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29 December 2012

The Art of the Brick and Fujians: The Blue Ocean Legacy

The current exhibitions at the ArtScience museum are, yet again, well worth a visit if you can.  Before visiting I wasn't sure if I'd be that interested in an exhibition of art work made from Lego but I have to say I was really pleasantly surprised.  One of my Stepsons is a massive Lego fan and I too, as a child, had Lego that I enjoyed playing with, but I've never considered it being used to create pieces of art, that is until now.

Nathan Sawaya, however, could see Lego as the basis for his pieces of art and I was amazed at the intricacy of his pieces and his creativity.  'The Art of the Brick' is, 'the first major museum exhibition to use the popular toy as the sole art medium'.  There are fifty-two of his pieces on show and just a selection of those we saw are in the photos below.  I can't imagine how many individual pieces of Lego must have been used to create all the exhibits on display but the information board about each piece does tell you how many were used for that specific one.  I actually wondered, when we were walking around, if Lego supplied him with bricks but that's not the case, he buys all of his bricks and uses colours that anyone can buy in a shop.  So if you are inspired to create a piece of Lego art too you can.

I think this exhibit would appeal to anybody regardless of whether you are a Lego fan, who can resist a Lego dinosaur skeleton after all?  His pieces are really creative and really enjoyable.  I was definitely very impressed.  At the end of the exhibit is a space where you can indulge your imagination and use Lego to create your own pieces, fun for young and old alike!





Lego model of the ArtScience museum - Nathan Sawaya

Dinosaur Skeleton - Nathan Sawaya

Parthenon - Nathan Sawaya






Also on display at the moment is, 'Fujians: The Blue Ocean Legacy' which we decided to take a look at as well.  This exhibition tells the story of the Fujians, tracing their seafaring history travelling from China and ultimately settling in South East Asia in the 1800s.  The exhibition explains how they made an impact on religion, commerce and culture for the Chinese in South East Asia and showcases a whole host of rare artifacts.

If I'm honest, having just been to 'The Art of the Brick' exhibit, although this was good, I think the Lego art work had the edge and I probably enjoyed that one more.  Though it is worth a visit if you are interested but perhaps I should have done this one before visiting 'The Art of the Brick'.



'The Art of the Brick' exhibition is on now until 14 April 2013 NB. the exhibition's run has been extended until 26 May 2013.

'Fujians: The Blue Ocean Legacy' is on now until 28 February 2013

18 December 2012

Salt Tapas & Bar

I first noticed Salt Tapas & Bar because it (there is also the Salt Grill in ION) is located in the same premises that I previously had an interesting shepherd's pie experience in soon after I arrived in Singapore.  Though I should add that it was a different restaurant back then.  Our first visit to Salt Tapas & Bar though coincided with my in-laws visit and was actually a slightly spur of the moment decision as we were in the area and wanted to eat.  We weren't disappointed however and my husband and I have been back on several occasions since then as we enjoyed it so much.

Salt serves some seriously delicious and creative tapas dishes created by the Australian chef, Luke Mangan.  It's situated in Raffles City shopping mall right opposite Raffles hotel so a perfect place to stop for lunch after some hectic shopping.  Having been a few times now we've tried several of the dishes and they are all good with a great mix of meat and salads to choose from.  As it is a tapas style restaurant it's also great for picking a selection from the menu and sharing.  That coupled with some nice wine, what could be better for a long lazy lunch?






16 December 2012

Christmas Tree Capers

This is our first Christmas with our new edition, George and boy do we know we've got him now.  I grew up with cats but until now none of those cats (even as kittens) ever took the slightest interest in our Christmas tree or the decorations.  I kind of guessed George might be different just because of his fascination with everything and I was right.  Let's put it this way - he is obsessed with the tree!

We actually have two trees, our main big one and a very little one.  Even though our condo is probably not really big enough for both I'm such a Christmas fan I can't help but get both of them out.  I decorated the small one first and as soon as I did it George decided this was worth dive bombing repeatedly.  It is only small so very easy to topple over.  The only saving grace being that it's equally no issue to stand it up again and replace any fallen baubles.

I then got the bigger one out and as soon as I'd put it up (even before any decorations were on it) he was, as I suspected he might, climbing it repeatedly.  Initially we put it in the spot we've put  this tree for the past two Christmases in Singapore but I quickly realised there were lots of launch pads for an inquisitive kitten to jump from on to the tree so decided it needed to be moved.  Unfortunately our condo isn't massive so this then presented the problem of where we should move it to.  If you do any Internet searches on making a tree kitten/cat proof it suggests placing the tree somewhere with plenty of space around it, so they can't jump on it.  That's fine in many homes in the UK, for example, that have plenty of space but over here those kind of options are limited in most condos.  The other suggestion is to have it somewhere with a door that can be shut to keep the cat out when needed.  Again not so easy here when our living room is our main living area.  I like to see the tree so putting it in one of the other rooms is totally impractical for me.  In  the end my husband suggested we put it on the opposite side of the room to where it normally is which doesn't have as many launch pads (not that this has stopped him) for him to jump from.

