Thanks again, Christine, for this lovely idea… and apologies for the slight delay on posting!
A: Age you went on your first international trip: I believe I was a newborn when my family took me to visit my relatives in Germany. However, my memory only recalls back to when I was 5 or 6 and my family took me to Orlando, USA.
B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where: I’d go for Delirium Tremens, a belgian pale ale that caught my attention in a bar in London. The name, delirium tremens, stands for a severe form of alcohol withdrawal. An euphemism for this vicious condition is seeing pink elephants – and that is exactly what is pictured on the bottle. Genius. Really. It doesn’t taste like regular beer – but rather a bitter but fruity strong ale. I love it!
C: Cuisine (favorite): Spanish. Ok, french. Frankly, I can’t decide. I do like the simplicity of spanish food and how basic ingredients can make such delicious meals. But I do also like how complex and accurate french cuisine is – I mean, have you ever tried doing proper macaroons? It’s a lot of hard work, specially on precision! And that, you can taste in the meal…
D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why: So far, one of my favorite destinations has been New Zealand. I find it combines all I look for – mountains, lakes, beaches, cities, sports, relax and party – just so well. Place the country closer to family and friends, and I would, with no doubt, move there indefinitely. On the other side, I would say that probably Ireland is so far my least favorite destination. I’m sorry, Ireland – If you blew off some of those clouds that seem to be stuck on you over months, I would be happy to give you another chance.
E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”: While spending 6 months in Zurich, Switzerland, I had the opportunity to attend to one of the country’s impressive street parties – the Züri Fäscht. Basically, the city center is taken over by thousands of people that enjoy the fireworks, the day time activities, food stalls offering world cuisine and, overall, the incredible night life. Yes, that’s right – Zurich becomes a great place to party! Bars and restaurants put their speakers and tables out on the street, and cheerful people dance on the tables drinking out of oversized cocktail glasses. The event is so big that the city only can allow it to take place every three years – next one in 2013!
F: Favorite mode of transportation: For walkable distances… I’d choose my own feet. Walking turns me into an explorer, seeking for those details – like street art, boutique shops or a secret bar, for example – one otherwise wouldn’t notice.
G: Greatest feeling while traveling: I feel great whenever I travel to a country in which I don’t speak the language, and still manage to communicate with the locals. Las year in Venice, I made my best on putting together the few words I knew in Italian and try to build sentences that actually made sense. I found that Italians really appreciated my effort and were much more welcoming and helpful than I heard about. The same happened to me in Paris this February (who said Parisians are arrogant?).
H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to: Difficult to choose… I’m not sure whether this would be Sevilla, Spain or Thailand. The temperature in Sevilla was a whooping 44ºC, but Thailand, while probably only reaching 35ªC, had an extremely high humidity, which made me feel suffocated!
I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where: The best service, so far, has been in Thailand. Locals were friendly, helpful and very welcoming – plus, they always greeted us with a smile! (something that, unfortunately, is not the case in many places in Europe).
J: Journey that took the longest: Easy one – my route from Queenstown, New Zelanad to Lausanne, Switzerland! I took an internal flight from Queenstown to Auckland, then one to Sydney, a connection flight to London (stopping for 3 hours in Singapore), another flight from London to Geneva and then a train from Geneva to Lausanne. I literally lost track of how many days it had took me back home… what I do remember was the extreme jet-lag – I went to work right the next morning and treated my computer screen like a touch screen (like those you have on long flights, where you can choose which movie to watch).
K: Keepsake from your travels: I collect jewelry. I can’t remember of any place where I didn’t purchase a ring, necklace, bracelet or earrings. My obsession is such, that I even buy my treasure while on a work trip!.
L: Let-down sight, why and where: Puerta del Sol, Madrid. I feel bad each time someone visits Madrid for the first time and insists on going to see Puerta del Sol. First, all its surroundings are clear low quality tourist traps and second, there’s nothing special to see! Yes, Puerta del Sol is from where all roads start in Spain, the so called Km 0 – but besides for a plaque on the ground (which is rather hard to see because of the herds of tourists), there’s not much to see or do. Plus: it’s probably the one place to get mugged!
M: Moment where you fell in love with travel: I can’t really remember a moment when I didn’t love travelling!
N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in: The nicest hotel I’ve stayed in is probably the Indigo Pearl in Phuket, Thailand. Not only did the hotel have the most incredible breakfast buffet I’ve ever seen (plus succulent courses on thai cooking!), but also did our room have a private outdoors sun bed and bath tub overlooking a tropical garden!
O: Obsession: what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling? Sunsets. I just can’t resist!
P: Passport stamps, how many and from where?: Uhmmm.. my last passport had stamps from Hong Kong, Macao, Brazil, Lebanon, Thailand and the USA. Since then, I have a new one that has stamps for Argentina, Uruguay, Australia, New Zealand and USA (again).
Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where: When I moved to Lausanne, Switzerland I spent many rainy days searching for art exhibitions. The city has a couple of nice museums, but there is nothing like the Collection del’Art Brut. The gallery exhibits art created by societies outcasts (mostly psychiatric patients) who expressed their emotions, wonders and pain through paintings, sculptures and other creations. My favorites included a guy obsessed with dates – he created huge paintings using certain date patterns (ex. only wednesdays) and a man who built a real size horse out of tree branches he collected from his psychiatric’s garden. It’s really worth visiting – it was the most exciting exhibition I’ve ever been to!
S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling: Again, food. I could live without electricity, sleep in a tent at 40ºC or share a room with 6 strangers if I had to – not that I choose this deliberately, but I rather save some pennies on accommodation and so be able to spend it on a big paella at the beach, eat fresh fish and have a couple of local beers instead.
T: Touristy thing you’ve done: This June, I traveled to Lisbon to visit a good friend of mine. While she was working, I got on a hop on and hop off bus, and I don’t regret it! It gave me a broad overview of the city, and I got off on those stops with the most interestinf sights – this is how I found out about manueline architecture!
U: Unforgettable travel memory: Scuba diving in Fernando de Noronha, Brazil – my favourite bit being the time we got into a strong current that literally swept us peacefully along the way. We could exit and enter the current as we wished, and occasionally did so to stalk a sea turtle or stare at lively and colourful fish. When being swept by the current, I felt like one of the surfing sea turtles in Nemo, the movie. It almost felt surreal!
V: Visas, how many and for where?: I’ve had visas for Australia, Cuba, Argentina, Uruguay, Hong Kong and USA, as far as I can remember.
W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?: I love albariño, a type of grape that grows in Galicia, north-west Spain, and the north of Portugal. The wine is very light and quite acid, and goes incredibly well with scallops or oysters.
X: eXcellent view and from where?: I’ve seen many wow views during my travels, but one of the most impressive ones ever was from the top of the Empire State during sunset. The afternoon was clear and we had a great view over the city – which looked even more romantic covered up with snow.
Y: Years spent traveling?: I’ve been traveling on and off since I was born – but the longest time I’ve spent actually living away from home so far has been 9 years.
Z: Zealous sports fans and where?: I was never as excited as I felt when I watched Spain beat Holland in the World Cup! It was a shame that I couldn’t fly to Madrid – but watching it on a terrace in Lausanne with many other spanish (and dutch) expats had no price! Hundreds of people (not only spanish) flooded the streets of the city to celebrate victory – there was even a brazilian comparsa!
I would love to see the Travel ABC’s of: