Thursday, May 25, 2017

I never thought I would end up hunting for lions and elephants in Chelsea, one of London’s posh neighborhoods!

But since I missed out on snapping up 350-pound tickets to see the famous RHS Chelsea Flower Show, I decided to take a walk on the wild side and attend my first Chelsea in Bloom event. Earlier this week, I read about the event in my weekly Timeout magazine on my evening commute and instead of forgetting to check out said event as I usually do, I went on my day off yesterday. Chelsea in Bloom has returned for its 12th year, transforming this posh neighborhood into a street flower show with a “Floral Safari” theme in honor of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The event is only set up through Sunday, May 27th.

Local boutiques (such as Jimmy Choo, Club Monaco, Rag & Bone and Kiehls) have transformed their storefronts into a wild parade of elephants, monkeys, lions, giraffes and more. I started at Sloane Square, where the information kiosk is located, and then walked along both Sloane Street and King’s Road and past the landscaped Cadogan Gardens. (Map here.)

The amazing displays seem to be crafted from a mix of fresh and dried flowers and grasses. I love taking photos of gardens, so I had fun with my camera, but was annoyed to find so many people in the middle of my free day. Ha!
Anyway, I thought you all might enjoy seeing what these creative florists got up to in central London this year. Cheers!

Which animal is your favorite?
One of the cool giraffes in front of the Rag & Bone shop - one of my favorite displays.

My Traveling Joys

Sunday, May 21, 2017

X is for eXcitement in MeXico

Since we’ve never been to China, trying to find a destination that we have visited that started with the letter “X” has been quite challenging.

We’ve explored the ancient Tlos ruins insouthwest Turkey which looks out onto the Xanthos Valley, but we never actually made it to Xanthos itself. We’ve also driven over the ancient Xanthos River (now the Eşen Çayı) which follows the road between Fethiye and Kalkan, but never stopped to take photos.

So for this month’s A-Z Guidebook post, I’m cheating a bit and going with a trip to the Riviera Maya in Mexico, an area stretching from Playa del Carmen to Tulum along the Yucatan Peninsula. Hubby and I took a short vacation to this beautiful resort area about a year before we were married. I received only 10 days of paid vacation when I was working full-time as an American pastry chef on the East Coast so a quick trip to Mexico was the answer to a much-needed sunny vacation.

I love Mexico! I spent a summer studying Spanish in Querétaro City, located in central Mexico, when I was 21. I worked with a lot of Hispanics in the restaurant kitchen’s I worked in and frequently spoke Spanish with them. Sadly, my Spanish is no bueno these days.

On this particular trip, we mainly relaxed and snorkeled at our resort. When you work all day on your feet at a restaurant, you finally just need a break. One of the exciting moments at the resort was attending a special Mayan dance performed by local artists. I suppose the extravagant costumes represented something important in the Mayan culture, but this trip has been so long ago now that I don’t recall the meaning. Still, I got a few good photos and most importantly created some Mexican memories.
I’m linking this post to the monthly travel guide link up organized by Fiona, a fellow Australian blogger, at Tiffin Bite Sized Food Adventures. Each month features a new letter of the alphabet. This month is the letter “X.” Please pop on over to Fiona’s blog to read more travel stories or feel free to link up your own!

TIFFIN - bite sized food adventures -
My Traveling Joys

Thursday, May 18, 2017

As I turn another year older, I must say that celebrating a four-decade milestone was much more fun, exciting and emotional. Now, I’m just another year older. Blah!

Weeks before we left Australia, I wanted to do something special for my 40th birthday. I did all the planning and decided that floating over the beautiful Yarra Valley and drinking local Aussie wines sounded like a perfect fit. But then on the night before my birthday, the hot air balloon company called to say the conditions were too windy to go up early the next day. (Hubby consoled me with a wine dinner at a winery so I can’t complain too much.) Then, we rescheduled for another weekend, which also was cancelled due to wind. Finally, the third time was a charm for us and up we went into a misty autumn morning.

