Bologna! The city I never heard before going on the trip, but that's precisely why it turned out to be one of the loveliest places we went to as a whole. It's pretty much off the beaten track, and I really think that made a lot of difference. The locals weren't sick to death of tourists crowding all over the place, and the we weren't sick of all the other tourists crowding all over the place. People smiled more, were friendlier, and treated us like guests. The pace of life felt slower and more peaceful. Muted, kind of.
We had a really great Airbnb host that left a whole free plate of biscuits, introducing me to the best chocolate biscuit snack in Italy (Ciok) and biscuits and fruit, that also turned out to make a decent enough breakfast when combined with fresh coffee.
One of the most bomb meals, however, was Streetoast, a little casual sandwich eatery just down the street from our house. If you see its Google reviews patrons have only ever sung praises about it, and I'm here to verify that it is ALL TRUE. The host immediately knew we were tourists, came round and his big personality just shined. The restaurant (only has a few seats, more outdoors) has free wifi and charging points, and he personally offered to exchange our sandwiches for free if we weren't satisfied with what we ordered. When we left, he also insisted on refilling our water bottles for us and made it a point that if we ever needed water- or anything else- he was here to help.
What a sweetheart. Oh yeah, and the sandwiches were GOOD. I ordered a vegetarian one with hummus and ricotta, and it was good enough that I finished all of it even though the portion was big.
"Little Venice", a tiny window in some street that's famous for looking like Venice. To be honest, it doesn't
One noteworthy spot in this city is what I call the Random Bologna Museum because
1) It's weird, and
2) I tried looking up the official name for it online and there's nothing on the websites that look like this.
We arrived in late afternoon, which means that the whole museum was practically empty save for several staff working the cafes and shifting props around. It was nice having the whole place to ourselves to kick around. But that wasn't all. What stood out to me most was that there was absolutely zero English, anywhere. The descriptions of all the displays were in strict Italian. And the displays themselves looked like they were just plucked from the sea of Italian Stuff and just fluffed up to be presentable to the masses.
Not to say they were ugly or boring. In fact everything looked quite nice and interesting, but rendered meaningless because we weren't able to understand anything.
Note to self: pick up fluent Italian before coming.
Of course, you can't leave Bologna without popping into the San Petronio Basillica, which dominates the Piazza Maggiore. It's a really big church, but permanently unfinished- it's evident where the marble work was stopped smack halfway through its facade. The interior too, it was planned to be as big as St Peter's in the Vatican, but our tour guide said the construction was stopped as soon as the leaders heard.
The inside is a little plain, having been unfinished, but it's famous for a painting by Giovanni da Modena which has Muhammad being eaten in hell, which is pretty offensive to a Muslim. That's why they have an armored truck and guards standing by outside 24/7.
Our walking tour also covered the Archiginnasio di Bologna, the oldest university in the world. It's been preserved beautifully and it was cool to walk where serious academics once walked, studied, and learnt. An inspiration if any.
To sum it up, Bologna was that: quiet, quaint, and charming. It's a little haven in bustling Italy that you seek for good food accompanied by free wine and appetizers (that actually happened in one restaurant), people who take things a little slower, and all the trappings of a town drowned in a soft pink-blue sky.
A mid morning dream I had, because the weather is so cold and windy, so unlike Singapore, so much like the chilly wonderlands I love.
We're in Korea, North or South I don't know, for a short holiday. The house looks like my own house, with a very similar set of balcony sliding doors, except everything is a bit darker, and there's less furniture. But this holiday is strange because there's nothing much to do- we are all just sitting around doing well nothing much, and my mum is nowhere to be seen. Also, there's nothing to eat. Just then, outside the balcony doors (which are cracked open) there comes a gust of wind, and it starts raining. It looks soft, but you can tell that it's actually rather hard because everything is wet, and in my dream I think- the Korean rain is much more intense than Singapore's.
