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Monthly Archives: May 2015

Taormina was easily reachable from the regional international airport, Catenia, where we flew in from Geneva. In our last post, we posted photos of views from Taormina, the town being situated high up on the mediterranean coast. Here are some photos of the town itself.


The Piazza IX Aprile is spectacular, both for its views of the sea below and Mount Etna in the back, and being surrounded by bars and cafe, its ambiance in the evening.


The main street, Corso Umberto I, is car-free and lined with boutiques, jewelers, souvenir shops, restaurants and bars.



Early in the morning, there were few people about but when the tour bus arrives, the place is overrun by people rushing through the narrow streets.




We stayed near the east end of town. These are some of the streets around our place. We really enjoyed the brioche and granite for breakfast.


This trattoria was very quiet. We suspected that the tourist season has not really started.



We also visited the town’s municipal garden, Giardino Pubblico. It is very shady, almost dark, due to the thickness of the vegetation which will provide a much-appreciated refuge from the sun in the summer.


In the grounds, there are quite a few strange-looking, half-size brick pavillions or follies, as well as a memorial for the soldiers who died in World War I.


The garden was built by an English woman Florence Trevelyan who moved here in the late 1890s, allegedly a lover of Edward Prince of Wales (Edward VII). She also owned the Isola Bella visible in the photos from our last post.


There must be a story behind this sculpture.


It reminds me of the angels in the movie by Wim Wenders – Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin).


This garden is the second most popular attraction in Taormina after the greek theatre (the subject of a later post). A long panormaic avenue runs along the cliff side of the garden affording magnificent views of the sea.




More photos around Sicily to come …


We spent this year’s Easter week in Sicily – first at Taormina and then Siracusa. Both are on the east coast of Sicily. Taormina has been a very popular tourist destination since the 19th century.


The town is situated in a beautiful location perched on a cliff, rising 200 m above the Ionian sea.


Behind the town rising up to 3330 m (11,000 feet) is the tallest active volcano in Europe, the snow-capped Mount Etna.

Along the coast on the north is Mazzeo, a beach town.


The autostrada that runs along the coast up to Messina is visible here.


On the south side is Giadini Naxos, another beach town which is quite popular, judging by the number of beach front hotels.


There were a lot to do here and we had not even scratched surface.


A headland lies beneath Taormina. The village Mazzaro connects to a small island – Isola Bella, a nature reserve.


The little island was privately owned until 1990 when it was auctioned and acquired by the state.


A road with numerous hairpin loops winds its way from the waterfront to Taormina.


A cable car connects Taormina with the beaches but it was not running when we were there. It opens on April 1 every year. We were a few days too early.


The area has a very long history of human settlement – the nearby town Naxos was founded around 700 BC. During the early 20th century the town became a colony of expatriate artists, writers, and intellectuals.


The town has been running a film festival almost as long as Cannes. Last year, it celebrated its 60th anniversary while this year’s Festival de Cannes is the 67th (which incidentally concluded today).


In part 2, we will share pictures of the town itself. Come back in a few days.

These are the photos I (Chris) took and posted on Facebook. The series was started in March of 2013. There is no theme – just something random and visually interesting. We gave each a title and noted where it was taken (to the extent we could remember the city).

random photo #151 – hiss – Barcelona



random photo #152 – grass – St. Thomas



random photo #153 – smile – Chiang Mai



random photo #154 – tests – Yverdon-les-bains



random photo #155 – icons – Montreal



If you are interested in seeing other Random Photos, click on the  random  tag on the left.

These are the photos I (Chris) took and posted on Facebook. The series was started in March of 2013. There is no theme – just something random and visually interesting. We gave each a title and noted where it was taken (to the extent we could remember the city).

random photo #141 – ! – Miami Beach



random photo #142 – ghost – San Juan



random photo #143 – leaf – St. Thomas



random photo #144 – work – Miami



random photo #145 – statue – Sao Paulo



If you are interested to see other Random Photos, click on the random tag on the left.

