Phnom Penh, Cambodia

We finished our days in Cambodia with the capital, Phnom Penh for just a quick visit. One day and one night were enough to have a glimpse of this very promising city! Actually, our agency hadn’t proposed us to go but we insisted because come on, if you don’t see the capital of a country have you really see it?

I divided it in two parts, day and night, because they were so much different!! We had only one day to see the basics so we visited the must-see for a tourist: the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda and the Wat Phnom temple. Interesting of course but not very thrilling I must say… It was also so much hot this day, you couldn’t stand yourself with the clothes, no wonder why at night everything is better!

So, starting from the Royal Palace, built in 1813 containing several buildings which have been used for the coronation of kings and other ceremonies. I remember in king’s throne room I saw the biggest carpet I’ve ever seen, and a girl ironing a part of it, on the ground. Unfortunately, you weren’t allowed to take any photos. Within the grounds of the Palace is the Silver Pagoda, named because of the 5.000 silver tiles weighing 1kg each which cover the entire floor.

Continue to Wat Phnom, the city’s main temple situated on top of a hill along with throngs of worshippers. To tell you the truth, what impressed me the most of all of them was the wall murals with the beautiful paintings. Very large areas painted with stories from their history/mythology, unbelievable detailed. Some parts of them vrey splatter!

What we didn’t see and I believe it must have been very interesting to understand the cultural context of modern Cambodia was the Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre, a testament to those who suffered under the Khmer Rouge and a serious piece of the country’s history that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Phnom Penh is growing very fast, catching the eye of investors and entrepreneurs, mostly from China from what we’ve been told. For return visitors who prefer the city the way it was, this unrelenting urban expansion may come as an unpleasant shock. However, for me that didn’t know anything, and from the very small part I saw, I was very intrigued. I think it has a lot of dynamic, as any Asian big city after all.

A characteristic that shocked me a little though was the sex tourism thing that was happening all over. At least, around the area we’re staying at the city’s center. There were many bars with pretty girls hanging out outside, inviting European guys to keep them company and a lot of solo men walking around. I know it’s a real thing but I was kind of socked seeing it in front of me, out in the open, so easy and so normal.

Phnom Penh’s riverside area is a lively public place with a wide assortment of Khmer and Western restaurants and a bar on nearly every rooftop. A lot of people around, a lot of music from everywhere and a lot of colorful lights! I was fascinated by it, like a huge party in the city! We had dinner at one of the most popular riverside night spots, Oskar Bistro, an urban-chic look and feel, with great food and cocktails, being very lucky to find a table.

One of the coolest thing I saw was a live, coaching, public dance at the riverside, where so many people were participating, dancing so casually, having fun! Anyone could hop in, make a few moves and continue to have a drink at a bar, I didn’t do it though..my western shyness hold me back from all this fun.

We found also a Night Market very cool – of course my mother wouldn’t miss a good market, she could find it in closed eyes! It was very big, with so many tents and very nice clothes actually! I bought some cute stuff, waiting the summer to be worn…if we ever go out from the lockdown! At the end of the night market, or at the center depending how you see it, there was a big scene with live music, which I totally loved!!! Someone could say lame but that’s what I love the most! You can check in my instagram account (at highlights) some videos from then. Behind the music scene there was a large street food area, with a lot of people eating and hanging around. Unfortunately, we didn’t try anything because we were afraid, but they were very tempting.

What can I say, I love Asian culture and Asian expression of life and this is what I found in Phnom Penh! I was very happy that eventually we did make a stop there, totally worth it.

Cambodia | part 2

Here I am again, staying inside the house, in Athens, because of the pandemic measures everywhere… I’m having a great time actually because I love stay at home! It’s also a great opportunity to write about the rest of my trip to Cambodia, and feel like travelling again, just a little bit.

This post is multi themed, always in Siem Reap of Cambodia but with a bit of everything. Temples and monuments, a special floating village and the city of Siem Reap where we were staying.

Don’t forget to click on the images to see some add infos and see them in bigger size!

Starting with the culture section and the amazing Banteay Srei. Maybe you can see a difference from the previous temples at Angkor and there’s a reason for that. It was built by a woman and that’s why it’s more delicate. Banteay Srei, that actually means the “Citadel of the Women”, is a 10th-century Cambodian temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, built in pink sandstone. It is one of the smallest sites at Angkor, with everything in smaller dimensions, but what it lacks in size it makes up in beauty and that’s why they call it the jewel of Khmer art.

