A Traveller's Tale...Around The World In 80 Questions...
So whether it’s for business or pleasure, I’ve met an abundance of folk from around the planet with eclectic lives, curiosities and passions, and I’ve been asked a 101 questions…Here are some of my responses…I hope you enjoy them.
Want to know more?…just ask…
Strangest mix up in communication? Vietnam: in a cafe. I asked for the special: he told me: “cheese, rice and a …small boy” This conversation went on for ten minutes. I just didn’t understand. I didn’t eat lunch that day. To this day it’s never been resolved…
Exciting childhood place? Apart from the ‘giant playground’ that are the streets of North and West London, where I spent all my time having adventures good and bad, it has to be the National parks in Western USA. California dreaming with my uncle. Trekking, fishing, bbq ing, camping, climbing…
Best journey? I’m still on it!
Longest journey? I was 19 years old, about 20 years ago… 34 hours…from Prague, Czech Republic to Athens, Greece. Sitting all the way from Prague to Brindisi, Italy, on the small footsteps of the train entrance…and then on the open air deck of a ship under the August summer sun of 40 degree Celsius from Brindisi, Italy to Patras, Greece and then on the slow train to Athens. I arrived and the next day had severe dehydration and sunstroke! Long but fantastic!
Enoshima Island, Japan
The Gili Islands, Bali, Indonesia
Ortigia and Sicily in general.
Worst holiday souvenir? I don’t actually buy souvenirs.
Which foreign phrase or word do you love the most? “Mop, Hi, Bot!” (Used as one two three before taking a drink) Or: “same same but different!” Vietnamese phrases that I just love! The Luxembergish word for butterfly is also a winner: “Pimpampol!” Beautiful!
Where in the world have you felt happiest? There isn’t a place, but it’s HOW you live that’s important. Happy isn’t a place but a feeling…I’ve felt happy in all the places I’ve lived in…otherwise I would not have stayed.
Sicily is wonderful for me at this point in my life. Sun, sea, food, relaxed lifestyle fishing, scooters, friends, big families, value for money, a constant flow of interesting tourists from around the planet, amazing history and architecture, easy to escape to other places in Europe and the world. Most importantly having the lifestyle and time to be me, write and create. That’s why I live here:)
I would never, ever go back to…? There isn’t a place I can put on this list. I’m always up for returning anywhere. Places become different depending on who your with, how old you are and what you’re looking for…But if I really had to say…Thailand: Phuket.
Which is your favourite city and country? Totally depends on what age I’ve been, what I’ve enjoyed from year to year and the season…Love London. It’s home. Also Hove in England. Love Berlin in the summer. Love Salzburg in the autumn. Love Vancouver in the winter. Love Norway in the spring.
Tell us about a great little place you know. There’s a special place that I absolutely need to tell you about. The name: ‘Nola’s Bar’. Tucked deep within the interior of Hanoi city, Vietnam. There are so many reasons as to why this place is logged in my emotional memory bank. Firstly it’s the fact that it’s in Hanoi, my favourite Asian city. The small lanes and secret passages that hide a thousand wonderful bars, restaurants, galleries and shops. I discover this place truly accidentally as I peered into what I thought was an old restaurant kitchen open to the street. The old man inside was busily cooking ushered me in like it was normal…I hesitated as I didn’t fancy the idea of sitting in a smoky kitchen, but at second glance I saw a flight of stairs behind the kitchen door…I basically went in and up and followed the stairs round until I found myself in…what looked like a house, but in fact: Nola’s Bar! The atmosphere changed from old school busy kitchen to a relaxed, clean, luxurious and colourful vibe! Each room filled with furniture and instruments, bars and oriental ornaments. What a discovery! The best thing for me was the decoration of 100 colourful umbrellas hanging upside down on the outside terrace as a hanging ceiling. Magical. The service, the food and drinks were fabulous with a mix of both traditional Vietnamese and French foods. The French influence is very much visible in the quality of the products and elegance of the presentation. Best of both worlds, Vietnamese delicacy and presentation married with the French charm are combined here to make the best little bar come restaurant.
Nomination for your 8th Wonder of the World? Cambodia: Angkor Wat temples.
Where have you just come back from? I am actually, as I type sitting in a cafe in my favourite Austrian city of Vienna, having just left Berlin. So, Berlin…I’ve just come back from Berlin in Germany.
Berlin, Berlin, Berlin. So if you can imagine the fantastic cosmopolitan vibe of London mixed with the efficiency of Switzerland, the politeness of Japan, the energy of.., the cleanliness of…, you catch my drift. I can safely say that for me the German city of Berlin is THE BEST city in the world. Everything wonderful about all the cities I’ve ever been to are merged together there to create one mega functional, clean, efficient, trendy, classic and amazingly great value for money place. Not to mention the extremely kind and polite residents. Born and raised in London, and as a true Londoner I love my city, but it can’t help but be frustrated about the cost of travelling on public transport in my city and often getting a slow, delayed or even cancelled service. For all the amazing things about my city of London, I see that and more in Berlin.
I’ve just spent a long weekend there and already missing it!I can’t fault it. Not one thing.
