#GranCanaria: Sheer Indulgence of Senses and Stunning Sunsets

Capturing beauty

Capturing beauty

The colours are striking, blue sky, reflected in a equally blue pool; the sun rays, like shining crystals, sparkled and twinkled, like bright little stars. Trees of various shades of green, tropical flowers of red, pink, orange, white and any other colours in between, and cactus, wondrous formations of different shapes and spikiness, not to mention the burst of flowers at the tip, displaying amazing beauty and grace. They are not the usual kind; a combination of tough thorns and soft petals.

The sun is setting, from a big bright, blazing fireball, slowly shrinking to an orange half dome until it completely disappears on the horizon. The sea sparkles and shimmers with shining reflections, as the surfers ride the crushing waves, up and down, up and down and then fall! It is a thrill even just to watch, as we stand on the shore, safe on the solid ground and behind a stone fence. A band is displaying.

“Go and put this euro into their box and ask them nicely to play Jimmy Hendrix”. John said to me. I obliged.

The young Spanish trio were brilliant. They played a tune, which was not Voodoo Child, but it was one of Hendrix’s tunes. I moved my body with the rhythm, smiling, happiness travelling from the depth of my heart, soul and finding its expression in my eyes and on my face. As the sun continued its descent, the music echoed with the waves in the background.

Playing Jimmy Hendrix on the beach

Playing Jimmy Hendrix on the beach

Tropical cactus and bourgainbila

Tropical cactus and Bourgenvilla

The next day, at around 5.30pm, we left our hotel to head to Maspolomas beach again. The Canary Islands are a lot closer to Africa than Europe, hence longer days and warm climes. We found seats in one of several restaurants and bars along the promenade along the beach, me ordering a cooling ‘Sex on the Beach’ and John ‘Pina Colada’, among the many tempting cocktails on offer. We cast eyes towards the shimmering Atlantic ocean, waiting patiently for the sun to set.

relaxing with a rolling drink

relaxing with a rolling drink

How far can you beyond the sea?

How far can you beyond the sea?

If there was a paradise somewhere on earth, this could be it, I thought. No worries, no stress, just simple pleasures of relaxing with a fine company, sipping a chilled drink, listening to the sound of the ocean, and feasting our eyes on a Nature wonder which never ceases to amaze me, no matter how many times I have watched it, and where.

During the day, when we were not out exploring, we joined the sun bathers by the pools in our hotel. I had my iPad which provided both music to the ears and kindle books for my eyes: soul food. Life was easy, and good, far from the maddening crowd.

Lopesan Baobab Resort Hotel, lovely!

Lopesan Baobab Resort Hotel, excellent!

Once in a while, we dipped into the pool. Lopesan Baobab Resort has most lovely pools. You can swim in the main pool downstream, or upstream, and it goes round, under little bridges, poolside bars and other guests, sunbathing with a book and sunblock. Couples, families, old and young, all out there, topping up much needed vitamin D and enjoying the warm caresses of the African sun.

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The week before Christmas 2015 saw us visiting Gran Canaria for the third time. Like before, we were greeted by awesome natural beauty, tantalising choices of Spanish cuisine, especially seafood, and of course, the abundance of sunshine, which was the main reason why Northern Europeans, many of them Brits, flocked to it every winter.

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We did not want to come back to England. Now only a couple of weeks on our return, I am already thinking of when we can head back there again.

Next week, I’ll share more reminisces of this magical island and her many delights. Here are a few more pictures, just to remind us what we are missing.

Jumping with joy at stunning sunsets

Jumping with joy at stunning sunsets

The moon reflecting the sun

The moon reflecting the sun

What better way to chill than reading a good book by the pool?

Chilling/reading a good book by the pool

The best way to survive? Grow thorns

The best way to survive? Grow thorns

Posted in Food & Cuisine, Health & Sports, Music & Poetry, Social Media & Photography, Travel Logs, UK, USA & Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fond Farewell to 2015 with Family, Friends, Fabulous Foods and Fireworks

Sichuan Spicy Fish by Wang Wei

Sichuan Spicy Fish by Wang Wei

As we say goodbye to our winter holiday and hello to another year of hard work, I would like to share with you some cool snaps of the last party John and I threw for 2015. I’ve always enjoyed inviting friends over to our home in Sutton Coldfield, but this time on the New Year’s Eve 2015 is extra special.

I take the opportunity of this picture blog to thank everyone who was at the party, and those who were not there but have been a part of my life in the past year. I say goodbye to a dear friend Wan Li, a visiting academic who is going back to China in a few days time, after spending 6 months with us at Birmingham City University; Some of these fab photos were taken by various people at our party, especially Wang Wei who brought his new camera with him, making sure that our fun moments were captured and shared, and we had a group photo before the party was over.

