A Weekend retreat at the Salamis Bay Conti Resort & Casino Hotel ∼Northern Cyprus

How often have I heard people ask “Why do you need a holiday when you live in Cyprus?” Will you please cut me some slack? Everyone needs a break from their daily routine. For years my friends have been telling me about this great hotel on the northern side, which is only a 50 minute drive from my village of Oroklini on the Greek side of the island. Having got a great all inclusive deal, (£210 English pounds – via Travel republic for both of us for 3 days), we were looking forward to a relaxing long weekend.

I must admit I that my expectations were moderate as 5 stars can defer greatly, depending on the location, but I had underestimated the quality of holiday experience on offer in this lovely hotel. Our room (I am married to Derek, if you don’t know me personally or are new to my blog) is on the top floor,  and it is a family room with an extra bed. We are very happy to have the extra space and the view from the balcony is gorgeous!

The food is excellent too, with every type of salad leaf imaginable in the buffet. I spent so much time trying new and unusual looking salad dishes that I didn’t bother with any meat at all. For someone who has food allergies, like me, being able to select your own food is a godsend and I would always choose this over a formal sit down arrangement; but we are all different…

nailsI think this only the second or third time I have gone all inclusive, and I must admit it does feel a little Benidormish, having that plastic band around your wrist (spoilt – who me?)  So I decided that the best way to tackle this situation was to have my nails painted the same shade of purple  as the band in the  super health spa on the  lower ground floor. So, now that I am perfectly co-ordinated, I feel a lot better. (You can take the girl out of Hartlepool…)

Is there much to do? Well apart from a pharmacy run, as the prices of prescription medication are considerably less over here, we have just chilled out so far, but I can tell you that the dry white wine is really nice and they make a mean gin and tonic; so it’s so far so good. We are thinking we might actually do something tomorrow… but best not over-do-it eh?

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Photos of Lake Bled∼ Slovenia

 

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There are few sights more beautiful than Slovenia in the autumn! Here are some photographs I took on a wonderful day out in Lake Bled, before attending the Alibi International Crime/ Noir Festival in Slovenska Bristrica. This was my first ever trip to Slovenia – but it certainly will not be my last!

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A walking tour ∼Photos from St. Petersburg

On my walking tour of St. Petersburg, the thing which surprised me the most was the vast scale of the city. My tour took in some stunning sites, which I have tried to capture in the images below.

Without a doubt, the most spectacular is the roof of Church on the Spilled Blood, which is the featured image above. The church was built on the spot where the Emperor Alexander ll was murdered in 1881. The design is incredibly beautiful the church is both a historical monument and amazing work of art. As this was a walking tour, unfortunately, I did not have time to visit the stunning mosaics inside – maybe next time…

Other photos below include The Winter Palace, Palace Square, St Isaac’s Cathedral and a statue of the famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canal trip – St Petersburg, Russia

Today I’m talking about my recent Baltic trip and have posted some photos of the wonderful canal trip taken by myself and my husband in St. Petersburg. It was a cold and rainy day, and if you catch the short video at the end, you will see it wasn’t the best day weather wise, but it was a wonderful experience, which I would highly recommend should you choose to visit Russia!

The trip took about an hour and twenty minutes and it was really special. I had little idea of the huge scale of the city until this point. St. Petersburg was founded in 1703, and was originally the capital of the Russian empire. It was the rather daring vision of Peter 1st to whom this grandiose and very ambitious project was symbolic of an era of confidence, extravagance, and optimism. The city was built on northern reclaimed marshland, which was perpetually wreathed in mist – which explains the less than optimum weather conditions many visitors to St. Petersburg experience. But as I am sure you are already aware, you don’t go to Russia for the climate…

When planning a Russian trip, you are required to obtain a visa, and the easiest way to do this is to book via a travel agent who will sort it out for you (it’s not cheap around 120 euros) or you can go on an organised group trip as we did. Even so, passport control is very strict and time-consuming. I did think I was going to have to continue without my husband at one point – when they brought a very official looking man uniform to question him about some apparently unsavoury stamps in his passport – he does get about a bit… but they eventually let him through and thankfully, the bus was still there waiting for us to join it!

Back to the boat trip: there are 342 bridges in total on the river Neva, which runs from Lake Ladoga, right through the middle of the city into the Gulf of Finland. On this canal trip, we lost count of how many bridges we passed under and there was some stunning wrought ironwork to be seen. It was an amazing trip with such an impressive collection of beautiful buildings and a vast assortment of bridges; some of which were so low that our tour guide instructed us to duck our heads as we went under them – and you most definitely needed to!

If the video looks upside – it does right itself once you press play!

 

Mykonos holiday photos

Long gone are the days when you had to endure an extended session of someones holiday snaps, when they whipped out the super sized photo album, after coffee or dinner. Now we can post them online, and friends can browse  at their own leisure without all of those tedious explanations and extra slow page turns!

