A Travellerspoint blog

Barcelona – Big things that come in small packages

A melting pot of culture and fun

sunny 30 °C

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I was planning to visit Barcelona since the 1992 Olympics. Some of us might remember the archer firing the arrow to light up the flame cauldron during the opening ceremony as well as photos of some of the most impressive architecture by Gaudi. I arrived at Barcelona on a train from Marseille in the late afternoon. It was interesting when I switched to the next train at FIGUERES VILAFANT station the Spanish came up speaking their language loudly startled me since I spent a few days getting accustomed to soft French. I quickly checked into the hostel and move out to visit the famous Sagrada Familia. The queue in the late afternoon was not too bad and I managed to get in with ease. Bought a combi ticket for the Gaudi’s Museum at Parc Guell so total of €14.50 for both entrances. The construction for this building is still ongoing and according to what’s written on the ticket, the monies collected from ticket sales is donated to see the project into completion because this project is not funded by any private or government institutions. The ground breaking ceremony started in 1882 and the expected date of completion will be 2026 and was recently consecrated by the Pope in 2010. Photos of it are on display in Sagrada Familia’s lower ground museum. I am very impressed by Gaudi who was inspired by nature such as flowers, buds, bees, honey combs and incorporate them into his designs of buildings and capturing natural lights coming into his buildings. Unfortunately, Gaudi died in a tram accident in 1926 when less than a quarter of this building is completed. He also included many sculptures around the façade such as Jesus’ birth to His passion as well as scripture verses on the entrance of Sagrada Familia. I took extensive amount of photos within this temple and then took a long deserving rest seated at the pews to enjoy the calm, beautiful and charming interior design. It is said that upon completion of the spires, Sagrada Familia will be the tallest church building in the world at 170m in height. If you want to have a nice view of the city, there’s a lift access to the towers at €2. I suggest you to skip the view if you have already had your share of paid tower views and head on to Park Guell for the same view at no charge.

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I took a train to L3 Lesseps station and walk to Park Guell, another Gaudi’s design. You can find the signs at the road posts and start walking. It looks really close on the map from Lessep station but I had to walk for 1.2km to reach the Park! Later I realized there’s a better way take the metro L3 get off at Vallcarca-exit Hospital Militar which is only half the walk away compared to Lessep station. Better still if you want to appear right at it’s grand entranceway catch the bus 24 (direction: Carmel). From, Plaça Catalunya, Diagonal or at Plaça Lesseps. The park was really gorgeous! The 2 buildings at the entrance reminded me of some fairy tale candy houses. I climbed higher and deeper into the park to Gaudi’s museum before it closes and saw some collectible furnitures from Casa Mila. It’s small and nothing to shout about. I would advise you to skip this part if you are thinking to save some money. I loved the park and spent almost 2 hours hiking up and sitting at the open area watching other tourists relaxed as well as performers, souvenir peddlers going about their own thing. I almost fell asleep as the sun sets and a cooler breeze follow suit, definitely a must visit place and have I told you it’s FREE?
Eating out in Spain is really cheap. I was advised to have some tapas, paella and cava(sparkling wine). I went into this restaurant called Pollo Rico at San Pablo 31 which is next to La Rambla and had a sumptuous meal of paella and cava for a very reasonably cheap price. I ordered the cava which was priced at €4.75 and I thought it was only a glass, but they gave me a bottle for that price. I almost could not walk straight after having a whole bottle of that.

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The next morning, I have decided to join a Free Walking Tour of the Barri Gothic and Picasso. At least I get some good history lessons around that area which most told me they easily get lost inside the Barri Gothic. It seems Barcelona was a dark area full of drug users and others before 1992 Olympics changed the face of the city. The guide told us that Barcelona’s sand on it’s beach has been bought from the Sahara Desert for the sake of beautifying it in preparation for the games as well as clean ups on other areas to attract tourists. Back in Roman and Catalonian history, Barcelona was called Barcino and at Placa Nova you can find school of Architecture where a simple stickman mural was painted on it. The Mural was captured by Pablo Picasso impersonating Joan Miro’s work after he had some absinthe and drew on a table cloth in the midst of rage. Someone submitted the table cloth to the Institute as an entry piece for the mural competition and it was selected. Later when the city restructured itself when government wanted to group people of the same profession to live together, this had great protests from the rich ones as they wanted to stay with other rich people so I was also told the origins of Passeig de Gracia street was a place where rich and famous of that time wanted to stay with each other and they needed to break the aqueducts to make way for it. Some of the buildings inside the Barri Gothic had stones that were taken from the Jewish cemetery at Montjuic with some Jewish writings on it which you can see at Victory Square. Bull fights was passed as illegal in Spain after the last fight on 25th Sept 2011 however, you can still go up to Placa Espana to have a look at the bull fighting arena.

