Category Archives: travel

Discovering the Beauty of Tea in Sri Lanka and Forming New Bonds

Sri Lanka is a beautiful paradise with lush scenery, wonderful people and scrumptious food. I can’t believe I had no plans to visit this awesome place, until I met a friend from there in Tokyo. When she returned home and told me to come visit whenever I wanted, I jumped at the chance. By then I had been to India and knew it was somewhat similar. Sri Lanka, has its own rich cultural traditions and has a warmth all of its own though. Let me wax eloquent about it all.

Jackfruit, my favourite fruit and mango my other favourite fruit are abundant in Sri Lanka. If I am able to gorge on these then I am happy. I was happy in Sri Lanka both times I visited. At my friend’s house, I enjoyed these fruits and others, as well as a smorgasbord of other local dishes that infused joy into my being. Food in Sri Lanka is spicy goodness, everything is delicious.

Learning more about Sri Lanka through its foods

I am always surprised at how common it is for people to eat their meals with their hands. It seems that eating with utensils (especially at home) isn’t as global as some of us practice/believe. It is something I do when I visit places where this is the norm. Since, I was staying with my friend and her family I considered it important to do this. One great aspect of travelling is learning about other cultures in real life. I am learning as I travel, to be more open-minded and respectful of the way other groups of people do things. When you think of it, it is quite eco-friendly to eat with your hands. Curried jackfruit was new to me. Though I enjoyed it, I still prefer eating it raw and ripe.

Seafood is quite tasty and varied in Colombo (this is where I indulged a lot so keep this in mind). We enjoyed eating at some world class hotels and the fare they served was worth every penny. You can eat good food for cheap and you can also splurge and enjoy good food in more classy establishments. It’s worth trying them, within your budget of course.

Sri Lanka
Somewhere between Nuwara Eliya and Kandy

Exploring tea ‘country’ and making connections in Kandy and Colombo


Sri Lanka is a country where travelling on the beaten path still gives great rewards. It isn’t crowded and train travel or transportation is accessible. Also many people speak or understand English, so travelling around is relatively straightforward. I was fascinated by ‘tea country’ Nuwara Eliya, so I took the train from Colombo up there. It is freezing in summer. Thankfully, I had planned for this. I enjoyed a local tour around a tea plantation to see how tea is made. Phew! The thing that struck me was how hard the women worked to pick the leaves. I was left wondering how much money seeps down to them…

Sri Lanka

The entire area is lush and green. There are lots of picturesque spots for the instagram worthy pics. On the way back to Colombo we drove and those roads are winding…the scenery can’t be beat though. It was nice to see the loads of fresh fruits and veggies being sold by the road side. This brought up memories of familiar places in Jamaica.

In Kandy I spent time with my friend’s relatives and learned more about that area. For me though, just chatting with them about cricket and their lives were the highlights. We are still in touch and I visited them on my next trip, without my friend who had to work then. There is something about making real connections that crosses distance and cultures.

Sri Lanka
Royal Botanical Garden, Kandy

Back in Colombo it was time to check out my friend’s church. Can I just say it was the topping on the cake of my experiences in Sri Lanka. We worshipped, fellowshipped and had great fun. They have a lovely tradition of having Christmas breakfast. This was a special time. New Year’s Eve service was also lovely. Thereafter we set off fireworks and chilled into the wee hours of the morning. These people know how to live well. It reminded me of the joy and closeness of a small church, where everybody knows everybody.

I have nothing but warm memories of Sri Lanka. It’s one of the places I know I could visit again and again. It’s a blessing to have had the wonderful experiences I had there.

Discovering the Richness of India on my first Solo Travel Adventure

Seeing the Taj Mahal up close in all its majestic pearl white splendour is surreal. It is truly a work of art.

It is easy to sit there all day and soak up its beauty. Thankfully there are quite a few trees around that offer shade and facilitate this. Of course, after travelling so far and paying a pretty penny to see it as a foreigner,you feast your eyes until you feel full.

Spend time people watching and coming to grips with the fact that you are here, in India, finally!

If you are of the darker hue like me, have people gather around to take you in like you are taking in the building. Suddenly, you are caught up in a group of youths who you chat with you about cricket and snap photos.

Take some time to see other places in India and experience its rich culture. One way to do this is to visit some other cities such as Jodphur, Udaipur or go to places in the south and so on. The magnificent structures that loom up in many places allow for learning more about India’s history. They too are worth the time and just a bit more money.

You can spend days just going from place to place and exploring these buildings to learn more about what the past was like. The fact that you can get around by train or bus makes this feasible even if one only has a week.

Travelling in India alone as a woman comes with its fair share of nuisances. We all know about the horrific things that have been done to some native women there. One needs to be on guard, especially as a woman. Unfortunately, some men think all women travelling alone are on the prowl. This is a reality. However, if a woman is careful and keeps her wits about her, travelling in India can be rewarding.

The poor animals, I tell ya

So, go to see the Taj Mahal if that is pulling you to India. Plan and explore other areas to experience different aspects of the culture. It is an affordable place to travel. The fact that many people speak English also makes it an easy place to get around. India is a vibrant place with many things for different tastes. Research, plan, budget and travel responsibly.

Travels in Japan: Hiroshima

Hiroshima is a must visit place in Japan. Nagasaki should be the same.https://thisgracedlife.com/2019/06/27/travels-in-japan-nagasaki/

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum showcases the horrors that people experienced after the bombing. Steel yourself for the graphic images. It’s only 200 yen and it has been recently updated to accommodate more people. The entire park is worth spending some time viewing and reflecting on the events that took place there less than 100 years ago. Get to the museum early because when there are many people they may stop admitting people way before closing time. You may have to wait and it maybe a bit crowded.

Visit the Hiroshima Castle to get a taste of that aspect of the culture. It’s 370 yen to enter and it’s worth exploring. The grounds are really beautiful as well. It’s a nice place to sit and enjoy nature for a while especially in spring and fall.

Many people rush through Hiroshima in a day or two but there are many wonders to discover by walking its streets. Okonomiyaki is a staple of Hiroshima and worth trying. Also ride the trams from place to place and see more of the surrounding areas. Payment on the tram can be tricky so watch others or ask the conductor.

Of course no visit to Hiroshima is complete without a stop at Miyajima.

Everybody who visits Hiroshima has a shot like this LOL!

A short ferry ride from Hiroshima is where you will find Miyajima. It’s known for the tori in the picture above and the deer you will encounter there. Spend a day exploring the island on foot and ride up the ropeway to see a view of the city, on a clear day.

Whenever I visit – I have been 3 times- I enjoy trying out the different seafood on offer by different vendors. It’s definitely a place to walk and eat again and again. Go in the back streets, enjoy the different architecture, see how people live and soak up the moment.

Visiting Miyajima after the Hiroshima Peace Park reminds you of how people are living and thriving despite the horrors of the past. You can enjoy nature in many different forms and see another side of Japan that you may not see on the beaten track.

We stayed at a nice airbnb that is centrally located the last time I visited. The other times I stayed in hotels. Shop around and get the best deals. Book months ahead because Hiroshima is always popular. Every visitor wants to visit and many Japanese students go there on school trips at different times of the year.

Things cost generally the same as other places in Japan so plan accordingly

Travel Smart and Take Advantage of Free Walking Tours

Free walking tours are hands down the best way to get an understanding of a city when travelling. Especially for solo travellers you will meet other travellers who you maybe able to plan some tours with.

When I am planning to visit a city I always Google free walking tours in _______________ (insert name of the city). There are usually worth the 2-3 hours set aside for them. I have experienced walking tours in Bogota, Jerusalem, Prague, Rome and a few other places.

The Pros of Free Walking tours

  • Travellers get an overview of a city for cheap. Always tip the guide, it’s polite and ensures the service will continue for others to enjoy.
  • You have a native to ask questions and get tips about things to see, do and places to eat among other things.
  • You see and experience things that you would otherwise be ignorant of. Built into these tours are usually stops at select shops and eateries. These are sometimes gems.
  • You can know where to find things that interests you and return later to explore in more depth.
  • You learn how to get around without getting lost if you are prone to doing so, like me. LOL!
  • You get some exercise in.