Leaving the monument area, we met a group of musicians quite interesting! In Cambodia the victims of land mines can have a music band and play in public places in order to make a living. They were actually very good, playing traditional music, I liked it a lot! However, the most strange performance was by an old man playing a leaf!!! Right, a tree leaf…I don’t know how but yes! The sound was like a harmonica but sharper, if you can imagine.
You can check it in this youtube video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpNzMLCHjno

Another temple complex we visited was the Pre Rup, a traditional royal crematorium. Pre Rup means ‘Turning the Body’ and refers to a traditional method of cremation in which a corpse’s outline is traced in the cinders. I remember feeling very inspired there, but on the other hand the Cambodian antibiotics (that I had taken the previous days) had just kicked in and I was feeling very good!

It was really interesting, to see how everything was taking under thought, and how everything was symbolizing something. The use of water, air and fire all together at the end of a life. Also, the site is among the jungle, so the view you have from above is just wow…

Afterwards, we took a very different visit by boat to the floating village of Kompomg Phluk, on the outskirts of Siem Reap where the locals live on houseboats. Believe me if I tell you that you can’t catch how impressive it was, just from the photos! It’s totally amazing how these people have built a huge community, a real town, in the water.

Siem Reap is home to multiple floating villages but I think this one was the larger or the most decent one. It’s impressive how people have adapted to their surroundings and live, work, go to school, to church or other public building, giving you a true appreciation for human persistence.

I think, whoever lives there doesn’t have to pay taxes or something like that, so a lot of people make that choice. So, it’s most about poor families, living in strange conditions – for me at least, but they’ve formed a perfectly working system for everyday life.
I remember visiting a restaurant to see the captured animals they had for clients, among them crocodiles! Some snakes too, and a lot of catfishes that we couldn’t see very well. There was also the home of the family who run the restaurant, who lived also there, watching tv as we passed by them – I was impressed that they weren’t bother at all by us. I remember they had also a little dog living with them which I found it very strange for a pet in a floating house!

People there live from fishing and all the family helps at it. It’s close to the huge lake Tonle Sap after all. Houses and buildings rest on tall, thin stilts that keep the occupants dry during the wet season, with giant ladders to reach the lower levels during the dry season.
It was funny to see children take their little boat to go to school or go play I guess; it was like a normal neighborhood but in boats and poles!

And now it’s time to finish this post about our activities in Siem Reap with the city of Siem Reap itself! Well, only by night because that was when we had the time to explore it. I must say that even if it was quite a touristic city I didn’t felt it in a bad way. It was very vivid, colorful and peaceful place where you could explore things depending your level of feeling comfortable!
The city has colonial and Chinese-style architecture, at least around the Old Market where we were staying. It’s a popular tourist destination so there are a lot of hotels, restaurants and businesses about this kind of industry. The Old Town, the famous Pub Street and Night Market are all together, by a large river, creating a very nice area for strolling around.

I loved the cocktail trucks in the streets, with neon lights and loud music, 5-6 stools to sit for a while and have a drink! Unfortunately, we saw them at the end of our walk, where we were completely exhausted (I was also with antibiotics so no alcohol…) and didn’t try them.
We did try though the famous fried ice-cream! It’s everywhere and you can’t miss it even if you want. So many flavors, but I loved the local mangos so much that everything I tried was mango.

We had dinner at two restaurants, the first one we founded by chance, just by looking around and we didn’t regret it at all! It had traditional Khmer cuisine, soups, curry, rice and fish of course, but in a unique flavor, very tasty. However, I bought a small package with a mix for Khmer’s soup, to cook it at home and it was awful!! I don’t know if it was me or the mix of spices…but it took me days to forget the smell of it in my kitchen!

The second one I found it at the internet and it was so good that I almost didn’t take any photos, damn it! Haven is a special place, it’s a training restaurant that creates new life prospects for underprivileged young adults. By teaching them quality work and life skills they help them gain self-esteem, prepare them for employment and build safe and independent futures. So, by having your meal at Haven you support their program, how cool is that? And the place was very pretty too, with a magical yard, and the food was great! It was a very nice experience eating in Siem Reap after all!

And here our trip to Siem Reap comes to an end, escalating from the quietest (Luang Prabang, Laos) to the most bustling places as we continue. Siem Reap was one of my most loved parts of our whole trip!

Stay tuned for the 3rd part of Cambodia days, with Phnom Penh at the next post!

You can check the previous post about Cambodia here
or the posts about Laos here and here!

Cambodia | Angkor

Angkor Wat, the majestic sunrise

Here I am again with the 2nd part of our trip to Indochine, the amazing country of Cambodia!! Well, the first part of it, as we stayed there 4 whole days. A lot of parts I know… but I wanted to divide the posts so that it won’t be tiring to follow the story.

