Blended Travel Couples – Just Hubby & Wi-Fi

“Happiness is, planning a Trip to somewhere new, with someone you Love”

So this blog post is dedicated to a wonderful man – my rock of Gibraltar, my soul mate, my gorgeous husband and travel partner of nearly 20 years.

I am so fortunate and blessed to have a husband who shares the same exuberant enthusiasm and passion for travel that I do. We are kindred spirits in this sense and our marriage is made even stronger by the strong connection we have on this shared journey. It is an experience so fleeting and precious.

He’s on the fringe of a Baby Boomer and I’m a Gen X and despite the few years’ age difference, we make it work.

Our Love Story

We often have a laugh about how we eventually got married (after 15 years together) because when we finally did it, we didn’t waste time or do it by halves!

We kind of did things backwards and celebrated by firstly getting engaged and buying my wedding rings in Dubai, then hopped on a plane to the Maldives for our honeymoon, then criss-crossed on another plane back to our homeland of New Zealand for a small, intimate and beautiful Wedding – Wow that’ll be a fine tale to tell the gran-babies one day!

(I am also a Mumma with no babies in the nest, my 22-year old daughter has spread her own wings and flown the coop to discover what the big wide world has to offer and teach her).

Travel Experiences

I often see and read travel articles about young Solo travellers, hip couple travellers and mature or retired couple travellers but what about us in betweeners??

The not quite young but the not quite old, the blended travel couples like us with some  life experience under our belts but who may not be considered young in terms of age or looks, with a difference in our respective ages and yet are definitely young at heart! Perhaps this is a travel niche I can explore?

What I lack in patience, he makes up with in bucket loads, what I lack in courage he builds up with encouragement, what I sometimes lack in maturity he more than makes up with quiet wisdom… I could go on and on.

We complement each other in both our weaknesses and strengths, I am his Yin as he is my Yang. That’s what makes us a solid partnership.

So, what is that unknown thread when some happy couples travel together, whereby the experience seems to take them to a deeper level of understanding and connectedness?

My humble opinion – when you’re away from the daily grind of work, household budgets, family or social commitments you have time to just breathe…….There are no distractions, you’re in a new environment and it is a moment of blissful escapism.

It is the perfect opportunity to truly disconnect from your normal everyday life and just enjoy and embrace the moment, or many moments with your partner and loved one.

It is giving yourselves permission to be totally selfish and appreciate each other and the hard work, time, effort and sacrifices that have gone into achieving a holiday away together. It is being grateful for each other and showing that in the most meaningful of ways, oftentimes it is the simplest of acts that are cherished and remembered.

Creating unforgettable memories is one of the greatest gifts you can give and even endures the test of time.

For us, when we travel we seem to click into another gear. We happily work as a team that is more in tune with each other and we have great synergy.

It’s like we’re mind readers, even scarily he’ll say something and I have literally just had that same thought! Does that happen to you?

Travel Challenges

Now, by no means am I saying that we are the perfect travelling couple, far from it. I am ashamed to admit that my poor husband has been witness to some of my mini-melt downs at airports …..However, it is how you handle challenges when you travel that truly builds character and shows what you’re made of.

It’s about communication and mutual respect.

There have been times when we have nearly missed connecting flights or had flights cancelled and in my panicked mode I have either been enraged and on the verge of seriously losing my s@#*! Or on the flipside I’ve been on the verge of tears.

Lucky for me, my husband has always been a calming influence and assessed situations with his usual patience, logic and common sense. These are just some of the many qualities that I love about him and why I put a ring on it. He never seems to be fazed and only becomes stressed usually because I’m the one stressing him out (Sorry love!).

Then, once my brain has had time to refocus and come out of the fog that I call ‘dinosaur mode’ (with hubby beside me as my quiet tower of strength and reassurance) I can rationalise the situation and then like the flick of a switch it’s ‘game face on’ and we’re an unbeatable team that will bounce ideas of each other and come up with practical solutions to a problem.

That said, I have had to reflect on my own advice in that ‘you will get further with honey than you will with vinegar’.

It truly pays to be patient and understanding, as has been my experience with Air Crew staff and representatives because not only will you feel better about not being one of those ‘rude and challenging’ customers who end up on Facebook, but you may even be rewarded with compensation and complimentary hotels and return flights (as was the case for us from Brisbane back to Greece with Emirates).