So I moved the tree and began attempting to decorate it.  This was just too exciting for George who proceeded to climb up and down it repeatedly, bashing all the decorations off as fast as I was putting them on.  I gave up and in a fit of annoyance decided we couldn't have a big tree up this year and would just have to make do with the little one and a few other bits around.  After I'd calmed down though (and taken everything down) I decided to give it another shot and try again with the tree.

I'd read on the Internet that spraying the tree with citrus spray and putting orange peel around the bottom of it was a good way to keep cats away as they dislike the smell.  I was a little sceptical about whether it would work as, for example, all cats are meant to go mad for catnip but none of ours (including George) have ever shown the slightest interest in it.  Anyhow I got some spray and gave it a go and, as I suspected, it didn't work!  The photo below was actually taken shortly after spraying the tree and as you can see he is happily climbing it again.

Yep that's him caught up the tree!

This time though and despite his constant climbing I was determined to persevere.  Weirdly as I started decorating the tree and was putting the lights on George didn't turn a hair and made no attempt to bother me or climb it.  I actually started to wonder what he was plotting and sure enough it wasn't long before he started climbing it again.  As a result of other commitments I then had to wait a day or so before I could finish decorating the rest of the tree and in that time he climbed it a few times but thankfully didn't manage to pull it over.  I was convinced I was going to come home and find a tree sprawled on the floor.

When it came to finishing the decorations I'd already decided that only those with no sentimental value or that were not easily breakable would go on the tree.  Instead the special ones have been placed in other spots beyond his reach.  Of course he insisted on 'helping me' as I tried to decorate which resulted in me having to put him briefly in another room so I could finish it in peace.  Since I finished decorating it he has climbed the tree countless times, knocked baubles off and also managed to ensure that two sets of lights now don't work.  I can't face taking them off again to try and find the loose connection so I'm afraid they'll have to wait now until I take the decorations down.  I hope that perhaps by next year he'll have calmed down just a little bit!

07 December 2012

I Got an Honourable Mention Award!

You may remember a couple of weeks ago I posted about being nominated for an award in the Expat Blog Awards 2012 and asking you to leave a comment if you liked my blog.  Well I certainly never expected it as there were some fabulous blogs nominated, but I won an 'Honourable Mention Award'!  Basically awarded to blogs that the judges felt were deserving of a 'special mention for their excellence'.  I'm incredibly chuffed and was truly very surprised to receive it. 



As a result I get to display the above rosette on my blog confirming my award. 

As well as my award there were also Gold, Silver and Bronze awards for the three best Singapore blogs and you can check out who won and, of course, their blogs here.  Thanks to everyone who commented and helped me to win and to everyone who reads, comments and shares my posts. 

05 December 2012

Raffles' Letters: Intrigues behind the Founding of Singapore

A few weekends ago my husband and I decided to go along to the National Library and view the exhibition currently on display, of some of Sir Stamford Raffles' letters.  I hadn't actually been to the library before but it looks like a place that is worth further exploration at some point.  On this day, however, we just focused on viewing Raffles' letters.


There are twenty letters on display until 28 February 2013 and admission to the exhibition is free.  The letters all date from 1819 and reveal much about the beginnings of Singapore.  The exhibition includes several letters that have been loaned from The Bute Collection in Scotland.  These letters came from the private papers of the 1st Marquess of Hastings who was a supporter of Raffles in establishing a British settlement in the East Indies.

As well as the letters the exhibition also includes a number of maps and paintings of Singapore (and other nearby places) from around this time period.  Including a replica of what is thought to be the first map of an emerging Singapore dating from 1820.

To view it yourself a morning or afternoon would most likely be sufficient.  There are also organised public talks in collaboration with the Singapore Heritage Society as well as curator tours and guided tours.  Take a look at the library website for further details of when these are happening if you are interested.

27 November 2012

Liebster Blog Awards - With a Little Twist

I was kindly nominated for one of these awards by Danielle who writes the blog, Living in Sin.  I was delighted to be nominated again having been previously nominated by Bookjunkie.  I also kind of feel though like I shouldn't be taking part as I've already done it before.  On top of this I am meant to nominate eleven other blogs and because, as usual, I'm behind on blogging most of those I follow religiously have already been nominated by others. 



