You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘travel’ tag.
I had a Marketing Conference today for work at the Marriott Hotel County Hall, just across Westminster Bridge, in London… and here was my view for the day!
Nothing like a beautiful view of the Houses of Parliament (Palace of Westminster) from the conference room’s window, to remind me how lucky I am to live in this amazing city!
Hope all my Aussie friends enjoy Australia Day. Can’t believe it’s almost been three years since I left Australia!
To celebrate, here’s a photo of a sexy kangaroo I met in Kuranda during my trip to Queensland.
Happy Australia Day!
January 15th 2015 marks the 4th anniversary of my travel blog. I can hardly believe that it’s been so long since I got my domain and started blogging exclusively about travel. I have so far published 367 posts and had nearly 60,000 views over the past four years…very exciting!
I am not the avid blogger that I would like to be. Every year I try to post more than the prior year, but life gets in the way and I constantly find myself
being too lazy procrastinating making up excuses not finding the time to write. To tell the truth though, this blog has become an important part of me, and, although I don’t pay it the attention it deserves, this blog is one of my favourite hobbies!
I have not been short on travel since leaving Vancouver in August 2013 and moved to the UK. I’ve managed to visit quite a few new countries, and countless new cities, towns and sites (well, I could count them… but I won’t right now) through my time abroad, and collected a range of incredible memories.
In the last couple of months I’ve started (very slowly) catching up with my trips since leaving Vancouver. I still have a long way to go, but it is happening. I have hundreds of travel stories and photographs to share, so I can guarantee this blog will continue to grow over time, it just might take me a while.
In the last couple of months I also took a leap into making an official Clausito’s Footprints Facebook page, which is also growing slowly. Please like my page if you’d like to connect, as sometimes I add contact there not available in other social media platforms!
I am honestly extremely flattered that friends, family, acquaintances, and even strangers take the time to visit my blog, read about my trips, look at my photos, and sometimes even connect though comments and likes. I enjoy sharing my travels and promise this year I will force myself to write more often, adding a total (minimum) of 100 posts in 2015!
Thank you again to my loyal fans, regular visitors, infrequent readers, and one-time viewers for checking out my blog, I hope you continue to enjoy my adventures!
Good day, and happy travels!
Another year of fantastic trips has come to an end. I honestly cannot believe how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to travel as much as I have in the past few years, and 2014 was no exception.
Year in (Travel!) Review:
My year in 2014 started in my “new,” current home, London, England. Right away I started the travel trend that would follow for the rest of the year, by going on my first trip out of the UK since moving here, with a four-day trip to Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Spain, in January.
I stayed in London through February and March, but with visits by my friends Timothy from Belgium, and Vanessa from Canada, I got to see a lot of London as a tourist, including a visit to the Tower of London, checking out some museums, lunch at the Shard, and going to the Harry Potter Studios!
In April I got to go on two separate trips: a four-day getaway to Paris, France to visit my friend Loic, and a six-day trip to Portugal, in which I visited the stunning town of Porto, and the country’s lively capital city, Lisbon.
May saw my first big trip of the year, with an eleven-day exploration of Germany. I tried to maximize my time there by seeing as much as I could, and I managed to visit a few cities: Cologne, Munich, Nuremberg, Dresden, and Berlin; as well as take some day trips to see the stunning Neuschwanstein Castle, and the beautiful Medieval town Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
June through August I stayed in the UK, enjoying the summer sunshine… I did however manage to visit three Pride Events: Pride in London, Brighton and Hove Pride, and Pride Cymru (in Cardiff, Wales). I even took another day trip to Brighton at the end of August to explore the lovely seaside town in more detail.
In September, I was sent by my work on a week-long holiday to Florida, on a trip sponsored by British Airways, and the tourism boards for Tampa Bay and St Petersburg / Clearwater. The trip included a bit of everything, from cycling around the cosmopolitan city of Tampa and a visit to the Busch Gardens amusement park, to laying on beautiful white-sand beaches in Clearwater, taking a boat to the beachy Caladesi Island State Park, and exploring Art museums in St. Petersburg. And of course there were visits to lots of amazing restaurants and bars, where I got wined and dined like there was no tomorrow!
