Archive for the ‘Feel-Good’ Category

When my brother in Canada announced that his eldest of 4 sons was getting married, we felt elated at hearing the news. That was Nov 2018. With the cold and dreary Canadian winter (ahem … Alberta to be precise), the low-keyed garden wedding was beautifully executed.

Since the garden prenuptial was purely a Canadian family affair, families from afar did not get the feel of the joys of that matrimony. Knowing this brother of mine, he’s not one to fall short for such plan. Let’s put it this way … he’s not an ‘alang-alang’ guy. LOL!

One fine morning we all got up to reading a pleasant message from my brother via WhatsApp

We’re going to Kyoto for the wedding!

So desu ka?

So desu ne!

I was over the moon with that news …

If you’re wondering, why Japan? Well, my brother has embraced a new addition to the family. His daughter-in-law-to-be is a stunning Japanese 😉

By the way, Japan has always been one of the countries I have bookmarked. Coincidentally, it’s also the destination I have promised my younger son with a sworn statement, swearing my promise to bring him to the Land of the Rising Sun, one fine day… Here’s the story if you missed it : My ‘Japanese’ Boy

A Damper!

Just as we were feeling euphoric with the news, our ecstasy suddenly fell flat southward. Alas, the cruel force of gravity! Our joys were short-lived because there was not going to be a trip to Japan. Sob! Sob! Instead, the Japanese contingent preferred to travel to the Land of the Hornbills! So much for my Japanese dream … sigh!

Another stumbling block was the Wedding date: 30th January! It’s the month-end close and coupled with the unceasingly intense news coverage of the pandemic Covid-19. Ai yai yai! So how?

Well, I could choose not to make the trip, but the thought of missing such event that occurs once in a lifetime was just unendurable. So, geared with my laptop et al, I booked my flight and hotel. Hubs and BIL booked theirs separately.

Exit Miss Piggy, Enter Stuart Little

We touched down Kuching International Airport exactly on the first day of the Lunar New Year. While the family were enjoying scrumptious Chinese New Year Eve reunion dinner, we had to make do with the mediocre Emirates meals on air. The 24-hour flight and transits covering 4 airports and 3 continents had left me feeling absolutely knackered and groggy. To add salt to injury, 3 of 4 of our check-in luggage went missing, or rather, they did not arrive in the same plane as our ETA, therefore, we had to go through the hassle of filing reports of our missing baggage. At that point, I could not wait to have a nice warm shower and jump into a comfortable bed. Luckily the hotel shower was excellent and the bed was very clean and comfortable. I was in slumberland in no time at all.

Oh by the way, the 3 luggage arrived the next day.

Working Holiday

In between working and delivering my reports, I thought some free moments could be spent with my family or friends, but I was wrong. The time zone difference of 7 hours was the most challenging factor. When I was free, it was already midnight M’sia time and time to hit the sack. This was the mode I had to endure for the next 2 weeks …

I must thank my hubs and especially my younger sis for being the protector of my tummy while I was on “lockdown” in my hotel room

All I needed to tell them was what I craved and hocus-pocus, my wish was granted. Ha ha …

Wedding Day: Morning

The day arrived when the Lands of the Hornbills and the Rising Sun became ONE.

The beautiful bride and the handsome groom exchanged their Holy Matrimonial vows with their unyielding “I do” and promised to be true to each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for they will love and honour each other until death do them part.

Amen to that!

With teary eyes of joy, families from near and far flocked together and rejoiced in jubilation. 

 

Teary-eyed moment between Mum and Daughter

Congrats Kanoko. You’re next … 😉

Wedding Day: Afternoon

While the melodic morning bells chimed and made way for the fiery afternoon crackers, we adjourned for the traditional Tea Ceremony at the groom’s uncle’s house with a “light” brunch. 

A Wedding tea ceremony is the epitome of respect and gratitude by the newlyweds towards their parents and elders by serving them tea.  It also symbolizes that the bride and groom officially belong into a new and extended family. 

Wedding Day: Evening

My sisters, a niece and I were the first to arrive and therefore we had the first glimpse of the banquet hall without any mortal in sight.

Oh no, we were not trying to be prying “kaypo“, but we were there early as ‘duty managers’. Lol!

Duty calls. The early birds at their work station 😅

Once upon a moment, very immaculate, absolutely quiet and empty …  Sssh… ssshh..

The empty banquet hall was slowly filled with guests, one by one, filling each table to the brim, and zing, boom, bam, the roof caved in and the noise began!  Forget whispering to your neighbour because you would never get your message across to the recipient correctly 🙂

Bless me Your Grace for I have sinned …

The party began with the clamourous and deafening Yuuuuuummmm Seng!

The Prosperity Toss

What an appropriate dish to serve as we were still in Chinese New Year mood.

The higher the better, the messier the table means you have done your part in shouting at the top of your lungs, the blessings of good luck, fortune and happiness. Toss High! Lo Hei! 

Reunion of Family and Friends

Although it’s the Bride and Groom’s day, it was, without a doubt,  an opportune day of reuniting with long lost relatives and friends. My brother must have invited his entire year school mates that evening.  Buddies whom he had not met for more than 30 decades came from near and far!  It was practically a class reunion.  I bet the boys felt 17 again …

Likewise, it was great meeting cousins and relatives whom we have not met in donkeys years!

