re: Nottingham

Taking a tour around my own city.

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As much as I love reminiscing about my travels in Asia, let me introduce the city I’ve been living in for the past two and a half years to my blog. A friend from Hong Kong recently came to visit for the day, giving me the perfect opportunity to revisit some old sights, share new favourites and also try something new.

A newly discovered favourite, for years I had mistaken Ye Olde Tripe To Jerusalem for a regular pub. Walking inside, however, you’ll be surprised (spoiler alert) at its quaint interiors, having been built into the rocks under Nottingham Castle. My first visit involved cramming into a cosy alcove, making for quite a primitive experience as we ate lunch surrounded by the uneven graffiti covered rocks that made up its walls. It does get incredibly busy here, but on my second visit (~11:30, weekday) it was decidedly quiet and we easily managed to secure a table, eavesdropping on the tour group that had assembled next to us.

After a satisfyingly filling lunch, what better than a short walk to Nottingham Castle? It’s a lovely vantage point from which to view the city, although apart from getting excited at seeing the clock tower of University Park’s Trent Building, the view is nothing truly spectacular. Alongside permanent displays in the castle museum, there are also changing rosters of exhibitions to discover – that we easily spent a couple of hours going through.

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Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side as we arrived at Wollaton Park, suddenly turning gloomy and overcast. We took refuge inside the mansion (known locally as Batman’s crib) and buried ourselves in its history, as told through a new exhibition of delicate paper cut outs that sprang from the pages of open books. There’s also an incredible collection of taxidermy animals within these rooms, although some displays can benefit from better lighting options to be able to appreciate the craftsmanship of this archaic form of perseveration.

I’m still waiting for snow to appear in Nottingham, so I can only say that the best weather conditions in which to walk the grounds of Wollaton Park is sunny and hot. There should be more deer roaming about (we only caught a sad glimpse at a far-away herd) and the sunshine brings out the best in Wollaton Hall’s intricate features. This condition also applies to visiting the University of Nottingham’s main campus, University Park. It’s pretty much what convinced me to apply and boats are also available to rent in the summer, making for that quintessential UoN experience.

We ended our evening with a new venture, Sexy Mama Love Spaghetti. An undeniably eye-catching name crudely scrawled across its exterior, it might be somewhere you’d quickly walk past on any normal occasion. But having heard great reviews, we decided to see for ourselves. The restaurant itself is a tiny squeeze, even for a small person like me, but the food was delicious! Ordering the king scallop linguine was the best decision made that night, it was cooked so perfectly. We both felt the risotto Milanese was lacklustre and the portions were slightly on the small side, but the staff and general atmosphere of the restaurant were lovely.

~

re: ferences

re: Macau

Part two of my guided adventure.

Arriving at the Ruins of St. Paul was a little underwhelming, although I have a tendency to imagine things much bigger than they usually are, so don’t be dissuaded from my thoughts. Somewhat surviving three fires, it is still quite a magnificent structure to visit and marvel at its determination to remain standing throughout such unfortunate circumstances. Since we arrived around 5/6pm, the site itself was incredibly crowded, making it difficult to get a photograph without someone in the background. Instead, we took advantage of the remaining sun and relaxed on the steps with a cup of milk tea and grass jelly before heading off to the next location.

To be truthful, I was actually pretty amazed with The Venetian. There’s a certain charm to all its artificial beauty and it was fun to see what is basically a giant shopping centre structured in this way. There are real, working gondolas equipped with gondoliers to explore its artificial canals, but which we skipped on account of the huge queue and limited time we had there. A very quick breeze around the shops and a visit to Lord Stow’s for their famous Portuguese egg tart (delicious, but a little too greasy) was pretty much all we had time for before we headed back to the port to try and get an earlier ferry back.

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If you find yourself with a return ticket far later than you wanted to stay on Macau, you are able to wait in a reserve queue for an earlier ferry. At the front of this queue, it’s very likely you’ll be admitted on board! We were thwarted by huge reserve queues for earlier ferries, so ended up taking the ferry back at the original time. It’s also worth noting that you can take the ferry back to either Hong Kong Island, or Kowloon, depending on which is more convenient for you! (The ferry does not dock only in Kowloon as my friend Sandy adamantly insisted).

Although it’s only an hour from Hong Kong to Macau, I’d like to return and stay for a night or two to fully explore the city and nightlife. While the private tour was great in allowing us to see the main sights for that day, we really didn’t have much freedom to just walk around and discover sights for ourselves. I’d love to go back and walk around Macau’s old town as well as walk its strip of famous casinos in the evenings!

re: Macau

A story in two parts.

When my family visited we took a trip to Macau, on a brisk whistle-stop tour of the SAR’s main attractions. It was our second attempt to visit since no one thought to bring their passports (and I also forgot to remind them, oops). An easy mistake to make, but even then, our second attempt wasn’t without event. As usual, the ferry ports were ridiculously busy and we ended up purchasing a late afternoon ticket with late evening return.

