Smiles & Cheers!

I long for home….Indeed, I find it so true that home is not necessarily a place. It could actually be a situation where you want to be – it is to be with the people you care most about, with the people you are most comfortable, with people where you can be what you really are, without feeling that you are being judged…It is with whom you can pour your heart out, its pain and its longing, and be healed. It is with whom you can open up your withering soul, and gain inspiration or draw strength so you can be renewed.

In one’s life, there are moments when you feel a certain sense of sadness and one never knows immediately why. You examine your life, and you tend to think – where is this coming from, when you see that you seem to have almost everything anyone can ever…

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“When You Are Tired of London, You Are Tired of Life..”

I have never seen a city as vibrant as London. This is a city full of life and colors. It is a city of diversity. Its citizenry is composed of  commoners and nobility. People from all over the world come to visit its various attractions, some  come to work and stay. Its seasons are as diverse as its people. As Londoners often say it – “it is here where one may experience all the seasons in a day” – one moment it could be so warm and sunny, and in one instant, it could be raining; snow flurries are a common occurrence even in the springtime! Its winters are harsh, cold and gray; while its springs are bright, rainy, and flowery; autumns are subtly colorful and romantic. I have lived in London for many years, and I have left it many times. Surprisingly, it is a place you do not miss while you’re out of it in spite of its pervading beauty and vibrancy; however, it is when you go back there that you realize that you have missed everything that has made you feel alive – both its noise and its silence;  its intensity and its subtlety;  its people’s boastful attitude and civility; its people’s patriotism bordering between selfishness and selflessness; its acceptance for diversity and unity. For all its contrasts and complexities, one either hates or loves London, or England as a whole….but the weights of my scale tilt more to loving it….As any Britons would say: “when you are tired of London, you are tired of life”…Indeed, I find this snippet to be true.

Some of the most fascinating memories that I cherish are those of our stay in London. I keep thousands of photos that captured the beauty that I have found in so many places all over England – so for this post, allow me  to share a few of those photos which I find evocative of the feeling that I experienced while living in London, and which I think are the same images that come to  mind when one thinks about England, particularly the vibrant city that is London.

It is springtime once again....all the parks and gardens are bouncing back from the lifeless winter - in full, gorgeous colors....how can one even resist sitting on that bench, staying for a moment to enjoy the serenity in this park garden and admire the breathtaking view of the cherry trees blooming in totally pink splendor?

One can walk the long stretch of the River Thames and be oblivious of the time and distance, as one gets a good vantage viewpoint to all the historic and unique architectural designs of the buildings on both sides of the river.

This is one of the uniquely designed buildings along the River Thames in London. It also looks out to many historical buildings and structures situated across the river, among them the popular Tower Bridge.

On both sides of London's River Thames are skyscrapers, some of them are historical buildings, and most notable among them is the fancy-shaped building, looking like a Faberge egg, which houses the UK headquarter of the Swiss REinsurance group. All 40 floors have an unhampered view of the of the alluvial landscapes of the river banks and its flowing water streams, as well as all the boats and ships that pass through it daily.

Contrary to the lyrics of one nursery song, "London Bridge is falling down..." this bridge is not falling down, and this is not London Bridge either (oftentimes mistakenly called as London Bridge by many) - this is the Tower Bridge. It is suspended above the London River Thames, situated at the towns of Southwark and North Hamlets. It is structurally framed by tons of steel, and so far, it has not fallen down! Tower Bridge is one of the iconic symbols of London.

This is a closer shot of the iron railings of the Tower Bridge, painted in England's national color - crimson red, white, and royal blue.

This is a skylight of a building with well-preserved Georgian architectural feature.

This is a typical Victorian cottage, its wooden structures and stained-leaded glass windows, so lovingly restored and preserved. 

This wall of a church could be a blanket description for all of England's churches - majestic, ever glorious, and divine!

Believe it or not, Ripley's Museum - at the heart of Central London, at Piccadilly Circus. Inside are some unbelievably amazing things! I just love this building's 'lightscapes' - the lights on this building's façade change colors every once in a while. It is one of the many buildings in London that is so well-preserved, and so it is only fitting to highlight it with the most colorful of lightscapes.

This is the façade of the London Victoria Train Station, at the center of London. This train station connects you to Heathrow and Gatwick Airports for international destinations, and to most regions and nearby boroughs of London.

A close up view of the façade of London Victoria Train Station. In spite of the age of the building, it is so well-preserved, and one can't help but look up and admire the beauty of its design. Its cornices and corbels, and its stuccoed walls have intricate details of artistry.

This part of London is so alive at night. All the roads and city sights and activities lead from here - to Trafalgar Square, to the Broadway theaters and Opera districts, to the fine dining and high-end shopping districts, like Harrods' and Fortnum and Mason, and to the big Chinatown. 

