Thursday, December 8, 2016

Merry Christmas Manchester!

It's the most wonderful time of the year again!!! 😃🎄🎄🎄

Before I pick up last year's interrupted thread of Austrian and German Christmas Markets (never got around to the ones in Deutschland), I'm going to launch the Christmas blogging season with my recent visit to the Manchester Christmas Markets

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Enjoying "The Magic of Advent in Vienna" at the Christkindlmarkt in the Rathausplatz

The last "Christmassy" post from Vienna is dedicated to the city's main Christmas market: the Christkindlmarkt in the Rathausplatz (in front of City Hall), celebrating its 30th anniversary.


I had been told this stop was a "must" during Advent, and had been looking forward to it all day! But waited on purpose until dusk as the Christmas markets are at their best when the sky darkens and you can appreciate the lights all the more. Plus evening means dinner so perfect excuse to have a bratwürst and glühwein! :p

So, all aboard the Christkindl Express and let's dive in! ;o)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Christmas glimpse of Vienna's gorgeous Saint Stephen's Cathedral

There were two place I absolutely wanted to visit on my day in Vienna: the Hofburg and St Stephen's Cathedral. The Hofburg will have to wait 'till after the Christmas markets series of posts, but as I enjoyed a mug of glühwein in the market by St Stephen's it totally fits in this series! ;o)

Vienna's 12th century Romanesque-Gothic cathedral is simply stunning in my opinion! I loved the tiling on the roof, and I'm always in awe of the stonework in these old churches. At one point the cathedral's 136m tall south tower was the highest point in Vienna, serving as a watch-tower at times. It's hard to appreciate it in the photos with the buildings around it...

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Discovering Maria-Theresien Platz in Vienna and its delightful Christmas Village

As I mentioned when I started these posts, I only had one proper day in Vienna (plus the previous evening). Definitely NOT enough to do any serious visiting! I'm not a fan of running around ticking sights off some list to say I've seen "everything", but I also want to make the most of what short time I have when I travel for work! So what to do? Well in this case there were only two "must visit" sights for me: the Hofburg and the Viennese Christmas markets! That and wander the streets to get a feel for the city... A little googling led me to a walking tour map of the city centre, with a route that happened to go by several Christmas markets, perfect!!! I'll post about the Hofburg and other places visited along the route another time, but I didn't have enough time to finish the route: got too side-tracked in the Christmas markets! :p

Starting with the delightful Christmas Village at Maria-Theresien Platz!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Christmas ambiance in Vienna

For starters I have to say that one day + one evening is NOT enough time in Vienna! Even less if you consider all the Christmassy distractions... ;o) Still, better than nothing. Plus it was enough to give me a feel for the city, see a couple of places I wanted to, and decide that I need to plan a nice long weekend (4-5 days) to visit the city properly in the not too distant future.

The city was gorgeously decorated for the season, with Christmas trees everywhere:

Thursday, December 31, 2015

First visit to Austria through Graz and its Advent market!

I've only dreamed of going to Austria since I was 12 or so, not that long really... ;o) So I was extra excited when a work meeting got organized in the city of Graz in Austria and I realized I'd finally get to make that trip! Not much time to visit (too much work, needed back at the office), but at least I'd get a glimpse of Graz (plus a day in Vienna!).

Adventmaerkte in front of Graz City Hall
2 full work days in Graz, and all I was able to visit was the Adventmaerkte (Advent Market) in front of City Hall on our way out to dinner one night! But that's ok, it was a nice long walk to get to it from our hotel, and another walk to our dinner spot... enough for me to see that Graz is a city worth visiting at some future point (corroborated by photos shared by a colleague who arrived a day before and got to spend it visiting properly).

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmassy travels: delightful Christmas ambiance in the markets of Austria and Germany

Three years ago I went all out Christmas on both blogs, and posted here a series on the various Christmas markets I'd visited in Belgium (Liège and Brussels), the Netherlands (Maastricht) and of course Germany (Aachen and Cologne). There's really something magical about those markets... a concentrated dose of Christmas cheer, plus great food and drink! They're a great place to hang out with friends when it's in your own city, and they're fun to visit and do some of your holiday shopping (when visiting some of the really nice ones). And boy do I miss them!!! Each year, when December rolls in, I get all nostalgic for the northern European Christmas Markets... Alicante is a great place to live, but when it's still around 20ºC and not much in the way of decoration and holiday music... it doesn't feel much like you're leading up to Christmas!

German Christmas markets are usually considered the best, so this year I wanted to take advantage of a 4 day December weekend in Spain to head north and catch the ambiance while visiting some friends who are in their last month of a 3 1/2 year stay in Mainz. Since I've tried to organize a trip to visit them twice before, but something always got in the way, I didn't take any risks this time and bought the tickets back in September! Little did I know back then that my job would be sending me to Austria and Germany the week before that trip, right at the beginning of Advent and the Christmas market season... 
And I think I might have a little nuts with all the Christmas markets and glühwein in those extended weekends!!! The proof:

Friday, November 20, 2015

Admiring the National Emblem of Turkmenistan

So last week I was in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, for a big Exhibition and Conference on Education and Sports. I was very lucky to be able to participate as it's very difficult to get a visa to for Turkmenistan. It was a very interesting trip, and hopefully won't be my last!

But more on the actual trip another time. I want to write about something I couldn't keep my eyes off while I was there: the National Emblem of Turkmenistan.

Almost everywhere I went, the main auditorium of the Exhibition Hall, various auditoriums or meeting rooms in a couple of universities, the hotel, the airport... there it was, right in from of me. Together with a photo of the President. When more than half the talks you're listening to are in Russian or Turkmen, and the translator isn't always doing a great job, you end up spending a lot of time observing your surroundings. And the more I looked at the Emblem, the more I was sure each element of it had to tell an interesting story. So I asked one of the other participants I met there, a Russian who's quite a expert on Turkmenistan (both subject of his research and has been there 5 times). So here goes (with complementary info courtesy of Wikipedia)!

