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)

 

 

Remembering Flight MH370

(All thoughts and observations expressed are from my personal experience)

It has taken me three years and a huge amount of courage to write this blog – on the eve of the 3rd anniversary of missing on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 carrying 239 passengers and crew flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, China.

Do you remember where you were on that fateful day?

I do – I will never forget it!

It was a happy occasion as we came to the end of our beautiful honeymoon in the Maldives.

My husband and I were flying on Malaysia Airlines from the capital city of Male in the Maldives back to Brisbane, Australia via Kuala Lumpur (KL).

It was a late night flight which meant we would be arriving in KL early in the next morning and I was able to get some shut eye on the plane.

Before I knew it, I was awoken for a meal. It was during that service that I recall some of the cabin crew in our section seemed to be somewhat “distant” and not fully engaged with the passengers.  Their usually beautiful smiles did not reach their eyes.

I distinctly remember thinking that something must be “off” or maybe they’re not having a good shift and then thought nothing more of it.

Touch down in KL was uneventful and I was looking forward to the trip back to Queensland. Blissfully unaware, we patiently waited at our transfer gate for our connecting flight, where I took a photo from inside the terminal (and is the same one that I have chosen as the image for this blog post).

During this time I started to receive texts and messages from worried family and friends to see if we were ok?

I’m thinking to myself what’s going on? I searched the internet using my mobile phone only to discover the upsetting and sad news.

Then everything made sense – did the crew on our flight learn of the devastating news of their friends and work colleagues?? So many questions?

I replied to family members to reassure them that we were ok and were in transit on the last leg of our journey home.

I sat in quiet shock and experienced a multitude of emotions. I felt a sense of both relief and guilt because we were safe at our destination, blessed that fate had spared us, sadness for the passengers, the crew and their loved ones left behind.  A silent sombreness seemed to descend upon the terminal.

My mind was racing a hundred miles an hour – had our flights crossed paths as both planes flew over the Indian Ocean? Then the “what if’s” set in???

This date and this event will be forever engraved in my memory and on my soul (like so many other people I am sure and some more affected than myself).  By the grace of a higher power I am still here today and consider myself very fortunate indeed.  It certainly puts life’s priorities into perspective.

From the news stories that I have seen and read, I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the wonderful efforts of the Australian contingent in their search efforts to find MH370; sadly “on January 17 it was officially announced as over by officials in Australia” after nearly three years.

I guess the purpose of this blog post is two-fold – firstly, in a quiet moment of reflection, to remember all of the passengers and crew of flight MH370.  To live in hope that one day we will find answers to so many unanswered questions and for all the family members, loved ones, friends and co-workers left behind that they will find some sense of peace and closure in a time of indescribable sorrow and turmoil.

Secondly, the impact that this event has had on me personally and the actual realisation that my ability to travel and travel safely is indeed a privilege and is not a given.

It is a simple reminder (for us all) to not take anything in life for granted and to embrace, enjoy, cherish and savour every single moment and experience to the fullest!

Most importantly, to share our journey with those we love and adore the most.

 

 

Mykonos – My Big, Fat, Greek Holiday! (Part 2)

“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller”

(Ibn Battula)

Kalimera! I was excited to start our second and sadly the last day of our Mykonos adventure – obviously doing some exploring, sightseeing and souvenir shopping.

Breakfast was a lovely affair at the restaurant at the Belvedere Hotel – a delicious selection of sweet and savoury foods.  Boy was it scrumptious! The croissants, quiches and breads were freshly baked – the food seemed genuinely sweeter than on the mainland in Athens.  Perhaps it was made with just a touch more love………

So with our bodies energized for the morning, it was time to hit the alleyways and get lost!

Get lost in our environment and eventually find our way to the central town and make our way to the famous “Little Venice” and the “Windmills”.

I heard the sounds of people before the “Old Port” township came into sight.  Even though it was still early, many tourists like ourselves were already out and about.

The township is so quaint with stone paved footpaths right next to a pebbled beach with beautiful crystal waters – aqua, clear and invitingly refreshing.  In the distance, blissfully anchored were small and colourful fishing boats with an impressively big cruise ship in the background – and set against a bluer than blue skyline.  A moment that was truly magical, serene and beautiful.