So, I guess you could say that I am still working on “building travel character” but there are no time limits in this degree called “Life” yet I remain a determined and dedicated student.

The most important lesson is to always be open to learning something new and to strive to be the best version of yourself that you can be. The World cannot ask any more of you than that.

Anyway, as I bring this blog post to an end and as the saying goes “all good things must come to an end” and you finally return to life as you know it and it also begs the question of what do you do when the euphoria of an awesome holiday fades and the travel blues set in?

Answer: You plan and book another holiday!!! That’s what you do!

I would love to hear your thoughts or experiences on ‘couples travelling together’ the good, the bad and the ugly so feel free to drop me a line.

In the meantime, Happy Travels folks!!

Cheers

Del

 

 

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Sawasdee Ka Stunning Koh Samui!

“Travelling – It leaves you Speechless and then turns you into a Storyteller”

This holiday was going to be pure relaxation on a lovely island by the beach where we would stay in beautiful accommodation – and it was exactly that and more!

We had an overnight stay at the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport in Singapore before departing the next day on a 10.25am flight to Koh Samui on Silk Air, which only took 1.5 hours – already winning. They even had an inflight meal and I was so impressed with the service for such a short journey.

I could just feel it in my bones that this was going to be an amazing trip.

For the first time, I had no expectations for this holiday because I was just so eager to get there! My expectations were surpassed.

Koh Samui airport is small but cute and there sure were a lot of planes on the tarmac bursting with happy holiday-makers’ just like me. We were offloaded onto open air carriages (similar to the ones they have at theme parks) and were ferried away on the short trip to customs. I thought this was a great mode of transport and was definitely more inviting then treading along the well-worn carpet of an airport walkway.

At the transfer kiosk (as you exit the airport) we booked a return transfer for only B950 Baht (so roughly just under $40 Australian dollars for 2 passengers) in a luxury private taxi.

It was a short 10-minute drive as we drove through the villages and arrived at our hotel the Hansar Samui Resort & Spa (located at Bophut beach) where we received a warm Thai Welcome – Sawasdee Ka.

It was stunning with peek-a-boo sea views as we checked in at reception, accompanied by a refreshing cold drink and face flannel. The humidity on the island is not too dissimilar to a Queensland summer.

Our room was modern but traditional with amazing pool and sea views from our balcony and a huge in-room shower. I was truly in paradise.

The beach was literally across the road, with a few sun lounges sprinkled along the finely pebbled sand. This Maori girl’s derriere became best friends with both the pool and beach sun lounges.

I gladly took turns to enjoy cool dips in the hotel pool and also in the cooler waters of the Andaman Sea, along with many other like-minded water babies.

Fisherman’s Village Bophut

The start of the village is conveniently located about a minute’s walk away from the hotel and hey presto you’re right there!

As you look down the road it’s just two straight rows of restaurants, tours, salons and souvenir shops – I was in heaven. You are truly spoiled for choice when deciding on a place to eat and it is so delicious, cheap and affordable.

As a note, just be careful with the constant flow of vehicles and bikes along the shared narrow road. I freaked out when people on scooters would appear from nowhere, but a polite “toot toot” soon lets you know to get out of the way so you won’t get mowed down.

Any who, anyone that knows me knows that I love my food; and I absolutely loved the food on Samui (as the locals say). You could tell the food had been cooked with love and made with pride using fresh ingredients and different sauces or spices. I don’t know what it is was, all I know is that it tasted delicious and my taste buds sang with pure delight.

If you’re looking for a souvenir bargain, don’t forget to bring your bartering skills with you. You can also have a look around for a better price and go back later.

What I also liked is that the stall owners or restaurant front-of-house reps don’t harass you. They will simply invite you in or offer a flyer with their specials. There is no aggression or harassment which is so refreshing. However, the tailor shops are the exception and will try the hard sell.

On Friday night’s they also have the “markets” with many stalls selling an assortment of goods as they vie for your baht. It does get a bit crazy and claustrophobic with people everywhere in a tight space and especially on a warm evening.

However, there are some amazing gifts that you can buy for yourself, family or friends. I bought some lovely wooden ornaments and when I asked the sales lady ‘what wood is this?’ she looked at me strangely and simply said ‘off the tree!’ – I burst out laughing because she was absolutely right and that was such a witty reply!

Activities

Taxis are aplenty in Bophut Beach so there’s no need to rush to get to where you need to go.