Describe a holiday disaster. Thankfully I only have a few to choose from. The worst has to be Bangalore, India. Went for five days to visit an ashram…(wrong idea in the first place…!) I packed lightly with only hand luggage as I usually do when I travel. No one only takes hand luggage to Asia from Europe I discovered and it wasn’t the first time I’d been to Asia so I knew that, as usual, the landing immigration would stop and ask me some questions. When I landed I took my bag and walked to the exit. There was no one in the immigration hall and so I woke up a security man sleeping behind the counter. I asked him to stamp my passport and so I could be in my way. He awoke, was sleepy and confused about why I had arrived on the hall so fast. “Where is your luggage?” he asked. “I don’t have any” I replied. He glared at me and opened my passport. “How do you say your name?” He questioned…”Michelle” I said. He handed the passport back and I went on my way…the next four days I spend in my hotel room with gastric vomiting and general ‘Delhi Belly’. After the last day I went back to the airport to leave and the immigration staff told me that I was not able to leave! They saw that I only had hand luggage and had only come for a few days…I looked sick and weak and worse of all…the immigration man from my arrival HAD NOT. Stamped my arrival! They refused to let me fly back to London, insisting that I was from Bangalore and trying to smuggle out on an illegal passport! What a nightmare. I was so scared, tired and confused. My epic journey back home to London involved losing another 5 days, travelling by boat, bus and taxi via Asia and France…being mugged, arrested and traumatised…was in trauma for a few weeks after! I swore never to go back to any country without a system like my England. I got over myself and went back to Asia…in fact moved to vietnam and Bali. The moral of the story: ALWAYS check your arrival stamp when arriving in a country.
What’s your guilty pleasure? I’m English. I love chips. Chips n Gravy! I can eat gravy with everything…but I don’t…I have the healthiest diet in the world … but I have a rule : “a little of what you fancy now and again.” This sorts my chip fix out from time to time :)
Extreme temperatures? A trip to the Article circle -40 degrees Celsius. Living near the deserts of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and The Western USA 50 degrees Celsius. But…one’s a dry cold and the other a dry heat so feels very different and manageable.
Missed holidays? I was so excited to visit my friend and her family in El Campello Alicante, Spain that the night before I went out for a few drinks with some friends to get the party started…holiday vibe…next thing I knew, I was waking up fully clothed, passport in hand and hand-luggage next to me. It was 10:00. My flight was at 08:30… Oooohhhhh.
In 2016 I was flying to Milan to celebrate my 40th birthday. I queued in the wrong Milan line - Malpensa, not Linate and missed my flight and own birthday party! I laughed when I realised and the airline staff were so shocked that I wasn't angry or sad they they gave me a free flight the next morning. Sleeping in the Gatwick Airport Lounge in London wasn't so bad..
What do you pack first? Money (local currency and always some British Sterling) passport, phone and iPad chargers, adaptor, American Express and 2 pairs of underwear. The most important things.
Confession time…from a hotel room? Oh…Tokyo, Japan. I’m ashamed to say I stole anything that wasn’t tied down! I was there after my little mum died as I was leaving her ashes there in Japan, near Tokyo. I think after leaving her, I needed, psychologically, to take, to fill a vast hole. From the hotel kimono to the hotel towel…do I feel bad about this. Yes of course, but I can understand what motivated me to do such a hideous thing.
Your favourite view? So many come to mind…from the dancing birds in mass every afternoon at sunset in September over a hazy orange English sky…high above the old majestic disused West Pier climbing out from the sea, a beautiful view from my house in England, or the never ending bright green rice terraces in Bali and the skies filled with dancing dragonflies to the wonder that is the view of the Californian city of San Francisco overlooking the bay at sunrise, shark fins visible in the deep blue bay…
Actually the winner is…from my current terrace in Sicily, Italy. I’ve been lucky enough to have feasted my eyes on more than a zillion aesthetically pleasing treasures; forests and caves, mountains and ocean waves. However, I have to say that the view from my Sicilian terrace is simply breathtaking…
Every morning and evening I am mesmerised. Caught in a waking dream. I stop and stare to try to take in the beauty that overwhelms me each time. There is the magic of the deep turquoise blue sea, scattered with rugged rocks, and every so often a trail of sailing boats with brightly coloured sails and small local fisherman’s boats slowly glide by. This is set against the stunning back drop of the ancient city of Siracusa which sits firmly above sand coloured cliffs. In the distance, peeps out the top of the Madonina; a tear-dropped shaped church steeple reaching for the sky, with a beautiful Mother Mary statue surrounded by a golden ring, watching over both her land and sea. If this isn’t already enough, the magic of the view has to be the volcano - Mount Etna. Here she sits, majestically, white capped most of the year and with an almost constant fume of smoke leaving her peak trailing into the clear blue sky. This gigantic natural wonder dominates the landscape in every sense.
At night the city and sea are lit up by the moon and starts which, at times, seem almost reachable. Night boats fish for local seafood and the landscape of the water becomes a light show, like the enchanting light of fireflies flickering on and off…
Sharing evening aperitifs and simple Sicilian food and wines, and seeing the awe and wonder in my friends eyes and the smiles on their faces as they are drawn to the breathtaking view adds to the wonder of the view for me. The foreground filled with adult faces who when look out at the view transform into the childlike faces of children seeing sweetshops and playgrounds for the first time…
So here it is, with almost constant clear blue skies or starry moonlit nights, stretching across the distance as far as my eyes can see, natural and man-made wonders amaze, an ancient city in the distance, the sea, the rocks, the caves and all the lives that pass by, the best view in the world for me until now is this.
(Ironically, I’ve just moved house and this view has now become a memory etched in my mind forever.)
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