To witness first hand such a mesmerizing and absolutely stunning place was both humbling and a dream come true.

Mykonos as a holiday destination would not need any major tourism advertising or marketing – word of mouth alone would be enough from all the travel seekers’ who have been fortunate to holiday there.  And when I return home I’m going to shout it from the rooftops – to friends, family and of course via my humble travel blog.

Hubby and I had a rough idea where we needed to go to get to the “Windmills” so we followed the unknown path – aka other tourists (namely tours groups – can’t go wrong there!).

Once again we wound our way through another labyrinth of alleyways of white-washed buildings, with so many charming boutiques and souvenir shops.

I took so many amazing photos along the way – in particular one of a very striking red door (and window) and in a moment of randomness, I did wonder what was behind that stunning red door.

Eventually we were getting closer to the “Windmills” but had to wind our way through and past the small café’s and bars that make up “Little Venice” – with the adjacent sea gently lapping at the buildings.

I was incredibly happy because at that time of the morning there wasn’t too many tourists.  I got some spectacular photos of the Windmills and looking back across to Little Venice.  A perfect sunny day, no wind, no crowds of tourists’ (yet) – it just doesn’t get any better than that.

Next to the Windmills was a little souvenir shop, so I wandered inside to look for some gifts to take home for myself and some friends. It was a cute place and I ended up buying some small hand-painted canvas prints of the Windmills and Little Venice – I was told by the shop keeper that “you won’t find any souvenirs like that on the Island” and he was right.

I experienced a goose bump moment while I was talking to the shop keeper, he asked where I was from – I told him I was from New Zealand but lived in Australia.

“Ah you’re a Kiwi” – I laughed, “Yes a proud Kiwi/Maori girl from NZ”. “We have a Maori lady by the name of Marama who works here, she’s not here today.  Married a local Greek man, been here 40 years, she’s got lots of brothers and sisters in New Zealand but she doesn’t travel back that often because it’s a long way to go”.  I nodded my head in agreement – on parting I said “will you say hello to your friend and tell her a big ‘Kia ora’ from Del from NZ”.

I had a big fat smile on my face by the time I left the souvenir shop with all my little treasures – just another wonderful highlight to take away with me.

It was a long walk home, we decided to rest and treat ourselves with cold gelato ice-creams and do some people watching.

I noticed the guests around us swiping and looking at their ipads and phones – no doubt admiring beautiful photos taken that morning and probably like me uploading them to facebook to share with family and friends.  Then I heard and watched the polite tooting of horns at passing pedestrians, as mini-vans drove past with fresh produce, or their drivers passionately argued with each.  It was quite a buzz of activity, you could feel a robust vibe and energy.

Lunchtime was nearly here, so after sauntering along and looking at a few restaurants we finally settled on the “Natura”.

Like many hotels on the island, their restaurants are open to the public and not just their patrons. It was a gorgeous place with a very inviting swimming pool.

I settled on a healthy meal of fried quinoa, mushrooms, sprouts and basil leaves. And can I just say that it was absolutely delicious!

As we sat and waited for our meals, a gorgeous little black and white kitten (a resident stray kitten of the hotel) came over to the table and started playing with my feet.  I laughed and said to this little one “I wouldn’t go there Bro – these waewae (feet) will be stinky”!

Anyway he kept playing with my feet and getting out his little claws – Well, I kept saying No! The little mite wouldn’t listen. Hubby pointed out that he probably doesn’t understand English – good point.

So, I said “Ochi” which is the Greek word for no and he miraculously stopped and sat nicely and quietly on the ground.

Well we both burst out laughing – I’ll be damned!  So from then on I named this little guy Ochi.  As we enjoyed our meal our new found friend promptly jumped up in the spare seat next to us and went to sleep in the sun.

It was time to go and I was a little bit sad to be leaving our cute feline friend, but we quietly snuck away and left him happily sleeping.  This little guy left a heartfelt impression on me and I hope that the Greek gods will continue to smile on him and give him a good and blessed life.

I have to say that this was truly an “epic” holiday on Mykonos where I was left completely speechless – by the natural beauty, the food, the vibe – put simply a bucket list dream come true and one that you can only experience for yourself.

“It takes a lifetime for someone to discover Greece, but it only takes an instant to fall in love with her”