October was once again spent back in London, in preparation of my biggest trip of 2014: November’s three-week exploration of South Africa, a trip that I took from Cape Town to Durban, stopping at various points along the Garden Route and the Wild Coast, as well as a quick stop in Port Elizabeth, and my very first African safari in Addo Elephant National Park.
December has flown much too fast with all the Christmas events going on, but I did manage to sneak in one last trip, when I went up to Northern Ireland to spend Christmas with my boyfriend Eamonn’s family. Most of the three-day trip was Christmas related, but I did spend a wonderful 24 hours in Belfast, a beautiful little city that has a lot to offer!
So far, 2015 is looking quiet on the travel front, but I am excited to have my first trip already planned, a trip in March 2015 to Rome, Italy, with Eamonn and his parents. This will be my third time going to Rome, but it is a city I love, so I am really looking forward to it!
Now for my New Years Resolutions:
1. Keep on traveling. I need to visit at least five new countries in 2015!
2. Write more… 2014 saw me slacking on my blog, but I promise to write more posts in 2015! (Should be easy as long as I make the time… I am so behind, I have a lot of material to write about!).
Hope everyone has had an amazing 2014 doing whatever it is that makes you happy. Best wishes for the new year, and happy travels in 2015!
As I noted in my post about Brussels, one of the little surprises that I really enjoyed about Brussels were the murals depicting some of Belgium’s Beloved Comic Strips.
I have learned since my visit that there is an official Comic Strip Route which includes 42 pieces in the centre of Brussels alone, plus a bunch of others in some of the city’s suburbs… and I am almost tempted to go back to Brussels just to check it out!
One last day-trip my friend Timothy and I took during my visit to Belgium in August 2013, was to go see the country’s impressive capital city: Brussels.
We visited as a day trip, walking around the city before stopping for a big lunch. We mostly walked through the different areas, admiring the external architecture, the monuments, and the street art, rather than going to any museums or attractions.
The most impressive part of Brussels is hands down the Grand Place, the city’s beautiful main square, located right in the heart of the city.
The medieval square is surrounded by the stunning gothic-style Town Hall, the Museum of the City of Brussels, and an array of restaurants, cafés and bars, and hotels, all housed in impressively ornate former Guildhalls.
Grand Place is often home to events and festivals, and even on a weekday at the end of the high season, the square was quite busy with locals and visitors alike.
Due to the concentration of beautiful historic buildings surrounding the square, the entire Grand Place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One of the very few things I knew about Belgium before my visit, was that somewhere hidden in its capital, was the fountain of a little boy peeing, a bit of a weird piece of knowledge I gathered from my semesters studying Art History in university.
The statue, sculpted by Hiëronymus Duquesnoy in the 1600s, is based on a local legend about a little boy in the 14th Century, whose peeing on a track of gunpowder prevented a spark from reaching a bunch of dynamite which would have destroyed the city walls, allowing the invaders to access the city.
As one does, while looking for a famous landmark in a city when first visiting, Timothy and I went on a hunt in search of the little peeing boy, walking in circles for a few minutes without success. Finally, we came upon a sign that undoubtedly meant we had found our goal: a large crowd of tourists gathered around a wall, taking photos of an invisible icon we couldn’t see from the distance, due to the human barrier of tourists.
We approached the crowd and made our way through everyone to the front of the crowd, and there he was, in all his inglorious splendor, a life-size bronze statue of a baby, peeing into the fountain. A tiny little landmark that is more famous based on its fame alone, rather than its actual merit (although I controversially feel exactly this way about the Mona Lisa in Paris… And actually think the peeing boy is more interesting to see!).
Parc de Bruxelles
The Parc de Bruxelles is a beautiful park right in the city’s core. Once the private garden of a palace, the park is now the largest public green area inside the city limits, and a cherished jewel to Brussels’ citizens.
Large, beautiful landscaped gardens and grass areas provide a place to relax, while pathways, which cover the entire perimeter of the park and cut across it in various areas, allow people to go for leisure walks or jog around the park. The park also has a number of monuments, as well as scenic ponds and fountains.