However this time it is a little different from before.  This time you have to post eleven random facts about yourself and then answer eleven questions posed by the person who nominated you.  So I thought it would still be fun to give you some facts and answer the questions posed to me even if I couldn't nominate anyone else.  However if anyone reading this writes a blog and hasn't been nominated or just wants to share their random facts and responses with me please feel free to do so in the comments.


So here are the official rules: 

  • When you receive the award, post 11 random facts about yourself and answer 11 questions from the person who nominated you.
  • Pass the award onto 11 other blogs (make sure you tell them you nominated them!) and ask them 11 questions.  Sorry I failed on this point!
  • You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated you!
  • Make sure the blogs you chose have 200 or LESS followers 

Eleven random facts about me
  1. I am a campanologist (at least when I'm in the UK).  For those who don't know what that is, it means I ring church bells.  My Grandfather did and my Dad too and when I was about eleven I decided it might be fun to try as well.  When I was younger I would go to weekly practices, ring for services, take part in competitions and ring for weddings.  My Dad still does it and if I time a trip back to the UK right and there is a wedding I'll always get roped in to help out.
  2. I was in my early 20s before I took my first flight on an aeroplane, which given how many Asia to Europe and vice versa flights (and other flights) I do now seems mad.  My first flight was to Rome with one of my best friends on our first girly holiday on our own and I loved the experience.  Actually other than my husband she is probably the person I've flown most with (we took a lot of holidays) and I've still never taken a flight with my parents.
  3. I'm a bit of a London tube geek on the quiet (though it's not so secret now).  Anyone who follows me on Twitter may have rumbled me as I will share random tube trivia at times.  I'm most fascinated with the disused stations on the network, many of which were bricked up when taken out of use and were left exactly as they were, for example, they still have the posters/adverts on the walls from that time period.  I think it's this history and the stories that those walls could tell if they could speak that interests me.  My friend brought me a book specifically about all the disused stations and their history which frankly I thought was a fabulous present.  Even better when I lived in London one of my possible routes home took me past a bricked up station.  I'd read that if you peered out the window of the carriage you could detect a subtle change in the brick work which I can confirm is true and many a journey you'd find me glued to the window waiting for my bricked up station to go whizzing past!
  4. I worked in a Chinese takeaway whilst I was studying for my A-Levels.  This was an amazing job and I thoroughly enjoyed the two or so years I worked there.  I got paid weekly cash in hand which at that time was perfect as my expenses only consisted of new clothes, CDs and nights out.  I also got free food (of my choice) each night.  Whilst it's very different to Chinese food here it gave me the opportunity to try things I would probably have shied away from.  I also benefited if they cooked too much of something or made an error in the orders.  They were very generous to me too, my boss liked to bet on horses and if he had a good win would often share some of the winnings with me!  They also took an extended holiday to Hong Kong whilst I worked for them, as that's where their family came from, and brought back a souvenir for me, which I still treasure.  Hong Kong seemed so far away and exotic to me then and somewhere I was never likely to visit.  Little could I have imagined then that I'd be living in Singapore someday and have had the chance to visit that far off, exotic place myself.
  5. I (sort of) made the news in our local newspaper when I was a few days old.  My Dad owned a butchers shop at the time and of course everyone knew he was about to become a father and wanted to know what my parents had had etc.  As my Dad owned his shop and had a huge glass window he came up with the idea of announcing my birth on the window for everyone passing to see.  So plastered on the window were the words, 'Nude Flash!  It's a girl, 6lb 14oz'.  Of course this attracted the local press and apparently the next day my Dad was woken up very early by a reporter asking if he could do a piece and take a photo.  In one of my parents photo albums is, of course, a copy of the article that appeared in the paper alongside a photo of my very young looking Dad, thumbs aloft by the window as well as the original photo.  I didn't actually feature myself as my Mum had had to have a Cesarean and both her and I were still in hospital, but even now random people I meet back home will tell me that they remember seeing the sign in the window when I was born.
  6. I briefly steered a cross channel ferry.  In the days when children could do things like go into the cockpit of a plane etc. my Dad managed to get me and him up on to the bridge of a cross channel ferry to France and the ship's Captain let me have a go.  To be fair it was probably on some kind of auto control and it was only minutes but as a young child that was pretty exciting!
  7. I used to ride horses when I was younger and part of me would love to do it again.
  8. I have never had my hair cut in Singapore.  I've lived here over two years but always hold out until my next trip back to the UK where I can go to my trusted hairdresser.  I guess that's the beauty of having long hair!  The only downside is new people asking me for tips on good places to go to get their hair cut and having to admit that I have absolutely no idea.
  9. I have never used our condo swimming pool.  I'm not a massive swimmer or fan of messing around in pools, yes even in this heat.  I'm happy to sit by the pool with a drink and a good book, at most dangling my feet in, but that's it.  I can't even remember the last time I went in a swimming pool but I think it may have been when I went to Gibraltar for a friend's wedding and I was perhaps 24 or 25 then.  I don't even own anything to wear in a pool so even if the urge came over me I'd have to first go and buy something suitable.  I've thought many times I should at least buy some swimwear but I suspect it would never get used even if I did.  Pool/beach holidays of more than a long weekend are not for me though having the opportunity to read is appreciated.  For me it has to be broken up with some sight seeing to keep me entertained too.
  10. I'm left-handed, something that regularly seems to fascinate people.  So much so that whilst I'm writing they'll suddenly announce 'ooh you are left-handed'.  I know it's not as common as being right-handed but it still amuses me that people find it so weird they feel compelled to comment.  Do any other lefties get that??
  11. I'm fascinated by the paranormal and completely believe in ghosts.  I've always been interested and I think it stems from the fact that my Dad's shop which my parents live over is haunted by two ghosts.  I fully accept that many don't believe or have doubts and want proof but for me they definitely do exist.
The eleven questions I received to answer

