Work finally begins
when the fear of doing
nothing at all
trumps the terror
of doing it badly
Alain de Botton
Alain de Botton
While I’m not a huge fan of hop-on|hop-off buses, it’s worth taking one when you arrive in Valencia, on Spain’s southeastern coast, for a snapshot of the city. But you’ll need to get off the bus and take to the streets to really get a feel for this amazing (and dramatic) place…
Science, technology, art and nature merge perfectly in Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences – and it’s no surprise this is one of the 12 Treasures of Spain.
Futuristic buildings house an IMAX theatre complex, a science museum, an arts palace, and the largest aquarium in Europe. To be here is to be awestruck.
Wait, did someone say aquarium? I’m in! There are hundreds of aquatic and marine species at the Oceanogràfic, some in massive underwater towers that represent the major ecosystems of the planet.
But we can’t stay here forever watching those cruising sharks and graceful manta rays, or the cheeky sea lions and sassy penguins… or can we?
What could top the underwater wonders of Oceanogràfic? A walk on the wild side at Bioparc Valencia of course.
This has to be one of the best zoos you will ever visit. It’s so carefully and cleverly designed that the animals seem less hemmed in and more relaxed in their environment.
And you feel like you’re right there with them in the forests of Madagascar, the savannah and equatorial Africa. I could go on (and on), but they speak for themselves really……
Back streets, cobblestone alleys, abandoned buildings – the urban canvas inspires edgy and incredible artwork. It’s definitely my gallery of choice – and here in Valencia I’m in street art heaven. Here’s two of my favourites (more coming soon).
It’s hard to miss Estación del Norte when you’re leaving Valencia by train – but this is one gorgeous station. Opened in 1917, the original porcelain tiles, carved woodwork and lamps instantly transport you to a time when train travel was fresh, exciting – and slower!
It’s a fitting end to our visit, and we leave feeling we have barely scraped the surface of this delightful city. Adiós y gracias, Valencia.
From museums, art galleries, gardens, enormous monuments and stunning architecture, to delicious food and wine, and welcoming people… Madrid knows how to switch it on.
One of the things EB and I love to do when we hit a new city is to walk. A lot.
So it’s no surprise that hitting the streets with a bunch of like-minded food and wine lovers, and getting the inside goss from a local expert, is the perfect thing to do.
In many of the cities we visit, we’ll book into a foodie and vino tour, just to get a feel for the place.
This time we’re off on Viator’s Madrid Tapas Night Walking Tour. Apart from practicing weird cider pouring methods and learning the joys of tapas and Spanish wine on a tour like this, we often pick up tips and tour ideas from fellow travellers and have heaps of fun doing it.
Back out on the streets on our own, we soon discover some favourite places to hang out, like Vinoteca Vides on Calle Libertad (freedom street). It’s the place to be for brilliant wines, switched-on service and a great atmosphere…
With our thing for Asian-fusion food, we can’t walk past Bambubox and we’re not disappointed.
This is Thai food with a delicious modern twist, served by our lovely waiter (now friend) Thao!
Of course, there are so many great places to eat (it is Spain after all), but it’s not just about the amazing food, wine and people (well, it kind of is…).
There are wonderful – sometimes overwhelming – palaces, monuments, galleries, gardens and buildings in Madrid, and it seems that around every corner there is something divine or surreal!
Ah Madrid, such a colourful, welcoming and fascinating city. But don’t take our word for it – put it on your wishlist and see for yourself. We might even bump into you there…
Autumn has arrived in Spain – and with it the rain. But nothing can put a damper on the arty, colourful city of Cuenca.
To say we are blown away is an understatement. From colourful apartment buildings, to hanging houses that look like they will topple off the cliff at any moment…
…to incredible art in contemporary art museums, on the streets and in ruins we stumbled across on one of the many walking trails around the mountains (and yes, EB found them all – including those endless stairs!).
Everywhere you look, there are pops of colour – even tulips growing among the weeds.
And then there is our hotel, Parador de Cuenca, suspended on a cliff opposite the city, overlooking the River Huecar.
It was originally the Convent of San Pablo, built in 1523 in stunning late Gothic style.
Access to the city is across a long suspended bridge that spans the ravine. I know right? Heaven can wait…
Okay, I’m running out of adjectives here. And EB is hopping from foot to foot. There are trails to walk (or run!). And a slight downpour isn’t about to stop us!
Simple, cheap and tasty, tinned sardinha is a favourite across Portugal, for the poor and the wealthy alike – as a healthy basic, fast food or gourmet cuisine.
The riches of the sea have long sustained the Portuguese, so it’s no wonder the humble sardine has become a bit of an icon around here.
Forget those three flying ducks on the wall at grandma’s place. Here, it’s ceramic sardines up there.
The ubiquitous fish also features in paintings, accessories, homewares and every imaginable type of souvenir.
There are even street art fish (although sardines have a bit of competition here).
Of course, bacalhau (salted cod, right) is another staple – but I’m guessing it missed out on the fishy audition because it’s not quite as sleek as sardines.
Surprisingly, we saw very few fish in the rivers and close to the coast – except mullet slithering all over themselves in the rivers.
Where do you catch the sardines, we ask a local.
Out there, he says pointing way out to sea.
There are a lot out there, he adds with a grin.
Considering tinned sardines are exported to about 70 countries around the world, I believe him.
Later, as we crossed the border into Spain, the words of Douglas Adams were circling in my head:
So long and thanks for all the fish.
Just back from weekend wanderings and writing workshop fun in Sydney. Here’s some of the historical and arty things that caught my eye around town…
Most people were checking out the posh boats at the Sydney Boat Show in Darling Harbour, but I was captivated by the ripples…
EB had me walking for hours, so finding fabulous street art like this was the perfect distraction…
Here’s a clever way of interpreting history. It really puts you in the picture…
We just loved all the square-cut sandstone and the gorgeous plantings at Sydney’s newest harbour foreshore park, Barangaroo Reserve.
Created on one of Sydney’s oldest industrial sites, the area had been inaccessible to the public for more than 100 years, until it was transformed into a space for the people and opened in 2015.
For me, it’s just a reminder that there are amazing and beautiful things all around us… if we really look.
If you’re living or staying on the coast in the NSW Northern Rivers region and you’re feeling a little ‘beached out’, it might be time to head inland to Murwillumbah for a change of scenery – and to visit a simply stunning regional art gallery.
The Lonely Planet describes the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre as ‘exceptional’ and ‘an architectural delight’ – and you won’t be disappointed.
While it wouldn’t be out of place in a major city, the gallery sits with elegance and attitude in the hills overlooking the Tweed River.
From Wednesday to Sunday you’ll see an amazing collection of works in a variety of media, along with touring exhibitions of national significance across six exhibition spaces.
And then there is the incredible Margaret Ollie Art Centre.
Here, the celebrated Australian painter’s home studio has been meticulously recreated from photographs taken within 10 days of her passing in 2011.
All that art can work up an appetite, but that’s covered here too.
Step into the Gallery Cafe for some delicious food and bevs, before heading off to soak up the vintage village atmosphere in the township of Murwillumbah.
It’s a perfect way to spend a lazy summer’s day. No sunscreen required.