So, as I told you before, it was a very intensive trip, a lot of places to see compressed in so little time. We had a lot of flights and we weren’t sleeping enough, at least at the beggining of the excursion…so my first day at Cambodia I got sick! You can’t imagine my frustrution, I wanted so much to see everything but had no power to follow and with all that heat and humidity got me crazy. I ended up taking some cambodian medication (whaat) which thankfully got me better!

In Cambodia we stayed for 3 days at Siem Reap and one day at Phnom Penh. Siem Reap is a small city near the famous archeological sites of Angkor and the ancient city of Angkor Thom, so it’s very popular. It was really cute and very vivid, quite touristic in some parts but not in a bad way. It had a lot of local character and was very vivid.

Our first morning (well, before morning actually…) in the country was surreal!! We woke up very early to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The beauty of it was beyond words… Watching the sun rising in such a beautiful and old monument was sacramental.

Angkor is the old town of the kingdom of the Khmer’s dynasty. It’s a large area with a lot of beautiful temples, the most important of them is Angkor Wat. It’s a real architectural wonder and we were very lucky to start one day of our lives there.
We strolled around the courtyard, admiring everything around us, until we went inside the ancient complex to learn its history. We were very lucky to have a good guide that told us so many interesting thing, of which I remember almost nothing to convey to you!

Angkor Wat actually, this ancient city, with its magnificent monuments and the most clever irrigation system in the rice fields, remained “lost” for centuries until a French explorer discovered it in the jungle at 1860.
It’s the largest religious monument in the world and was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, as his state temple and eventual mausoleum. It was built as a representation of Mount Meru, the mythical sacred center of Hinduism and was dedicated to the god Vishnu, as a Hindu temple at first and gradually trandformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of 12th century.

The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. It has become such a symbol of Cambodia that it appears on its national flag. At the higher level of the complex, where only the priests and the king were allowed to enter, there stand four corner towers and a temple at the centre of them 65m height above the ground. Inside, it is fully decorated with many figures of their mythology and Buddha illustrations. What impressed me a lot was the system of shading at the window openings, with these stone crafted columns that left the sun slipping through them and enlighten different parts of the interior place, creating a magical atmosphere with golden lines.

When we went out again at the courtyard, the sun was dominant already and we were walking to the exit, trying to adjust all this remarkably beauty…until we met the monkeys!! It was the back to earth element that connected us again with the terrestrial. They were so cute and clever!! They were trying all the time to get food from tourists, grabing their sodas from their hands or sneaking inside their stuff! You should be very careful not to carry food or drinks out in the open, because you were a lost cause…

Our next stop was the great Bayon temple! It stands in the exact centre of the city of Angkor Thom. Very different this one, with all these huge, stone heads of Buddha at the top of the towers, with peaceful and smiling faces. On the bridge outside the complex there is on your left a series of smiling Buddhas and on your right a series of sad Buddhas, representing life I suppose.
Some say that the Khmer empire was divided into 54 provinces at the time of Bayon’s construction, that’s the reason for the 54 pairs of all-seeing eyes watchin the kingdom.

Unfortunately for me, I was feeling so sick when visiting Bayon that I didn’t have the strengh to go inside the temple and see more of it. Instead, I sat on a rock and tried to rest as the others continued the tour.
Eventually, I slept for real, there, sitting on a rock of ruins that was actually a door and some tourists walked over me to pass through and at some point I think some monkeys too!!

The third surreal monument we visited was Ta Prohm. Or the so-called ”Tomb Raider temple”! Here was the place where all the world fell in love with Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft in that movie. Or the place where Mowgli from the Jungle Book was living!

What makes Ta Prohm so exquisite, is its strangler figs’ silvery roots completely taking over some of the breathtaking temples. It’s a heavily damaged temple complex, where ancient trees grow through the masonry, sometimes the stones and trees are so intertwined that they would not withstand any separation.
You may wonder how this has happened. That I can tell you because I asked the same question our guide: Birds did it! They were leaving seeds when they’re standing on the stones and these seeds (of course with the help of humidity) grew up and became trees!

Undoubtedly the most atmospheric ruin at Angkor. Its appeal lies in the fact that, unlike the other monuments of Angkor, it has been swallowed by the jungle, and looks very much the way most of the monuments of Angkor appeared when European explorers first stumbled upon them.

Built from 1186 and originally known as Rajavihara (Monastery of the King), Ta Prohm was a Buddhist temple dedicated to the mother of Jayavarman VII. It is one of the few temples in the Angkor region where an inscription provides information about the temple’s dependents and inhabitants. Almost 80,000 people were required to maintain or attend at the temple, among them more than 2700 officials and 615 dancers.

