Eze and the unforgettable toilet

Eze and the unforgettable toilet

Walt Disney and I have one thing in common: we both love Eze in France. I fell in love with it at first glance, the moment I held my chin high to spot the medieval town that’s perched on a hilltop. Eze, also called Eagle’s nest because of its location, has a magnificent view of the sea. Jardin d’Ezé As I stood in the garden, Jardin d’ Eze, I imagined ancient times when Phoenicians crossed the Mediterranean Sea, found Eze, and built a temple for Isis. There is an ankh, an Egyptian cross, in the church as a proof of the Phoenician visit. While I romanticized about Eze, my six-year old loved zigzagging through the garden filled with cacti and succulents. Hubby took pictures by the thousands. Met Luc Villard There are many boutiques with handmade products and art. So we visited some, found our favorites, and bought some items. The painters we met, Barbara Blanche and Luc Villard, were very accommodating. And we liked their paintings, especially Luc’s abstracts. Somehow I regret that I did not buy a wide-brimmed Italian hat, but you see, my rule is that I only buy stuffs made from the country that I visit. Unforgettable toilet experience Then came the need to visit the restroom. We needed coins, but we didn’t have any. The gentleman ahead of me in the short queue offered a coin, and I accepted it. But then when he came out of the toilet and it was my turn, I felt that I could get in the toilet anyway and left his coin back to him. That was mistake. I...
Prince’s Palace of Monaco

Prince’s Palace of Monaco

It was late in the afternoon when we came to the hilltop where the Prince’s Palace of Monaco is perched. We only had less than two hours to roam the area because the shops and other establishments were closing for the day. Pity, because I liked this area more than the casino area where we spent most of the time. It’s calmer in this area, and you can see down to the high rise luxury houses and see gardens on rooftops. That’s a dream apartment for me: a condo with a rooftop garden. We didn’t go in the palace, so we could only judge it from its facade. It didn’t look so royal, compared to other huge palaces. It even looked quite modern. But perhaps it was because much of it was renovated during Prince Rainier III:s (Grace Kelly’s hubby) time. But it is built from an old palace. It is the only palace of the ruling Grimaldi family since the 13th century. While other European rulers built several palaces, the Grimaldi family didn’t bother to build extra, but instead built extra wings, towers and the like in the same palace. During the time of the French Revolution, France annexed Monaco and took over the palace. It was during this time that many art collections and furniture in the palace were plundered. There was also a princess from Monaco that was guillotined at that time.  But oh Monaco and the Grimaldi family had a reputation for being louche, decadent. That’s because the wealth of the royal family and this tiny nation came from the casino. Monte Carlo was (and is still)...
Nice the Beautiful

Nice the Beautiful

Nice is the second most popular French city after Paris. Nice is also called Nice la belle, which means Nice the Beautiful. A deserving name for a beautiful city. These were the places we’ve been at in Nice: 1. Castle Hill  2. Promenade du Paillon 3. Promenade de Anglais and of course relaxing at the beach. 4. The Old Town 5. Place Massena 6. Place Garibladi 7. Port of Nice 8- Cours Saleya 9. Good friday mass in French at St Martin Church 10. National Theatre 11. Shopping district and Nicetoile. Regarding food, we ate a lot of crépe to have a taste of French. I wanted to eat snails, escargot, which I ate a lot of in Paris, but it wasn’t available in the restaurants we visited. Then I read that every city or regions has its speciality. The French Riviera has seafood as speciality, not escargot. So I started ordering seafood – and they were heavenly! We roamed the city for two complete days, then for the rest of the Easter Week, we went to nearby cities such as Antibes, Cannes, Ezze and Grasse in France as well as Monte Carlo in Monaco. But every evening, we came back to our hotel in Nice. When we were in Nice, got introduced to bags by Barbara Rihl. They are really nice with illustrations, for the traveling  modern...
Beggars created seaside walkway

