5 things

Ah Europe. I miss the days I could book a flgiht/buy a train ticket just a couple of days in advance, hop on a plane (or train) on the Friday of that same week, and in 2-3 hours be in a COMPLETELY different city. As I study and scramble to keep head above the water with all the commitments and insane projects, tests, and deadlines I have in school, I find myself constantly reminiscing about the year that just passed. The time I was on my year abroad in London (read my tips on that here). It has only been only 3 and a half months since i've been back in Singapore, and already the memories from my exchange feel so distant.

Europe in a year. What a wonderful year it was.
From my internship in Paris to living for a whole year in London. I thought being away from home for a year would be too long, and that living in Europe for a year would give me sufficient time to explore the continent or learn more about the region, BUT I WAS WRONG. I could live here my whole life and still be fascinated - just like how after 21 years in Asia, I'm still as excited to go out and explore a different part of the region, and there is still SO MUCH I have yet to see!

Anyway, i thought i'd pay homage to my travels in Europe and come up with a list of 5 cities i'd love to revisit again.
I have been asked countless of times which are my favourite cities in Europe, and I never say just 1 city (the list goes on until I'm sort of telling my life story). So, are the 5 cities below, my favourite European cities (that i've travelled to/toured)? Maybe? But I can't say for sure. There were so many beautiful places I visited in Europe (Italy, Barcelona, Scandinavia - see what I mean about going on and on), and so many OTHER places I want to visit.
These 5 cities could be here because
a) I didn't spend enough time when in the city when I was there and had "unfinished business"  or
b) I want to experience everything all over again, or probably both. All I know is, I enjoyed myself in these 5 cities, and would steal ANY chance to go back!

O N E:  C O R N W A L L

With places like Cornwall, the pictures itself would make anyone want to go there. Seriously though. That gorgeous skies, the beautiful beaches and, cliffs and bluest of water. Everytime I read a cornish blogger's blog, I ask myself "why am I not living in Cornwall?!" Cornwall is so huge it doesnt really classify as one city. I've only been to west Cornwall, and even then I wouldn't mind going back. But i'd love to visit South Cornwall someday, heck maybe i'd jump on a plane, spend a couple of days in London, go to Cornwall and spend 2 weeks there. Someone please buy me an air ticket!
Cornwall is a place I will not hesitate to revisit if I get the chance to be back in the UK.

T W O:  B U D A P E S T

If you saw my post titled Not Enough Time in Budapest, you would have guessed this. Budapest is a city I want to revisit just because there is so much to do, and I didnt get to do all that I wanted to. Also, the Daunbe River is but the most gorgeous thing ever. Walking around the river and looking on to the Buda (or Pest) side of it is something I could do over and over and over again.

T H R E E:  I N T E R L A K E N

One of my biggest regret after my trip to Interlaken was that I did not get to go up the Swiss Alps.
Touristic or not, everyone has done it, and it has always been my dream to visit a mountain, experience what its like to see the snow caps of the alps. Learning about the mountains and rivers during geography lessons have only fuelled my appreciation and love for all things nature. Sadly, I didn't have that much time in Interlaken and it was rather pricy, somehow the situation led to me not being able to visit the Swiss alps.

I'll definitely have to visit Switzerland again someday - and Interlaken would be a stop in that itinerary!
To be honest though, one can never get enough of Switzerland. Its just incredibly beautiful! The landscapes are PHENOMENAL. Mountains, Greenery, rivers, the blue skies, it doesn't get any better than that!

F O U R:  B E R G EN

I don't know why but despite spending the most time in Bergen during my Scandinavian solo trip, but I still want to go back! Visit the neighbouring fjords - another spectacle that one can see over and over again - climb another mountain, I don't have specific reasons why I want to go back, except... I just do? It's a really lovely, chill, city, if it wasn't that cold (and expensive haha!), i'd totally live here!

I must say though, I wouldn't want to go back alone. I'd love it if I had company so that I can try out the different cafés and food options in Bergen!