1) What is your favourite thing about the place where you live?

The ease of getting around and convenience of getting home after a night out.  It's so nice not to always have to be clock watching to make sure I don't miss the last train home, (my previous life as a commuter living out of London meant work nights out always revolved around the last train) and knowing when I got the train the ride would still take me over an hour as well as then getting from the train station to my home.

2) If you could be an animal, what would it be and why?

I've always thought I'd be a cat (provided I had a good home).  I adore cats and just imagine it being an incredibly relaxed life.

3) If you could only eat one type of food for the rest of your life (ie. a cuisine like Thai or Italian), what would it be?

A tough one but I think I'd have to say Italian, just because on every visit I've made to Italy I don't think I've ever had a disappointing meal and even the most basic of dishes has been amazing.  I'd possibly have to move to Italy if I was going to eat nothing else, but I think I could cope with that!

4) What is your one place you love so much you actually wouldn't want to share it with people?

I adored Prague when I visited but I guess that isn't a hugely secret place.  I also love sitting on our condo balcony on a Sunday with my husband enjoying a cup of coffee.  Again, though, there is at least one other person who knows about that place!

5) What is your favourite song and why?

I have well over 2000 and growing (nearly 3000) songs on my fruit music playing product so this is a tough one to answer.  I listen to pretty much all and every type of music as my eclectic tastes will verify.  My favourite songs do vary and there are many but I guess one consistent favourite for many years has been Vincent by Don McLean (the same guy who sang American Pie).  Vincent is about Vincent van Gogh and in my opinion is absolutely beautiful and can bring tears to my eyes.  

6) Do you have any odd fears? (e.g. mine is those statue people, the ones with the metallic painted faces)

I hate spiders but that isn't really that odd I guess.  I'm not a fan of clowns either, or deep water (see my swimming confession above) but again not that weird.  I don't think I have any really odd fears if I'm honest.

7) What is your favourite thing you own?

Two beautiful vases that I got from my Grandma's house after she had to be moved into a nursing home and her house was sold.  I'd be heartbroken if they got broken.  I think I'd also have to include all my books just for the pleasure they give me and also our kitten, George.  He has made our condo a proper home since he arrived.

8) Tell me your best joke

What's Bob Marley's favourite type of doughnut?

With jam in (you need to say it out loud and think of his song, Jammin')

9) Cats or dogs? Or something else?

Cats without a doubt but I like dogs too and actually all animals.

10) What small seemingly insignificant thing makes you happy?

Hearing bird song and Sunday mornings when neither me or my husband have to get up for work.

11) What is the one "old fashioned" thing you would like to make a come back?

It has to be manners, bad manners really really annoy me!


OK so I guess I copped out a little by not nominating anyone but I hope you'll forgive me and enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed thinking of random facts about me and answering the questions posed.

18 November 2012

Tarifa

My final Spanish post is about our day trip to Tarifa, a town on the southernmost coast of Spain.  From here you can, on a clear day, see the mountains of Morocco (see the photos below) and they are so close that it feels as if you could almost reach out and touch them.  You can get ferries to Morocco from Tarifa and on a previous stay in this part of Spain we did do a day trip to Morocco (though not from Tarifa) visiting Tangier and Tetouan.  We were lucky to visit Tarifa on a reasonably clear day (and very hot one) and were able to enjoy the views towards Morocco.