The Royal Palace of Brussels is located at the South entrance to the park, while the Belgian Senate Building is located at the Northern end.
Royal Palace of Brussels
In the centre of Brussels, surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens, lies the Royal Palace of Brussels, a mansion constructed over a period of 200 years, which is the official Palace of the King and Queen of Belgium.
While the King and Queen of Belgium do not live at this palace, it is here that they perform all of their official duties. The Royal Palace of Brussels is also the place where international dignitaries will stay while visiting Brussels.
Certain rooms within the Palace are open to the public (free of charge), but only for a short period in the summer months. During our visit the palace wasn’t open, so we didn’t get to look at the inside!
Crossing right across Parc de Bruxelles from the Royal Palace of Brussels, by the North entrance to the Park, is the stately Palace of the Nation, a neoclassical building that houses the Belgian Parliament. This is also where the Prime Minister of Belgium performs his duties.
Further down south from Parc de Bruxelles is the Palace of Justice, the supreme court of Belgium, which is housed in an imposing Neoclassical building. The Palace of Justice is gigantic, built atop a hill which accentuates its size when seen from below. The building is topped with a shiny copper dome which can be seen towering above other structures, from various points around the city.
The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, is a Gothic-style cathedral reminiscent of Notre Dame in Paris. The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula is the official church of Belgium, so it is the host for all the Monarchy’s baptisms, weddings and funerals.
Just outside the central station, heading down the hill towards Grand Place stands a set of statues depicting the fictional Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, characters of the Spanish Novel by Miguel de Cervantes. Surprised at first to see this, I have learned since that Brussels was the first place to publish the novel outside of the Iberian peninsula, and this set of statues is perhaps a tribute to that!
The Congress Column was put up to commemorate the Independence of Belgium. The monumental column has a statue of King Leopold I standing at the top, while the pedestal is occupied by the personified versions of four major liberties in the constitution: Liberty of Union, Worship, Press and Education. There are also two huge statues of lions, in front of the column. The Congress Column also serves as the Monument to the Unknown Soldier, with the monument serving as the resting place to five unknown soldiers, plaques in the memories of those who died at war, and an eternal flame.
Brussels might not have as many famous landmarks as other capitals in Europe, but it is a city that offers a lot more. The architecture throughout the city is stunning, and there are a number of open spaces and squares for visitors and locals to enjoy and explore.
With Belgium’s strong history in the creation of internationally known comics – Asterix, The Smurfs and The Adventures of Tintin, to name a few – Brussels had a number of murals painted on walls up to four stories high, depicting some of them, which I felt was a nice touch!
I know I’ve said this before, but Belgium as a while really surprised me, and I am glad I got to visit. I am definitely considering going back at some point, and checking out some cities I didn’t get a chance to go to, and I strongly recommend travellers make a point of visiting during their European trips!
During my stay in Belgium in August 2013, I went on a day trip with my friend Timothy to Bruges, a beautiful medieval city on the Northwestern side of the country, about two hours by train from either Brussels or Antwerp.
Before I set out on my trip to Europe, multiple people recommended I visit Bruges, and I am glad I took the time to go visit, as it is a beautiful city. Bruges is quite small, so it is easy to cover on foot on a single day; all the sights can be seen within a few hours, and although there are a number of restaurants and nice bars to keep one entertained during the day, I hear the city does die down at night.
The historic centre of Bruges, which is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage site, is built along a network of canals. The heart of the city is Markt (The Market Square), which is home to notable buildings, including the bell tower with its iconic belfry, and the stately Provincial Court. The medieval city is stunning, with ornate Flemish brick buildings lining the cobble stone streets in all directions.
Bruges’ canals are not only beautiful, but also serve as a mode of transportation. Private boats are often seen cruising the canals, while tourist companies offer tours of the city aboard small speedboats. The tour boats can be boarded at a few different locations, and the ride lasts roughly 45 minutes.
During our visit, Timothy and I joined one of the canal tours. On top of allowing visitors to see the city from a beautiful angle inside the canals, the tour was also informative, as the captain of the boat explained a little bit about the history of the different buildings and about Bruges altogether.