F I V E:  A M S T E R D A M

Amsterdam...The first city I visited with Jerald, the first city I visited as a tourist, the city that made me fall in love with traveling in Europe! Amsterdam was so much fun, windmills, canals, autumn flowers, burgers, cheese markets, I would relive this experience again and again - I actually do, every time I see an image of Amsterdam's canals.
+ The people in Amsterdam are so nice and friendly, and they are EXTREMELY FLUENT in English - Yay to no language barrier.

Rotterdam is another Dutch city I'd love to visit someday, if I ever do, I'd not hesitate to stop by Amsterdam again!

One other country I loved that i'd want to visit again include CROATIA. Croatia is my ULTIMATE FAVOURITE European country. But I couldn't identify ONE city to revisit, plus, if I ever do go back, I would definitely want to see other parts of Croatia that i've never been to! The nature, clear blue waters, food and PRICE POINT is AMAZING in Croatia.
P.S. If you've never been to Croatia - just forget about the cities listen above and just go. Save up and go to Croatia! You wouldn't be disappointed!

Sadly, a return flight ticket to Europe would cost $1000 and my limited university student budget isn't going to cut it, so for now, it's more of exploring the neighbouring cities, seeing more of Asia learning the different cultures, visiting exotic places in South East Asia, and exploring the place I call home. Hopefully soon enough, I can make such a list for Asia!

Ah, selecting pictures for this post got me all nostalgic about my year abroad.
Explore, dream, discover indeed!

5 European Cities I'd LOVE to RE-VISIT!

29 October 2015 Europe

In my 3rd week in Imperial College, my personal tutor/professor asked me, "What would you like to gain in your year here?" He suggested that I should have some goals/some targets for myself, even if they were not academically related. This way, when I look back on my one year abroad, I would be able to appreciate my experience and everything that i've learned.
Since a large part of my 2015 will be spent traveling (I hope! I mean i'm on a year abroad in Europe theres no reason not to), I decided to share some of my Travel Goals for 2015.

1. Travel alone to a non-english speaking country for at least 3 days
Starting off with a really specific one here. But I've thought about all the european countries - those that I have yet to make any plans to visit - and traveling to Portugal seems like a really good idea.
Some of you may know that I've lived/interned in Paris, where the national language is french, but I never really saw myself a tourist. I was sort of a half tourist half inhabitant. I'm pretty sure traveling alone as a tourist would be different.
Traveling alone in the UK is pretty ok because everything is in English and everyone can understand me. I would love to experience what it feels like to be alone as a tourist in a foreign land with a foreign language - I cannot even recognise Portuguese when someone is speaking it. Going to Portugal alone is definitely going to be interesting.

2. Go to Morocco
I would say Africa but No. I'm not backpacking the whole of Africa in 2015. I'll be realistic. Lets start out slow. I just want to set foot into the continent. Morocco is the nearest to Europe, so somewhere in 2015, I hope I find a way to go to Morocco - maybe during the cold January/February months to escape winter for a little bit. Definitely in need of some sunshine.

3. Travel Eastern Europe
Significantly cheaper than central and western Europe, yet also filled with so much culture and history.
I don't know much about eastern Europe, but I have half a year to find out before heading on a summer trip to a couple of cities in the region. Well thats the plan for now. Summer in eastern europe, lets hope it works out!

4. Join A School Organised Trip
Technically, it isn't organised by Imperial. It's just a group of students who organise trips to various parts of the UK, but i've never been on any of them unfortunately.
When I was in Oxford, I met a group of students from Warwick who were on sort of a school organised trip - basically the school organises the transport, and you get to visit the city free and easy on your own. They seem to know each other really well as they frequently go on those type of trips.
In 2015, I hope to be able to get my calendar to coincide with one of these trips and hopefully meet more international students who are on a 1 year abroad/1 year masters programme in Imperial.