Tarifa got its name following an attack on the area by Tarif ibn Malik, a Berber military commander in 710.  After the Islamic conquest of much of Southern Spain the town was subsequently fortified in the 10th Century.  One of the main and most imposing features of the town is the Castillo Guzman el Bueno (the castle of Guzman the Good) which is more than eight hundred years old.  Alonzo Perez de Guzman got the name 'the good' when he refused to hand over the castle in 1296 to Don Juan and the Moors in exchange for the life of his son.

We spent the morning of our visit exploring the castle which is in very good condition and has information plaques to read as you wander round, making it a lot more interesting to explore.  From the top of the castle you get great views across the town and across the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco.  Although the castle is well preserved it is not a castle with room after room of beautiful furniture and paintings.  Rather there is more of a military feel with catapults, cannons and castle fortifications to walk around.  Great fun for my two Stepsons!

Castillo Guzman el Bueno
Cannon on top of the castle walls

After our visit to the castle (well worth it by the way) we went for a wander around the town.  There are lots of restaurants and coffee shops.  We stopped in one close to the harbour when we first arrived for a reviving drink.  As well as a lovely old town and the old town fortifications to walk around.  Tarifa has the type of old town with narrow streets, more of those beautiful tiled signs I fell in love with and plenty of whitewashed buildings.  Whilst wandering around this part of the town we stopped for another drink before finding a delightful Italian restaurant (yes I know we were in Spain) down a tiny side street for lunch.

Tarifa was well worth the journey, being on the tip of Spain it was a reasonable car drive from our base.  Before I visited I wasn't too sure that I'd particularly enjoy it, but the castle was great for climbing and  exploring, definitely a good place to go with children.  The town is also pleasant to stroll around with plenty of eating options for all palates, I'd be happy to return again if I had the chance.

Another of those beautiful tiled signs
Confirming that it is Africa you can see in the distance (and what you are looking at).
Another cannon!
View from the old town fortifications, the mountains in the distance are Morocco
View towards Morocco

14 November 2012

Curry Brunch at the Tiffin Room, Raffles Hotel

We had only our third set of visitors come over to stay not so long ago, my in-laws.  Of course whilst they were here we spent some time taking them to some of the main tourist sites and enjoying some fabulous food at great restaurants.  Most of what we did we've done before (not that we minded an excuse to do them all again) but one thing that was a first was the curry brunch at the Tiffin Room in Raffles Hotel.

Raffles Hotel was one of those things I knew about Singapore before we moved here and is a must do on most visitors list.  Whilst the Long Bar is nice (though a real tourist trap) there are other bars there which are less busy and therefore far more pleasant as an occasional treat.  I was, however, expecting the brunch to be very busy, but there were only a handful of diners when we went which made it a far more intimate and enjoyable lunchtime.

We were a little early and so briefly sat outside in the hotel reception watching the comings and goings of the hotel and listening to the Grandfather clock striking the hour before we ventured in just after twelve noon.  As you'd expect the staff were incredibly attentive and continued to be throughout our meal.  I was actually getting over a nasty cold at the time which had resulted in a chesty cough.  I had a coughing fit in the restaurant and no sooner had I stopped then one of the staff appeared with some hot water with honey and lemon to soothe my chest.  I was really touched by how lovely a gesture that was.


The Tiffin Room

Tiffin means lunch or a light meal.  The Tiffin room at Raffles hotel has only been known as such since 1976 but the hotel website says they've been serving tiffin curry since 1899.  Naturally you do feel like you are stepping back in time a little whenever you visit this hotel but I guess that is all part of the charm of the place.  The Tiffin room maintains this feel as well, reminding me in part of an old fashioned traditional tea room.

The food, of course, is Indian (North Indian to be precise) and features both meat and vegetarian dishes and curries.  It was incredibly good, though if I'm honest I was expecting a few more dish choices than there were, especially given where we were.  That's not to say I struggled to find food to eat and was not full by the time we finished eating.  It's definitely not something you'd do every weekend but as a treat with visitors it was a very pleasant way to spend a Sunday lunchtime and afternoon.

Curry!

09 November 2012

Expat Blog Awards 2012 - I've Been Nominated!

I received some exciting news in my inbox this morning, that I'd been nominated for the Expat Blog Awards 2012!  I'm up against some fierce competition, some amazing talent and fabulous blogs, but to even be nominated is a real honour for me.

Of course I'd love to win too and you can help me (if you want to) by clicking here and leaving a kind comment about my blog.





You can view all the other amazing Singapore blogs that have been nominated here.  

The judging panel will make their decision on the 15 December 2012, so please spare a moment to leave a comment for me - thank you!

Amendment - I've since found out that the Expat Blog Awards 2012 will be decided throughout December and they'll be publishing the results for several countries daily, beginning on the 4 December 2012.   So please do comment on my blog's link if you would like too.  Thank you! 

