Grocery Cart Taboo

This Sunday Kingsley and I got back into the swing of things and went yoga and sushi lunch. Later on the way home Kingsley kindly offered to go grocery shopping with me for the week and to help me with the heavy carrying of groceries.  Of course it had to start torrentially raining while we were in the store so we walked out with a shopping cart full of food and NO TAXI’s available.  Our only hope was to catch the number 11 bus but the bus stop was quite a distance from the store exit.
In Singapore all grocery carts have coin slots on them.  It costs a $1 coin to unlock the cart and you regain that $1 coin when you return the cart to its rightful spot with the other carts.  Its a great system because basically NO ONE takes the cart outside the designated cart zones for fear of not getting their $1 back.  Kingsley of course had to be a renegade and to the shock and horror of many onlookers pushed the brimming shopping cart in the rain all the way to the bus stop.  It was a brilliant move as we were able to get on the bus and did make it home in one piece with our groceries but I will always giggle at the stunned stares Kingsley received by onlookers watching him with that cart.

Rainy Sunday from Lynn Wood on Vimeo.

RIP Lee Kwan Yew

On March 23rd the "leader and visionary who through struggle and backbreaking years of work established Singapore as a nation and grew it to be an economic giant" passed away.

Throughout the, appropriately rainy and dreary day,  there was an outpouring of love and support from around the world. I was inspired to capture a few of the many impressive quotes I read that day about Singapore's amazing leader.

May you rest in peace Mr. Lee.

“A big man on a small stage.”
— Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State

“The leader who, perhaps, impressed me most was Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore… He was an individual who changed the course of history… Lee Kuan Yew took the right decisions for his country; he chose the right values and the right economic policies to ensure the development of a successful society. In this, he was an artist painting on the largest canvas that society can provide.”
— F.W. de Klerk, former President of South Africa

“This is one of the legendary figures of Asia in the 20th and 21st centuries. He is somebody who helped to trigger the Asian economic miracle.” (October 29, 2009)
— Barack Obama, President of the United States

“Lee Kuan Yew took a small spit of land in Southeast Asia, which became independent in 1965 after great struggle and anguish, with no resources and a polyglot population of Chinese, Malaysian, and Indian workers, and turned it into one of the economic centers of the world… He is still indisputably the father of Singapore. I was struck by the depth of his understanding of the world — China, Russia, and the United States — all at age 85.” (September 21, 2008)
— Fareed Zakaria, editor-at-large of Time Magazine

“The smartest leader I think I ever met.”
— Tony Blair, ex-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

“In my long life in public service, I have encountered many bright, able people. None is more impressive than Lee Kuan Yew.”
— George H.W. Bush, former President of the United States

"He and Dr Kissinger are probably the only two world statesmen who, after leaving office, find an open door to every head of state and government anywhere in the world.”
— Lord Carrington, former British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

“Over the years Lee has been called many things — unflattering as well as admiring. But perhaps the single most fitting description is: The Man Who Saw Tomorrow.”
— Zoher Abdoolcarim, Asia Editor of Time Magazine

Mallorca - Castillo Hotel

Nestled in the son vida hills of Palma de Mallorca, is a 13th-century castle-turned-luxury-hotel that overlooks the bay and the city center of Palma about 14 km away. The property is bordered by golf courses on 2 sides.  We spent 5 nights here in our complimentary upgraded room with a stunning balcony view where Kingsley and I would have enjoy our morning tea in the glorious island sunshine.

Another highlight of the hotel for me was the food.  They were very kind to cater to our gluten free restrictions and even made us cheeseburgers with a gluten free bun which Kingsley stated was his favorite meal of the trip!

Mallorca - Horse Riding

A MAJOR highlight of the trip for me was a two hour trail ride that I convinced Kingsley to go on with me through Hipica Formentor. They also offer two and four day trail rides through the mountains of Mallorca but somehow I am not sure Kingsley is cut out for a multi-day riding event.

During our horse riding adventure, I promise you, I have never laughed so much in my life. Kingsley, as an absolute beginner was placed on an big gentle giant of a horse who quickly figured out that Kingsley hadn't a clue so took full advantage of the situation doing as he pleased hanging back and then cheerfully trotting to catch up with my horse all the while Kingsley was bouncing around hanging on for dear life. It was priceless, just priceless. At one point I was laughing so hard I thought I might actually fall off my own horse! 

In the end Kingsley was a trooper and though I am quite sure I will never get him on another horse again...he ended the day a bit bowlegged yet with a smile on his face.

Mallorca Horse Riding from Lynn Wood on Vimeo.

Mallorca - Best Beaches

While on vacation its good to have some goals to get you out an exploring, in Mallorca we made an effort to explore a new beach each day of our trip. There are some of the most beautiful beaches in the world tucked away in little alcoves all over the island which is why, in my opinion, it is critical to rent a car while visiting the island. Kingsley did a fantastic job driving us around while I attempted to navigate the tiny mountain roads.  Many of the roads around the island are single lanes with lots of tight corners and switch backs which Kingsley handled like a pro. 

