Category Archives: Travel

Granada’s Alhambra: Video Tour (In Spanish w/subtitles) – Southern Spain

Granada’s Alhambra: Video Tour (In Spanish w/subtitles) – Southern Spain
Granada’s Alhambra:  Video Tour (In Spanish w/subtitles) – Southern Spain

What do Sultans, Queens, Christopher Columbus and camera-wielding tourists all have in common?  Standing in awe of Granada’s gem of Moorish architecture:  The Alhambra.

I’d wanted to visit for the last 6 years, and on a perfect sunny day in November, ticket in hand, I climbed the short tree-laiden path to the entrance.  What follows is a short (~3 minutes) video tour, in Spanish with English subtitles, of two parts of the immense fortress and UNESCO World Heritage Site in the south of Spain.


Part 1:  Of COURSE I need a summer house next to my palace (Generalife, summer house, 51 secs)

Huge palace, equipped with gardens, not quite enough?  I didn’t think so.  Let’s build a gorgeous summer house a few minutes’ walk away, shall we?

The immense summer house and accompanying gardens:  Generalife (see video below).


(Can’t see the video?  –> Click here)


Part 2:  The Nasarid Palaces (1 min 51 secs)

Wonderfully decorated, frequently visited and the most important spot in the Alhambra to visit (you even have to go in at a specific, regimented time), the palaces are beautiful.  Only a small-ish section of the palaces are accessible to the general public, but this is more than enough to get a taste of what the sultans, queens and sultans who lived here had as their surroundings.  It’s also where Columbus was given the go-ahead to take a trip to India, which resulted in the discovery of the Americas.  See video below.

Can’t see the video?  –> Click here)


As you can see, this isn’t a video tour of the entire complex (it’s a big place!).  If you’d like to see some more photos Read the rest of this entry

Watch out, Spain: Here I come

Watch out, Spain: Here I come
Watch out, Spain: Here I come

Photo credit:  maradentro

Soon, I’ll be taking a short trip to Spain to practice my Spanish.  Needless to say, I’m excited like a little kid in a candy store, and the 14 hour+ trip will be well worth it.

Since most of my speaking practice is with people from Latin America, I’m really excited to hear more Spanish from Spain, get better at listening to rapid-paced Spanish (and I mean really rapid, especially when i venture north), and get a taste for the different dialects.

What I’m excited about

Creative Lodging with Locals
I plan to use Couchsurfing to find and stay with some friendly locals.  I’m somewhat of a newbie to this, but I’m excited to give it a go and have heard nothing but glowing reports from friends and family who surfed couches.  No surfboard required.

Something I never use: vosotros
In Latin America, ‘ustedes’ is used exclusively to say ‘you (plural)’ (a.k.a. ‘you all’ for American readers).  In Spain, they use vosotros as well.  I’m not particularly good at using vosotros yet, because I never have a need for it.  I’ll be trying my hand at Read the rest of this entry

Sweet As: New Zealand, Superb Accents and Adventure

Sweet As: New Zealand, Superb Accents and Adventure
Sweet As:  New Zealand, Superb Accents and Adventure

Our bus driver, perky and awake even at our 5.30am pickup, greeted each one of us with a big friendly smile as we boarded – even if some of us answered with a half-hearted “hey”, meaning “I need coffee before I can be as perky as you are, but thanks”.  Myself included.  We’ve just returned from two wonderful weeks in the land of the long white cloud, and we’re still buzzing from it.

Making arrangements to our 19.5km Alpine Crossing in Tongariro National Park, two words reigned supreme on this bus, echoed multiple times by our favourite perky driver:  sweet as.  As popularised by the now infamous “Beached Az” whale video, “[adjective goes here] + as” is used at will.  ”That’s wicked as!”, “Tasty as!”.  Easy as.

[Disclaimer to avoid any backlash from Kiwi readers:  I don't proclaim to be an expert on New Zealand, and corrections and extensions are welcome.  15 days of action-packed activity and keen eavesdropping were the inspiration for this post.  =) )


Those are some sweet-as jandles eh, do you use them for tramping?  (Translation below)

Even after two full weeks of the Kiwi accent and learning many-a-new-word, I couldn’t get enough of it.  Even my wife began to grow tired of the grin on my face.  Here are some loveable translations I learned along the way:

Sweet as:  No worries, no problem, easy done.

Eh?, at the end of a sentence:  Sometimes asking for your agreement, but often just as statement with a friendly undertone.  ”What time do we need to be there?” “Oh, about 9am should be fine eh.” = Be there at 9am.