Beggars created seaside walkway

Nice in France became popular in the 18th century when upper class Englishmen came to the place to avoid winter. It became a place of relaxation and climate therapy. While we were sitting by the beach restaurant sipping our cocktail drinks at Opera Place and our six-year old playing with the pebbles, I could almost imagine the pale upper class Englishmen sitting in the same place where I was, enjoying the sun. Even renowned artists came to the place for inspiration. Soon even beggars came, driven by harsh winters, to Nice’s more agreeable climate. It was probably problematic for the snobbish. Then some rich and influential English dude started talking about letting the beggars be useful and let them create a walkway. After all, the beach with its huge pebbles were hard to walk on. His friends agreed and the word passed to different ears until the project was born. Yes, the beggars built with their hands Nice’s main seaside walkway, Promenades des Anglais, translated “Walkway of the English” It makes me wonder, since European cities like Berlin and Stockholm have now an influx of beggars from poorer European countries – can giving beggars useful work still be possible in this modern time? Let them make wondrous things, such as walkways that people, even in future generations, will appreciate?  ...
Missed the castle on Castle Hill

Missed the castle on Castle Hill

On our second day in Nice, France, we decided to see Castle Hill, popular for its view of the beachside city. We started out early morning, taking the tram from Place Massena to the Old Town Area. Then we walked all the way up the hill. Yup, and my six-year old daughter didn’t complain one bit. Once in a while we would take a break from the ascent to enjoy the view of the city. Atop the hill we took photos, then ate crepe lunch al fresco at a simple (but quite expensive) restaurant. Luckily, there was also a huge play ground on the hill, so my daughter had playtime as a reward. While she and other kids were busy climbing and playing, there came a group of grown-ups training and started sharing the play area with them. The kids were surprised with the adult invasion. Going back down, we walked past a waterfall, and an old cemetery that was actually worth seeing. As we reached the foot of the hill, we were puzzled. Did we see the castle on Castle Hill? How in the world could we have missed a huge castle?! It turned out, there was not much castle left, but a ruin. And that we missed. Well, never mind, we had fun taking it easy and just enjoying the view of Promenade des Anglais, and the port of...
Enjoyed Promenade du Paillon

Enjoyed Promenade du Paillon

We went to the coastline French Riviera on Easter week 2014. The Riviera is popular – the place boasts of 300 days of sunshine per year! Our base was in Nice, France. A city that was once Italian. We loved it, the atmosphere, the parks and the sea. The moment we arrived at the airport, I noticed that tourists flashed signature belts, accessories and clothes (and probably shoes, but I didn’t bother scrutinizing). We took it easy on the first day. We stayed at Hotel Boreal, which is less than a minute away from the shopping mall Nice Etoile on Avenue Jean Médecin. We had to entertain our six-year old daughter, so right after a crépe dinner we were searching like mad for playgrounds. Lucky us, we happened to discover Promenade du Paillon – a park that was inaugurated in October 2013 and took ten years to build! But it is a lovely park! Children loved playing in the “water mirror” and its fountains, the “foggy area” and the wooden playgrounds. We parents sat on the grass and just enjoyed tha laid back atmosphere. From what I heard, the area used to be a river bed that was covered up and transformed into this modern park. (For an interesting background, check this link to a blog: The French Riviera Blog by Kevin Hin.) Later I left hubby and my daughter to sneak away and check out some high-end shops, which were near Place Massena. My favorite shop though was Louis Vuitton. Not because it’s the king of bags. But because the guy who assisted me, Vincent I think was his name,...
Siam Niramit – a feast for the eyes

Siam Niramit – a feast for the eyes

Bangkok Post review described the cultural show Siam Niramit as a feast for the eyes. I totally agree. Siam Niramit is a fantastic cultural performance which has achieved international standard. It’s world class. We paid around 1800 baht per person for a buffet dinner and a standard seat, that’s just around 300 crowns, and it was worth it! The food may not be so fabulous, but it was good enough, and there was plenty enough to choose from. There was also a cultural heritage village, where we walked around, checking out the traditional houses representing different regions, checking out handicraft and tasting thai snacks. We rode an elephant, and paid around 100 baht person. We also fed the elephant – I couldn’t remember though for how much.   My five-year old kid’s  unforgettable memory about riding the elephant was when it refused to walk – because it had to poop! Oh big chunks of scat fell and it smelled, too. My kid loved it! We rode a boat in the man-made “village lake” for a fee of around 40 baht. Best to have cash when visiting here. We met Thais in special costumes. We even tried costumes ourselves! Once again, we had to pay a little sum of money. My five year-old kid loved the cultural village. The grand finale was the show inside the luxuriously huge theatre which could seat for 2000 people. There were 150 performers and the stage was big enough to have a pond where actors could paddle around. The hotel arranged for a van that could pick my family from the hotel to Siam Niramit and back....
Glittering Grand Palace and the stench in a sacred temple