The Yarra Valley is located about an hour from Melbourne’s CBD area. Previously, we already had taken two wine tours in the valley and one DIY winery tour. I had fallen in love with Australian and Kiwi wines and the valley happens to be the closest wine-producing region to the city. Wine + beautiful landscapes = one happy girl.
A horse and its shadow amongst the autumn-hued vineyards in the Yarra Valley.
On the big departure day, we opted for the free shuttle bus ride via Global Ballooning from Melbourne to the valley’s meeting point. We arrived a little after 5 a.m. The sky was still pitch black and we were surrounded by a low misty fog. I was worried the balloon ride would be cancelled yet again!

After driving to an appropriate landing site, our group got out to help set up the hot air balloon. Three other balloons took off from the same site, so it was fun to watch everyone prep the balloons. I mainly stood back and took photos. Ha!
Hubby and me before we took off on our Global Ballooning adventure.
I should mention that I’m a teensy bit afraid of heights, and I started to mildly panic once I hopped into the balloon’s basket. However, once we got up in the air, the feeling was magical. Any fear subsided and all I did was admire the beautiful scenery around us and take more photos. We literally floated through and above the clouds! What a delight!
Admiring the Landscapes
We silently floated over Victorian farms, apple orchards, wineries, emerald-green pastures filled with cows and horses and even a couple of kangaroos. Seriously, the views could not have been more perfect!
Why had I waited 40 years to take this thrilling balloon ride? When we lived in Turkey, we almost did a balloon ride over Cappadocia, but opted not to because of the expense. Now, we were paying nearly twice as much in Australia, but the cost was certainly justified in the end.

After an hour or so up in the air, we landed in the middle of a pasture filled with cows who didn’t seem to mind our intrusion whatsoever. The company has partnerships with several local farmers who allow the balloon companies to land there. Then, we all helped roll up the balloon and gather the supplies so we could head to breakfast.

Time for Bubbles
Our balloon package included a fantastic brunch at Rochford Winery with lots of sparkling Aussie wine. Hooray! Plus, we had a good time chatting with our Aussie neighbors who were planning a big trip to the U.S. I was more than happy to provide my foodie recommendations for NYC.
All in all, turning 40 wasn’t too bad. I may have shed a few tears, but in the end, I made true memories to last a lifetime by floating over the amazing Aussie landscape.

My Traveling Joys

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sometimes I just need to escape my busy life in London, so when I had a visiting cousin recently I took him out to see Hampton Court.
Less than an hour train ride from our apartment, Hampton Court was the home of King Henry VIII, King William II and III and other English royalty. While this was my second visit inside the castle, the spring gardens is where I wanted to explore the most. April is a perfect month to visit to see cherry blossoms, daffodils, pansies, tulips, hyacinths and other spring flowers.
Back in Henry VIII’s time, the renaissance garden was established in the 1530s as a private garden designed to outshine the French Fontainbleau. Then, under King William III (1689-1702), the gardens were designed with “parterres a l’Anglaise” (English-style beds) with intricate patterns cut into the turf and filled with colorful gravel. These are framed with narrow borders displaying topiary, bulbs and annual plants. Using detailed accounts, the Privy Gardens, as they are called, have been restored to their former glory as they were in the 18th century.

“The Privy Garden represents a formal style of gardening which fell out of fashion soon after the garden was originally made. Its geometry is not to everyone’s taste but many find it extremely pleasing to the eye.” Account by Susanne Groom, curator of the Gardens Exhibition.

The gardens are gorgeous! Next time, I’d remember to bring a picnic lunch as plenty of people were enjoying the lovely spring day we had with temperatures nearly 20C degrees in April! That’s short-sleeve weather in England people!

Hope you enjoy this photo post from our spring day out to Hampton Court!
In the 1690s, the sheltered, south-facing pond yards were transformed by Mary II to display her rare and exotic plant collection. This garden became known as the Orange Quarter. Mary displayed her citrus fruit trees here in the summer. In the winter months, the plants were sheltered from the weather in nearby heated glass cases made by the Dutch carpenter Hendrick Floris. The Pond Gardens originally were used to hold freshwater fish for the royal courts.
Horse-drawn charabanc, based on the late 19th- century charabancs that brought visitors to Hampton Court, can be hired for a short (and expensive) ride around the grounds.
The canal, inspired by Versailles and runs 1.6 km long at a 90-degree axis of Henry VIII’s original garden. 
My Traveling Joys

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