Johannesburg : Ukutula Lion Research Centre

My fascination with felines originates from earlier than I recall. I was 10 when we adopted a 3 month old Mochin from the cat rescue in my hometown. We grew up together. Observing each other from a distance, cuddling in the chilly nights and learning how to walk gracefully (in paws or heels). Thing is, my love for cats kept growing and growing. Then I moved out, spent 8 years abroad. Mochin passed away in 2008 and well, I eventually returned to Spain, under the promise of having a cat back to my life - so Byakko joined our home.

Some people criticized us for chosing a purebreed cat over a rescue one, still I was very mesmerized by the idea of sharing home with a new level of wildness. Bengals are (at least) four generations away from an Asian Leopard Cat - a small wildcat native of South East Asia - but they  still showcase very special personality traits. Bengal is not a breed for beginners. Byakko is very demanding of attention, always willing to play, much stronger and more active than the average house cat. Still he is also very loving and caring, always licking your hand and rolling on the floor when you arrive home from work, until he gets you to scratch his tummy.

Some years ago, I watched this National Geographic documentary called animals in the womb where embryo development between different species was compared, using advanced 4D ultrasound and recreation. We are used to the human pregnancy imaging, but this was the first time to use it with felines. Ironically, the cat and the lion embryos are extremely similar until the last months, when the unique features are developed. However, even after being born their behaviour is apparently much more alike than we think - Enrique told me that lion cubs played in the same way as Byakko and that they also loved to have someone scratching their chin.

Ukutula Lion Research Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa is a great place for lion, leopard and other African animal encounters - plus some other non-African felines, such as tigers. South Africa may not be the safest place on Earth, but the park is worth visiting if you are a feline nerd like myself (^_^) The conservation work is also very critical, since a majority of the pantherinae (i.e. big felines like tiger, lion, jaguar, leopard, snow leopard and clouded leopard) species are endangered - maybe because of the beauty of their skin, their powerful features and the apparent pleasure that some f***ing a****le find on hunting them. In addition to lions, they feature other felines and animals that find a home in this place of quiet.

Soon after I wrote this post, people started to comment both at in our facebook and instagram accounts, warning me about suspicions of Ukutula being involved in canned hunts. Ukutula is accused by many, including their own volunteers to sell grown-up lions (once they are no longer cuddlable cubs) to people who are willing to pay up to $50000 to bring some trophy back home. I was then referred to a documentary called Blood Lions, shot by National Geographic earlier this year.

Together with the incidents in Paris. I am losing hope in human race. We are the only species with guts to kill peers, either for fun or for terror. 

The human fascination with lions comes from our early days on Earth. Lions were first captured by human art in the Paleolithic (32000 years ago) in some ivory carving. They were then taken by all ancient cultures (Egypt, Mesopothamia, Persia, Greece, Roma) to provide a sense of majesty and awe, at the entrance of buildings, decorating coins or becoming the symbol for cities, tribes and gods.

Lions even made it to China, despite NOT being native of the far eastern territories. It all started in India, where a native Asiatic Lion species - now endangered - was adopted as symbol of the reincarnation of Vishnu into a man-lion, so the lion became worshipped by Hinduism. Cultural depictions and the reverence of lion as the noble yet powerful beast in Asia was influenced by Indian culture, through Buddhism. Ever wondered where all these funny lion statues around Asia were coming from? There you go, cannot get any better outof an artist who never saw a real one

Lion cub


Baby Leopard - behaving much as Byakko does

Baby Tiger, food & mum

Lion King

Such a lovely day.

Ukutula [WEB]
Open: 10 - 14 (Monday - Sunday)
Fee: 33€ (lion encounter, without walking with lions)

*If you are not staying there, it takes about 1.5h by car from Johannesburg (Sandton area)

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Faro : Se7e Pedras

Se7e Pedras restaurant in Faro

Se7e Pedras is one of the many cute little restaurants in Faro.
Big bang for the buck. One of the main reasons why I say it is highly recommended to stay in Faro.

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The Pinkprint

I have been compulsively listening to Nicki Minaj since June, simply because we were dancing Shanghai in DFLOW - so I took the chance, to download the whole album on iTunes. I am now a big fan of her Minajesty.

While you may associate her with Anaconda, pink wigs and a big butt, she is a lot more - both as a musician and as a human. Pinkprint is packed of relatable humble inspiring beautiful songs. It was written while she breaking up with her long time boyfriend Safaree Samuels. Nicki used the album as an opportunity to deal with and leave the pain behind "I didn’t want to make an album that was just being fake-happy: I wanted to deal with it, and leave it, and move on, and be real-happy." as she also put it at some point "brokenness leads to beautiful art sometimes and it's OK as long as it inspires people".