Glittering Grand Palace and the stench in a sacred temple

The Grand Palace in Bangkok is one of the most popular tourist attractions of the city. Knowing that people would flock it and we were towing our five-year old daughter, we went to the palace right before it opened – and even then the queue was long! But we got in after thirty minutes of waiting. We were prepared with water – thank goodness because it was so hot in Bangkok! The Grand Palace is a huge complex of buildings, we decided to follow the path leading us towards the glittering golden spires of the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It was not so easy to get in, since there were many people flocking it. So we decided to wait in the courtyard where there were traditional thai pavilions. We walked around, checking out the architecture. I remembered the musical “The King and I” with Yule Brynner because here was the location of the real-life Siam kingdom that was the setting of that film. The musical was based on a novel, which in turn was derived from a memoir of a governess to the children of the Siam king Mongkut. Oh I could imagine hearing the Siam king’s children learning English within the walls of the palace. When it seemed that people stopped gushing in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, then we went for it. As in the other temples in Bangkok, we also had to remove our shoes. As we entered we saw the many praying shoeless men. I felt the stench of high concentration odor of smelly, sweaty feet. It gave me...
Jim Thompson house, an oasis

Jim Thompson house, an oasis

It’s hot in Bangkok! And a visit to the museum Jim Thompson house felt like a relief from the hustle and bustle and the heat of the city. It’s a nice old house that displays southeast asian artwork and thai silk. Jim Thompson was an american soldier turned businessman who revitalized the Thai silk industry. His thai silk fabrics were  used in the film The King and I with Yul Brynner. Jim Thompson mysteriously disappeared though. He was never found. But his company remains. Back to the house: it was worth touring it. The guide told us the story of Jim Thompson and how he decorated his home. Alas, cameras are not allowed inside the house. But my five-year old girl loved running around the garden. It’s very leafy and protected us from the sun. I bought a kid’s book about the place and an eyeglasses case. I saw a tight-fitting colored sweater that cost 5000 pesos, but I controled my buying impulse. Now months later, I feel like I should have bought it. Never have I seen the likes and quality of it at the same price. In Europe, such cost much more....
Climbing up Wat Arun

Climbing up Wat Arun

We had to take a boat and cross Chao Phraya River to get to the buddhist temple Wat Arun, or temple of dawn. It is the best known landmark of the city. I was in Bangkok for the first time in 1992 and saw this then. So now 22 years later, it was nice to see it again. This time though, I didn’t climb all the way up the temple. The oldest among us, 64-year old grandpa, was the one who managed it with no problem at all! In the surrounding areas and boat stations, there were many shops selling bags, fans, traditional clothes and other handicraft. The shops by Wat Arun were cheaper than the ones near the boat...
Wat Pho, the birthplace of Thai massage

Wat Pho, the birthplace of Thai massage

“Wat Pho is closed because it is the king’s birthday”, said “tour guides” standing in the street. They offered an alternative destination. I am glad hubby said no. It turned out they were duping us into taking alternative destinations – a visit to handicraft shops. But Wat Pho was actually open! Nasty. Anyway, we walked all the way to Wat Pho, to avoid conniving “tour guides”. It was a warm day, not so easy for my five-year old! We carried her now and then on our backs. Carro, 64-year old and might grandpa and hubby took turns. I was too exhausted to help. But we forgot our tiredness when we finally saw the buddhist temple Wat Pho, the birthplace of traditional thai massage, the house of the giant reclining buddha and thousand other buddhas showing yoga...
Shopping and eating in Bangkok

