A Travelling Journey
    Family Travelling

A Travelling Journey

Charming Phuket

by Laura Blanc de Silva on 12/04/13

It was a Friday morning and we were flying over the small incredible islands of this part of the world. From far away one could see this, but much bigger. Phuket was going to be our destination for the next 4 days, to be more precisely, a beach town called Patong.
The arrival at Casa del M Resort was about an hour drive from the airport by minivan. The interesting thing was that the van's route did not drop us off at the resort, but all the way downtown from it. The resort was at the high peak of the town. Anyway, someone drove us down and picked us up. We checked into our room and headed down into the shore to enjoy the sunset and grab some acclaimed traditional Thai diner. I had in mind some seafood with pad Thai noodles, steamed dumplings or green curry. Along the way, we purchased the activities for our stay in the island (daytrip on a speed boat to Koh Phi Phi, James Bond’s Island, Monkey’s Island; elephant ride through the jungle, a visit to the big Buddha Phuket in Chalong which is almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty in NY harbor, except that this one is completely made of beautiful white marble pieces.
Saturday morning as planned, we were picked up and headed to the port to join other tourists, mostly Russians and Europeans. The speed boat with about 60 people onboard headed east to Koh Phi Phi Islands. We visited 4 islands (James Bond’s, Monkey’s Island, Kaino, and Krabi where we had lunch. The boat ride to the first stop took about an hour at sea. It was difficult to put into words the feelings that one experienced contemplating that scenery for the first time. In a way, I wanted to take a picture of it in my mind, and went back to live it every other day for the rest of my life. The water was captivating, clear greenish full of small multicolored fishes swimming right below the boat! So beautiful!
On Sunday, we had breakfast at the resort. It was raining, very much tropical weather with all sorts of birds singing through the corridors of the venue. We headed uphill to see the elephants, and watched the jungle. What we didn't know was that these heavy animals were kept chained throughout the day, so they wouldn't run wild and leave their owners out of business. It was my least favorite part of the trip in Thailand. On our way back to Patong, the sky started to clear out and the sun came back out. We visited the Big Buddha’s monument which was very enjoyable. There were about two dozen small golden Buddhas in different positions surrounding the actual temple, and many people praying and meditating. It was a peaceful and serene place to encounter in this island, which not too long ago on a Christmas day, was almost washed out by the Tsunami.
Phuket was one of the most beautiful and enjoyable parts of our trip. However, it was not as clean as our previous location, Singapore. Let's see what awaits us in our next stop, “The Pearl of the Orient.”

Bologna: “La Dotta, La Rossa, La Grassa”

by Laura Blanc de Silva on 12/04/13

At the end of August, and after spending some days in Rome, we decided to visit Bologna. A friend has told us that it was one of the most welcoming cities in Italy; however it is not enlisted as one of the most popular cities in the guidebooks. We love “welcoming cities”, so we gave a try!

We took one of the fastest Trenitalia trains and in three hours we arrived in Bologna, better known by the Italians as “La Dotta, La Rossa, La Grassa” (“the educated, the red, the fat”) . “Educated” is for the city’s university, the oldest in the western world; “Red” refers both to the red bricks that most of Bologna’s historic buildings and porticoes are made from, and to the city’s history of leftist (read communist) politics. And “fat”, of course, is for Bologna’s culinary tradition.

It is one most beautiful city we have been to. Bologna’s historic centre has been beautifully maintained, and we enjoyed exploring it on foot. As we went in August, it was not full of tourists, so we wandered around, enjoyed the view and ate!  Bologna has innumerable streets that are worth visiting, each has something to catch the tourist’s attention. The streets are so narrow, that cars do not pass through.  The main means of transportation in the downtown area are bicycles. Less pollution and more exercise! A curiosity in Bologna are its porches that can be seen everywhere, it rains a lot, especially in autumn and spring, so it is a must to carry an umbrella, or seek protection under their beautiful and unique frames.

Its famous University of Bologna embraces a lot of foreign students that mingled with tourists from all over and people who come and go from their jobs. It has museums to explore, churches and beautiful places to visit. In the historic, center we visited La Piazza Maggiore, and the Basilica di San Petronio. When visiting new places, we always love to engage in conversations with the locals. They mentioned to us that the Basilica has a shocking piece of architecture and art inside worth seeing, an ancient and controversial painting that shows Mohammed burning in inferno. The painting has been subject to considerable threats terrorists and is well maintained. There are a large number of Roman ruins under the city that did not allow building a metro.

Tomorrow we are heading from Bologna Centrale (train station) to Florence, only a 40 minutes train ride! But that is another story. 

The Must-Visit Loire Valley

by Laura Blanc de Silva on 12/04/13

We visited some European countries this summer, we stayed in Paris five days, and from there we went for the day to the Loire Valley. These are only some of Loire’s historic towns: Blois, Chinon, Orléans, Saumur, Tours, Nantes or Angers, and the world-renowned heritage sites such as the castles of Chambord and Chenonceau, Amboise Royal Castle, the Gardens of Villandry Castle , the Château du Clos Lucé or the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud. The Loire Valley has an extension of 280 km long and 800 km2, and is enlisted on the world heritage of UNESCO since 2000 for its cultural landscapes, that illustrated the ideals of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. One of the best excursions to be done when visiting France! But one day is not enough!

