The One About Going Back in Time?

I spent my March Break reading. It was wonderful. I feel refreshed and energized and although I didn’t get to travel anywhere, it sort of feels like I did. It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to just read and read and read and really, not do anything else at all. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet (not a new book but one that has been on my list for awhile) was one of the better reads and it brought back my obsession with the Middle Ages. The story loosely follows the change in Romanesque to Gothic architecture and that alone had me hanging to every word. And, this is the point where I’ll also probably lose my blog readers, so without going into any further detail, let’s just say today’s post is a snapshot of a city that takes its visitors back in time:

Toledo, Spain

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Above – somewhat in this order: the Tagus River and bridges, city walls, arch entrance, Alcazar on one end and gothic cathedral on the other end, the city below and surrounding countryside.

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Favourite Photo Friday: Pigeons in the sky over the Vienna State Opera House

I couldn’t do the clichéd tourist photo of pigeons in St. Mark’s Square in Venice because I had to tend to The Husband who thought he was dying of the hiccups. Nobody really cares to photograph pigeons anywhere else (NYC anyone?) but I thought this photo of pigeons flying over the Opera House buildings in Vienna is as good as any for a second place location.

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Vienna, Austria .

The One About ‘Liya’s Top 10 Romantic Cities to Visit

I guess – in honour of recent V-day, not that we celebrate or anything, it’s just that I really did want a new blender and my birthday is just so far away… here’s to hoping that The Husband reads this post and sees just how much I want a new one… especially since someone broke my trusty handheld blender… but I don’t want to name any names.

This is the list in no particular order – oh, and please do enjoy the way I’ve blurred the images. I was playing around with the program and this effect is called “bloom” and I find it very pretty.

1. Paris, France

Cliché but true. This wouldn’t be a complete list without Paris, the city of light.

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Above: Glass dome of the Lafayette Shopping Centre.

2. A Shanghai water village, such as Zhujiajiao, Tongli or Zhouzhuang

I would argue that these little villages built along the river have more charm than Paris and Venice put together but it may be because it truly feels like you’re stepping back in time without the crush of hundreds of tourists and souvenir stores every step you take.

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3. Venice, Italy

Narrow pathways that lead to bridges over the canals, little boutiques and art galleries, riding a gondola… just make sure The Husband knows how much a private gondola costs so he doesn’t spend the rest of the trip complaining about how much he had to spend and therefore ruining the romance of it.

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4. Kyoto, Japan

On our last night I spotted a geisha, yes I did. I was caught off guard and my hand wasn’t quick enough snapping pics, the end result quite out of focus… but the perfect end to our time in this city where every stop seems like a photo opportunity.

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Above:  The Golden Pavilion.

5. Phuket, Thailand

Water at the perfect temperature all year round and that dreamy bluish-green colour that doesn’t need any photo enhancing at all. Take a boat to one of the islands. Just make sure to have a bag in case you need to vomit after the rocky boat ride. The contents of my stomach didn’t sit too well and as soon as we landed on the soft silky sands, out went my food, thank you Husband dear for helping me clean up :D

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6. Bavaria, Germany

Leave Munich for the Romantic Road, Alps, forests, lakes, little towns and villages and castles. Ludwig II’s Neuschwanstein stands out most due to its size and fairytale exterior but it’s his smaller Linderhof Palace which The Husband and I agree, is our favourite castle.

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Above: The famous castle.

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Above: The “lesser” and more “manageable” castle as we lovingly refer to it; the Linderhof Palace, ‘back and front yard views.’ No photographs were allowed inside, but that’s okay, look how beautiful the outside views are.

7. Jamaica

Everything is “irie” or good or right it seems, when on vacation here. Time slows down and even if it’s raining you can still enjoy the beach. Climb Dunn’s waterfalls for a different take on a waterfall to see the cascading beauty of the water at different levels. Wish I had photos of that experience, but was scared the camera would get ruined.

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8. Istanbul, Turkey

The best of both worlds, one foot in Europe and one in Asia… the skyline from the Bosphorus is dotted with minarets and the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque look stunning almost mirroring each other in the early morning, day, sunset and lit up at night – so basically, all the time.