Shopping and eating in Bangkok

Bangkok is one of the world’s top tourist destination citites. Here are the places where we dined and shopped: Siam Center in Bangkok is huge, with restaurants, shopping and Siam Ocean World, which is one of the largest aquariums in Southeast asia.Siam Center is one of the first shopping malls in Bangkok, built in 1973. It underwent renovation through the years, ergo the modern look. We were here for almost a day, starting with breakfast and checking some shops and then the ocean park which took almost the whole afternoon. Streetfood! But we remembered to buy food that was being grilled or cooked on the spot. And the fruits were cheap and good. MBK Center. Prices here were even cheaper. And I had never seen so many fake Michael Kors bags in all my life! They looked very authentic, too! I didn’t buy though. I don’t like buying fake. Blue Elephant Restaurant: our hotel Mode Sathorn Hotel happened to be located right across Blue Elephant Restaurant, so we dropped by. It was worth it! The thai cuisine was authentic, delicious, the atmosphere is nice and yes, the experience was expensive. I should’ve been nicely dressed when I was here. Not that it was required, but since the place was nice and the other guests were nicely-dressed, I should’ve been more fashionable when I was here – just for the kick of fitting in. Terminal 21: I love this shopping mall! Every level has a theme and even the toilets in every level are worth seeing! Jim Thompson House for quality thai silk. Read this...
Chic Mode Sathorn Hotel

Chic Mode Sathorn Hotel

I loved Mode Sathorn Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. Modern, good service, chic. Worthy of me! I liked the atmosphere already as we entered. We didn’t have thai baht when we came, so when we got into the room I told the bellboy: “Sorry, we don’t have cash yet so we can’t tip you yet.” And he said it was no problem. The look on his face was genuine. Then he showed us around, where things are in our room, etcetera. Not that it was difficult to find our way in the room, but there were several lights, and dimmed ones, too. He problably just wanted to show us the tricks on which switch could turn which lamp. Even the bathroom has dimmers. Our room was colorfully nice with a view of the city’s skysrapers. The bathroom was huge with a modern bathtub by the huge window. There were different restaurants, luxurious with good food and great service. I especially loved the swimming area – where I was offered a yellow watermelon! It was the first time I’ve ever seen that, I see mostly green. There weren’t so many customers, though. The bar was empty when we came and left. I would’ve liked a livelier mood in the bar. The hotel is near Blue Elephant Restaurant, which offers royal thai cuisine. The hotel is located in a business district....
The woolly sheep: Överjärva Gårds main attraction

The woolly sheep: Överjärva Gårds main attraction

The cute woolly sheep is the main attraction, the celebrities at Överjärva Gård in Solna. Families flock here to see newborn sheep, pay 20 crowns per person to go and touch the sheep and spend some time with them. For me it’s worth it when I see my six-year old daughter looking like Little Bo Peep. The place is a mecca for people in Solna looking for a place to celebrate swedish holidays. In christmas, it has traditional markets complete with bonfire, in midsummer it has the midsummer pole and activities. I’ve never been here on Easter though. There’s a coffee shop, a museum (that should be booked for entrance), a huge forest to walk into, and kids can ride a pony (my daughter loves this, too!). One time in the month of June, my daughter’s bestfriend celebrated her birthday here. Then there’s access to a teepee and pony riding and picnic out in the forest. I think that was a fun...
The kouackaking frogs of Midsummer

The kouackaking frogs of Midsummer

Midsummer is one of the most important holidays in Sweden. Frogs, greens and flowers are important elements. People go to places where midsummer festivities are arranged. Once there, the first thing people seem to check out for is the center of the activity – and you see that through a tall pole with two loops on each side. That’s the midsummer pole. People who come early and arrive before the pole is raised help collect greens and flowers to dress the pole. When the pole is raised, games, dancing and traditional songs begin. A really cute song is “Små grodorna”, which is about small frogs. People gather in a big ring dance and sing and hop around like frogs: “Kou-ack-ack-ack, kou-ack-ack-ack, kou-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack. Kou-ack-ack-ack, kou-ack-ack-ack, kou-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack.” I was pretty disturbed when I first heard this song years back. And the hopping was just as perplexing. But then I thought these people watch Donald Duck as part of their Christmas celebrations, so they just probably love nature so much and give tribute to frogs in their most uniquely swedish holiday. Don’t underestimate this holiday – it’s a tourist magnet. Tourists even travel as far as Dalarna, where Midsummer is a fabulously huge event. Unfortunately, I heard that some tourists get lost, or misunderstand how to go to midsummer festivities. A group of chinese tourists once ended up in Fyrishov, a sports arena, where people were just swimming around (a story I’ve heard from a colleague). Midsummer is important to both Scandinavia and the Baltics. My friend from Latvia commented: “Our midsummer festivity is better. The Swedish version is quite stiff.” “How do you do it...