If Angkor Wat is testimony to the genius of the ancient Khmers, Ta Prohm reminds us equally of the awesome fertility and power of the jungle. It’s amazing afterall what nature and man created together, a whole new piece of art!

Stay tuned for the next posts about our trip to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh!

Check out the previous posts about Laos here and here.

Luang Prabang, Laos

The view at Mekong river

I’m very thrilled to post – at last – about my trip to Indochina!! Well, just the 1st part, of many…because I took so many photos that it took me sooo many time to choose just a few of them and even now I have to split the posts.

So my mother, my brother and I went to Laos, Cambodia and Bangkok for 10 days the last October and I don’t need to say that we had the best time!
It was a very intensive trip, very tiring (I even got sick some days) because we squeezed so many things and places to so little time but it was definitely worth it.

At first, we visited Laos, and specifically Luang Prabang, a small and very beautiful town in north-central Laos. It’s a remarkably well-preserved town, combining the traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries. In fact, Luang Prabang has been claimed by UNESCO to be the best preserved city in South East Asia.

We spent only 3 days there but were enough to feel the peaceful spirit of Laos and understand just a little of their culture. The hotel we stayed was the cutest, it was the best welcoming place in great style that got us in the mood immediately.

We arrived in the morning, after a whole day travelling with almost no sleep…so we were exhausted! My brother D. took his clothes off at once and slept under the mosquito net of his bed without even thinking about it though my mother and I felt more courageous and decided to explore Luang Prabang. During noon…with the sun and heat at their strongest…it was impossible!!
However we were very lucky to find out the paradise on earth at our first steps! Manda de Laos is a hotel with the most amazing restaurant in an artificial lily pond with lotus flowers!! We walked a path through a beautiful garden with small ponds to excite you without even know what’s in the end. So when we arrived at the large pond with all the exotic plants around we had our jaws dropped!! We sat for a cold coffee that Laos is very famous (they produce their own coffee) and a juice to fuel us for our walk.

So, we left the paradise on earth and began to stroll around the town, exploring the colors and the flavors of the town who was sleeping at that time. The town inspires a tranquility, maybe because there are very few cars, a lot of bicycles and is sited on the side of Mekong river with the vigorous vegetation all around. Also, Luang Prabang is famous because of the many Buddhist temples, very well preserved and the monks that live there.

The biggest monument of Luang Prabang is the Royal Palace and the area around it. Very well preserved, today the National Museum, unfortunately photos weren’t allowed inside and it was very interesting. You could totally imagine the life of the kings living there, accepting visitors or sleeping in their simple bedroom. Also it displays a lovely collection of artifacts reflecting the richness of Lao culture throughout the ages.

Then we visited the magnificent Wat Xieng Thong with the impressive “tree of life” mosaic set in colored glass. Traditional architecture of these buildings (Palace and temples) impressed me a lot because it was quite different from what I’ve seen already in Asia, very unique, simple but majestic at the same time. And the small glass tiles which covered some parts of them were sparkling in the sun, creating a light atmosphere.

As every asian town respecting itself food markets are very widespread and seductive. It’s the joy of the photographer, so many colors and strange products and of course a lot of fresh fruits and street food counters. I liked a lot the people that worked there when they were relaxing or even sleeping while they waited for customers. With that heat and humidity of course, there aren’t much you can do.

The atmosphere of the town is really unique, the morning stillness alternates with the evening buzz when everybody goes out and the market is working for real at a cooler temperature. We were afraid sitting at one of the many picturesque restaurants by the river (I don’t know why, we had no reason actually) and decide to eat at a simple yet cute little restaurant by the main street because it felt less touristic.
The food ok, I can’t describe how nice it was in general wherever we ate, I love asian cuisine and I especially love noodles where you could find everywhere in so many versions. It felt really good to taste the food in a simple way of offering, without trying too hard.

Local people wake up at 03.00 or until 05.00 in the morning as we’ve been told (wow…) to go to work and it’s very natural for them because of the temperature of course. A very early morning religious ritual is also happening every day, the morning alms giving ritual to saffron clad monks. This tradition is unique to Laos, being the only Buddhist nation still preserving this procession.
These daily morning alms are very important for the people, expressing their deep faith and work like this. Group of monks of each temple parade in a row, holding a basket. People sitting on the side of the street offers them cooked sticky rice which they’ve bought through specific vendors. That’s happening because the old days this was the food of the monks, only by people’s offerings, they don’t cook inside the temples. Today I’m not sure if it’s still the same but people still offers them cooked food for sure as an expression of faith.

However, from what I’ve read online this procession has become a touristic magnet which annoys the locals, sometime they don’t respect the monks and photograph them very closely like they are an exotic animal, but when we went very few visitors where participating and they were very respectful.