Welcome to London's China Town! This is the place to be when you are really, really hungry or if you have a naturally big appetite. Here one can have an enormous choice of authentic Asian cuisines - primarily Chinese dishes, fresh and steaming hot dimsums, genuine Peking ducks, and delicious crispy roasted pork.

This is a monument built to give homage to the messenger of Love , Cupid. It is at the center of the busy district of Piccadilly Circus, and has become a meeting point for people visiting the city. It is a good place to enjoy the heat of the sun on cold winter months. This monument, I guess, is one of the most photographed monuments in London.

One of the places that makes London pulsates with life is Trocadero. There are many souvenir shops of all sorts, coffee shops, restaurants and bars, and movie houses in this area.. On one corner is a monument depicting wild horses. People converge here for photo opportunities, or to cross to the other side to go to Piccadilly Circus and to the other sights of London.

One can hop in to a pink Limo to go around town....or....

Just take a two-tiered public bus....or...

Drive a compact car, so you can whiz through the narrow streets of the city easily.

We used to live in this part of town - Chatsworth Road - where one can find some of the most gorgeous "Sweet Painted Ladies", or old Victorian cottages in one of the leafy boroughs of Surrey.

Some residences in a leafy borough have grand entrances such as this one. Usually, atop this front gate is a sky light made of colorful stained-leaded glass with Victorian designs. I love the kind of red that was used to paint the door, and the bricks-layered steps leading up to the front entrance of the house.

This is a very old English cottage, with Victorian design features, located right beside the flat where we used to live at Woodstock Road. The climbing pink roses on the distressed wooden columns make this old house all the more welcoming. I find it so specially charming despite of its age.

One is said to be "posh" if he lives in a leafy borough, or if the headquarter of a multinational organization like Nestle UK is in his neighborhood......

...or, if he lives a few minutes away from the Queen's residence in London, the Buckingham Palace.

London has some of the most awesome landscaped gardens and parks. When spring comes, all the gardens, paves, and parks blossom back to life after a very cold and dreary winter. In which ever borough one finds himself living, there is  a beautifully landscaped garden, park, and an art gallery.

This is a beautifully landscaped garden park right at the center of London's financial district. Its only decorative feature is a huge, all-weather, hard rubber ball, which seem to suggest that less is more....that we just belong to one world, so we should keep our surrounding clean, mean, and green...short of saying, that we must protect our environment, because we are all connected.

Here’s one particular work of art, a modern art sculpture, made of hard steel, brass, and copper. I especially like the message that the artist of this sculpture has written  all over this art work, which says:


As I reminisce all the beauty I have seen in this part of the world, the awe-inspiring observation of this great philosopher and artist, Leonardo da Vinci about nature and our environment also comes to mind. I can only surmise that in the creation and evolution of a city like London, or a country as beautiful as  Great Britain, this nation simply had to make use of nature or take a cue from nature in all its grand designs. London is exactly what it must be….nothing is lacking…and nothing is superfluous….

This is dedicated to Maricar and Butch Soreno on their wedding day  in April 2012.

Smiles & Cheers!

As I was going through my journal this morning, I happened to come across the draft of a letter I wrote to a close family friend who got married a few years back – let me share it with you – and here it goes: “Joey, take good care of her, and love her as much and as long as forever permits. Remember, a woman like her, is like a flower. You may smell her for her scent and admire her for her beauty, but once you pluck her, you will have to make sure that you will nourish her so that she may last long, and stay as fragrant and as beautiful as when you first smelled and plucked her….THERE WILL BE NO OTHER FLOWER LIKE HER….”

….”People get married with the best of intentions and with anticipation of many happy moments together, but should disappointment come, as it…

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Watching Sunsets

I love watching sunsets….for me, my favorite part of the day is when the sun seems to try the best it could to hide beneath the layers of clouds….when it spread its glorious colors upon everything it hits, like a peacock spreading its tail. When I was a child, I often wondered where the sun goes when it leaves, or why everything beneath it turned yellow or why the clouds  looked like pink sugar candy as the sun starts to disappear…..I thought then, that was so magical…until I went to school, and science “spilled the beans”, in the same way that someone spoils the fun of looking forward to Santa’s gifts on Christmas by saying that there is no Santa Claus!

Here are some photos I took of the sunset at a small fisherman’s village, called Canyon Cove.  The scenes just completely brought back to my present, those magical moments I experienced as a child….

..."You see, one loves the sunset when one is so sad...I have seen the sunset 44 times..." Antoine de Saint Exupery, Le Petit Prince

The cove basked in beautiful colors cast by the light reflection from the setting sun.

It certainly feels good walking barefoot on the fine, white sands of Canyon Cove. The play of the light and shadow from the sunset makes the sandy shores of the cove an appealing subject for one's artistic expression.

