Sunday, 11 November 2007

Salalah-lala in the morning :)

It was one of these occasional countries i had to pass through on my way to the vessel...Oman.
The crew change was to take place in Salalah where we arrived in the afternoon and were basically leaving same day in the evening.

Me being me as usual, i couldn't let that city pass by without taking a look. Got a map from the hotel and off i went.

Salalah is a relatively small city by the sea, but it's on a pretty wide area, so it was long walking all around. The feeling is that of a normal gulf city, it's like being in the arabic part of Abu Dhabi, houses, shops, etc...

Nothing much to talk about there but the walk by the beach in the sunset felt really good and looked really beautiful, took my slippers off and walked barefoot by the water, i love doing that :) And that was regardless of the small crabs all over the beach, running around in sync with the waves...

The walk was long and nice until i got stopped by some soldiers because i apparently entered a prohibited military area, a fort right on the beach, nothing to stop you walking by really but those soldiers, and with my ipod in my ears, the guy had to run quite a bit :)

Then looking at my watch decided it's time to go get some food and rest before heading to the vessel, the KFC sandwich was warmly welcomed by my empty stomach :)

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Geneva...Banks, wrist watches and chocolate


It's been so long ago...
That's what i realized when i flicked through the photos i made in Geneva and realized i hardly remember names of places at all!
I took this trip together with Erik during my last office rotation in Gatwick, the plan was to go to a nicer place for the weekend. After considering the options of Vienna, Geneva and Brussels, the decision finally fell on the French speaking Swiss city.

The choice was natural for us since we wanted a relaxing weekend, small city, not much to sight-see, a place where you can sleep till late and still manage to see almost everything :)

Landing there Friday night, taking the train to the city center and realizing that the hotel is pretty close, we took a walk, getting a feel of Geneva, till we got there, checked in and went out for dinner, at that time the only open places were Chinese and McDonalds. Had a nice Chinese and about an hour later my stomach decided to do a somersault inside, the feelings were not nice at all, was so exhausted after fighting the pain for a while that i fell asleep in an instant!

Didn't seem like a good start but next morning was a new start on its own, i slept a lot and was ready for the day, started walking down towards Lake Geneva (Lac Laman), the weather was great, and that lake is really big. Inside it is Geneva's most famous sight Le Jet d'eau which simply translates into the water jet, and regardless of the claims on the internet that it's turned off for winter, it was actually running and it was an impressive sight, this things reaches probably 40m of height! And just before they shut it down i managed to take the photo above :)

Continued the walk till we crossed the lake and went into the old part of the city, which is also where all the cafes, restaurants, shopping places, different companies, etc... But wherever you go in the whole city: banks, all the Swiss watches brands you ever heard of and more and chocolate shops are a given.

The next must see in this city is the Cathedral of St. Pierre and that's where we ended up, you can actually climb the towers of the cathedral which gives you some very nice view of the city! By the way, that's where the photo above was taken :)

Memories start overlapping at this moment, generally there was a lot of walking around, saw Ile Rousseau which is tiny and it basically only has a statue of the writer. Place de Bourg-de-Four which is a very cosy pedestrian square with open air cafes and again chocolate, and with me being me, of course i didn't let that one slip away :D One thing i found very interesting is the little stairs and paths going underneath houses and buildings and taking you out on other streets or squares, really beautifully made.

Then the walk down to Place Neuve, which unlike Bourg-de-Four is a very big, busy with traffic square, where the conservatory, the opera house and grand theater live, here also is a big nice garden where you can play chess on huge boards (you walk on them and carry figures that are almost a meter high), and where you can see the monument of reformation (Calvin and the gang) aka the wall of reformation.

Second day, a long walk through the Botanical garden all the way to the Palais des Nations (Palace of nations, UN), more chocolate :) and a tram ride around the city before heading back to the airport, the weather picked up on that day though, and it was surprising how much movement you can get out of a relatively small lake like Laman.

And one of my personal favorites though, is the flower clock:
So two nice and easy days...Targets achieved, mood raised, back to the office feeling way better than when i left it :)

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Barcelona, and Viva Espanya!


It's been over a month since i took that trip, but it's not something i may think of not including here. Barcelona left some feelings that are really special, coz it's a place that is really special.