Only an event as such, could bring us together.

And by the way, I shared my fair share of reuniting with long lost friends whom I have not met since Primary school, since Form 5 and since Form 6.  They have evolved to be successful ‘towkay’ and ‘towkay neos’. One owns the chain of Curry House restaurants throughout Sarawak, one an acclaimed Music teacher and one ‘Superman’ in the person of the Most Hallowed, His Grace, the Archbishop of Sarawak!  I was so thrilled and blessed to have met them all in one evening!

Cheers!

 

Family Bonding

Luckily, I was not the one getting married. A wedding day is a very exhausting affair akin to a full time job with full-blown overtime albeit for a day! Been there, done that. Ha ha …

It was a BIG relief when the party’s over and we’re back on the normal track.

Although I was physically in Kuching for 3 weeks, it was a working ‘holiday’ for me for 2 weeks . I had only one week of ‘me-time’, therefore, it was very precious.  I had consciously chosen to spend more time with my siblings, reminiscing the good old days. There were too many stories to share in too short a time.  We knew Mum and Dad were with us throughout because we could not stop talking and thinking about them.  How else could we be here without them, right?

As we grow older, we’ll find the only things we regret are the things we didn’t do, and one of the things is making the most out of visits to our elderly relatives.

They’re not getting any younger and so are we.

Life is too short so let’s make the most out of it.

Live SIMPLY

Laugh OFTEN

Love DEEPLY

The truth is, a family is what you make it. It is made strong, not by the headcount at dinner table, but by the tradition you help family members create; the memories you share, the commitment of time, cares and love you show to one another.

Families are like branches on a tree. We grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as ONE.

Have a Blessed Weekend!

Cheers!

After returning from any trip, I would often reflect and browse through my photos.  Goodness gracious me, or rather, shame on me … I have loads !!!  If a photo has a  tangible weight, seriously, I would not be able to carry my iPhone around with me anymore.  It would be mucho grande heavy. Every time I browse through my photos, I usually feel an outburst of guilt.  Why did I  have to take so many photos and then, having to keep them to myself? To moulder and to fade into oblivionNo way, Jose! It just doesn’t make any sense.  A photo is taken to be shared.  In my own vocabulary, every photo I take tells a story.  And so it goes, sharing is caring 😉

Timestamp: July 2018

Phew! How time flies! 

Has it been a year ago since my trip to the Far East? Gosh! I needed another far-away getaway so badly…

I wish I could take a year long sabbatical leave and backpack to places I have not been to, but I’m not that bold and agile 25-year old anymore. Instead, I feel more secure with my travel sidekicks in the persons of my younger sister and younger son. We did Saigon last year. Saigon is not just about the touristBen Tanh markets and the noisy streets inundated with motorcycles. I’m amazed there’s so much to see and experience off the beaten tracks. We had an awesome experience exploring the Tunnels of Cu Chi, cruising down the Saigon river on the Bonsai River Cruise, taking the Sampan and cruising the many canal ways of the Mekong Delta, cycling in the rain and taking the tuk-tuk on narrow backroads around the Mekong villages and feasting on one of the most memorable home style lunches ever with Vietnam’s famous Elephant ear fish as centrepiece! Unlike Ben Tanh Market, the Ben Tre Floating Markets on the Mekong Delta are magically special. And then there’s Saigon’s yummy Banh Mi and the moreish Vietnamese iced coffee (cà phê sua dá).

Memories are made of these …

Sigh!

Getaway 

Vietnam came and went and remained a sweet memory in my mind’s eye. Could our next holiday destination beat Saigon?

Okay … Bali, here we come!

Timestamp: July 2019

Millionaire  

I felt like a millionaire all over again in Bali after Saigon

Oh man, it’s the unending zeroes on the Bank Notes.  LOL!

A million Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) is only ca EUR 65 or MYR 300!  There’s no wonder why there are more tourists than the local Balinese on the island of Bali! 

Ngurah Rai International Airport

My son and I met my sister in Kuala Lumpur and we flew together with Air Asia to Bali. I was quite impressed when we touched down I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport Bali, aka Denpasar International Airport. What more could I say if it’s the second busiest airport in Indonesia after Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta?  The first thing we did upon arrival at the airport was buying SIM cards for our mobile phones during the period of our stay in Bali. Seriously, it’s so convenient, as we were out and about most of the time on the island!  Who would want to coop up in the hotel room 24/7 on a not very cheap long-haul trip all the way from Europe, right? Thanks to my sister with her in-depth knowledge of the telecommunication world and lingo, we were not easily deceived by seller(s) at the booths. Uh-uh!

Next (and a must), I bought some IDR. The rates were quite OK at the airport, and of course, better but varying rates could be found in every nook and cranny of Bali.  Be warned, though, of dodgy money changers!

By the way, my holiday to Bali was the maiden trip for my son and I, and the third for my sister.  She made it even easier for us with arranged pick-up from the airport to our hotel in Ubud.  The drive though the busy roads of Denpasar to the narrow roads of Ubud took almost 2 hours in the heavy traffic. Jun, our guide and his cousin (driver) made our journey flawless with on point pick up from location to destination.