At the centre: a horse. More specifically an Akhal-Teke horse (apparently it's the previous president's horse Yanardag, born in the Spring after Independence from the USSR in 1991), a breed very important to the once tribal people of Turkmenistan who depended on them for survival (it's now their national animal - by the way: no horse meat on the  menu in Turkmenistan, unlike the other Central Asian countries!). There's a magnificent statue to these horses in town, of which I only got a quick "drive by" photo as I never had time to go back and properly wander around, camera in hand... Next time!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Am I forgetting anything?

I'm pretty sure we've all asked ourselves that question once we've finished packing for a trip. Sometimes it's a little nagging voice in the back of the mind, just gnawing at you until the light bulb turns on and you go "Oh no! I forgot... Ahhh!!!" Or something along those lines. Sometimes you can solve it by finding a replacement on your trip. Sometimes you can't. And then there are the things you should definitely try to never forget when you travel.

Of course there are plenty of tricks to help you not forget things. I have friends who pack the week before a trip. My father is the king of packers. He's ready the day before, has everything he needs and his suitcase is a wonder to see! (He could be a champion at Tetris if he played.) I myself am a last minute packer which usually means chaos. I prefer morning flights to afternoon flights because if need be I have aaaall night to pack (won't go to bed 'til I'm done), whereas with an afternoon flight I have that added stress of "OMG! Taxi's coming in 15' and I still haven't finished this and this and this!". Yes I know, I should probably be better organized. When cows fly. I do try to write up a list beforehand of what I should include. Or at least I used to. But as it's always the same stuff and it's burned in my brain (a) I rarely finish the list nowadays, and (b) I usually forget to check it when packing! :p

Sunday, November 16, 2014

So much to write about, so little time

Actually, let's make that virtually NO time to write! Which is a double shame because not only do I have tales to share that I've started and not finished in the past couple of years (sailing in Greece, New Year's in Granada, England), but as of 6 months ago I've also been traveling a lot more and have plenty more places to talk about!!! 

Saturday, September 7, 2013


<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Just adding a bit of code to connect my blogs to Bloglovin'. I'm trying it out as I'm looking for a good app to access the blogs I follow on my iPhone, and while the Blogger app lets me write my own posts, it doesn't show me the blogs I follow and I've been so busy I haven't had time to sit down on my computer and read other blogs and I miss them!!! :p  Hopefully this should help me stay in touch a bit more...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Catching up...

Soooo... how long has it been? And I don't mean since my post reminding you about World Ocean's Day... Nope! I haven't written anything about travelling since FEBRUARY!!! *shock* 

Not only have I abandoned on a Greek island (although you're probably not complaining about that, there are worse places to be abandoned...), I never got started on the New Year's Eve trip to Granada!

"El Patio de los Leones" in the Alhambra
Cousins having fun

And since then there have been a few more trips! *gulp*

A quick overview might be in order...

Saturday, June 1, 2013

World Oceans Day is coming up!

It's World Oceans Day next weekend!!! Have you got anything special planned? How about participating in an ocean-themed blogging marathon? ;o)

Next weekend I'll be hosting my fifth annual Oceanic Blog-A-Thon over at my other blog. It's always a fun time with bloggers from all over the place sharing their stories about the marine environment and its inhabitants! 

Hopefully, if I can find time this week (as you'll have guessed from my disappearing act this Spring I've been just a little bit busy lately *sigh*), I intend to write something travel related to post as my participation from this blog for the Oceanic Blog-A-Thon. Will depend on how I manage to organise what little time available I have, and how long it takes me to put together my post for the other blog and the Blog-A-Thon itself! Last year because of the trip to Greece I wasn't able to write anything here, but two years ago I wrote about the majestic Milford Sound in the Southern Island of New Zealand! I have a couple of ideas for this year... we'll see which one looks more feasible to do in a short period of time.

So how about you guys join in? Help raise awareness for the oceans on your blog! Spread the word to your readers! Find out more at "Join the Oceanic Blog-A-Thon for World Oceans Day!". I hope to sea many of you guys there! ;o)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dokos: water, rocks and a bbq on Saronic Sailing Day 3!

So when I asked if I should continue with Greece or table it for a while and move on to Granada at New Year's, I got votes for both destinations and a suggestion that I just alternate between the two! So I've decided I'm going to that, and start off with Greece just to start reminding myself about the trip since it was now 7 months ago! :o(

So, when I left off back in October (yikes!) we were enjoying the island of Spetses. We left Spetses right after lunch on our third day in the Saronic Islands and had a delightful 2+h sail to neighbouring Dokos (where we had stopped for lunch the day before en-route to Spetses from Poros).

Dokos. Hmmm... when I look it up in the two guidebooks sitting on the shelf next to me (Guide du Routard and Lonely Planet), Dokos doesn't appear in either of them! Not only does it not have a section of its own under the "Saronic Islands", but it doesn't even appear in the index! In fact, you have to know it's there to spot it on the map of the Saronic Islands! Even on Wikipedia it's barely got a couple of paragraphs... Why so little love? Well, it probably has to do with the fact that it's an uninhabited island (except by some goats and a shepherd or two) so none of the tourist boats take you there (you can hire a water taxi from Hydra). It's a pity 'cause the coves are great for swimming and there was some nice hiking up the mountain looking for old ruins! Those ruins are a sign that once upon a time it was inhabited (between 3000 - 5000 years ago), and even housed a Byzantine castle (good lookout spot) whose remains I didn't get a chance to go looking for.