The best of San Fermin 2013: A tourist’s experience of the bull run, bull balcony and bull fight

Whether I’m up rushing for my balcony viewing of the bull run at 7am, strolling the streets in the afternoon, or trying to fall asleep at 2am, there isn’t 5 minutes where the music stops playing. And by music, I mean everything – I recognized a range of Spanish classic pop songs, to David Guetta and Gangnam Style. Pamplona during San Fermin is a perpetual 24-hour party. It reminded me a bit of my college days in Australia – a number of cobbled alleyways reeked of beer and piss.


.
.
.
*Bull Balcony viewing of the San Fermin Bull Run*

This was one for the bucketlist. Christine and I got the evening train in, and landed smack in street festivities of San Fermin. It was 11pm, and roads were closed when we got in, so our taxi dropped us off as far as it could. We pushed through crowds of inebriated party goers to navigate unfamiliar streets and quite quickly, found our way to our accommodation in Pamplona.


We were already tired, but its hard to ignore the jolts of adrenalin and cheers from celebrating locals. We were welcomed by our lovely local host, who briskly ushered us into a tight and tall apartment building – it was stairs only, and I struggled with my month-long luggage bag up 6 storeys.


My room was small, homely and cosy – a refreshing change from the usual hotels. There was something wrong with it though…

………..
The noise. I wouldn’t even call it noise – “noise” is an underestimation. This, is deafening. I didn’t expect this, but be prepared for gunshots, marching drums and brass trumpets accompany the screams of party-goers every 5 minutes. It’s too hot to sleep if the window is closed, but it’s too noisy to sleep when the window is open.


I asked for an adventure, but I didn’t know I wouldn’t be able to sleep.

There are many things I do alone, but I’m glad San Fermin isn’t one of them.


I can’t believe it was as loud last night at midnight as it is in the morning at 6am. The party goers are screaming, tension is building, but I’m perched high up and safely on our balcony. We’re living through San Fermin (pun intended) the only way we know how – VIP style!


So much safer than being on the ground. Not long now till the morning bull run!


A sea of red and white – kind of like the Singaporean National Day parade, but 10x crazier. With bulls. And beer. And Spaniards.


Run with the bulls and you’ll have instant bragging rights, or die trying. I’ll rather stay safe and high up on the balcony please, it’s much nicer to be injury and trample-free!


I just want to shout “nacho libre” and see who responds!

Arriba!

*****

*Bonafide bull fighting (Tauromachia)*
Location: Plaza De Toros

I woke up smiling, completely clueless as to what I was in for. Surprises are always fun right? My friend/blogger sister Chrispytine now lives in Europe and she told me about a trip to San Fermin in Pamplona that she was organizing.


The travel plans matched mine, and I put my hand up for it straightaway. I’ve always wanted to see a live bull fight – cartoons and movies could hardly do it justice and the bull fighters were depicted as such heroes. So off, we go.


Thanks to my immense lack of research before coming for a bullfight, I didn’t actually know that the celebratory tradition of bull fighting climaxes in the slow, drippy bloody death of a bull. The bull fighters (Toreros) and Matadors (senior bull fighters), spend half an hr per round teasing the bull with pink or red cloths while getting close enough to spear it. Slowly, but surely (bloody), it falls over in defeat. All the locals, half drunk on their BYO beer and wine, yell “ole ole ole” in victorious hurray.


My fellow foreigner friends and I have shell-shocked faces, sort of dismayed – and yet we clap and take pictures when we’re supposed to, feeling like we should try to enjoy the expensive entertainment that we came here for. An animal who is trapped into its own death is not a win for me, but we did pay for it.

How horrifying and heart-breaking to watch, my tears of sinking realisation punctuated only by the joyful roars of everyone else in the stadium. Surely a sport that honours the cruel torture and total death of an innocent animal is cruel and inhumane? I don’t think I have a right to criticise this long-standing cultural activity, so deeply a part of the lovely country of Spain which has warmly welcomed me. I decided I don’t like this world-famous sport at all, but it’s a little too late and also kind of ironic, considering I’m watching this while eating my kebab. My stomach feels sick with the thought and I start to visualize rainbows and butterflies.

Think it’s time to consider vegetarianism.


**********

If anyone’s interested, I’ll write a proper post with camera pictures on the top things we did in Pamplona for San Fermin and a first-time breakdown of how much/how to get around, but it’s up to you to consider turning vegetarian after you experience this too.