5. Continue Traveling After Returning to Singapore
I've always loved to travel, and this year abroad just catapulted my love for traveling. I hope to be able to find the time (AND MONEY) amidst all the school work and commitments to travel - either alone or with friends, and just to visit more of South East Asia, perhaps go to Australia again or New Zealand! Maybe even Japan and Korea. There's so much of the world i'd love to see, hopefully I'm able to continue with traveling and blogging about it after this year in London.

Those were my 5 main travel goals for 2015! What are yours?

Travel Goals for 2015

3 January 2015

1. The Lanes - Vintage Window Shopping
As we were walking along The Lanes, it started to rain. Shop keepers started shifting their stalls into the shelter, under a canopy, or just covering their precious items under a sheet of canvass. To hide out from the rain, the group of us headed into what looked like a small vintage stall with a tiny turnstile entrance.
What initially seemed like a humble vintage store, had an entrance that led to a double-story shop with multiple sections. The shop was selling all sorts of items from toys, old music records, vintage jewellery, to a whole section dedicated to men and women fashion wear.
I was so tempted to buy this dainty gold watch. But in the spirit of saving money, I decided that the beautiful gold watch is not something I NEED.

Vintage Stores in Brighton

2. Visit the Open Market 
And yes, you should to. Whats not to love about them!
The good thing about the Open Market is, unlike regular markets, was not as crowded. Partially because we arrived the minute it was opened. There were stalls selling cheese, books, craft, pastries, you name it. Daryl and Clarice both got a pack of 6 cream cheese spread for 30p (if I'm not wrong. I know it was rather cheap!) There were several other smaller markets that we went to along the way, but the Open Market seemed to have the most variety. The other markets were selling things like fresh produce, fruits, and some even had furniture!
If you happen to be up in the morning whilst in Brighton, OR, If you happen to (like us) arrive early for a day trip, head on over to the Open Market for breakfast and a cup of coffee!
Brighton Open MarketThe Open Market in BrightonThe Open Market, Brighton, England

The Open Market opens at 10am.

3. Admire the Architecture of The Royal Pavilion
After looking at pictures online of people ice-skating in front of The Royal Pavilion, I told myself I was going to do it as well. I had been monitoring entrance ticket sales for a week prior to the day trip to Brighton. As there were several tickets left, I decided not to pre-book it.
Unfortunately, the whole ice-skating thing slipped my mind when I was at Brighton. I told one of my friends “we’ll come back later in the evening” when he asked if I still wanted to visit the pavilion and if I was still planning on skating. However, we spent our evening at the beach watching the sunset and having a discussion about sun rays, and completely forgot about ice-skating.
Regardless, the architecture of The Royal Pavilion is indeed something worth admiring.

And if you have the time, heck, if you just past by, do head on in, because as you can see from my story, “later” doesn’t always happen.

Well, at least we had fun watching the sunset!

4. Visit the Fishing Museum
A museum that we spontaneously headed into to avoid the rain - the rain stopped after 10 minutes (or so it seemed, because we were pre-occupied with the museum).

a) There are is no entrance fee required.
b) There is a huge boat right in the middle which seemed pretty similar to what fishermen would use in the past. It had a net (which was torn apart) and other ship gears - pretty legit.
c) It is conveniently located along the beach.

There is no reason not to pop-in. It's a small museum which talks about the history of Brighton's fishing industry. Being a coastal city, the fishing industry was huge. If you're thinking, "oh man, another museum? I don't want to have to read..." Don't worry. They have a screen showing black and white images/videos of the fishing industry. Let them pictures speak those 1000 words to you!

Fishing Museum Brighton
Alternatively, you can visit other Speciality Museums like the Toy Museum (I didn't have a chance to go to - it opened fairly late, and by the time we were heading back towards the train station, it was closing), or the Penny Slot Museum (Quite an interesting museum, but really tiny, and no pictures allowed).

5. Eat Fish and Chips
Does this even need an explanation?
England = Land of Fish and Chips
Brighton = Coastal City = Lots of Fresh Fish = MUST TRY FISH AND CHIPS.