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The resident saint at Catalonia is St. Jordi (or St. George) who is depicted as slaying the dragon to save the princess and after slaying the dragon, the dragon’s blood spilt over the land and produced nice roses which he offered to the princess. Hence thereafter, 23rd April has been declared Barcelona’s Valentine’s day where men will give their lover roses and the ladies in return give their men a book (maybe it coincides with William Shakespear’s death or International Book Day). You can find some carvings in the walls that depict this mighty Saint slaying the dragon, just look out for it around Barcelona. Also you can find the Barri Gothic is Bishop’s bridge right next to the Bishop’s house. Long time ago, religion governs everything including law and order, so the Bishop’s house is connected to the government buildings for easy access and a bridge connects them. Mythical belief is that if you walk backwards under the Bishop’s bridge while making a practical wish, it will come true. Also there are some old churches inside the Barri Gothic which have survived the Spanish war and the fascists regime. Example of one is at Pza St. Felip Neri which was used as an execution square for Jews and you can still find bullet holes on the walls of the church as they used it as an execution wall.

Picasso studied at the school of art which is in Barri Gothic as well. His earlier works reflect some of the places and people he met while loitering at Carrer De Avinyo, especially the prostitutes there. Next is Placa Reial where many restaurants are at and you will be able to find two lamp posts designed by Gaudi stands in the square. We were also told to beware of the nude old Elephant man walking around if we decide to go to the nude/gay beach. I headed down to 1.6-kilometer-long Barceloneta Beach (not a nudist beach, yes they have a pure nudist and gay beach in Barcelona) for some sun and sea after seeing much of the city. The beach was full of people sun bathing along the beach rather than swimming in the sea. Saw some peddlers walking around selling cold beer and offering massage for a fee. Since I am Asian and came from a place full of sun whole year long, I found a nice beach bench and hid under an umbrella for some rest, not wanting to get too much of the sun. I think I rested there for almost an hour until a man came around my bench and asked if I have paid for the bench and umbrella usage. I told him I didn’t know it was charge-able as there was no sign written at the beach area, he showed me the tickets for about €11 and he asked me to leave if I didn’t want to pay and I happily obliged to his request to just leave. In the evening, I went to Montjuic and managed to catch the sun set view over the city, however I was waiting for the magic fountain’s performance every half-hour between 9:00pm and 11:00pm but was told by another traveler that the performance doesn’t operate on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays during May to September while October to April it only takes place on Fridays and Saturdays every half-hour between 7:00 and 8:30pm. So I was disappointed at Montjuic because the fountain does not operate and also because the Montjuic Art Museum was also closed for a private function. Then later in the night I took a train to see Casa Batlló (Gaudi’s work) at night, which was very beautiful.