There are a few tour operators’ to choose from and they offer a good selection of tours that will suit your budget and itinerary. Next time I plan to do a tour of the National Marine Park.

Hiring Jet Skis were a popular activity with all its high impact energy, speed and adrenalin rush.

Muay Thai Kickboxing is another popular sport in Thailand so don’t be surprised when you see Ute’s driving around, blasting their boom boxes and advertising the next kickboxing matches.

One morning, as I sat admiring the view from the comfort of my sun lounge on the beach, I watched as a guy got ready to go Parasailing. I was fascinated and inspired all at the same time.

So much so that I even contemplated going the next day – eeek!!

But then I chickened out, I basically talked myself out of it because (thinking the worst) I didn’t know if my insurance covered this type of activity. I had visions of my parasail coming loose and I’d be drifting off into the sunset never to be seen again! Oi!

However, I think I am going to get up the courage to do this next time and just make sure that I’m fully covered and insured – I can’t wait and I’ll forever memorialise it in video.

Language and Culture

Whenever I travel to a country, I like to learn some words of greeting and thanks, including not what to do so that I don’t cause any offence.

For me personally it is a sign of courtesy and respect to learn the basics of the local language and their customs.

You can find information on ‘Google’ however, there is nothing more valuable and authentic than learning from a local.

On another day while poolside, we got talking to an attendant by the name of San (lovely guy) and I was asking about the Thai language (male and female) and the pressing of hands in greeting.

San firstly explained a bit about himself and his background that he came from a small village and had worked at the hotel for nearly seven years. We asked if he travelled home often. He replied only on his vacation time because it took nearly 20 hours straight on a bus (via Bangkok) to get home to his village to see his family. Now that is a testament to family love and commitment.

Anyway, San proceeded to teach me to count to ten in Thai, then he went on to explain that the correct way for a woman to end a sentence is with the word “Ka” and males should use “Khap”. This also applies when a woman is greeting a male and vice versa – so Sawasdee ka (hello) khob khun ka (thank you).

San then went on to explain that the higher you press your hands (Wai) the more revered you are. So you start with your family and friends, then higher for your Grandparents and then Buddha is at the highest point.

Thank you so much San for taking the time to proudly teach both my husband and me about your language and culture. It was very much appreciated and I hope you received our gift when we left as a small token of our sincere gratitude and thanks.

Tipping

You are not obligated to tip in Samui, however, if you have received excellent service then a tip is a great way to show your thanks and consider factoring this into your budget; of course it is personal choice.

Having said that, we chose to tip and it felt really good.

Final Thoughts

I absolutely fell in love with Koh Samui!

A holiday to Samui is what you want to make of it, whether it’s jammed packed or a relaxed affair and even a combination of both.

It is an affordable island paradise for all travellers’. The views are stunning, the food amazing and the gentle Thai hospitality and infectious smiles make for an unforgettable holiday destination.

This was undeniably our best holiday ever!

We are already planning our holiday back there next year, bring it on………..

Khob Khun Ka Samui! See you again

To Blog or not to Blog? That is the Question?

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”

(Unknown)

I have contemplated for a few weeks now about whether I should write this blog post? I kept thinking – will it be interesting enough?

Then I decided, who cares?

Even if I am the only one that reads it, it’s more so for me and about my own perspective as a travel blogger (of just over a year). It’s a way for me to debunk some of my own myths, perceptions and misconceptions on travel blogging.

I want to do it for my own benefit, a form of self-expression and to explore my personal thoughts and insights on blogging and in particular my own blogging journey – the good, the bad and the ugly. I believe there is also something cathartic in being able to articulate your feelings and put it out there in the universe.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I still love and enjoy the act of writing and being able to craft words and show my travel photo’s to their best advantage. It’s just that sometimes I get so caught up in all of the demands that come with blogging that I lose sight of my passion and why it is that I do what I do?

I am well aware that blogging is what you make of it and obviously what you are prepared to put into it and of course the hustle as I’ve heard other bloggers say.

Now, I’ll be perfectly honest, this is not an easy gig and the competition out there is so fierce! (just ask any blogger).

I think back fondly to the time when I first started out wanting to be a travel blogger. I was so eager, all bright eyed and bushy tailed. I had some good ideas, stories and photos that I wanted to share.

As a visual person, I remember that I had drafted a simple mind mad of what I wanted to do and it was just a matter of actually putting my ideas into action.