Ubud

Originally, I had planned a 10-day stay in Ubud only, however, my Indonesian colleagues said “there’s nothing to see in Ubud” (really??), hence, Kuta was included at the last moment in our itinerary, hence we shortened our stay in Ubud to 7 days while including 3 days in Kuta. We shall see …

Luckily for us, I told my sister to pre-book some arranged tours with Jun.

Jun, by the way, is a freelanced guide for private tours around the island of Bali. As we all know, Bali thrives on tourism and Bali tour planners are mega BIG over there. If tours are not pre-booked, there are booths almost everywhere and one could make day trip arrangements on the spur of the moment. Initially, we were being audacious with our choices of tours and wanted to do and see almost everything, so from a selection of so many different tour packages offered, we decided on 2 full-day packages and 2 activity packages as following –

  • FULLDAY BTO 01. Kintamani – Waterfall tour
  • FULLDAY BTO 03. Marine sport – Uluwatu – Spa – Dinner tour
  • ACTIVITY BTO 02. White water rafting.
  • ACTIVITY BTO 07. Mount Batur sunrise trekking.

However, as time drew near for our ETD from BRU, I told my sister that the activity packages were too physical for our seemingly short stay in Bali.  Furthermore, I needed a relaxing break away from my already hectic day job …

So from 4, it was down to the final 2. We confirmed with Jun the full-day tours of Kintamani – Waterfall and the Marine Sport – Uluwatu – Spa and Dinner. As much as I wanted to experience the beautiful Mount Batur sunrise, the idea of trekking as early as 2 or 3 am in the morning puts me off, actually it puts all 3 of us off 😏.  Why is it so hard to get up in the wee hours of the morning when one is on holiday?  Hmmm… me think we’re not the only ones 😅

Dirty Ducks

Not that Ubud is plagued with dirty ducks; infact I have not seen a single duck while we were there!

It was our first day in Ubud and the much talked-about Bebek Bengil (Dirty Duck Diner) became our first dining stop in Ubud.

Be warned!  Yours truly is a foodie, hence be prepared to read some honest verdicts after a slap-up meal 😜

 

According to the site’s write up, Bebek Bengil was opened in 1990 in Ubud. It soon became an iconic restaurant branching out to other locations in Bali. The Original Crispy Duck Diner is so popular that local politicians like Ibu Megawati and Presidents Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Jokowi have waddled their way to Bebek Bengil 😉

Why ducks?  Why dirty ducks and not dirty monkeys (there are LOTS of monkeys in Ubud, by the way !). Well, it’s even explained on their menu book! 

So the story goes, in the words of the owners (husband and wife team) … “Many people have asked us how we got the name Bebek Bengil … When we were building the restaurant, we thought long and hard of a name. Many suggestions came from our friends, but none seemed right; we knew we wanted a Balinese name that translated well into English. However, for a long time, the metaphor eluded us. One tropical monsoon morning, when the restaurant was very close to being finished, a flock of ducks from the rice fields across the road ran quacking and squawking into the restaurant and across the floor and tables.  They left their muddy, webbed footprints all over the place. They were our first guest .. these Dirty Ducks !

OK, got it!

Oh by the way the rice fields across the road are no longer in sight. There are shops burgeoning everywhere now. The restaurant itself has become a sight to behold!

To live up to the ducky name, there were several duck dishes on the menu. We had Bebek Bakar Sambal Hijau served with sweet potato rice and vegetable and Grilled Duck served with Balinese sauces and steamed rice, and of course fresh Coconut water

We were told by Jun that a proper and fancy restaurant in Bali with a certain pricetag is where a small portion of  nicely presented rice is served. Yup, we noticed the neatly presented small rice portion on our plates 😀

My verdict? Great location with a gorgeous and comfortable ambience. Friendly staff with surprisingly very fast service. Now the taste? To be very honest, our dinner was so-so. Nothing special. The duck meat portions were rather small too. The grilled duck was rather dry and bland if not for the sambal or Balinese sauces. And the price is somewhat steep, even for non-Balinese standard. For me, a one-time experience in this iconic restaurant was enough.

Healing, Royal, Holy and Sacred

Ubud is the cultural hub of Bali and home to one of Bali’s royal families. My first visual glimpse of Ubud is the innumerable sight of royal palaces and ancient temples. Pharmacies are easily available in Ubud as well.

And that’s how I would define Ubud : Healing, Royal, Holy and Sacred

Healing

Jun told us how Ubud got its name. I thought it was interesting. The confluence of the 2 rivers, West Wos River meeting East Wos River is called Campuhan by Balinese (or Bahasa Indonesia). The meeting point of the 2 rivers serves as a source of holy water with peculiar property to heal sickness. This healing water is called ubad (medicine), hence the word ubad has been transformed and coined into ubud

Royal

The hotel where we stayed was a walking distance to the Royal Palace of Ubud.

