Monthly Archives: June 2013

Hangzhou is one of these places that truly surprise you about China. Somehow, it manages to combine business and factories with inspiring landscapes without one really noticing a drastic change of scenery. As soon as we arrived at the train station, we realized that Hangzhou wasn’t the provincial town we had envisioned – it was a capital city with over 6 million habitants (many of them hanging around the extremely busy station, for whatever reason!).

For a second, we debated whether we might have actually gotten off the wrong stop or, even worse, taken a completely wrong train.

But we didn’t.

Completely unprepared (without a map, a chinese dictionary or any kind of reference) we hopped on a cab and entertained the cab driver with our 10 different ways to explain “West Lake”. One of the girls I learned the cardinal points in chinese and kept on repeating “Xi ! Xi!” while the rest of us played roles of drowning people, swimmers and sailors. I honestly understand why chinese cab drivers were often pissed off – us tourists are such a waste of time!

I’m not sure whether it was thanks to our great mimics or just because he thought that by driving any direction we would finally shut up, but somehow we landed kind of where we wanted – The West Lake.

West Lake, Hangzhou (China)

The West Lake was just as I had imagined a chinese lake surrounded by mountains and gardens – romantic and mysterious. Below are some of my favorite in Hangzhou.

West Lake, Hangzhou (China)

West Lake, Hangzhou (China)

West Lake, Hangzhou (China)

West Lake, Hangzhou (China)

West Lake, Hangzhou (China)

West Lake, Hangzhou (China)

West Lake, Hangzhou (China)

West Lake, Hangzhou (China)

West Lake, Hangzhou (China)

West Lake, Hangzhou (China)

West Lake, Hangzhou (China)

Have you been to Hangzhou? Do you know any other place like this?

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Sitges, Barcelona (Spain) Summer has arrived in Barcelona – Locals have finally ditched their boots to jump into their sandals. Not that I hadn’t worn sandals or summer dresses until now – in the contrary, all I had actually packed were sandals and summer dresses. But for some odd meteorological reason, May in Barcelona could almost be compared to April in London. In fact, on my first week in the city, it rained so hard that I saw small rivers forming in my neighborhood. So much for Mediterranean climate. Anyway, that was up to a week ago. Now that the sun is out and temperatures are up, I have spent my weekend doing what any reasonable person in my condition would do – being lazy at the beach. This was also my main reason to go to Sitges. Sitges, Barcelona (Spain) Sitges is a town southwest of Barcelona particularly known for its Film Festival, its openness to the gay community and its many beaches (17 in total – for nudists, semi-nudists and non-nudists). At just 30 minutes by train from Passeig de Gracia Barcelona, I was sold. At arrival, I went straight to the sea. I picked a small beach next to the old town and its little church, frequented by young locals and tourists. After 2.5 hrs boiling under the sun, I could only think of drinking a cold bottle of water somewhere in the shades. It was right there – while looking for rehydration – that I realized something: Sitges should also be known for its old town streets and alleys. Sitges, Barcelona (Spain) Sitges, Barcelona (Spain) Sitges, Barcelona (Spain) Sitges, Barcelona (Spain) Sitges, Barcelona (Spain)

Have you been to Sitges?

How do you choose a neighborhood in a city you’ve never visited before? How do you know whether you could fit in or will always be a stranger?

Vila de Gracia, Barcelona

Choosing a neighborhood in Barcelona was definitely no easy decision for me. While looking for rooms on a budget and having to rely on pictures and descriptions on the internet, I admit I was worried about ending up in a rough area. Or somewhere far from all the happenings. Or what’s even worse: in the heart of all the happenings. It’s not easy to decide where to live if you haven’t visited the city before.

Of course, some research beforehand narrowed the alternatives. But at the end – What really makes me feel at home is a place that fits me. And that, I could only find out once I was in Barcelona.

Vila de Gracia, Barcelona

Maybe I had great advisors in London, or maybe it was just damn good luck – but somehow I’ve got the feeling that, for the first time, I’ve found my place at the very first try.

Vila de Gràcia used to be the central area of an independent village called Gràcia. Barcelona slowly grew in dimensions by absorbing many of these independents villages that surrounded the city back in the XIX century. Gràcia, I was told, was one of the last villages to become part of the city – which is one of the reasons why it still has a village atmosphere. Neighbors recognize each other at the bakery and milk shops (well yes, there are milk shops!) and kids play football on their local square while their parents drink a cold caña and catch up.

In fact, you can still overhear older residents talking about baixar a Barcelona (which means going down to Barcelona in Catalan), as if they were outside the city.

Vila de Gracia, Barcelona

Vila de Gràcia belongs to the District of Gràcia which, while being one of the smallest districts in Barcelona, is also one of the most complete ones. As a friend recently told me: there’s no reason to leave Gràcia unless you are consciously looking for it. Everything you need is at arm’s length. Fashion, sport, nature, architecture, food and culture all melt together in an area of little more than 4km².

This closeness and village feel was exactly what I loved about living in Lausanne and later on made me move from East London to the South West.

Vila de Gracia, Barcelona

Vila de Gracia, Barcelona

I know for certain that this place fits me and I equally fit it.

What do you like about your neighborhood? What makes you feel like it fits?