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9. Santorini, Greece

This is where our balcony view was unlike no other. Eating fresh baklava outside watching the sun disappear into the water below… I don’t know which baklava was better, Istanbul’s or Santorini’s, but having the view all to ourselves it seemed, was unreal.

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10. Seville, Spain

The problem with Spain is that so many of the country’s cities’ fit the romantic aspect perfectly. Barcelona and Madrid come to mind first of course but Granada’s Alhambra is stunning and Cordoba’s red and white striped forest of arches are mesmerizing. I fell in love with Seville’s Moorish-style Alcazar and can still remember the gardens.

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“There may be something there that wasn’t there before” -  Beauty and the Beast.

The one about what to wear when visiting The Great Wall of China (in winter)

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How to copy my style:

1. Check the weather forecast and know to dress warm when the temperature is lower than -10 degrees Celsius.

2. Wear double socks, leggings and stockings underneath thick workout pants. Plus, wear a tank top, a vest, a long sleeve t-shirt, and a thick woolen sweater underneath a winter jacket. In other words, wear so much so that your jacket can barely zip up. Don’t forget the mitts, scarf for the cold nose, furry hat and sunglasses so that opening eyes against the harsh winds won’t be an issue. It’s OK to be unrecognizable. Only The Husband has to know who you are to help pull you uphill when you can’t bend your legs under all the layers.

3. Wear contact lenses. You know from experience your glasses will fog up with every exhale. Dark sunglasses are fine because they hide the fog. Again, you are there to see that wall, the wall doesn’t care to see you.

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How to copy his style:

1. Check the weather forecast but ignore it and believe your superhuman warming skills will activate when needed.

2. Ignore your wife pleading with you that you’re being unreasonable by not packing a winter jacket.

3. Pack your fall jacket, a hat that barely covers your ears, and don’t dress in layers, that is, basically freeze. Avoid contact with your wife’s I-told-you-so eyes behind her fogged up sunglasses. At least you look good.

The views were breathtaking:

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Even the garbage can was pretty!

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Depending on how you measure the wall’s length, you’ve got between 10,000-20,000 km. That’s quite a distance even on the lower end. In the summer, it’s said to be humid, smoggy and packed with tourists. In the dead cold of winter, the small slice of wall we visited gave us clear views into the distance and a serene quietness – perfect. But boy was it cold.

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Hopefully this sign says something significant such as Great Wall of China, and not washrooms or exit:

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Even the cats are huddled together for warmth:

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“Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.” – Rumi.

The one about the Magic Garden

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens isn’t your typical tourist stop.

Here, artist Isaiah Zagar has transformed a vacant city lot into another world. His mosaic walls (and floors and ceilings) are made out of all kinds of found objects, from traditional kitchen tiles, to bits and pieces of broken glass or recycled bottles. The outdoor gallery-like space is randomly located on what appears to be a residential street. Peering through the gate, a magical scene beckons, one without flowers and trees, but a “garden” of sorts  nonetheless.

Once inside, the place is a quirky collection of objects, colours, and mirror reflections and you don’t know where to look and you kinda just want to sit down. It was a bit like how I’d imagine walking into a kaleidoscope to feel like… only not ordered into a particular design like kaleidoscope designs are; this place was anything but organized.

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As soon as we stepped inside, The Husband took one look around and said “this place is YOU – a younger YOU” I wasn’t sure if I should appreciate that comment or not. On one hand I was drawn to the unexpected treasures and little discoveries planted amongst the bottles and broken plates, such as this glass POM bottle:

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However, on the other hand, it was all too much. Maybe the “younger” me was too much… as young girls are… the doodles and drawings, sparkles, jewellery, bows, the need to cover all surface areas with material things. I’m reminded of my students’ work, sometimes I just want to hide the glitter so they can’t find it, I’d rather they do without, they tend to go overboard, but they (the female students) always want to use sparkles and glitter, to them it’s beautiful, magical even.

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The gardens are like a collage that’s thrown up sparkles and little toys and trinkets. The Husband refers to it as “the garbage house” because he doesn’t understand art in the same way, but he was happy with the low admission of $5.00 so that kept him quiet. I however, felt like I could stay there exploring for hours. And shhh don’t tell him, I have plans to transform his our basement in the same way.

“I don’t like formal gardens…” – Walt Disney

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