Puri Saren Agung is the palace of the Ubud royal family. It hallmarks well-kept Balinese architecture with charming garden setting. The palace is best known among Balinese art lovers as one of the main sites to view traditional Balinese dance performances. We were there a wee bit late and had missed the performances. Anyway walking on our own within the palace compound was already a blessing.

 

Holy

Stop!! Do not step on them! That’s what we’ve been told.

 

For many years, Balinese families have passed down the ritual of daily offerings. Each day, Balinese women create little hand-pleated baskets or trays made from coconut leaves. The little tray is adorned with colourful flowers, fruits, rice and edibles as daily devotional gifts meant to appease and please the various Dieties and Demons of Balinese Hinduism.  These little baskets of offerings are perched all over the city, temples, sidewalks, shops and private house’s doorway and shrines.  That’s right, the Canang Sari (as it is called in Balinese) can be found in every nook and cranny of Bali.

 

I asked Jun what would happen if we accidentally stepped on one of the Canang Saris.  He said, if it is not done intentionally or if we stepped on one accidentally, that’s OK.  A word of caution: out of respect, it is not allowed to step on the Canang Sari when the incense stick is still burning.  The locals believe that the Dieties are feasting while the Canang Sari is freshly offered and by stepping on one, would mean that the spirits might enter your body and possess you as it is simply translated to mean that you have abruptly disturbed their meal.

Sacred

The monkey and its folklore are key elements in Balinese art tradition. This is appearing in some of the traditional Balinese dances, such as Kecak and Ramayana, where the monkey is a notable figure in the story.

 

The type of monkeys that dwell in the Monkey Forest is known as the Balinese long-tailed monkey aka macaques. I understood there are about 900 monkeys in the forest and they are divided into 6 groups, ie, the group that dwells in front of the main temple, the Michelin group (not sure what or where this is), the Central point group, Cemeteries group, Eastern group and Southern or the forest conservation group of monkeys. Each group consists of 100-150 primates ranging from infants to adults. Because of the considerable population, conflicts between groups of monkeys are unavoidable. The common thing about macaques is that they are active by day and will rest as nightfall.  In other words, pretty much like Homo sapiens 😉

 

The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is a leisurely 15-minute walk from our hotel.

Why a Monkey Forest in the heart of the city? The mission of the Monkey Forest is built as a sacred sanctuary based on the concept of Tri Hita Karana which is one of the philosophies in Hinduism. Tri Hita Karana means “Three ways to reach spiritual and physical wellbeing”

The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is not just a tourist attraction or an important component in the spiritual and economic well being of the local community, but it is also a paramount location for research and conservation programs

 

What not to do (in case you didn’t know …)

In general, the monkeys will not come to you if you do not bring bananas or any other foods 😉

By the way, I noticed the monkeys’ daily diet include sweet potatoes, corns, bananas and coconuts

Babi Guling

While Fish & Chips are synonymous to England, Nasi Lemak to Malaysia and Waffles to Belgium, Babi Guling (suckling roasted pig) is a must-have dish in Bali. We vowed not to leave Ubud without having a taste of the infamous babi guling at Warung Babi Guling Ibu Oka 1.

The restaurant we went to is the first and main restaurant, located just opposite the Royal Palace of Ubud while Warung Ibu Oka is one of the branches where the late Anthony Bourdain’s loving coverage of the babi guling made the restaurant virally famous.

 

My verdict? Simple and honest homestyle dishes. We ordered a portion of the complete babi guling dish with soup and an extra portion of meat with crispy pork skin.  The complete meal comprised a portion of steamed white rice, vegetables, deep fried crispy pork nuggets, black sausage, meat from the suckling roasted pig and a piece of the prized crispy pork skin.  The price quoted on the menu list is pre 10% tax, so be warned. Either you like it or not, the star item on the platter, ie the crispy pork skin was not my son’s favourite at all, so my sis and I had a piece from each plate. To be honest, the suckling roasted pork and skin were just okay, however, the star dish that stole our heart was the deep fried crispy pork nuggets.  We really enjoyed the crispy, tasty and a bit chewy nuggets. I noticed we were not the only table ordering the extra crispy pork nuggets.  Several tables around us did the same. Warung Babi Guling Ibu Oka should be renamed to Warung Babi Gorengan Ibu Oka 😉 . Total spend (after tax) was 253k IDR (ca Eur 17) for 3 pax including fresh juices.  Not bad at all.

Would I go back?  Without a doubt …

 

The Day Unfolds …

With a good pair of shoes or slippers, walking around Ubud on our own was not difficult at all.  While there was a bout of heatwave in Europe in July with a record high of > 40 deg C for a few consecutive days, the weather in Ubud or Bali for that matter, was surprisingly, crisp and cool at a max of 28 deg C! I did not remember sweating profusely at all even with the long walks down Jalan Raya Ubud, Jalan Monkey Forest and Jalan Hanoman … all done on foot!

After the long and winding walks through the narrow streets of Ubud, we returned to our bungalow and spa, feeling knackered and dead beat from the day’s galivanting. We hit the sack but only to get up early the next morning as a new day unfolded.  As we finished our brekkie in a jiffy,  Jun, our tour guide for the entire day was waiting for us.