I was petrified just thinking about it and had butterflies in my stomach but at the same time I became so overwhelmed with all of the research and decisions to be made:

What do I call my website, which host do I use, what is my niche if any, what website template should I use, what is a dashboard and how do I use it, should I try to make money from blogging, will anyone actually read my blog posts and will they like what I have to say?  So many questions and plagued by self-doubt.

I embraced the fear and went for it anyway!

My first paid site (The Wandering Wahine – A tale of 2 Jandals) was a steep learning curve. It went gang busters at first, then my provider for some ridiculous reason decided that I had apparently gone over my “quota of visits” and suddenly locked me out of my site for 3 months!

Are you kidding me! I didn’t know such a thing existed – I think I just got scammed!!??

No amount of excuses could explain this one away, so I talked with my feet and simply walked away.

There is nothing worse than a woman scorned! So, I cancelled my subscription, changed my credit card (so they couldn’t slug me again in 12 months’ time for what I considered to be a crappy service) and I blocked them from sending me emails. Done and dusted and oh, just a friendly reminder – never mess with a Maori girl when she mad, not unless you want to unleash a whole lot of whip ass!!!

The whole experience left me very disillusioned, however, I regrouped and decided that this minor hiccup in the road wasn’t going to stop me from pursuing this creative instrument that I had just found and especially my passion for travel.

However, sometimes there are periods where I’ll have good days and bad days with my travel blogging journey.

There were days when I felt inadequate because I would see other new bloggers doing so well and growing their blog engagement through Social media (and kudos to them too) but it caused me to reflect and question myself and my own abilities and blogging strategies?

Then there were also the few times in the beginning when I got burnt doing “Collaborations” with other bloggers’ which I’ve just put down to being too trusting and naïve.

Now, I have finally reached a good stage in my blogging journey.

It’s like life really and the older you get the more comfortable you become in your own skin and having a sense of stability, empowerment, balance and self-worth.

I have arrived at my destination and exactly where I needed to be in order to make peace with myself (as my own harshest critic).

I was the only one foolishly putting the pressure on myself to be a high achiever and so it had to be up to me to release that pressure valve and let out the clouds of steam – along with my ego.

It’s so easy to waste a lot of negative energy by comparing yourself to others, when in fact you are your own, special, wonderful and unique person. Just like fingerprints, there is no other individual in the whole world like you.

I have now made the conscious decision to change my mindset and not take myself too seriously – to lighten up, loosen up a bit and enjoy my hobby for what it is, the joy it brings me and simply to embrace the sweet home coming.

Now I write purely for me and hopefully in doing so my audience feels the tone of my writing and will come along on the journey – if not, then that’s cool too.

Most importantly I have learned the value of staying true myself and my values and to always remain sincere and genuine (OMG – I think I’m starting to sound like a relationship therapist – ha ha).

I guess at the end of the day when you invest so much time, energy and effort into something you love – it’s always nice when you have people who appreciate and understand what it is that you do and create for the sake of your craft (much like any beautiful form of art).

Finally I’m free, I’m free!! I refuse to be obsessed or defined by my numbers “page views” or “statistics” anymore and it’s such a huge relief. Goodness knows I have enough number crunching to deal with in real life.

Would I change anything? Truthfully, probably not because all these experiences have been, and will continue to be an opportunity for learning and positive growth.

Well I think I’ve reached the end of my musings for today – I’m done!

However, I am delighted to say that this simple exercise of writing and venting albeit confusing and probably yawn boring and all over the show, has been if nothing else very therapeutic and liberating.

It’s great to have a good old purge every now and then and this has only served to reinvigorate my blogging journey and better still, it has cemented my direction and to keep on keeping on.

If there’s anything that life has taught me, it’s the following song lyrics: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” (Billy Ocean) and “If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again” (Aaliyah).

No journey is ever meant to be the same, this is me sharing mine, and if there’s two things that I hope you will take away from my blog post – it is the importance of having self-belief and selfacceptance.

Ok, bring on my next holiday to Koh Samui!!

*And if this blog post has connected with you on any level, I would really love to hear your thoughts and comments on your own blogging journey and experiences?? Cheers!

Until next time my fellow travel bloggers’ – Keep it real!

 

 

 

My Long Journey to the 10,000 Buddha Monastery, Hong Kong

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared”

(Buddha)

Ni hao! After an amazing time spent in Tokyo, admiring the beautiful Sakura it was time to pack our bags and head off to Hong Kong.

