About Renee Blodgett
Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.
She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.
Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.
Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.
Latest Posts by Renee Blodgett
When headed to Busan or the surrounding area, a great add on to your trip is a visit to the magestic Beomeosa Temple just beyond the city’s northern suburbs. The Beomeosa Temple is one of Korea’s largest temples, dating back to 678 A.D.
To get to the entry gates, you cross over a beautiful arched bridge and mountain brook. At the entry way/gates, which is known as the Gate of the Heavenly Kings, you will be faced with a 7th century three-stone pagoda, which was built some time during the Silla era, around 826-836 A.D. and the main temple hall, which was built around 1614.
Beomeosa is a head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism in Cheongnyong-dong, Geumjeong-gu, Busan, South Korea. Built on the slopes of Geumjeongsan, it is one of the country’s most known urban temples. Built by the great priest UiSang during the reign of King MunMu, it is one of ten HwaEom temples in Korea. It was established to realize the purpose of HwaEom which pursues life full of happiness and generosity.
Along with HaeInsa and TongDosa, Beomeosa is one of the three largest temples in Young Nam province, and home to Buddhist cultural assets and famous great priests. Great masters including UiSang, WonHyo, PyoHun, NangBaek, MyungHak, GyeongHeo, YongSeong, SeongWol, YongUn, and DongSan had studied and practiced here. Master priest DongSan had led Buddhist Purification Movement and worked as driving force for modern Buddhism in Korea.
SeonChalDaeBonSan means a place where people can meditate and clear their mind. Through meditation, all useless ideas can be vanished and people can look into their true inner-self and realize their Buddhist mind. When Buddhist priest SeongWol worked as the abbot of Beomeosa during the Greater Korean Empire period, the priest declared Beomeosa as main temple practicing meditation and invited great Buddhist priest GyeongHeo as the master teacher for Beomeosa Zen center.
There are three jewel monasteries.The Buddha jewel monastery is Tongdosa, the Dharma jewel monastery is Haeinsa, and the Sangha jewel monastery is Songgwangsa. Beomeosa is the fourth Meditation (Seon) jewel monastery where people can find the root of their arising thought and mind.
Yo Gye Mun Gate, which is also called as Il Ju Gate or One-Pillar Gate, was built in a row with stone pillar by Master Myo Jeon. It is the first door that leads to the sacred world of Buddha. As the world of truth has no discrimination, it is said that people coming into the door have to leave their discriminative ideas behind. The hanging board reads “SeonChalDaeBonSan Beomeosa” and the gate is the best gate ever founded in Korea, being designated as treasure.
A walk through this remarkable temple is highly worth doing and is a must do for your Busan/South Korea trip. Not only is the temple itself magestic and beautiful but so are the views beyond it. Go for a walk with me and see why it gets a major two thumbs up from this well-versed traveler.
Inside, they pray of course.
Just at the entrance where people leave their shoes behind.
Also a nice day trip from the city of Busan is to the Gaedong Yonggunsa Temple (below), where you’ll pass the beautiful Korean countryside to get there. It is one of the most striking landmarks in Busan thanks to its unusual location by the sea. You climb 108 steps to the entrance, past statues of Buddha and along a dramatic rocky backdrop. You can also head to Dongbaekseom Island from here and see the stunning APEC House, which was built for the 2005 APEC Economic Leader’s Meeting. Also here is the Mermaid Statue, which is surrounded by dense pine trees.
Busan, South Korea
All photos Renee Blodgett, except for of the Gaedong Yonggunsa Temple, which was taken from flickr, name not noted.
The warm breeze in my hair, a margarita in hand and the view of St. Julian’s Bay makes for a perfect night in Malta. The skies are majestic, the rocks protruding from the water exude color and richness and the warm crashing of the waves take me back to another time. It’s a great place to go on long walks and take in the island’s beauty or have a great meal outside, while enjoying the balmy weather.
Malta’s a small island but don’t let its size fool you into thinking there’s not a lot to do there. Quite the contrary — there are tons of activities suitable for every kind of traveller.