02 November 2012

Selwo Aventura

Whilst we were in Spain we visited a wild animal park, Selwo Aventura, which being in Estepona was just a short drive from our base for our holiday.  My husband had taken my stepsons to the park on a stay in Spain a couple of years ago but this was my first visit.

I wasn't sure what it was going to be like, for some reason I imagined it to be very basic and limited, but it was a lot larger than I had expected and there was a much bigger variety of animals there too.  With it being a lot larger than I anticipated, another blisteringly hot day and shelter limited in places, I was pleased to find that the park offered open truck rides around the animals.  I'd definitely recommend doing that as there are some steep climbs to parts of the park and the truck allows you to view the animals without having to walk the whole way around the park.  Though you can do that too if you want to.

As you can tell from the photos below there are all the usual animals you'd expect to see.  As well as monkeys, lemurs, hyenas, cheetahs, rhinos, hippos, lions, tigers, various types of birds and lots lots more.






The park also gives you great views of the surrounding mountains and Spanish countryside.  I'm not sure I've ever had such a great view from any other animal park I've visited.


Apart from the views it really is like many other wildlife parks in the UK and elsewhere with a good selection of animals and birds to see.  There is plenty to keep you entertained for a full day's visit.  The only downsides were that we couldn't take any food or drink in to the park so had to buy what was available inside.  In the height of Spanish summer not being able to even take water in seemed a little harsh and if you are a family group could potentially make for an expensive day.  In addition you also have to pay for parking (on top of park entrance fees) which was not cheap.  Maybe there are other nearby cheaper parking alternatives but for visitors who are unfamiliar with the area this on top of entry fees and refreshments means you need to ensure you take plenty of cash with you.  However for an alternate day out from visiting the beach or the picturesque towns in this part of Spain it is worth doing at least once.

28 October 2012

Mijas

Mijas is a pretty little town located on the side of a mountain.  It is regarded as another of the famous white villages (pueblos blancos) that are located in this part of Spain.  It is a very touristy place offering visitors many restaurants and bars to enjoy and also the opportunity to take a horse and carriage ride around the town.  This is probably the nicest way to see it, as being it is on the side of a mountain it is a fairly hilly town.  There has been a village here since Prehistoric times and during that time it has had a variety of names, including, Tamisa and Mixa.


We were only there for a few hours but we managed to take one of the horse and carriage rides, as well as people watch over a morning coffee and enjoy some delicious tapas for lunch at a great tapas bar down a tiny little side street.  I'm sure if I returned I'd never find that place again.  As I mentioned it is a tourist location and there are lots of souvenir shops, places to eat and the types of things that cater for the tourist.  That said though it's a lovely place to stop for lunch or for a little bit of tourist souvenir shopping.








24 October 2012

Singapore Staycation

My husband and I recently celebrated our first wedding anniversary, how can it be a year already!?  As a result I'd been thinking about what to do to treat him and mark the event.  I'd have loved to have gone away for a proper break somewhere, but at the moment it just does not seem to be an option for us.  Fingers crossed that 2013 allows us to take more advantage of all the wonderful countries on our doorstep.

However I digress, so in trying to think of ways to celebrate I came up with the idea of a staycation instead.  I actually tried to do this before (though on that occasion we stayed at our home) but it didn't really work very well and at the end of the weekend I felt like we had not really achieved my aim of getting away from it all.  So this time I decided we needed to stay in a hotel so that we could completely 'get away' from all our usual distractions!

I didn't really know where to start in terms of finding a hotel in Singapore that might make a nice anniversary stopover, having only briefly stayed in a hotel here when my husband first arrived.  I searched 'boutique hotels in Singapore' on the Internet however and eventually came up with the Hotel Fort Canning in Fort Canning Park.  I knew there was a hotel there as we'd been for an after show drink in the bar when we went to watch Shakespeare in the Park a couple of years ago, but otherwise knew nothing about the place.

The package we chose included a bottle of sparkling wine in our room,not the Veuve (we supplied that) but the bottle in the background which was very pleasant too

Like many hotels do, the Hotel Fort Canning offers a number of weekend one night packages which include a few extras (like the bottle of sparkling wine in our room) to make your stay a little more memorable.  I don't know that this is necessarily the best or the cheapest of these options in Singapore but for us it made our first anniversary just a little bit more special.

Although you are incredibly close to Orchard Road, being in the heart of Fort Canning park you could be anywhere.  All we could really hear was the chirping of insects and the calling of birds.  In the evening we enjoyed some pre-dinner drinks in the Private Lounge for hotel guests and then dined in the hotel's Italian restaurant, Gattopardo.  All the while enjoying the peaceful setting of Fort Canning Park.