Our base this time was at the Novotel Hong Kong Citygate Hotel on Lantau Island only a 10 minute free shuttle ride away from the International airport and close to the local metro system.

As our stay was only short we had decided to pack a few activities in, one of those being a visit to the 10,000 Buddha Monastery.

I had visions of getting to the summit of a hill somewhere and behold there would be 10,000 Buddha’s together!

My husband is very good when it comes to planning our transport needs anywhere overseas, as we quite enjoy catching public transport, and this time was no exception. So we caught the metro (MRT) from Tung Chung to Lai King, transferred at Prince Edward station, then hopped on the Green line to Kowloon and transferred again onto the Blue line to Sha Tin, our final destination.

(One thing I would like to mention, is that while I was standing up on the train, I noticed how young people and even older adults would gladly give up their seats for the elderly people that were standing. It was so heartening to see because in my culture we are raised and encouraged to do this as well. So to show thoughtfulness, kindness and respect towards our elder’s is obviously the foundation of many other cultures too).

So, as we alighted at Sha tin station and were looking around to find the exit, an elderly Chinese gentleman came towards us and asked us if we knew how to spell a simple English word; and although I thought this was random I was more than happy to help and he was very grateful. Little did I know that this gentleman would play a pivotal part in our day.

Anyway, all we knew was that we had to exit the station and find the “off the path” way to navigate our way to the Monastery. We found some stairs which led to a school and a guy in broken English waved to us to follow the path below.

Honestly, we were a bit sceptical because it looked out of place, no people were around and it led past some people’s homes and we didn’t want to be rude and just cruise on by.

Unsure as to what to do, we just waited and then luckily two more couples came along and they were obviously lost just like us. Funnily, there is comfort in numbers.

Long story short, one of the couples spoke Chinese and managed to find out where we needed to go and gestured for us to follow them. So passed the rows of small white house’s we went before a town square came into view. There were people everywhere! Most were buying flowers, I assumed to give as offerings to Buddha.

I’m thinking “great we must be on the right track – just follow the crowds”! So we did and at the end of “Pai Tau” Street there was a lovely green and white temple gate with two ornate lion figures out the front.

I felt happy and disappointed all at the same time. There were long queues of people (4-5 person’s wide) snaking along and around a path that disappeared and wound its way back up again, the lines seemed to go on forever; not to mention the people waiting for escalators heading to the top of this temple.

I was deflated.

Not knowing what to do, hubby and I watched and waited and were going to turn around and go back to our hotel.

Then, I noticed the little old Chinese man from the metro station and finding some kahuna’s I went up to him and politely asked what was happening and if this was the 10,000 Buddha Monastery?

He remembered me and replied in his broken English that today was a public holiday and that people came to pay their respects at the temple.

He seemed confused about the Monastery, but said “I am meeting my cousin soon and will ask him where the Monastery is”.

Again, long story short, he told me “today is your lucky day, we will meet my cousin and he will show you the way”.

Just for a split-second the paranoid side of me kicked in and I thought “please God don’t let this be a trick and we get kidnapped!” (Fortunately it was unwarranted).

We followed him across the street amongst a throng of people and towards the IFC Building – where sure enough we were introduced to his cousin; who kindly pointed out that we just needed to follow the footpath straight ahead and around the corner.

I was so grateful to them, enthusiastically shook their hands and thanked them in their mother tongue “Xie xie”! (Thank you). I’m proud to say that elicited some smiles and a “very good and my pleasure” from our newly acquainted elderly Chinese friend.

(Sadly, in my excited haste I did not get their names and my apology but thank you both so much dear sirs, your kindness to two visiting strangers will never be forgotten. Blessings to you both!).

Everything was back on track, then in just mere minutes we had found the humble entry to the 10,000 Buddha Monastery.

There it was, an ascending footpath to the top and lined on both sides with golden Buddha’s each with their own defining stance, facial expressions, robes and character. Such an amazing sight to see.

Then the hard work began and the never-ending climb upwards. I, like many other visitors of all ages were simply fascinated and in awe.

On the way up there were nice, compact seating available for people to literally catch their breath. I’m not ashamed to say that I took a break there, after some slight wheezing (boy, I really need to get fit!). It was during this rest break that I was motivated to continue on when I saw an elderly Chinese lady in maybe her early 90’s slowly climbing the steps with the help of a young family member.

Seeing this determined lady both shamed and inspired me to keeping moving these Maori legs as I saw the end and my reward in sight.

