Sydney

One of the best things about working in a hotel especially this new company I am with entitles their employees to complimentary nights! The universe aligned and I was able to get a night at the hotel plus I had enough miles to fly out to Sydney from Manila. My cousin was also in town so I was able to stay with her for a few nights. I haven't seen her since 2004 and have never met my niece. I wanted to spend some quality time to catch up. So, I took advantage of the opportunity and visited the city for the first time. I loved it! It's a cross between San Francisco and Santa Barbara because of the nearby beaches that could be reached via ferry. I did the whole tourist thing and tried my best to take photographs that describes my experience. When given another chance, I would love to come back there and stay longer possibly travel to Melbourne or stop over if we ever make our way to New Zealand.

Tourists at the commuter Ferry from Circular Quay. July 2017. 

Tourists at the commuter Ferry from Circular Quay. July 2017. 

View of the Sydney Harbor Bridge from the Hop on Hop Off Bus. June 2017.

View of the Sydney Harbor Bridge from the Hop on Hop Off Bus. June 2017.

Manly Beach, July 2017

Manly Beach, July 2017

Three Sisters. Blue Mountain. July 2017.

Three Sisters. Blue Mountain. July 2017.

Wandering 129

One of the things I like about San Francisco is walking through the Chinatown Gateway Arch between Grant and Bush Streets. Just walking a few feet past the entrance, I am suddenly transported to a place like Hong Kong–store signs in Chinese characters as far as my eye could see, tiny shops next to each other filled with Asian antiques mixed in with San Francisco souvenirs and colorful trinkets. Yesterday, Grant Street was closed for The Flower Market Fair which happens a week before Chinese New Year. This was my fourth time to attend.

Performers at the Flower Market Fair, San Francisco Chinatown./ ©Stella Kalaw

Performers at the Flower Market Fair. San Francisco Chinatown./ ©Stella Kalaw

Siófok

©Stella Kalaw

Siófok is a town located in the southern bank of Lake Balaton, an hour's drive southwest of Budapest. It is a popular tourist spot and known for its beaches and mild climate. May was off season so we were glad to be in the company of locals rather than the usual tourist crowds. That afternoon we arrived, we had welcome drinks at Mala Garden where my brother made arrangements for an overnight stay. Zoltan, the manager, recognized him from his two previous trips and came over to chat. He recommended that we take the cruise around the lake. By the time we were on the boat, the sun broke from the clouds and we took pleasure in the warm light. The next day, we took a car ferry to Tihany and drove up the hill to a Benedictine monastery. We walked behind the church where we soaked in a panoramic view of the lake.

The gardens at the palace of Versailles

©Stella Kalaw

From a distance—and especially if contemplated on an axis—Le Nôtre's universe may appear to be static. But this is merely an illusion of formality, dispelled as soon as the spectator moves into the space and begins negotiating the complex shifts in level, the visual tricks at play and the everchanging relationships between volumes.

—Eric T. Haskell
from Michael Kenna’s Le Nôtre Gardens

So many things have been written about the gardens of Versailles and how magnificent it is. But for T & I, being there renewed our appreciation for architectural sight lines—your experience of a space in one spot can be completely different from your experience of it a few feet away in any direction. We walked the grounds for two hours or so. For lunch, we sat on a bench under a shaded tree and ate pastries we bought from a local boulangerie near the hotel earlier in the day. From the palace, the gardens stretched as far as the eye could see. We wanted to go on but had to catch the train back to the city.

More Paris

©Stella Kalaw

Light rain greeted us as we stepped out of the RER train from the airport to the Denfert-Rochereau station. We debated whether we should transfer to the local metro which was closest to the hotel or to exit at this stop. T consulted a map and determined that we were two blocks away. We had no sense of how far the walk would be so we opted to do the transfer. We dragged our roller bags up and down stairwells and caught the Line 6 train to Saint Jacques. Later, we found out that the two stations were within one short block of each other.

Thanks to Mr. B who upgraded our airline seats, T & I got some decent rest during the flight and had enough energy to squeeze some sightseeing that afternoon. The rain had stopped so we headed down to the Picasso Museum. We arrived to a sign that said: closed for renovation until August 2011. We checked the website before we left San Francisco and did not remember reading such closure so we were quite disappointed. We looked through our list so we could pick other options. We decided to walk over to the Pompidou then later catch the 69 bus to the Eiffel Tower.

For the next four days, we zipped in and out of the subway system to get to our destinations. Paris is a beautiful city and I must admit, I appreciate it more now than my first visit. We had a packed itinerary so we could take in as much as it can offer. We wished we stayed a bit longer so we could enjoy our activities at leisure. But, that only means we will have to make our way back there someday.