Singapore: Aliens, more flowers, and crabs

Gardens by the bay

I have another full day planned. I wake up at 4 am and that gives me time to do my daily stretches and catch up on correspondence back home. I don’t take for granted having those connections back home available to me, even if its over email and text. I am a loner but it can sometimes get lonely traveling alone. Those connections are everything especially since I am not one to approach strangers on a regular basis.

I am visiting Gardens By the Bay today. The Gardens is a large complex of different attractions next to the Marina Bay Sands resort.

Shoes, slip sliding away.

My shoes are not working for me in Singapore. Most of the sidewalks are of smoother tile. I guess I have worn the traction down because I am in constant fear of slipping when it rains, and it rains frequently. One day I decide I wear my hiking boots for city sightseeing and the same thing happens (those have traction). How are people not falling down all the time in this city?

Crazy Alien land

I start my day at the cloud forest at opening time because I read that the large waterfall inside is best viewed without the crowds. That is correct because only a handful of people enter at the same time as I.

Kaya toast for the win

The cloud forest is Avatar themed. Symbols and creatures from the movies are incorporated in the exhibits. It is kind of corny but kids probably dig it. I am just enjoying exploring the high walkway without crowds.

Downstairs is a secret garden where there is a plant display.

After cloud forest I visit Gardens by the Bay, the distinct tree like structure in Singapore. You don’t need a ticket to see them from below but it is required if you want to go up the observation or do the skywalk. I only do the observation tower because I think I am coming back later for the night show (I do not).

After Gardens by the bay I visit the flower dome that is nearby the cloud forest. It is kind of cool to see all the distinct plants they have from regions all over the world. It is quite busy since they are still celebrating the Chinese new year here. I should charge for my photography services because I am getting asked non-stop to take photos of couples and families. I wouldn’t mind so much but NONE of them offered to take a photo of me in return which I am used to…its just as well since 90% of the time others take the most unflattering photos of me anyway. I start hiding from and playing dumb to people approaching me. My time is important too, they can ask others to help.

Mud crabs, Messy mess

I would go out and do more sightseeing but I have a reservation for the main event. I am dining at the local restaurant chain Jumbo restaurant where I am going to finally try some chili crab. It isn’t cheap and my order takes a while to come out but it is all worth it. The chili crab (mud crab and sauce) is really as good as they say. The only downside is that it is incredibly messy to eat. I’ve eaten enough crab in my life to know how to get at that sweet meat but I’ve never had to deal with crab soaked in a thick red sauce. They give you plastic gloves to protect your hands but somehow I think that makes things even harder – I am messier than I would have been if I had used my bare hands. I don’t dare without the gloves because no one else is. I wish I would have ordered more rolls as well. They closed the kitchen for lunch service when I was dining so I couldn’t order more rolls soak up the crab. It is a crime that so much of that delicious chili crab sauce is going to waste. I now see why you can get other food items with the chili crab sauce. It is good.

I thought I had reservations at the cocktail bar at the top of the Marina Bay Sands tonight (Reservation for 2 although I am 1 because it was the only choice). I thought it might be nice to watch the water show from up top. Midway through the day I am confused why google is not picking up the reservation from my email and putting it on my calendar like it does for every-freaking-thing else. I double check the reservation, try to add it to my calendar with the link provided and check my calendar again. It is not there. I look again. My reservation is for NEXT Monday. I am out of the country by then. You just have to laugh at yourself sometimes with the blunders. Anyway the event disappearing from my calendar gave me permission to blow everything else off that I had planned for the evening. I am exhausted from the heat and the walking. Back at home prior to the trip I was pretty sedentary planning for the trip with the exception of moving all my things in storage. My body needs time to adjust to the activity once again. Also I am 3 years older than the last time I tried to do this type of traveling and closer to the 5-0. I feel the changes in my body. I wish I would have taken advantage of my vitality in my younger age.

Anyway I am going to spend the rest of the evening packing and drinking the plethora of water bottles left for me by the hotel maid. She must think I am dehydrated and she is probably correct. I have not been drinking my normal amount of water because I fear frequent bathroom breaks.

Next stop Malaysia….

Do you like flowers? Singapore Edition.