The first shock as i stepped down to the Spanish lands was the language, they speak even less English than i expected, actually zero english, everybody around you is adressing you in Spanish or even more frequesntly Catalan (pretty similar with a touch of French), not the easiest place to get around.

As i (of course) went for a cheap flight, i landed in Girona which is about 100Km away from Barcelona, quite late, then a bus trip, so i got to the station in Barcelona at 2a.m. and i still had to get to my hotel, which i managed by some unconnected words and pointings to a taxi driver, so i actually got there.

I booked a hotel that is a bit far from the centre, but it turned out to be a great new 4 star thingy, the room was beautiful, free internet and free minibar . Cool!

After a really good night sleep and a morning shower, it was time to hit Barcelona! The weather was absolutely great, sunny, warm with a breeze, perfection! The first place i headed too is anybody's guess, of course the catherdal of La Sagrada Familia, now forget all the photos you saw, this is BIG!!! Reality is something totally different and absolutely breath taking! wow! I came out of the metro station, turned around and was totally wowed by what i saw! This thing is one of the highest buildings in Barcelona, you can see it almost from any elevated point and clearly!

Now a cultural glipmse about it: The cathedral was the idea of Antoni Gaudi, probably the most famous architect that ever existed. He wanted it to be from the people to the people, i guess in an attempt to liberate it from the power of government, he designed it and the work started in 1882 and it's still unfinished, work progressing solely on the donations of people from all over the world. The work is still following the original design of Gaudi, and in it you can clearly see Gaudi's character, his shapes and colours are deeply affected by nature and you can clearly feel the sea in them, take another look at this cathedral, it looks a bit like a sand castle , a very impressive one though!

Next it was Placa Espanya, this is the biggest and most famous square in Barcelona, at one side you'll find a street which turnd into a huge traditional market on weekends with all the merchants dressed in traditional Spanish clothes, interesting. On the other side, it has a big exhibition hall center, separated in the middlt by a street leading to the magic fountain, kind of "the gate" to Montjuic (translated as the mountain of jews, don't know the history of that though), climbing up the stair you'll reach the National museum of Art of Catalunya containing quite a big collection of different art schools from different ages. Montjiuc also hosts the Poble Espanol (Spanish village) which is a reproduction of a typical Spanish village with its small shops, narrow streets and typical architecture, there as well is the Olympic stadium which is a bit disappointing, Cairo stadium is not much worse, you also have the museum of Joan Miro, which i really wanted to see but didn't get the chance, arrived at it too late on Saturday and it didn't open on Sundays . Going down the mountain, you can take the funicular which is included in a metro ticket, and talking about metro, you can use it to go all around the city and suburbs, and you can buy a 2-day pass and use it almost on all transportation types in Barcelona for a really cheap price.

Montjuic is a place you must visit, a walk around it is tiring but very satisfying and nice, visit the museum of Art, El Poble Espanol, take a look at the olympic stadium and torch and if you're a lover of surrealism, Juan Miro museum is definitely a must, just take a look at opening hours and plan your day to include that.

Now back to why the magic fountain is called a magic fountain , this fountain is operated after the sun goes down, the water changes patterns and lights following music, or in simpler words, the water dances to the music , well...that's what i read, but what i saw was musicless, it was changing patterns and lighting but there was no music that reached my ears at all although i was very close .

For Surrealism fans again, you just HAVE TO visit Pablo Picasso's museum, this is located in the Barri Gotic (the gothic neighborhood), it contains a huge collection of his works (i, sadly, didn't have enough time to go there, but i so wanted to ).

But in general, Barcelona is definitely the city of Gaudi, he lived and loved the city, and left a lot of impressive pieces of architecture. Two of them are located on Passeig de Cracia: Casa Battlo, a very impressive site, you would never imagine someone can colour the house that way, but it looks great! The most famous though would be La Pedrera (also known as Casa mila) which was build for middle class, the building is designed in such a way that each apartment continously receives sunlight and built in a way that the outer walls support the building, you could bring down any wall in your house and build one somewhere else without any effect on the main structure. The attic is an impressive part too with the ceiling curving under the shape of the roof which is probably the most interesting part of the whole thing. A lot of chimneys are there for ventilation and heating purposed (HVAC in modern language ) all have the special Gaudi naturalistic touch, the roof is just fantastic!