When I slowly come awake, I realize with a jolt I'm back in Singapore, and for a brief second I visualised the two worlds side by side: dream me, sitting in the slightly darkened bed, blinking slowly feeling the cold rain; and real me, curled up as Singapore's weather gives its best version of winter. It's an unsettling feeling, and as I almost drop off back to sleep again, my mind pulls me back to consciousness; it tells me to not be bewitched by the other plane of existence, the world of dreamy landscapes.
1. If 2016 was the year of growing closer to God, 2017 was the year of drifting away. I grew steadily out of touch with the church and with the Word. 2018 can and will be the year of change- I want to be strong in my faith, confident in the belief that first and foremost, my identity lies in Christ.
2. A small habit to bring a little joy to the people around me.
3. In a bid to be less dependent on my phone.
4. To live offline. To cherish the happy moments for myself alone, to not have to prove to anyone else that this life is beautiful and good and true.
5. To love as God loves.
Happy new year,
/an explanation to Shauna
It's 2.28am on a rainy Monday morning, the first day of the year.
And I am writing here because my heart is raining also. It's the new year, and I have somehow failed to live out the star studded plans of so many and leap out of 2017 in style.
The evening is where it all began. I had plans of course, first a barbecue at Cait's, then a countdown gathering with some church members at a nearby condo. It seemed like an excellent plan to me: I could spend some time with one of my closest friends, then have fun counting down to 2018 with my mates from church. A real change from the previous years of just staying up till midnight and then signing off my resolutions list (my idea of a pretty good celebration), or going for watchnight service with the parents, which I disliked a lot. 2017 was the year I would finally have somewhere to go, something to do, on the day that wrapped it all up.
The barbecue went quite smoothly without a hitch. Cait's parents were in charge of the food and it was nice catching up with her over barbecue dinner. We exchanged presents and I loved what she got me. I even scored a ride to where the church party was held, just a few minutes away, avoiding the rain.
I was nervous entering the party fray. It was an oldies sort of party, which means everyone in attendance is generally very familiar in church and has known each other since childhood. Timothy Beh, Pris' brother, was really nice and taught me how to play the FIFA game, and I played for a while with Yifei. Then Sean Kwek came over and we started playing two on two.
That's when things got worse (for me). I wasn't great shakes at the game, and both boys were obviously well versed and good at it. Sean had to keep telling me what to do while being really nice, so I was on edge the entire time. We have never spoken in our lives. I wanted to be cool and chill with him, even though he was just stranger boy to me, but my pits started sweating anyway. I felt really uncomfortable. Ugly, sweaty, smelly, unskilled. A mess.
During the countdown to 2018, they'd switched to Channel 5 where the Sam Willows played an ending song. The rest of the girls, being hype as they are, all stood up and sung wildly and danced along to the music. I wanted to be a part of it too, and tried to sing a long, but it felt so awkward and forced. I didn't really want to rave with everyone else behind, watching us. I didn't feel in sync with the 00 girls. And this feeling has been niggling me for the longest time, for months. It made me terribly sad and awful right there and then. I wished in my heart for a good time, but for inexplicable reasons everything was off. It was my fault for not being hype enough, loud enough, energetic enough.
Everyone was laughing at things on the TV which I didn't find particularly funny. People cracked jokes and chuckled uproariously. There was no place for me there. I don't belong. Anxiety reared its ugly head and I was already gone.
Later on, I realized I'd gravely presupposed that buses would extend their run times. (Of course they hadn't.) I had to pad out in the pouring rain under a sheepishly borrowed umbrella, soaking my pink shoes, spattering my white dress. The air was unrelentingly cold. Buses were not going to come to take me home.
The penny in my heart somewhere dropped and I started to cry, all alone in the whipping rain.
What a new years' day.
I'm not writing this post for sympathy from anyone, or God forbid, pity. It's just the most honest portrayal of my New Year's experience that other social media can't possess. This is me being vulnerable, sincerely. And I guess I want you to know that I will keep trying. And that if you still want to stick around, I am very thankful to you for being my friend.
lovelocks on an unknown bridge
St Mark's clock tower
Basilica San Marco
mixed veg rice of the best restaurant in Venice- La Zucca
The 2nd stop we visited in Italy was Venice. This post is a little brief because to be honest, we didn't do much in Venice at all. It's a charming city with the picturesque view of water coursing where pavement streets should be, but it was hard to imagine the place being one of the most powerful cities in Europe. Queen of the Adriatic, indeed.