A new day unfolded with unexpected tsunami of adventures in store ~ mythical, breathtaking, nerve-racking, impressive, disappointing, addictive

Wanna read more?

Stay tuned to Part 2 😉

 

Cheers

xxx

 

The mercury level was at its highest on Tuesday, 21st August. The glaring sun with a temperature of 39C did not deter us from a 2-hour drive 175km to North West Tuscany.

The Night Before

Mama: Boys, it’ll be a long drive tomorrow, so make sure to sleep earlier tonight. Brekkie’s at 8 sharp.

Son K: Where are we going?

Mama: Pisa!

Son N: Are you going to make that classic pose of pushing Pisa like those tourists?

Mama: Why, of course!! That’s cool, no?

Sons: That’s totally cringey, Ma. You better don’t make a fool of yourself!

Mama: We shall see …

WYSIWYG

Our 2-hour drive to Pisa saw us parking at a spot very near to the iconic Leaning Tower.

Infact it was the first thing we saw when we arrived at the city centre.

By the way, it IS what you see. A tilting tower, which was originally the Bell Tower of the city’s cathedral on Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles)

Gratis Models of Pisa 😀

Busloads of tourists from all over the world come to Pisa just for the Tower and bringing back with them momentos of the tilted tower saved on their mobile phones and cameras.

Now, were the poses cringey as predicted by my sons? Maybe. Maybe not.

Silly and funny perhaps, but innovative as well. The classic and predictable pretending-to-support pushing action we see on postcards and innumerable photos on the net was one, and then there’s the kissing and lifting of the tower and God knows what other poses …

While the tower was the crowd-pleaser, the Medieval Roman Catholic Cathedral next to the Tower was almost deserted, but it’s as stunning.

A Tourist Trap?

The city of Pisa is the least charming of all the Tuscan cities we have been to. It’s way too touristy. There was not much to see or do aside from admiring the tilted tower and pricey souvenirs.

A Mediocre Lunch

We were being greeted by the friendly owners of a Pizzeria Trattoria.

Canned corn, canned tuna, canned peaches. And do not expect the executed dishes to look similar to the photos of the dishes printed on the menu cards. They’re miles apart! What would you expect? It’s a simple family brasserie in a touristic area. We just fell into a tourist trap, that’s all, and we knew it.

Welcome to Pisa!

The Not-So-Cringey Pose…?

At least this tourist did not push, kiss, hug or lift the tower. For her, it’s a memory of a long drive just to stand near the tilted tower she once read in History books as one of the 7 wonders of the Medieval world.

And how’s that, boys? 😉

And by the way, how would you pose when you encounter the Leaning Tower of Pisa for the first time ?

Til my next post, arrivederci!

Ciao!

Unlike the trip to Siena which was impromptu, our trip to Florence was planned on a Sunday. Hubby was of the opinion that the roads to Florence on a Sunday would be less congested, as most people would stay home. He was right.

We left San Sano at 8.30 am and arrived at the city of Florence at 10 am, giving us plenty of time before our tour at the Accademia Gallery commenced at 11.30am.

Hubs bought the “skip-the-line” admission with private tour online, for both Galleries: the Accademia and Uffizi.

If you’re wondering why we drove all the way to Florence just to go to Museums, you will find out why the Accademia and Uffizi Galleries are the epitomes of what summed up the city of Florence.

With the ample waiting time, we explored Florence on our own.

The first instance I entered Florence was, Wow! What a lovely view from afar! I knew what lay beyond the bridge would be a discovery of even deeper artistic heritage and treasures left behind by the many God-given sculptors and painters of the past centuries.

Walking into the streets of Florence was like going back in time. One thing’s for sure, you cannot visit Florence without wandering freely the fully pedestrianised Piazza del Duomo. The picturesque square lies in the heart of the city, surrounded by restaurants, cafés, shops and of course, the magnificent sights of the Duomo, the Bell Tower and the Baptistery, all these have become the ultimate tourist hotspots! So you could see it was just impossible to have a selfie or snapshot without being photobombed by unexpected or unintended appearances lurking in the background of your photos. I’m sure I have appeared on their photos as much as they, on mine. Ha ha ..

Time To Go …

No, it was not time to leave the city, but time to meet our guide outside the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze (Gallery of the Academy Of Florence). It was 11.30am.

Our guide was Carla. We were a small group of 2 families, us and a family from Seattle.

Suddenly, we became very attentive ‘students’… Afterall, the museum was founded as a teaching facility for the Academy Of Fine Arts students.

And by the way, Accademia Gallery is home to Michelangelo’s David. That’s right, the one and only.

Now, will the real David, please raise your hand?

The David on the left stands on the Palazza Vecchio while the David on the right stands handsomely as the centrepiece of the Accademia Gallery in the most visited room, called the Tribuna del David.

Both Davids are ceaselessly surrounded by tourists wanting to have a closer look at the 5.17m (17ft) tall Biblical hero.

The David stand-in or ‘imposter’ or replica or copy ~ whatever you want to call it ~ gets photographed as much as the real David, but coming all the way to Florence, and not seeing THE David that was sculptured by the godly hands of THE Michelangelo Buonarroti, would be a big fat waste of time.