Where Gaudi lived though is nowhere near those places, he chose a high spot on a hill in the outskirts of the city, established a great garden with loads of rock walkways, a mosaic one, his house there, and the most famous lizard in the world, that mosaic one right ahead of you if you enter the park from the main entrance. I like that lizard, it looks cool . But if you go my metro like me and follow the signs, you'll climb a ridiculously steep hill, i had muscle crumps for 4 days after leaving Barcelona.

I spent all Saturday and Sunday till 4p.m there, and they were probably the most filled and active weekend i ever had, i went around all day, saw all the places that i managed to fit into my short stay, was totally tired every night but felt absolutely great! . So here's where i managed to go:

On Saturday --> La Sagrada Familia --> Placa Espanya --> Montjuic (Museum of Art of Catalunya - El Poble Espanol (check out the glass figures shop! they make them right in front of you) - Olympic stadium - Museum of Joan Miro (where i arrived too late) - and went down on the funicular) --> it was getting dark --> Passeig de Gracia (basically Barcelona's Champs Elysee) --> Casa Battlo (but didn't enter, was too late as well ) --> back to Montjuic to see the magic fountain.

On Sunday --> Park Guell and Gaudi's house --> La Pedrera (which had an enormous queue) --> bus station to take the bus back to Girona airport and fly back

Barcelona isn't a really big city, but it's full of interesting places and will fill you with impressions. I'll leave you with some links for the most famous places, other places to see there La Ramble street, walk it from beginning at Columbus monument to end at Placa Catalunya, visit Barri Gotic and Picasso's museum, go to the beach in Barceloneta and finally if you're a big football fan, you can visit the FC Barcelona museum .

Now some links:

La Sagrada Familia: http://www.sagradafamilia.org/

National museum of Art of Catalunya: http://www.mnac.es/index.jsp?lan=003

El Poble Espanol: http://www.poble-espanyol.com/

Casa Battlo: http://www.casabatllo.es/

And a really nice tourist guide for those who decide to go (and they'll never regret their decision...guaranteed): http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Back to Scandi2: Asker, Norway


Back to Asker, back to Scandic home...and feels like i never left...
The same little town close to Oslo where i spent 6 weeks last year at this same time of year: October.
Same weather, same feelings, same classroom even...

But differences exist too...today i'm back here not as a freshman but as company person with some experience, today i have different people with me...it's all the same here but my life changed abit since...for the better...

And it feels really good

Back to Scandi1: Trondheim, Norway


So there i was again in my favourite little northern country...Norway, signing off from my vessel in Trondheim, it was more than natural spending some days there.

Trondheim also seemed appealing as i have my own private guide there, Erik, and now it was his turn to pay back for my guide services in Cairo , and i even got a bonus: A trip to Tarva.

Trondheim is a really cosy little city, i enjoyed walking all around it, seeing the famous Nidaros cathedral, the university, the old bridge, the old fisher houses (which are now transformed into one of the most expensive and glamorous spots in Trondheim), also seeing Trampe (the bike lift up what is possibly the steepest street in the city).

The walk was very pleasant across all the greens, all the traditional old houses with different colours , and it's actually a law there that no two buildings standing together can have the same colour and that colours must be approved by the city authorities! Which i personally find as a great idea to preserve the taste of that sweet city.

A dinner by the water at the old docks was a very good idea too, i'm sure it would have been even better if it wasn't raining that hard, but still i enjoyed it a lot, cosy place, good pizza, pleasant company, what else would you need? . I really liked the atmosphere and the spirit of that city altogether, had great days there.

The trip to Tarva was even more special, Tarva is an island quite close to Trondheim, and it's the place where Erik was born. Lucky as i am with the weather (sometimes), i got quite a sunny day there which could also be described as warm . The place is small with houses at far distances apart, an old school that doesn't function anymore and a tiny church, initiated and build by the locals, of course, walking around, you see sheep everywhere of course , and you enjoy the green but a bit rough nature there, and the fact that all this is surrounded by water that you can see on your sides sometimes makes it feel very peaceful, a perfect spot for me to take a few days off.

An impressive part about Tarva s well is the forest planted by Erik's grand-grandfather (i actually think he planted two) with trees from Russia...yup, really impressive.