.
.
->SORRY FOR THE LACK OF UPDATES, I’ll UPDATE MORE WITH PROPER PHOTOS WHEN I’M BACK END JULY. MEANWHILE, I’M OBSSESSED WITH INSTAGRAM VIDEO SO FOLLOW MY TWITTER AND INSTAGRAM (@estellekiora) FOR LIVE UPDATES! Xoxo

Special air fare promotion from Singapore to Europe via Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS): New direct Singapore-Zurich flight from S$679, return ticket (S$705 after taxes)!

Seriously, man.

Even though I’m finding it harder and harder to earn money, somehow by the fair laws of the universe and in the opposite parallel of things, it is getting cheaper and cheaper to travel!

I just heard that Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) has launched special introductory fares for its new daily service from Singapore to Zurich that will commence on 13 May 2013.

An Economy Class flight from Singapore-Zurich starts from S$679 before taxes, S$705 after taxes. Sounds like an awesome deal to me – This is a return flight, including baggage!

If you’re a creature of high-class comfort, a round trip in Business Class is available from S$3705 and offers the innovative SWISS Business Class seats that eases into a 2-metre lie-flat bed.

Screen Shot 2013-01-17 at 8.27.42 PM

Seeing is believing – I went to check out the prices on the SWISS website myself. It was really as rock-bottom as the headlines claimed.

And then, being the cynic I am, I cross-checked it with SkyScanner just to be sure.
skyscanner singapore to zurich

SkyScanner.com doesn’t lie. This is a really good deal!

5 things a Singaporean might find special in Switzerland:

1) SKI, SNOW AND SCENERY
I didn’t go to/have never been to Zurich, but Switzerland is breathtaking in general and I had a snowball of a time there in Nov 2011.

DSC04816

DSC05312

DSC05306

DSC05299

Disclaimer: This was definitely one of my favourite places when I was backpacking around Europe alone in Nov 2011 and I don’t regret going, but November is not a particularly popular time to visit nor a good time to ski.

DSC05234

DSC04833

DSC04940

DSC04992

DSC04856

DSC04862

Trekking around Europe with my hardy Timberlands, courtesy of Timberland Singapore.
DSC04972

DSC04908

Whether you want to see flowers or frozen rivers, Switzerland will show it to you. I like the cold and love the winter, but I made a lot of friends along the way who shared that summer is also a good time to visit Switzerland if you want a slightly warmer holiday.

DSC05148

DSC05253

DSC05255

2) EXPENSIVE
The Swiss Franc (Swiss currency) is rather strong and certain parts of Switzerland can be pretty pricey. In November 2011, I made an impulse decision to go to Zermatt – one of the best ski-towns in Switzerland. (“Best” also means that it is popular and expensive.) I could see the world-famed Matterhorn everyday as I walked to the town and around.
DSC05256

Skiing in the Swiss alps was a once-in-my-lifetime experience for two reasons… It was breathtaking, and it broke the bank.

Expect to pay for a skiing holiday:

– Ski lessons (Don’t take lessons in Switzerland – learn to ski somewhere cheaper like Australia, and then go to Swizerland when you actually know how to ski).

– Equipment rental (which you have to carry all the way to the top of the mountain by yourself, by the way)

– Ski lift pass (Check the weather forecast because these can be non-refundable)

DSC05027

DSC05058

DSC05071

DSC05064

DSC05072

DSC05099

DSC05119

DSC05261

DSC05067 - Version 2

Don’t plan on skiing? No problem. You will probably spend your money on something else. A simple sandwich or burger there cost about 30 Swiss Francs ($39 Singapore dollars)… I re-used part of my breakfast as lunch everyday.

“Oh shit! S$39 for a lunch sandwich!?” I hear you cursing already. Don’t worry, there are ways around this. Read my next point.

3) EASY TO PACK A BACKPACK
Even though food and cost of living is expensive, you can buy your own rations (instant noodles!) from the supermarkets. As souvenirs from Switzerland for my friends in Singapore, I stocked up on supermarket chocolate.
There was another ‘kiasu’ Asian family before me who brought home even more –

DSC05447

DSC05449
I get the cheese and sausages. But seriously, you’re bringing back bread?!

Switzerland is no anarchy and there is every reason to celebrate its cleanliness and orderly society.