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The next morning, I enjoyed myself strolling along Passeig de Gracia window shopping until I have reached Casa Mila (La Pedrera – Gaudi’s work). Both Casa Batlló and Casa Mila is on the same street but bear in mind that Passeig de Gracia is a very long street. I lined up and paid €11 for my visit to Casa Mila, you can get 20% discount if you bought Barcelona Card (€27.50 for 2 days & €33.50 for 3 days valid on all transports, some free entrances and discounts on museum visits). I didn’t get the card because I didn’t think I will get to visit so many of the listed items and most of the places I wanted to visit are free anyway. I bought a T-10 ticket at the machine instead, which valid for 10 journeys with 1 journey calculated as within 1hours and 15 minutes on any metro lines or changes to a bus. A T10 costs only €8.25 and will save you the trouble of buying individual tickets for each journey as well as saving you money. A normal single journey ticket costs you €1.45 so with a T10 you save 6.15 Euros for 10 journeys! Let’s get back to my visit to Casa Mila, it was quite expensive but worth your money because the roof top has wonderful designs by Gaudi. Do take the lift up to the rooftop if you want to save your energy or not wanting to do any climbing, you will also get to go into the attic area where It is now a small museum for you to understand more of Gaudi’s architectural designs. After that, DO NOT take the lift downstairs to the lobby, if you just use the stairs down 2 levels, you will enter one of the apartments and get to see how it was like as Gaudi designs with it’s complete furnishing of that time. I recommend about 1-1.5 hours to walkthrough everything. There are some nice restaurants along Passeig de Gracia as well but the prices will be a bit steep compared to elsewhere. After this trip to Barcelona, I have concluded that it has something for everyone. From beach bummers to architectural enthusiasts, food and party goers to history lovers, art enthusiasts to couples looking for a simple romantic getaway, it is truly a place which I will re-visit in time to come.

Posted by jokermiss 08:13 Archived in Spain Tagged architecture history museum fun sun gaudi parc picasso Comments (0)

Marseille , France

sunny 24 °C

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Marseille is the second largest city in France, I was attracted by the photos on the Port and the connection to Barcelona, so I have set my trip to visit Marseille after Paris before heading towards Barcelona. I took a train from Paris Gare de Lyon to Marseille on the TGV. I bought a PREM ticket which was really cheap at only €22 one way to Marseille, a 3 hour’s ride away. Can’t wait to get out of the hustle and bustle of the big city of Paris to enjoy a few days of peace and quiet at Marseille. Marseille St. Charles station is as straight forward and direct as it seems. You can view almost all the trains when you step into the station, can’t go wrong with it. There are only two METRO Lines, which made me very happy after experiencing Paris’s METRO nightmare. I bought a single ticket €1.50 and took the underground METRO to Vieux-Port station and got off. My accommodation was at Rue Breteuil which is up a slightly steep road left of Vieux-Port station. It’s near to Notre dame De La Garde on the hill which is about 800m away. Marseille is very walkable however you need to avoid dog poo along the way as owners don’t pick up after their dogs.

Before long, you will soon find the city easily navigate-able. Most of the attractions are situated along the U shape at Vieux-Port area other than Palais Longchamp and Notre Dame De La Garde. As you walk along the Vieux Port area, you will find eateries and pastry shops along the way. I stopped to try their cappuccino and 2 French pastries for only €6.40, not bad compared to Paris which would have costs me twice as much. Look out for Savon (organic soup famous in Provence area). Walking along the housing areas in the city further reminded me of Manhattan as I saw in the movies. The recent films that were filmed in Marseille were The Bourne Identity(2002), Love Actually (2003) The Transporter 3 (2008). I took an uphill walk the next morning towards Notre Dame De La Garde which you will be able to view on a hill, the highest point in Marseille. The statue of Mary with child on top of the Notre Dame de la Garde reminded me of the Jesus statue over Rio de Janeiro for some reason. It was a long steep walk up to the cathedral but the view was breathtakingly beautiful. I overheard a group of senior citizen tourist from USA saying this will be the one and only time they are going to be there as they grasp for air hanging on to the railings of the flight of stairs which I find really amusing as I watched them. The Cathedral was rather small and has two levels of places of worship. It has more than 100 years of history and filled with some photos of saints and statues and other relics. After enjoying the view and rested for a bit, I begun descending towards the Vieux-Port area and walked towards Fort St. Nicholas and Abbaye St. Victor at the end of the Vieux-Port. Both places do not charge entrance fees and you can take a very good photo of Fort St. Jean from Fort St. Nicholas. Then take a walk to the other end of Vieux-Port where Fort St. Jean and La Cathedral de la Nouvelle Major are at. The Cathedral de la Nouvelle Major is closed on Mondays also is Palais Longchamp which is a few stations away from Veiux-Port. They have their own local Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of the city as well.