If you see ads below, it has nothing to do with us.


Today is the 14th of May 2015 which is a Thursday and also a public holiday. In fact, I(Chris) have tomorrow off as well, resulting in a 4-day long weekend. Yesterday the 13th felt really like a Friday – so we thought it’s time to post some of these photos. This is part 3 of a series of photos of number 13 as they are visible on the street. Don’t forget to see part 1 and part 2 as linked here.

13, Ortigia


We are not superstitious about the number. We just happen to live at No. 13 now and used to work at Room 1313 on the 13th floor. I(Chris) am just curious of the other No: 13’s – how they look and what’s behind them.

Le Café Noble, Grand Rue 13, Lutry


 Via Giardinazzo, Taormina


Forgot where.


Budapest, I think.


Ehrenstraße 13, Köln


13 ?


Piazza Roma 13, Asti


In many parts of Europe, including Switzerland, April and May is the season for this plant which produces flowers with an intense yellow color. colza-4 The plant is known as canola, colza, rapeseed or in Latin – Brassica. It is a member of the Cruciferous (Brassicaceae) family, sometimes referred to as the mustard family. The name “cruciferous”comes from the shape of its flowers, which have four diagonally opposite petals in the form of a cross. colza-5 In Europe, this plant is primarily cultivated to provide animal feed – cattle, due to its high lipid and medium protein content. colza-1  Commercial plantings of rapeseed are recorded in the Netherlands as early as the 16th century. At that time rapeseed oil was used primarily as an oil for lamps. Later it came to be used as a lubricant in steam engines. colza-15 The farms here grow a variety of crop and will use the same field for something else later in the year. colza-9 According to Wikipedia:

Some varieties of rapeseed (called 油菜,”oil vegetable” in Chinese; yau choy in Cantonese; cải dầu in Vietnamese; phak kat kan khao [ผักกาดก้านขาว] in Thai; and nanohana [菜の花]/nabana [菜花] in Japanese) are sold as greens, primarily in Asian groceries, including some in California, where it is known as yao choy or tender greens. They are eaten as sag (spinach) in Indian and Nepalese cuisine, usually stir-fried with salt, garlic and spices.

I can see the resemblance but am not sure if it tastes good or even edible. colza-13 These pictures were taken just outside Yverdon-les-bains, a city half way on my commute to the office.  My train passes seas of bright yellow flowers during this time of year. colza-10 This area constitutes obviously one of the flatter parts of Switzerland. It is on the western edge of the Swiss plateau at the foot of the Jura mountains. colza-6 There were several stables and riding schools in the area. colza-7. colza-2 The trees were still a bit naked at this time of year. The epiphytes growing on the trees were clearly visible (at first we thought they were bird’s nests). colza-12 . colza-11 The field was readied for planting another kind of crop. colza-8What kind of crop ? colza-14 There is also a small airfield here. The fields of yellow flowers must be quite a sight from above. colza-30 .

This was a visit we made a while back with our friend YS who came in July. We went hiking on the first day to Lac Liosin (click here for great pictures of the mountain lake). And on the second day, we went to Les Diablerets.  Setting off from Leysin (where we stayed overnight), we drove back onto Route 11, heading east and got off at a hairpin turn into Route du Pillon.

Our destination is Glacier 3000. We were greeted first by two waterfalls at the foot of the mountain. They were quite far away but it must be spectacular if we can get closer.


Then there is the massive parking lot. Imagine the place packed with skiers in winter.


Les Diablerets is the mountain range that separates the cantons of Vaud and Valais.  The summit is at 3,210 m.


The main cable car was opened in 1964 and rebuilt in 1999. It connects Col du Pillon (1,546 m, i.e., the parking lot ) and Scex Rouge (2,950 m), one of the peaks.


The views from the cable car was incredible.


There are two sections of cable – we had to get onto a different car to continue our ascent.


The views were quite different on the upper section as we rose above the tree line and began to see snow (in July).