Me and my Posse: Wang Wei, Wan Li and Tian Yuan

Me and My Posse: Wang Wei, Wan Li and Tian Yuan

Dumpling Makers: Ren Jie, Wan Li & Zhao Li

Dumpling Makers: Ren Jie, Wan Li & Zhao Li

The amazing choice of festive foods were created by a team of hard workers, including talented chefs Feng Yi, Wang Wei and Wan Li, supported by Tian Yuan, Ren Jie and Zhao Li. My contribution? I made a beef tagine and my signature Continental salad.

Spicy Tofu by Feng Yi

Spicy Tofu by Feng Yi

Beef Tagine by Junying

Beef Tagine by Junying

Fruit Sa;ad by Tian Yuan

Fruit Salad by Tian Yuan

Mixed Continental Salad

Mixed Continental Salad

A Full Table of Festive Foods

A Full Table of Festive Foods

John is largely responsible for chilling the drinks, opening Champagne bottles and displaying a 30 minute fireworks show on the lawn between our house and the beautiful Hill Hook Nature Reserve. It was no match to what we later saw on TV, from Sydney to London, Beijing to Taipei, in terms of grandeur and scale, but it was for our personal enjoyment and entertainment. I was delighted to see our two young visitors shouting with excitement and jumping with joy. Even the adults were clapping and laughing. Great job, John!

John and Leo pouring drinks

John and Leo pouring drinks to begin the party

Leo's Family, Wife Zhao Li and two kids

Leo’s Family, Wife Zhao Li and two kids watching fireworks

Thank you for joining us at this amazing and memorable party, and I wish you all a most amazing year in 2016, no matter where you are and what you intend to achieve. I look forward to sharing more fun times and adventures with you!

Have a sweet life, everyone!

Have a sweet life, everyone!

May your life be filled with joy and fireworks

May your life be filled with joy and fireworks

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Posted in China & East Asia, Entertainment, Food & Cuisine, Social Media & Photography, UK, USA & Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time to Say Thank-You’s and Goodbyes on New Year’s Eve

Thank you in Chinese

Thank you in Chinese

This past week began with Christmas 2015 and the year of 2016 is just around the corner, ushering in another 12 months of new beginnings, new hopes and dreams. Many of my blog readers know that I have a habit of reflecting on the past year on the eve of the new one, and this year is no exception. As flexible and adaptable as I am, I do have a few old habits and pattern behaviour which I like to keep, one of which is my annual renewal of New Year Resolutions.

I have a few more days before I make my NYR for the coming year, but I have already started reflecting upon the times gone by. It is easier to remember what has happened in our lives these days with the help of social media, and especially Facebook with its new reminders. Sometimes when I open my FB on my iPad or iPhone, it shows me who has the most posts with me, which are my top photos, how many friends I have made and which cities and countries I visited in 2015. I would imagine that this will be particularly useful when one starts to become forgetful or showing any signs of dementia. It’s good to know that somewhere out there, probably in Silicon Valley or somewhere even remoter, they have that information stored, and possibly the machines know you better than you know yourself.IMG_1083 IMG_1084 IMG_1081

A lot of people don’t like the fact that their personal information is held by other people or companies, but I don’t really care. Some people will say that I am transparent, and others may say that it was stupid to allow so much personal data available on-line. We live in a digital age and whether or not we like it, we reveal information about ourselves, when we go shopping and pay for our goods, when we go on holiday or when we throw a party. Coincidentally I like doing all of those things, so if Facebook records the countries and cities I have been to, I am very happy to let that be known.

Do you like me? This photo got quite a few likes :-)

Do you like me? This photo got quite a few likes :-)

I like to share. I am not sure if I was born with this tendency or it was acquired overtime, but I have no problem, and even enjoy sharing good times and interesting information with friends. However, I have a little problem. When I look at my Facebook, I have around 782 friends; Twitter, fives times that number. On a more controlled Chinese social media WeChat, I have less. Last time I looked, it was something around 150, almost all of whom I have met face to face, with few exceptions.

My little problem is: my regular posts on Facebook got a probably average 30 ‘Likes’, out of 700 so-called friends; That is about 5%? WeChat, slightly higher ratio at 10% around 10-15 ‘likes’. What about the other 90% friends? Have they read my posts but do not ‘like’ them? Or they join these social media platforms and never ‘like’ any post after reading. Some never post any either, so why bother joining a platform and signing up friends like me? They are known in the trade as “lurkers”.

Anyway, today’s post is not supposed to be complaining about my posts not being ‘liked’. I really just wanted to show my appreciation of people who have spent time visiting my blogs here, sharing them by liking them on Facebook, Twitter or WeChat, and some simply stumbled on my blog.

I like to check statistics on my blog, such as which are the most popular posts, how many read them and from which countries. You can see the top countries who visit my blog on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis. I am please to see that I have most visitors from the USA followed by the UK, two of the English speaking countries, naturally. Overall, I have people from around 150 countries who have graced my blog one way or another, and I am sharing a picture which tells you where I have the most readers.

Top 30 countries where my blog readers are from recorded from October 2014. Thank you all!

Top 30 countries where my blog readers are from recorded from October 2014. Thank you all!

