Thursday, 11 September 2008

And we came alongside in Den Helder

It's definitely not a place for sightseeing, nevertheless, it's a little cosy city. It's a famous Dutch port and we were there for a port call on out way to North sea. You have to know that port calls are normally the worst days of your job as in most of the cases they carry the biggest amount of non-stop work for you. But just the fact that you can finish your work, go out and actually see people you've never seen before living a normal life out there is well worth it, for that reason alone i like port stays.

Den Helder welcomed us with sunny warm weather, we stayed there for 2 days and i went out after shift on both, first day i just went straight into the city center where everyone was hanging out, shopping or just enjoying the beautiful sun.

The second day was a long walk along the beach from the port almost to the lighthouse at the other side of the city, then back through the quieter residential areas of the city, most of them are so cute, i would love to have a house like that. Although looking through the huge windows you can see that these houses are pretty small, but they have a small backgarden, big windows inviting the sun in, gardens across the quiet street and a generally beautiful location.What catches the attention the most though is how almost every window without exception had some style of decoration to it, some had dream catchers, some just had flowers and dwarfs, some had different statuettes, different homes - different styles and it all looked so cosy.

Going out when on a port call is a must, you change the scenes and faces, you see new places, lift your mood and recharge your energy. I can work as much as needed during shift during port calls coz i know there's something nice to look forward to afterwards :)

Friday, 1 August 2008

Back to Scandi3: Røros, Norway

Where's Røros?
Røros is located in the middle of Norway, in the county of Sør-Trøndelag. Inland, doesn't overlook any seas or fjords...

What's so special about it?
Well...not much, it's an old mining town for copper.

Which leads us to the main question: How did i end up there? and why?
The trip was totally unplanned, the decision came within the minute between reading a road sign and turning that way when me and Erik were driving up to Trondheim. The whole thing was like: -Røros...let's go to Røros. -OK! and we did!

Parked our car by the train station and went walking around, it's a small city with old narrow roads, typical Norwegian houses and old style shops, one big church and the interesting part: the old mines and miner houses...

Getting there was like getting to the ghost city, deserted mining facilities (turned into a museum), very old small houses nearby (where no one lives anymore, also part of the museum) and mountains of mining waste, all those piles of rock that were holding the copper inside them. The facilities and houses are on one side of a stream, the piles are on the other.

There seemed to be no one else around but us and it felt a bit creepy, but we still enjoyed the walk, the sights and climbing up the rock piles to a spot where you see the whole city underneath :)

We both thought it would be a great location for rock concerts, you know... as in Detroit, rock city (Detroit is an industrial city, cars, etc...) and reaching the top of the rock pile, we found out we were not alone on that thought, seems like something was going on, there was already a stage and the sound and light guys were already working there.

But that was all, the days was getting slightly dimmer, there was nothing more to see, so we just jumped in the car and continued our journey to Trondheim. But that little trip was nice.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Praga...oh...Praga!

It's just such a beautiful and romantic city! I loved it...
Went there for a weekend, it was my birthday present from Erik for my 25th :)The hotel was so nice as well, it was this 5-star thingy, and breakfast in bed! (i love breakfasts in bed :D) and it was very close to the castle of Prague, the road was a very nice walk especially that we got a nice sunny day, it's very big that castle but also extremely crowded, the queues were enough to put us off entering anything and the journey continued.

We walked down from there, then up the hill again in between big gardens to queen Anne's summer house (Krolovsky letohradek), relatively small...what she might have called a cabin :) Now the place is a museum of its own history, surrounded by loads and loads of greenery, we walked through some of these parts, very beautiful.

Next was Prague's most famous: Charles bridge (Karlov most), before crossing it we climbed its tower and had quite a view of the city center, the bridge was crowded beyond limit, full with tourists and local artists selling their drawings, sculptures and other craft work, i bought a little cat shaped wind bell (you hang it in a place where breeze comes along and it starts tingling :) the bridge is beautiful and scenery around it is beautiful.

It got even better getting into the small streets and alleys of the old town (Staromestska) with all the old architecture, and the most famous Old town hall clock that was also designed to show the date! Then the Tyn cathedral with its specific structure and further down the tight old streets is the Square republic (Namesti Republiky) hosting the Powder tower (yes, that's what it's called).

The Old town square where the hall with the clock is has a lot of nice little cafes and restaurants, we had a good afternoon snack and some refreshing drinks just enjoying the hustle and bustle and the nice weather, we've been very lucky with the weather down there, and most importantly, we had to witness the clock announcing another hour of the day, with the creatures coming out, and the music, etc...

Another must see is the National museum, quite big...After finishing it, it's a very good idea to just head down the street the museum is facing, find a nice place and have a nice lunch :) And generally walk around, it's the best way to enjoy Prague, just walk, take the scenery in, take the history in, take the elegance in.

Walking through the city after sunset is less cultural but much more romantic, cosy streets, cosy restaurants, and a beautiful atmosphere, it's very inviting for going out and just wandering around the streets, some full with people, some half empty, but all very nice picking the mood straight up.

I didn't feel like a stranger in this city, felt a bit like home and felt so nice having Erik around, it's a city for two for sure. I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking :)

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Agra...And a really real wonder!

