sleepless in Seattle (sort of)

Seattle is a mere couple of hours from Vancouver (3 with custom/border check). One fine summer day I got on a bus and made my way down South of the boarder for a long weekend in Seattle.

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the journey down there was pretty spectacular, gorgeous scenary and fairly smooth sailing.

So first afteroon downtown, a bit cloudy, with a heavy bagpack, but the exploring starts!

First “old” Seattle, close to the bus station where the bus dropped us off.

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then of course, I went straight to the uber famous public market, to browse around (I went back the following day as well, to look at it properly)

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as you may know, there is no me without coffee. a standard image of me, includes a cup of coffee in my hand. and yes, I’m totally addicted to Starbucks. Starbucks was born in Seattle, and the very first starbucks shop is just across the public market. so I had to go and get a coffee there, and pictures, I also took pictures….

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I was staying close to the University of Washington, and I needed to take a bus to get there. So I wandered a little more around Seattle and spotted a couple of cool things.

 

ImageImageImageImageImageand then, I got the bus. Now, you should know, there’s an intricate underground tunnel system for public bus services…especially the ones going outside Seattle. they do not clog up roads and they are fast as the wind to take you where you need, how awesome is that? plus, they make great pics!

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I got the hotel, and got a good night sleep, and the morning after a beautiful sun was out and I was ready to explore more!

I first wandered around the University of Washington, but I’m gonna have a “US colleges” special later on in the blog to talk about it. For now, let’s go back to Seattle, next stop, the Space needle!!

Up above the space needle was surrounded by quite a lot of fog, so I needed to wait a little till it cleared off to climb up.

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I found a cool car wash along the way

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and I visited the EMP Museum, the museum of Music, Sci-fi and pop culture. YES, all of that in the same museum. pretty awesome. pics were not allowed in, so I have no proof, but it is a super interactive museum with tons of things to see and do, I really recommend it!

Fog cleared out and it was time to go to the top. I’m afraid of heights, but let me tell you, it was totally worth going to the top, especially on such a bright and beautiful day! some of the most amazing views from the top!

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Once I had my share of the Space Needle experience, I got on the monorail and went back downtown. The monorail itself is quite fun and very convenient to move from the Space needle back to the city centre. and man, didn’t I feel as if I was a child on a rollercoaster?

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once downtown, I, of course, went back to the public market, and wandered around looking at the pretty stalls for a while

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there is no tour of an American city without you looking up and catching sights of the tall building. or simply  noticing the contrast in architecture and different period of times, old meets new, low building and tall buildings. Seattle has one of the most impressive skyscraper (in my opinion, it left me breathless!!)

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and here’s the star, my favorite building!

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Waterfront. Now, coming from Vancouver, where waterfront includes a rainforest and a lot of greenery, Seattle waterfront was a bit, different. Nonetheless stunning, but to get there you have to get further down and cross a busy road…and the waterfront is actually made up of piers you walk along…I loved it, because no matter what are you walking on or where, the Ocean my friends, is always the Ocean…

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yes, I might have an obsession for seagulls.

The following day I had a few hours left before making my way back to Vancouver, and I wandered a little around the waterfront and downtown, got more coffee

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stare at this manhole and the smoke coming out of it, thinking it really felt like in a movie

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got some essential shopping done

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and then got back on the bus and went back to Vancity.

Seattle, I really loved you a lot…

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London calling…

the first time I went to London, I remember it clearly. It was 1994, with my mum and dad. it is one of those cases where everyone agrees, we all loved it. every single thing, every single plan. Someway somehow I think that was the time the travelbug bit me. I went back several times after that….and briefly lived there while taking my CELTA. well, the city never lets you down, it is constantly reinventing itself, while still keeping some things the same and familiar. 

I have this habit when I get to London to wake up uber early, just to savour it before the big crowd of tourists starts flocking in. I l love walking around Covent Garden when it’s all quiet and empty, it feels like a different world…

 

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another staple of my London life/experience is the walking along the Thames in Southbank….walk from the Big Ben up until Borough Market. In some ways it feels like a lot of people still haven’t discovered this jewel right in the heart of London. It is so peaceful, you ca find quite a few peculiar things along the way, and of course, stop at one of my favorite art galleries in the world, the Tate Modern….

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The Tate Modern used to be a power station, now converted into a modern art gallery. It is amazingly spacious and holds some of the best collections in the world. And I find the building fascinating.