Michelangelo was only 26 years old when he was challenged to sculpt the young shepherd David. He was presented with a simple and ugly looking slab of marble piece BUT he succeeded in creating the most breathtaking masterpiece of gleaming white marble. It took him over 2 years to complete the massive task (1501 – 1504).

David In Full Circle

It’s only at the Accademia Gallery that we could admire Michelangelo’s David from a close distance, ie admiring the perfection and magnificence of the colossal statue 360 degrees!

My favourite angle of David is his right side, from the right hand up to his neck.

Why?

Because the ONLY way to appreciate this angle is to appreciate the work of Michelangelo. Just look at the veins on David’s right hand, his arm and neck! It’s pure attention to details.

Michelangelo was also the first sculptor to depict David before the battle, while most sculptors chose to portray David after his victory, ie triumphant over the slain Goliath. You could see why Michelangelo chose to capture David in a most artful manner during his most tensed moment with full of bodily concentration. What can I say?

Exquisite! Period.

Michelangelo’s David was not the only one mentioned in our private tour. There were also 4 magnificently unfinished slaves of Michelangelo in the Tribuna del David together with the statue of St Matthew and the pieta.

Our tour lasted exactly for an hour and a half. There were too many art pieces and sculptures to mention in this post. I leave it to you to see them for yourself 😉

Thanks, Carla for opening our eyes, ears and mind in that short span of tour time 🙂

Lunch Interlude with a Mistake

Before meeting our next guide for the Uffizi tour, we had lunch at a simple resto, a little away from the crowded square and streets.

The foods were okay except for one and the service was rather slow.

I guess from the collage you could pin-point the odd dish out. I won’t say which one, so it’s up to you to give it a guess and interpret why it’s a mistake dish that made someone really disappointed that day 😦

The Only Bridge Standing

There’re many bridges across the Arno river, but there’s only ONE bridge that attracted tourists and the like the most.

When Florence was severely damaged during WW2 by the Germans, blowing up all its bridges, Ponte Vecchio or Old Bridge was the only Bridge standing. Rumour has it that Hitler found the view from the bridge too beautiful to destroy.

So here we were, walking on the Ponte Vecchio, admiring the bridge as it is today without being destroyed from any wars.

Ponte Vecchio is also one of the few bridges in the world that still has shops on it, specifically jewellery shops.

Uffizi Gallery

Just outside the Museum, we were greeted by Monica, our guide. Monica is Swede who has lived in Florence for the past 25 years. This time the group was bigger, at least 40 of us, with the youngest being a child of a year old. It was not difficult to decipher Monica’s audible explanation as each of us was given a headset.

The Uffizi Gallery housed the world’s greatest collection of Italian artworks and Renaissance art from Giotto to Botticelli, Piero della Francesca, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian and Caravaggio. Thanks to Anna Maria Lodovica, the last of the Medici line who left her property to Florence, ensuring that the Medici collections remained intact forever.

The Meaning Of Florence From A Single Painting

One of the paintings that everyone listened in awe to was the one from Alessandro Filipepi aka Botticelli. It’s called La Primavera.

There may be many other interpretations of La Primavera, but Monica narrated the painting in a very enlightening and interesting manner. I could remember almost every word she described the painting.

The painting is a symbol of Spring. It depicts love and marriage, sensuality and fertility.

The scene is set in the garden of Venus, the Roman Goddess Of Love. She’s standing in the centre of the painting. Above her, is her blindfolded son, Cupid, who shoots arrows of Love to the Three Graces. On the far right of the painting is Zephyrus, the wind that billows and pursues Chloris, the nymph.

On the far left is Mercury, the winged messenger of the Gods. He is holding a staff to dissipate the gloomy clouds of Winter for Spring to come.

When Zephyrus succeeds in making Chloris pregnant, she transforms into Flora, the Goddess of Spring. The transformation is depicted by the flowers spewing out of Chloris’ mouth. Flora then scatters the flowers she gathers on her dress, thus, symbolising springtime and fertility. And that’s how Florence (the city) got her name, from Flora.

I thought that interpretation of Florence was really enlightening, and that, from a single painting but of course there are other naming theories that seemed to conclude the floral definition of the city.

The Leaning Truth Of Tuscany

One hour and a half went by in a fleeting moment. We left Florence basking under the scorching Tuscan heat of 34C homeward bound 75km back to San Sano.

My thought lingered to our next adventure in Tuscany, one that would reveal the leaning truth of our Summer Hols …

Stay tuned 😉

Ciao!

It was a lovely morning on the second Monday in August, 2018. It was Market day in Gaiole in Chianti, one of the 5 Chianti towns in Tuscany.

Our holiday villa at San Sano lies in the commune of Gaiole which was about 9 km away.

I LOVE outdoor markets. The colours, the smell, the fresh local produce, the haggling and just about everything, including the scorching sun!

We planned our trip after I was done with a full batch of dirty laundry. I hung them out in the sun to dry.

We left the house at 10am so we would have sufficient time to stroll around the market square until middday when we could have our lunch there.

But alas, there was not a stall in sight. Where was the market? The town was as quiet and almost deserted that morning.