Jandals:  To Australians, jandals means thongs.  To North American folks, flip-flops.

Tramping:  Hiking, trekking, or any activities involving some feet, shoes and a track of some sort.  Walking poles, sunscreen and clothes optional.



We were fortunate to pack in more than a few activities into our 15 day adventure, and this helped me tick off some more items from my list of Big Ambitions.  New Zealand has no shortage of places to throw yourself off, tracks to go tramping (see above) and myriad other fantastic activities.  Below is a snapshot of what we did.  Two years ago I wouldn’t even get on the smallest, wimpiest ride at Luna Park (Melbourne’s lame amusement park), and now I’m getting kicks out of jumping off things, what happened to me?

Safe to say, we loved New Zealand, and can’t wait to go back.  Eh?  

Paragliding over Queenstown

If you’re interested, you can check out more of the photos on Flickr here.  Warning:  some of the poses I’m doing in these photos are ridiculous.

Question:  Any fantastic New Zealand phrases you’ve heard, or want to take revenge and offer some silly phrases coined by us Aussies?  Or have you found any killer adventure activities worth sharing?  Would love to hear in the comments.

Photo credit:  Bluestarink (the kiwi image up top.. not the paragliding, that’s mine)

3 contintents, 6 weeks and 3 languages

3 contintents, 6 weeks and 3 languages
3 contintents, 6 weeks and 3 languages

Photocredit: Pmiaki

To say I’m almost as excited as a cordial-fuelled toddler right now wouldn’t be an exaggeration.  I love to travel, I love to speak other languages, and lately I’m beginning to love adventure more than I ever have.  (2 years ago, I wouldn’t have stepped foot on a rollercoaster if you paid me… but I’m coming around.  Skydiving in Namibia changed me for the better.)

Throughout October and November, I’ll be travelling to 3 continents in 6 weeks, hearing Kiwi English, Thai, and Spanish.  Did I mention I’m excited?

First stop:  New Zealand.  We’ll be taking a two-week adventure trip (with, hopefully, plenty of rest thrown in along the way) and visiting some dear kiwi friends.

Since late high school, I’ve adopted a somewhat dangerous love of trying to imitate the Kiwi accent.  I think I do a pretty good job, but I imagine some New Zealanders would think otherwise.  In the scheme of things, it’s probably mock-worthy.  I’ll be doing my best to leave the kiwi-accent speaking to the locals (while I secretly revel in its splendour).  Love thit accint.

Second stop:  Thailand.  In the last 6 months I’ve developed a real desire to get into salty water, swim towards the floor and get friendly with things that live in the ocean:  I can’t wait to try scuba diving.    I’m booked in for a 4 day course to become a certified Open Water Diver.  (Kind of like getting your Probationary License for a car; with an air tank instead of a vehicle.)

I’ll also be attempting to expand my two-word Thai vocabulary (‘thank you’ and ‘hello’), and try my hand at making – not just eating – some of the local cuisine.  I hear the cooking classes are excellent, and I love Thai food.  Watch out, limes: you’re about to be juiced by me.

Third stop:  Spain.  There is one reason, and one reason only why I’m going to Spain: to speak Spanish.  I’m fortunate in that I get to speak some at home, but I’m hungry for more.   I’d also like to practice the Spanish dialect (including the omnipresent third-person plural ‘vosotros’, used exclusively in Spain and which makes South American Spanish-speakers turn up their noses), and improve my listening comprehension to understand lightning-quick madrileños.  Hey, a boy can dream.

It’s been a year and a bit since my last overseas trip, and I’ve been itching to go ever since I got back.  I’m looking forward to some fresh air, new adventures and something completely different every day.

Isn’t it going to cost a lot?

As Chris Guillebeau rightly points out, travelling doesn’t have to be expensive.  In Thailand, I’ll be staying in basic accomodation and eating local meals (who wouldn’t want to stay in a Bungalow instead of a resort, and eat local food instead of western pizza anyway?  I certainly do).  In Spain, I’ll be having my first dabble into the world of Couchsurfing, which comes highly recommended by some people I know as well as the squillions of online advocates who’ve used the service.  In short, I’ll be trying to make my budget go as far as possible.

More to come

I’ll be sure to post some photos and stories from the trip.  Many of them will no doubt focus on language-related topics, and I hope to have some interesting stories to share, too.  I will be posting during the trip, so I’d love for you to stick around.

Question: Where do you go for inspiration and adventure?  Share in the comments below.


