de Belem (or in English, the Tower of Belem) and the Padrao dos Descobrimentos (Discoveries Monument) are two of Lisbon's most impressive monuments which have come to symbolize LISBOA (or in English, LISBON) and the Age of Discoveries. They are perhaps Portugal's most photographed landmarks!
Yes, come face to face with Portuguese history and passion in the proud capital of LISBON and the tranquil holy city of FATIMA.
You'll be able to keep company with Portugal's master seafarers and their Fado singers; Marvel at the lost wonders of this once titanic kingdom cum super-power.....
And celebrate the night away drinking Portuguese port!
Hey, don't just believe every word I've written. Please take a peek at my PORTUGAL travel page. :-))
This is the land where the Hapsburg empire once reigned proudly (er... through careful maneuver and marriage...). Did you know that the Empire was once the most powerful force in Europe until the 19th century? Yes, this is a country filled with magical forests and sun-soaked vineyards.... and picturesque villages... and snow-heaped mountains.... and green pastures where the Von Trapp family once sang to a worldwide audience... 'The hills are alive with the Sound of the Music.....'! :-)
Sounds familiar? No??? Sigh... Are you serious?! Anyway, welcome to Austria and to INNSBRUCK, my friends.
For culture-vultures, you'd certainly love Innsbruck, Salzburg and Vienna (the capital city). For Austria is THE place where great maestros like - Mozart, Hadyn and Schubert composed their thoughts and penned their emotions into everlasting classical melodies. Incidentally, these men are world-famous Austrian composers (now deceased). It is also here that the world-famous Vienna Boys' Choir and the Waltz were invented... or should I say, born? Hm....
So, let's first hop onto a cruiser and sail along the lovely Blue Danube... and then drive through the high mountains known as the Arlberg Pass to this lovely Imperial city known simply as - INNSBRUCK, our first stop.
Photo Above: The awesome GOLDEN ROOF here in Innsbruck.
If you need to know more, please check out my INNSBRUCK travel page. Merci!
If you're touring Portugal, try not to miss the Holy City of FATIMA. It was here that an apparition in the form of Virgin Mary first appeared to 3 village children early this century.
Strangely, when we headed towards FATIMA, our entire trip was shrouded in THICK, HEAVY fog! But the minute we reached our destination, the mysterious fog completely disappeared and a bright sunshine greeted us.... When we headed out of Fatima towards Oporto (another bustling city in Portugal), the same HEAVY fog again appeared!! Go figure.
Photo Above: This is the tree where the first vision/ apparition of Virgin Mary supposedly appeared to the 3 children (Jacinta, Lucia and Francisco) and it was believed that the Virgin Mary also gave them 3 secrets regarding the fate of this world.
Apparently, the first 2 secrets have been revealed/ come to pass... but not the last one. And it is believed that the only person who knows about the 3rd secret is the Pope!
If you're interested to see the rest of my FATIMA pictures (which aren't alot), you can click onto this link and it'd bring you straight to my PORTUGAL TRAVELOGUE - FATIMA page.
"COSTA DEL SOL, SPAIN!"
Our next destination: The Spanish Reviera! :-)
Rent a car and just drive, drive, drive along the COSTA DEL SOL here in the South of SPAIN and see the many lovely towns and villages dotting this area - like MARBELLA, MIJAS, ESTEPONA, TORREMOLINOS etc.
Words simply can't describe the sheer beauty of this whole area. So, why don't you take a peek at my travel page on COSTA DEL SOL, SPAIN instead? Photos do sometimes speak louder than words. :-))
Photo Above: That's yours truly inside a BEAUTIFUL bullfighting museum here in the Andalucian village of MIJAS, COSTA DEL SOL, SPAIN.
I wish it weren't raining so much when I was in TOLEDO! Still, it is one of my fave towns in Spain to visit. :-)) Anyway, this is a really lovely historic town picturesquely sited on a hill above the River Tagus.
Go behind the city's walls..... and breathe in the fresh crisp air..... and you'd soon evidenced the town's rich history! That's me in the picture (head neatly tucked under a hood) and braving the chilly 15° weather here.... Brrrrr!
Why don't you check out my TOLEDO TRAVELOGUE page for more details?
Photo Above: That is moi here in TOLEDO... at that famous bridge. :-)
We have now arrived at the beautiful Moorish city of CORDOBA.... one of the most important capitals of Europe in the 11th century.
While the rest of Europe was undergoing a particularly difficult period known as the Dark Ages, CORDOBA and the rest of Andalusia (i.e. southern Spain) was thriving! It was THE center of medicine and science, language and art.