We left Gaiole and were thinking where to go next, and then we saw the signpost direction Siena!

Yup, that’s where we headed to. Siena! An impromptu trip.

Siena is about 30 km from San Sano. It’s a historic city listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO. It’s a hill city, very, very hilly and one of the most beautiful medieval cities in Italy.

Crowded Siena

We were so used to the quiet surroundings of the Chianti region the past days, that Siena was chock-a-block with people, more specifically, tourists, innumerable cars and busloads of more tourists!!

And by the way, there was simply no place to park our car in the centre or anywhere near the centre, hence, we made do with a parking area away from the hustle and bustle of the centre.

So what does that mean? Well, of course LOTS of walking and ascending stairs, roads and pavements!!

When we finally reached the centre, we saw a huge crowd making their way to a particular location. We followed suit, out of curiosity.

Guess what? We ended up at the spectacular shell-shaped medieval square, Piazza del Campo.

But look at the sea of people! I bet 99% of the crowd were tourists, just like us, pinning our own little imaginary flags and claiming, “yes, I’ve been there!” 😀

It was at Piazza del Campo that the Palio Horse race takes place twice a year, on 2nd July and 16th August. We missed the live show but it was aired on the local TV channel.

Il Palio as we know it today first took place in 1633. Many of the traditions established in its earliest years still remain today. The Palio di Siena is held on 16th August, coinciding with Assumption Day or Ferragosto as it is known in Italy.

With the scorching sun of 31C above our heads, we took shelter in a shaded alfresco terrace of a restaurant nearby. Our lunch at Gaiole that was not meant to be, was compensated with colourful platters at a touristic resto in Siena. The foods were passable, made in a hurry and lacking passion.

We were famished, so whatever were presented to us were devoured in no time at all.

When in Italy, having the gelato is a must especially on blistering hot days, so that was our desert.

Yum!

It’s lovely to walk in Siena strolling past souvenir shops and the likes.

When we finally ended up at Duomo di Siena (Siena Cathedral), it started to drizzle, and that’s when my mind became disconcerted. I immediately checked the weather forecast of San Sano. Lo and behold, there’s a thunderstorm back at our holiday home. “Oh no!!! There goes my washed laundry!!

All’s well that did not end so well …

We left Siena but almost lost our way out of the city. It seemed like we have been walking for hours on end …

Back in San Sano, we were caught by another hindrance. There was a short circuit after the thunderstorm that caused a power outage in the mountain area of Chianti.

And then there’s my washed laundry that was completely drenched! Ouch!

Going back to Gaiole

Oh by the way, I forgot to mention that we drove past Gaiole and guess what? The market started from 2pm to 10pm. Luckily, we did not stay on in Gaiole for the market all morning because there was absolutely nothing we have missed. The tiny outdoor market covered just a stretch of one road.

With all the foul-ups, bleeps and blunders, we had a hefty day ascending 51 stairs, walking 17.5k steps of almost 12 km …. and then there was the laundry, the entire laundry!

Phew … What a day!

Fingers crossed for our next trip up … to the city of love and marriage, sensuality and fertility.

See you there 😉

Ciao!

San Sano is a quaint little village of stone structures that lies on the Tuscan hill in the province of Siena. The villa where we stayed lies 400m above sea level. The bigger town or commune 15km away, Radda in Chianti, was higher at 650m asl.

San Sano is a hamlet, really. There’s really not much to see, but surprisingly, a LOT to tell!!

You’ll ‘see’ why as you read on …

Mysterious San Sano

The village of San Sano has no supermarket, no post office, no park, no church (at least I had not seen one). Forget about going out for late night movies because there’s just no cinema, neither bars nor cafés in sight! In other words, there’s no night life, or was there …??

There’s just the main road with a handful of rustic stone houses, small square, one or two alleys with medieval landscape, one hotel, one restaurant with an adjoining super crammed sundry shop manned by an elderly man and a statue of a “drunken frog” that appeared to guard the village, ie, positioned in a seemingly perfect spot … for fung shui reason?

So why in heaven’s name did we end up in that sleepy village in the Chianti region?

Beats me, but one thing’s for sure the picturesque backdrops and landscapes were picture perfect and what more could we ask for with the neat and rolling vineyards just behind our holiday villa!

It’s quietly stunning. It was heaven on earth!

Night Out in San Sano

Are you kidding me?

Nope!

Against all odds, we went to San Sano. We wanted to have our dinner. It was a lovely evening and the stroll to the centre did us good. The only nuisance to combat were from the bites of the bloodsucking, slender and long-legged flies aka mosquitoes! Humph!

We ambled our way leisurely on the main road. There was not a car in sight.

We did not walk very far until we reached a junction with crossroads. There, in the centre of the junction was the ‘drunken frog’!!

Why was the frog drunk? Ah ha … storytime at the end of this post. Be patient, ‘kay? 😉

Trattoria “Grotta della Rana

I mentioned earlier that San Sano has only one restaurant and Trattoria Grotta della Rana was THAT restaurant!

By the way, “Grotta della Rana” means literally, “The Cave Of the Frog”.

