Archive for the 'Life' Category


Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

2012, year of overblown predictions of Mayan doom. I also predict a year of less posts than last year. That’s an impressive prediction since I didn’t even reach double figures last year, in fact I barely struggled over the half-way line. Maybe it’s time for another revamp where I try and do something clever.

In any case you can follow me on various other sites where there may or may not be more information, including, but not limited to: Google Plus (and Google Schemer — mail me for an invite if you want), Facebook, Linkedin, Flickr, Twitter, Dopplr.

Normally, around the start of the year, I’d have posted some sort of resolution — but truthfully I don’t have any real ones this year. Or nothing interesting at least. I was going to resolve to travel from Manila to Edinburgh without flying, which is still something I’d really like to do but it’s not happening this year.

One last unresolved item, my resolution to visit 12 ‘new’ places over the course of the last year.

So how did I do, well in the Philippines I got to, er, one new place (Boracay) although I did go back to two places I’d been previously (Cebu, where I did manage to actually do some sightseeing and Puerto Galera, where I saw slightly more of the place than I did last time).

Outside the Philippines I fared slightly better visiting Thailand (mainly Bangkok), Cambodia (Siem Reap, Battambang, and Phnom Penhpics), and Vietnam (mostly Ho Chi Minh Citypics).

If you count places I went for work (or as side trips to work destinations) then you can add Florida, Hyderabad, Singapore, and Shenzhen, China.

So, if you’re feeling generous we can maybe call that 12 places … in any case it’s not a bad tally.

Those picture links may not work (Flickr is acting up), I’ll update them if I can — also this should serve as a reminder that there’s at least a handful of pictures that haven’t made it online yet … another thing for the To Do list.

Happy New Year everyone.

Valentines …

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

In order to keep to my resolution I’m trying to establish a pattern of posting each Sunday, with the vain hope that I might even get far enough head to have a few queued up to fill the gaps when I’m travelling.

But since today is St. Valentines day I thought I’d bump my planned post (although the pictures are already up on Flickr) and say “Happy Valentines” to everyone. I hope the day finds you happy with the hand fate has dealt you.

I can’t remember a Valentines day when I wasn’t single — I’m sure there’s been one or two but they’re lost to the wasteland of my foggy memory — which gives you a good idea of how successful my relationships generally are ;). Regardless I’m not one to mope around on Valentines, I just tend to let it pass me by. It’s just never been that much of a big deal for me.

I had thought that today would be a big deal in the Philippines as they went all out on Halloween and the Christmas decorations, festivities and music went on for around six weeks. But Valentines here seems refreshingly low key, a few hearts and cupids pinned here and there, roses in the local shops, but not much more. I don’t really know why, maybe it’s just not a big deal here, the country is very family oriented so perhaps the holidays that are more aimed at children get a bigger reaction.

It does look like there’ll be fireworks as I can see them setting up on the roof of the building opposite, this is good because when they fire them from the ground it often doesn’t look like they clear the top floors of the tallest buildings before they go bang. I’m still going to make sure the windows are shut before they set them off.

As for what I’m going to do today, nothing much. I’ve foregone my traditional steak and a bottle of wine, mostly because I can’t be bothered going out to buy the steak. Although I’m still having the wine. I might fire up the second season of True Blood and start watching that. That’s my rock and roll lifestyle.

Today is also Chinese New Year, which I think is the real reason for the fireworks.

So, happy Year of the Tiger to everyone too. I was born six months too late to be a tiger, I’m a rabbit.

Expect a proper ‘something to do in the Philippines’ post next Sunday. I promise.

I have no oven …

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

… but fortunately it’s way too hot to bake.

If it wasn’t, I’d bake this cake.

Mind Bites

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

This Flickr set is a nice group of research snippets set against interesting photo backgrounds. It’s a pretty nice set to flick through both for the pictures and the information. I particularly liked:

brainstorming dilutes ideas

You can also view the set via a funky (if slightly annoying) flash viewer at the creator’s website:

Answering the big questions …

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Why do workmen insist on starting early when they want to get more stuff done, rather than working late? Who knows.

My life is upheaved at the moment as I’m without kitchen (technically I have a kitchen, it’s just all in boxes) but the workmen seem to know what their doing and they assure me that I’ll have a functional (but not finished) kitchen by tomorrow night. If they can start work at 6:30am in the morning tomorrow. Oh well, at least they’re keen.

I’m staying out of the flat as much as possible, because the general half-finishedness of it all makes me twitchy.  That means that you’ll have to wait a bit longer for the Copenhagen post.

So today, as filler, I’ll point you to the answer to one of the big questions of our time: “What cake would taste best garnished with bacon?

You’re welcome.

Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt.

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Urk, no posts for a fortnight, that’s longer than I intended.

My latest trip was the weekend before last, I was in Copenhagen and Amsterdam. I liked both cities, although Copenhagen is too quiet and sleepy for my tastes and Amsterdam was somewhat spoiled by the presence of roving stag parties (almost exclusively pissed and British). There were some nice places in Amsterdam and hopefully I’ll be able to find some more of them when I return in July.