After walking around the city, and cruising down the canals, Timothy and I stopped at a pub to people watch, and so I could have a Brugse Zot, Bruges’ local beer!
I definitely recommend a visit to Bruges if you’re visiting Europe; as I said, you can easily reach the city from other places within Belgium (and even from other nearby countries) by train, and makes for a great day trip.
Visitors don’t always include Belgium into the itineraries of their European trips, but if you can fit in a day or two, you’ll be surprised about how much this tiny country has to offer. While the much bigger Brussels, or even Antwerp have more to see and do, Bruges has incomparable beauty and is well worth a visit.
On my post about Antwerp, Belgium, I referred a few times to a local legend about a giant: a legend that kept popping up in various parts of the city, and which is embraced by the city as part of its folklore.
Well, the legend, as it goes, is about a giant named Antigoon, who lived in Antwerp two thousand years ago. The giant built a fortress at the edge of the River Scheldt, and demanded passing boats to pay a toll. If the sailors were unwilling or unable to pay, the giant would cut off one of their hands, and throw it into the river.
Eventually, the giant was slain by a Roman warrior (Brabo), who proceeded to pay homage to the giant’s victims, by cutting the giant’s hand off, and throwing it into the River Scheldt.
The legend is meant to explain where the name of the city, Antwerpen, came from; in Flemish, “hand-werpen” means “throwing hands.” The idea of Antigoon’s hand, now sunk at the bottom of the river, also symbolizes that the river is now a free sailing zone, important as the city’s port has been Antwerp’s biggest source of revenue through its entire existence.
The Giant’s legend is visible throughout the city: the Brabo Fountain outside City Hall in the Grote Markt, built in 1887, depicts the hero Brabo throwing the hand into the river; a sculpture of a giant’s hand is found in Mair Street, the city’s main shopping street; there is also a statue of a giant at the entrance to Het Steen, the city’s fortress. Even more, the hand is even depicted in the city’s coat of arms!
A couple of days late on wishing everyone a happy Day of the Dead. This is one of my favourite celebrations in the entire year, one that makes me extra proud of my Mexican heritage.
This is a photo of my first attempt to make the typical Day of the Dead Bread (Pan de Muertos)… As I brought a little taste of Mexico to London, England, at a party my flatmates and I hosted last Saturday.
Below is another craft I made (one of 36 pieces I made), a piece of traditional Papel Picado, which is also a typical decoration for Día de Los Muertos in Mexico. This form of art is regarded as part of the folklore of the country, and protected as a cultural heritage art… Of course mine is an amateur piece, but not bad for my first time since I was a child!
One of my favourite celebrations. Today, I’m even wearing my Nightmare Before Christmas belt I got during my Halloween trip to Disneyland in October 2012! Even got a photo with Jack Skellington himself!
Enjoy the celebrations!
After a few days travelling around the Netherlands in August 2013, I took the train down to Belgium to visit my friend Timothy, a native Belgian who lives in Antwerp. I spent the next five nights in Antwerp, exploring not only this northern city, but taking one day to visit Bruges, and another to visit the nation’s capital, Brussels.
I will go ahead and confess right away that, before my visit to Antwerp, I knew very little about the city. In fact, I knew very little about Belgium as a whole, except for some common knowledge about their beer, waffles, chocolate, and an obscure art history reference to a statue of a little boy peeing. Not sure if it was the country as a whole, or my experience of seeing Belgium through the eyes of a local, but I completely fell in love with Belgium!
Antwerp, a city I knew very little about, happens to be Belgium’s second biggest city, with a population of just over half a million. The city is beautiful, and despite not being overly big, it was lively throughout my stay.
Antwerp Central Station
The first welcome visitors to Antwerp will receive, is that of the beautiful architecture at the Antwerp Central Railway Station; and to be fair, this is the best impression any city could make, as the Central Station is possibly Antwerp’s most beautiful building, inside and out!
Antwerp Central Station is a fairly new addition to the city, with the building only having been completed in 1905. The station was one of the last buildings designed by famous Belgian architect Louis Delacenserie, before his death.
