“This is our way of celebrating the great city we live and work in. Where others see nothing but debris and stone, we see the possibility of a truly life-enhancing experience.”
– W6 Creative Director Paul Holt.
I was pleasantly thrilled to be amongst privileged writers notified of the grand opening of W6 Garden Centre Café. This gem of a coffeehouse takes centerstage under the rail arches of Ravenscourt Park tube station, promising a soothing experience that will whisk you away from the trains running just metres above, by bringing a piece of old London back to life.
Judging from this hearty menu, the cafè can expect a long list of returning patrons. Nuala O’Connor, who previously worked as a chef at Petersham Nurseries Cafe, helms the kitchen. To quote her directly, ”I want to see the cafe become established as a favourite for local people and a lovely discovery for new customers. We already serve fantastic coffee; I would like to match that with simple but delicious fresh food made with great ingredients, some of which we are even starting to grow ourselves in our herb garden.”
Yes, from a luxuriant herb garden, no less than a foliage in the interior to potted ferns on your dining table – these little green details makes W6 a perfect place to get in touch with nature. Just looking at snapshots of the greenery brings a sense of peace – who would not love these lush overhanging plants and walls of mossy bricks?
Getting super excited by these photographs courtesy of David from W6 (thank you). I don’t usually write about cafés which I haven’t personally been, but this is too lovely not to share!
Am definitely adding this to my bucket-list on my next trip to London!
W6 Garden Centre Café
West Six Garden Centre & Cafe Ravenscourt Avenue
London W6 0SL Opening hours: Mon to Fri: 8.30am – 5.00pm Sat & Sun: 9.30am – 6.00pm
Tourists are so darn easy to sniff out. If you’ve been to Macau, you’d know the Ruins of St Paul’s (大三巴牌坊) but a one-sided wall, completely demolished and naked in the back. So the first-timers (like us) would still clamour for pictures with the famed 16th-century complex, an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. 68 steps would lead you to the southern stone façade, behind which lies the remains of the original pillars and a shrine. A wee bit of secret: the locals would tell you it’s customary to throw coins into the top window of the ruins from the stairs, for good luck.
From here, you can spot the stone façade, far left. Pretty deconstructed huh?
As we got closer, I realised it was just a one-dimensional wall. Didn’t stop me from my touristy shots!
Way to the ‘top’ – 68 easy-peasy steps! And so crowded on a late February weekday, we had to jostle a few elbows outta our way. Since this wall’s one of ’em things you’ve got to check off your Macau Bucket-lists, we made it to the top and beyond.
The best entitlement of a tourist is not being taken for a fool at stupid pictures. Here I am receiving a scroll from…some great Chinese scholar! (My bad, I can’t even remember names of half of my university Professors.) I CAME IN LIKE A CAAAANON-BAAAALLL (way before wreckingball became a thing)
Next best tourist entitlement: you don’t get judged for meaningless hand gestures in awkward I-don’-know-what-to-do-with-my-hands shots.
Not far from the Ruins of St Paul’s is the Museum of Macau, filled with relics from the time Macau was part of Portuguese empire, and also most importantly these were sacred and holy relics of art. Read: Museu De Arte Sacra = Museum Of Sacred Art.
The Museum of Macau is located in the famous Monte Fortress, in the heart of the city where the Portuguese first set foot. Being a fortress from where battles were fought and Macau defended, actual live cannons were left behind.
I had a hard time saying goodbye to the cannon I grew so fond off. They made a good war relic, and a decent sunbed.
Herein lies the footpath from midlevel (outdoors) to the top of Museum of Macau. Great weather, amazing scenery and good company makes for a fantastic walk.
Right at the top is where you see a grand entrance to the Museum. Conventionally, you’re meant to enter from the ground floor. The top floor consists of a garden, a small still fountain, and the fortress formation in which cannons are still located.
So the view from the top stole my heart! I loooove the vantage point, though ought to have been scared shitless standing so close to the edge. All I really wanna do is get close to the heart of the city.
Further snapshots from within the Fortress walls.
Every city I go, I try to get the bird’s eye view. Much like the Eiffel of Paris or Burj Khalifa of Dubai. It pretty much lays the city out at your feet for a much clearer picture than any map will provide you.
“I looked to the ceiling and told God, “God, next time I want an adventure, strike me with lightning. You have my permission.”