Drinks on the verandah of the Private Lounge for hotel guests

All too soon our stay was over though and it was time to check out.  As we were leaving there was a flurry of activity as the hotel was obviously preparing for a wedding celebration later that day.  I have to say it would make a very nice venue for many special occasions.  Hopefully we'll have reason to return there at some point, maybe on our next wedding anniversary.

Verandah of the Private Lounge

17 October 2012

Yet Another Welcome Distraction!

Any of you who follow me on Twitter or have seen my Instagram photos will already know this, but just in case you don't, my husband and I have a new addition to the family.  A little kitten called George.



Both my husband and I grew up with cats and we'd talked about getting one but George was a slightly unexpected arrival, not that we'd be without him now!  George was actually found by friends of ours near to where they live, alone and very frightened.  They managed to tempt him out of his hiding hole and gave him a home for a few days.  I know they'd have kept him if they could but sadly allergies prevented that and so we offered him a home.  Well my husband did knowing I wasn't going to say no.

Of course this meant a shopping trip for all the things needed to give a kitten a good home, or at least initially the most essential items.  Pet Lovers Centre has since become my most popular shopping venue after the supermarket.  It also meant finding a vet and thanks to various Facebook friends recommendations we found one not too far from where we live, they've certainly lived up to all the high praise they received.


George got a clean bill of health, which we were very pleased about given that we did not know anything of his origins etc.  He has since had his first jabs with some more to come, as well as getting him microchipped and neutered in due course.  He certainly is full of life and very feisty with a real little character and has made our home even more of one.

As I mentioned I grew up with, at least, one cat in my family and we also had chickens, zebra finches and goldfish at various times.  My extended family have also always had cats and dogs and other animals so really it was inevitable that we'd have a pet of our own at some point.  For us a cat is definitely the best option and really what we wanted the most, not to say that I'd never consider a dog but, at the moment, that's just not practical for us.  I only now appreciate how much I missed living with a pet and the daily enjoyment they bring.

Something of a first for me though will be owning a cat that is essentially an indoors cat (other than access to our balcony).  The cats my parents owned have always been able to have access to a garden and enjoyed the best of both worlds.  Though my parents current cat is a self proclaimed house cat.  She's fourteen and won't consider going out unless the weather is very good.  Anyone knowing the UK will therefore know she doesn't go out much!  I was worried about keeping him happy and entertained but he seems very content with his life and thoroughly enjoys the toys we've got him, as well as anything else he can find to play with.  Of course any tips anyone has for keeping a house cat completely happy I'd love to hear them.

He is currently chasing a pen around the floor and quite frankly being absolutely gorgeous!  Welcome to the family George.

15 October 2012

Halloween Treats at Charly T's, I12 Katong


A “spooky” treat awaits the little ones this Halloween!

Enjoy a fun-filled afternoon with the kids as Charly T's, I12 Katong celebrate Halloween.


Charly T's

Image courtesy of FoodNews

Dine in over lunch or tea and kids can have their faces painted into a scary monster, ghoul or superhero!  Watch the balloon sculptor perform his magic as he entertains with adorable sculptures of balloon poodles and other animals.  A special “trick or treat” bag will also be given out to the children.  

While the little ones are kept busy, parents can savour the great taste of Charly T’s famous rotisserie chickens which come in 4 signature flavours – Original recipe, Kansas City BBQ, Black Pepper and Kampong (priced from $13+ for quarter chicken serve with two sides).  Specialities for the kids include the wholesome Pasta in Tomato Sauce, Sausages with Fries or Chicken Kiks with Fries (priced at $8+ and served with a complimentary soft drink or homemade iced tea).



Charly T's Famous Rotisserie Chicken


Image courtesy of FoodNews

Date: 28 October 2012

Time: 1pm to 3pm

Address: Charly T’s on Level 3 at I12 Katong, 112 East Coast Road

Reservations recommended at (65) 6636 4701

12 October 2012

Sponsored Post: Seville

As my series of posts about our holiday in Spain begins to draw to a close here's a post about Seville, brought to you by the online travel agency, Destinia.com.  Sadly a place we didn't get to on our visit but somewhere I'd like to visit at some stage.

Seville is located in the Southern region of Andalucia in Spain and is considered to be one of the most traditional ones in the country.  Known for the Feria de Abril, a large fair that takes place after Holy Week, this city is filled with ancient churches, historical cathedrals and tiled plazas.  The city is pedestrianized and many of the main cultural landmarks are nearby, making it a prime location for those who want to explore this historical city.