Erik's parents own an amazingly nice house right on the water, it was a store before that they bought and rebuilt into a house and it turned out in a peace of art, i was told about it before going but i never expected it to be that great.

These were probably the best 5 days of vacation in my life , and i'll definitely repeat that...more than once.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

My 3 week vacation in Jordan!


After getting the "great" news about being transferred from my beloved Bluefin to a new streamer vessel (which is another story), i flew to my home country: Jordan!

The trip itself was quite good, a nice quick flight from Gatwick to Amsterdam, enough time there to go around and do some shopping, then a nice comfy flight to Amman. But as soon as i got out of the airport the fun began. First i had to wait till the bus starts moving to Amman, then to arrive there, that ended up with me standing in the bus station at 9p.m., last "big good" bus left already, and my only choice at that time was an old minibus that took about two hours to get to my dear Irbid (taking into consideration that the road takes max. an hour even if you obey all speed limits on it!)

When i reached Irbid, it was already late and catching a taxi home was another adventure, found one at last and managed to get to the correct place .

Got in, greeted everybody, my grandfather looked really tired and he was complaining about it himself, next day he was taken to the hospital. And as my fahter had to stay next to his father, i spent most of my days just sitting inside the house in an almost emotionless state, running small errands here and there, printing and copying some papers, driving people around and so on.

The only change from that was my trips to Amman, first one was just me and my mom, we took my father's car, i safely found the Norwegian embassy to apply for my Schengen visa, drove around the city (which i totally didn't know) for a while, then managed to get to the road that takes me to Irbid, on my way went to a mall, and decided to eat as i was really hungry, the other problem was me not drinking tea before going out, so i developped a headache, which grew stronger and made me feel sick, and i don't need to tell you what happenned when i ate !!! Got really weak, my stomach totally disturbed, and was in absolutely no condition neither to go around nor to drive, just sat there until my stomach got a bit in order and when i regianed a bit of strength drove back home.

Second time i took my mom and my sisters and we went to spend a few days at my aunt's house in Amman for a change of atmosphere, this started with me taking a sharp turn and a car hitting me, not so bad but i ended up paying quite a nice amount to fix both cars, apart from that my stay there was good, managed to get my visa and travel insurance while i was there, did some shopping and finally bought a T-shirt with an owl on , i wanted that for years, and no i don't believe they bring bad luck.

During these few days, i grew quite familiar with the city, and now i know how to get around without getting lost to most of the places i need. The city is nice, organized, taken care off, with some really nice areas and malls, probably staying there was the thing i enjoyed the most during that vacation. It's nothing as Cairo though, it's more quiet, less populated, less crowdy, less energetic, less live! But still a nice city to live in probably.

The third and last time i went to Amman was to collect my air tickets, that was two days before i flew to Norway to join my new ship.

Apart from that, i did some relative visiting, celebrated the high school grades of two of my cousins, took some of the family to dinner once, was taken by a cousin to dinner another time, went out with my mom and met a russian lady who's married to a Jordanian and lives in a village near-by, and generally had slow days in Irbid.

I was so happy to fly out of there, and was even happier when i finally reached Bergen, although my way there wasn't covered with silk either, they stopped me for bag inspection in Amman airport, i had to stand in a long extremely slow queue to get my boarding pass in Istanbul, was stopped by customs in Oslo where i sat for a long time while they checked my passport, visa and seaman's book and then luggage was delayed in Bergen, so in general, i wasn't really happy about all that...actually, quite pissed off !

Seeing the vessel and starting to work only made it worse, but as i mentioned above: that's another story

I'm sounding a bit too miserable, right? well, it's true i was bored to death in Jordan, that i was totally frustrated throughout my flight to Bergen, and even more when i signed on the new vessel, but don't let that fool you, life is like a sine-wave, it's not high all the time, nor low all the time, bad times will pass and life will shine again, and regardless of all the things i may not like, i love it !

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Invading UK11: Southampton

As i was recently promoted in work, and as i felt really depressed in the last few days onboard the Bluefin, my dear Erik insisted i need a nice break in a new place just to relax, enjoy my time and basically just wander around. Well, he decided to make me a surprise and as i like surprises i didn't ask much about it, and just patiently, like a good girl, waited for it.

On the last Friday before flying home, Erik met me after work, took me to the train station, and till the moment i was down on the platform i didn't know where we were going, then it turned out to be Southampton.