We had finally reached the monastery! High five!

My senses were fully alert as I heard the rhythmic chorus of chanting before the Prayer Hall came into view. Then I smelt a light waft of smoke coming from the burning incense; and also the visual explosion of colour as I saw all of the many different immaculately designed figurines and Deities.

In particular, I noticed the beautiful and serene statue of “Quan Yin” in a flowing white robe and who is (as I understand) regarded by the Chinese as the “Goddess of Mercy and Compassion”.

There is such a serenity and a vibrancy when you reach the monastery and even as I climbed all of the many steps, I had an epiphany that perhaps Buddha was teaching me a lesson in both patience and fortitude (and I mean no disrespect when I say that and if anything I say it in truth and with reverence).

It was such an overwhelming spiritual experience for me, as I took in all of the amazing views carved through and perched on top of a hill that over looked the city of Hong Kong.

If you are ever in Hong Kong – I would highly recommend visiting the 10,000 Buddha Monastery as both a cultural, spiritual (and definitely a fitness) experience.

Xie xie nimen!

Spring to Sakura

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”

(Proverb)

Kon’nichiwa! From the time I saw a picture of beautiful Cherry blossoms from Japan on the cover of a Travel brochure, I had always wanted to travel there and see this beautiful time of the season for myself as a bucket list dream.

That dream came to fruition in Tokyo, Japan in late March, early April this year.

As it was peak season, we had opted for a change (with hotels selling out fast in most places in Tokyo) we decided to base ourselves in Odaiba, Tokyo near the waterfront area with accommodation at the Hilton Tokyo Odaiba.

Lucky for us the hotel was near the “Odaiba Marine Park” a quiet and peaceful oasis, with lovely views and boardwalks, surprisingly a mini replica of the “Statue of Liberty” a beach, and ferries and of course cherry blossom trees just coming into beautiful bloom.

I was so excited and wanted to try out my “wannabe” photography skills in capturing “Sakura” in all her magnificent shades of white and pink beauty. I took shot after shot trying to memorialise the true beauty of Mother Nature in this seemingly delicate yet perfectly beautiful springtime moment (never to be seen again until next season).

Our next adventure on the itinerary to admire Sakura was to Ueno Park in downtown Tokyo, which is accessible by catching the “Ginza” metro line.

The Park wasn’t hard to find once you exited the train station, all you had to do was follow the throng of tourists, no doubt on the same mission.

Up the stairs we dutifully climbed, only to be rewarded and greeted by a magnificent tree decorated in all its blooming glory! Naturally everyone was getting the obligatory selfie and shots of the Cherry blossom tree. I was simply and humbly in awe.

However, there was definitely more to explore especially as we strolled along what I called the “Avenue of Cherry blossoms”. It was literally a pathway lined on both sides with flowering cherry blossoms.

Before my trip, my research also revealed that the Japanese people love this time of the year, it is a traditional custom to celebrate with “Hanami” which means “flower viewing” (mainly Sakura). It is an opportunity for family and friends to come together; and eat and drink in the parks and just have some good old fun and an enjoyable time.

Just like me, the tourists’ that I saw in Ueno Park were in awe of this phenomenon, and the locals gathered in the park gave off a welcoming and friendly vibe. I mean no disrespect when I say this, but it was delightful to see ordinary Japanese folk celebrating Hanami in a more relaxed atmosphere, belting out a good laugh or having a joke and just genuinely enjoying each other’s company; rather than the often serious and formal side of their conduct and mannerisms that we see. It was really great to see everyone get their groove on. So, Kanpai! (Cheers!).

I have to say that it was a cold 12-13 degrees while we were in Tokyo (which coming from a hot 28-31 degrees in Queensland, Australia was a significant drop in temperature) and the cooler weather may have affected the full stunning effect of the Cherry blossoms. Some trees were in full blossom while others were on the cusp of flowering.

In hindsight, I would probably have waited and delayed my holiday by a week to see all of the Cherry blossom trees adorned in all their pink and white glory. Nevertheless, I was not disappointed in the least!

Next stop – Senso-ji (Asakusa Kannon Temple) a Buddhist Temple located in Asakusa.

I had visited Senso-ji on one other occasion before, but that was on a guided tour and we were limited in our time there.

So, now and armed with a bit more time and familiarity – off we ventured.

The splendid gate entry and the Temple itself was just as stunning as I last remembered it to be; only this time there were even more people.