Cape Formentor 
Formentor – especially the ‘Cap de Formentor’ in peninsula’s Eastern end – is postcard perfect. Starting with 13.5km of winding roads that defy all safety and logic, the peninsula’s several lookout points and the lighthouse are beautiful and quiet spots to stop and reflect on the beauty all around.

Es Trenc
Arguably Mallorca's most famous beach, Es Trenc plays host to 5km of uninterrupted powedery white sand. It's the sort of setting where it's not a massive stretch of the imagination to picture Robinson Crusoe landing there. After a walk on the beach, Kingsley and I had a wonderful lunch at Sa Rapita a town well known for their fresh seafood.

Port d'Alcudia
 deserved place on the World's Best Beaches for 2012, Port d'Alcudia is another beach in the north east of the island. I heard it is also a great place to dive but the water was WAY too cold for us to consider diving this trip.

St. Elm and Port d' Andrtax were two of our favorite spots on the island.  Both are located in the south west part of the island.  The sunsets here were just magnificent. 

Port d Andratx sunset from Lynn Wood on Vimeo.

Mallorca - West Coast

Our first day in Mallorca was spent driving along the West Coast of the island which many have said is the most beautiful part of the island and I have to whole-heartedly agree.

We began the drive from Palma heading west on C-719, our first stops were Camp de Mar and Port D/ Andratx, two beautiful spots with sandy coves. Here summer vacationers mingle with fishermen in this natural port, which is set against a backdrop of pines. Port D'Andtax was once a haven for smugglers.

Leaving the port, we continued northeast along C-719 to reach the town of Andratx, 5km (3 miles) away. Because of frequent raids by Turkish pirates, this town moved inland. Located 31km (19 miles) west of Palma, Andratx is one of the loveliest towns on the island, surrounded by fortifications and a Gothic parish church.
Port d'Andratx

After leaving Andratx, we took the C-710 N, a tiny winding road that runs parallel to the island's jagged northwestern coast. This road was for us the highlight of the trip; most of the road is perched along the cliff edge and shaded by pine trees. We stopped at the Mirador Ricardo Roca for some lemon sorbet and the panoramic view of a series of coves. These coves can be reached only from the sea.

The invisible cats of Deia

We then continued to Estallenchs, a town of steep slopes surrounded by pine groves, olive and almond trees, and fruit orchards. Valldemossa, was the next major town and is where the composer Frédéric Chopin and the French writer George Sand spent their now-famous winters.

Beyond Valldemossa, the road ran along cliffs some 395m (1,300 ft.) high until they reach San Marroig, the former residence of Archduke Lluis Salvador, which is actually within the town limits of Deià. He erected a small neoclassical temple on a slope overlooking the sea to give visitors a panoramic vista.

We decided to stop and have lunch once we reached Deià. This was the home for many years of the English writer Robert Graves. Many other foreign painters, writers, and musicians have found inspiration in Deià, which is a virtual Garden of Eden.

Restaurant in Deia for lunch

Wurzburg - Family and the Flu

From Munich we had an uneventful train ride to Wurzburg to visit Kingsley’s sister Sally and her family. Sadly, both Kingsley and I were feeling a bit under the weather while visiting so I suspect we were fairly lame guests.  Rumor has it that this winter was a terrible year for the flu in Europe so perhaps Kingsley and I picked up a late-strain of it on our travels. Quite a bit of our time was spent sleeping and lounging on their couch while enjoying the stunning view of Wurzburg that Sally and Shaun have from their apartment.  It's certainly never fun to feel sick when traveling but staying with family is "home away from home" so it meant a lot that we could just relax and rest with them for a few days.  Sally kindly took us to the pharmacy in town where we were given homeopathic drops (6) every hour for the next 24 hours for our flu like symptoms.  We have no idea what was in them but even if it was a placebo affect, it seemed to help. 

While in Wurzburg we also got in a bit of playtime time with our gorgeous Nephew which of course was a highlight! And Sally made this incredible and healthy cheesecake recipe one evening which I fell in love with. She sent me the recipe so I am looking forward to a special occasion to make it. 

View from the living room 

Sally prepared a breakfast feast for us

Our last night together enjoying the best french fries in Wurzburg 

Munich - Not all German trains are on time

The train from Salzburg to Munich was...nearly uneventful. However there was a minor panic when we couldn’t figure out how to make the ticket machines at the station translate the info back into English so we could actually figure out what train to catch.  Thankfully, we were eventually able to find the information counter, book our tickets, and make it to the train with a few minutes to spare.  

Then there was the even more elevated panic when our train left Salzburg station 5 minutes late (German trains are notoriously never late) and I had this thought that perhaps we missed the 12pm train and were now on the 12:05pm train going to goodness knows where but certainly not Munich! Kingsley thankfully agreed to take one for the team and got quite a look when 20 minutes into our trip he asked one of the attendants if this was indeed the train to Munich.  The remainder of our train trip was thankfully uneventful.

Ian picked us up at the train station and skillfully guided us on the local trains to their beautiful apartment a Munich suburb.  Later we did a bit of exploring around Munich and checked out the Rauthas and then the local Hofbrau (beer hall) for an authentic German beer and a platter of German meats, cheeses and pickles.