― Kristen Ashley, The Gamble
We were crazy for adventure and found our answer in Macau. The idea came like a flash of lightning. So with one day to spare we grabbed a pair of ferry tickets and bopped our way to the land of egg-tarts, casinos and tea-houses. I expected a whole new environment much like the gambling sitcoms we occasionally glimpse channel-surfing, but Macau is really an amalgam of new world Hong Kong with traditional Portuguese influences. What really amazed us – casinos were entities made of everything shiny, glazed with glamour and all that glitters that is actually gold.
Starving, we stuffed our faces with the island’s most traditonal Portuguese egg-tarts (or so every store says)
Then meandered the streets of Macau on foot. The air tingles with hope, because most people there were keeping their dreams alive. Making it big at the gambling den, or simply making it out alive.
Look what we found! Art in the heart of the city.
God knows who created these art but they are pretty darn amazing.
In Macau, basically, you can find hand-made pastries and cookies every-damn-where. It’s like stores fight for business. It’s what this place is known for, and all tourists are suckers for. We all want to bring a piece of Macau home. Almond biscuits, pork-floss crisps, handrolls. As traditional as it gets. I love their almond biscuit and egg-rolls which are out-of-this world. I have never gone for another bakery’s eggrolls ever since. Especially since Koi Kei makes the best egg-white egg-rolls, ooh lala.
My favourite is still Koi Kei – never have I gone home empty-handed from Hong Kong and he’s the reason why.
So since we’re on this topic, more food-talk and less sight-seeing! Sharetea in Macau is actually a cafe. The bustling cafe scene in Macau isn’t hipster at all…this is as hippie as it goes. Traditional teahouses, or cha-chan-teng 茶餐廳, which are known for eclectic dishes from Hong Kong cuisine and Hong Kong Western fusion cuisine, are more prevalent.
Food’s always the start of an adventure, as Anthony Bourdain puts it well: “I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates,’ food, for me, has always been an adventure”. Every culture has its food norms. Anyone else finds it interesting MacDonalds’ caters to every country’s needs? Here’s a Red Bean pie from Macau. I still miss it.
Part One here was all about what we ingested plus wall murals we caught (well if I could inhale and live off devouring art I would but unfortunately graffiti is not food). The next one and thereafter’s all about the view, and what essentially keeps people coming to Macau. The mystery of the casinos maybe… I for one enjoyed walking through the Portuguese cemetery, reading headstones of all who’s walked the land and had the means to buy themselves a place here after death. #morbid
So we arrived at the famed Raohe Night Market 饒河街夜市 in Northern Taipei, which is in close proximity to Taipei’s Rainbow Bridge across Keelung River (another topic altogether), and accomplished the feat of exploring the entire district in a night. But hang on, this post is all about food! The night market 饒河 (Raohe) is named precisely as the stretch of food, beverages and late-night shops run parallel to 基隆河 (Keelung River). Our native Taiwanese buddies had highly recommended this street for its reputation of being less touristy and cheaper than Shih-Lin or Linjiang Night Markets.
So we entered via the main street, having walked from the designated exit of Houshanpi Station, into this intermingling of food, clothes, gadgets, lingerie and everything-you-can-think-of shops.
We made these boys eat their first 臭豆腐 Stinky Tofu, Taipei’s famous smelly dish. They had mixed feelings about it.
We all loved this ice-cream & shaved peanut burrito/wrap 花生捲加冰淇淋! The scoops of ice cream came in vanilla, coconut and taro flavours, which tasted soooo good with peanut and the thin skinned crepe. The sprig of coriander added a unique twist. Overall, the dessert was refreshingly light – it felt just like having after-dinner mints, except with a lot more calories. I loved watching its preparation: the vendor first laid out the crepe, then shaved from a huge block of peanut candy. Three scoops of ice cream are set in a row before he shaved another layer of peanut candy, and topped it up with coriander. Then of course the combination is wrapped up, burrito style, and eaten like a Subway wrap. Voila!
For a traditionally laid-out Chinese night market, Raohe also boasts amazing Japanese food: teriyaki chicken on sticks, sushi and hand rolls. You name it, they’ve got it.
This one below is a personal favourite: Taro balls! I’d always thought they were cuttlefish balls but no, it’s made from taro, and fried. The Taiwanese do such amazing things with Taro, I love it.
Okay confession: I cannot remember what the dish below is. We ate too much that night to keep track of everything so if anybody could tell me what this is, I have cookies for you!!
And evidently, everything here was so yummy, that even on a full stomach, we couldn’t resist having to juggle all our food on our hands.
If you’ve got kids with you, they won’t be bored. Take them fishing and you get to bring the little rascals home with your big rascal. Hahha.