The beach is a great option for everyone; from families with small children to entertain, to couples wanting to laze in the sun, to active twenty-somethings looking to try their hand at water-sports. The sandy beach of Golden Bay is one of the largest beaches in Malta and despite also being one of the most popular, it has remained relatively undeveloped and has retained its natural beauty. For those looking for a more secluded option, head up to Paradise Bay, which is a little further from the action of the main beaches.
History buffs will love walking the streets of Valletta, the country’s capital, and a World Heritage City. If you’re an art-lover, be sure to wander around the Museum of Fine Arts, set inside a beautiful Maltese palace located on South Street. For a day out, hop on the ferry to Gozo, the second largest island in the archipelago. I’d highly recommend touring this beautiful island by boat, as there’s no better way to see the majestic cliffs and caves that run along its coastline.
Because the island of Malta is relatively small, every type of accommodation feels quite homey. The Qawra Palace Hotel located right on the Mediterranean seafront, has all you’d ever need; a yummy restaurant, a pristine pool and the seaside promenade right on your doorstep. The Paradise Bay Resort Hotel and InterContinental Hotel Malta also come highly recommended.
Food & Drink
When in Malta, be sure to try some of the delicious, local grub. The Maltese love their cheese, traditionally made from goat or sheep’s milk, and it can be found flavouring soup, topping off a pasta dish or pickled and eaten on its own. Stews are also big in Malta, and the local favourite is rabbit stew, usually served in a rich tomato sauce with a glass of red wine on the side. Speaking of wine, be sure to tour some of the wineries on the island and find out for yourself just how delicious their vino is. It’s quite possibly Malta’s best-kept secret!
Finally, the people make the place and you can’t beat the friendliness of the Maltese. Most are warm and welcoming, and love to show off the beauty of their island. They do have a bit of that hot-blooded Mediterranean passion in them, but this is generally a good thing! The Maltese are family-oriented and if you’re lucky enough to get invited to a local’s house for dinner, expect it to last for hours!
Images by Robert Pittman and Berit Watkin used under the Creative Commons license.
Note: this post was contributed and made possible by First Choice, one of our partners.
Nantucket is a magical place. Known for so many things, but one of them are its sunsets. This precious New England island, roughly 30 minutes off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, attracts the wealthy, the beautiful and the retired and it’s not hard to see why.
I used to go here in my twenties from time to time to get away from urban Boston, especially in the summer. It’s an incredibly beautiful island to bike around and so we did exactly that on one late August afternoon. We also took in some of these warm and lovely sunsets from the ferry on our way back to the main land. Enjoy and be sure to read our other Nantucket coverage, including our general round-up on Nantucket as well as our photo post on Nantucket sunflowers. Hint hint – they’re as stunning as the island’s sunsets.
Note: The Cape Cod Tourism Board offered some assistance during my stay in Cape Cod, including the ferry across to Nantucket, however all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
I had heard about Kyoto from countless travelers over the years, and with such passion that most would say leave Tokyo behind if you had limited time and just explore the north, taking in as much Kyoto as you can. It depends on who you talk to of course, however Kyoto is certainly a place that draws the crowds because of his historical and cultural past and the fact that it is stunningly beautiful.
When you imagine Japan, you think of its remarkable Shinto shrines, Zen temples and sublime Zen gardens, with geisha in abundance, and beautifully colored robes and umbrellas on every corner. Kyoto is a bit like that, but with modern influences throughout.
Kyoto is located in the central part of the island of Honshu, Japan. I didn’t get there the way most might on a more traditional tour of Japan, which would be a bullet train from Tokyo or one of the direct buses. I landed via ship at the port of Maizuru in central Japan on the west coast and from there, took a bus to various parts of Kyoto, which included shrines and temples.
For a city with a population of 1.5 million, it’s astonishing that you still hear the word quaint as this Japan gem’s description. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan for more than one thousand years, it is now the capital city of Kyoto Prefecture. One historical nickname for Kyoto is the City of Ten Thousand Shrines. And it is indeed; its countless shrines, temples and gardens are what paint the picture of quaint in one’s mind and why Kyoto has such a reputation for its sheer beauty and charm.
