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This is War!

Grant's Gazelle

Grant's Gazelle

My husband took these photos in Kenya. The two Grant’s Gazelles were calmly standing there, gawking at tourists, then it was war! The tourists were forgotten as they got down to the important stuff of exerting dominance.

Life is a bit hectic in my world at present, and until things settle down, I’m going to blog twice a week – Tuesdays and Thursdays – instead of every day.

See you tomorrow Smile

Gaudi’s Great Masterpiece

Of all Gaudi’s designs, I think the Sagrada Familia is probably one of the most ambitious and interesting buildings. It certainly dominates the skyline.

View of Barcelona

This is the Sagrada Familia as seen from a hilltop.

Exterior Queue

And here is a view of the Sagrada Familia from the other side of the road. All the people standing in front are in a queue to enter the building. The Familia is still under construction and tourist revenue is providing the funds to complete the building. As an aside, a New Zealander is responsible for completing Gaudi’s design and making any necessary adjustments during the building process.

We stood in line for an hour before we gained admittance. Hubby muttered a bit about the wait, but I stood firm. Everyone we’d met said how amazing the building was inside and I wanted to see with my own eyes.

Work in Progress

Exterior Figure

The exterior of the building is covered with carvings of people, animals and decoration.

Exterior near entrance

Here is some of the carving near the entrance to the interior.

Interior

The interior is full of marble columns. Some are pink and others are white. When I walked inside, I didn’t know where to look first. There are stained glass windows, dozens of columns and so much more.

If you’re ever in Barcelona, you have to put this on your travel itinerary. It’s well worth the wait to gain admittance.

Gaudi’s Casa Mila

Before hubby and I visited Barcelona, I’d never heard of Gaudi, but I challenge anyone to visit this vibrant city and leave without learning about this famous architect.

Gaudi was born on 25 June 1852 and died on 7 June 1926 after being struck by a tram during his daily walk. He’s best known for his design of the cathedral in Barcelona – Sagrada Familia. I’ll post photos of the cathedral another time, but today my photos are of Casa Mila, a building designed between the years 1906 – 1912.

This was a controversial design, as was most of Gaudi’s work, and it reminded me of the buildings in the cartoon, The Flintstones. In 1984 the building was declared a World Heritage site. It was built for a married couple, but the husband died in 1940 and the wife sold the building in 1946. The building was restored after being left to deteriorate and is now open to the public.

Casa Mila, Barcelona

Casa Mila, Barcelona

The chimneys at the top of the building are often photographed, and you’ll see them on many Barcelona brochures and postcards.

Chimneys

What do you think of Gaudi’s style?

Arc de Triomf – Entry to the World Expo

Arc De Triomf Barcelona

This magnificent arch is the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona. It was designed by Josep Vilaseca to celebrate the 1888 World Expo. The arch was the entrance to the exposition, and it’s built of red bricks.

I liked all the detailed carvings, and this one below is my favorite. I couldn’t find anything in my guidebook, but I call him Batman.

Barcelona Bat

A lot of travelers enjoy visiting museums, and I’ve seen a fair share since my first childhood visit to the Auckland War Memorial museum. I confess to a low boredom threshold when it comes to museums, and I pick my visits carefully. An hour is usually enough for me, and luckily my husband and I mesh when it comes to sightseeing in museums.

Are you a fan of museums? Do you have any favorites, and what types of exhibits do you favor?

Fast Train to Shanghai!

Fast Train, Shanghai

When we visited Shanghai everyone in our group was eager to experience the fast train. It’s a high-speed magnetic levitation train.

The train travels the 30 km (18.6 miles) in seven minutes and twenty seconds. All I know is that it was incredibly fast. The scenery blurred and the speedo inside the train went up to 431 kilometers. I didn’t feel safe, but then I hate speed. I’m much happier when my feet are planted firmly on the ground. I was very happy to get off at the other end.

Later today (12 Feb) I’m doing a chat about at Coffee Time Romance at 9.00 pm EST. I’ll be talking about my Middlemarch Mates series (feline shifters) and my upcoming Middlemarch Capture series.

I’m taking part in The Romance Studio’s Valentine’s party. You can take part here and win some great prizes.

And finally, don’t forget to enter my contest in the Share the Love blog hop. You might win an Amazon gift certificate!

Have you traveled in a fast train? Do you like speed?

Holidays and History

In around six months we’re off on holiday. This time we’re flying to London and catching a cruise ship from Southampton. Part of the joy of traveling is the research, the deciding where to stay and what to do. We have long discussions about various alternatives, and recent topics have included the New Forest, transport in and around Southampton, and places to stay in Southampton and also things to see in Winchester.

We’ve decided to stay at an old hotel in Southampton called the Dolphin. It’s said that the earliest references to the hotel were found in 1454. During Elizabethan times it was frequented by foreign merchants and seaman. Guests were entertained by minstrels and other entertainers.

The hotel is said to have six resident ghosts, and I’m looking forward to learning more about them. One of the ghosts named Molly walks down the corridors with only part of her body showing because she’s walking on the original medieval timbers.

Jane Austen lived in Southampton for part of her life (1806–1809) and she celebrated her 18th birthday at the hotel.

The hotel was also a coaching inn and was used for winter assemblies. The writer William Makepeace Thackary wrote part of his novel Pendennis at the hotel. He used to sit in the large bow windows and write.

While much of Southampton was destroyed by bombing during WWII, the Dolphin escaped destruction, and it recently underwent a 4 million redevelopment. Mr Munro says just as well since that means we won’t need to use chamber pots.

Since the Dolphin is an old building some of the floors are on a bit of a slant—according to the reviews.  It all adds to the charm, and I can’t wait for our stay.