I was slightly unsettled by things all weekend, in Copenhagen I was unsettled by finding what looked like a fairly fresh trail of blood drops on my way back to the hotel and in Amsterdam I was unsettled by a drug-pusher suggesting (politely but firmly) that I stop taking pictures of Dam Square — I guess having tourists hanging around taking photos is bad for their business. For those that don’t know Amsterdam that’s roughly equivalent to a bunch of neds coming up and telling you to stop taking pictures of Edinburgh Castle from Princes St. It’s a little bizarre.

Piling on the uneasiness was the e-mail I got at work just before leaving, it was announcing the a visit by the president of our division. No-one had any idea he was coming and over the weekend I couldn’t shake the idea that it was going to be ‘bad news’. In the end I had to check my work e-mail while on holiday, something I normally refuse to do, and found a follow-up “Nothing to worry about” e-mail, prompted by a flood of concerned inquiries. In the end it he was just in the area and decided to swing by, unaware of the ripples of panic (and desk tiding) he was causing.

Well that’s all over now, buts there’s plenty more things to be concerned about. There’s still eighteen countries left to visit over the next 8 months, which is bang on schedule but still a daunting target. I’ll have to spend some time on another multi-country tour to clear some off the list.

Just to add on the pressure I’ve decided to ignore the bathroom fiasco of last year and go ahead and have a new kitchen fitted next week. Eeek.

Hopefully there’ll be a few more posts to the next week or so if everything else stays under control.

EU 2008 Progress

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

For those of you just joining us I’m trying to visit all 27 EU countries in 2008. We’re about a quarter of the way through the year so time for a progress update.

There’s a selection of pictures on my Flickr stream and I’m caught up with all the posts. Hopefully you’ve found some of it interesting.

Plenty more to go of course, is it still possible? I’m fairly confident it is, but it’s looking pretty tight on the number of days holiday I’ve got to play with. I’ve had to reel in some of my more ambitious plans but I still think I can get a decent visit to somewhere in each of the remaining countries.

It’s over a quarter of the way through the year, and I’ve visited four new countries and seven countries in total, that’s just under where I should be if I’m covering everything equally. I just have to keep on plugging away.

Anyroads, here’s the list:

With 102 non-working days left I still need to visit 16 countries (20 to do then in all ’08.)
Countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.
Countries I’ve visited pre-2008 are in grey, countries visited in 2008 are linked to their posts.

For the number crunchers amongst you, and those concerned about my carbon footprint, here are some stats:

In 2007 I visited 8 other countries, taking 18 flights (2 long haul), travelling around 35,750 km (33,000km by plane).
In 2008 I’ve visited 7 other countries, taking 4 flights (all short haul), travelling around 6,200km (3,400km by plane).

EU 2008: Brussels, Belgium

Friday, April 4th, 2008

From Bruges to Brussels on the train takes around an hour, but the difference between the two places is vast. Brussels is much more a typical European city, full of modern buildings and with flocks of people milling around.

Manneken PisI didn’t get a good look at the central market square as it was filled with a massive tent holding a stage and seating for some event or other. So I wandered in search of the Mannequin Pis, it’s not a big statue and I might have missed it had it not been surrounded by a bunch of tourists, a brass band and a group of people in black-face make-up wielding oversize items of cutlery. I wish I knew exactly what was going on but sadly I remain mystified. After that I managed to get hopelessly lost, the map the hotel gave me wasn’t very helpful and, worse, it didn’t match either the map in my book or reality. I did manage to find another Notre Dame to visit (one of the best I’ve seen).

Saddle of RabbitAfter finally working where I was I headed to a restaurant that I’d seen recommended on Wikitravel. It was booked out save for one table that I could have as long I was done in time for a later booking. I figured this was a good sign and immediately opted for two traditional dishes, eels in green sauce and saddle of rabbit. Both dishes were fantastic, the eels tasted very faintly fishy but with a lot fewer bones than I’d expected, I’m less convinced about the sauce which was just too herby for my taste. The rabbit came with it’s nice crispy skin but both the skin and the flesh didn’t have any real strong flavour, I’d expected something much gamier. I can see why the have the sauce over it to give the dish some oomph. The chips were excellent, they love their chips in Belgium and they’re good everywhere but these were simply the best chips I can remember eating anywhere.

The second day I travelled to the Atomium which is outside of the centre of Brussels (although it’s easy to get by train or tram.) The Atomium is a giant representation of a iron atom, built in 1958 for the Brussles World Fair, it was renovated recently and reopened last year. It’s excellent, just seeing this bizarre building makes the trip worthwhile but you can also go to the top sphere and get great views of Brussels.