Historically, Kyoto served as Japan’s capital and the emperor’s residence from 794 until 1868. Despite the fact that Kyoto was destroyed by fires and wars over the years, it luckily got spared from air raids during World War II which means that its beautiful temples and shrines remain standing today.
This post takes in the shopping culture, and some of the cultural and historical aspects including the Togetsukyo Bridge, Arashiyama’s well known, central landmark. Many small shops, restaurants and other attractions are found nearby, including Tenryuji Temple and Arashiyama’s famous bamboo groves and pleasure boats that are available for rent on the river. I wrote about the Bamboo Forest in a separate article.
North of central Arashiyama, it becomes more rural and there are several small temples scattered along the base of the wooded mountains. In Western Kyoto, be sure to visit Kokedera, called a moss temple because of its garden and Katsura Villa, an Imperial Villa which has a stunning landscape garden.
In Northern Kyoto, be sure not to miss the Kinkakuji, which is an exquisite golden temple, the Imperial Shugakuin Villa, Kibune, a town with a pretty shrine in the northern mountains, the Ninnaji Temple and Kurama, a rural town with a temple and hot springs. There is also Ryoanji Temple, the famous temple with a rock garden, which we wrote about in a separate article. Be sure to check it out as we include a lot of great photos.
In eastern Kyoto, you can visit Kiyomizudera, which is famous for its large wooden terrace and 3 temples: Ginkakuji, Sanjusangendo, which has 1,001 human sized statues, and Nanzenji Temple, a zen temple with a lovely stone garden. Also famous in the east part of Kyoto is Higashiyama, a well known historical district and Gion, Kyoto’s most famous geisha district.
In central Kyoto, Nishiki Market is well known and Nijo Castle, Former Kyoto residence of the shogun and Kyoto Imperial Palace.
Below, a Japanese family dines next to us at a shared table at Cafe Arashiyama Rusk, one of the larger restaurants in the area. We had no shortage of things to nibble on. Yum!
Kyoto is also a shopper’s delight, with a myriad of fans, kimonos, dresses, robes, umbrellas, silk materials, scarves, bags and hats to choose from.
The river is of course nearby and a long leisurely walk past it is a definite must do regardless of how much time you have.
OR, of course you could get a bike and cycle around the area in which case you could cover more ground. It is incredibly serene and beautiful.
Getting There By Japan Railways (JR)
The fastest access from Kyoto Station to Arashiyama is provided by the JR Sagano Line (also known as JR Sanin Line). The one way ride to Saga-Arashiyama Station takes 15 minutes and costs 240 yen. From Saga-Arashiyama Station, central Arashiyama can be reached in a 5-10 minute walk.
Getting There By Keifuku Railways (Randen)
The small trains on the Keifuku Arashiyama Line connect Arashiyama with Omiya Station at the intersection of Shijo Street and Omiya Street in central Kyoto (20 minutes, 200 yen). Keifuku Railways also provides access to Kitanohakubaicho Station in northern Kyoto, not far from Kinkakuji, Ryoanji and Ninnaji Temples (20-30 minutes, 200 yen). One transfer of trains is required along the way. Keifuku Arashiyama Station is located in the very center of Arashiyama.
Getting There By Hankyu Railways
From Kawaramachi or Karasuma Station in central Kyoto (Shijo Street), take the Hankyu Main Line to Katsura Station and transfer to the Hankyu Arashiyama Line for Arashiyama. The one way trip takes about 20 minutes and costs 220 yen. Hankyu Arashiyama Station is located on the opposite side of the river, about a 5-10 minute walk from central Arashiyama.
Note: Princess Cruises sponsored my trip to Japan, however all side trips and attractions and my opinions of them are entirely my own and are not shaped by taking the cruise with them.