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the millenium bridge (the one that had a few issues when opened for its instability…now it is perfectly ok!) is right in front of the Tate and takes you directly to Saint Paul cathedral

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Personally I prefer to continue my stroll, walking past the reproduction of the Globe theatre (totally worth visiting btw, or maybe catch a play during summer)

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and of course, finish my walk at Borough Market, one of the best markets ever! so many stalls, so  many different types of foos you can find in there! I personally always grab a cup of coffee (how unusual, me drinking coffee…) and some pastry, while I’m wandering around checking out all the stalls in the market 🙂

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the other place I once called home- Vancouver-

Dear Vancouver,

Yes, you’ve been home for a long while. I have the best and fondest memories of you. I also have not so happy memories of you. But I guess we all have conflicted feelings about home, right?

Well Vancity, gonna take a while to tell about you to the readers of this blog. Oh yes, I know I know…Well, you know what I’m gonna do now Vancouver? I’m gonna start with my favorite places there, how about that? First stop, a walk along False Creek to Granville Island and Kitsilano Beach. Yes, that’s one of the places I love the most in the entire world.

Many walks I had there. Many walks that helped me thinking, figure things out, breathe in all the saltiness the fresh breeze of the Pacific…so many choices have been made while walking here. Good and bad. I recently came back, and you know that Vancouver. and while I was walking towards Granville, it all came back to me. And I got my closure with you Vancouver. I love you dearly, but that’s not my place for now.

But let’s show how beautiful you are…

Dear readers,

start from Cambie Bridge. Get on the seawall path that leads to Kits. You’ll have these views as your partners

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oh and you are also going to see one of the coolest constructions in Vancity

it's a pond, right in front of these houses...pretty awesome, if you ask me

it’s a pond, right in front of these houses…pretty awesome, if you ask me

Now, you have reached Granville Island.

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have a look at the kids market, with possibly all the toys and games you can find in the world

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then head towards the public market. and take it all in. Enjoy the beauty of the colours, of the smells, try new tastes. And don’t forget to grab a bite from one of the many stalls in the market, you won’t be disappointed (As a bagel freak, I recommend thee bagel stall, so many different types and possible fillings!! just across from the Italian food stall, which deserves a taste as well)

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and if you are down there in winter, maybe you’ll see the frozen pond and all the ducks calmly walking over it…

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now continue along the seawall. You’ll find a beach for your dog friends, maybe you’ll get one of them swimming or digging a hole in the sand

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you’re almost there, remember to watch out for these bad boys

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just before getting to Kits Beach, you’ll find the perfect “ode” to Raincouver. This story, carved on a stone, pretty much summarizes the spirit of the North-West. Remember what they say, “Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”

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I love the story so so much.

And then you are in Kits Beach. Sit, relax and enjoy the stunning views. I love this place, just looking at the pictures of it, makes me more relaxed.

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and if you walk further up you’ll get to visit the oldest building in Vancouver and get this amazing view of downtown Vancouver

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if you have some time, walk up to West 4th, to get brunch at Sophie’s Cosmic Cafe’ (there’s always a queue, but it’s totally worth it).

Walk along West 4th to get a taste of Vancouver, with some of the most original and innovative shops in the whole city.

I really love this one, if you’re into making your own jewelry.

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Well, Vancouver, what do you think of this post?

More coming up soon(ish).

 

 

 

 

 

 

the other New York…

I promised a post about the other NYC, my NYC…well, here we go.

Every time I visited NYC, I was lucky enough to have friends who put me up…I stayed in Brooklyn, more specifically in Bed-Stuy. Yes, the Bed-Stuy that saw the birth of Notorious B.I.G. and that Jay Z mentions in his uber famous “Empire State of mind”. Now, I was warned about its “sketchy” fame. I haven’t been there long enough to tell you that it is true or false…but in my exerience all was good, nothing happened, and I actually enjoyed being there. For instance, there was the nice corner shop that had everything you need and it was super cheap. Yes, that includes the super spicy Mexican Sauce named “Valentina” (eh eh eh ). Yes, the Bedford-Nostrand Av stop of the G was just around the corner. Yes, everytime I hear Nostrand by Ratatat I think of Bedstuy. I remember one evening in April, it was particulary warm that Easter. We were sitting in the apartment, and we heard the Ice-cream van music. We raced down the stairs like kids, and got our snowcone. Then proceded to sit on the stairs outside the building to eat it and cool off.