In the spirit of not boring everyone to death – here are some of the photos of my recent holiday in Mykonos – and yes I did see Peter the pelican, but I didn’t get too close as he got mobbed by a busload of overexcited tourists off one of the cruise ships in the harbor…

Sacred Temples of the Far East

Borobudur, Java
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Wat Rong Khun, Thailand
Wat Rong Khun, Thailand
Temple of Heaven, China
Temple of Heaven, China

Borobudur, Java

Shaped like a giant lotus flower, the sacred symbol of the Buddha, Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist monument. Set inspiringly, amongst the lush rice paddies in the centre of the Indonesian island, the structure of the temple is unique. It is shaped like a huge pyramid overlooking a sacred plain and it is a both a physical representation of Buddhist cosmology and a place of pilgrimage. The pyramid is stepped, in 6 rectangular story’s, topped by 3 circular terraces and a central domed stupa, forming the summit. The monument has 3 distinct sections: the lowest level symbolises the physical world, or World of Desires, and is called the Kamadhatu; the second level is the Rupadhatu, the World of Form, a transitional sphere in which humans are released from their physical bodies. The highest level of ascension is the Arupadhatu, which is the World of the Formlessness, the sphere of enlightenment.  Pilgrims’ follow a path that circles around the monument in a clockwise direction: following a meditative journey to its summit.  The temple was founded around AD 750 and was for a while, the islands main spiritual centre, although it was eventually abandoned due to its proximity to the erupting volcano, Mount Merapi.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

The vast temple complex of Angkor Wat is the world’s largest and possibly most impressive religious monument. It has been classified as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It is Cambodia’s most beloved symbol and powerfully evokes the splendor of Khmer Civilization. The temple, which was originally Hindu, then became Buddhist, was commissioned by King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, as his state temple and eventually his mausoleum. The scale of the temple is quite staggering, the central towering soaring 200 metres into the sky and the site is so large it could accommodate the Vatican State 12 times over! The temples’ design is a symbolic representation of Mount Meru, which was belived to be the dwelling place of the Hindu gods and center of the universe. Its structure is layered, with access becoming progressively more exclusive with height; the common people were restricted to the lowest level, while the uppermost levels were reserved solely for kings and priests. The five towers on the highest level represent the peaks of Mount Meru, while the moat beneath symbolises the primordial ocean. Angkor Wat is best known for the extensive decorations which have been incorporated into its architecture, depicting interesting and significant mythological and historical scenes.

The Shwedagon Pagoda, Burma

Known as the Great Dragon Pagoda, and also the Golden Pagoda, this 2,500 year old temple famously enshrines strands of the Buddha Guatama’s hair as well as many other religious artifacts. The temple is located west of the Royal Lake in Yangon, Shwedagon on Singuttara Hill and dominates the skyline of the city. It is the most sacred buddhist pagoda for the Burmese with relics of four past Buddhas enshrined within it. The Shwedagon Pagoda consists of hundreds of colorful temples, stupas and statues, which reflect the architectural era of over 2,500 years ago. It is a monumental work of art and architecture and a magnificent symbol of Buddhism to the Myanmar people. The glittering stupa is made of genuine gold plates, which cover the brick structure and are attached by traditional rivets. Myanmar people all over the country, as well as monarchs in its own history, have donated gold to the pagoda to maintain it. The practice continues to this day after being started in the 15th century by the Mon Queen, Shin Sawbu, who gave her weight in gold! The main stupa is encrusted with an amazing 4531 diamond; the largest of which is a 72 carat diamond!  This temple is definitely one of the wonders of the religious world.

Wat Rong Khun, Thailand                  

Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai, Thailand is unlike any other Buddhist temple in the world. The startlingly white, highly ornate structure is gilded in mosaic mirrors which shine magically, reflecting the light, to represent the Buddha’s wisdom shining out across the Earth and the Universe. The temple is designed in a contemporary style and was built in 1997 by the renowned artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat. Wat Rong Khun is not a traditional temple; the artist has reinterpreted Thai art for the modern world by constructing a surreal vision of Buddhist teachings with superheroes, movie stars and cartoons incorporated into the temple murals, enhancing traditional Buddhist motifs. Fantastical sculptures and architecture cover this amazing surreal landscape. But despite its modernism, every detail of Wat Rong Khun carries deep religious symbolism. Much of the temple’s teachings and messages refer to escaping desire, greed and passion and moving towards a state of the sublime, through Buddhist teachings. To reach the main temple hall, visitors must cross a bridge over an ocean of ghostly hands reaching up from the cycle of death and rebirth. The temple building symbolises the realm of the Buddha: rising to a state of nirvana.

Temple of Heaven, China 

The Temple of Heaven is considered the most holy of Beijing’s imperial temples. It has been described as “a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design”.  It is a Taoist temple which was constructed in 14th century by Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty (who also built the Forbidden City) as his personal temple, where he would pray for good harvest and to atone for the sins of his people. Being seen to pray was very important for the emperor as a bad harvest could be interpreted as a fall from Heaven’s favor! The design of the Temple of Heaven is very complex, in keeping with its sacred purpose; its design reflects the mystical cosmological laws which were believed to be central to the workings of the universe. Both the overall arrangement and the buildings, reflect the relationship between sky and earth, which was the crux of understanding of the Universe at that time. The entire temple complex is surrounded by two walls; the outer wall has a taller, semi-circular northern end, representing Heaven, and a shorter, rectangular southern end, representing the Earth. Both the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and the Circular Mound Altar are round, each standing on an ornate square, in order represent Heaven and Earth.

Travel fiction: Koyoto Japan

 Do you feel like travelling to somewhere exotic today?

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To most discerning travelers, the thought of a trip to Japan is enough to fire their souls with pure inspiration. Japan is a place which can surpass the boundaries of imagination; a place where modern innovative design co-exists in perfect harmony with the beauty and elegance of ancient architecture. In my journey to Kyoto, the cultural beating heart of Japan, I begin my search for a truly transcendent experience…Read more…

http://www.status-magazine.eu/around-the-word-magical-kyoto/