We booked the Secret Itineraries tour in the Doge's Palace. Admission for that costs a bit more than the price of a combination ticket with the rest of the museums, but we weren't interested in museums, and nobody knows about Venetian Renaissance artists. I somewhat accidentally checked in my camera at the cloakroom, so there's no pictures of the inside, but suffice to say it was not something attractive to look at anyway. (Lots of dark cells, wooden rooms, old furniture etc.) Additionally, our tour guide was an aggressively red-haired, middle aged lady who spoke in a HEAVY Italian accent and took about an hour to pronounce a single word, which was unintelligible anyhow. Nonetheless the tour was a pretty good guide to the background behind the Palace and it let us experience what other patrons can't, as it covers places not included in the normal ticket. She told us about the Venetian government officials, their roles & functions, administrative procedures, and the cool true story of Giacamo Casanova, who was a prisoner in the palace until he escaped in 1757. Swee!
Venice also boasts St. Mark's basilica as a national treasure. After having witnessed St Paul's basilica which is arguably the best and grandest, the rest frankly tend to pale in comparison. St Mark's was smaller (they all are) and darker, but it was plastered with wonderful intricate mosaics, and the gold ones were especially nice. It is famous for having Byzantine influence seen in its design.
In winter, the days are short. You have limited sunlight and endless cold, so we finished sightseeing quite early, and proceeded to shop and eat the rest of the time. Venice is no short of restaurants that open till late, so pick your spot, order a fresh seafood pasta, and watch the waters drift by to the rest of the whole wide world.
Bridge of Sighs
where prisoners would be led to the cells, and while on the way pause and look back to the bright land that they would likely never see again
I am really excited about this post, which is why I dedicated this lovely Saturday morning to 'shoot' and plan it out.
These are the treats I've picked up for myself over the end of the year, some locally and some overseas. Most importantly, they're to prepare me for the onslaught of 2018. And while material goods aren't really supposed to cheer you up, I do believe having some new possessions could be motivational- to keep working, to keep planning, to keep in good time. And gosh, I just love beautiful stationery.
1. Moleskine (top left)
A diary is essential. I'm nothing without my words, and I really enjoyed journalling in the Moleskine before this. It pretty much revolutionized the kind of entries that go into my diaries. Writing became a much more creative and fun process, going from staid blocks of text to a multimedia adventure with scrapbooking bits, freedom in color, and every page a fresh start. I knew this tradition had to continue, so this was a no-brainer.
2. Watch, Venice
Timepiece- another essential that I have studiously ignored since outgrowing kiddy watches in P5. Turns out, I still love movable watch dials, except this one is an automatic heart chain which tells the seconds in place of a second-hand. I have nothing but heart eyes for it.
3. Pouch, Scuola Del Cuoio, Florence
Next up is a handsome forest green pouch. Some of you might know the old one I was using before this was a cheap $5 Rubi one that's missing a zipper and has a tiny hole in it. Nothing against reasonably priced items, but it felt like high time for an upgrade, one that I can use confidently for years. We adored this leather school cum shop because it does free monogramming on the spot, right in front of you. Not just a purchase, but an experience.
4. Black pencil case, Kikki K
In the name of all monogrammed things.. this is the pencil case I have wanted ever since Kikki K's monogramming collection came out. They also have it in the most gorgeous pale pink or blue, and I was sorely tempted, but black wins out in the end. It nearly always does, because it is undeniably classic, and not just for dresses. The best part was I got it in such a sale, it was more than half off the original price!! Ah, the sweet smell of discounts.
5. 2018 Weekly Diary in Sweet, Kikki K
OK, another item I'd been spying on the Kikki K shelves. One of the many. Having their 2016/2017 planner was a really darned good experience. It was very pretty, top of the line, and included things like an address section and a cute, cute sticker book. This one also has perforated list sheets and dedicated pages for movies, books, or websites you want to save for the future. One word: irresistible.