For the grownups, there are no lack of fancy-schmancy knick knacks and strange foods at Raohe night market. Here goes collection of my favourite shots:
Having eaten our way through the night market, we crowned the ICECREAM&PEANUT ROLLS as the King of Raohe Night Market. If we had a sliver of space left in our bulging bellies we would have had seconds, but sadly we couldn’t roll ourselves back to the stall. Everybody needs to try it once at least, if not from Raohe then at other night markets. YOU WON’T REGRET IT. And life’s like that isn’t it? If you don’t eat it, you might not live long enough to eat it again #justsaying.
Raohe Street Night Market
Section 4, Bade Road, Songshan District
Taipei City, Taiwan 105
Nearest Metro: HOUSHANPI STATION
What’s good: 藥燉排骨 Medicinal Ribs
I have been amassing a copious amount of photographs in these two years, it’s no surprise I’ve had to spend hours filtering through terabytes of memories. My favourites are heavily biased toward those taken in Europe, especially Greece and Santorini, and oh, Belgium and Paris too. I think I take too much pride in good photos I forgot to love the bad ones. Santorini will always hold a special place in my never-ending mental scroll of picturesque sceneries.
Pictures speak more than a thousand words but there are emotions that words and pictures cannot contain. At this point in time I’m just really glad for all these memories I get to keep long after this phase of my life is gone.
Though I’m gonna miss living out of a suitcase (and a blue handbag, my Longchamp tote and my cabin carry-on), I’ll not miss a lot of things tagged to the cabin crew life.
So, cheers to an exciting new path ahead!
Sitting on the edge of Santorini’s peak, the dormant volcanoes that we can see are silent with power. The calm blue sea emanates with trillions of years of being. This sense of awe in the face of earth’s grandeur captures what each of us essentially are in the grand scheme of our universe – mere specks of inconsequential dust in space and time.
Whilst we’re living on the edge of a fast-paced world, it’s a refreshing change to stop and admire beauty in the tranquil. I think I’ve learnt to appreciate life a whole lot more.
For 3 days, home was Alexander’s Boutique Hotel, a resort-villa mid-waisted on the slopes along Oia’s breezy coastline. At night, Santorini’s otherwise pitch-black darkness is incandescently lit. A romantic glow permeates the scenic seaside village.
At Alexander’s we experienced how it must feel like to reside in a cave! We were checked into 2 rooms: a family suite, as well as a windmill house at the very peak of Oia. The family suite was shaped like a cave on the outside, with a cavernous hole in the ceiling that makes the living room resemble the bottom of a well. I wouldn’t use ‘spacious’ in its description. With 5 people sleeping in its premises, it was comfortable, amidst its quaint, simple furnishing. Our walls were hand carved volcanic stone mixed with marble, like most of the other resorts on the island, hence everything felt cool to the touch.
Residents of Oia are known as Apanomerites (from when Oia was still Apano Meria). From 3 days of living alongside locals, I was thrilled to discover that none of these island inhabitants were fond of locking up their doors! They really sleep with their doors wide open to the Aegean sea breeze. Tourists like us are further made conspicuous with our bolted gates and tightly sealed windows.
From a high vantage point, Oia is a pretty village speckled with white and blue domed cottages, carved into the steep slope of the caldera – cauldron-like volcanic features formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption. In the day, her slopes and walls are pristinely white, and one can almost never find a single spot of dirt anywhere, not even an architectural flaw. Or a stained window. Bathed in an sea of calm that is the South Aegean sea, she’s insanely picturesque. No wonder she’s is a popular spot for wedding and anniversary photography! Please, future hubby, take me here too.
Looking for a place to stay on the slopes of Oia? Check out MYSTIQUE, Zoe Houses, Helianthus Suites, Oia Mare Villas, or Aethrio. Villas on the island don’t come cheap, but you pay for what you get and trust me, it’s gonna be worth it.
Everyone who’s ever read a summer issue of Condé Nast Traveller dreams of the perfect Santorini sunset. Elusive is the word: sunset at Santorini isn’t about the picture-perfect moment. It is the breathtaking instance when you first catch sight, with your very own eyes, the illuminated sphere of bright fiery orange, radiating pink at its periphery.
After a gruelling Singapore to Athens flight, we further endured 3 hours on a crowded SeaJets ferry alongside hordes of locals and tourists alike. SeaJets stops by all major Greek islands – Mykonos,Paros, Ios, Sifnos, Folegandros – you name it and SeaJets is cruising right by. It is the go-to transport of choice for island-hoppers looking to crash local beach parties. And trust me, Greek island parties are the bomb diggity. But partying aside, our tired bodies weren’t ready to rock and roll as yet. Thankfully the ride was relatively bump-free from the port of Rafina in Athens to Thira at Santorini. We managed to snooze for a bit.
Things to note when tackling the long island-to-island boat ride:
2. Have a full meal before coming onboard. The snacks bar is overpriced and does not carry anything remotely nutritious.
3. Bring eyeshades/sunglasses, earplugs and possibly an electric fan.
4. Always purchase confirmed seat tickets. Whilst cheaper tickets without a seat may sound tempting in booze-induced states of high, you’ll be subjected to constant seat changing or else endure the entire 3 hours on your feet. How these tickets works: you get to sit if there are vacant ones available. At the next island-stop, someone else may hop on and that person has purchased confirmed rights to your seat. So, ciao comfy chair.
5. Bring some form of entertainment – a book or magazines. Only the bees in the hive behind the main TV could hear what’s going on onscreen.
At last we arrived at the island. Everything is forgiven when we saw
I admit these weren’t the most professionally taken photos in the history of Santorini sunsets. But I’m dead proud to say I took them with my baby Panasonic Lumix GF6. The best places to view sunsets are along Oia (northern tip) and Fira (short promenade along the cliff edge near the Cathedral), or you could also check out GoGreece for how to get the best sunset experiences. I took these along the Promenade of Fira, and caught sunrise at Oia the morning after whilst enjoying breakfast in the comfort of our resort-villa. Utter. Bliss.
A latin phrase sums up my experience perfectly: ad astra per aspera, meaning a rough road leads to the stars. Incidentally this was also on Launch Complex 34’s memorial plaque for the astronauts of Apollo 1. The thing is, travelling is never comfortable or easy unless you’ve hired a private jet. Be prepared to jostle in the queue for SeaJets, semi-suffocate in the crammed ferry seats, endure long walks in search of your villa with your duffle bags, but all’s good when you see the dazzling light at the edge of the horizon.
Stay tuned for more of my adventures in Santorini.
And Paris is a woman’s town, with flowers in her hair;
– Henry van Dyke
A full-blown visual tour of Galeries Lafayette’s gorgeous interior: other than to gush over luxury goods I took the liberty of snapping otherwise passed-over gush-worthy details. Has anybody ever really highlighted the architectural wonder that is this shopping mall?
Top-storey view: gorgeous and lofty. You could pretty much see a 360 of Paris.
“When good Americans die, they go to Paris,’ the ghost said, after taking a drag on a small cigarette.”
― Karen Chance, Embrace the Night
The sky decided on delivering a full-blown shower and a trio of very drenched Paris Explorers braved their way on foot across the Eiffel Tower and towards Trocadero. Pretty much everywhere in Paris’ city centre you’ll be able to locate patisseries and cafes that are great for alfresco-dining.
A walking distance from Tour de Eiffel is The Carette Paris where locals and tourists alike can be seen nursing a cuppa, having pre-dinner drinks along the pavement portico, or enjoying a full-course dinner in its premises. Its interior decor is made up of beautiful pristine whites in stark contrast to the red velvet cushions and dark brown mahogany woods of their lounges and seats, which in my opinion is the classiest interior colour combination ever.
Dinner was: iced chocolate, almond and cinnamon infused hot milk, a slice of insanely rich opera cake, a piping hot onion and cheese soup as well as assorted macarons!
A handful of pistachio, raspberry, dark chocolate and sea salt caramel, rose, and fudge cake macarons. My favourite was the pistachio. So yummy! ^^ See how Paris has spoilt me on the dessert front? Overloading on good pastries is a given when in Paris! They have an impressive collection of macarons on offer, you can never taste them all.
And then there was this: the opera cake. I can never have another coffee/chocolate cake without thinking of this one.
“But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there,
not even poverty, nor sudden money,
nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong
nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition
You know you’re in love with restaurant in a foreign land when you visit twice in 2 days, and already miss having it the moment your plate is clean. This was Lèon de Bruxelles for us, having found love in pots of garnished mussels in delectable broths and platters filled with basil sauce and melted mozzarella.
I know I’m definitely in love with Lèon’s cappucino with fresh whipped cream, meridional mussels’ gratin, creme brûlée, and waffles! For the curious, please do sneak a peek at their menu. I swear all this travelling spoils my appetite for food.