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Valencia: Where It All Began

L’Hemisfèric, City of Arts and Sciences

Stepping out of the train at Estació del Nord, I could instantly feel my shoulders relax. In the relative darkness we gazed up at the wrought iron roof, pierced by a long skylight running down its centre. Around us the muffled footsteps lacked all the signs of a preoccupied, obsessive urgency. This city, I knew, was going to be different. Read more

Barcelona: Broken Dreams and Modernisme

Trencadís mosaic, Casa Batlló

Barcelona taught me the importance of managing my expectations.

At architecture school, it was both the Holy Grail and the magic word. So you want to build something extraordinary? Look at Barcelona. Struggling to find inspiration? Again, Barcelona. Over those four years it came to represent the ideal – a pinnacle of unspeakable beauty and the best in urban design. Read more

An Incomplete History of Biscay

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

The locals affectionately call it “El Botxo” – The Hole.

Back in 1997 the opening of Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum catapulted the little-known Basque metropolis to international fame. But Bilbao had been planning its dramatic makeover for years. Read more

Switzerland and the Call to Europe

Summertime in Zürich

As a teenager, I could never have imagined that I would spend more than half a decade living on the other side of the world. But in the summer of 2000 my father would take us on our first-ever trip to Europe, traversing the breadth of Switzerland before heading onto Vienna and Prague. Read more

Stealing Chickens: Hong Kong colloquialisms

At the market – gaai sí

Although it can often sound like a constant disagreement to non-speakers, Cantonese is playful, witty, and at times, a poetic language. In Hong Kong the spoken word evolves notoriously quickly, suffused with waves of new expressions that come and go with the seasons. As a result, being away for a few years can have the effect of drawing baffled looks. Read more

7 Super Shots from Plus Ultra

Quite a while ago Bama from What an Amazing World! kindly nominated me to join in on HostelBookers’ 7 super shots. I realise I am super late jumping on the bandwagon, but choosing your best photos is like choosing your favourite children – you’re hesitant because you love them all for different reasons! Read more

Escaping to Cheung Chau

View from the pier

Many years ago, in the waters of Hong Kong, there lived a notorious pirate by the name of Cheung Po Tsai. At the height of his power it was said that he commanded a fleet of 600 ships and a following of 50,000 men. So great was the threat of piracy that Portuguese mariners named the islands “as Ilhas de Ladrões” – the islands of thieves. Read more

Dusk at Victoria Harbour

Kowloon Star Ferry Pier

On a remote island in the South China Sea, there once stood a fishing village that occupied the head of a small, sheltered inlet. Along the inlet stacks of incense, grown and harvested in the nearby countryside, were stored before being shipped out for sale. Passing fishermen reported that the aroma could be smelled many leagues out to sea, and so it was named Heung Gong, or “Fragrant Harbour”. Read more