Following my statistical report on 2014 when I saw China outside of the top 30, I made it my NYR to attract more readers from there. It was, after all, a country I called Motherland. However, with WordPress blocked in China, as far as I know, my blog is not easily accessible, on top of the fact that I write in English. Still I am pleased to see that in 2015 since I started promoting it more vigorously among my friends on WeChat, with support from some of my dear friends there, I have a much improved reach within China.

Still fewer readers than USA and UK, China is in 3rd place in 2015!

Still fewer readers than USA and UK, China is in 3rd place in 2015!

So here I am to show my gratitude to everyone who has ever ‘liked’ me or my posts on any of the social media platforms, who regularly engage me in conversations and going on virtual tours when I travel. I also wish to thank my friends and family who visited me in person in the past year, including my Brother Brad who visited me in the UK for the first time!

Brother Brad, 1st right, with friends in our home

Brother Brad, 1st right, with friends in our home

I thank John, my biggest supporter and fan on both Facebook and in real life! I thank old and new friends I made during my travels, especially when I visited China in April, Taiwan and Japan in October, some of whom have since become my friends on Facebook, WeChat and Line.

My Biggest supporter and partner in life

My Biggest supporter and partner in life

I will say goodbye to 2015, and with it some of the so-called friends who are never really friends in some of these social media, because they never once ‘socialised’ with me in any shape or form. I am not sad about this. Real friends will stay in my life, either physically or virtually on-line. Others, will come and go. If you do matter to me, or I matter to you, then you will stay. It’s time to trim.

To those of you who stay, I say: Let’s rock and roll in 2016!

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#SMIDSY – Are UK Roads Safe for #Cyclists?

Proper protective gear, but no guarantee

Proper protective gear, but no guarantee for safety

Knocked off bike by a car last Friday evening. Bruised ribs due to hitting handlebars. Listening to BBC Radio 4 this morning I hear some bullshit from an Imperial College Professor about the UK Government “moving in the right direction” on greenhouse gasses and pollution.

In fact this Government has just cut funding for cycling and walking investment and decided to build more roads.

That does not ease my pain or that of Mother Earth. In recent weeks several colleagues have injured themselves doing DIY, on a treadmill, running for a bus and riding to work. I was wondering when my turn would come, and here it is. The middle-aged guy who drove into me was fairly nice about it.

“Sorry Mate I didn’t see you.” is such a common phrase that it now has its own acronym amongst sarcastic cyclists – SMIDSY.

Battle between car and bike, who will win?

Battle between car and bike, who will win?

bicycles are winning in Belgium

bicycles are winning in Belgium

Fortunately he only caught the back of my rear wheel by turning across my path. In fact the irony is that if I hadn’t seen him turning in towards me and started to brake he would have just missed me. Lack of a decent cycle lane and many other factors contributed to this incident but if you look at the cost of attendance by the Police and Ambulance services, the insurance claim, damage to my bike and clothing, distress to my wife, impact of me not cycling to work and resultant increase in weight – all of that costs money to the State and to me.

Gran Canaria is a great place for cycling

Gran Canaria is a great place for cycling

Taking Brother-in-law Bin for a spin in English countryside

Taking Brother-in-law Bin for a spin in English countryside

So George Osbourne’s obsession with reducing public expenditure is really a false economy. I should be back to normal in a few weeks but the UK road system is still 40 years behind that of Denmark, Sweden and Germany when it comes to making cycling safer.

I have been cycling for transport and exercise for 50 years and been knocked off three times, all in the past 5 years and all by drivers making risking and dangerous manoeuvres on the road.

Commute to work on a weekly basis

Commute to work on a weekly basis

Favourite cycling place: Spanish Canary Islands

Favourite cycling place: Spanish Canary Islands

In London there is now massive investment in special cycle lanes, but in Birmingham we are barely scratching the surface. With the climate change accord signed yesterday the UK Government has to invest £40 per person per year in better cycling and walking infrastructure, not the paltry £3 as at present. David Cameron pretends to be green, but by allowing his Chancellor to cynically favour car drivers he is acting against the environment and public health. Cars kill, pollute and lead to obesity. Increasingly car owners are old, white, middle aged or elderly and vote Conservative.

I can understand the wish of politicians to get re-elected but the current Government’s duplicity in relation to cycling is staggering in its blatancy. Mine was a minor incident, but I am a person who people look to for confidence in their cycling. I have persuaded at least 10 people to commute by bike over the past 10 years. What can I say to them now – “Don’t worry, cycling is safe.” When I know it isn’t really. It is a calculated risk, tolerated by my wife because she knows it keeps me fit and happy. I will continue because I will not be beaten down.

It's so safe to cycle in Belgium, Junying hopped on a tendem with Mister

It’s so safe to cycle in Belgium, Junying hopped on a tandem with Mister

A group pf keen cyclists from Mere Green

A group pf keen cyclists from Mere Green, Sutton Coldfield

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