Tourists’ and worshippers’ mingled alike, admiring the trinkets on display in the many stalls or tasting the delicious dishes of the local cuisine on offer.

There was also no end to the overload on our senses as we experienced – the smell of mouth-watering food, the aroma of burning incense, the throngs of people everywhere including Japanese women dressed in beautiful traditional Kimono.

I consider myself a spiritual person and was taken by impulse to offer up a humble prayer; and joined in with other folk as they burned incense (in a large vessel at the entrance to Senso-ji) as we all cupped and waved our hands over our faces and heads for good fortune. I nearly choked from my over-eager approach but enjoyed the spiritual experience and also personally saw it as a sense of cleansing too (to ward off any bad spirits and welcome the good ones).

Then as I focussed on Senso-ji Temple, what should I see but another beautiful Cherry blossom tree in flower!!

This was the finale to what was an amazing day inspired by Mother Nature and for me the epitome of natural springtime beauty.

There is a proverb that says “To everything there is a season” which if we really thought about it relates to our everyday lives, and what better time of the year than spring – a time of renewal and new beginnings.

I sincerely hope that in some small way, this humble blog post has inspired you to travel to Japan and witness for yourself the pure beauty and phenomena that is Sakura or Cherry blossom season.

So, what are you waiting for? Spring to it!

Until next time travel friends – Sayonara!!

 

www.instagram.com/delabroad

 

 

 

 

 

One Night in a Department Store (Athens)

“Home is  where your bed is”

No doubt you have seen the movie “A night in a Museum 1, 2 & 3” – well this is definitely not as action-packed or exciting, however, it is my sedate take on staying overnight in a Manchester department store (and more).

It was supposed be our last night or two in Athens – before making the big, long-haul journey back to Queensland, Australia.

I had found and booked a very quirky and unique hotel to stay at – the COCO-MAT Hotel Athens.

“The COCO-MAT Hotel Athens is an understated luxury, design hotel that sits in the heart of Kolonaki, perhaps the city’s most exclusive district. It is the epitome of modern elegance.  A haven for urban adventurers. A modish entry to the city’s most eclectic neighbourhood.

Visitors can also enjoy free bicycle rental services to explore the city in style. The bicycles are a one-of-a-kind design, especially made for COCO-MAT and 100% wooden.

The ground floor houses a COCO-MAT store and the hotel features 39 rooms and luxury suites”.

Our taxi driver dropped us off late at night from the Port of Piraeus. The hotel staff must have been waiting for our arrival because once the taxi pulled up, a nice staff member came out to meet and greet us.

I was totally taken by surprise because in order to get to the hotel area and reception, we had to pass through a very cool bed and linen store. This was the very first time that I had stayed in a boutique store/hotel like this.

The room itself was very compact but modern. I absolutely loved the bathroom with its black and white tiles.  Then there was the humongous bed!!!  Now, I’m not too short but I had to literally jump up to get on and into this luxury bed – which was fine (I was just scared of rolling off and breaking some bones – eek!!).  They even had a nice cloth sachet of real lavender to place under your pillow to help you to drift off into quiet and blissful oblivion.

The hotel rooftop had sweeping and amazing views of Athens – as well as a stunning mural that depicted original, colourful and eccentric artwork.

The “exclusive district” of Kolonaki had a distinct vibe about it.  It was a lot quieter than the busy hub of central Athens but none the less it had a refined and cultured charm all of its own.  Both sides of the tree-lined streets had their fill of quaint little cafes and restaurants; all offering up a delicious assortment of food with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafting on the breeze……………

I have to admit that I really liked the COCO-MAT philosophy – which was all about using “nature” as the primary inspiration in creating their products.  This was unmistakable when it came to their “one-of-a-kind bikes” which interestingly were made from solid oak wood and gave hotel guests the unique experience of riding around the city in style!

So what did I take away from this experience??? Well, that I had discovered another side of Athens and that life is about embracing change and adventures other than the norm – it is a life lesson that I am slowly but surely discovering, accepting and enjoying.

I also learned that as global citizens’ we all have a responsibility to be conscious of the impact we have and the imprint we make on our environment; and in particular the items we choose to use in our everyday lives.

To dare to be different and stand out from the crowd in life or in business is a journey of both strength and courage; and should be respected and admired.