Thanks Nicki for being open about it. I am one of the many inspired by your art. Lyrics like Grand Piano or The Crying Game are so real and supportive. Highly recommended to any of you is going through some tough time in life.

Life is too short, don't waste it crying over spilled milk. Start with the man in the mirror, asking him to change his ways. Deal with it, man. Solve it or accept it. Move on. To a new phase in the relationship or a new phase in life (alone).

Beautiful promo-video of The Pinkprint
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Portugal : El Algarve

El Algarve
Se acerca el Puente del Pilar, seguro que hay quien anda buscando destino a última hora, así que os propongo el Algarve.

El Algarve es la region sur de Portugal y recibe su nombre de los Árabes「غرب الأندلس」que lo denominaron "el occidente de Al-Andalus". Se ha convertido en una zona muy popular, por ofrecer una mezcla bastante atractiva de playas, acantilados, buena gastronomía e historia, en los muchos pueblecitos que ocupan la costa. Pese a que siento bastante aversión por los típicos destinos turísticos, acepté pasar unos días de descanso allí - aprovechando el puente de la Virgen de Agosto - que irónicamente se han convertido, junto a la semana en Tokyo, en mis únicas vacaciones en lo que va de año.

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Curaçao : Top 3 beaches

Curaçao top 3 beaches

Despite picking warm locations as main vacation destination, we are not really beach lizards - neither can stand lying during hours doing absolutely nothing. We chose tropical locations because they open up for tropical hiking, amazing jungles, temples, water sports or diving. Of course sometimes we take a nap under the sun, but by no means is that the center of our vacation. Having said so, we explored the beaches of Curaçao trying to find the hidden gems.

The south of the island was rather disappointing. It didn't really feel like Paradise and it didn't feel like vacation spot either. Some beaches had huge scary boats anchored like 100m away from the shore. So you didn't feel like swimming or even staying.

Curaçao top 3 beaches

But the North West of Curaçao, boy that's another story... So here's a quick summary of our top 3 beaches.
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Tokyo : Junie Moon

Blythe doll

Junie Moon es la flagship store de las muñecas Blythe en Tokyo. Situada a más o menos un minuto de nuestra antigua casa en Daikanyama, es un sitio al que me llena de nostalgia volver, ya que el regalo de mi primer cumpleaños en Japón fue precisamente eso, una muñeca Blythe - con gafas de pasta negras incluidas.

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Curaçao : Le Gouverneur de Rouville

Restaurant & cafe Gouverneur de Rouville, Curaçao

Long ago I assumed it. We are not the kind of couple that does date nights twice a week or gets trunks filled with roses. But it's been 10 years together, different countries and things we've gone through, so I guess the strategy of keeping it simple must be quite a thing to consider - at least for people like us. Nevertheless, sometimes you just bump into these kind of places that do feel like a "date night spot" so you dress up and get the butterflies flying.

We basically discovered Gouverneur de Rouville restaurant in Curaçao because it is located right in front of Museum Kura Hulanda. We got captivated by the entrance to the garden, that felt like time travel back to Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Spot on. Abraham de Rouville was born in 1812 in the Netherlands and came to Curaçao in 1856 where he was working in the city hall - despite being educated as a doctor. 5 years later he took over as governor. The place where this magic restaurant happens is nothing but his former home.

The bar upstairs has that leathery gentlemen's club atmosphere, with cracked leather chester sofas and cigar aroma. The garden where we had dinner is the spot for romance. Reservations highly advised!

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Curaçao : Willemstad

Willemstad walk

Willemstad is the capital of Curaçao. Equipped with a rich history, dating back to the 16th century, Willemstad has so many historic buildings that the old town is recognized as Unesco World heritage site. Split in two by the Queen Emma Bridge - that swings open and close to let big ships cross the channel - the former capital of the Netherlands Antilles is a city split in two, Otrobanda - with Rif Fort - and Punda - with a million colorful houses. You can explore Willemstad in one day, but make sure to start by Museum Kura Hulanda, which is one of the best museums I ever visited in my life - deserves its own post, actually.