6. Eastpak Casyl backpack, Scout, Florence
I was in the market for a new bag this year end, not because my kanken (generously gifted by Shauna) had any problem with it,I just felt like a change. Kankens seemed to me like a J1 phase; desperately wanting to fit in, look cool, keep up with the trends. It's safe to carry one in school...too safe. There's at least 2 people with the exact same color as mine. I thought: it's time to be different. The search was over when Em spotted this in a hip shop off the streets in Italy.
The bag is not some bold non-conformist statement, but it's a step in another direction for me, a new style. I love its design and that it's a neat canvas for self expression. It's a bag that has my soul invested in it, not only the aspirations of a young naive teen.
7. Adidas Stan Smiths in Wonder Pink
On the topic of trends, this should epitomize it: the height of the Adidas Stan Smith, a millennial hot favourite. My $30 Hotwinds sneaker is fighting a losing battle against wear and tear, so there's no better time to break the bank for the most beautiful and high maintenance shoe of my life. FYI, I have a slight obsession with pink shoes.
gisaeng pin from Shauna, from Korea, says goodbye and until next time, all my love-
This is the start of a new and exciting travel series! If all goes well, it will accurately and succinctly chronicle our adventure in Italy (for some of my family, the first time they've been to Europe) in a way that's both pleasing to you and lets me reminisce of this time: the heady romance of a country steeped in history and bursting with art.
I'm doing this traveldiary in a chronological order, mostly selecting pictures in the order they appear in my camera. I know that makes pictures seem a little repetitive at times, but it's a lot easier to explain the context behind them obviously as they're related to each other. Also, I feel like it's a true reliving of the trip that way, an authentic reflection of a real experience.
Note: we used Rick Steve's Audio Europe App for the entire trip, where he gives free audio guides on the major attractions in Europe. I really recommend this, or any downloadable audio guide, especially if you're going to a place where there's a lot of historical background or just information that can bolster your understanding. We used earphones and plugged in at different locations, no fuss. It makes a holiday much more enjoyable than looking at essentially just stuff you have no idea about.
So let's backtrack to December 6th 2017, after a long and hectic year.
We took a 12 hour flight from Singapore to Paris, then a 2 hour from Paris to Rome, which makes it the longest I've travelled for a VERY long time. In fact it's almost the longest flight I've ever had because I don't remember the ride from America to Singapore, though it's around 20 hours??? Insane. Luckily I actually love airplane food and don't get much airsickness.
We arrived at the Airbnb in good shape...and promptly fell in love with it.
Carmen, our host, met us to introduce us to her house. It was lovely and SHE was lovely, having one of those robust and sincerely good-natured outgoing personalities that's infectious. The pictures of the house here don't do it justice as I recorded most of it on Snapchat, but it was a very homey sort of house, with the coolest attic beds with conjoining wall windows. The best part about it was that it had obviously been loved. Carmen said the house was a big part of her and she missed living in it, but with children all grown up it's a part that has already passed. I thought that was so sad, but kind of poignant.
The first actual sightseeing we did was to check out the Trevi Fountain. Even at night (which I suppose is less glorious) it's a stunner, done up Baroque style with lots of pomp and grandeur. Really pretty- a must see if you're in Rome.
After that we dropped by the Pantheon, seen below. Now if you had to choose between the fountain and the Pantheon, I'd say go for the roman temple that's now a church. The outside is impressive enough because it's really BIG, with all the imposing columns too, but the interior is breathtaking. You can't tell till inside that the ceiling is actually a gigantic dome soaring into the sky and ending off with an hole right up top.
In other instances of grand architecture (and there's a lot more coming), we also saw the Piazza Venezia, an intricate explosion of white and detail if there ever was one. It's only worth it to go inside the building in order to visit the big- BIG- courtyard area which was surprisingly devoid of tourists, and take a peaceful minute to contemplate the beautiful facade.
This is on the top floor.
