Bye Bye Canada 👋

Two frame pictures chronicle our journey in British Colombia : June 7, that first day in Vancouver, we did Capilano suspension bridge and Grouse Mountain. Two weeks from that day, after having visited Seattle and cruised the Inside Passage , we were back in British Colombia and with this “finale frame picture” in Victoria , we ended a memorable chapter in beautiful Canada 🌲🌳🌸☘️🌼🌱🌻🌿🌺🍃

The Night I Was Crowned Empress 👑

Today, reading that Japan revealed the name of its new imperial era in line with the new emperor’s reign took me back in time to 2001 when I was crowned empress in Vietnam 🇻🇳.

It was in Huế – ancient capital and UNESCO World Heritage site – and our tour guide Huu had planned a royal dinner experience in a historic residential palace 🏯for our group of twelve ladies. Before the pickup time, he recommended we dress in light clothing to avoid feeling hot as we were to add another layer upon arrival : a traditional costume👘 . His advice provoked one friend to wonder loudly: “Can we wear our swimsuits👙?”- light, isn’t it ?! 😉 Unbaffled, Huu replied : “The name of the agency I work for is Exotissimo, not Erotissimo. “

So that evening, on our way to dinner, Huu told us to choose two people to dress as emperor and empress, the others will be mandarins. While one friend requested to carry the male crown🤴🏻, the female one 👸🏻 landed on my head:a friend kindly suggested to bequeath the coveted title to my humble self , the baby of the group – her words not mine 🤷🏻‍♀…

For me, that was a battle won without arms 😊

Excitedly, we all wore our outfits and proudly headed towards the old palace with great fanfare, accompanied by two people holding an umbrella each for our highnesses.

We had a private room for ourselves and the culinary experience was heavenly. Needless to say all of us, mandarins and royals delighted in the authentic Huế dishes that were once the prerogatives of royalties of the Nguyễn Dynasty. However few details set the royal couple apart:

-our table was higher than the mandarins’. The latter were divided on two long tables of five facing each other, one on our right and one on the left.

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-In front of us, a band was playing traditional music🎶

-Two people stood by our sides throughout the whole evening with the sole duty of fanning us

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-Our dishes were ostentatiously decorated

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PS: We had so much fun with bouts of loud laughters that two Frenchmen – without the traditional costume- came knocking on our door. They were with a group of tourists visiting from France; drawn by the noise, they came to inquire about the reason we were having more fun than their crew..and we explained jokingly : husbands were miles away😉

PPS: Actually this sojourn is among one of the most memorable I did with the girlfriends. Just like that, we all fell in love with this breathtaking country, the heartwarming hospitality of the Vietnamese people, a world class gastronomy… not to mention the diversity of the shopping that drove us crazy and resulted in serious overweight luggage on the return flights.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun – Part 2

Day 2

Old Cataract & Nubian village with family & friends

While bride & father of the bride were going through last minute details, mother of the bride was dutifully entertaining the early bird guest, lovely Samira, both having fun posing for a memorable photoshoot at the Old Cataract…and then again during the cruise to the Nubian village with family & friends😍

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We were outshined by the real star we met earlier at breakfast – Jamila Bouhired – a famous Algerian militant who opposed the French colonial rule in Algeria

Girls Just Want to Have Fun – Part I

Day 1- Old Cataract & Nubian village

So, we arrived to “Awesome Aswan “ a few days before my daughter Myriam’s wedding and my dear Samouh was like: Ghina habibti I see a situation here:

-the place is spectacular

-you like photos

I know my math and I’m acting accordingly! 💡 a bee line to the hotel reception and he booked us a photographer ☺️😅

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I Left my Heart In Portofino

// Part 2 //Portofino, the Italian Riviera – June 2014

Having made up our mind a bit late on this trip, Hotel Splendido  was fully booked and so we stayed at its sister hotel, the Splendido Mare. To make it up for us, we were given a suite which we declined in favor of a room with a breathtaking view of the spectacular harbour, the 15th century Castello Brown and the beautiful surrounding hills.

And that wasn’t all…the bonus was its terrace ,

ideal for a room-serviced breakfast 😊😍

The concierge recommended we have the afternoon tea at the  Splendido, and dinner at the Mare. It sounded like an excellent plan so we let him do the booking.