The Islamic culture of al-Andalus was adopted by Christians and Jews living in that part of Spain. This culture continued even after the Moorish caliphate fell to Catholic rule. And the capital of this enlightened empire, until its fall in 1236, was none other than - yes, Cordoba.
As the capital of the most powerful kingdom in Islam (then), Cordoba boasted a population of half a million people. It contained thousands of mosques, tens of thousands of shops and libraries.... and was the envy of all Europe.
Its palaces and baths were renowned for their opulence and it even had the first street lighting in Europe! Students and merchants came from all over Europe, Africa and even Asia to this cosmopolitan city which dominated Andalusia for three centuries.
Cordoba’s charm, many centuries later, is still largely tied to its Moorish and Arab past. As you wander down its evocative streets in the restored heart of Cordoba - one of the largest medieval quarters in Europe - it is not difficult to imagine the days when Cordoba was one of the most important cities in the European continent.
Its great Mosque - The Mesquita (partly destroyed to construct a large cathedral inside) is one of the world’s best known pieces of religious architecture consisting of hundreds of delicate marble columns and elegant arches. And Cordoba’s large Juderia is filled with charming shops and quaint cafes. For those interested in Jewish heritage, the tiny jewel-like medieval synagogue is one of last three remaining synagogues in Spain from before the Expulsion in the late-1400s.
Interested to know more? Surf on straight to my travel page on CORDOBA! ;-)
When you mention GRANADA, the Alhambra inevitably comes to mind, isn't it?
Yes, the beautiful city of Granada is indeed dominated by the Alhambra (a Moorish citadel and palace). Another note-worthy must-see attraction here is definitely the Arab quarters known simply as the Albaicin . As you wander along the narrow alleys and streets, you'd be awestruck by the very strong Moorish (Muslim) influence in the architecture of most buildings here and perhaps, you may just ask yourself why is this so.....
Well, the Moorish army first invaded Granada sometime in the 8th century and gave the city its current name. And it was also during this period (sometime in the 1400s, I think) that the rulers of the Nasrid Dynasty began to build the magnificent Alhambra. Seeking to belie an image of waning power, they constructed their idea of Paradise on Earth! Although the Alhambra suffered from decay and pillage, it has undergone extensive restoration works in recent times and this proud landmark still dazzles the eye today!
However, the joy of the Moorish Kings were shortlived. Because, shortly after, the Christian Crusaders managed to re-conquer this mineral-rich city (towards the end of the 1400s). O.K., now that you know a little bit about this city, I'd leave you on your own to explore the various tourist attractions.
If you want to read more about this place, just click onto this link: GRANADA.
MADRID is now one of my favorite cities in the world and definitely one of Europe's most vibrant cities. A city that NEVER sleeps!
I bet you'd find the endless energy here hard to resist - especially when these Spanish people are so sociable!! Yes, the residents of Madrid are indeed an energetic and happy bunch and very well-known for their marvelous ability to defy the need for sleep!! I wish I could keep up with them! I mean, for me - anything less than 8 hours of sleep and I'd look like your favorite panda (read: dark rings around the eyes!!). So you can imagine just how impressed I was with the people here huh?!
If you can match up to their boundless energy, I envy you!!
But Madrid is definitely much more than Siestas, Fiestas and Tapa Bar-Hopping! I enjoyed myself so much here that I almost didn't make it home to Singapore. Kidding. I'm sure you know what I mean.... esp. if you've been there.
So, if you want to know a little more about this city, please click to view my humble MADRID travel page.... as I reminisce (along with you) the wonderful moments of my stay in this beautiful city.
If you're visiting SPAIN, a trip to the oldest university town is a must! Greetings from enchanting SALAMANCA!
SALAMANCA is a city whose urban landscape includes a happy marriage of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque monumental architecture. Very unique! And Plaza Mayor is indeed a unique artistic achievement in Baroque art. The beautiful University of Salamanca is located just round the corner from Plaza Mayor. There are just so many things to do here that you'll never be bored. Guaranteed.
Want to know more? Please take a look at my SALAMANCA travel page for more info. Gracias.
Welcome to the most vibrant and intoxicating city in the whole of SPAIN - yes, SEVILLA.
SEVILLA lies on the banks of the Guadalquivir River and is one of the largest historical centers in the whole of Europe. It is also the largest town in Southern Spain, the city where Carmen, Don Juan and Figaro hailed from.