Personally, I'm not a huge fish and chips fan, BUT, I'm all for trying different food specialities in different cities. Over the years, i've grown to become a foodie (the more places I visit, the more I enjoy the different flavours of food), and so, if you enjoy a good fish and chips, you'll have plenty to choose from in Brighton.

Along the Pier itself, there were several food places serving Fish and Chips, you are definitely not short of options!

Fish and Chips, Brighton Pier

That's all I have after a little day trip to Brighton and Hove! Oh I really do hope I have the chance to go back in the summer :)
What other Coastal Cities in England do you recommend?

5 Other Things To Do in Brighton

1 December 2014 Brighton, The City of Brighton and Hove, UK

Autumn is starting to creep its way in; the weather is getting colder, the leaves are changing, the number of daylight hours are decreasing day by day. The arrival of autumn means my summer internship here in Paris has come to an end.

After living here for 3 months, its once again time to pack my bags and head off for the 2nd part of my Europe Adventure (otherwise known as #asiancarinaineurope on instagram haha!) - one year of exchange in London! Well, of course I get to spend 2 weeks in Singapore in between to administrative stuff. I REALLY miss the food in Singapore, and homecooked meals by my grandparents/father/other family members so i'm not complaining.

I would say living in Paris was a great experience. Would I live in Paris again in the future? Maybe not (IF I speak fluent french one day, i might consider). But given the same opportunity would I have agreed to come to Paris, DEFINITELY.

This summer internship in Paris has given me a fair share of discrimination experiences, banking issues, inefficient and incompetent delivery services, and transport issues - random breaking down of the metro during peak hours.
Nevertheless, i'm going to miss this place quite a fair bit, my lifestyle here (not going to miss work though! Working really does get quite boring. But the people in the office are quite fun, so that makes up), the food, the weather etc. 
So here are the top 5 things i'll miss about my summer internship in Paris.

Honestly, i'm not much of a bread, pastry, or cake lover. But, Paris does bread and pastries like no other. The small bakeries that are so commonly found along the streets all sell pretty descent pastries. I wouldn't say i'm a convert, but when it comes to croissants? SOLD.
Being able to buy 1 Euro croissants from the bakery beside my apartment building, Le Grenier a Pain, has brought me so much comfort. Stressed from work? Get a croissant. Not sure what to eat? Get a croissant. Want a snack? Croissants. Even for no particular reason? Just get a croissant!

Biting into a yummy buttery flaky on the outside and soft on the inside piece of croissant for only 1 euros instantly brightens my day.
Generally you're able to get good croissants anywhere (Morning around 9 or 10am is the best time) as long as they are golden brown, warm and just out of the oven. If you're ever in Paris, get a croissant and remember to request for one just fresh out of the oven (normally they do give you the fresher ones - at least at the bakery near where i lived they did!)

P.S. They also do really good Chouquettes (my 2nd fav.)
P.S. And since we are on the topic of food, DUCK LEG CONFIT in Paris is always a good idea.

There is something special about taking french classes in France. Understanding the language really helps one connect with the country and the culture so much more. Plus, the french are nicer when they see you trying to fit in! I took french evening lessons at Accord, after reading a recommendation from Paris in four months. It was probably the only school that offered french evening courses in the summer! Lessons were 2x a week 1.5 hrs each, 40euros a week (cheaper than tuition in singapore!!) And I was there for 13 weeks (sans a few classes due to weekend trips).

I've taken french classes in NTU, but nothing quite compares to french lessons here in Paris. I feel like I learn so much more. It could be because
1) The whole lesson is COMPLETELY in french, definitely a culture shock.
2) You have to ask questions in French, sometimes the teacher will make you repeat the question until you get it with the perfect sentence structure before you get an answer.
3) You go at a pace suitable for you. One level is too easy? Just move right on to the next. Very much self-monitored learning. Coming from the Singaporean education system, this is so refreshing! I found myself actually putting in much more time googling phrases, finding translations, and I had a GENUINE interest in doing homework (comparing this to my willingness to do my tutorials in university)
4) Its super interactive. We play taboo in class, we act out skits with conversations, we talk about our day etc.