The Cons of Free Walking tours

  • You may stop at some crappy places because the guide has some kind of deal to expose visitors to certain shops and vendors.
  • There might be a big group of people so you may have a hard time hearing what the guide is saying.
  • You don’t get quality information about some places because the guide may not be as knowledgeable as a trained guide.

The advantages outweigh the disadvantages especially because you can tip the guide on a free walking tour what you think he or she deserves. I have found that the guides are passionate about their cities and quite knowledgeable as well. Their enthusiasm is a great introduction and a nice welcome for me.

With this in mind I highly recommend do a free walking tour in any city you visit that has one. Go ahead, Google it and try it.

Solo Travel Adventures in Turkey

Turkey is a captivating country with much to do for all kinds of travellers. A few years ago I visited Istanbul and Cappadocia for a few days each. I was on one of my solo travel jaunts to soak up what I could in these cities.

How did I prepare for my solo travel adventure in Turkey?

It all started a year prior to flying over there. I started reading more about Istanbul and Cappadocia, the two places I was intent of visiting. I read blogs about other people’s experiences in these places. I researched the cost of accommodations, food and transport on the ground to decide how much to budget for the trip.

Since I wanted to be there for a week and use my time efficiently, I opted to fly from Istanbul to Cappadocia on Turkish Air. It was a good decision and I am happy I did that. Sometimes it’s worth spending a little more to travel fast in order to maximize your time.

Some of what I saw in Cappadocia and Istanbul

The outdoor natural rock formations in Cappadocia are captivating and much fodder for the creative mind. Look at some of these images to get a taste of this.

The centre of Cappadocia is a walkable place and lovely to explore. Stay in a rock hotel to experience something unique to that town. Do a few local tours and go see the sights in the desert like area and or take a ride in a hot air balloon.

As a woman travelling alone I felt safe and of course stayed on guard to look out for my best interest. Ahhh… Cappadocia is so picturesque and a great place to go slow for a few days.

Istanbul is a thriving city with one side falling in Asia and the other in Europe. It is lovely to explore and enjoy the old and new sides of the city. A great way to get a feel for it is to do a hop on hop off bus tour.

I like the liveliness of the city and it’s friendly people. There are those men though who think that a single woman travelling alone is looking for a quick lay. Be alert ladies.

The food is fantastic and the coffee is wonderful. Explore The Grand Bazaar and other markets. The colours, the sights, the sounds are an amalgamation of everything that is splendiferous.

The Hagia Sofia was my first stop because I had been wanting to see it for a while. Remember to dress modestly when visiting.

Both places are affordable and have nice boutique type hotels for less than 100 USD per night. This is a destination where your money goes a long way.

I have wonderful thoughts about my trip there and enjoyed my solo travel adventures in both places in Turkey.

Exploring 8 Cities in Europe in One Summer

Europe has oh so many sites to soak up and immerse yourself in. Solo travel is great, what with the many hostels in countries in Europe where you can make friends or just cut down on costs. Also, there are many low cost airlines to help you zip from place to place and not break the bank.

Let’s explore 8 cities again through my memory of visiting them one summer for a month. I travelled alone and had a great time. I flew into Rome and out of Paris via Helsinki. I got to other cities by high speed trains, a bus and a flight. Here is my itinerary:

Three Cities in Italy:Rome, Florence and Venice (Day trip from Florence to Siena and Pisa)

Rome is a city etched in time and lovely to explore. I made the right choice to stay in the city centre where I could walk to all the attractions. I was not a fan of where I stayed though. Colour me shocked to find out that air conditioning in Europe isn’t the norm! I saw all the usual sites and sat in piazzas to people watch and enjoy being there. One day I took the train to the Vatican City and joined the throngs gazing up and away at all the artistic wonders. Though I was there solo, I met a Japanese lady and we ended up sightseeing all day. That was a great experience.