Imagine a conference that combines surfing, technology and entrepreneurship on Ireland‘s magical wild coast. A subset if you will of Dublin’s Web Summit, the first ever held Surf Summit brought 200 attendees to the west coast of Ireland to join in discussions, surfing and other adventurous and cultural activities.
When I told people I was going to an event where they planned to surf in Ireland’s coastal waters in the middle of November, they looked at me as if I was a bit mad, unless of course they happened to be Canadian or from a Nordic or Celtic country.
You see, the Scots, the Welsh, the English, the Scandinavians and the Canadians thought this sounded perfectly normal, for when you come from a country where it is cold and rainy, you need to have a “can-do” attitude regardless of the climate or you simply won’t experience anything at all. I learned this from living in England many moons ago and it has made me a lot more resilient because of it.
I was born into water — in other words, I grew up on lakes, was thrown into one before I could walk and was waterskiing by 5. None of that quite prepares you for the cold waters of the Atlantic, however the enthusiasm of the entrepreneurs at the Summit made it easier to embrace it all. Below is a beginner lesson on the shores of Keel Beach on Achill Island which is part of West Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.
Achill Island is the largest island off the coast of West Ireland. The island is a magical place where the light seems to bless the Irish coast regardless of whether its foggy, cloudy, raining or clear blue skies and sunny, a rarity, especially in November. That said, we had our moments.
Other adventurous activities took place as well such as zorbing, rope climbing, zip lining, and archery thanks to the guys at Wild Atlantic Way Adventure Tours. I had oddly never heard of zorbing and when they told me it involved getting thrown into a massive inflatable ball and being thrown vigorously down a hill, I was thankful I was on the archery team.
That said, when I walked past the ball on my way to Archery, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized, so much so that I looked at Jenni, the Finnish girl I was hanging with at the time and said, “let’s do this.” Next thing you know, we were inside a massive inflatable ball, strapped in on all sides and yes, thrown down the hill. Needless to say, it was a blast and our screams surpassed all the others we were told.
I decided to go ziplining as well, since I’ve always loved the sport. While it may not have been as invigorating as the times I flew through the jungles of Costa Rica, Ecuador or Hawaii, it was fun nevertheless.
Below, people threw themselves towards a target hanging from a tree, with both themselves and the target connected to ropes.
Instead, there were two teams and rather than shoot an arrow into a target (speaking of targets, check out my most recent encounter with guns in Kentucky), you shot rubber objects into the opposing team. I felt as if I had signed up for a history lesson on what it was like for the Scots to win a war before there was ammunition. Only in a Celtic Land I was thinking to myself throughout the entire process, but with a smile on my face.
Speaking of Celtic Lands, it wouldn’t be a conference in Ireland if it didn’t have plenty of beer and pub culture. On the main drag of Westport lies a few renowned pubs my old friend Peter told me about, which is worth having a pint or two if you make it to Westport. Enter McGings on High Street and Matt Malloys on Bridge Street, both popular favorites among locals.
Matt Malloys is known for its live traditional Irish music and Matt has purposely kept the pub small, so that they can congregate – as they do, from all 32 counties – to enjoy a pint and a tune.
At the evening sessions of the event, they served Guinness on tap which is always a treat, since regardless of whether you only like Guinness or love it (I’m in the last category), it always tastes better in Ireland. Ask anyone who has been to Ireland and is a regular Guinness drinker and they’d have to agree.
In the midst of all of these physical activities which we never seem to incorporate into our more stationary tech events in the states, was a series of talks over meals. We heard from John Huikku who has done everything from lighting and compositing, to 3D matte painting, environments and look development. He spent 15 years working at Disney and worked on Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in New Zealand of all places.
Edgars Rozenthals talked about drones, Airdog and Kickstarter, Andrew Cotton talked about surfing but also big ideas and equating his daredevil life riding the waves (such as him tackling the surf created by the St. Jude’s Storm in Portugal recently), to taking risks and chances in business and life in general.