It started out on a search with this napkin note…
DSC05337

And it ended with me trying out glu-wine over a meal with some of the most wonderful people I could have met in the town of Zermatt.
DSC05353

DSC05343

DSC05391

DSC05365

DSC05407

DSC05412

DSC05413

This city works like a perfect clockwork – it had the most helpful and honest citizens I encountered anywhere in Europe, train-times were never delayed nor a second late (unlike the rest of Europe), and every inch in the city looked like it had been sweeped – twice.

4) TRY A HOSTEL
No one usually wants to stay in hostels, but the ones in Switzerland are so clean that they look like hotels. (The floors are clean enough to walk around with socks on, and the toilets aren’t terrible at all.)

Money saver tip: My hostel included breakfast AND dinner in its nightly accomodation cost.
DSC04758

DSC04748

Switzerland isn’t cheap, but it is definitely one of the most comfortable and safest places for backpackers.
DSC04744

5) TRAINS
Zurich seems promising, but there are plenty of other beautiful areas in Switzerland to visit and things to do. You can also easily take a train from Zurich to other parts of Switzerland (again, this is not cheap. Expect S$40-$140 train trip ticket prices, not SMRT prices).

If I had the chance to go back to Switzerland again, I would. I would love to experience Berne, The Chateau de Chillon Montreux, Interlaken, Lausanne, Lauterbrunnen, Lake Lucerne, Jungfrau (one of the highest mountains in Europe), Lugano, and the village of Gruyeres – if you have a chance to visit Switzerland and you skip all of these places, I will smack you.

Obviously, as suggested by the beginning of this section, taking a train is definitely the best way to get around.

With cross-country trains, you don’t even have to get off for immigration and custom checks – THEY get onboard to check you. Too easy.
DSC04729

The Bernina Express – One of the most famous and scenic train-routes in the world.

bernina4

bernina3

bernina2

bernina1

Train tip: Some trains are fast, and some move slow (in Europe, they call it “scenic”). Don’t forget to pack food and water along for long journeys.

DSC05451
.
.
.

To enjoy these unbelievably low fares from Singapore to Zurich, travellers must purchase their tickets between 14 January 2013 and 28 January 2013. Travel period is from 13 May 2013 to 30 November 2013. Terms and conditions apply. From my quick checks online, it seems like this applies to other Singapore-to-other-parts-of-Europe flights too.

Special priced flights from Singapore to Europe with SWISS International Air Lines:

Amsterdam from SGD 823.-
Barcelona from SGD 804.-
Brussels from SGD 819.-
Copenhagen from SGD 808.-
Frankfurt from SGD 978.-
Geneva from SGD 717.-
London (LHR) from SGD 1020.-
Madrid from SGD 806.-
Malaga from SGD 791.-
Manchester from SGD 991.-
Milan (MXP) from SGD 809.-
Munich from SGD 1099.-
Nice from SGD 815.-
Paris (CDG) from SGD 827.-
Prague from SGD 808.-
Rome (FCO) from SGD 822.-
Tel Aviv from SGD 802.-
Venice from SGD 802.-
Vienna from SGD 874.-
Zurich from SGD 679.-

Screen Shot 2013-01-17 at 8.47.25 PM

Wanderlusting on the SWISS website…
Singapore to Nice – now seriously affordable.
Screen Shot 2013-01-17 at 8.32.58 PM

Flight tip: When booking flights online, not all of them are always direct flights. Double check your flight dates and timings, especially to ensure that there isn’t too much or too little time in between stopovers.
.
.
.

Life is short – visit Europe.

Start planning and booking your 2013 getaway with special airfare deals like this one at SWISS.

**********
I haven’t written a lot about it, but you can check out my blog category EUROPE for more snippets of my 1 month Europe-alone adventure from October-November 2011, backpacking from Barcelona-Venice-Cinque Terre-Florence-Pisa-Rome-Milan-Zermatt Switzerland-London-Edinburgh Scotland.

A must for Mobile Marketing Strategy – Hotels.com iPhone and Android app is simply brilliant for booking AND browsing hotel rooms

Last month was a productive month for me, as I worked further on my business idea and attended the Web In Travel 2012 conference for the first time. I am always utterly fascinated learning about the worlds of Travel and Tech, and it’s even more fun when they integrate so well together.

The Web In Travel 2012 conference addressed a bunch of insider issues, and took Q&As of the key trend of mobile. Mobile, mobile, mobile. Whether you’re an outsider looking in, or an insider looking out, you just cannot ignore the little plastic power of the device in your hand that beeps and rings. Admit it, your phone rules the world (I know mine rules me)!