Today is my first full day in Singapore. There are so many choices of things to but I decide to take the subway across town to the Singapore Botanic Gardens but first I want to see if any food stalls are open. I stop by the Maxwell center and there are few open. I order a dumpling ramen. It isn’t as good as the food I had yesterday but it will have to do as breakfast.

I forget to mention it is British rules of traffic here and nearby countries. All traffic should be on the left, walking and driving. It’s hard to remember when I am so programmed to stay to the right. Not sure locals or tourists care much though. No one seemed to give me attitude about being on the wrong side of things all the time.

The subway system is quite good. It is very clean and comfortable and you can use your credit card to tap on and off if it is a new type card; although at some point my main credit card stopped working there and I had to used my back up card.

The subway drops me off at one end of the park. The Botanic Gardens are quite large and it takes much time to get from one end to the other. At first I just wander and enjoy nature. It is free to the public (except the orchid garden) so locals use it for jogging and I suppose a respite from the busy city. I hear sounds of crickets and birds but also the sounds of cars in the background because Iam still really close to the road. I travel deeper in the park.

I come to the National Orchid Garden and decide to wait in the long hot line. I wonder if it is worth it and it is. The orchid garden is quite impressive. So many beautiful and different types of orchids.

It is time for a siesta of sorts. It has rained this morning and while it helped cool things down briefly it is still so hot when the sun is out that it drains me. I head back to my hotel to rest up for my evening plans. I am meeting up with some women I met yesterday to check out the Lunar New Year’s festivities tonight.


View of Alhambra from Sacromonte
In Nasrid Palaces
Generalife Gardens

The main event of today is a visit to the Alhambra, a royal residence in Granada during the Nasrid kingdom (mid 13th century). The fortress like structure sits on a hill and can be viewed from most of Granada.

I have time to take advantage of the included breakfast at the hotel this morning since my reservation for Nasrid’s palaces is not until 11:00 am. To visit Nasrid’s palaces you must book in advance since it is very popular. With the booking you can enter the rest of the complex as early as 8:30 am if you like. Breakfast first then I will head up to begin my visit.

I enjoy the continental-style buffet that includes a torta and meat & cheese slices as well as fruit. I take advantage of the patio and the mild weather in the morning.

The Alhambra compound entrance is about a 30 minute walk by taking the back pedestrian entrance. There are ways to get there by bus but I didn’t bother researching that.

It is a constant walk uphill to get to the entrance. I walk between the area that holds the Generalife and the other side that has the palaces; but down below. In fact we walk under a walkway.

When I finally get to the entrance tour guides approach me. I forgo the tours since I have downloaded tour information on my phone and would rather take things at my leisure. When I approach the entrance gates it is like crossing the border to another country. At Alhambra you need to keep your ticket and passport readily available at all times because they will constantly ask to see it. Alhambra has more passport control than most countries I’ve been to. It gets kind of annoying because each time I take out my passport it is another opportunity for it to get lost or stolen.

Once I am inside I head over near the nasrid palaces because I have not left myself time to do anything else. I pass by a church and walk down a pretty shrub pathway and head down a hill. I line up outside the nasrid palaces waiting for my entrance to be called.

They let us in at batches I believe every 15 minutes. Once you are in you are free to view at your own pace. My strategy is to fall behind the pack in the hope that I can get a few pictures without crowds. I can’t fall too far behind though because the next group will be entering soon after us. Another couple or two has the same idea. I can’t get completely people-free photos because the couples need to do their photoshoots. Everyone is an instagram model these days. I won’t complain about it here because I complained about it enough during my sabbatical posts. One needs to just accept it is part of travel now.

I enjoy Mudéjar and Islamic style architecture so touring the palaces is a treat.

Loving all the textured patterns.

I catch a window area with a colorful stained glass ceiling that shoots rays of color down below. It is beautiful.

The Hall of the Two Sisters – I love how the light reflects a colorful prism

As the tour comes to a close there is a walkway with tremendous views of the city and a nice courtyard.

City views

After my tour of the palaces I head over the Alcazaba or military fortress. The fortress has some good views of Granada and the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains.

I almost never have a sweet tooth but I am hot from being outdoors and this ice cream sounds like the ideal lunch/snack right now. It hits the spot.