What a coincidence, eh? We just met our friend the “drunken frog” and now the restaurant with a froggy name? San Sano could be Tuscany’s very own Sesame Street! Ha ha …

It was 6:20pm when we arrived at the resto. It’s a lovely restaurant with a decent size alfresco terrace. We were seated at a table for four. There were no other customers then, except for the bloodsucking mosquitoes!! Arghhh!!!

A friendly looking guy came to our table with a big smile on his face. He welcomed us with open arms. He spoke very limited English, but we seemed to comprehend one another pretty well. He brought us the resto’s menu card, and lo and behold! The menu card was entirely handwritten in Italian!

I guess that’s the beauty of being authentic, original and traditional without the touristy fluff.

What I noticed about Italian restaurants in general, is that, menus are usually composed of the following courses: antipasti (appetiser), primi piatti (first course, usually consisting of a pasta dish), secondi piatti (second or main course of meat or fish served alone) and contorni (vegetables and potatoes side dishes)

Surprisingly, with the owner’s limited English and our limited Italian, we ordered the most amazing plates, one after another …

The dishes were ridiculously scrumptious from antipasti to deserts!

Oh by the way, I could never finish a glass of red wine, but not the one served at Trattoria Grotta della Rana! It was one of the best local Chianti wines.

The waiter who brought us the bottle of water and breads was an elderly man, who’s also the old chap manning the tiny grocery shop adjoining the Trattoria.

We found out that the Trattoria’s a one big family affair of 3 generations. The elderly man’s the father (grandfather), while the guy who greeted us was his son, the current proprietor of the restaurant. The owner’s son also waited and served at the table. The owner’s wife and the ladies in the kitchen were the unsung chefs who made sure the palates and tummies of the customers were fully satisfied.

If you’re looking for a Michelin star presentation or trendy fine dining plates, I’m afraid this is not the place for you. In all honesty, the kitchen serves simple and rustic but wholesome and genuine ingredients of ancient Chiantigiana or Tuscan traditions. That’s what we were looking for, a surprised hidden gem in a secluded and off-the-beaten-path location.

It was 9pm. Before we called it the night, we ordered deserts and coffee.

We left our table at 9.30 pm. 3 hours earlier, we arrived when there were no one else there, but we left a packed restaurant that evening! That summed up EVERYTHING about the Cave Of the Frog Tavern!

Now, are you ready to hear the story of the ‘boozy frog’? According to the website of La Grotta della Rana, it’s based on a true story.

It went like this …

The Story of the Drunken Frog

Once upon a time an elementary teacher from San Sano, Ferdinando Anichini, enrolled himself to a game show program called “Il Tappabuchi” on the Italian television. It was April 1967. The host of the show, Corrado, offered prizes to contestants who could sing, dance, recite a poem or to imitate the sound of an animal. Anichini chose to imitate the sound of the croaking of a frog, because in Gaiole (San Sano lies in the commune of Gaiole in Chianti), the inhabitants were called “ranocchia” (frog people) in ancient times due to the large number of frogs on the banks of the Masellane. According to Corrado, the frog imitation from Anichini was rather shoddy, however, the contestant went on to justify himself with a cheeky statement, “Our frogs sing like that, because they drink Chianti wine!” Having said that, the elementary teacher won the show with one condition that he devolved his winning prize of 200k Italian Lira (equivalent to Euro 103.29 today) in favour of the tiny village of San Sano. The most interesting thing was the contestant mentioned “Chianti” four times on national television – in an era where such outspoken promotion were unimaginable. With his prize money, the winner of the TV show commissioned Siena-born sculpture, Plinio Tammaro to build a frog statue (fountain), gulping down wine and spewing water.

That was the day, the drunken frog of San Sano was born… 😀

Sorry, if you’re thinking the frog was once-upon-a-time a Prince. There’s no Prince on a white stallion, but, San Sano has, without a doubt, radiated a princely charm to those who appreciate Tuscany’s simplicity at its best.

Arrivederci!

Tschüss Tirol! Ciao Tuscany!

We left Gästehaus Maria in Nassereith after having a humble breakfast of buns with cold cuts and cheeses. We needed that because of our impending journey to Tuscany which was a long and winding 615km away.

Nassereith is 845m above sea level. It’s a mountainous region in Tirol.

We bade farewell to the colossal mountains and the cool air of Tirol while heading for North East Italy.

While on the highway to Italy, I suddenly felt like a Chipmunk or a Badger or a Mole burrowing through tunnels.

By the way, that’s exactly what happened; the highway crosses the heart of the mountains, passing through countless tunnels, viaducts and bridges.

After 9 gruelling hours on the road, we finally reached our holiday home, situated in a medieval hamlet, nestled in the Tuscan hills. While in Tirol, our B&B overlooked the mountains from our balcony; it was at San Sano that we had the extensive views of billowing vineyards acres after acres.

I had a quick inspection of the facades and knew that I could appreciate my stay there. I could see myself curling up on a chair tapping away on my iPhone and sharing with you my moblogs.

It was hot and humid up in the mountains of Tuscany, so unlike Tirol. One thing’s for sure, I don’t need my pashmina 🙂

What’s up next was a mystery as much as San Sano is mysterious …

Ciao!