We only had 24 hours in Munich and felt that the time went by much too quickly but it was so lovely to visit our friends and to experience a bit of this beautiful city through their eyes. 

Salzburg - A Weekend with Gulay and Ian

Salzburg is a romantic little town that sits in the foothills of the Alps. I have heard so much about this city so was pleased to have a chance to meet up with our good friends Gulay and Ian for a wintery weekend getaway in Salzburg

In addition to its natural charm, Salzburg gave us Mozart AND The Sound of Music. Both of which I am incredibly fond of, however, The Sound of Music was a particular favorite movie of mine growing up.

Over the weekend we explored: Old town, The Catacombs in St. Pete's Cemetery, and took the vernacular up to Hohensalzburn Fortress.  We also ate our first authentic Schnitzel and I tried my first taste of homemade Gluehwein, which is incredibly warming after walking around Salzburg in the winter.  

During the afternoon, we stopped at Cafe Tomaselli for some tea and a small pastry dessert. Dating from 1703, it is the classic Salzburg coffeehouse. Evidently Mozart used to come to this cafe often. The waiters were all men who wore fancy suits and took our orders for drinks and food. Seperatly there is a pastry lady who comes around with a tray of AMAZING looking pastries for you to choose from. Word of warning you will not be able to say no to the pastries, and they taste as good as they look! You pay for these items separately, which I found kind of odd.

The cafe obviously does very well in Salzburg and was buzzing with customers while we were there. What stood out to me was that none of them were looking down at their cell phones or any other devices for that matter...I thought that perhaps we had found some kind of magical place where cell phones and social media had not yet reached, but then I noticed the NO CELL PHONE sign hanging on the wall of this 300 year old building and had a sad thought that no where is "safe" anymore...

Our weekend in Salzburg flew by with some wonderful new memories made with some special friends.

Salzburg - Hotel Sacher's Epic Breakfasts

One of the highlights of Salzburg for me was our beautiful Hotel Sacher accommodation. Due to the fact that it was off peak season we were able to get a very good rate for our room and we were even upgraded to a room with the view of the river. Later I learned that the 2015 rates for the hotel were 700 Euros per night! Yikes!

We selected the Hotel Sacher for the location and, if I am honest, because the Trip Advisor breakfast reviews were incredible!  It is directly across the river from the old city and within easy walking distance of all the key areas in Salzburg.

Even with the glowing reviews buzzing around in my head leaving quite a high standard to live up to...I was incredibly impressed by the morning breakfasts. They even served gluten free bread for Kingsley and I, though I have to admit I cheated later by indulging in their non-gluten free world famous chocolate torte. It was worth it! We had fresh squeeze grapefruit juice with a splash of champagne, omelets, cheeses from all over the world and so much more and everything was delicious.

I am a big tea drinker, some might even say a tea snob, and have been known to bring my own tea bags when we travel just in case the selection is limited wherever we are staying. Hotel Sacher scored even extra points from me by having the most divine tea selection. I especially enjoyed their Althaus green tea and without fail woke up each morning obsessing thinking about it to the point where ordering a pot of it via room service was required to pacify me.

River view from our room

Barcelona - Gaudi is not Gaudy

Before vacationing in Barcelona I’d never heard of Gaudi, a Catalan architect considered a master of Modernism. If you’d asked me what Gaudi meant to me, I would have said it meant “excessively showy” (as in “gaudy”, which ironically is not related to Gaudi since the use of the term, “gaudy” dates back to the 1500s.)
Cassa Milla/ La Pedrera 

It has been called "A great petrified wave". This building was commisiioned by Pere Mila and his wife to be used as apartments and a family home. This was built when Gaudi was 54 at the height of his career and was declared a UNESCO Heritage site in 1984.

What makes Casa Mila a genuine architectural masterpiece is the fact that there are no load bearing walls; the building, including the façade, is supported by a structure of columns and curved iron beams surrounding an open courtyard from the lobby to the attic.

I especially loved how his floor plans and designs optimized light and ventilation. 

The unusual room with an undulationg shapes cleverly mask ventilation shafts and chimneys 

Gaudi rarely drew his buildings, preferring to model them in clay. But what I really found interesting was Gaudi’s use of hanging chains as he designed. For instance, in order to visualize the forces gravity would have on his buildings, Gaudi would hang weighted chains upside down in a model of the building. In this way, he could see where the building needed to be structurally sound. It may be hard to see in this photo, but hopefully you get the general idea:

Casa Battlo

There isn’t one straight angle to be found inside Casa Battlo. Every door, window frame, wall, staircase or hallway is curvy, and meant to provide a maritime feeling with waves of peaceful color and sensation. The staircase wraps itself around a central elevator, with empty wells of light on either side, supplying light to the entire building.

I'm not generally hugely impressed by architecture but something about Gaudi's work was incredibly inspiring to me.  I love that he designed using nature as a guide and he was always creativley  designing to enhance the natural light and ventilation.  I would highly recommend visiting a few of his masterpieces while in Barcelona.