Travel recaps: Berlin

Berlin, with its young population - 23% of its inhabitants are under 25, is an electrifying and fascinating city. I was surprised to see how international it is. How do I know? Well the food on the streets is one indicator.We had kebabs, pho, pad thai, steak, burritos, pasta and lots of Wurst in the short three nights we were there for. Maybe because we were surrounded by same age, like-minded people that I had such a memorable time there. It was one of the few destinations where I didn't do research or have any maps ready for exploration and yet I was never more comfortable and relaxed. It's a hip city where something interesting is always waiting to be uncovered, like a little hole-in-a-wall German pub that serves British food but plays French music in the background. Neat right?

One of my recommended activities is to join a bike tour of the city. I had not cycled for 8 months prior and was quite worried about my skills. But I was reassured that it would be fairly easy. Well...they lied. There was this massive hill where we had to bike up to reach the beer garden for lunch and I had forgotten how to use the gears, so I was struggling and panting all the way up. Nearly died of thirst but being in a beer garden quenched that. Don't let the 'exercise' put you off. It was so much fun. The guide was also highly entertaining.

However there is one thing you have to be aware of - Gypsies. Even on bikes, they RUN after you, trying to sell you roses. Think zombies apocalypse movies. They can smell 'tourist' from a mile away.

Snapshots #6

Hi all, I'm still alive! Just work and personal stuff taking over, hence it was difficult to find time to chill and blog. To make up for my hiatus, here are a few personal shots taken over the Jan-Feb period. Lately I have been obsessing over coconut water, pizzas with lots of 'real' ingredients and cider. I don't know if it's because of the warmer weather or the lingering holiday mood but I have consumed more food in the past month than I have ever had in the other 11 months. Well... stress may also be a contributing factor as I tend to binge on desserts to de-stress. With that note, Laduree has new flavours in store! Super excited. I'm in love with the rose and lime basil macarons - my new favourites.

Was swapping bags the other day and got a bit curious about the staple items in my bag. But really it was nothing special. iPod, headphones, wallet, Laura Mercia lipstick, papaw ointment, bb cream, keys, camera and a book. The big bunch of what looks to be a collection of little toys is actually my set of keys. When traveling overseas instead of collecting postcards or magnets as souvenirs, I prefer buying keychains. My friends think it's hilarious whenever I bring my keys out because, over the years, I have collected quite a few keychains so the bunch is now pretty huge and clunky. But I love it nevertheless.

Have a wonderful weekend. It looks like it will be a pretty wet one for Sydney.

Ps: Thanks guys for your book recommendations, there's a long list to read through over the coming months which I'm super happy about.

Reading is like travel ...

And so it's a start to a brand new week. Hope your weekend was wonderful. I spent some time with my family which as usual was chaotic, loud but lots of fun. After dinner, we had a long chat about things we used to do when we were kids and shared travel stories. My dad was the first person in his family to head overseas, Scotland for university and had spent 3 interesting months in the US during his summer break. Hearing his fascinating stories when growing up has to an extent inspire me to explore the world. All the talk about travelling over the weekend has made me restless. For the first time in 2.5 years, I have no concrete travel plans for 2013 - I had hope to go to a few places but that might not come to fruition. It's a strange feeling.

In a bid to overcome this feeling, I have a few books line up which I have been neglecting as of late due to work and other personal reasons. Reading has always been my second love and possibly why I enjoy it so much is because it correlates with travel. "Reading is like travel, allowing you to exit your own life for a bit, and to come back with a renewed, inspired, perspective" - from Laurie Helgoe, one of my favourite quotes, which I wholeheartedly agree. I'm almost done with The Elegance of the Hedgehog which follows events in a Parisian apartment (I'm really enjoying it but it is slow-paced, so if you prefer plot over characters then this book might not be for you) and still contemplating whether The Other Hand or The Casual Vacancy should be my next book.

Has anyone read the above books? Any suggestions on which to read next or other novels?

Oyster Inn, NZ

Images from here & here

Isn't this seaside hotel pretty? I recently read an article on The Oyster Inn and fell in love with its understated yet elegant design. This part hotel, part restaurant is situated on Waiheke Island, a short 35minute hop from Auckland. The guestrooms (only 3 rooms) are designed based on the classic Kiwi 'bach', a vernacular beach house that New Zealanders grew up with.  Keeping the aesthetics simple and warm - each room comes with king-sized beds, merino wool blankets, waffle cotton bathrobes and AESOP bathroom amenities. One of the cutest things on offer is the pickup from the ferry pier by the hotel's yellow vintage VW Kombi. A lovely little place for a quick escape from city life. Something I really need after an intense week at work (hence the infrequent updates on the blog), I'm so glad the weekend is near. You can find out more about the hotel on their website.

Sydney Festival : Waste Not by Song Dong

Two weekends ago, based on a friend's recommendation, I decided to pop by Carriageworks - an art centre situated in the old rail yards near Redfern Station. It has been housing a few exhibitions as part of the Sydney Festival, with one particular installation generating a bit of a buzz.

Chinese artist Song Dong's Waste Not project covers much of the open space of the art centre. It is a touching installation that came about following the death of his father. His mother as part of her mourning developed clinical hoarding to fill the void left by his father. Song Dong thought of another way to allow his mother sort through all her possessions whilst overcoming her grief. He told her of his plan to make "art" from her items, hence she became the artist and he, the assistant. This gave her a space to reminisce and put her memories in order, bringing her much happiness and a new start. Until her death in 2009, she would chat to visitors that came to see the project, answering their questions and telling them stories of her family.

Walking through the exhibition, I can imagine Song Dong and his mum sorting the items together and how glad Song Dong must have felt to be able to provide his mum with a purpose and outlet to share stories about her past and their family.

Waste Not will remain open to public until March 17. So if you have time to spare, do head to Carriageworks for a peek.

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