Friday, 23 September 2011

Camino de Santiago -- first few days


It's been 5 days since the start of the walk, in a little city called Estella, or stars in Spanish.  Everything hurts, my feet, legs, arms and hips, back, toes and hands too.  I'm starting to get into the rhythm of the day though: waking up at 6, 6:30, a quick breakfast, pack, and it's time to walk before the day breaks.  I love walking in the morning.  The air is fresher, and the backpack seems to be lighter.  You forget how difficult it was the last day, and look forward to the next place you'll be.  Once we being, it's about anotherv6-8 hours before we reach the next town, with a few small breaks in between.  By the time you're done, it's about 2, 3 in the afternoon, reaching the albergue hot, tired.  Almost everyday, I'm completely speechless and all I concentrate on peeling the backpack off my back.  There's a few spare hours in the day, to make purchases for food for the next day, and time for dinner.

Most days, I'm walking with an Italian doctor, Miriam, whom I met on the first day after I twisted my ankle (mum, you don't need to worry now!)   I soon find myself in the company of a large group.  There's an old priest, who is really fit and sporty.  He was once on an assignment for the Pope.  There's the father and young daughter who also walks with the priest.  Then there's the fit Italian couple, both with very short hair, and also a young man, who is taking a break from work.  I've been cooked lovely Italian dinners every night, with beer, wine and bread.  Some of them are from Piedmont and villages around that region!  Who would have thought?!?

Mariam is keen mountain walker and know the plants well.  Everytime we walk past a fig tree, she would pick a few ripe ones.  We would eat and each one, I am completely amazed at how they taste.  Sweet like nectar and juicy with little seeds.  We've also found almonds from trees that taste like bitter amaretti oh and walnuts too!  It's wonderful.

Just one more photo -- from the first day of the walk, on the French side.  This was the first of many many long hills we walked that day.


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Another day in Nice

A few photos by the beach; a surprise shower of bubbles; sunset in Nice.

Happy days :)


Loire Valley & Nice

My sister and I spent 3 days cycling around the Loire valley on a few hot sunny days.  The French country side was beautiful, full of sunflowers and corn, and tree laden with autumn fruit.  I cannot deny it wasn't hard work, especially on "awesome bikes" that squeaked and a rather "hilarious" start, but it was well worth it.  Some fond memories include riding through the hunting fields of kings and buying sweet apples and pears from a cute little old lady along the bike trail.

We had spent time looking at chateaus throughout the trip: Fougeres-sur-Bievre, Cheverny and Chaumont.  Here's some of my favourite photos from those few days: a cat lazily sleeping at the chateau; abandoned rooms converted to showcase modern stain glass works; the main bridge in Amboise over the Loire river, a photo taken by my sister Jenny.


After our adventure in the Loire Valley, we took a long train trip down south, to Nice, right by the coast.  I dipped my feet in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time ever.  The beach was just full of rocks though, but hilariously, they've decked out a rectangular section on the beach with sand.  It looks really odd and makes me appreciate our beach a lot more.

Nice is an old city, and I especially like the Old Nice part of town.  It's full of little shops and bars in little alleyways and steps that seems to have been there forever.  Little French windows on brightly colours walls, and occasionally, laundry and sheets would be hung out from these windows.  A flower and produce market runs everyday, and we saw some beautiful courgette flowers, beef heart tomatoes and berries in little paper trays.  I've also had the best ice cream ever: lavender ice cream.  It was really delicate and refreshing, just what we needed after walking around on a hot day!  And to end our day, we saw an busker belting out Nessun Dorma at the top of his voice, unamplified, pure, and amazing.  


I have booked La Merenda for dinner on Friday night, thanks to the @food_tourist!  I'm really looking forward to some great food :)  

Four more days before I start my long walk, and I can't wait to begin.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Paris


I completely played out the tourist while I was in Paris, and went to sightseeing to all the major attractions.  The above tower needs no introduction.  And finally, after 17 years since my first visit to Paris, I have finally gone up the Eiffel Tower.

I also visited the Notre-Dame, and saw the 750 year old rose window, still magnificent after so many years.  We went on a river cruise on the Seine too.  We went to the Arc de Triomphe (stair master) at night, and saw the Champs-Élysées from above.


The most memorable experience in Paris was visiting the Sacre-Coeur, at first light.  I wanted to get sunrise on top of the hill.  The sun didn't emerge from behind the clouds, but I was there, with only one other tourist.  I saw the beautiful dome interior, decorated with a huge painting and ornate pillars.  A quiet service was held in the back of the church, and I hear a single voice singing out the service.  The voice carried throughout the whole church.  It was magic.  And I took my favourite photo of a sleepy Paris.


I saw this panorama too (click to view a larger version).  Bonjour, Paris.


I'm currently somewhere in the Loire valley :)