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Curaçao : Museum Kura Hulanda

Willemstad walk

No sé si se debe a los dos meses que llevo bailando Ragga, pero tengo la sensación de que hoy en día se celebra la cultura Afroamericana. Vogue anunciando la era del booty sumado al twerking como forma principal de baile, Rihanna en #cropover, los cho-chorts y las lunas de miel de Safari en Tanzania + Zanzibar siendo el hit de las últimas bodas.

Pero por qué hay tantos negritos en Curaçao, en comparación con lo que había en Aruba y Bonaire?

Reconocer tu ignorancia es el primer paso para aprender algo nuevo. 

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Bonaire : Pink Flamingos

pink flamingoes in Bonaire

The Caribbean Flamingo inhabits the Caribbean Islands and the north coast of South America, but is extremely picky about breeding sites. The ground needs to have the right consistence to make that volcano shaped nest, so a thick layer of firm mud is preferred. They also crave enough food (with high salt content) and fresh water. And silence please. If a predator or human noise reaches the flamingoes, the breeding will stop. Bonaire is therefore a sweet spot for them to breed.

Flamingoes are the only filter feeders among birds. They are able to eat by holding their heads down and into the water. With those long legs, they shake the salinas and use the tongue as fast plunger to drive water and mud along the bill, which is equipped with filters that are able to separate food from mud. Young flamingoes have smaller holes in those filters, so they only eat algae but as they grow up, the holes grow too, letting through tiny mollusks, shrimp and larvae - no longer vegetarian.

Their height is usually between 115-170 cm, wingspan is around 2.5m and their weight remains below 4kg. They only lay one egg, that takes 28 days to incubate. They may live up to 50 years (even if 25 is average). Bonaire is key for flamingoes, out of the 50K that inhabit the Caribbean, 8K are in Bonaire.

Their color comes from the betacarotene content on the animals they feed upon and since their feathers fade in the sunlight, they escaped the plumage trade. Flamingoes are monogamous and cute as hell. I like them so much that I got Kudasai home a long time ago, getting him to travel the world with us.
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Taipei: The diner

the diner, best brunch in Taipei

When I am traveling, I always take eggs for breakfast. They are easy to digest, filling and unlikely to get your tummy swollen making the pencil skirt a lot less flattering. Specially love those hotels where they have “the omelette fella” so you can ask him for veggie and no-cheese scramble. So good.

Still, in some extreme situations, I don’t manage to wake up early enough for breakfast. In this case, I arrived g at 3AM to the hotel thanks to a China Airlines delay - by the way, try to avoid them if you can, CA flights left delay twice in the same week, soI almost missed the flight back to Europe - so I woke up quite late the morning after, left the hotel super hungry at 12.

What to do then? Brunch, of course.

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Tokyo : Urth Caffé Daikanyama

for brunch in Tokyo go to Urth Caffé in Daikanyama

Tengo la tensión bastante baja, así que necesito empezar el día con un café (solo) gigante y un buen desayuno. De ahí que durante los viajes, este momento se convierta a menudo en la comida estrella del día. En la que te sientas a planear lo que vas a hacer, compartes unas fotos del día anterior o respiras hondo, pensando en cómo irá el customer meeting. A menudo, la tripa - normalmente llena de verduras y pescado - se resiente de especias, arroz y carne, a las que no estoy acostumbrada. De ahí que siempre termine buscando sitios de brunch en los que reiniciar mi organismo y recuperar el bienestar en lo que me queda de viaje.

Urth Caffé Daikanyama - el barrio de Tokyo donde vivimos casi 3 años - es bastante especial, principalmente porque habré pasado por la puerta unos tres millones de veces (era parte de mi ruta preferida, caminando 15 min desde casa hasta el famoso cruce de Shibuya) pero nunca encontré el momento de probarlo. A veces la vida te da una segunda oportunidad y creo que la aproveché al máximo en este segundo viaje. Los que seguís a Rumi Neely, estáis acostumbrados a sus post en los que siempre aparece con un almond latte en el branch de LA, que es de donde viene este cadena que se centra en productos 100% orgánicos, con presencia en el US West Coast. En Mayo de 2014 abrieron otro en Omotesando, dado el éxito del primero que estaba siempre lleno de adolescentes, expat wives y ladies who lunch.

Soy una fanática de los huevos, así que probé los Eggs Benedict with Salmon y el Egg & Avocado Sandwich, además de los zumos orgánicos y un café gigante. Es más caro que Starbucks (que por cierto, en Tokyo es de lo más barato que hay) pero merece la pena, porque con un brunch así llegas casi sin hambre hasta la cena - cuanto menos paras, más te da tiempo a ver (^ * ^)

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