Paris in Winter

We spent hours on a plane to get here… and we spent days walking and walking and walking and walking. Not only that, but my luggage was already filled to the brim and heavy… We took the metro… I warn you now… Do not take the metro with luggage that is too heavy to carry with one hand!!! Seriously! Those rollers will not help you get up and down 4-8 flights of steps where there are no elevators! Be smart and take a taxi. Yes it will be costly, but who cares? You’re in Paris!

One iconic shot, that’s all I wanted. And here it is…

The Eiffel Tower lit up for the night.

But Paris offers such places to take more…

If I was already there anyway, why not pay homage to this place, no?

Go to Paris… yes, you…and find this place… it is as it says… point zero of all the roads in France…

Notre Dame… and I didn’t get to see the gargoyles close up and personal… No hunchback either…

Climbed up the steps to see this place.. then they told me climb up another 300 steps to the dome… eh????

But the view was worth it.. even saw gargoyles…

Sunset from Sacre Coeur… Perhaps some things are meant to be seen in twilight….

The last day… it snowed… well… then… Paris… you are truly magnificent…



When my SO said we were going to Athens, I started looking for places to go and see. Which of the golden gods did I want to visit? Well, of course, Athena since she was right there… but I wanted someone different… A different kind of ruin. Then the screen of my computer showed me a different thing… and that led us to take a coastal bus one and a half hours to Sounion. We went to visit Poseidon.
Alas, the ruins were just that. The marbles and bronzes are now housed in the Archeological Museum in Athens. And because we went the cheap way (7 Euros each way) instead of the tour (running 60 or so Euros), we had to learn about Sounion alone.

That wasn’t all I wanted, however. It wasn’t the history. I understood it was an important port. And I understood that Poseidon was Athena’s rival for Attica. Still… beyond the myth and the facts was this pile of stones that has stood the test of time… Very tall and grandoise…

I wanted pictures.

It was a challenge, believe me. The ruins were atop a bluff. Using the limitations of my camera phone, how do I incorporate the Aegean sea below into the picture?

And I came looking for the presence of the old gods. And yet… I wasn’t sure if I saw them. If I could feel them… If the feelings of Stonehenge would also be the same here… I have come from so far away, after all.

The stones loomed in the distance… I must acquire that shot!

Would you believe me if I told you that this shot that I had taken was in a magazine? It is! Same angle. But they captured it with a wider angle lens. I should have played with the panorama on the phone.

I took pictures of the ruins to show the back side of the sea.

The composition isn’t what I wanted. I cut the ruins down to show more of the sea…

It’s okay… it just wasn’t… something.

Something was still missing.

This is a beautiful ruin. On a beautiful coast. And I could not get that shot with the water in the background. How oh how to do it? And with the sky so cloudy… I needed the sun to come out…

The sun cooperated and I was able to capture this.

The sea isn’t very prominent. The columns are. And against that blue sky… you wouldn’t know that it was rainy just a few hours past.

Many shots of the place, to take home one nice shot!

Then amidst the ruins at the foot of the temple… I had another new experience.

My first sighting of jack-in-the-pulpits!

Then all of a sudden, the temple came alive!

Birds suddenly flew into the temple!

Perhaps the old gods are still alive. We just have to look for them in unexpected places now.

Two Beaches

A cruise stop in Sint Maarten led me to googling where to go. A 15 minute walk to Phillipsburg, a 30 minute $3 bus ride later, we were in Mullet Bay. The water was crystal blue, the sand soft and white. It had sprinkled a little in the morning, but it was soon gone.

We spent hours lounging in the sea while the baggage spent time lounging on our $15 loungers (2 of them) under the umbrella. (Note: someone paid $10 for the same set up, but that was because they were only staying 1 hour 45 minutes. )

The tours started coming in after 30 minutes of almost no one there. Catamaran, sailboat, water taxi, yacht… buses… but nonetheless, the water was clear, beautiful and warm. And the people we encountered (since I had to ask where we can take the bus to Mullet Bay) were quite nice on the Dutch side. We never made it to the French side.

However, 15 minutes away…(yes! We walked it!) is the famous Maho Beach. Here is what I saw under a grass shack lunch place…

There were bodies on every inch of sand. It was crowded and noisy. But if you like that, hey! This is your place.

We ate at Driftwood, that’s that grass hut shanty bar.

The wings were delicious. The iced tea was a cold Arizona tea. Couldn’t believe I drank it all! Needed the sugar, I suppose. The wings were bbq wings. They had just a tad bit of heat. It was enough for me. Thank God I didn’t order the spicy. Whew! We were sweating already from the heat. The wings made us sweat more.