With 8 members of my family in tow and an age range of 12-65, I was anxious we wouldn’t get round to seeing all the sights in time. However, the benefits of travelling with your family (and to an extent, a large group) revealed itself when we arrived in Macau. Approached by a lady, we managed to arrange our own private car to drive us around for the day at a pretty respectable price! Feeling a bit luxurious as we were chauffeured around, my worries subsided (after we were sure this wasn’t some scam) and we were able to see Macau’s main sights in the short period of time we had there!

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Stopping first at the Kun Iam Statue, which was quite stunning to view but really offered not much to do otherwise, we hopped back in the car to A-Ma Temple. We were greeted with a serendipitous performance of traditional Portuguese Folk dancing before we wandered off to explore the little temple and its surrounding area where we found stalls selling freshly made snacks! I loved the little streets and buildings around this area, which due to the Portuguese administration were refreshingly different from the typical Chinese style I had become accustomed to. If it wasn’t for the Chinese signs, it was almost as if we had gone on our usual European holiday.

This feeling only intensified as we walked around Senado Square and also reminded me of Ho Chi Minh City (or more chronologically, HCMC reminded me of Macau – my posts have become a bit disorderly since returning!). I really enjoyed being surrounded by this style of architecture, it appealed greatly to my love of quaint pastel designs (I mean, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a dream to watch, heart-eyes all around)! Most sights are within walking distance from here and there’s plenty of great street food around this area so we stopped for a quick bite.

Part II coming next week!

re: Hong Kong

Off The Beaten Track, pt. I.

I called my first posts on Hong Kong unmissable sights, but that’s not to say the following things should be missed when you visit. Once you’ve ticked the main locations off your itinerary, do something a bit different to bolster your experience. I managed to write about some places before, my favourite being the near-fail of a hike to see the waterfalls (please learn from my mistakes), but there’s also the hike (another one) to the highest peak on Kowloon and tasting the rainbow via multi-coloured soup dumplings! Let’s add another two to the list to fuel your curiosity:

Lion Rock

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So I’ve already written about two hikes, why not introduce another? The city battles with the mountainous terrain of its natural landscape and you’ll soon find that every day is leg day when walking in Hong Kong. For stunning views inside the city, Lion Rock is a famous landmark amongst locals and the perfect counterpart to Victoria Peak’s harbour views. Named for its resemblance to a lion, the trail can be accessed upon leaving Won Tai Sin MTR station (exit B3).

Make sure you stock up on plenty of water as the hike is basically one long staircase to its peak. On hindsight, it’s not a bad idea to bring lunch too! From the MTR exit, there’s two choices: follow the instructions on this blog and walk to the start of the trail, or save yourself a good 30 minutes and take a taxi (~30HKD) to the starting point. When I took my friend Hazel, I was slightly hungover so we smartly opted for the lazy taxi option.

Visiting in late February, the weather wasn’t nearly as hot or humid as in summer, but we still ended up drenched in sweat upon reaching the top. Luckily there was a light breeze to cool us off and we relaxed on the rocks, soaking in the view until sunset. I really recommend starting the hike late afternoon as temperatures will be cooler and watching the sun set over the city is one of those magical experiences you can’t miss. I’m in love with this city at night and with Lion Rock as a vantage point, it’s hard not to be captivated by its glittering lights.*

Cheung Chau (長洲)

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Popular with locals, this little island is a food heaven and only a short ferry ride from Central. First time visiting, my friend and I were amazed by the giant fish balls and the sheer amount of food. Head to the food stalls for lunch and to the harbour restaurants at dinner for fresh seafood at decent prices. Note that although the menus here come in Chinese, some do have photographs you can use for reference. For the best experience, take a fluent Cantonese speaker (friend or family) to do the hard work of ordering for you.

Come with a big appetite to sample everything on offer, but definitely don’t leave without eating the mango mochi. From the ferry pier, head left and you’ll recognise the shop by its consistently huge lines. Don’t be deterred though, this is mochi like no other. Beautifully soft mochi is wrapped around a slice of fresh mango making for a deliciously refreshing bite. To the thrill seekers amongst you, try the durian flavour for a step out of your comfort zone. Personally, I’m not fond, but you might strike lucky and find it your cup of tea!

Cheung Chau is more than its food though, keep heading right from the ferry pier and discover the reclining rocks for change of scenery and a quick get-away from the hustle and bustle of the street food scene. The crowds of people start to disperse and you can take a moment on the rocks to relax and nurture your newly acquired food baby.

[Part II coming next week!]

*Getting back down in the dark can be quite tricky, our method consisted of using the lights from our phones and keeping close to a family of three who had the good sense to bring a proper flashlight.