In winter, needless to say, the mountain offers all kinds of snow sports. In summer, it offers hikes, husky rides and snow bus on the glacier. These dogs had just finished their round and were waiting for the cable car to take them down hill. Very tame and calm dogs.


Here is the Alpine Coaster, the world’s highest bobsleigh track.


It was definitely possible to ski cross-country if not down hill here. There were people out there in the open snow field.


At the top is a restaurant designed by the famous Swiss architect, Mario Botta. Its construction finished in 2001.


We could walk behind the restaurant and climb a little to a flat area with 360 degrees of unobstructed views.


It always amazes me to see a mountain lake hidden quietly among the mountains.


We had a nice warm day at the mountain top – it was a very pleasant visit indeed.


We were never sure of the origin of the skins – artificial or real, and if they were real, what animal ?


Glacier 3000, highly recommended for any one at any time of the year.

After a series of posts on Malaysia, we thought it’s time to change the topic. So… back to Switzerland …

One weekend last year in autumn / fall, our friend F suggested that we go to this event called Les Automnales which was held at the Palexpo – the international exhibition center next to Geneva airport.


The Swiss holds these large-scale exhibitions several times a year showcasing different kinds of products – some of specialist interest, e.g., manga, and some which are very general, e.g., fresh farm produce, local police community liaison. Les Automnles is one such general indoor show which is held annually in November, and coincides intentionally with the international cat and dog show (two shows on two separate days) also held at the same location.


Swiss folks from other parts of the country make a weekend trip to attend the expo. It had sections dedicated to the home, leisure, well-being (bien-être), food, travel and pets. One section dedicated to vintage products was particularly interesting.


Mid-century furniture, eyewear and fashion galore.

autumnal-25Paper bags with vintage graphics, and assorted knick-knacks.

autumnal-23Polaroid cameras

autumnal-24Ceramic hands ?


There was food stands all over the place – we had oysters (it was the right season), moroccan tagine (which was poorly prepared) and Brazilian drinks.


The biggest merchant was the Swiss Army surplus. This is the genuine Swiss Army, not the Victorinox or Wenger brand manufacturers.


This is one of the most popular area. The Swiss are very outdoorsy and will likely find year-round uses of all the camping and climbing equipment on offer.


One can acquire the entire camouflage outfit from top to bottom, sourced from several countries’ military forces – some actually says U.S. Army on it, some are clearly marked as German made.


Historically, the Swiss are well known for their military – the pope in the vatican still hires Swiss guards for ceremonies – the tourists love them. Now the country is neutral and its military is strictly defensive, and it is doing brisk business here selling surplus.


The expo was fun. Wish they do it more often.

Continuing our exploration of this great hangout place in Georgetown …

ChinaHouse is a combination of 3 heritage buildings, linked by an open air courtyard and converted into 14 spaces comprising shops, cafes, restaurant, galleries, live music and bakery. Part 1 showed the Canteen from which we entered the ChinaHouse complex from Victoria Street.



In the middle of the complex, a moon gate leads one into a courtyard of shady trees and a rectangular pond. The mood is so very different from the Canteen we just exited.


One can order a hotdog and burger here in the courtyard. Different areas of the complex have different menus and price points for the food.


Individual visitor is invited to sit next to and at the lower left corner of the graphic to form a vertical stroke, thus completing the Chinese character for “fortune” –


Passed the courtyard, walking indoors again, one enters a cafe.


With bookshelves, long communal tables …


… aspirations and attitudes …



The cafe features a cake shop – the Beach Street Bakery – that serves home-made baked products in seemingly huge portions.





Off to one side of the cafe is an event room – suitable for meetings


There is even a bar for wine and whisky tasting.


Next to the cafe is a restaurant with an imaginative fusion menu. IT and I had dinner here one night.



Sharing the storefront on Beach Street with the cafe is a small shop that sells handicrafts.


All in all, ChinaHouse succeeds in offering something for every one … what a great place to meet people and hang out.


Wish there are more places like this.