Whistle of the Noble

Last year, during that brief lull between Christmas and New Year, I spent 2 1/2 blissful days in the lovely islands of Tonga. As mentioned in a previous post, we (meaning myself and my lovely hosts and good friends) had to visit a whole lot of places in a span of 2 days – and one of those places is the Blowholes at Houma.

Mapu a Vaea  (Whistle of the Noble)
Mapu a Vaea  (Whistle of the Noble)

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Mount Mayon and the Cagsawa Ruins

Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty

It’s embarrassing to admit but, even though I’ve lived in the Philippines for most of my life, I’ve never actually seen the country’s most majestic peak, the Mayon Volcano. Visiting Legaspi, Albay has always been on my to-do list but somehow, I never quite managed to get there. Finally, after years of procrastinating and missed chances, I had the opportunity to see this magnificent mountain.

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Mabuhay! Welcome to the Philippines!

A few weeks ago, a photographer friend and I went on a 2-week photo-tour in the Philippines (yes, my country of birth). We spent a week in Cebu, a day in Bohol, a weekend in Albay, a day in Corregidor, and the rest of the time was spent in Manila. It’s quite exciting because, to be totally honest, even though I spent the first 31 years of my life there, I really haven’t been to Cebu, nor Bohol, nor Albay (to see the Mayon Volcano) nor Corregidor (which is about a 2-hour ferry ride from Manila Bay).

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The Land Where Time Begins

It’s the first day of 2015 and what better way to celebrate the new year than to post pictures of my recent trip to Tonga. What’s the relevance of the New Year and Tonga, you may ask. Well, according to timeanddate.com and worldtimezone.com, Tonga is one of the countries that greets the New Year before the rest of the world. The first ones to usher in 2015 are Samoa and Kiribati (Christmas Island), followed by Chatham Islands and parts of New Zealand. Tonga falls in the third group, together with more parts of New Zealand (Wellington) and Fiji. I guess that’s why The Kingdom of Tonga is also known as “The Land Where Time Begins“.

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The Catacombs of Paris

As I have mentioned in a previous post, my overseas trip last May was the most unplanned of all my travels. I seriously didn’t have a detailed itinerary and just went where my feet took me. On my first day in Paris, my host gave me a map of the city and while I was perusing the ins and out of the Metro, I noticed that, situated at South Western part of Port Royal were the Catacombs of Paris. Being the macabre person that I am (I admit that – I love Zombie flicks and other scary films – however those who know me can attest to the fact that I’m as bright and cheerful as a sunny day in January) I desperately wanted to see this place. I’ve read about the Catacombs in text books and I think we discussed this briefly in one of the many history classes I had to take while I was at Uni.

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Shakespeare is <3

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare

Last night, I went to NZSO’s Shakespeare in Music performance at the Michael Fowler Centre. Apparently, this year marks William Shakespeare‘s 450th birthday so the Orchestra is celebrating it by holding several concerts focusing on music composed for Shakespeare’s famous plays.

Some of Shakespeare’s plays, below. Papa’s favourites were Othello, Hamlet and Macbeth (I couldn’t find Coriolanus so no picture of that). Mine’s Merchant of Venice. King Lear’s probably the most depressing of all, followed by Romeo and Juliet (which probably is his most popular play) – photos taken using my reliable P&S camera, so excuse wonky horizon lines.

I was given comps at work and it was a shame to put the freebie to waste. The wind was howling at Wellington but that didn’t deter me from going, and I’m glad that I did because the whole concert was just … superb! I admit that I’m not a classical music aficionado and I wouldn’t be able to identify Bach from Beethoven but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate fine tunes when I hear it. And last night’s concert was just great! It’s actually one of the few times I’ve attended such an event where I didn’t yawn.

Mendelssohn (who apparently composed the very popular Wedding March for the play Midsummer Night’s Dream) and Strauss (who composed music based on Macbeth) are now among my favourite composers. The journey to self-discovery continues!

ANYWAY – this little excursion brought back memories of a much bigger trip done not so long ago. Last May, I went to Oxford and made sure that I found time to visit the Bard’s Abode at Stratford upon Avon. I missed my train but managed to catch the next one so, I was still able to spend a few hours exploring the town where William Shakespeare was born.

I would have wanted to visit all five homes on the tour book, but only had time to see one (his birthplace). Shakespeare’s family appeared to be well-off. Their house was quite big, had several rooms and even had a bed in the living room!

According to the guides, back in those days, placing your bed in the living room was a way of showing off wealth. You’re telling everyone that you can afford to buy a bed to keep yourself warm. Interior

Sadly, I wasn’t able to visit Anne Hathaway’s cottage so I’ll have to schedule a trip sometime in the future to see that. I shall end this entry with a photo of the Birthroom Window.

Birthplace Window
Birthroom Window

According to the text (which you may not be able to read, it’s at the bottom of the image): “This window was formerly in the birth room of Shakespeare’s Birthplace. It became traditional for pilgrims to etch their names into the glass as a symbol of their visit. The earliest recorded date on the window is 1806. Famous names written on the glass include the Scottish writer Walter Scott; the philosopher Thomas Carlyle; and two great Shakespearian actors, Ellen Terry and Henry Irving.”

HAPPIEST BIRTHYEAR TO THE GREATEST PLAYWRIGHT OF OUR TIME!

Pont Des Arts (love lock bridge)

To be totally honest, my recent trip to Europe and the United Kingdom was probably the most ill-planned of all my travels. I normally have every little detail mapped out: I’d have a plan of action for every minute I’m away and I would follow that schedule to a “T”. Yes, I’m strange like that – I really think I’d make a great contender in The Amazing Race – except that I’m diminutive and can’t carry a giant backpack the way those contestants do. BUT — I digress.

As I was saying … when I went away last May, I seriously didn’t have any plans whatsoever. All I knew was that I’ll be in these cities on these days – and even though I had “must see places” (for Paris these were the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower) – I kinda just went with the flow and let myself be surprised by what I would discover.

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