I really from the bottom of my heart look forward to EVERY french lesson after work! I am most definitely not fluent in french, but I give myself a pat on the back everytime I understand a word, phrase or sentence that is being said in french. I find so much joy in getting conjugations right, I enjoy testing myself when my colleagues speak in french to see how much I understand. So much joy in self-motivated learning!

I already miss my french teachers!

For 2 months (before Jerald came) I was alone, I knew nobody, nobody knew me. Living alone means not having to account to ANYBODY, You can go wherever you want, whenever you want. And thats exactly what I did.
Self prepared meals, waking up at whatever time during the weekends (usually pretty early) not having to justify how you spent your day, not having to share the toilet with anybody else, dressing as you please, eat whatever you want (30 euro meal? Who cares, just eat lesser the next day!) sharing as little or as much information as you want about yourself, amazing new found freedom.
That being said, I don't go out partying and staying out, I pretty much just enjoy being let off the hook as generally, parisians/french don't expect me to conform to societal norms (since i'm CLEARLY a foreigner), and I don't get judged! I can behave like a tourist, or like an inhabitant, which ever is more useful to whatever situation, and people buy it! See, no need for accountability, no need to think 'what will people think of me'.

Yes. The cold schizophrenic weather in Paris! That is the thing I will be dreading when I get off the A380 at Changi Airport. The weather in Paris was such a wonderful change from the hot and humid one in Singapore. In Paris, it never got hotter than 30 degrees, temperatures could be 20°C one day and 30° the next, choosing what to wear form the limited (and uncoordinated) selection of clothes I brought with me was honestly pretty fun! Plus, the office did not have a very strict dress code for the ladies. Jeans, dresses, leggings, skirts, sweaters, coats, bomber jackets, blazers etc. it was like playing dress up every morning!

The weather also made it REALLY enjoyable to walk from one place to another. You could walk for hours and not feel sweaty and uncomfortable!

I doubt i'd be able to experience another summer in a temperate climate for a while, and that is something i'll DEFINITELY miss! Not looking forward to the cold winter months. Then again, I've never experienced anything below 10°C in my life, so that's going to be an interesting experience.

Oh Paris. The Cathedrals, the Buildings, its Architecture, the Musuems (I'm more of a fan of the exterior of the musuems than the painting inside because honestly, i'm not that well versed in fine arts, oops). From the Palaces, to the Gardens, to individual squares, this is something i'm pretty sure I wouldn't find anywhere else. Paris is INDEED gorgeous. Even the architecture of apartment buildings and boutiques are wonderful! Just google BNP Paribas or Abercrombie and Fitch building in Paris. Like I said before, I don't think Paris is romantic, but it is most DEFINITELY beautiful. Its beauty extends far beyond the Eiffel Tower. FAR FAR FAR BEYOND

Definitely going to miss roaming around aimlessly while admiring the architecture of buildings, flowers in the gardens, children playing, street musicians, horses riding by, the whole experience.
Paris is NEVER boring. There's so much to see, so many different arrondissements each with something unique to offer, I had so many places I wished I could visit but didn't have the chance to. Another reason to be back!

P.S. Even the interior deco of cafés and boutiques are fantastic. A little off point, but yes! I'll miss the beauty of this City.

I encourage everyone to visit Paris once in their lifetime. Sure the dirty streets and smelly metro stations do sometimes make it a little less charming (especially for someone coming from a place like singapore - maybe even Japan, Korea or anywhere where we are pretty used to the cleanliness of things and politeness of people), but you'll definitely fall in love with the city. Thank you Paris for being beautiful, thank you for the whole experience, thank you for the good and bad ;)

'Till we meet again,
Au Revoir.

5 Things I Will Miss About Paris

18 September 2014 Paris, France

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