Every time I talk to people who work in big corporations, I like to ask them, “what’s your social media and mobile strategy?” They either give you a very good answer, or they squirm like ants under a magnifying glass… Don’t you know that Asia-Pacific is by far the fastest-growing mobile market in the world, and smart phone shipments are expected to hit 137 million units in 2011 in Asia Pacific alone? And you don’t have a sales strategy that covers it? Huh? HUH????? Yeah, take that.

When I was doing research on government statistics for my own start-up, I was pretty shocked to realise that there are MORE MOBILE SUBSCRIPTIONS than PEOPLE living in Singapore. That means that many residents here actually own more than one phone! Whatever for? That is crazy, people!!

(Er, yes, I’m one of you… I have two.)

Cannot live without my BlingBerry 9790 and iPhone apps!

I’m a big advocate of browsing and booking things easily on my phone, and it is almost a fail in my honest opinion, for any major company to have an inefficient (or invisible) mobile strategy. (Sorry to be so blunt today, but I read a lot about mobile trends and marketing strategies!)

Thus, it is very easy to win my respect when a company spends effort and dollars in these areas. It truly delights me that this hotel booking site saw the importance in the mobile trend and built these power-packed iPhone and Android mobile phone apps – found on the respective app stores as “Hotels.com” (free to download, of course).

Here’s me testing it out on an iPad… Ready, set, swipe! You can use the app as “a guest” or create your own account.

To create an account, there are about 10 fields to enter your information in when you sign up, but after that it’s quick and fun. Start swiping, sorting or scrolling against the app’s interactive skyline.

Start your search first with exact dates, number of rooms & occupants.

Use the powerful filter tools to sort by preferences – do you want to see the lowest prices or best recommendations?

Check out pictures, descriptions, deals and room reviews.

I’m a bit of a design freak. I really truly appreciate when a website spends top dollar on a sleek interface that is thoughtful and intuitive on a phone or iPad. “Travel” is such a visual experience and browsing should be beautiful, not basic. The concept of a hotel or holiday can be very influenced by the choices of stylish design, glossy colours and magazine-like pictures on a mobile app.

The Hotels.com mobile design makes the UX (user experience) so gorgeous!

Only with the iPad app, you can find the nearest Hotels.com rooms in your live location, real-time.

Remember my previous post for Hotels.com? Can you tell that I just looove looking at hotels? It’s a very useless skill of mine. Guess which are some of the rooms and destinations I picked…

Store all your favourite room options with an add button, decide later!

Fullerton Bay Hotel, Singapore.
The Langham, Hong Kong.
Expo Hotel, Barcelona.
Club Quarters, London.

Which is your favourite?

I’m sure it will be quick to find a hotel/room to suit your budget and preference – The two smartphone applications are available in over 30 languages, and allow travellers to search and book more than 20,000 accommodation deals from over 135,000 hotels around the world.

Whether you’re planning a one-city quick trip or a cross-country vacation marathon, it’s really easy to flag (touch the ‘add’ button) all your favourite room options around the globe and you can always decide/book later. No need for opening multiple screens and toggling in between windows at all!

All your previously picked choices are stored in your account and organized in a grid next to each other for clear comparison. Which one was cheaper? Which one was nicer? Wonder no more, the design is really manageable and brilliant.

Don’t forget to keep track of the Welcome Rewards programme – when you book 10 room nights, you get your next night free. It’s easy like bubble tea.

Track your details and progress to getting that free hotel room

Even without a data connection, information like hotel address, phone number and map is ready on display as all past and future bookings can be accessed offline. I did this on an iPad and it can also be synced with your desktop and mobile phone. So incredibly useful!

Everything is clearly labelled and if anything goes wrong, you can call the help hotline straight from the app.

PS: I seriously did all this research in about 10 minutes on my friend’s iPad (I currently don’t own one). This is such a seamless app and is perfect for searching, comparing, and booking hotels while on-the-go.

If I need to make a last minute room reservation, Hotels.com will definitely be my app of choice.

“First, I’ll find a hotel room. Hopefully next, a husband…”

Next time you feel like browsing, booking (or just dreaming), get on the Hotels.com iPhone/Android app and pretend you are on a holiday. Let me know what you think!