Next I visit the Palace of Carlos V next door. The circle architecture is kind of cool and there is a small artifact museum inside as well as an art museum upstairs but otherwise the building is not very exciting and doesn’t need a long visit.

I am finished with this portion of Alhambra so I head over to Generalife. Generalife was the sultan’s summer palace and gardens. The palace is not as impressive as the nasrid palaces but the gardens are very beautiful. I almost wish I brought a picnic lunch with me to enjoy with the flowers and the views.

There is a staircase that has relaxing streams of water pouring down the handrails. At the top of the staircase I find some refreshing cold water to refill my water bottle.

At the top there is a nice breeze. One almost forgets how impossibly hot it is down below. Again more beautiful views of the Nasrid palaces, the city of Granada, and Sacromonte.

I head toward the exit. On my way downhill I stop for a beer at the nearby café.

I follow the stone path back down the hill. I admire the towers and cross walks from down below.

I walk down Carrera del Darro to head back to my hotel. Later this evening I am going to a Zambra flamenco show in Sacromonte. More about that later.

Medellín: Botanical Garden and the Metrocable

For my second day of sightseeing in Medellín I decide I head down to the Jardín Botánico (Botanical Garden). I like Medellín but it is busy and there is pollution; I am craving some nature today.

I walk from my hotel Diez Hotel Categoría Colombia down to the metro station of El Poblado. It is a 20 minute walk but it is all downhill. Even with the downhill walk it gets hot walking to the station since it is pretty warm outside.

Along my walk to the metro
Active streets today

Once inside the station it takes me a little while to get the confidence to purchase a ticket and determine which direction I should go on the metro. I finally figure things out (note: There is no electronic ticket booth to purchases passes. You must visit the attendant at the ticket booth who speaks no English.). I purchase a pass with a balance on it. It is hard to determine how much I should initially put on the pass and they attendant isn’t much help (the line is long so I don’t want to hold up everyone else asking many questions). The balance enough for the current ride so everything is fine for now.

The metro system so far seems to be efficient and clean. I later learn that the metro is a huge thing of pride for the city. Other parts of the city may occasionally get destroyed but NO ONE messes with the metro. Building this train was a public works project when things were still so grim for the city. One can say it represents a beacon of hope.

It is pretty easy to reach the botanical garden once I exit the metro. I am happy to discover the garden is free to the public.

First thing I notice some of the same plants that grow pretty well where I live. It makes sense because we have a similar climate back home.

One thing we don’t see in central Florida is iguanas randomly walking around.

We do see many of lizards of the smaller size back home, like this one.

The butterfly garden is closed for some reason.

I basically wander through the park and admire all the plants.


I finish out my visit with the succlents.

It isn’t the best botanical garden I’ve visited but it is good that it is free. It appears like some of the bigger exhibits are closed during my visit.

When I leave the botanical garden it is still early so I try to visit a sculpture park – Parque de Las Esculturas Cerro de Nutibara. The sculpture park is supposed to contain interesting sculptures and a charming replica town among other things (according to descriptions). I map out a route for a metro/bus to what I thought was one of the main entrances. I get dropped off in a quiet industrial area on one side of the hill. This area does not seem like the correct place. I wander around trying to find a park entrance and I come up with nothing. I search on my phone and it appears that where the entrance should be is blocked off due to construction. If I want to visit the park I am going to have to try to get to the other side. The problem is at this point that I am tired, not familiar with the safety of the area, and not even sure it is feasible to get there by foot. I give up and take the metro back to my hotel area.

Once I get to my metro stop it is a long, hot walk uphill. I make lots of stops to catch my breath.

More street art
Street performers

Instead of going back to my hotel I hang out in a park for a little bit. This area is quiet now but I know it gets busy in the evening. I end up calling early night once again.

The following day I decide to try at nature once more. Today I want to visit Arvi park. According to my research all I have to do is take the metro to the Acevedo station (on line A) and take the metrocable (K-Line Metrocable).

The metrocable gives me an arial view of town.

I arrive to the top of the line where I am supposed to switch to the L that will take me to Arvi Park. The only problem is the L line is closed. There is no reason posted. My only choice now is to wander out into an unknown neighborhood to find a taxi or take the cable line back down the way I came. I end up taking the line back down. I wish I would have known the line was closed so I could have arranged another form of transport. At this point a good amount of the day has passed so I decide to just go back the neighborhood I am staying in. Hopefully I have time to visit the park on my next visit to town.