Despite being an early 20th Century masterpiece, Antwerp Central seems to fit perfectly with the rest of the city. The reason for this is that the Station borrows aspects of Neo-Renaissance architecture, giving a nod to the architectural style which was popular when the city was at its prime in the 16th Century. The Station also includes two grand Neo-Baroque stone facades, and an extravagant interior completed with marble and gold guild work.
The centre piece of the station is its impressive 60 metre-high metal and glass dome, which can be seen from many points in the city. Altogether, Antwerp Central is one of the most stunning buildings I’ve seen in Europe!
The city’s main square (Great Market Square) is one of the most scenic parts of Antwerp. Located right in the centre of the old city, the Grote Markt is home to Antwerp’s City Hall and a few other guildhalls and stately buildings, many of which now house restaurants, bars, cafes and stores.
A main focus of the square, the beautiful City Hall, dating back to the 1560s, is now a UNESCO heritage building. The stately building is noted for its unique architectural style at the time, which went to inspire the design of multiple buildings around Northern Europe in the 16th Century. During my visit, the facade of the building was covered in flags, a very colourful sight!
The famous Brabo Fountain, which depicts a local legend about a giant, stands tall in front of City Hall.
Great Market Square is often home to temporary festivals and events. At the beginning of my visit, Grote Markt was hosting an international food festival, with various tents were perched up, serving a variety of cuisines, spices, and ingredients, from all over the world.
Antwerp’s main shopping street, Meir, is regarded as Belgium’s most important shopping centre. The street, which is pedestrian-only through large portions, leads all the way from Antwerp Central to City Hall. Street-front shops, shopping centres, and a few cafes, line the street on both sides.
Meir is not only important for being the busiest shopping street in the country; the street serves also as a visual of the changes of architectural styles that Antwerp has gone throughout its history, including many Renaissance, Neoclassical, and Rococo structures which survived the World Wars, and more modern post-war buildings. The Boerentoren (english Farmer’s Tower, also known as the KBC Tower), a 26-story building which was at one time Europe’s highest “skyscraper” (and continues to be Antwerp’s tallest building), and various smaller notable buildings and museums, are also located on or around Meir Street.
Statues depicting important historical figures (none of which I know) are sprinkled along Meir, along with modern-style sculptures, including a sculpture of giant’s hand, which also refers to the local legend I mentioned above.
Cathedral of Our Lady
The city’s main Roman Catholic Cathedral is a beautiful sight to see. Located just around the corner from Grote Markt and city hall, the Cathedral is another major point of interest in the city.
The Gothic-Style Cathedral’s “first stage” was built over a period of almost 200 years, starting in the 1350s. Although the first stage was finalized, and the Cathedral looks complete, it actually was never fully completed, with the South Tower ending up under half its intended height!
The completed North Tower is Antwerp’s tallest structure by far (much higher than the KBC Tower, the city’s tallest building), and can be seen from pretty much any point in the city!
Saint Anna Pedestrian Tunnel
The Scheldt River separates the old town from what is now the new part of Antwerp. Despite the greater Antwerp area being split roughly in half, there are surprisingly no bridges to cross from one side to the other.
Antwerp is one of the few cities in Europe to not have any bridges, a decision mostly influenced by the fact that the city relies heavily in the shipping industry for economic survival (Antwerp is the third biggest port in Europe!) and bridges would get in the way of ships coming in and out. To fix the problem, the city built the Saint Anna tunnel in 1931, a pedestrian-only underwater tunnel, which runs 500metres under the Scheldt River.
During my visit, Timothy and I walked over to the other side through the St. Anna tunnel. The experience is a little creepy, as the colour-less, half-kilometre tunnel seems to go on forever (its lack of colour or design honestly makes it look like it has no beginning or end!), but I must say this is one of the most unusual ways of crossing a river I’ve ever done!
There is not much to see on the other side of the river (aside from a big park, and a few nice restaurants), as it is mostly residential. However, the other side offers some beautiful views of the Antwerp Skyline across the river, which is worth the crossing in itself.