We took a $4 per person ride back to the cruise ship terminal. Some didn’t want to pay the extra $2 so they got off at Front Street in Phillipsburg. They were in for a hot 20 to 30 minute walk. My darling SO was too tired. Yes!

Monoliths and Majesty

Travelling for hours after much bickering between my travel mate and I, through English fog and winter’s breathe… we were finally minutes away from the ultimate destination of our English sojourn. My heart pounded slightly faster as if it has longed for this moment. And as we stepped off the site shuttle and stepped on sacred ground, my heart fluttered more.

The first view of Stonehenge was imbued with a sense of reverential magic. In the stillness of the morning, the air vibrated with a sense of meaning.

There were many crows in the fields.

The sky was somewhat overcast. And yet, for a slight second, the sun shone, allowing me to capture this one picture.

It was all worth it. 3000 or so miles away from home, across oceans and countries… I came and saw and felt… a sense of coming home…

Opportune Moment

It was hot, that day we stopped in the jungle. The air was fetid, burgeoning with some unvoiced expectation. The sun was overbearing and the clouds uncooperative. The air swarmed with mosquitoes and other flying insects. It was noisy with the calls of jaguars and clay. Still we trudged through this and for one fleeting second, I was able to stand in awe. One second to capture this moment… As if there was only me and the world followed in my wake. Jaguars can wait, this could not.

Chichen Itza, you are indeed magnificent! The temple of Kukulcan. Believe me, there were plenty of people teeming around its expanse. But this was taken quite quickly. It turned out quite nice.

I brought home with me the spirit of the jaguar. And every so often, I let it roar just like I have heard in this magnificently haunted place. It is quite fun to scare the dogs with it. Hahaha!

Skies of China

Took a trip out to China. No, it wasn’t too adventurous. It’s a guided tour so we were always on the go.

Beijing had no clouds, so the temple of heaven… Here you go.

Moat near the Forbidden city.

Skies around the Great Wall in Badaling.

I think I liked West Lake and the Tea plantations most.

But I was obsessed with the bridge in Huangshan. At night, the waters are so still and glassy, turning the bridge into something surreal.

I kept taking many pictures!

I have more to share.

China is a big country and we somehow visited 6 cities. All in a 15 day tour. In the middle of winter.

In truth, I would visit again during this time. One, we didn’t have to contend with smog. Two, no mosquitoes on the river allowing us to open the balcony door quite wide. Three, the crowds were few and far in between.
But I do warn that the pearl factory, jade factory, silk factory, and even the tea plantations…. Don’t get taken in by the hype of the infomercials. Our tour guides were pretty nice. They tried to warn us, we just didn’t have enough information to go by that the warnings were sort of like information that got lost in the translation.

We, Geo and I, bought tea for the story. But in reality we could have had the same tea for less. It is Long Jing Green Tea. The best green tea China has. However, we paid $100 for ours. It wasn’t what they said it was. This was supposedly the Imperial Dragon Well tea. The highly in demand spring tea. The ones picked by virgins only during March, April and May. Only around the area of Hangzhou (West Lake). In the particular village we were in… Mei Jia Wu village. Huh.

I liked the taste of the tea. It’s clean and bright. Rather like genmacha.

So I would have been okay with the $50 can.

But that would have still been too much for it. Because we were there in November. And from what I was reading AFTER the trip, the spring Dragon Well tea was probably all sold out BEFORE it was even harvested. And fetches prices well over the $100 for a small portion. And if you consider how small the region of tea plantations near West Lake, plus factor in the bus loads that go through these plantations… (I counted maybe 20 while we were there)… Then you will understand why we were …well… Scammed… That’s the only word I can say. Buyer beware in China. You should know what you are buying.

The trip was through Sinorama tours based out of Canada.

Get a visa for mainland China! Security there is no joke! Your passport becomes your local ID! And its important that you have a valid Visa.

And when going in winter, bring a mask for the face. Not only for the possible dust and pollution, but to keep you nose and cheeks warm. Brought mine for the pollution and smog… It ended up being a sensation among our group.

Bought this online fromChina. I thought I would see more of them being hawked. Nope.

Ah, well. Maybe in a different city.

Travelling to Italy in Winter – Wardrobe advice

We went to Rome, Florence, and Venice for 11 days total in January of this year. And I think that travelling in the winter has its perks. No lines!!!! Vatican? Go right on in. Uffizi? Go right on in. Doge’s palace? Come on in! Venice at dusk felt like we were on our own, like we owned the island. No crowds, no….dare I say??!?! – musty smell of teeming humanity.

The problem is dressing for the winter. You don’t want to look too touristy. Or too frumpy. Because it’s Italy, for heavens sake! And everything has to fit in one 21 inch carry on.