All the days in Laos I stayed almost sleepless because of circumstances: at first, travelling one whole day without sleeping, the first night my mother had a migraine crisis during the night so we were helping her, the next night my cat from Athens was lost and I was doing phycological support to G through telephone to help him find her (I didn’t want to return to Greece missing a cat!) and last but not least we wanted to attend the morning alms of the monks so we waked basically at night..! So, you get in the mood of how tired I was and how difficult it must be to even walk through the hot day!!
However, I remember 2 nights that stood out, the night market at the main street of Luang Prabang and a dinner at Manda de Laos.
The night market happens every afternoon until almost midnight, the street is filled with vendors and tents in red and blue color (Laos flag) creating a festive atmosphere full of colors! People gathers, plays music, eats, it’s like a real fest. Also, the stuff that they sell…not bad at all!!

However, we lost my brother there for a while and because of not having phones to contact (rookie mistake) we were very anxious but eventually we found each other. He had gone to watch a local theater play and he was just enjoying his time while we were waiting for him!!

The second night that will stay in my memory forever was the dinner at Manda de Laos. As I told you before we went with my mother there the first morning there and were so impressed that wanted to have dinner also, and have D. to see it too. So we made a reservation and went our last night in Luang Prabang.
The place was magical, like you were in a fairytale! The lilies had opened full because of the night coolness and the lights were highlighting the beauty of the place. Such beauty that words aren’t enough!!
Of course, the food was equally great. It’s a fine dining restaurant that offers a very upgrade level of laotian cuisine, expensive for Laos but close to european prices, not more. We made also a mistake and ordered 3 times (!) the food we wanted to eat so we were suffering at the end – I was close to explosion that night!

In the meantime, we went some excursions to Mekong river and other places and we were amazed by the great nature of Laos.
So stay tuned for the next post that will cover that part!

Saint-Emilion | France

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The amazing view from the balcony

And last but not least, the 3rd part of this amazing trip to Southwest France, Saint-Emilion! As I told you at the previous post, we visited Bordeaux for 1 day and the second day we decided to go to this beautiful village to learn a little more about wine.

Saint-Emilion is a super well preserved traditional French village with all the fairy tale memories you may have. As if Bell and Gaston from the Beauty and the Beast was living here..! And as if this wasn’t enough, it’s a large area of vineyards, a whole appellation of wine, very famous for those who know. Extra treat, the jaw dropping chateau that every vineyard has and had me hanging from the car window while arriving and making “aaahh” sounds all the way! It was a total dream…

So, already from Athens I had make a reservation to a chateau near to the village that had a guided tour in English and because of that our reservation was at 2 o’clock splitting our day at two. So we had to have lunch just by arriving and after the chateau tour we’d return at the village to continue our visit.

When we arrived the weather was beautiful, sunny and cheerful (though at the end of the day not so much…), so we walked around a little bit before lunch. The only thorn at the fairy tale situation was the very touristic site that was, at least when we went. G for example couldn’t overtake it while I didn’t care much. We didn’t have the proper time though to explore it because of the schedule.

So by arriving at 12 o’clock we had to have lunch very early for our habits but that’s how French people do it! I’ve done a mini research from before and we went directly to the “L’envers du decor” a very nice restaurant with a picturesque yard. We weren’t very hungry but tried with pleasure 2 plates of their regional cuisine. I tried pigeon for the first time but I must say I wasn’t crazy about it. The wine was excellent though, both of our choices!

After the chateau tour we returned to the village to see more about it, we walked through the streets and admired everything around! Thankfully you can’t miss the most amazing view of the village at a central street balcony. It’s the 1st photo of the post, where you can see the square, the rest of the village and the vineyards as long as you can see. The weather this time was pretty gloomy but we were lucky not to have rain at this point, that’s why the half of the photos are sunny and the others quite dull.

Saint-Emilion is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as a Cultural Landscape, a historical landscape that remained intact but which is still carrying on its activity. So beautiful in the medieval architecture monuments and houses as long with the large vineyards and wineries around it. It has a history of wine production since its early days, many centuries ago.

The chateau we visited was Chateau Corbin, with a beautiful house that the owner lives there and the winery on the same property. It was an unmissable experience even though the rain burst out as we were there. No problem, we’ll stay here drinking wine until it stops!

We learnt a lot about their production and the works of a winery that was very very interesting, I definitely recommend it! One interesting info: they plant roses at the beginning of every series of the vineyard because that used to protect the grapes from diseases – the bugs attacked the roses first – but now they do it mostly for beauty reasons and I couldn’t agree more with them!

Another interesting info about this chateau is that from generation to generation is run by women, without planning it. Women power rules!