Some of the major tourist sites you really shouldn't miss include the La Giralda, the Cathedral of Sevilla (one of the largest in Christendom) and the Alcázar Palace. Don't forget to stroll along the famed María Luisa Parque... the Triana... Macarena.... Santa Cruz.... San Bartolomé.... and the street of Las Sierpes. The La Maestranza bullring is also another note-worthy attraction. If you're interested to watch a bull-fight (corrida), this is the place to be in!
Gee, I'm getting excited even as I'm penning this down.... Better still, why don't you surf straight to my SEVILLA travel page instead? :-)
Our first stop in this alpine country is the lakeside town (city?) of LUCERNE.
In school, we were being indoctrinated (oops!)...er...I mean, taught that SWITZERLAND is a land of snow-covered Alps, of quaint farmhouses and legions (and legions) of cows producing TOP quality dairy milk to churn out the BEST Swiss chocolates for consumption.
Yes, welcome to SWITZERLAND - the Land of glorious Lakes and of Mountain Scenery; and the Land of Milk and Chocolates! You certainly can't profess to have been to Switzerland if you don't take a thrilling cable car ride with AWESOME views into the mountains or perhaps try one of their mountain railways with those interesting cog wheels. Hm, an experience to last a lifetime indeed.
And I can't think of a better place than LUCERNE - the perfect place to unwind under the FRESH mountain air, the bucolic serenity undisturbed but for the clanging sounds of cowbells (clang! clang!) and the yodel (yo-de-le-he-hoo).... Well, I'm sure you got my point.
Switzerland, the Homeland of First-Rate Tourism sure knows how to please its visitors huh? Now you'd probably understand why the world's BEST hotel employees are either Swiss or Swiss-trained (read: BEST hotel management schools).
To experience Nirvana, please click to read my LUCERNE travel page. :-) Oh, and
Have I mentioned that ZURICH is one of my favorite cities here in SWITZERLAND? Yes, it is.
Whether you're in ZURICH for a few short hours (on transit) or for a few days, there are numerous worthwhile attractions to grab your attention.
Firstly, you must head straight to the Bahnhofstrasse which is a car-free area (almost). But be careful and watch out for oncoming trams (streetcars)!! This place is one of the greatest shopping streets in the world... yes, even rivaling 5th Avenue (in New York) and others. :-))
I'm just about to start on my ZURICH travel page... :-( So, if you're heading to ZURICH tomorrow, this weekend or next week... then may I humbly suggest that you head straight to the City's Tourist Office (upon arrival) located inside the main train station known as Hauptbahnhof. Don't worry. You won't get lost. There are adequate signs directing you to it. They have maps and brochures at the Tourist Office... and the good news is - the Swiss working there speak English well!
They can also arrange half-day bus tours of the city for you too. Just ask them about it. While I'm not particularly fond of bus tours myself.... IF you're a bit jet-lagged from an overnight flight, this may be a welcoming respite for a quick overview of the city! Enjoy!
If you don't mind browsing through a half-completed page, then feel free to take a look at my ZURICH travel page. :-))
Explore lovely SALZBURG here in AUSTRIA....
Here's a glimpse of this magical city as seen from the window of Hohensalzburg Fortress. ;-)) Nice, eh?
Our next stop: SCHAFFHAUSEN here in SWITZERLAND.
Yes, we made a quick stopover here at SCHAFFHAUSEN for a few hours just to see the lovely Rhein Falls and for lunch.... :-((
'Tis true. Tourists and travelers alike visit SCHAFFHAUSEN because of the famous Rhein Falls.... which is pretty near this quaint little town. If you have the stamina, you can walk from the town.... Hey, it's only about a mile long walk. You won't faint. Trust me. ;-)) But for the lazy tourists out there in cyberspace, you can take the bus. Yes, there IS a bus service operating from the town to the Rhein Falls. Wonderful news, eh?
This medieval city with its ancient streets and alleys, has richly decorated facades with more than 160 oriels (!!) and the imposing guildhalls. Other highlights to look out for are the lovely cloisters and herb garden of the former All Saints Monastery and the massive Fortress of Munot that is dated from the 16th century!
What are the best times to come visit this Northern Swiss town? Well, if you come to Schaffhausen to celebrate the Swiss National Day on 1st August, you'd be able to witness a never-to-be-forgotten firework display igniting the night skies over the Falls! I'm sure it's gonna be nothing less than SPECTACULAR! So, the best time to visit this town would surely be the summer months of June, July and August. :-))
Now, please sit back and continue to enjoy your virtual visit to this impressive little town by clicking to my SCHAFFHAUSEN travel page.