While you may only think risk behavior on waves that could kill if you hit them wrong may only be a male choice, think again! Anastasia Ashley, who was drawn to the ocean as early as she can remember, was body boarding by age 4 and surfing by age 6. She has since become a prodigy and has won over 200 amateur events, including the NSSA National championships at age 16, before she turned professional full time.
She loves the immediacy of digital media for reaching fans. She says, “I could be shooting something for a brand or a magazine and it can be up within a few days” which is a great way to deepen the engagement. She adds, “when you’re in the media, you read everything about yourself,” but has learned to love it all — the good interactions and the bad.
When you’re a celeb female surfer and do a twerking video, you shouldn’t be surprised when it suddenly goes viral and gets 7 million views. While there are lots of positive sides to what she has accomplished, she acknowledged that “females in any sport get the short end of the stick,” referring to men who still tell her she doesn’t deserve her fame and notoriety.”
Jimmy Gopperth and Jonny Golding talked about what you can take from rugby and apply to business, of which trust and teamwork were his top two. Decision making was another biggie, particularly making decisions under pressure, which happens as much on the field as it does in and out of the board room.
Niall Harbison encouraged people to take risks.
Being a true entrepreneur says Niall, means that you can’t be afraid to fail. Other tips to entrepreneurs included banging the door down no matter how hard it seems, not taking no for an answer, having incredible focus on your main goal, instilling amazing culture into your business and thinking globally beyond your own geographic borders.
He has high ambitions for both PR Slides, which recently raised €500,000 in funding, and Lovin’ Dublin. The latter sells Dublin as a hipster paradise somewhere between London, New York and Berlin, but it has been accused of loving Dublin and not Dubliners. He said that he learned a lot going through this process, including that even if you hear people on the street using words like ‘knacker’ and ‘junkie’, it doesn’t mean you should write it.
Below, the film panel…
We also heard from Ireland’s prime minister Edna Kenny who talked about a very proud Mayo county.
He also stuck around for awhile to chat with entrepreneurs, take photos and share what he does well – storytelling with a dry and charming sense of humor.
Below is a snippet from his talk.
And, of course, there was traditional Irish music wherever we turned — from the classic pubs in downtown Westport and nearby villages to our evening sessions at the Hotel Westport, which is known for hosting conferences and events.
Below is a snippet from their playing.
What was so unique and special about Surf Summit was its intimacy and its location, which almost has spiritual qualities. The nature, the air, the skies, the rainbows, the breeze, the sand, the long dry grass – all of it was magical!
Combine that with a couple of days of fascinating conversations about start-ups and entrepreneurship with founders from nearly every continent, and apps and products that cross a myriad of industries, from gaming, drones, digital entertainment and mobile social apps, to luxury, lifestyle, healthcare, travel, transportation and insurance, it was all there.
Ultimately, smaller and carefully targeted and curated events are going to win as we see a proliferation of tech events in the same on-stage session formats with crowds too large to make sense anymore.
I think choosing an out of the way location is also a great idea, since it shows commitment on those who sign up — and its not easy to leave, encouraging intimate talks and connections during the days and evenings. And, in this case, I got to see a little bit of West Ireland, which was as beautiful and special as I thought it would be. Bravo Achill Island, Wesport, Wild Atlantic Way and Mayo County!
All photo credits: Renee Blodgett, except for Malloy’s pub, which is from their website. Both video credits: Renee Blodgett.
OTHER GREAT RELATED POSTS TO READ: See our other posts on Ireland,Food & Wine in Ireland (including Dublin restaurant reviews), Web Summit 2014, the Top Travel Apps from Web Summit this year and Ireland tech events and top Ireland festivals.
Kyoto’s Rokuon-ji Temple & Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku) are both nestled in the outskirts of scenic Kyoto in central Japan. When you’re first greeted with the magestic temple, it takes a few minutes to adjust to its beauty.
This area has quite a past, for a temple of this magnitude could lay no claims. It’s not the pavilion and temple are that large in size, but their presence overwhelms at first. The area was originally the site of the Kitayama-dai Villa and today is a shariden, a Buddhist hall containing relics of Buddha.