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Sunrise in Brooklyn…

Brooklyn in winter

Brooklyn in winter

I think I mentioned earlier the walk along the Manhattan bridge from Dumbo… I felt particulary inspired that day, I remember it was in November. Not cold at all, if you ask me. And sunny, incredibly sunny. When I went again for New Year, I forced my friend to do that walk again, and trust me, it was worth it. There’s something that just cannot be explained, when you are walking on the bridge, and in front of you there’s the amazing skyline of NYC, the East river under the bridge “sparkles” and just on your left you have the Brooklyn Bridge in its magnificence…if you have the chance, try crossing it. you won’t be dissappointed.

Leaving Dumbo on Manahattan Bridge

Leaving Dumbo on Manahattan Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Union Square is my favorite square in the entire city. I used to get the train from Brooklyn (well, 2 trains), get off the A train at Canal and West Broadway. Then I would walk back along the Canal St to Broadway and walk my way up till Union Square.

Union Square has a big park right in the middle. Lots of benches where you can sit and have your lunch or coffee (which you convinently purchased at Whole Foods, best supermarket ever, in the square). If you are lucky, you might even find a Farmer’s Market to get some fresh fruit or gorgeous flowers.

Flower and Farmer's Market

Flower and Farmer’s Market

Union Square, I love thee

Union Square, I love thee

Check out the Empire State Building looking awesome from Union Square!

There’s the Strand, just around the corner. The best bookstore, possibly, in the world.With a whooping 18 miles of books, that is heaven on Earth for those who love spending time around books. 

Strand- You are awesome

Strand- You are awesome

there is also a Barnes&Nobles in the square, if the Stand is not enough.

Let’s talk food. You know what they say, about NYC bagels being the best bagels in the world? It’s true, absolutely true. Rest of the world, deal with it.  Go to one of the little delis you find in hidden corners and get some food there. I remember clearly this one place I found by accident, where I had the BEST cream cheese pumpernickel bagel in my life (drool…). Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find it ever again, I just remeber it was near the Empire State Building. How convenient. There are endless places where you can get amazing food in NYC. For the best pizza try this one.

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it was worth it.

Dessert? Veniero’s is the place to go in the East Village. C’mon, look at this ( a little blurry, I know, the excitement for all those cakes was too much, just too much).

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Try the classic Red Velvet…

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More “unknown” NYC on the blog next, including a walk around Central Park, Queens and that time we managed to see the Ball Drop for New Year’s Eve in Times Square (although we had missed a plane and we ran like there was not tomorrow to get there on time).

The road less travelled- a.k.a. the day I fell in love with Kazakhstan

remember when I said the some of the best things ever happened in my life happened by chance? well, I must say Kazakhstan falls right into that category…

It was love at first sight  with kazakhstan. Now, I know I use the “I cannot tell why” a lot, but really, partially I think I know why in this case.

1) its people. The friendliest, most amazing population. They never ceased to surprise me for how warm, friendly, supportive they were. The first night in Kazakhstan me and the group I was with got invited to a wedding. seriously. best first night in Kazakhstan ever (nevermind we hadn’t slept in 2 days, there were 42°C and we looked miserable….)

2) Its sky. Kazakh sky is amazing. When you look up, you feel like the sky would never end. It goes on and on forever. And its colours, its clouds, are always different. and I could stare at it for a long time in awe. This is the first thing I tell everyone about kazakhstan, oh you should see the sky is kazakhstan!

 

3) The beauty of the land. I stayed in a town north of Astana- Kokshetau. Part of the “must-do” in Astana is climb up a hill that overlooks the lake and the entire city. You can see the actual borders of the city, and the steppes surrounding it. And I know it might sound the most normal thing, but I swear, that amazed me more than it should have probably.

4) The fact that you always walk around with your eyes wide open, because you never know what you could find around town.

Perhaps a ferris wheel in the main square

or funky gas pipes

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possibly its traditional architecture and design

It might be summer snow- Pollen attack!

or maybe some things that you cannot quite grasp why, but they make you feel blessed and happy to be where you are

and after such a long day walking around, test some of the local delicacies. I especially recommend Kazakh chocolate, possibly the best chocolate I have ever tasted in my whole life.

Don’t forget to try the ice-cream in Kokshetau, so fresh, so genuine, so tasty! (we had some ice-cream marathon going on while there…all tasted amazing!)

not the best picture to show how good this was....sorry!

not the best picture to show how good this was….sorry!

 

and try the bliny with condensed milk, you won’t be disappointed!

 

so much more I need to tell you about Kazakhstan…more blog posts about it coming soon!