I don’t know why but our group was full of old people, and then to the village we continued to be surrounded by them..as also at the airplane going to France we had pink and white little heads all around! What on earth, is it an “old people” thing to do, the wine taisting travels, and I didn’t know? Go explore it!

So, we and our young friends end up to a beautiful tasting room with wooden ceiling and stone paved floor and a huge painting hanging on the wall to taste the wines we’ve learnt so far, bought one bottle for back home and left happy with a lot of red alcohol on our veins!

Returning to Toulouse the same afternoon wasn’t the easiest thing to do after a day dedicated to wine…but apparently we didn’t think much when organizing the trip. I definitely recommend to spend the night close to the area, to see more things, enjoy the most of it and don’t get extremely tired on the way back, as we did.

In total, it was an amazing 6 days trip that I enjoyed a lot!! I could definitely stay 1 week more, expanding all these fantastic experiences! 🙂

If you want to see more about my trip to Toulouse and Bordeaux you can check here and here!

Bordeaux | France

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Miroir d’Eau, Bordeaux

As I told you at the previous post here, we went for vacations to Southwest France with G, at Toulouse, where my sister lives. We wanted though to have as many experiences as possible so we took the opportunity to go for a small trip around and see other places too. Our trip theme was the wine exploration (it was..it became..no difference!) so we decided to go to Bordeaux and St.Emilion!

Actually it’s very easy to go from Toulouse to Bordeaux (2,5 hours highway) but I did the stupidity and didn’t deactivate the gps option “avoid tolls”, so we had a nice 4 hours roadtrip through the villages!! I wouldn’t recommend it though because we arrive at Bordeaux pretty exhausted… However, after we arrived, we’ve settled in the hotel etc. checked the map and our sortie started immediately!

Bordeaux is a beautiful city, even more beautiful than you expect. It’s so imposing with all these great old buildings, so well preserved, the architecture is totally grandiose! Of course we stayed mostly at the old city center because we only had 1 day but from what I saw in general it would be very cool to live there. The city is famous of course for the wine culture and the latest years for the gastronomic field with so many great restaurants to explore! It’s very vivid full of pretty little shops, bistros, cafes and young people everywhere. The truth is that you should spend more time if you have the possibility but even like this it was totally worth it.

Of course there is a river again, our beloved Garonne, protagonist of the city, creating 2 parts that both have interest. We stayed at the less famous side but we crossed the beautiful bridge Pont de Pierre to go to the other side every time. There are so many things to see there that even if you won’t have any plans you’ll be like “ahhhh” all the time. And so many we didn’t see, like the Cite du Vin a new museum about wine that must be very very interesting.

Walking down the riverfront you get to know the grandest face of Bordeaux, the stunning Place de la Bourse  with the Miroir d’Eau (water mirror) that impressed me a lot. Also, you pass by the Puerta de Cailhau, an old gate of the city that stands proudly to welcome you. Beautiful from both sides.

Miroir d’Eau is an urban area that, as an architect, I found it very cool and clever. It’s a square with a fountain that people can actually interact with it. A large surface that pours and spray water, creating, when still, a mirror that reflects the buildings in front of it! Also, people can walk over it, cooling themselves on hot days or just lay down by the sides. I have to say that passing through the water is very fun, you should definitely try it!

And of course it’s great for photos, probably the most photographed place in Bordeaux, especially by night! Unfortunately, when we went at night the water was almost drained so you can only believe what I say. I tell you the truth and it was absolutely incredible! (you should check it on google)

Walking on the inner city you keep seeing great buildings like the Cathedral of St. Andre with the huge-separated belfry and the amazing organ on the inside. The funny thing is that Bordeaux was full of such buildings and everyday life was just happening among them, like “ah, I’m waiting for the tram here in front of this Cathedral to go to work, the usual..”

The day we visited the city a street festival for celebrating nature, or something like that, was being held in several public spaces and it was very festive and joyful. We passed by a square where they had a small concert, people was eating and drinking wine at the cafes around and it was full of life! What I loved the most was this casual but buzzy atmosphere and light spirit of people that were enjoying their drink and food outside, so many small cafes-bistros, cute, pretty and simple.

In such a cafe we spent some time to drink a glass of wine and rest a little (so many hours walking…). We were lucky to find Cheverus cafe, because it was exactly what we needed, quintessential retro interior that I fell in love with, where we tasted the most delicious tapas I’ve ever eaten (ok, I was super hungry also but it was really good!).
Now is the time to learn that my second favorite taste after croissants+coffee for breakfast is fine tapas+wine for anytime. In general I’m such a glutton you can make me happy with just food,  so imagine my fulfillment at this trip!

