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30 September 2012

Back to Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay opened officially back in June.  Although I'd managed to have a sneak peek at the end of last year when the World Orchid Show was in town I couldn't wait see it again once it was fully opened.



When I visited before the entry included admission to the Flower Dome so first on my 'to see' list this time was the Cloud Dome.  When we walked in the dome we were greeted by the pleasant cool temperature and the sight of the 35 metre man-made mountain and waterfall.  First stop was to get the lift up to the top and gradually walk down the mountain on the paths enjoying the plants and the waterfall at close quarters.  Seeing the man-made mountain up close and the way that the paths took us down each level brought to mind images I've seen in art of the Tower of Babel (the mountain being the tower) or a Sci-fi story of another planet or futuristic time.  The people living and surviving in a massive man-made structure of this type. 








From here we then went back to the Flower Dome.  I was really impressed with it when I visited before and it was great to see the trees and plants much more established than they were before.  Having now visited both domes I think I now prefer the Cloud Dome but the variety of flowers and plants on display from different parts of the world is, nonetheless, very impressive.





The other thing that I wanted to do was the Skyway walk through the Supertrees, again, for me, the trees seem very futuristic looking in their appearance.  I know some think them a little ugly but as I've passed them countless times in taxis over the months preceding the official opening I've grown to like them.  I've certainly seen nothing else quite like them anywhere else.  The queue to climb the Supertrees was long but when we eventually got to the top it was worth the wait.  Whilst the view can be seen from many other vantage spots in the same area, to be on that narrow path walking under the huge trees is quite something.  I wouldn't recommend it though if you have a fear of heights as the bridge between the trees is narrow.









I agree with those that say it doesn't quite have the same ambiance and peacefulness as the Botanic Gardens do, they are without doubt lush, tropical and peaceful, but I don't think that matters.  Gardens by the Bay is completely new, different and those parts where plants are still establishing themselves will become more natural looking given time.  I can certainly see myself returning, even if I don't go into the domes or on the Skyway walk every single time.







18 September 2012

Marbella

One of our Spain day trips took us to Marbella.  Instead of driving there though we caught a ferry from Puerto Banus, far more relaxing and fun!  You can take either a ferry (which is what we chose) or a catamaran.  The catamaran seemed to be aimed at the bikini clad twenty somethings whilst the ferry seemed the more family friendly choice!  The ferry takes about an hour and along the way you get to enjoy a warm sea breeze and the coastal scenery of this part of Spain.  They run regularly and It's definitely worth doing as a nice alternative to driving.  The ferry leaves Puerto Banus right in the heart of the marina near the bars and shops and docks at Marbella harbour which is just a short walk from the old part of the city.  So you don't need to worry about long walks at either end or ending up in a port miles from any civilisation!

Once we arrived we stopped at a coffee shop close to the harbour.  This was a place to people watch or sit and read a good book as the owners seemed happy to let us sit as long as we wanted.  I didn't get any photos (stupid moment) but the place was decorated in a beautifully bright and garish way and had gorgeous and uniquely decorated coffee cups.  I was so impressed with my husband's cup that I ordered a coffee after my soft drink just to see what cup I got.  I don't even know the name of the place!  Hopefully though if I ever return to Marbella I'll be able to find it again, as long as I go by ferry.

Plaza de los Naranjos

From here we walked towards the Plaza de los Naranjos which dates back to 1485.  There are, as you'd expect, several historical buildings lining the square but also lots of cafes and lunch spots.  Unsurprising then that this was where we made our lunch stop.  It was here that I managed to have my first sangria of the holiday as well as a delicious pepper salad.  All washed down again with a lot of people watching as the afternoon passed us by.


Plaza de los Naranjos

Before we visited I was not sure what to expect from Marbella.  For many the Costa del Sol region of Spain is a place where some Brits go because they can get the food they eat at home and everyone speaks English but the weather is far more reliable than it is in the UK.  I admit that Marbella was not a location that had ever appealed to me to want to visit when I'd been to Spain before.  I think it is one of those places that I imagined there would not be much to see so I was pleasantly surprised by the old part of the city.  We did not explore far and perhaps the old part of the city is the best part from a tourists point of view but I do now feel that it justifies a further visit someday to find out for certain. 

Our day concluded with the ferry ride back to Puerto Banus (which for me made the day even better), a lovely, lazy, people watching type of day.  I guess I shouldn't have written off Marbella before I'd tried it. 


Saw these tiled shop signs in many of the cities and towns we visited and fell in love with them

Marbella harbour

16 September 2012

Ladies Night at Ying Yang Rooftop Bar

I was recently invited along to the launch of a ladies night at the Ying Yang rooftop bar on the top of the Club Hotel in Chinatown.  

With the generally expensive price of alcohol in Singapore, these nights and other happy hour type events/promotions feature prominently in many bars and are a good way to enjoy a cheaper night out.  Ying Yang bar have launched their own Ladies Night which is being held every Thursday evening and ladies can enjoy happy hour prices all night long.*   


Typically, with an invite to a rooftop bar to look forward to, the heavens opened about half an hour before we were due to arrive and rather than a short sharp shower the rain just kept on pouring down.  Despite that though the bar staff erected a load of umbrellas over the exposed tables and sofas and continually swept up as much of the excess water as possible.  So I don't think the rain dampened anyone's spirits too much.  Eventually the rain ceased and the night got into full swing with drinks, food, DJ's and plenty of fun for all the ladies.  This included sampling some shots of a drink that is meant to ensure you wake up the next day without a hangover.  I sampled the shots and was fine the next morning but I'm not going to say that was thanks to the drink.  I had to be up early for work the next day and so didn't intend on drinking a large amount that night.  Let me know though if you've truly put it to the test and it worked!