Excellent plan yes but up there, once I stepped down off the shuttle that zigzags uphill and downhill between the two hotels, I fell under the spell of the stunning panorama and had a change of heart…I was reluctant to stick to the initial plan: I preferred to prolong our stay and have dinner where we could feast our eyes as well as our taste buds. And that we did…

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However despite its unparalleled beauty, it wasn’t the Splendido that triggered my emotions…strangely though it happened at the Mare, when we returned.

Once back in our hotel room, I went to the bathroom for my nightly skincare routine, but abruptly stopped it and did a rushed U-turn towards the door as if I were under hypnosis . “Speak Softly, Love”, the soundtrack of  “ The Godfather” 🤷🏻‍♀️

I could hear it as our “room with a view ” was above the restaurant ❤️😍🎶 !! This unexpected combination of many favorites – song, movie, Italy- was the culmination and the greatest finale to this extraordinary night, a night to remember…

Having lost my ability to speak, I got hold of my husband’s hand and dragged him towards the small balcony where we could feast our eyes as well as our ears…Wishing the singer will never stop, I basked in the magic of the moment, oblivious to the tiny droplets that were finding their way slowly onto my cheeks.

 

 

 

It Turned Out to Be a Lifetime Relationship – Part 1

Our relationship with the places we visit doesn’t end with the sojourn…we stay there for a while but they stay with us forever, in our mind, in our heart …

However, before landing their ranking on the mere memories versus cherished memories chart, there is something common to all those visited places: the first timer’s feeling 🤩…I look forward to it,always..I absolutely relish the suspense surrounding the discovery process before the expectations-versus-reality factor splits them on the cherished memories’ chart.

Yet, 2 places are in a category apart…

1️⃣ New Zealand – the longest “hubbyless” touristic venture up to then.

Bay Of Islands – Hole in The Rock

I still remember that day in 2004, when I read in the WIAD (Women in Abu Dhabi) newsletter that one of the members – Diane – was organizing a ladies trip to her homeland New Zealand. I was super excited but unfortunately my excitement didn’t last long…The trip got canceled due to the lack of participants: too expensive. Four years later Diane tested the water with a revised proposal hoping the ladies might have changed their minds..Some did, however this time she was met with a quite unlikely response : two ladies along with their husbands – one French couple and one Tunisian. I wasn’t keen on going solo but my husband pragmatically persuaded me and I overcame my hesitation with his sound logic : “It’s a busy period for me, I can’t take two weeks off to accompany you; NZ is on the other side of the world, I don’t see myself going there in the future. It’s either now or never, believe me, don’t miss this opportunity”. That was enough…I was convinced 🤷🏻‍♀️…and Diane would be my roommate..

Situated on a hill with a breathtaking view, the modern B&B we stayed in on our second night was above everyone’s expectations, out of Hollywood movie!

The view from our B & B

I’ve never stayed in a B&B before and was pleased with the charm of this concept which allows some warm interactions with your hosts. I just ❤️ it and wished my husband was with me. This place ticked ✅ all his boxes: sea view and boats 🚣‍♀️ boats🚤 and boats ⛵️everywhere…I knew he would’ve loved it too, and well… After the meet and greet, we sat for tea. However, when my friend Beya, teapot in hand, asked me whether I’d like some tea, I couldn’t replyshe looked at me and noticed the battle going in my head, on my face : this emotion-fueled moment I was shyly trying to suppress was revealed by two shiny dots down my cheeks…

So although I was convinced to go alone, deep down I still wished my husband was with me. It was just a normal feeling considering he selflessly encouraged me to take part in this beautiful adventure; he truly gave me the wings to fly so far from home and at that moment I wished I could share this spectacular view with him, I wished I could share my room in this beautiful place with him, and I promised myself that I will come one day with him…

PS Eleven years on and we still haven’t made this trip together …

Moral of the story : you snooze, you loose ..never hesitate …if you really want it, you go for it 😉

PPS I recently read a study which found that the Bay of Islands has the second bluest sky in the world after Rio de Janeiro. This is definitely a destination I’m going to do with my husband..it’s been on my bucket list for years, and I’m not settling on going solo…

Wellington – Bay of Islands

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Auckland

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A palette of colours – North Island & South Island

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Tamaki experience 10 April

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Auckland 8 April

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Polynesian spa, Rotorua

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Ancient Kauri Forest – Bay of Islands – Pukekura Park in New Plymouth

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Kiwifruit farm

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Queenstown South Island