Incredible India! I was so pissed off by it i wanted to kinda teleport from the vessel straight home without passing by, ending up crew changing in a small city, with nothing to do, nowhere to go, shabby little hotels and traveling for ages to get in and out of that place on the noisiest planes ever!

But this was a must! I had to see Taj Mahal!
And there i was...landing in Delhi and (for the first time) getting out of the airport, i was met by my good friend Shaleen who arranged the whole thing (Thanks a million Shaleen! i had a great trip :) ) who drove me to my little nice hotel, and that's when my "indian" ideas started to change, it's actually a nice city, greenery, good roads, pretty much like Cairo, felt kinda familiar and that felt kinda good :)

Next day we drove out early in the morning to Agra, the home of one of the world wonders...Taj Mahal! A four hour drive with an Idli breakfast in the middle, it was quite warm outside, 42 degrees i think? And we had to walk quite a bit to get there, bought the ticket, passed the gate, followed the rest of the people. Couldn't see it yet, then you go through that little second gate and WOW!!! Suddenly, right there, proudly facing us was the Taj itself, shining in the sun with its bright white marble, i knew right there and then that my decision to come here was a really good one!

The story of this place is very romantic: Shah Jahan was a Mughal ruler, he was married to a beautiful woman named Mumtaz Mahal (excellence of the place) that he loved "dil se", with all his heart. When she died, he was so sad and decided to build a monument to immortalize the memory of his beloved wife, it had to be beautiful and perfect! Thus the choice for white marbles, colored stones and perfect symmetry around the tomb of Mumtaz, obviously the place was named after her, Taj Mahal: The crown of Mahal.

The story goes further that he was planning to build an exact copy across the river, made of black marble for himself, but alas! he died before that happenned, and his son Aurangzeb (who believed that perfection is a description for God only) buried his father next to hid mother distorting the perfect symmetry his father has intended. And by the way, you can sea the place where the black Taj was meant to be built but never did standing behind the original Taj.

Next destination was the Agra fort or Red fort, another Mughal piece, another masterpiece of Islamic architecture. You can clearly see the Taj from the fort and the fort from the Taj, and make nice pictures :)

The rest of the day was spent going back to Delhi, eating at Deli Baat then playing two rounds of pool (i won both :D ) and a really good night sleep afterwards :)

Friday, 14 March 2008

It's Dubai again

I say again because i've been here before, this was actually the first destination my work sent me to, and it was to get my induction training. The spirit of Dubai has not changed since, still feels artificial, has an ever increasing number of skyscrapers and malls. They've been also building a lot of new hotels, a lot of new entertainment places, etc...

This time around i ended up in Dubai because my manager in the office changed job, moved there and asked me if i want to do my rotation over there, the answer was a straight away yes! Anything to get out of Gatwick at last!

So the situation was that our company bought another and i was going to help with the transition, the surprises (pleasant ones!) awaited me the moment i landed in Dubai. First, I was "met and greeted" in the airport, sat on a buggy, fast-tracked through immigration and delivered to my hotel's booth. Second, a car was there to take me to the hotel, one of the latest models of Mercedes! Third, the hotel was fully booked so they booked me a hotel apartment! 92sq.m. that still gets cleaned till it sparkles everyday, spacious room, huge bed, fully equipped kitchen supplied with food! luxury! We were also told that we can use the hotel's beach...nice :)

The apartment by the way on the 45th floor and one morning i wake up and i see this:
I couldn't see the ground, only the tops of those sky high building. Imagine: the buildings are higher then the fog-level! Quite a breath taking scene!

The office was pretty close to that hotel, but due to the monstrous road system they have in Dubai, getting there was not easy, the road was like 5 times longer than a straight line. The office itself though was nice, with full length glass walls, so you're sitting all "airconed" but still getting the warm rays of the sun right at your desk, there wasn't much work to be done which also allowed me to go home pretty early and use that beach :D

The surprise i got a couple of days later (still a pleasant one) just made my stay a paid vacation, i got a car on the company's account, didn't even have to pay the parking ticket i got a few days before leaving! Slightly sad that we took over them, now cost saving is up and running and all luxury gone :(

Erik was with me there and he was walking/driving around and tanning at the beach while i'm at work, then i joined him after coming back.

It's when we started driving to the places i visited the first time i was there, particularly Emirates mall and Ibn Battouta mall that i realized how much has this place grown within the year and a half i've been away! The road between those two malls was a mere construction site, now i was living there, having all i needed around, quays, marinas, shopping places, entertainment, restaurants and more things were still coming! Amazing what oil money can do!

We've been also to places i haven't been, Marina walk was one, and the one i enjoyed the most (also where i got that same parking ticket) was Bur Dubai, i finally found out where the locals live, and where normal people and normal lives exist, people were sitting in open cafes, walking by the shore and just enjoying their time, that was definitely the best evening spent in Dubai.

Although i'm not a fan of Dubai, i enjoyed my two weeks there :)

Friday, 18 January 2008

Grown up? me?

Finally New year 2007/2008 and finally i got the 5 week vacation i was waiting for, it always feels so good with one of these.

Not much happening, relaxation, meeting all the friends...generally nice. Add to that the nice celebration of New year at home with the family :)

But there was one special thing about those particular 5 weeks.
I got engaged! Of course to Erik, what kind of question is that?