Ah, we're back in good old ENGLAND, at last! And our first stop? Why, LONDON, of course. :-)
Anyhow, LONDON is truly a vibrant city. Home to Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family; the legendary Tower Bridge; top Broadway musicals (aha, "Phantom of the Opera", "Les Miserables", "Cats".... come to mind); the famous Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum where every well-known celebrity and notorious criminals have been immortalized in wax (wow!!) and of course, good 'ole Fish & Chips. Yeah, NEVER ever leave London without tasting their delicious Fish & Chips!
If you want to know what else not to miss, please feel free to browse through my LONDON travel page O.K.? Thanks.
Beautiful honey gold buildings next to a lovely riverside setting are just part of the unique charms of OXFORD.
Located about 90 kilometers away from good old London, the city of Oxford probably began as a river crossing (over the Thames or Isis) during Anglo-Saxon times and had become an important center before THE University was created. It is believed that as early as the 12th century, English scholars had already begun to gather here to study/ listen to lectures in Oxford, having been banned by King Henry II from studying at the University of Paris.
Today, Oxford University has THIRTY NINE colleges (yes, you read correctly) founded between 1249 and 1996.... whose architectural splendor, together with that of the University's libraries and museums, gives the City its unique sense of character!
Hey, don't just believe every word I've written. Take a look at my OXFORD travel page. :-)
Greetings from CAMBRIDGE! This is where we are now.
The best thing about this lovely town is its size. It's really a City where you can walk from one end to the other in just a couple of hours. Really.
There are also lots of pretty cool pubs, winding alleys and side-streets with quaint little shops to entice a shopping enthusiast like myself. As you stroll along the alleys and streets, you'd also notice beautiful buildings everywhere.... too many for me to name. But just between us, the truth is....I don't really know the names to all these buildings. :-(( Shhh, don't tell anyone.
I was really very much bowled over by these fantastic old buildings instead re: the colleges and bridges. I know everyone adores King's College but my personal preference is really St John's College. Other noteworthy attractions include the Mathmatical Bridge at Queen's, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Senat House and of course, the world famous Kings' College Chapel.
The eclectic mix of people.... the range of music and theater available.... the abundance of green pastures here really makes this University town a must-visit. You may sometimes hear the local town folks moan about the presence (omnipresence?) of the many foreign students here, but I must admit that these young people do give Cambridge a very lively, energetic and vibrant image! Don't you agree?
And don't forget to check out this travel page: CAMBRIDGE.
Our next stop here in ENGLAND was at the home of the Bard himself, William Shakespeare's birthplace in STRATFORD-UPON-AVON.
This is possibly the most famous and most visited landmark this part of England - the house where William Shakespeare was born and this was where he spent his early formative years. This quaint cottage originally belonged to William Shakespeare's father, John, who was a successful Stratford businessman. John & Mary Shakespeare moved from nearby Snitterfield to Stratford sometime in the mid-1500s, shortly after getting hitched. The cottage remained in the hands of Shakespeare's descendants right until the 19th century.... Not quite sure what happened after that.
Find out more about the Bard and about this town by surfing straight to my STRATFORD-UPON-AVON travelogue page (found under UNITED KINGDOM).
DOVER is one of the most visited towns here in good, old England, thanks in part to its ferry port which links the UNITED KINGDOM to Calais in France via the choppy waters of the English Channel.
But don't just whisk pass this lovely little town.... Stop by and stay over for a weekend at least! Dover has so much to offer a tourist/ traveler, especially those amongst you who love to visit historical sites/ places. With Roman ruins, the Norman castle and wartime tunnels to entice you, I guarantee you won't feel bored here!
To prove that you will never feel bored in this town, please surf straight to my travel page on DOVER! :-)
More to come....!
Let's whisk over to our next destination - the capital city of AUSTRIA - why, VIENNA, of course
VIENNA is a very expensive city. So you might want to make alternative arrangements and spend more time touring the other parts of Austria and cramp as much as you can whilst you are in Vienna i.e. stay only for a few days in the capital city. Ah, but if you're as rich as Madonna (yeah, THE Material Mom), then you won't be facing such a problem like us poor mere mortals.... :-((
Some of the must-see activities that you should definitely be doing include a visit to the majestic St Stephan's Cathedral. From up there, you'll be able to gasp at the marvelous view of the city! Don't forget to walk along Kärtner Strasse towards the Opera. Along the way, feel free to peep in to the many shop windows (read: window-shopping!) and perhaps, stop for a short respite and enjoy a cup of café latte and some delicious cakes in one of the many lovely Viennese cafés (er... but be warned! They are more expensive here than in the side streets!). Then, take a 3-hour trip (or so) on a tour bus to get a quick overview of the entire city.