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I walked downtown towards the local Notre Dame and you will surely pass by Galleries Lafayette shopping mall on your left. I managed to buy some nice French red wine for just €4.50 a bottle as well as other groceries if you fancy cooking a meal. The mall also sells some designer items but very limited in its selections. Do try out the local rendition of McDonald’s called Quick Burger. It’s far tastier but also more expensive than McD. I really enjoyed a slow and easy few days at Marseille meeting a bunch of nice backpackers at the hostel before leaving to Barcelona. I was told you can rent a bike for €1 and take the local train to other towns and do some cycling exploration of the suburbs. It’s worth a stop if you want to rest before heading to another big city. Highly recommended for food and leisure!

Posted by jokermiss 01:02 Archived in France Tagged landscapes culture summer cathedral port french europe notre dame pastries vieux Comments (0)

A Parisian Revelation

Paris & Versailles

sunny 26 °C

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Paris was rated by Frommers as one of the top 10 walk-able cities in the world and I discovered how true it was when I got there. It was filled with scenic garden, river and iconic buildings. However, the METRO and RER lines can be quite daunting to first timers, there are 16 METRO lines and 5 RER lines running in Paris. I landed in Orly Airport and got all of my information, transportation tickets and attraction entrance tickets at the Tourists Information Counter right at the arrival hall. City Maps are also available at the baggage collection area. I have bought a Paris Visite Pass an all inclusive pass to travel on METRO, RER and bus lines zone 1-6 at about €30 & the Versailles castle pass at €18. Cheapest transport to the city can be taken on Orlybus which you can hop on at arrive hall exit K & proceed to Quai 4 to catch the bus. A single ticket to the city would cost €6.40 and my Paris Visite pass zone 1-6 have covered that. Tickets are called “Billets” in French. Make sure you put your ticket into the validating machine on the bus or you can also choose to pay at the driver’s when you hop on. Traffic was not very smooth that day because of rush hour. It took about 45 minutes to get to Denfert Rochereau bus station and there connects to METRO Line 4, Line 6 and RER B.

As it is a walk-able city, I have decided to make my first day very much a walking trip. I disliked the looks of the METRO the first time I went on one. It’s dirty and didn’t give me a good impression of the city above and just a few stops would take a long time for me if requires changing lines. Walking is still a better option. My first destination of the day was the famous Notre Dame Cathedral. The queue was not very long and entrance was free. The audio guide charges for €5 and will explained to you the various history and aspects of the place including the sculptures, carvings depicting events that has happened before Jesus’s ascension, religious articles and etc. It was filled with beautifully designed stained glass as well, definitely one of the icon in the city of Paris. From there, I walked towards Pantheon and Luxembourg garden. It was a sunny day at the end summer where many people were out sun bathing at the park while I ran for shelter. The garden was large which fountains, sculptures, plants, flowers and probably may take about 20-30 minutes to go around, it was pleasant nonetheless. After the relaxing walk at the garden, I took a bus towards Lourve Museum and walked along the Seine River. I passed by some pet shops, flower shops and café and I watched many relaxed while facing the river with a cuppa. I reached Lourve Museum on a Friday late afternoon and the queue was not very long. The place was huge with a few levels and different wings. Of course the main attraction there was the Mona Lisa painting at the first floor of the Museum. I would estimate at least 2.5 hours to have a brief complete view the museum. Lourve has an extended opening hours on Wednesday s & Fridays until 9:45pm and entrance ticket and ticket costs €10: full-day access to the Louvre, except for temporary exhibitions in the Hall Napoléon. Be very aware that this museum closes on Tuesdays.