If I were to do it again, I'd skip the rooms inside because it's to a large extent full of old flags and vintage paraphernalia. Unless you are REALLY keen on Italian history. If not, you should move on quickly down the road to the Roman Forum and Colosseum.
These 2 are the foundations turned ruins of Ancient Rome. It was really nice to stroll through the various sites of the Forum while listening to the history behind the structures, and kind of imagine what life was like back in the heyday of the old times. Most of structures themselves aren't exactly monumental, not after seeing other wonders such as the Pantheon or (later on) basilicas, but they have a vintage charm you can't get anywhere else, because they're the vestiges of Rome's prime.
Temple of Antonius Pius and Faustina (1)
(2) I just really liked this temple
Statue of a Vestal Virgin with head chopped or stolen off
Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine
the best tiramisu of Italy
Arch of Constantine, the emperor who made Christianity the religion of the majority
Meanwhile, the Colosseum is another amazing place to get a feel of life back in ancient days- this time, away from everyday architecture, and closer to the wild abandon of ye olde entertainment. It's the amphitheater of the city, where Romans used to hold grand fights; between animal & animal, human & animal, and human & human: this of course is the famous gladiator clashes.
It's not particularly beautiful for glaring reasons. People didn't flock to the Colosseo to admire some marble engraving or classy seats. They came for the guaranteed bloodshed, unbridled violence, and certain death of the unfortunate loser. Most of the flooring is done away with so people can admire the maze-like underground, becoming space for the impending participants to hang around and just maybe, contemplate their last few hours on Earth.
Last on the list but not least, we took a bus down to Vatican City. The Vatican is its own country even though it lives inside Rome, so it is the smallest state in the world by area and population. (I got that much from Wikipedia.)
There's just too much of the Vatican to encapsulate it into a few mere sentences, so in a nutshell: it's a treasure trove art and culture like I've never seen before. We spent almost the entire day in the charming mini-country, so long that we skipped lunch entirely and had to stop for an emergency Mcdonalds at 5pm in order to stave off the growing hunger pangs. Luckily Italians have late dinners.
St Peter's Basilica (inside Vatican City, pictures of it towards the end) is extremely big and intricate. I can't describe it with the professional air of religious scribes or art buffs, but I can say it's the church that left the most lasting impression on me in all of the basilicas / cathedrals / houses of worship we visited in Italy. Its' sheer size, the magnificence, etc. etc., kinda made me scared to think about how God is so powerful and inspiring, entire works like this are dedicated to him.
It's as if the country's small size just makes its impressiveness super concentrated, because there's so much to see but not a lot of time- or space. The Museum was packed, even in this winter season which I think is off-peak, and the most famous pieces of art were constantly surrounded by people holding up all a manner or smartphone cameras. We didn't let that stop us though, so it was still really interesting to learn about each piece, and we managed to cover majority if not all of the highlights Vatican has to offer.
The star of the show was the Sistine Chapel. It's forbidden to take photos inside, but that was my favorite part by a mile. Inside is the definition of sardines in a can, as people jostle for space to move while breaking their necks looking at the beautiful frescoes. But I can understand. It is one of a kind, and there's nothing quite like seeing one of the world's most famous pieces of art stare back down at you, communicating from ages past. The more I looked, the more I felt as if the figures on the ceiling would slowly come to life, being drawn so realistically, yet with that gorgeous ideal that no real human can achieve.
So this is how Rome kicked off our grand 2017 holiday, with lots of pomp and beauty, which is just how the Ancient Romans liked it. And coincidentally, so did I.
Until the next one,
Belvedere Torso, which supposedly fascinated Michelangelo
in the Gallery of Maps
Apollo Belvedere by Leochares
Disputation of the Holy Sacrament, Raphael
School of Athens, Raphael!!!!- got a bad angle because it was SERIOUSLY crowded
St Peter's Basilica
Ly / 17 / SG / ACJC
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If I am worth anything later, I am worth something now. For wheat is wheat, even if people think it is a grass in the beginning. - Van Gogh
last updated: 28 dec