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The Beginning of the Indonesian Archipelago

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Pulau Weh 6

This post should really be the very first chapter of my blog because, you see, I’m at the very beginning of Indonesia, not at the beginning of time but at the beginning of the archipelago, on the Island of Pulau Weh on the extreme northwest tip of Sumatra… and Indonesia.



Revisiting Hong Kong

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When I was a little girl, my brother Roger visited the Far East and returned with exotic gifts –



Gili Air

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Gili Air

Even those of us who are lucky enough to live on a sunny little tropical island feel the need to escape from time to time; but where do we head for when we want to get away for a long weekend? Where do we go to find a place that is uncomplicated, peaceful and quiet; somewhere that is not too far to travel and is not going to cost us a packet? Where can we find a haven without cars or motorbikes? An escape from bright lights, and a complete retreat from the frustrations of bureaucracy or the persistent demands of people?



From the Palace to the Prison

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4S

Our first view of ‘Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet’ was from the rooftop terrace of a neighbouring restaurant. From there, in between sipping a Turkish coffee and a cherry juice while relishing the astonishing views of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia, the Bosphorus and the Marmara Sea, we gazed down into the hotel’s manicured, flower-filled courtyard, which had once been the exercise yard of a Turkish prison. It was our first morning in Istanbul, we had an epic tour of Europe ahead of us – plenty to be excited about, but there was also a certain thrill in knowing that we would be returning to the city for the final two days of our trip and staying one night at each of Istanbul’s stunningly-different Four Seasons’ properties.



A Parisian Party to Remember

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View-from-the-balcony

We first met Cyrille last October; the French friend of a French friend, he came to Bali for a holiday. His visit coincided with the rugby world cup final – New Zealand versus France – and he joined us as a guest at our Kiwi dominated party. France lost the championship by a single point, but it didn’t spoil the show for Cyrille; with a Gaelic shrug he continued to party with us ’til late into the night. He told us if ever we came to Paris, he would return our hospitality by treating us to a barbeque on the balcony of his apartment, which overlooks the Moulin Rouge.



Bologna

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Bologna statue

We spent 24 hours in the beautiful, old, old city of Bologna – home of Bolognaise sauce and full of colonnaded walkways. So how did we spend we evening?



Spending our Swiss Francs

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Driving across the Swiss Alps, we were subjected to the autobahn toll. As we were only staying in Switzerland for one night we hadn’t bothered to buy any Swiss francs, but that was okay, we were allowed to pay in Euros. The only problem was that we were given our change in Swiss francs, a total of about six francs in coins. We reckoned the canny Swiss government was probably making quite a lot of money from all the small-change francs that never got spent by the drivers who were just passing through, so we decided to buck the system and spend it at the next motorway services. And what did we buy?



Venice

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Venice

Wearing a straw boater and horizontal-striped shirt, the gondalier was lazing against the wall of a bridge. His shining gondala moored below.



Turkish Delights

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Blue Mosque

Returning to Istanbul for the first time since the mid-eighties releases an assault of memories – tastes, landmarks, sights, sounds, words – that leaves me flummoxed. How could I have forgotten the cherry juice that I used to drink every day? How could I have not recalled the names of the bridges, the Galata Tower and Taksim Square? The toasted cheese sandwiches wrapped in paper? Each resurrected memory is like unexpectedly finding a wad of ten pound notes in my back pocket, then pulling them out one after another after another and cashing them in for Turkish Lire.



Europe Beckons

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tomorrow, I’m stepping out of Asia and setting out on a month-long trip around Europe, visiting some cities that I haven’t been to in a long, long time, as well as a few places that I’ve wanted to visit for as long as I can remember, while catching up with family and old friends along the way.



Julio the Waterhen

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Julio

Julio is a male, white-breasted waterhen. This beautiful creature hatched in my garden and has been coming into my house ever since he was a fluffy little black chick.



Last Night of Twelfth Night

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Shakespeare-in-the-Park

I’ve just come back from a brief two-day visit to Singapore where I grabbed a bit of culture by catching the final night of a month-long performance of Shakespeare in the Park.



 
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