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After enjoying a good art tour, I walked out of the museum towards a stone arch and walked down towards Champ Elysees. It’s a near 2km walk from the Lourve Museum towards Arc de Triomphe. It was full of gardens along both sides and fountains as well as sculptures. Also closer to Arc de Triomphe are high end shops catering to shoppers. The local luxury brand Louis Vuitton always has a queue outside of it’s shop whichever LV shop you go to in Paris as many flock to buy the luxurious items at a discounted price in it’s country of origin. If you wish to go up the Arc de Triomphe, the standard ticket is €9, however if you show them your Paris Visite Pass, you get a discounted rate at €6. Behind Arc de Triomphe, I took the METRO to Eiffel Tower and watched the sunset over the Eiffel as many laid their picnic mats on the grass enjoying the view of the tower with some French wine and snacks. You will find some street sellers selling wine and Eiffel Tower’s keychains and souvenirs’ if you need a cheap bargain for these items, you may get some from them however authenticity of the souvenirs are not guaranteed. Lights came on at the tower around 7:30pm and for every hour after that, it presented a 5 minutes glittering lights show which made the Eiffel looked like a huge Christmas tree. I have pre bought the Eiffel Tower ticket online on this website http://www.eiffel-tower.com/ and therefore I did not need to queue at the ticket counter, however I still need to queue at the entrance gate. You may choose to ascend to Deck 2 or Deck 3, an adult ticket to Deck 3 highest point costs €13.40. While waiting for my pre-booked timing to visit the Eifel Tower which was at 9:30pm, I walked across to the River Seine to have a quick snack. There are a few riverside stalls available that you can sit and relax while watching the river cruise pass by. The queue to go up to Eiffel is still quite a long one. Expect about 1.5 hours from the time you queue into the lift that takes you up to Deck 2, take some photos, enjoy the view and adjourn to another smaller lift that takes you up to Deck 3 and back down again. Bear in mind that the METRO starts closing at 11pm, you may have trouble catching the train especially if you need to change lines to get back to your accommodation. That was what happened to me and I had only managed to catch the last train and unable to change the line back to my accommodation. I had to get off at the nearest station and used the city map to walk back, which took me 45 minutes of swift walking. That was my wonderful first day experience in Paris. Second day would be my Versailles trip.

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Versailles situated southwest outside of Paris about 45 minutes train ride on the RER Line C towards Chateau de Versailles. I expect to spend a whole day there, the entrance queue into Versailles Palace was 5 times longer than the queue at Eiffel Tower. This palace was a residence of King Louis XIV since 1682 and is definitely one of the largest palace grounds in the world. It contains 350 years of history on the Palace, the Gardens, the Grand Trianon and Marie-Antoinette’s Estate (Austrian princess and wife of Louis XVI). The Hall of Mirrors and the grandeur of the palace rooms will captivate any first timers for hours. After which you can proceed to the Gardens for €6 and take a long 45 minutes walk towards the Grand Canal. In between the garden of maze, you’ll find restaurants, sculptures and fountains. I spent about 6 hours there in Versailles which I did not manage to see everything yet. Be aware that ticketing is separate for the 4 places within Versailles. I would recommend buying the ticket only when you have the time and energy to explore. I ate a late lunch at a small restaurant in Versailles town and also witness a Jewish wedding before heading back to Paris.I took a train to Opera area and visited the Galleries LaFayette for a quick shopping escapade. Paris offers about 12% VAT refund from large malls and higher percentage at smaller shops. Just look out for the sign Duty Free shopping or VAT Refund available. If you shop anything more than €175 a day in a single shop, you are entitled for VAT refund. No wonder there are crowds in Galleries Lafayette where there are thousands of items on sale in the same store it opens until 7:30pm Monday to Saturday with an extended opening hours on Thursday until 9pm. It closes on Sundays.

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The next morning on my 3rd day in Paris, I woke up early and took a train to Montmartre to visit Sacre Coeur in the highest point in Paris. Mornings are rather quiet and refreshing to walkabout however, if you are going to Sacre Coeur, you will need to be careful not to walk on some broken bottle glasses and smell of urine from the night before as many goes up to Sacre Coeur to watch the night view of Paris city and irresponsibly left all of that behind. The street cleaners will start cleaning up about 9-9:30am but to clean up all of that would take some time. Some background about Sacre Coeur, it was built between 1875 and 1919 and the opening hours are 6.45am to 11pm, daily. The church was dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a cult that gained popularity after 1873, when the first pilgrimage was organized to Paray-le-Monial in Burgundy. It was there that revelations encouraging prayer to Christ's sacred heart had been reported in the 17th century. A climb to the top of the dome provides an excellent view of Paris - at 271 feet above Montmartre it is the second-highest viewpoint after the Eiffel Tower - and the walk around the inside of the dome alone is worth the climb. The dome is supported by 80 columns, each topped with a different capital. The crypt contains statues of saints and a relic that some believe to be the very Sacred Heart (Sacré-Coeur) of Christ. I walked down from Sacre Coeur and went to the Montmartre weekend flea market along Anvers and walked towards Pigalle and Blanche to see the Moulin Rouge . Many artists lived there before and you can take a Montmartre Walking Tour to appreciate more of the area with it’s rich history. Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh and Picasso who lived in Montmartre in late 19th / early 20th centuries. Vincent Van Gogh’s house which he lived from 1886-1888 was at a 3rd floor apartment, 54 Rue Lepic which is a short walk from the Moulin Rouge. If you plan to catch a can can performance with set dinner at the Moulin Rouge, be prepared to spend €150. I prefer to just admire the exterior façade and watch the performance on Youtube instead, it does save me a whole lot.

