Tag Archives: Friends

Romania, Bucharest – last few days in the city

After my lovely tour of the Romanian interior I finished up with a few days in Bucharest and also met up with one of my old school friends Lorna.

Bucharest cannot be deacribed as one of Europe’s prettiest capitals even though it is sometimes called the Paris of the East – somewhat of an exaggeration. And although the communist regime ended in 1989 a series of governments considered both “alternative communist” and corrupt has maybe not helped the city progress as quickly as it could have.

I highlighted some key buildings in my first blog on Romania so for the remainder of my stay I visited the ones I hadn’t seen.

A highlight was a visit to the symphony at the stunning Atheneum Theatre. Concert and environment were perfect and all for GBP15! I also did the day tour – which was just and another chap being given the run of the place.

Bucharest has a lot of very large buildings and monuments. These include the memorial to those died in the world wars- (or the football with a stick through it as it is often referred to!)

We paid a visit to the National Museum of Art housing a broad range of Romanian art including the works of Brancusi (who I didn’t know was Romanian) as well as a European collection. Even though it was a Saturday morning we had the whole place virtually to ourselves and I especially liked the four seasons painted by Brueghel.

On Sunday we were due to visit the Great synagogue plus the holocaust memorial ( it is believed 400,000 Romanian Jews were killed) but it was closed for no good reason!

We did however manage to get into the Choral Synagogue modelled on the one in Vienna and also the massive Jewish cemetery which had some very old and much more recent tombstones. There were lots of Israeli visitors there – this is because a lot of Jewish Romanians left the country during the communist regime under a program where Israel paid for them to emigrate. The regime in Romania charged a hefty amount of extra money for the privilege of being allowed to leave so it could take years to actually happen. Many come back to visit relatives who stayed or to get back to their roots.

We also decided to visit the former home of the communist dictator Ceaucescu, his wife and three adult children. I feel that in talking to people, the shadow of this horrible couple still hovers over Bucharest to this day. While much of the country was starving and living in extreme poverty this house, which is deceptively large, is a wholly inappropriate show of wealth, luxury and excess. Nevertheless it is also a fascinating display of what was available to those with money in the late 80s. Because he and his wife made a speech, escaped from the angry crowd, were recaptured, tried and then both shot (the latter three in the space of one day) the place has been left as it was found in pristine condition.

Not only was there a suite for the parents there was also one for Mrs Ceascescu to use during the day and one each for the three kids – plus and indoor and outdoor garden , gold bathroom, indoor swimming pool etc etc. No-one In Romania has any idea about this opulence because locals were not even allowed in the street where they lived and they rarely entertained in this house beyond the immediate family and close friends.

Some of the other people on the tour were locals and visiting for the first time and were clearly horrified at what they saw. Once again an example of people in power preaching one thing and doing another.

A final dinner in the old town with Lorna and large glasses of local wine topped off the visit.

The Caribbean – Trinidad and Tobago (my 103rd country); St Lucia and Barbados

Having left Brazil behind us we had a three day visit to some of the more southerly Caribbean islands.

Firstly Trinidad and Tobago – we visited Tobago which has suffered from prior hurricanes. It is not one of the more attractive islands in this part of the world but we enjoyed our glass bottomed boat trip and I liked the sun shining on the Ocean through the sargasso seaweed.

Then on to St Lucia – last time I visited was in the late 90s and I’ve always rather liked this island as it is very lush with an impressive rain forest area which has protected it from hurricane damage most of the time.

I took the 90 minute aerial tram ride above the forest and really enjoyed learning about the flora and fauna and trying to spot the local birds (pretty tiny!). And the views on the way down were excellent although I could have done without the zip liners squealing away nearby. Tram built by the Austrians in 2006 so felt safe.

A very pretty caterpillar that will apparently become a moth. The prettier the caterpillar the more likely it will be a moth and the more boring it is the more likely it will be a butterfly – so they say. Also managed to catch this hummingbird have feed.

Finally back to Barbados. Some friends from the ship – Peter, Richard and Lucinda and I drove (well Peter did) around the island so we could see the Atlantic and Caribbean sides as well as some of the interior. We ate lunch at The Tides in Holetown where I dined almost a year ago with my friend Beth – it’s still excellent. Thanks Peter and Richard for letting me gate crash your car rental.