After the small pause with wine to fill our batteries we continued our walk around the city. Unfortunately the stores close early in the afternoon so we didn’t have the chance to go for any shopping or maybe the universe protected us I don’t know… But of course when we found a pastry shop with a vitrine full of macarons we stepped inside to taste some of them (5-6 were the minimum to have a proper opinion…). This made our walk even more interesting as you understand!

However, walking all day at Bordeaux while eating macarons makes you super thirsty… and because of the closed stores G. almost had a crazy episode but thankfully there are a lot of street water fountains so that people can drink freely water. And something like that saved the day..!

We closed this day at Mama Shelter for drinks and dinner, where I’ve made a reservation days before because I wanted so badly to see it. Designed by Philippe Starck, its a funny space, very popular and vivid. The food wasn’t exceptional but very good even so, the cocktails super, and in general it was totally worth it to catch the city’s vibe.

We walk our way to the hotel to see the city by night, passed one more time from the Mirroir d’Eau (full of people even at midnight) and crossed the lighted bridge Pont de Pierre for the last time…and almost passed out at our beds! Goodnight Bordeaux!

You can check the rest of this amazing trip to Southwest France here (Toulouse) and here (Saint-Emilion)! 🙂

Toulouse | France

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riverbank of Garonne, Toulouse

I don’t know about you but I love France! I went to a francophone school so we can say that french culture is in my DNA now, and that’s why I get very enthusiastic when I have the chance to awaken this part of my brain. Toulouse is a beautiful city at the southwest France, the 4th largest city in the country but not a touristic destination which adds at her charm. My sister lives there with her boyfriend so we decided with G. to visit them at the end of May and explore this part of France as possible. And it was marvelous!

Toulouse is a quiet yet full of life city, with the river Garonne (it runs through the southwest France and northern Spain) make her even more beautiful. People have a quality life there, you can tell by just walking at the streets, see them using the public spaces, sitting at the banks of the river, using the bicycle a lot and having fun at the cutest little cafe-bars. It was raining some of the days but it didn’t stop us from exploring. They call her the red city because of the red stones at the building facades all over and in combination with the greenery create a nice scenery. The perfect scenery to have a quality time for vacation, drinking wine and eating french delicacies!

So, our first acquaintance with the city was my sisters house. She lives with her boyfriend at a small but very sweet apartment. From the photo group above you can see her kitchen only because all the rest of the house was covered with our luggage. We spent 1 night there, then we left for a 2 days trip to Bordeaux and St.Emilion (I will dedicate another post about them) and returned to Toulouse where we stayed at a beautiful airbnb apartment at the city center, old house with wooden floors, 3m high windows and totally downtown.

My favorite part of the first days was the breakfast we had at T’s apartment, with real treasures from the neighborhood’s bakery. You should know that i absolutely love french croissant with my coffee!!! I think if I was living there I would make this bakery super rich. Croissants, pain au chocolat, cinnamon rolls and of course fresh baguette with french cheeses etc. Really, I couldn’t ask for more.

Strolling around the city you can see a bunch of beautiful places, of course there is a carousel at a square, and when you feel tired you can sit for a beer or a glass of wine at lovely cafes.

Unfortunately I didn’t took any photos from the coolest restaurant we went, Chez Navarre, with classic occitan cuisine, with a serving system to remember. There were large tables full of starters from which you can choose whatever you want. When you feel ready you serve yourself from a table with few main dishes (we were lucky that they had duck that day) and at the end you go to another table with the sweets and cheeses. The interior of the restaurant was very authentic, an old building with wooden structure and bricks creating an imposing atmosphere. The only problem was that because of this free serving system you could eat until you die as we almost did…

The center of Toulouse is quite small so you can move by walking as you pass through nice buildings and squares. The days that the weather was good we walked a lot and we had the chance to get used with the city easily. There are old, beautiful buildings everywhere!

We weren’t so much interested for museums etc and we were more free on Sunday&Monday that they were all closed. So the only sightseeing we visited was the church of St.Jacobin, southern gothic style, constructed entirely of brick.

One of the highlights of our visit in Toulouse was the market of V.Hugo. It’s a pity that in Greece we don’t have such places where you can buy fresh products and also taste in the same area their delicacies, drink a quick glass of wine and really enjoy your shopping time. As you can guess we did all these (well, almost)!

It was amazing how many delicatessen products were gathered there. Separated the meet market from the fish market, the unnumerable cheeses, foie gras, magret, sausages etc. However, the best part was when we sat for fresh oysters and shrimps with wine at 11 o’clock! It was delicious, the best way to start your day in vacations! It closes at 13.00 though so you should go early if you want to have time.