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Posted by jokermiss 00:17 Archived in France Tagged flowers paris eiffel summer rouge seine versailles moulin lourve notre dame da vinci Comments (0)

Journey to the land of Ceylon Tea

sri lanka tea plantation hills waterfall

rain 18 °C

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When I touched down in this land, it looked like Malaysia 30 years back. The architecture and infrastructure is not very organized. This former place known as Ceylon (famous for it’s world-renowned Ceylon tea production) stands around the lower middle class of India. Things are not as cheap as I imagined it to be in Sri Lanka. Most of the things sold, especially food are more expensive than in Malaysia! My group were picked up in a van from Colombo and went on our way to our intended destination Nuwara Eliya which is the hilly tea plantation of the country. Colombo is rather hot and humid in February, not to mention get ready for a bumpy ride as many roads in Sri Lanka are filled with pot holes or just simply dangerously narrow. We first stopped by Kitulgala Rest House which is scenically located on the banks of the Kelaniya, the second largest river in Sri Lanka. This rest house was a location for David Lean's award-winning movie, Bridge on the River Kwai. You can take a good rest here and dine at The Bridge Restaurant!

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From there on we went on a bumpy uphill ride of about 4 hours or so to Kotagala, Greenhills retreat centre to rest for the night before going another 2 hours uphill to Nuwara Eliya. The weather turned coller as we ascend. We went around Hattan town to shop as it was closer to Kotagala. We also went to see Devon Falls and Tea Castle which is about 1 hour away from Kotagala. The Tea Castle in St. Claire’s is newly built in the recent years to cater for tourist and locals who would like to have a nice time enjoying the cool weather and beautiful flowers while having their meal or tea. They also sell nicely packages tea in the centre and castle. Best grade tea is BOPF which is the finest cut grade which is made into English Breakfast Tea. Other normal grades include BOP in normal tea bags that we have. When you tour the Tea Castle, you’ll be able to read some history of tea auction since the British occupation in the land. Many brands of tea are for sale there. Make sure you get your share of it. It ranges from normal black tea to flavoured teas such as strawberry tea, passion fruit tea, maple tea and etc. I simply love my strawberry flavoured tea!

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We went up to Nuwara Eliya after that and the weather became even cooler and wet during this season. Make sure you bring along more warm clothes when you plan to go there. Do visit the local market when you have a chance. You’ll be able to see various colour of curry powders or even rice for sale. The locals don’t generally consume a lot of meat as it is very expensive to afford. Bananas are plenty and cheap if you want to get your share of a tropical fruit. There are many famous tea factories that you can visit in Nuwara Eliya, along the way you will pass by plantations which you can personally see tea pluckers going into the plantation barefooted and plucking the ripe leaves for tea. The usually carry the huge baskets on their back and would work throughout the day. Manual labour is still cheap in Sri Lanka, therefore, all the plantations uses manual workers. We chose to go to visit a tea factory at Lover’s Leap. Here a short history of the factory which I read on the signboard: Lover’s Leap Division was the only estate which was owned by Mr. James Taylor, the pioneer tea planter who started the tea planting enterprise in Sri Lanka, when he planted 17 acres of tea in 1886 in Loolecondera Estate Hewahata. You’ll be given instructions to follow your factory tour guide around the factory as they explain each step of process to you. From plucking the leaves to the drying process to cutting the tea into different grades and packing it for auction. At the end of the tour, you’ll need to tip your guide and buy a cup of tea as well. It was a really educational experience indeed.