Siena is lovely and worth spending some time in this more laid back town. I enjoying playing around trying to get a good picture at The Falling Tower of Pisa, alas it was not to be. I spent much time walking around Florence enjoying its beautiful architecture. The Uffizi is worth exploring for a few hours even though the wait may be great and it gets crazily crowded. This is a joy of travelling solo, you can go at your own pace and wait in line until you get to feast your eyes on all manner of lovely artistic wonders.

Having lunch with this few was just right!

Venice of course was picture perfect. Though it is under pressure from the number of tourists it gets, it’s a lovely place, hence its draw.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

I love how compact the city was. I was helped by the kindest woman it was my pleasure to encounter. She directed me well to my hostel. I enjoyed the service offered in restaurants and the absolute beauty of the architecture and nature there. Another highlight was taking the train to explore Lake Bled. It is so picturesque.

Bratislava, Slovakia

That was a long train ride and I had a transfer to get there. It was scenic in places though the train was sweltering. Bratislava was very nice though and I especially liked the town square. I happened upon a festival there with people dancing in traditional garb. That was a treat. This is why I travel, to experience different cultures first hand. There were also stalls selling handcrafted items and I bought myself some quirky earrings which I still wear. This sculpture brings back memory of that city square.

Prague, Czech Republic

Finally saw The Dancing House up close and personal – beautiful craftsmanship.

Budapest Hungary

Iconic work of architecture in Budapest

Paris, France

I had to go see this, of course! I didn’t expect the dust lying underneath it though.

Helsinki, Finland

I made the most of my 24 hours stopover in Helsinki and checked out the sites in town. There are a number of beautifully crafted churches. It was nippy in August though. Despite this, I had the most succulent salmon sitting by the seaside and chatting with an older Finnish gentleman. It was a great way to end my first jaunt through Europe.

To Sum Up…

I crafted my itinerary to include countries that were expensive and others that were reasonable. This means I could stretch my budget and travel debt free which is my preference. I also opted to stay in hostels in Prague, Ljubljana, Budapest and Bratislava to help with this. They hostels I found in these countries suited me well, so I could afford to stay in hotels in the other cities.

I really enjoyed the Eastern European cities because they were not as popular as the others, so sites weren’t overrun with people.

One tip I would give to someone planning a similar trip is to stay in the city centre of places you visit. It helps to cut costs when you can walk to many places or take the train around.

There is rich history in countries across Europe and it is the continent that offers the most convenient and affordable means to go from country to country.

On my next solo travel jaunt to Europe I would love to explore some of the Baltic countries and get to a few places in Spain and Portugal too.

Travels in Japan: Nagasaki

I have been in Japan for years and have planned to visit Nagasaki many times and it just didn’t happen. I finally made it happen earlier this year. It was worth the trek from Tokyo.

Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum – https://nagasakipeace.jp/english/abm.html is a good place to spend a few hours learning about the tragedy that befell the city.

Nagasaki Peace Park is also a place to explore and learn more about the bombing and it’s focus on promoting peace.

Nagasaki Peace Park Fountain

Getting around the city is easy since there is a tram that passes by its many sights. Unfortunately, you have to pay with cash or buy the local IC card. It doesn’t take Suica or Pasmo.

I recommend spending at least two days there to explore all its wonders. There are many historical churches there.

Urakami Cathedral in the distance

There is also a museum to remember the Catholics who were killed for their faith there. The Twenty Six Martyrs Museum is very educational.

Read more here to know how to enjoy your trip to Nagasaki – https://www.keirinkai.or.jp/nagasaki-walks/sights/points_of_interest.html

The quickest way to get to Nagasaki is to fly there. It can be pricey at times but if booked ahead deals can be had. It takes way too long to go their by shinkansen. Another cost effect way to get there is to fly to Fukuoka and then go to Nagasaki by train from there.

Nagasaki is unique and a Japanese city like no other because of its history as a port city. It had a range of foreign influences and this is present in its sites and foods.

I am glad I finally got the chance to visit.