From the top of the Atomium I spotted another attraction I’d wanted to visit, the mini-EU. I hadn’t known they were right beside each other so it was a nice surprise. Atomium SpheresThe mini-EU is a set of scale models of buildings and locations from around the EU, there’s little sounds clips and some of the models move too. It’s pretty great actually, you learn a lot of things about the countries and because all the models are to the same scale you can get an idea of the comparative size of things. It’s totally worth a day out of the town centre to visit these the area, there are a few other things around to visit, shockingly none of this was covered in my guidebook so you’ll might be better turning to the internet for help.

I did manage some pub crawling whilst I was there and whilst I liked Bruges better I did find a couple of nice places. Delirium is stuck down a side street, it’s massive and has a huge range of beers while it’s sister bar across the street is stocked with an equivalent selection of spirits. Well worth searching out, although it’ll be busy. I also found a nice little rock bar which is a nice break from the beer halls and the tourist traps.

To be honest I don’t see much reason to go back to Brussels, there’s plenty of more interesting places to visit in Belgium.

EU 2008: Bruges, Belgium

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

I’m going to split the Belgium posts to cover each city I visited. First Bruges, I took the ferry from Rosyth which drops you at Zeebrugge, from there it’s a short bus ride into town. The bus leaves you by the main train station but it’s only a ten minute walk to the centre.

Bruges CanalThe first things that strikes you about Bruges is just the whole picture postcard perfectness of the city, canals, narrow cobbled streets, open squares and some of the oldest buildings in Europe. The second thing that hits you is the smell, the place smells of chocolate and general deliciousness.

It’s another small city, all the main sites are within easy walking distance but there’s a few buses if you want to take it easy. The best thing to do is take a canal tour, not only will you get an idea of the layout of the city but you can see things that aren’t accessible from the streets. There are tons of places offering the boat rides, so it’s easy enough to find one.

Moules FriteI spent most of my time just wandering around being entranced by the scenery, although I did have to retire for an afternoon nap to recover from the boat trip. I’m surprised the place isn’t filled with tourists although I expect it will be during the summer. There are a lot of bars and restaurants that are geared up for tourists and, to be honest, the food isn’t that great. The traditional mussels and chips tasted exactly like you’d expect it to, although the desserts were superb. I imagine that getting further away from the centre might reveal better food but all the places I found further afield were full, perhaps wise to do your research and book in advance.

I do my research, however, when it comes to beer and after a brief dinner I’d planned a little pub crawl and an early night. My first stop was to be “‘t Brugs Beertje“, an excellent little pub, full of a ton of beers and a variety of locals and tourists. An absolute must if you’re in the city, I’d like to reel off a list of other pubs to visit but I must confess I didn’t make it out of the first one. Between chatting at the bar and sampling the beers I ended up leaving around one in the morning.

I’d certainly go back to Bruges, even if only to go back to that bar. They do a snow and ice festival in the winter and I might try to get to that next year.

Bruges Canal

EU 2008: Krakow, Poland

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Another overnight train to Krakow, and an early morning arrival in … Warsaw? Eh, that’s not right! It turns out that some cross-country European trains split up during the journey. If you’re in the wrong part of the train then you end up in the wrong place. You’d have thought that the conductors might have warned me.

So I hop on a train back to Krakow utterly screwing up the only part of the trip I had actually planned in advance. After a quick chat with tourist information and my hotel staff I work out I can still do the stuff I really want to do if I go on organised tours rather than trying to do it all myself. With that it’s off to the Wieliczka Salt Mine.

Wow, just wow. Pictures don’t just do the place justice, you’re walking around and it’s already pretty impressive and then you turn a corner and there’s a bloody great church carved into the rock, 120 feet underground. It’s awesome, in the original sense of the word. Maybe this shoddy video will give you an idea, remember this is in a mine 120 feet underground:

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

I can’t recommend the place enough. I went with an organised tour (Cracow Tours) from the city but you can go on your own and wait at the mine for a group to form with a guide that speaks your language. The advantage of going on your own is that you can hang around and eat in the underground restaurant, although I suspect you’d need to book in advance.

BirkenauThe next day I used the same company to go on a tour to Auschwitz. The sheer size of the place is staggering, and it gives you some idea of the scale of the atrocities committed during the war. The downside is that it’s full of tourists, there’s something about groups of tourists being shepherded around a Nazi death camp that struck me as grimly ironic. Again it’s a place you should visit if you’re in the area but I’d avoid the organised tours and head there on your own as early as you can manage, if you get there before ten you should be able to get ahead of most of the tours.

Bigos Krakow itself is beautiful, the old town is a wonderful set of cobbled streets complete with horse drawn carriages, there are more pictures in the flickr set. The food everywhere is excellent, the drink is cheap. Make sure you head out of the old town to the Jewish District of Kazimierz which is cheaper and less touristy than the centre.

I’d absolutely go back to Krakow, there’s a ton of stuff I didn’t get to do and I’d love to get a group of us over there and go on the Crazy Guides Communism Tour. The flights are cheap from Edinburgh and it’s a perfect weekend getaway destination. Poland is my favourite country so far, I might try and visit somewhere in the north when I go to the countries up that way.

Krakow at Night