This rooftop bar is a little smaller than some I've been to in Singapore but that makes for a cosier atmosphere when you are sharing a few drinks with good friends.  Of course you also get a view of the Singapore skyline too and in our case a free spectacular lightening show which continued long after the rain had stopped.


For more information about Ladies Night check out the Ying Yang Rooftop bar website.

*Terms and Conditions apply, available only whilst stocks last


This blog resulted from an invitation and represents the thoughts and opinions of the writer. All information on this blog is provided "as is", with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy or timeliness and the writer will not be liable for any losses, injuries or damages from the display or use of this information. All text and photos on this blog are the original works of the writer unless stated otherwise.



Thank you to notatourist.sg for the kind invitation.

11 September 2012

Harry Potter: The Exhibition

The ArtScience museum is currently playing host to 'Harry Potter: The Exhibition' and if you are a fan and haven't yet been I think you'll definitely want to go along and see it.  The exhibition has travelled to various locations around the world including New York and Sydney and will continue on its world tour once it leaves Singapore at the end of this month.



We were a bit late in going if I'm honest (it's been here since June) and I'd already heard lots about it from others.  The consensus though seemed to be that it was worth it if you were a fan of the books.  I've read the books, seen the films and enjoyed them all so figured I'd enjoy this too.

As you'd probably expect the exhibition gives you the chance to see all sorts of Harry Potter items from all the films.  Of course a lot of it is the actual costumes worn by various characters, but not just all the obvious ones.  There are many costumes of characters who only featured in one of the films, luckily the displays tell you which one it was rather than you having to remember.  Seeing some of Hermione's costumes from the more recent films though certainly confirmed how tiny Emma Watson must be!  There is a strict no photography policy in the exhibition itself though, so even more reason to go and see it yourself.

As well as costumes there are various props and models from the films, displayed in recreations of many of the key locations in the films.  There are also the models created and used in the films for characters such as Buckbeak and Kreacher the house elf amongst others.  They even have models of the food used in some of the sumptuous feasts held in the Great Hall on display (it looked good enough to eat).  

There are some hands on parts to the exhibition too, including the opportunity to pull a mandrake and sit in one of Hagrid's huge chairs.  Of course, there is the obligatory gift shop too with some rather cool things to buy.  This includes mugs, t-shirts and my favourite, Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans (in case you don't know there are some pretty yucky ones along with the more traditional flavours) as well as lots of other fun things for the die hard fans.

The exhibition's run in Singapore has almost finished, it closes on the 30 September 2012.  It's lots of fun so if you haven't been and you are a Potter fan make sure you go soon!

02 September 2012

Ronda

With our base being in the Costa del Sol and with access to a hire car it meant we could explore some of the region beyond just our immediate location.  For one of our trips we paid a visit to the beautiful historical city of Ronda.

Ronda is one of the oldest cities in Spain dating back to prehistoric times and is stunning, as the old part of the city is situated on a rocky ledge.  The current Ronda's origins date from Roman times when it was an important commercial area.  Ronda also has a lot of Islamic architectural heritage thanks to the Moorish influence on much of this part of Spain.

As well as being well known for its historical beauty Ronda is particularly famous for its bullring which dates from the 18th century and for the New Bridge.  The latest bridge being built in 1793, is not really that new any more, but is a remarkable piece of architecture spanning the valley below Ronda.


Outside the Bullring

Before heading to the old part of the city we visited the famous Bullring.  I'm not a fan of bull fighting and would never want to go and see one but the ring and the history of it is very much a part of what this city is famous for and is a big tourist draw.

The Bullring was built at the end of the 18th century, with the first fight taking place in 1785.  As you can see from the photo below the views over the surrounding mountains and countryside from the Bullring really were very impressive.  I have to admit to appreciating the open spaces all the more for the complete contrast it provided to Singapore.

Until I visited I had no real idea (or given any thought to) how big a Bullring is but this one, at least, seemed huge and just a little intimidating as you walked out into it.  As well as being able to walk in the Bullring there was also a bull fighting museum and a collection of harnesses and livery from the Royal House of Orleans.  These were used on the carriages of the Duke of Montpensier, one of the sons of King Louis Phillippe of France who lived in Andalucia from 1846.  The museum gives an insight into the history of bullfighting and is also home to some beautiful matador costumes, paintings, engravings and a collection of original posters announcing bullfights.


View from the Bullring

We also saw the antique fire-arms collection which included pieces from various Royal armouries in Europe, as well as hunting and duelling pistols.  Finally our tour took us to something which, for me at least, was a bit more interesting then the armouries, the School of Equestrianism.  When we visited there was sadly no riding taking place but the school teaches and trains riders in classic horse riding and if you visit at the right time you can watch the daily schooling of horse and rider.




Tile detail from the steps inside the Bullring leading to the seating






By the time we left the Bullring and museum I think we were all pretty exhausted as it was a blisteringly hot day and there was not a lot of shelter in the outside parts of the complex.  However as I mentioned Ronda is also known for its beautiful old city and fortunately the Bullring is located just a short walk from that.

I have to say I'm glad we made the effort to visit that too and if I ever return, having now visited the Bullring, I'd like to concentrate on exploring more of the old city that we did not see.  To enter the old part of the city we walked across the New Bridge which spans the deepest part of the gorge of Ronda over the River Guadalevin.  There has been a bridge there since the 16th century though this one dates from 1793.  The room that you can see on the bridge in the photo below (where the window is) was once used as a prison.  

As I said we were tired by this point and consequently only saw a small part of the old city but what we did was full of beautiful buildings, narrow streets and quiet courtyards with peaceful cafes to dream away a hot summer's day.  It's a really lovely place and somewhere I hope to return to again someday.

The New Bridge

View from the New Bridge

View from the New Bridge
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