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Out along the streets towards the town of Nuwara Eliya has many shops and stalls which you can get a good bargain for things. Make sure you do a good bargaining with them. I was told that Sri Lanka doesn’t really have many clothing factories anymore so the price of clothing might not be as cheap as before. Overall, it was a good experience having all the various curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as tea for every occasion especially to any places you visit.

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Posted by jokermiss 21:20 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged hills tea falls plantation Comments (0)

Venezia, Murano, Burano

semi-overcast 12 °C

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I got into Venice at night at 9:30pm. The airport is situated at the mainland and I had bought a return bus ticket €5.50 from Marco Polo airport to Piazza Le Roma. I should had just gotten a Combi ticket of €18 for a 24 hours unlimited bus and ferry ride. “Line” actually means water transport lines (ali laguna). Venice is well divided into a few areas with Marco Polo at the mainland, Venezia (where vehicles are not permitted up to some point), Murano Island, Burano Island, Torcello Island, Lido(the 11km sandy beach island where vehicles are allowed and hosts the Venice Film Festival) and other smaller Islands. Not every stop has a ticket check for entry and exit. Burano and Port Fort Nove are two that needs a ticket.

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People in Venice are very helpful. I did not have a map and was struggling to find my hotel. Luckily I walked into a nearby hotel at the San Zacaria jetty and the staff printed out a map and drew the directions to my hotel. The small lanes were still confusing because there weren’t any names of the lanes written on the map, so good luck getting lost in Venice if you are there for the first time. But it is really safe even when it doesn’t look like it and the dark and small lanes give you the creeps. The best way to navigate yourself is walk towards a square, which most cases are open areas and look at the wall which is written Campo. Venice is relatively small, beautiful and walk-able. Best time to get out is when the sun rises at 6am. Give yourself some estimation of time and factor in for extra time needed if you get lost in finding your way around or just pause while being captivated by the beauty of the city when you are doing your walking tour.

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Set a day for your island hoping trip to discover the nearby islands. I woke up early and walked towards Fort Nove and passed by an old church. Venice is full of old churches and entry to most are free. I bought a 12 hours ticket and went to Murano Island which is just 5 minutes ferry ride away. At Murano, there are many glass making factories where you can watch a free demonstration of glass making however, don’t buy anything from these shops as the prices have been set very high even though they promised a hefty discount. Try comparing prices at various other shops before you make your decision. Chances are you may be able to find the same thing in other shops at a much cheaper price. Most shops open at 10am. Take a good 2 hours walk around Murano and you will find many more design of Murano glass sold by many shops. From jewelries, to household display, lights to décor all made with the famous colourful Murano glass.

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At Murano Island, walk towards the Faro jetty where you could take a ferry to Burano island. You will pass by Campo Santo Stefano, the main square of Murano island where you will find the clock tower and a glass comet as the Murano island icon. At the square, you will be able to find other creative glassworks made by artisans. Further down, walk towards Palazzo de Mula, the main canal of Murano where the long bridge is. I really enjoyed the scenery there.

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At Faro, you will find a lighthouse, take a 25 minutes ferry ride to Burano island notable for its lace works and colourful buildings. It was a breathe of fresh air from Venice and Murano as the locals are friendlier and you will be able to walk through their neighbourhood to admire the simple yet colourful décor at the windows and doorpost. If you have time to spare, I strongly suggest you stay on this island for at least 2 hours just sit on the benches and enjoy the scenery. Beat the buzz by first walking away from the crowd towards the further end of the local neighbourhood on the right of the pier.

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Across from Burano is the island called Torcello. It used to be the most populated island long long time ago but now it has only 13 occupants on that island. It has one of the oldest church around. It’s a short 3 minutes ride.
Then from Burano, I took the ferry to Lido, the long sandy strip island where they are many houses, departmental stores, vehicles are allowed. It was no different than other city life. The Venice Film Festival is also organized here yearly.

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Lastly, back to Venice to enjoy a walk towards the Rialto bridge at night and enjoy some shopping around the area with fine restaurants. The next morning, I walked around Piazza San Marco and San Marco Basilica. You could feed some pigeons there. Then I took the long ferry ride from San Zaccaria on the grand canal to Piazza Le Roma to catch the bus to the airport.

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Posted by jokermiss 00:07 Archived in Italy Tagged water venice canal laguna campo Comments (0)

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