Now embarking on a mega 7 day Atlantic crossing so lots of time to plan my forthcoming travels for the rest of the year and beyond …….

Australia, Sydney – a week of catch ups, food and cruise ships viewings

A sunny day in Sydney (and it is not always sunny contrary to the myth) is hard to beat for jaw dropping views of two icons – the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House set amongst the twinkling waters of Sydney Harbour. And at this time of year it is a different cruise ship every day. I also revisited the Botanical Gardens – one of my favorites and discovered Barangaroo Reserve (thanks for the recommendation Trish) which is a piece of land preserve with indigenous plants slap bang in the middle to an area of Sydney which is being very built up – so great a bit of green is being retained.

Night time is always special too.

I visited my friends Vidya and Gana and was treated to home cooking at “Gana’s Kitchen” – just a few samples below of the many dishes we got to taste. Wonderful meal. Great company too which included my old mate from long ago – Doug.

Talking of friends it was marvelous to catch up with more friends and get some more home cooking (thanks Jane and John and Nigel) – some of them are below. Lovely to see you Mark and Liza, Trish, Christina, Catriona, Nigel, Joel, Lana and Christopher.

Australia, Returning to Melbourne – friends, food, art, theatre and one of the loveliest cities around

As Melbourne feels like home to me have decided to just do one large blog on this three week visit., Will be back to more frequent blogs once I am in new places again later in March.

MELBOURNE – the place.

Still one of the loveliest cities. Never tire of wandering the lanes and cafes and always find new ones just when I think I have tried them all. Only downside at the moment is that a lot of central Melbourne seems to be under construction as they are building an extended subway system. Lots of very large holes in the ground.

Nice to finally see the scaffolding off Flinders Street Station though

FOOD

Always one of my favourite reasons to be in Melbourne – and that includes drinks too of course. It is the city of cool bars – many are hidden speakeasys or rooftop sites. Here is the kind of thing you can expect here including some home cooking if you have nice friends who entertain you (thanks Mike and Maria)

ART

As usual I had to visit the NGV – not just once but twice. I loved this exhibit of dogs as fashion models.

And some examples of the more modern permanent collection,

but the best thing was the Escher X Nendo exhibit. M C Escher is a Dutch graphic artist who makes most of his drawings using woodcuts and lithographs – quite amazing the detail and colourations he can create through this medium. My woodcuts at school never looked like this! Then to make it even more interesting the exhibit is displayed in an environment created by Japanese Design studio – Nendo – just brilliant. And watch how Escher plays with perspective and you mind with some of his works. Where does one bit start and another begin? And how do this birds turn into fish?

A visit to the Melbourne museum included a look at the Mandela – my life exhibit just before it closes. It was done very well and it remains shocking to read and watch videos about how people were treated under apartheid so recently.

Then a trip to Heide to see the Mirka Mora exhibit of dolls – drawings and stuffed ones. I am a huge fan of Heide and always like what they show – Mora was a prolific artist who spent a lot of time at Heide as an exile from Paris. She died last year. I like her naive style.

THEATRE

I saw some wonderful shows in Melbourne this trip – Miriam Margolyes in Woman in the Van; MSO doing the Beatles at Hamer Hall; Eddie Izzzard at The Arts Centre; Macbeth in the Botanical Gardens; Evita with Tina Arena and my favourite – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It must be the magic……

FRIENDS

Always the best bit of coming back to a place after some time away. Catching up with my pals has been amazing – many of my friends I made during the time I worked at ANZ here for 10 years and it is fantastic that we are still buddies. Some I’ve even known since my HSBC days and it was also really special to have a few drinks with my former HR team from ANZ – so exciting to see them all and already looking forward to doing the same thing next year.