“Never let go of your D R E A M S”

 

 

 

Santorini – My Big, Fat, Greek Holiday

“Explore.Dream.Discover”

(Mark Twain)

It was another bright and beautiful day in Thira, as I heard to the jingle of bells coming from the hardworking Donkey’s as they speedily ran past through the alleyways below us.

I was fascinated to watch them go about their daily routine as they dutifully descended the many steps to the “Old Port” below – in preparation for a hard day’s work transporting eager tourists throughout the day.  I have my own personal thoughts on this practice but will save it for another blog post.

Muesli followed by some bacon, eggs, sausages and tomatoes were on the menu for breakfast, a hearty and delicious way to start the day.  Our hotel restaurant had magnificent views overlooking the Aegean surrounding the “Caldera” – absolutely spectacular!  One could not ask for a better way to start such a glorious day.

(I would highly recommend booking accommodation that also offers breakfast as a free inclusion as it will save you both time and money.  It is worthwhile to mention that during my stay in Athens and on the Greek Islands breakfast seemed to be a standard inclusion on offer).

So with breakfast done and dusted, it was time to get a bit of exercise!  Our plan was to make our way along the “Caldera Way” that ended in the village of Imerovigli. We wandered along Gold Street and through the little narrow alleyways in a northerly direction – once again admiring the many boutique stores and souvenir shops along the way.

You will find on the islands quite a few jewellery shops selling beautiful Opal jewellery.  I took a fancy to a lovely pair of earrings. While in the same store I also fell in love with several funny and funky looking T-Shirts which I absolutely had to buy for family and friends.

We kept walking and came upon a beautiful Cathedral– the Catholic Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist and bell tower.

The further we ventured away from the main township of Fira, the more the scenery opened up the higher we climbed. We passed the “White shop” which as the name suggests was a shop that sold all white clothing and more. Outside the shop sat three resident stray cats, happily lazing in the sun.  This seemed to be common thread throughout Greece where the whole local community lovingly cares for the homeless cats and dogs (and also a nice blog post for another time).

I know I sound repetitive when I say this, but honestly it was spectacular……..looking at the brightly coloured flowers that perfectly framed the pale yellow and tangerine homes, the terracotta potted terraces, an old rustic stone building, the wrought iron fences, then looking down to the bluest sea.  The contrast in scenery was hypnotic.

Once we reached the Monastery, the cobbled path kept ascended as we by-passed the “Volkan Santorini” restaurant with its million dollar balcony views.  The trail continued on along the rows of immaculate homes with inviting swimming pools.  At the top there was a guy selling an assortment of handmade jewellery, so of course I had to buy some special keepsakes from Santorini.

In the distance I could see Imerovigli with its famous blue domed churches.  The village was probably another 30 minutes’ walk away off into the distance.  In the end we decided to enjoy the walk back down hill and made our way to the Cable cars and the Old Port.

My heart was thumping with pure adrenalin as our cable car rapidly descended to the bottom – OMG!! And what a sight to see once we got there.

The natural colours of the backdrop at the Old Port appeared more rich, vibrant and colourful.  The sea was a deep azure, the cliff faces a rich earthy colour, the boats bright and brilliant.  It was a scene fit for a magazine cover.

It was busy with fellow leisure-seekers’ everywhere and as usual, souvenir shops were aplenty and actually their mementos and T-Shirts were slightly cheaper than those being sold topside (if you’re looking for a bargain).

If you feel like a cruise around the “Caldera” that will probably take in the natural springs at Santorini, then there are a number of tours here that would be happy to offer you that experience.

There were also donkey rides which can take you back up to the top for only €5 one way.

It was great just to chill and relax at one of the cafés, enjoy a nice cold drink and do some people watching.

Then, as with all good things it had to come to an end, so back up to the township we rode on the cable car which was over in a flash.

My last evening on Santorini was spent savouring a strawberry mojito on the balcony with my hubby, admiring another beautiful sunset – and then getting glammed up to dive into a scrumptious seafood pasta meal at one of the local restaurants.

Everything on Santorini was for me, simply perfection……..

To travel to new, exotic and wonderful destinations is to truly explore, dream and discover and presents an amazing gift to learn, be creative, grow, love, nurture and leave your own unique imprint on the world and vice versa.

It is wanderlust (a strong desire to travel) at its very best and finest.

 “Wanderlust consumed her; foreign hearts and exotic minds compelled her. She had a gypsy soul and a vibrant hope for the unknown”

 (D. Marie)