The day was hot and dry, and it was mid-August already! The town of Amboise was a medieval fortress in the late fifteenth century and early sixteenth century, and once the home of Charles VIII and Francis I. On the left bank of the Loire, the Amboise Castle has preserved the traces of its past. It has big terraces overlooking the Loire. The royal castle is a showroom of the great figures in the history of France, and to the ones that love history, it is enchanting.  European’s artists stayed at the court of Amboise, as it was a reference for the art and other cultural expressions.

We had the great surprise to learn that Leonardo da Vinci lived in the castle of Clos Lucé invited by Francis I. It is said that he was intimate of the king and that he exhibited 40 of his fabulous machines in the castle. During the guide visit, we knew that Leonardo came to France, probably after the death in 1516 of his patron Julian Medici, and that he received a rich income of 700 gold crowns. It seemed a fortune I thought! Our guide explained that Leonardo spent his time drawing and teaching, and that he also dedicated his time to urbanism and architecture. Leonardo’s remains rest in the chapel in the Amboise Castle, and we paid a visit to his tomb. He died in the house of Cloux on May 2, 1519.

From there, we visited the beautiful and well-kept gardens of the castle, and then we decided to buy souvenirs, before going to the town to have a delicious French meal.

So much to see and do in Vancouver!

by Laura Blanc de Silva on 12/04/13

We arrived at night at the fascinating city of Vancouver after travelling through the luxuriant landscape of British Columbia by Whistler Mountaineer. This train company, takes the famous Sea-to-Sky corridor which goes from evergreen forests to mountains. Amazing, exciting and unforgettable views! We chose to visit Vancouver in July, the weather was pleasant, it rains often and then the sun shines. An unusual combination.

We bought a hop-on hop-off ticket that was good for two days. The city is big and it takes time to visit it. The first day we visited Stanley Park, which has 400-hectare, located west of the city, and that is one of the national historic sites of Canada.  A magnificent park, with mountains, and majestic ancient trees. We took amazing pictures. Visitors can walk, bike, dine, or swim in the beach that holds the park. We took the bus again and visited the First Nations totem poles. Staley Park is home to a variety of monuments and the totems are located at Brockton Point in the eastern corner of Stanley Park. These totems are considered to be the most visited monuments in British Columbia, and they are also a few minutes away from the Vancouver Aquarium, our next stop.

The Aquarium is also in Stanley Park and it is a must visit. It has more than 50,000 animals from all over the world. We saw funny shows and got splashed by the dolphins! One of the most interesting things is the marine research and the conservation initiatives that they have implemented. There were a lot of fast food restaurants, and endless lines of tourists waiting with noisy and cheerful kids. What a long day! Back to the hotel, dine and rest was what everybody said. Beautiful I thought! No extra plans to go out tonight. Plans for next day were to use the day pass and visit Gasstown, a reflection of the city's past.

A Jewel in South America

by Laura Blanc de Silva on 12/04/13

So we headed to Punta del Este or Punta as everybody called it, a unique natural destination. It is located in the department of Maldonado, only an hour and a half from Montevideo, it has more than 20 miles of coastline and high hills overlooking the sea. It is internationally recognized as one of the top spas in America and the most exclusive in the region. Luxurious summer houses, high-rise beachfront apartments, huge yachts in the harbor, luxury hotels and restaurants make this the most glamorous resort of America. Not surprisingly, it has been chosen as a destination resort for celebrities such as Ralph Lauren, Paul Mc Cartney, Metallica, Shakira.
Every imaginable recreation is an option to visit. We started taking a shopping trip along Gorlero Avenue and were impressed with the most recognized global brands. Christian Dior’s products to Benetton’s, along with traditional Uruguayan’s products converge there. Gorlero is the main street of the resort. Talking to some locals, they said that around this avenue, it was born the tourist’s life of Punta del Este. A fantastic beach that offers  showrooms, restaurants, malls, pubs, clubs, antique shops, art galleries, cinemas, theaters, markets, casinos and nightlife. Every summer Punta is chosen to be home of large fancy parties, fashion shows for brands and a wide range of cultural offerings of large dimension such as the International Jazz Festival, the International Film Festival and so forth. Punta also offers lovely places and landscapes for those who come in search of absolute tranquility.

The meeting point for all ages are the beaches. The most popular are Playa Mansa and Playa Brava, they mark the end of the Rio de la Plata and the beginning of the Atlantic Ocean. Punta also extends itself to the west forming Punta Ballena, and to the east creating La Barra and Jose Ignacio. Lots of sports are practiced along the diversity of its coast, such as surfing, windsurfing, jet skiing, boating, sailing, fishing and yachting. On land, tourists also engage in polo competitions, golf, tennis, soccer, and rugby.

We visited an astonishing Mediterranean-style house sculpture, Casapueblo, that is only 20 minutes from Punta del Este. Casapueblo is a white building, with curved edges, filled with paintings and sculptures, located on a cliff while watching the sea. It seems an appalling Greek house. It was designed by the Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró, which became an architectural icon. In summer, Casapueblo is the place to gather multiple cultural activities and the house-museum of Vilaró who can be described as a painter, potter, sculptor, muralist, writer, composer, builder and frequent traveler. Every day at sunset there is a Ceremony of the Sun that can be heard over loudspeakers. It was written and recited by Paez Vilaró and it is an anthem to the sun.

Punta surprised and captivated us. The best place to spend some days when you want to have fun and escape from the unfriendly winter. An enjoyable jewel in South America.

Hong Kong
Vancouver, Canada
             Paris, France