And BIG HUGE THANKS to the lovely Tania and Shane for opening their home to me and putting up with my comings and goings. They are the GREATEST xxxooo

Singapore- a brief visit

So nice to be in Singapore for pleasure rather than business for a change. I had the opportunity to work here for two months about 5 years ago and always love to visit as it is such an easy place to get around and it was fun to enjoy nightly fireworks for Chinese New Year – year of the Piggy 🐷

This time I stayed at the JW Marriott, South Beach which was nothing like a typical Marriott but a much more funky and psychedelic place than I’m used to but which I really liked – see below. Also a great gin bar, great views and fab swimming pools. Will stay again

I spent time walking around Kampung Glam and Arab Street

And hanging around looking at the modern architecture

even my bank has great local contemporary art

And visited the National Museum of Singapore – quite interesting and lovely building

Best of all I got to catch up with old friends – Mel, Anouk, and Danny, Chandrani and Vishal, Rona and John, Pippa, Sreeram and June.

UK – I’m in the country part 2 and a shout out to all my friends and family who made my visit back so memorable. Last post from the UK.

Another long weekend in the country. First stop with Lorna and Sylvie was Cambridge. We visited Kettle’s Yard – a lovely house in the centre of town with an eclectic art and natural wonders collection. Really nicely put together and timed tickets so limited numbers allowed in at the same time – free though:). Yes that is a Lowry – the guy who owned this place – Mr Ede – was well connected but he chose to not include any labels so people could enjoy the home rather than focussing on the names.

After lunch we walked through Cambridge with Sylvie (who lives nearby and went to university there) as our guide. Such gorgeous buildings and so many famous alumni. Cambridge is well known for its science faculty in particular and it is where Crick and Watson discovered the genetic code (or the meaning of life as they liked to put it). In true British fashion on making this discovery they repaired to the local pub for a pint to celebrate – a blue plaque marks the spot!

Then to finish off the day it was a quick look around the Fitzwilliam Museum which has an impressive collection of middle European art and is housed once again in a fab building. We finished off with drinks and then dinner (with another friend Miriam) at Parker’s Tavern.

Then a long overdue visit to Mayfield in East Sussex to visit my lovely friends Barbara, Reuben and Claire (surprise for me as thought she wasn’t coming out) and not forgetting Billy Whizz (the schnauzer). Being Barbara our first stop was the local Xmas craft fayre – very nice things and I didn’t grumble about Xmas too much (for me). Then delish home cooked dinner at Barbara and Reuben’s beautiful home and nice long country walk on a very sunny Sunday morning before stuffing our faces at the local pub with a traditional Sunday roast. It was a lovely way to spend my last weekend and it is hard to beat the English countryside when the weather and the colours are this spectacular.

And finally the shout out and picture gallery of my friends who made my month in the UK so memorable. Firstly to Lorna who so kindly had me and my two suitcases in her house for the whole time – she is a saint! Then to those who put me up overnight at their abodes – Barbara and Reuben, Susan and Gary, Natasha, Sue, Miriam and Christine. And to all the others who fed and watered me but most importantly reminded me how lucky I am to have them in my life – Cheryl, Rebecca, Becky, Gilly, Chris, Jo, Sylvie, Merrilee, Jill, Mark, Joanna, Len, Jonathan, David, Viv, Peter and Hedy, Alistair and Susanna, Michelle, Nigel and Ellie (and for the eagle eyed, yes that is Yotam Ottolenghi in one photo – best buddies (for five minutes anyway).

And that’s it from the UK for a few months. Next stop – a month in Seville.

USA, New York City – the High Line, Brooklyn Bridge, Architecture tour by boat, Greenwich Village, Billy Joel

Thrilled to be back in New York City – it just always feels like the place I belong to the most. It’s also been great to have my friends Marjory and Michelle visiting from Vancouver and London to join in the fun for my first few days here.

Started the week with a drizzly day walk of the High Line. Especially liked the look of the new Zaha Hadid apartment block that is going up along the route. I hear it is pretty expensive!

Big weather improvement for our walk across the Brooklyn Bridge – it has been a while since I did that and it is still a great way to get to Brooklyn and take those shots looking back at Manhattan.

Then a wonderful architecture tour which almost circumnavigates Manhattan- we had a wonderful day for that and a great guide from the Architectural Association. This skyline keeps changing so you could do this every couple of years and see new things but also find there are some buildings that are getting harder to see as they are dwarfed by others.

And then there was the foodie walk around Greenwich Village.

And to finish this week off we all went to see Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden. Wow!!

Never any chance to be bored here! Love it.