Seville
Image used under Creative Commons from greenacre8 

The Feria de Abril is the city's main event, celebrating the culture of flamenco.  Many marquee tents called casetas are set up, with some of them being private, invitation only tents and others being public.  Flamenco dancers, guitar players and singers flock to the city to join the festivities, and many locals dress in the traditional colourful flamenco dresses.

Seville could be considered a traditional Spanish city.  The influence of Christians, Jews and Moors can be seen in the architecture, and tiled plazas with fountains decorate the city's streets.  The ancient Real Alcazar of Seville is a palace built in Mudéjar style, and tours can take visitors to its many rooms and tiled courtyards.

The Cathedral is one of the city's main monuments and the resting place of Christopher Columbus.  Built on the ruins of an ancient mosque, this cathedral and the square are lit up in the afternoons.  The Giralda is a minaret tower that was converted into the bell tower of the cathedral from where visitors can enjoy views towards the city.

The Archive of the Indies is an ancient Renaissance palace that was used by traders and was later reformed into the archive which held historical documents.

María Luisa Park is one of the city's main parks.  The Guadalquivir river flows through the park, where visitors can rent boats.  The Plaza de España is a large central square located in the park.  The square is known for its 58 recesses, each representing a province and decorated with tiles that characterize the province.

Visitors will be able to enjoy many tours around the historic city centre, considered to be one of the largest one in the region.  There are many tours by foot and on bikes, and visitors will be able to enjoy traditional tours in a horse pulled carriage.

Many boat trips across the river start from the Torre del Oro.  This tower is a dodecagonal watchtower which used to be part of the city's fortifications.

There are many activities in and near the city, including side trips to nearby water parks and the Doñana National Park.  Isla Mágica is a large theme park where visitors can enjoy fair rides, roller coasters and water rides.

Seville is a city of art.  The Museum of Fine Arts is known for local art masterpieces and for its fresco painted ceiling that dates from when the building was a monastery.  Hospital de los Venerables, located near the historic Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza bullring, is a baroque building that has a large collection of paintings.

Tapas are part of the city.  The districts of El Arenal and La Macarena are filled with chic and traditional bars.  Visitors can join the locals and explore the many bars where they can taste typical tapas, mainly the tortilla de patatas omelette, the jamón ibérico ham and pieces of bread with salads and anchovies.


09 October 2012

Casares & Gaucin

The area of southern Spain we visited over the summer is famous for its white villages (pueblos blancos).  These are a series of towns and villages characterised by their whitewashed walls and red or brown tiled roofs.  Various reasons have been suggested for the reason behind the buildings all being whitewashed.  These include, that the chemical properties of the alkaline whitewash is antibacterial and that visually it presents a socially cohesive appearance.  Equally though there is also evidence to suggest that not many of the buildings in the villages and towns were painted in this manner before the 1920s.  Investigations into the layers of paint on some buildings have also shown that some of these were in fact previously decorated.  

During our time in Spain we visited two of these villages, Casares and Gaucin.  Our visit to Casares was on a Sunday morning and after a pleasant drive through the Spanish countryside we rounded a corner and saw this.  Quite beautiful I think you'll agree, particularly against the bright blue sky.

View towards Casares
The town is a maze of twists and turns and narrow passages and roads.  This is a place that was built when the mode of transport was on horseback rather than by car.  As you can also hopefully see Casares is built on a cliff and as a result is known for its typically Moorish cliff hugging buildings.  Walking around the roads and paths was a reminder of just how flat the majority of Singapore is by comparison.

Of course stopping somewhere like this we could not help but visit one of the town cafes just off the main square (below) for a morning coffee and the opportunity to watch the world go by.  Here is where the locals gather to meet friends, put the world to rights and no doubt observe the regular stream of tourists passing through their town.

Casares

Casares

Casares

Casares



Casares

View towards Casares

View towards Casares

Our second white village experience was to the town of Gaucin.  According to all the tourist information this is one of the best of the white villages, particularly for its views of Gibraltar and Morocco.  Unfortunately though our visit didn't really give us the chance to see this or the beauty of the village.  Once again it was a maze of tight roads and narrow passages and definitely not designed for anything really but horses and carts.  As a consequence of that and it obviously being quite a draw for visitors we struggled to park.  When we did park we then struggled to find our way to the best points of the town, when all the buildings are white and the streets narrow it can get a bit confusing, particularly when you've been driving round and around.  Our time was also limited here which was a real shame.  I can only hope I get the chance to return again sometime to really be able to appreciate this place as much as I enjoyed my visit and walk around Casares.

Nonetheless though Casares (and Gaucin) were beautiful and certainly somewhere I could happily return to given the chance.


Gaucin

Gaucin
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