 

 

expect the unexpected- Boston

I did not plan to go to Boston. It sorta happened on the spur of the moment. It was Easter week in 2010, I was in NYC and it was hot. but really hot. 30°C temperature at the beginning of April. I checked Megabus Fares and on Easter Monday I hopped on one of them and ventured to Boston. The journey itself was fun, as I was crossing fields and cities and all reminded me of American movies with road trips and endless adventures. I did not expect anything more than just a fun visit to a city in America, and as it happens, it ended up being one of the best decisions of my life. I fell in love with Boston. Boston has something special about it, it could be the contrast of old and new, the history that you feel all around the city, the sea, its small size that makes it really easy to walk around and get acquainted. It’s a city where I would totally see myself living, and living well. That also made me realize how much I had changed. I preferred a calmer, yet culturally vibrant city, to the lights and crowded NYC. Wow, what happened? I did realize that smaller cities have that special feeling about them that charms me and makes me feel at ease. I became a Boston person, bye bye NYC me. happy days. Still today I tend to love smaller cities ( I live in one) and much more “familiar” vibes. I guess we all have that in us right?

Anyway, let’s get to visit Boston, shall we?

history. yes, you can feel it in Boston. I’m sure you heard about the Boston Massacre. The Boston Massacre is an incident that happened on March 5, 1770, in which British Army soldiers killed five male civilians and injured six others.  Well, here’s where it happened.

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Now, in the last picture you can see another special feature of Boston: Old vs New. Such a contrast of architectural styles is not unsual in Boston. and I personally love this “variety” so so much.

If you’re lucky enough you might meet these guys walking around Boston…

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Boston Common- a public park in Boston. Dating from 1634, it is the oldest city park in the USA. In such amazing weather I surely could enjoy its beauty at its max.

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now onto my favorite part of Boston. at the top of the park, very close to the Massachusets State House, you’ll find a street call “Joy Street”.

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obviously with such a name I HAD TO follow it. this will lead you to the top of Beacon Hill. It is a neighborhood of Federal-style rowhouses and is known for its narrow, gaslit streets and brick sidewalks. It is absolutely stunning, and so unexpected in a North American City. No wonder today, Beacon Hill is regarded as one of the most desirable and expensive neighborhoods in Boston.

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now let’s go back downtown with its skyscrapers and modern buildings.

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oh no, wait, what that. The Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. Right in the heart of downtown Boston!

The Faneuil Hall has always being a market place and meeting hall, since 1742. Now it is still a market hall (selling rather tacky souvenir I must say…).

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Right behind it you find the Quincy Market. Actually the building itself is a giant foodhall, but the real deal is all around the Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, with all the shops and bistro-restaurants.

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Which, of course include, Cheers Faneuil Hall, a branch location of the most famous “Cheers” in Beacon Hill (see Cheers, very popular American TV Series) . This location was built with a replica of the TV bar.

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and with such warm weather, I wasn’t really tempted to go into this shop…

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Boston Waterfront is just 5 minutes away from Quincy Market, so go for a walk down there. there’s nothing like the sound and the smell of the Ocean to make you feel better and relax at the end of a long day.

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There’s a “little Italy” in Boston as well. Italians, we’re everywhere. Anyway, I found this very particular corner in Little Italy. It made me smile.

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Keep your eyes open in Boston, because you never know what you can find!!  For example, how about this wall graffiti that integrates the windows of the bar in it?

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The following day I took the T and went to Harvard and the M.I.T. But this is a story for some other time.

 

 

Getting lost will help you find yourself- Dublin

Getting-Lost-will-help-you-find-yourself

I firmly believe that the best way to know a place is to get lost in it.That’s pretty much the spirit every time I go to Dublin.

I’m lucky enough to live close to Dublin, so I can go there fairly often. But what makes it really interesting is the getting lost bit. I found some amazing places and sights, totally by chance.

Merrion Square Park must be my favorite park in the city. Why? Because it’s fairly small, all lamp posts are different (yes, check it out, they are all different shapes or colours), there’s a statue of Oscar Wilde and quotes from his books. What else can you ask for? It’s also very quiet throughout the year and you can just sit on one of the benches and just take it all in.

                    

  

Speaking of Parks, of course, St Stephen’s Green, with its ponds, and colourful paths. No matter the season, check out the amazing colours of leaves and flowers!

         

                                   

While there have a look at St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre, maybve not much for the shops, but for the building itself. I have to say, it’s particularly nice during Christmas, with all decorations up.

It’s true what they say, doors in Dublin are special. So colourful and they come in all shapes and decorations. Walk around the city and just look at the doors, it’s a tour on its own!! It is also a chance to learn more about the architecture in Dublin. Georgian Dublin is famous for its wide streets, the elegant town houses with big windows, porticos and red bricks.

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More Dublin coming up!