G was late and missed that part with the oysters so when he came at the market we sat for a quick glass of wine at the shops on the groundfloor and afterwards we went at the 1st floor where there are restaurants to have lunch. All cooked with products of the market downstairs of course. There is a lot of people so maybe you should go early there too, but we were lucky and found a place. We tasted foie gras and other parts of duck, fish tartar among others and finish our gourmet lunch in happiness!

After this amazing morning-lunch we went to the Grand Rond park to have some leisure time. We played a Finnish game, named mölkky that kept us busy for a long time. It was super fun and I was the worst player of the 4, even though I did had a victory!

This park is next to another park, creating a large green area perfect for Sundays, where there are free chickens and other domestic animals. So strange…imagine laying on the grass, reading a book and see a chicken passing by…

In general, we had a really great time, we spoke in french, we enjoyed so much the food and the wines, we tasted so many french appellations and learn a bit more about wine, we went for shopping in vintage stores that I love (G. found a geek source of retro arcade games and comic book stores that made him craaazy) and so much more. We enjoyed the city in general, and I must say that Toulouse is definitely worth visiting!

You can check also the rest of this amazing trip to Southwest France, to Bordeaux and Saint-Emilion, where we explored more the wine culture!

Patterns from India | Part 2

The Indian spirit is still burning inside my blue flamingo guys! Don’t lose hope, the patterns about this amazing culture are on the way, as I promised! After the first post of the series “Patterns from India” we continue here with some abstract motifs, flowers, lotus flowers mostly, paisleys, blocked technique for fabrics etc which are very popular in India. They use flowers everywhere, mostly as offers to gods but in general everything is so colorful and they have amazing fabrics with so many prints! So, at this post we’ll enjoy this aspect of India depicted in patterns.

  1. Flowered theme pattern in white background via WeHeartIt  2. Diecut Tiled by David Matthew Parker  3. Indian inspired morifs in yellow by Daneisha Kay  4. Pink paisley by Janet Broxon 5. Abstract colorful motifs via Coquita 

What I learned there and really impressed me was the Woodblock printing technique on textiles. It’s very developed and common to decorate their fabrics, and it’s very interesting during the process. I found only a few for this pattern collection but if you search on the internet I’m sure you’ll be amazed.

  1. Light pink motifs via Pinterest  2&3&4. Woodblocking printed patterns via BibliOdyssey  5. Blue madras paisley delft via InsideStores  6. Magenta paisleys by Wagner Campelo

Next group is of course about flowers, in yellow and orange colors, their national color combination I’d say! Besides, marigolds are very characteristics of India, as people make welcome necklaces for visitors.

  1. Tropical floral wallpaper by Tania Rivilis  2. Orange flowers (it’s chinese art but could be indian art easily with marigolds!) via South Kensington museum  3. Autumn delight lotus by Soul of Birds  4. Blue Tropical Gardern Patterns by Tetiana Kartasheva via Pinterest  5. Yellow flowers via Pinterest

And we’ll finish with more flowers, in pink/red hues this time another loving color for Indian people. And mine. Lotus flower is also very appreciated and very beautiful.

  1. Pink Harajuku Tokyo lotus by Natalie Robin Design  2. Pink flowers in light blue via Pinterest  3. Pink peonies in red by Tatsushi Eto  4. Flowers via Patterns&Prints   5. Warm flower wallpaper via Patternatic

Check the other post about Patterns from India here.

Patterns from India | Part 1

I’m at last so happy to present you my first pattern collection with Indian theme! From the time I came back I dived in to working and that’s why it took me so long to prepare it. Another reason though was that I found a completely new world of patterns when I started my research. Because of that I decided to make 3 different posts with Indian themed patterns, separated by subject, to be possible to unwind this amazing new world. I hope you’ll be on board with this and enjoy them as I did!

This group of patterns is about nature of India: the magical jungle, animals that impressed me and delicious fruits!

1.Palm trees via Pinterest, 2. India poster via The Messes of Men,  3. Green leaves via ModernVintageInterior, 4. Leaves in yellow by Tas Lima,  5. Blue jungle via google images,  6. Light green jungle by BN Wallcoverings, 7. Lead elephant-Arjuna by ranganath krishnamani,  8. Pink palm trees via Pinterest,  9. Singita jungle by Cole&Son

So we started with the jungle…so many trees and plants, India is very rich in nature! Palm trees, teak forests and a bunch of so many others I don’t know!

Of course, among them, in the jungle but not only you meet a lot of exotic (for us) animals. Tigers, crocodiles, a lot of monkeys, peacocks, wild boar, deer etc…We saw all of them there but here I have only some.