If you want to know more... please DO browse through my VIENNA travel page. I have written out quite a bit of things there in greater detail. Danke!
Photo Above: My cute little sister at the Schonbrunn Palace!
We are now in the beautiful country of BELGIUM, my friends.
This is the Land of Belgian frites, Godiva chocolates, lovely quaint medieval villages (like Brugge and Veurne)... and home to the great Peter Paul Reubens,
the BEST Flemish artist ever lived. Yes, THE Reubens!
And our very first stop in Belgium is in the pretty little town of VEURNE.
VEURNE, situated in the West of Flanders is a lovely and quiet (not to mention, quirky !) little town... with a small but interesting market place. There are many interesting houses here to capture your attention dating to as far back as the Spanish times. Let's begin with the Town Hall, built in a typical Flemish Renaissance style. Try and go inside to visit some of the beautifully decorated rooms. Other cool buildings to see include the Palace of Justice and of course the lovely St. Walburga Church.
Veurne was also the ONLY town in Belgium that was not occupied by the Germans during World War I. And no amount of heavy bombardments could destroy this little place! God's blessings?? Maybe.
Well, why don't you browse through my BELGIUM travel page to find out more about this quaint little town called VEURNE? It's really a very neat little place tugged away in a corner of Belgium... :-))
Photo Above: Me in the Town Square, Veurne, Belgium.
This is charming BRUSSELS - the "capital" of Europe, headquarters of the Common Market and NATO. Yeah, and thanks to the Eurocrats, the cost of living here rises faster than the skyscrapers hemming in the Gothic towers of the Old Town! :-)
BRUSSELS boasts of some of Europe's finest museums and art galleries like the Musee Royaux de Beaux Arts and the Musee d'Art Moderne as well as the impressive twin-towered Gothic cathedral. Another MUST-SEE attraction is the Lower Town with its wealth of charming guild houses and the Upper Town whose wide avenues and magnificent architecture attest to its role as THE residential area of the Belgian aristocracy. Oh, and DON'T forget to visit the Hôtel de Ville located at the superb Grand Place (my fave place to chill out). O.K., I know...I know... I do sound like a typical tourist huh? :-)
Before I get carried away and write a complete travelogue, why don't you move on over to my BRUSSELS travel page for an indepth look? Thanks!
And now.... Introducing the Mother of all European countries.... FRANCE.
Yes, we are now in FRANCE... and in this little town known as AVIGNON. Nestled amongst the lush vineyards of the lovely Rhone Valley lies the walled city of AVIGNON. One landmark you really shouldn't miss seeing here is the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes).
Did you know that this was once the central headquarters of the Papal Empire? Ah, now you know!
The drive along the highway en route to Avignon was a long and tedious one. :-(( And how fast we traveled on the highway was also greatly hampered by the VERY STRONG mistral winds of this region. Sigh... At one point, the winds were soooo strong that I literally spotted a bus-load of people being (almost) blown off the main highway! Not kidding.
Photo Above: Here's a pic of the lovely CHAPELLE DES MARIAGES.
For an indepth look at this fascinating town, please browse through my AVIGNON travel page. Merci beaucoup!
"THE LOIRE VALLEY, FRANCE"
Once upon a time... In the land of Kings and giants, the Center Val de Loire conceals a unique heritage: the magnificent Châteaux of the Loire Valley and many other architectural marvels...
Welcome to the beautiful LOIRE VALLEY of FRANCE, my friends.
The LOIRE VALLEY, a captivating area located in central France, is also popularly known as the Garden of France. With its meandering rivers, mild climate, lush green vineyards, fields of sunflowers, charming villages and picturesque towns.... it is no wonder why this region is one of the most appealing places to visit in France!
Some of the beautiful Renaissance castles (châteaux in French) you shouldn't miss include - Azay-le-Rideau, Chambord, Chaumont, Chenonceau and Villandry.
Try and pick at least 3 (minimum) to visit from the above list.
So, if you've always been impressed with the magnificent French chateaux (ahem! Like yours truly here) , then c'mon in and click onto my FRANCE travelogues and read on as I bring you along on a lovely journey through the lush and splendid Loire Valley ... Fontainebleau and then, ending off later at Versailles.
Enjoy and Happy Surfing! :-))
Photo Above (First photo): Chateau Chenoceau... once the opulent home of Catherine de Medici and Dianne de Poitiers...