If you cross the tunnel, be careful with cyclists, as most of them tend to ignore the “no cycling” signs, and further have no concept of speed limits! Luckily there are no cars, as there is a separate underwater tunnel for vehicular traffic.
When going in and out of the tunnel on either side, check out the wooden escalators, dating back to when the tunnel was originally built… they’re quite cool!
Het Steen (Fortress)
The city of Antwerp was a fortification for most of its early history, and a number of fortresses and fortification walls were built to protect the city. Many of the walls and fortresses were disassembled over the years, starting in the 1800s, but there is still a reminder of this period in the form of Het Steen.
Het Steen, which literally translates as “The Stone”, is a medieval fortress dating back to 1303. For most of its history, the fortress was used as a jail and as an entry point from the river to the city. Today, what remains of the fortress (as most of it has been destroyed) is a museum.
In front of Het Steen, there is another statue of a giant, which refers to the local legend in Antwerp.
South Antwerp is a trendy, revitalized district just south of the town centre, which is mainly known for its art scene. Zuid Antwerpen is home to the city’s main museums, including the National Museum of Fine Arts (which was closed for renovations during my visit) and the Photography Museum; more over, there are plenty of independent commercial galleries spread around the area, as well as some cool designs on residential buildings.
Some iconic buildings to check out in Zuid, include the Dutch Synagogue, and the funky Five Continents Building, with its unusual boat-shaped balcony.
This trendy district is also home to some of the city’s most unique establishments, including the funky WASBAR, a laundromat / cafe which allows patrons to eat brunch while doing their laundry, hitting two birds with one stone!
The Zurenborg district, located just southeast from the Antwerp Central Station, might be one of my favourite parts of Antwerp, as it contains some of the coolest architecture in the city. Most of the buildings in the area have different aspects of Art Nouveau, with many exhibiting heavily organic features.
The area also contains various streets lined with beautiful, expensive mansions, most of which are still privately owned. Zurenborg is well worth checking out during your visit to Antwerp, if nothing more, at least to ogle at the beautiful architecture. Reaching the district can be done with a leisurely 20-minute walk from Antwerp Central.
Zurenborg is also home to Het Roze Huis (The Pink House), the central home for Antwerp’s LGBT community planning, including publications, queer events, etc. The ground floor of the Pink House also houses a cozy gay bar (The Dragon), which during my visit had an outside beach-themed patio, complete with sand!
Antwerp really surpassed my expectations, and I highly recommend visitors to Western Europe check it out. Antwerp is easily reached by train from Amsterdam in less than two hours. It is also less than an hour away from Belgium’s capital, Brussels.
Last week I made my way over to the Tower of London to check out the World War One memorial poppies, a beautiful (free!) art installation running through the Summer and Autumn until November.
The exhibition, named Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, contains over 888,000 ceramic poppies, which are being “planted” in the Tower’s moat over the summer. There will be one poppy for every British military casualty of the First World War.
One of the coolest parts of this installation is that it continues to evolve throughout the summer, as new poppies are planted every single day, continuously growing the display until all ceramic poppies are planted.
Throughout the summer, anyone is able to buy a poppy (for £25.00), which they’ll receive as a keepsake once the installation comes to an end in November.
If you are in London, go check out Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, it’s well worth the trip over!
One year ago today (25th September) I arrived into the United Kingdom for the next chapter in my life.
On my first day, I wandered around London’s South Bank with my friend Alison, falling in love with the beauty of the area. Tonight, I found myself accidentally wandering around the same place with my friend Adam, before I realized I had done the same thing on my very first day in London, exactly one year ago!
What can I say, my move to London has been incredibly amazing, and I honestly can’t believe a whole year has flown by. In this past year I have met so many incredible people and done so many great things.
Here is to many more amazing adventures in this wonderful city!
Yesterday I wrote about the grounds of the London Wonderground and mentioned the carousel bar… yes, this is a bar built inside a carousel that actually rotates, with the bar in the centre of the carousel, and the horses serving as tables.
One of my favourite parts about this year’s Wonderground… go check it out before it’s taken down until next year!