The garden and buildings in and around the Golden Pavilion were said to represent the Pure Land of Buddha in this world. It used to welcome the Emperor Gokomatsu (Father of Zen teacher, Ikkyu) and other members of nobility. This was all during the Muromachi period, a time which flourished with trade. Later, it was converted to a temple by a priest who became the first abbot. Talk about fascinating, but then it goes on…..The temple’s name Rokuon-ji, was derived from the name Yoshimitsu was given for the next world – Rokuon-in-den. It wasn’t until 1994 however that the Rokuon-ji Temple was registered as a World Cultural Heritage Site.
Gold foil on lacquer covers the upper two levels of Kinkaku and a shining phoenix stands on top of the shingled roof. The first level is built in the shinden style of the 11th century imperial aristocracy; the second level is in buke style of the warrior aristocracy and the top level is in the Chinese zenshu-butsuden style. It represents the Muromachi-period architecture and is….just stunning.
The pond around the Golden Pavilion exudes magic. Rocks donated by various provincial lords of the period are placed throughout the garden and strolling through it brings a sense of calm and serenity — at least it did for me. It is also typical of the Muromachi period and it is listed as a National Special Historic Site and Special Place of Scenic Beauty. Ponds in and around the pavilion include the pond of An-min-taku and the pond of Kyoko-chi.
There’s a detached tea house which was built during the Edo period and Fudo-do is nearby, a stone statue of the Buddhist deity Fudo-myo-o. This statue is thought to have been made in the 9th century by Kobo-daishi, founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism. Open door rituals are held on Setsubun (in early February) and on August 16 each year.
Below is a view of some of the residential houses in the area as I was exiting the area.
The Golden Pavilion / Rokuon-Ji Temple
Kata-ku, Kyoto Japan
If driving and not taking the bus or train, then it is about 13 km from the Meishin Expressway, Kyoto Higashi or Minami Interchange.
Note: Princess Cruises sponsored my trip to Japan, however all side trips and attractions and my opinions of them are entirely my own and are not shaped by taking the cruise with them.
Asakusa is fairly well known to travelers heading to Tokyo — if it doesn’t come up in your research, I’d be surprised. Locals also recommend this as a stopping place, largely because its market spreads across several streets in the Asakusa area in the north of Tokyo.
Easily accessible, it’s a place you can get to via subway and be suddenly transferred from modern urban Tokyo to the more traditional classic cultural side of the city’s culture. While the Sensoji Temple and Nezu Jinja Shrine is nearby and another major draw for people heading to Asakusa for the day, the Asakusa Market has enough eye candy to keep even the most prolific type A personality engaged for hours.
You’ll notice immediately upon exploring Asakusa is its feeling of ‘traditional’ and ‘old’, especially when you take a meander through the countless side streets off the main shopping drag. Here, you’ll not discover Japanese homes, which are hundreds of years old, but also deteriorating shacks and rusty steel buildings.
The Taikokan Drum Museum is also nearby which is worth stopping at if only to see their 6.5 feet tall drum that will run you around $60,000. In addition to drums, they have a variety of other native percussion instruments, hand cymbals and cymbals that look like sauce pans as well as a wide selection of ceremonial dress and Japanese flutes.
Join me on a visual journey through the Asakusa Market and surrounding area, well worth a stop.
Getting There & Details:
By subway, take the JR Yamanote Line to Ueno, transfer to Ginza Line, and then get off at Asakusa Station.
While I was at Busan’s Ja-Gal-Ch’i Fish Market over the summer, I spent a chunk of my afternoon meandering through both the market and the streets of Busan. Apparently in the fall, they hold their cultural festival for foreign tourists, although the market had no shortage of fish and other delicacies across countless streets in downtown Busan and is plentiful anytime of the year.
This bustling market was established by women peddlars during the Korean War and has become known as “Aunt’s Market”. Traders sell an amazing array of seafood, shellfish and exotic seaweed. Go on a walk with me through the market — it’s vibrant and alive!