This is an advertorial for Hotels.com

New Year, New Adventures

2011 has passed, but that’s no reason for me to stop thinking about it. As always, I’ve had an adventure of a year and I hope all of you have had some sort of adventure too.

Life is full of infinite experiences, and so mine will last a lifetime. In no particular order at all, here are 12 adventures in 2011 that I’ve learnt from or loved.

*******

#12 TAIWAN

I was invited on an all-boy’s trip to Taiwan with some old friends that I went to school with. Although I didn’t get to do much girly things (like shopping), we went hiking, running and roadtrippin’ through Taroko Gorge and breathed in the scenic air of stunning Shakadang Trail – which was so much better!

Found an amazing spot somewhere, don’t think we were allowed to swim in it… but boys will be boys, and so we did.

My Taiwanese friend claimed that it wasn’t dangerous, it’s just that most locals don’t know how to swim?!

Taking rocky risks in Taiwan

Had such a great time in Taiwan that I went back to Taipei a few months later for a party trip. It was a good friend Adam’s birthday, and a bunch of us flew up from all around the world to celebrate it with him.

I strolled the sights, checked out #Marquee, #Spark101 and #Primo, but mostly spent time with some people. I especially remember my friend’s birthday dinner where we downed goose meat and Taiwanese pi jiu at a loudy ‘n’ rowdy local joint.

I also loved Taiwanese bubble tea and learnt that dogs like Glowy were allowed (welcome) on tabletops.

#11 HABITAT FOR HUMANITY

Baring my sole and my soul for Habitat for Humanity was not enough, but it was a start. I love charity events so dragging along family and friends to do this with me was definitely a memorable stripe in my year.

#10 KIDS

Volunteered to teach 5 & 6 year-old kids as many Saturdays as I could, and quickly gained respect for teachers and mothers. Teaching them to spell and sing in between a bit of storytelling is probably some of the most tiring afternoons I’ve ever had. And I would do it all over again.

#9 SKIN AND SUN

Went a bit far with a plan to get my skin fair, but it fast failed. I always find it hard to resist a bit of warm Sunday sun at #TanjongBeachClub.

Sun tanners VS stunners at Tanjong Beach Club

#8 KEIRA-ROSE ASAD

Got to spend a bit of time with my Chindian (Indian-Chinese) niece, Keira. She is the prettiest grump in the world!

#7 EUROPE

Backpacked through bits and pieces of Europe… #Eurotrip
Braved the cold and some bad luck in Switzerland. #keepsmiling

Made friends of all cultures for coffee and conversations… It doesn’t matter what colour skin we are – if you’re a girl, you probably have had boy problems.

#6 COUNTLESS ACTIVITIES IN MY COUNTRY

When I’m not travelling (i.e. broke), I love having friends and foreigners visit me so I can show off my country. One of my best friends came to visit me from Sydney but since we’ve done everything touristy, we went to East Coast Park for a bit of double-trouble biking.

If you don’t pedal in perfect sync, the chain on the gears tend to become misplaced. Those double bikes are not so easy breezy!

More posts on things to do in Singapore on my blog and to come.

#5 HORIZON 7

Better than biking, was boating around Singapore for my birthday.

#4 PLAY HARD, ONLY IF YOU WORK HARD

Many people find it hard to believe, but yes I have (and always have had) a full-time job. I work hard, but it’s easy when you love the team you work for/with.

Working across timezones completely possible.

2 week business trip to the US


But we went to the beach too.

Ending my tenure in my last job, I took a month to sip the finer things in life in Spain, Barcelona

Salud! ("Cheers" in Spanish)

Sauntered through the Room of Maps in Rome, Italy

… And sat slowly and coldly on the top of the Swiss Alps.

#3 FAMILY MATTERS

I watched the Pettigrews be good parents,

#2 MY BROTHER

… And my brother lovingly do my laundry in London.

#1 REAL LOVE

Being single for more than 2 years can sometimes suck, but I learnt that the never-ending love adventure with God and my family is more than enough.

The introduction screen from a Christian seminar on Singlehood I attended... apt.


Love from Jesus and his kids at my weekly Tuesday Group


Unconditional love to my parents, because they loved me first.

**********
What was YOUR favourite adventure of 2011 and what do you wish for in 2012? Please share them with me, I’d love to hear them and I promise not to laugh (out loud).

You can watch the recording of my New Year wishes for 2011-2012 to Singapore which was played to the public during the Marina Bay Countdown celebration. (My part is at Clip 4 and after the first 6 minutes.)