Big Ambitions: Conquering Languages, Travel, and Other Mischief

Big Ambitions: Conquering Languages, Travel, and Other Mischief
Big Ambitions:  Conquering Languages, Travel, and Other Mischief

Photo credit: Jollino

Lately, I’m amazed to see what people can accomplish.  Running 50KMs without stopping, walking across the African continent, and visiting Antarctica are three of the biggest adventure goals I’ve seen set lately by the good folks over at The Impossible League.  (See the cat to the left, also, for an ambitious goal-setter.)

This got me thinking about my own goals related to language learning and other areas of life.  Today it’s with some nerves that I share my list of Big Ambitions.  Many of my ambitions relate to languages (surprise!) and travel, but I’ve included personal development goals, too.  I really feel that setting goals in an important part of achievement, and that also goes for language learning.

Here’s a small snapshot:

  • Complete the top level Japanese exam,  JPLT Level 1 (I’m currently a level 2)
  • Maintain German skills to Zertifikat Deutsch level
  • Attend a one-month French learning program in France or Switzerland
  • Learn French to a conversational level
  • Learn one other language fluently by my 30th birthday (2013)
  • Travel to Spain to practice my Spanish and perfect my ‘vosotros’ form (booked for November 2011)
  • Visit every continent (5 down, 2 to go).
  • Write a book (more on this later)

If you’re interested, you can check out my full list of Big Ambitions by clicking here (including the travel ambitions).


Question:  Care to share your own language learning goals, or big ambitions in other areas of life in the comments?


A table full of languages, teaching orphans in Zambia, and reasons why

A table full of languages, teaching orphans in Zambia, and reasons why
A table full of languages, teaching orphans in Zambia, and reasons why

Three nights ago, it felt almost like summer in Melbourne.  It was warm and balmy, and a big bowl of delicious Malaysian Laksa was staring me in the face.  ”Eat me.  Eat me quick.” it said.  Who was I to say no?

How lucky I was:  a table-full of languages

I was surrounded by four fellow French-learners from my Alliance Française class:  to my left, a friend who also speaks German and Chinese, and is moving to Vienna next year to study at university in German (!).  To his left, the only guy in our class who is able to make jokes that are actually funny in French.  Next, my wife, a bilingual who’s adding French to Spanish and English, and lastly, another classmate who already speaks excellent Japanese.  Between us, 6 languages at a Malaysian restaurant.  As a language nerd, I was in language nerd heaven.

Move to Zambia, anyone? – Language Learners tend to do amazing things

These are the kind of people you tend to meet in language courses.  Over the past 12 years or so, I’ve attended enough language classes to make most people curl up into the foetal position and ask ‘why, oh why?’.  One reason is that the people I meet in the classes are unique and amazing.  Meet these two:

“Yeah, I just thought it would be fun to pack up and go and teach English to orphans in Zambia.  Then I travelled through Africa for a while.”  You did what?  A friend from my French class told me this last week.  Astounding.  Now that’s what I call using your language skills as a force for good.

Australian-born former German classmate: “My (less than 1 year old) daughter is saying some words in German now.  Hopefully she’ll grow up being bilingual.”.   He reads to her often in German.  Consider for a moment: most bilinguals grow up either as having native-speaking parents and being introduced (or forced) into learning, or by learning of their own prerogative.  This friend, however, has taken it upon himself to teach his daughter his (excellent) German from birth.  As a non-native speaker, he is giving his daughter the chance to grow up bilingual; a chance he didn’t have himself.  It’s amazing.

The anonymous reasons why

Above are just two examples.  Then there are the thousands of other language wizards who learn a new language to ‘fit in’, travel the world, move countries, get closer to their family, do business, enjoy art, watch movies, read poetry, or impress their partner.  I’m constantly amazed at the variety of people that are interested in foreign tongues and cultures.

My reason(s)

This tricky, because I could write much more than you’d want to read.  I learned Japanese partly because I was forced to in the beginning.  Then I felt a fire for it and couldn’t stop.  I’ll confess I learnt German partly due to the creamy, delicious wheat beer.  (Ok, perhaps more than partly.).  I learnt Spanish to get closer to my wife (and partly to impress her when she was my girlfriend!) and be able to speak to her family.

And French?  Well, I’m just studying French because I think it sounds wonderful.  I once asked a French-Canadian friend to say “I’m going to kill you with an axe” in French… it still sounded beautiful.  If that’s not evidence of a nice language, I don’t know what is.

Question:  How about you?  What’s your motivation for learning, and have you met any inspiring people along the way?  I’d love to hear your comments below.


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Photo credit: residentevil_stars2001