"The water was glassy and calm, still candy-colored in the afterglow of sunset."....Stephen King

One watches the sunset because it is able to revive that lost sense of magic into our lives…And as one author aptly said it:  “We love to watch the sunset, not only because it is beautiful…but because it is fleeting…”

‘Boxing’ Day and Red Shoes!

It has been a long time since I have written a post because in recent months, so many activities took center stage in my life. First, my husband and I decided to move back to Asia, after living for so many years in  Europe. Then, a few months after we have settled down, my eldest son who had lived for most parts of his life in the United States, decided to join us.  This move entailed a lot of tedious time sorting and re-arranging all our personal belongings which we have accumulated over the years. Adjusting  to a new way of life also took so much of my time – in meeting new friends, forging and reviving old friendship, hosting lunches and dinners for friends and relatives, or attending to  invitations for a ‘get-together’. I also undertook a major extension and renovation of our kitchen in support to the increasing needs of a previously disbanded family, to one that has recently united under one roof.  When I had dealt with every little thing, and just as we were beginning to get familiarized to our present surroundings, Christmas came. Then, I got busy decorating our home to keep up with the spirit of the holidays, and with the season being a season of giving, finding those delightful little presents for the special people in my life also kept me occupied for most part of  the Christmas holidays. Days passed by as swiftly as they came – just like a breeze!…Before I realized it, the new year has set in, and then, it was time for me  to keep all the Christmas holiday decor once again and tuck away the Christmas tree in its old and almost tattered box….This is what I call my version of ‘Boxing Day’, when after the holiday season, I gather all the boxes for all the Christmas ornaments and I begin the tangible aspect of  removing and keeping all these lovely, glittering objects that have brighten up our home for that brief holiday season, tediously putting them all back into their original boxes.

Balls in different sizes, shapes, and glittering colors adorn our Christmas tree.

Big colorful balls in red, white, and silver  glitter, putting a festive touch on our traditional Christmas tree.

No matter in what shape or color, surely, balls such as this can make any Christmas tree look festive.

By this time, everything ‘Christmas-y’ is now in its respective boxes.  For many months, these boxes will be forgotten, stacked at the farthest end or on the topmost part of some storage rooms. The ‘rush-rush’ of the festive holiday season, has now been replaced by the ‘hush-hush’ of the new year. The tangible, have been quickly done and gotten over; however, some intangibles still remain – such as  the joy and the happiness that have tickled my heart – brought about by a surprise visit on  Christmas morning by two cute, lovely girls,named Princess and Jessabelle, who are  daughters of a family friend. I met them at the front door, and they kissed my hand, and gave me a somewhat shy smile. They looked  like fragile dolls, garbed in colorful dresses, with matching pairs of shiny shoes. I  loved the way they have dressed up for that special day, so I  asked them to pose for a photo using  our Christmas tree as a background. I just love how their photos turned out as these have captured  that certain look of ladylike finesse from these young girls, in spite of their natural childhood innocence.

A little princess named “Princess” came to visit me on Christmas day, all dressed up in sweet lilac party dress.

Jessabelle, looking like a doll, as she posed for a photo by the Christmas tree.

These lovely ‘princesses’ reminded me of those days many, many years ago, when I was just at their age –  when I was full of innocence and wonder; that was  when I looked forward to the  Christmas holiday as a break from all those tiring, and oftentimes boring, routine school days…when I had joyful anticipation of  Christmas, firmly believing that it would be the day when all my wishes would come true.

It was a joy watching them open the tiny gift box I gave to each of them. Their excitement and genuine appreciation were so visible  as they hurriedly tore open their gift.  It didn’t seem to matter to them whether the gift was big or small; whether it was worthless or priceless, nor did they seem to have any expectation. The gratitude attitude of my surprise guests reminded me to be more appreciative and grateful for the simple joys that come my way.  They may not know it, but through their sheer youthfulness, playfulness, and perhaps by the graceful way they carried themselves, and their colorful and very becoming get-ups, Princess and Jessabelle made me want to be young again; they have  made me look at life again with childlike wonder and excitement for what tomorrow will bring, in spite of my age.

Remembering how these two young girls dressed up for that special occasion, I am now inclined to throw away all my “old and serious” looking clothes in shades of pale colors, as well as all my “safe and comfy” pairs of shoes, and  start dressing the way I want to feel – happy, beautiful, upbeat, and young! I would like to  start wearing that bright red skirt I have been too embarrassed to wear on certain occasions….and those  faded pairs of blue jeans….and what the heck! I will not even think twice about  matching them with an equally bright red pair of stiletto shoes!

My favorite pair of red shoes will go very well with my red skirt or faded blue jeans…Beautiful to look at,  but hey! wear them  only if you are  to be carried to your car or destination!

I wish everyone a wonderful new year.  May all your days be filled with many priceless, intangible presents! Smiles and Cheers!