I can’t wait to share my next (and last) post on the #MarinaBay2012 NYE countdown with you! (Fireworks included.) In the meantime, here’s to moving forward and soaring higher this new year!

Eurotrip Oct 2011: Roamin’ in Roma with Roomorama

Touristy. Dangerous and disturbed. Chaotic. I arrived in Rome on the day of the Manifesto, and so first impressions and hearsay of the place had always been more a zero than hero. I only planned to have a stingy 2 days in Rome, but amidst the mess I suddenly felt myself wanting to leave. Sweaty, frustrated, lost and stranded with heavy bags and without public transport, I could not get out of there soon enough.

“Nevermind, be brave little girl”, I told myself, “and stick it out”. I’m glad I did, because with a flip of an attitude switch, I calmed myself down and the city gave me an amazing time.

What I loved most about backpacking through Europe for a month was the accomodation choices I generally had, and Rome was overflowing with plenty. I skipped the hostel here and did a homestay that I found via Roomorama. Taking over a local Italian girl’s bedroom for 25euros a night came bundled with promises of tales of rich history and showing me the best Tiramisu in the city. Seemed like a great deal to me. I was sold.

The best Tiramisu is apparently at Bar Pompi, Rome. It comes in 3 flavours – Classic, Pistachio, and Strawberry Cheesecake!

This is no ordinary walk in the park – I step where the Roman Emperors made their mark.

Roamin’ the Roman Ruins at the Roman Forum

And so here I was in Rome, living with the Piermarinis. The location of my apartment was a 10minutes walk to the subway, and completely connected to all the main attractions within 15-40minutes. The best part of my location was sleeping next to Italy’s oldest gelato (Italian ice-cream) factory.

Yummy!

I entered and exited everyday with an 80s style lift, it looked like a shell from a prison cell, and I looked forward each day to going up and down. It was just like from the movies.

Friendly neighbour consideration applies: If you don’t close the door properly, the residents on all the floors would not be able to use it!

The local Italian lady (Angela) who’s room I was stealing now lived in America, but her Mom was happy to have a temporary daughter. My new Italian Hot Mama cared for me while her chubby hubby cooked for me and did my laundry.

In return, I cooked him kimchi noodles. I don’t think he ate any but he was so amused at the Asian twist to his usual al dente spaghetti.

Even though it was only for four days, I felt like I was living la vida local in Italy. I had a snug bedroom to myself while pictures of my new family clung onto each adjacent white-washed wall. The shelves were still filled with all of Angela’s things.

An added bonus of staying with the Piermarinis was a new American friend. The New York girl roomed next to me, I made minimal noise so she could have her beauty sleep. She was chatty, smart and travelled, and we became fast friends. I slept with her for my last night (but not in that way). I snagged the upper bunk – I always loved being closer to the top.

We had dinners and swapped touristic ideas, attraction advice, stuck together most nights and even checked out a club.

One of the Piermarini brothers was about my age, and he loved some of the things I did too… Like martial arts and clubbing. He happened to be one of the most popular club promoters in Rome, and offered to put me on the guestlist for all his parties. I took him up on one of his offers, and NY chick and myself got dressed up to hit up this Italian town.

It was a very local nightclub, and I think we were the only foreigners (you know this when you get stared at or yelled at). For a while I was a little scared, but knowing that my brother-for-rent was one of the party organizers gave me confidence in my skin. We slid 6-inch heels on our feet, gave the bouncers our deets and skipped in to the beats.

Of course, along with the affirmation from the locals on Rome’s attractions, I did other cool stuff besides clubbing. Checked out the Colosseum, for example.

Michaelangelo’s Room of the Muses was stunning.

If you go to Rome, don’t miss the Vatican for the world.

Made friends on the bus and had a mini-Italian dinner party in Campo Di Fiori.

I also tried my hand at some Italian love letters – this one is a thank you note to my gracious and beautiful host/Italian Mama.

It really made all the difference having my very own Italiano family to chat with and care for me. Besides the beauty of the place, they showed me the passion of the people. Molto Grazie to the Pierminano family.

If I stayed in a hostel or a hotel, I would not have had this unique viva la local experience at all.

Short-term rentals - Bed&Breakfasts, houses and apartments for all sorts of travelers

Thank you to Roomorama for my Rome roaming and rooming experience.

Where to next? Find your own room experience here.