The journey took about two hours, passing by beautiful fields (full of rabbits ) and i actually enjoyed my ride. Reaching there, we looked at a city map and decided to walk to our hotel at the waterfront.

The first thing that really impressed us both was the local accent, i needed to fully concentrate to get what the girl at the reception desk was telling me while Erik almost didn't get a word she said The rooms turned out to be really nice, nice comfy beds, big windows, beautiful strong showers!! (after the humiliating one i had in my room in Gatwick) with a full range of good products there, i would say one of the hotels with my stamp of approval (Next to Marriott Warsaw "the best ever", Ramada Doha and Hilton Aberdeen). The evening was spent mostly chatting and relaxing, i also fell asleep early, i so much needed this change.

Next day breakfast in the room, then me and Erik had a long walk around the city and its waterfront, the weather was perfect, sunny and warm...We walked all around then back to the city center where we had dinner at a Greek restaurant and both enjoyed it a lot. The thing special about that city is the enormous amount of old walls encircling and penetrating the city, they give it a really nice and gothic feel.

Then we navigated back to the hotel, had tea/coffee, chatted some more and i slept as long as i wanted, with no alarm clocks, no work, no worries.

Sunday morning, breakfast in the hotel's sun lit restaurant, more walking around then off to the station to go back to Gatwick. I didn't take any pictures though and that's the only thing i'm sad about

But all in all, this was one of my best weekends ever ... Thanks Erik

Friday, 27 July 2007

Invading UK10: Mamma mia!


You can't live close to London, the city of musicals, and never see one. And that's exactly what i did, took my mom to see Mamma mia.

The show was loads of fun, regardless of the simplicity of the story itself, all the singing dancing and choreograohy which was really impressing just makes the show.

It's two and a half hours of pleasure, i enjoyed it a lot and even found an ABBA song that i really like: "Don't go wasting your emotion" Cool, and if re-released now, this will be a hit again, guaranteed!

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Invading UK9: Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire


Another place i go to because of my mother, on Saturday after some shopping in London we headed to St.Pancras station from where we took the train to Nottingham. The first thing i was really impressed by is how fast this train was compared to the ones i usually take to London or Brighton or anywhere in Sussex and London areas. It overran two of the Bedford trians on the go

The trip was nice, fast and not without some pleasure for the stomach We arrived almost at 8p.m. so there wasn't much to do but a light supper at the place of my mother's friends, loads of chatting and laughing and then going to bed. The lady is one year older than me, a very nice Russian girl married to a very nice English man.

The next day the fun started, they took us to Chatsworth which is the property of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, who have a "holiday house" there in Derbyshire, which is actually quite a big mansion with huge gardens around that they open it for public, the palace didn't impress me that much, it's just like any other palace although they have some really impressing pieces of art in there...

The gardens are the best, they have a garden of roses, a rock garden, a tree maze (which was fun ) Loads of different birds, ponds with fish and a huge fountain in the middle of a big pond right at the back of their palace.

The stables were another impressive thing, they are actually not stables anymore, they were turned into a restaurant, a cafe and a gift shop, the restaurant serves traditional English Sunday roast and the atmosphere there is really nice with the pink and purple colors of the place and the glass dome on the top that lets the sun rays through, beautiful! I'm a big fan of the sun, especially in Europe where they mostly lack it...poor people

Chatsworth is also a place where the "Porsche owners club" has holiday gatherings, we were there, and Porshce cars were all over the place...glamour!

Finishing our trip there and taking loads of pictures (and getting my ankle badly hurt, it still does after two and a half weeks from then, i'm seeing a doctor soon) we went into Nottingham, went around the Nottigham castle, saw Robin Hood statue, which was quite depressing, you think of Robin Hood as a manly tall strong guy, while what you get on that statue is an impression of a middle to low height teen boy with not an air of strength about him

Also saw the oldest pub in England (or what Nottingham people claim to be the oldest pub in England, because St. Albans people say the same about a pub they have there), it's right next to the castle, has a lot of small rooms cut in stone, not bad, but nothing compares to Aberdeen's Seven sins pub, that one is the reconstruction of an old church, and was really capturing! And Scots are more fun too

The day was coming to an end, so we just headed to the train station to make our way back to Gatwick, i enjoyed my weekend there...really did