Because I didn’t plan as well as I should have, I ended up buying another luggage to haul my excess clothes and ummm….souvenirs.

So the following are my advice to dressing for the winter.

If you’re going in winter, it’s good to take layers.  Thin layers, not bulky sweaters.  Think 2-3 layers exclusive of jacket.


Take one snow winter jacket (down filled).  If your current living place is not used to snowy winters, do me a favor and go to a city that is.  You will need a snow winter jacket.


For some reason, this was the trend in Florence. Orange liner under that army jacket.

Bring a soft and warm muffler, scarf.  Something that will cover your cheeks and nose.


Bring facial moisturizer.  Slather it on in the evening and morning (will help protect you from windburn). You might want to invest in a creamier moisturizer.

Two sock method keeps feet warm.

Or footed tights and warm socks. 

Tights.  Take skinny jeans that have just a little room to slip in tights.  You’ll thank me for it.


Wish I found these before the trip! I brought fleece lined tights, though. Two of them.

The goal is to not allow any exposed skin, especially if your skin is sensitive to cold.  Wind burn can happen. 

Warm gloves.  It would probably be a good idea to get slightly larger gloves and one set that fits skin tight into it. 


If you’re shopping for jackets anyway, check for one with pockets INSIDE of the jacket.  Not OUTSIDE.  And make sure it should be large enough to hold your passport.  Make sure it’s zippered or buttoned.  A good antitheft device.  Nothing in the visible pockets outside of your jacket.  And it would probably be better if all of your pockets were zippered.  Since it won’t easily be detected under a scarf, wear a wallet that goes over your neck and hang in front of you. 

The skinniest bag you can find.  LOL!  Big enough to hold a few Euros, one of your credit cards, your cell phone, camera, extra batteries.  (And preferably one you can hide under your jacket.)

Beanies are a person’s best friend.  Even if you have a hood on your jacket.  A warm beanie to cover your head and ears are a major need.


If you must only bring one pair of shoes, I would recommend your best broken in boots.  The tall one.  That layer of extra warmth is going to be needed.  And it looks cool.  It should be broken in because you’ll do a lot of walking!  I can’t tell you how much better the boots actually felt over the comfortable flats I had brought.  I shouldn’t have brought those flats at all.  LOL! 

Plus, during the day that I was walking, I did the double sock method.  Served me well.  Didn’t get blisters, even though I thought I had. 

Bring slippers.  One you can use to the restroom.  Summer flip flops are okay.  They’re going to get wet anyway.  The hotels we stayed in all had wood floors and marble floors.  Very cold to barefeet.  And if you’re going to take a shower, your socks won’t help.  

Always bring a reusable bag.  Canvas, plastic, etc.  You’ll need something to haul all those groceries or souvenirs around in.  Europe is reluctant to give you plastic bags for free.  Plus, in any situation, you’ll need a bag to haul picnic supplies.  It’s still a good idea to have your own.  Just in case.  (On a side note, I bought two in Firenze because…well, I didn’t bring any with me.)

Snow boots, cute ones, are fine in Europe in winter.

Thermal shirts have become cute nowadays! Bring several!


And because you’ll love winter in Italy, start gathering a wardrobe for the next time you do go!


And just note that in winter, the shops in Firenze closes early. 7, I believe. The shops on Ponte Vecchio started closing up shop at around 6, 6:30. Probably the only place you’d get grub at would be near the train terminal. The clothing shops are open a bit later though. Which is why I bought the water resistant, hooded down jacket at Zara’s along with a long knitted muffler.

What kept me warm in Rome didn’t help in Florence. And the night I bought the jacket was freezing cold. And when I got back home, the jacket did not see any action. My hometown has mild Mediterranean weather.

Bring as many underwear as the days of the trip. And bring just two more pairs of socks than the days of the trip… In case you need an extra layer more of socks.

Most people wash underwear and socks in the bathroom, but seriously? I hated the smell. 

Walk! You’ll feel warmer.

Since it was my first trip, I didn’t know what to expect. Brought flat shoes. Didn’t need it. Brought two cute skirts (someone told me we were going to a jazz club). Didn’t need it. Didn’t bring a beanie. BIG mistake!
The biggest mistake I made? Packing bulky sweaters.

Next time…. I will bring more thermal long sleeves. Hunting for cute ones, currently. Three thin sweaters, more fleece lined tights with feet, and only two skinny pants. I will definitely bring a beanie, though I don’t generally wear one at home. And I will bring my long knitted scarf. Even if it’s the only scarf I bring.

I brought a neck warmer and that saved my face more times than I can count. A thin tube of synthetic fleece material!

And I will wear contacts instead of glasses. So I don’t fog them up. 😁