**********

Read about my experience at the Sistine Chapel here.
Read about my Roomorama experience in Milan with a fashion designer and her model+photographer boyfriend here.

It was thanksgiving in Singapore recently…

20111128-014756.jpg

… And although I was working through the special day (not many Singaporeans celebrate this), it doesn’t mean I didn’t have time to pray.

Move aside, Mr Turkey – Thanksgiving should not be about what you eat, but who you eat it with.

If you give thanks for everything, Thanksgiving can be everyday.
.
.
.
Pic above: This is from one of my most memorable meals of late, when I had my last meal in London earlier this November with the person I love most in the world – my little brother! I had the fish ‘n’ chips. It tasted slightly salty, but there was also something sadly sweet about that special moment… A heart that beats to see him, but is broken to have to leave.

I have so many things to be thankful for. What have you got to be thankful for today?

Give me just one night – Chilling like an Italiano in Milano

Good morning, Milan!

DSC04561

DSC04697

The fabric of Milan is it’s fashion, and along with this being a bad pun, they are all pretty expensive at that. I got a touch and taste of it today as I am rooming with a local up and coming fashion designer, and then roamed Quadrilateral D’ Oro (Rectangle of Gold) and its plethora of brands… none of which I could afford.

DSC04584

DSC04591

DSC04586

DSC04595

DSC04594

Starting from Monte Napoleone and ending at Viale De Spiga (my local milanese fashion designer host Catherina had some of her collection – Il Systema Degli Oggetti – showcased there and I wanted to check it out), all I had to do was follow the lights on this yellow brick road that glittered like gold.

DSC04589

DSC04598

DSC04599

I liked Il Systema Degli Oggetti’s stuff… the very helpful salesgirl showed me lots of their browns and easy to wear dresses and trousers. More in tune to the winter/fall season than Singapore’s summers though! (Facebook page here.)

DSC04600

DSC04603

Shopping in Milan is VERY expensive, in my opinion! I bought a bunch of nice stuff like Tom Ford perfume, but nothing too big… It was either a useless Gucci handbag or a week of skiing in Switzerland, and I leave for Switzerland tomorrow.

Me window shopping in Milan is like being on a diet in a candy store – there’s no point buying anything. Damn irritating!

DSC04666

DSC04609

I have to say though, you don’t know willpower till you fall in love with Dolce & Gabbana’s latest collection or Alan Journo’s Alexander Wang inspired accessories, and walk out of the boutiques empty handed and pockets still full. Hardest thing this week to do!

DSC04608

DSC04607

DSC04625

My stomach gurgled with emptiness though, and as I looked longingly – my eyes lighted with lust – through the glimmering window displays, I slowly strolled to the nearest restaurant.

DSC04596

DSC04647

It’s the duomo! No, it’s a museum! No, it’s… MacDonalds!

No, I didn’t eat here. I started to pound the pavement and found some pretty restaurants.

DSC04619

I peeked in and smiled – it had apertivo time – score. (See my previous post about apertivo.)

I had a glass of wine and a platter of different pastas all for 9euros – my cheapest meal in Italy yet.

Screen Shot 2011-11-08 at 12.15.27 AM

DSC04684

A night walk ensued.

DSC04610

DSC04641

The famous Scala Theatre – wanted to watch an opera but alas, it’s ballet season.
DSC04634

The Duomo in Milano
DSC04650

These bicycles for rent were in little stations all over Milan city, to help locals move quickly and freely in between traffic around the city. It also helps the environment and reduces congestion among cars. I think bicycle rentals were for 30-60 minutes at each time.
DSC04670

DSC04582

DSC04551

A quick 10-minuti metro ride meant I was back to my cosy attic room in the very spacious Milanese studio apartment that I got via Roomorama (only 59euros for the night), and another perk of NOT staying in a hotel meant I was winding down and cosying up with lovely Caterina as I sink into her slouchy bean bag and chat with her model+photographer boyfriend.

DSC04695

Screen Shot 2011-11-07 at 11.58.27 PM

DSC04693

Caterina’s in the kitchen cooking dinner, and as her hand stirs the pot I can only imagine her mind is brewing up her next design for the catwalk.

Big thanks to Roomorama for sponsoring my Milanese studio apartment and offering me this incredible overnight opportunity.

Short-term rentals - Bed&Breakfasts, houses and apartments for all sorts of travelers

DSC04571

DSC04572 - Version 2