View from metro

Once back at the hotel I do research on how I am getting to my next town tomorrow. I have been using the app Rome2rio the past couple months for travel research and up until now it has been pretty reliable with routes and time frames. The app is not accurate in Colombia. I tried using it to plan my travel to Jardin tomorrow. It is completely wrong. First it has me leaving from the wrong bus station; there are two bus stations in Medellin (north and south) and it is very important to be clear on what station you need to leave from. Secondly the app routes me through the wrong town. Luckily I discuss my travel plans with the concierge at my hotel prior to leaving. I would have had a very unhappy travel day tomorrow.

Marlborough Wine Tour

Misty Cove vineyards in Marlborough

On my visit to the Marlborough region I wanted to safely visit multiple wineries. Fortunately I found Marlborough Wine Tours and it was perfect. I was worried because my lodging was a little out-of-the-way but it was no problem for them to come pick me up. Phil was our driver and very knowledgeable about wines in the region. We were lucky to have him as our host. The wineries chosen were well thought out and I am grateful that they didn’t pick the larger wineries in favor of visiting the small and some up-and-coming wineries. We visit 6 wineries in total and didn’t feel rushed in any of our visits. This is a great option if you are lacking a designated driver and really want to enjoy the region.

Winery 1 : Allan Scott Family Winemakers

Notable from this winery is their special ginger wine; it has a sweet and strong ginger flavor. Nice for a seasonal drink.

The Pinot Noir Rose is light and drinkable. Also liked the Pinot Noir.

The gardens are pretty with lots of plants to look at and a large chess game.

Winery 2: Rock Ferry

Rock Ferry is a boutique winery with some of my favorite choices of the day.

The Corner’s Sauvignon Blanc is my favorite Sauvignon Blanc of the day and contains flavors of gooseberry, peppers (capsicum) and asparagus.

They have a Pinot blanc that is from an “egg ferment” case, a special wine experiment of theirs.

Their Pinot Noir isn’t bad as well. I am loving the pinot noirs today.

Winery 3: Wairau River

We head to Wairau River Wines at lunchtime. I didn’t write down tasting notes about the wine or food so I am assuming it was very satisfactory.

I enjoyed sitting outdoors on this beautiful day.

Winery 4: Misty Cove

The next winery is pretty small. I left with some of their bottles because they sells styles not as common. I loved the Waihopai (Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Gris and Gewürztraminer) and the Gruner Vetliner. Gruner wines are especially a target of mine since they serve them frequently at the few restaurants to liked to visit when I lived in Brooklyn but they are hard to find anywhere else. Whenever I see Gruner on the menu it always catches my eye now.

Misty Cove also has a fun pool onsite for their lodging guests.

Winery 5: Spy Valley Wines

The second to the last winery of the day is Spy Valley. Just to note I am pretty intoxicated at this point so I can’t really rely on my taste buds to say what I think of these wines. Right now, everything is good.

Spy Valley is named so because it is located very close to a super secret US and UK satellite communications monitoring facility.

Wood walls are actually morse code.

Naturally the tasting room decorated in spy stuff.

Pinot noir was my favorite out of the ones we tasted today.

Bottle decorated in morse code.

Some of these are actually imported in the USA. I am able to purchase the Sauvignon Blanc at Total Wine.

All the Bonds

Winery 6: Jackson Estate

The last of the day is Jackson Estate. We almost don’t make it in time because the entire group is pretty intoxicated by the last winery. The driver had to get a little firm with us to keep time. I don’t blame him, he wants to get us to all our locations so we get our money’s worth.

From my tasting notes (whatever they are worth) I find the Pinot Rose and Vintage Window Pinot Noir are not bad and the Bortrytis Riesling is pretty good (and reflected so in the price!).

The winery seemed to be closing soon but they still took the time to show us the cellar. This is the only winery of our tour that let us see their cellar.

The driver took us back to our respective lodgings at the end. I am thoroughly grateful for the safe transportation today.

I am back at my wine cabin and being intoxicated I am unable to drive to dinner but I fortunately prepared enough cheese and snacks so driving would be unnecessary.

Cheese and Snacks are an acceptable dinner for an adult right?