Do you enjoy planning trips or are you a more of the spur of the moment traveler?

The Beautiful Lotus

Lotus flower

Lotus pots

The lotus flower:

1. They grow in humid and warm climates such as Asia.

2. The roots of the plant grow in water, usually a shallow river or pond and the leaves float on the water (as a rule). The flowers grow above the water and have a thick stalk.

3. The petals range from white to vibrant pink.

4. The plants spread out and cover several feet of water.

5. The flower is edible and are used as garnishes and in herbal medicines and teas.

6. The leaves are also edible and used as a wrap for other dishes.

7. The lotus is an important part of both Buddhism and Hinduism and some of the deities are drawn with the lotus flower. It’s also found in Egyptian records.

8. A lotus flower is a symbol of purity since it rises above the muddy water in which it grows.

9. The lotus flower represents long life, health, honor and good luck.

10. The rock band Radiohead had a song called The Lotus Flower.

I remember when we went to China we were served lotus root as part of our dinner one night. I didn’t like it very much, but as the sole vegetarian on the trip, I ate a large variety of stalks and stems. I revolted after a while and foisted off the stalks and stems on the carnivores.

Has anyone tried lotus root or flowers?

One Man, Two Men. Three Men, More!

Visit any Asian country, and you’ll soon see lots of scooters or motorbikes. They’re the favored method of transport and there are lots of them. Trying to cross a road is hair-raising stuff and not for the fainthearted.

Hubby and I like to play spot the most riders. During our trip to Vietnam late last year we took these photos.

One Motorbike One Rider.

Two Motorbike

Two riders.

Three Motorcycle

Three riders.

We didn’t get a good shot of four riders, but we did see a few.

Five Motorcycle

And this one actually has five riders (two adults and three children).

Along with people there were bikes with all sorts of heavy loads.

Motorcyle Load

One wondered how the person managed to fit on the bike!

How many people do you think would fit safely on a motorbike?

Five Great Reasons to Visit Singapore

Singapore is a small island country with a big heart and presence. Around 45 km west to east and 25 km from north to south, the population is densely packed. I’ve visited Singapore three times now, usually on the way to another final destination since Singapore is around ten hours flight from New Zealand and makes a great stopover.

But those people who don’t spend time in Singapore are short-changing themselves because it’s a great holiday destination in its own right.

Five Reasons to Visit Singapore

1. It’s a safe, clean and friendly place to visit. Definitely easy to get around on your own.

2. The food is delicious! Dine on Chinese, Indian, Malay or stick to something more familiar. Dining out is a treat for the taste buds.

3. Retail therapy. No matter what you want to buy you’ll find goods ranging from designer to bargains in the older market areas.

4. The international airport – Changi Airport is one of the nicest and most interesting airports to visit. Save some shopping time for the airport too.

5. A wide range of attractions to visit and things to do for all age groups. Ride on the Singapore Flyer. Visit the renowned Singapore zoo or Jurong Bird Park. Have a Singapore sling at Raffles Hotel. Take a walking tour around the old parts of the city or laze away the day on Sentosa Island. The choice is endless.

View from Singapore Flyer

View of the City from the top of the Singapore Flyer

Tai Chi Botanic Gardens

Morning Tai Chi at the botanical gardens

Singapore River

Singapore River, lined with restaurants and pubs

Mosque and Market

Sultan Mosque and surrounding market stalls

Singapore really is an exciting and vibrant place to visit, and I’m looking forward to the next time we can fit it into our travel itinerary.

Have you or would you like to visit Singapore? Does it appeal to you as a destination?

H For Hippopotamus!

Hippos or hippopotamus (river horse) are known as the most dangerous animal in Africa, and they kill many people every year. You wouldn’t think they’d be dangerous, given their appearance. They’re plump with thick bodies and short legs, have a round head with small eyes and ears and a greyish-brown skin. They have no hair on their bodies except for a few bristles on their muzzle and at the end of their stubby tail.

Socializing hippos

A hippo spends its day lazing in the water. This is where it feels most comfortable and where it seeks refuge if it feels threatened. They can dive for up to 15 minutes but more commonly their dive times are one – five minutes. Water keeps their skin clean.

During the evening and at night, they go ashore to graze. They make a sound like a cow bellowing or a horse-like neigh when excited. They also snort when they’re in the water.

When we visited Malawi, we camped on the edge of a river. The next morning, we were all complaining about people snoring and accusing each other of the crime. It was in fact hippos wandering around our campsite. So glad I didn’t need a restroom visit in the middle of the night!

Hippo Bliss

Hippo bliss- a nice mud hole.

Hippos have a good sense of smell and also good hearing. Their sight is fairly good.

Apart from man, hippos have few enemies. Crocodiles might kill young hippos while on land groups of lions can possibly bring down a solitary animal.

The groups of animals consist mainly of females and non-breeding young. A group of females will be watched over by one male. Baby hippos are born in the water.

Off for a Wander

Off for a wander…

It’s not good to get between a hippo and water because this will make the creature feel threatened. Hippos are also very protective of their young and a person should never get between the mother and her baby. Hippos can run faster than a human over a short distance.

A group of hippos is called a pod, a herd or a bloat.

A male hippo is called a bull. A female hippo is called a cow and a baby is a calf.

I have to admit I’d never call them pretty, but they are an interesting animal. The pygmy ones are cute, especially the new born calves. I saw one on the news the other day and immediately wanted one for a pet.

Where does a hippo fit on your scale of likeable creatures?

Source: A Field Guide to Mammals of Africa by Theodor Haltenorth and Helmut Diller

Photos: P Munro – taken in Zambia, Africa.