Monday, 22 October 2012

A very sunny weekend in Tirana

All my preconceived ideas of Tirana have been proven wrong, but I guess part of it, a big part even, may be because of the spectacularly good weather we have been enjoying since we arrived here on Thursday.
The sun is shinning over the dreary old Communist buildings or over the even more scary colourful post-communist buildings.
All buildings are painted like different ice cream flavours - pistachio

The empty Pyramid - falling in disrepair
When the Communist system fall at the end of last century people here decided that they were over the grey igualitik buildings, but they went a bit OTT and some buildings have not stand that well the pass of time, specially some of the colours, everything is a bit like Alice in Wonderland

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Kruja Castle, Albania

During the last few months people has given me funny looks or have just laughed at my face when I have mentioned that I was going on holidays to Albania. At times, if I am completely honest I did wonder if going to Tirana was just that bit too much off the beaten track and that I was going to get bored senseless, argued with my friends or get robed.

Landing in Tirana everyone seem to be proven right, there was a long queue to let all foreigners in and only two bad tempered guards which had decided that stamping your passport was well below their station, I even had to go back to get mine stamped. I have had problems trying to leave countries when I had not been  stamped properly.

However, from that moment on the trip has been a complete treat, amazing views, friendly people and stunning blue skies. We have spent the day visiting Kruja castle which has been fortified since ancient times, and seems to be dedicated to the memory of  Skanderbeg, the local hero / king. To me he looks more like a viking tall and broad that a local Albanian, who are very friendly but short and round.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Wasabi and a lot umbrellas in Andinos Bogota with some social commentary

When I started writing this blog, during my long trip around the world,, 360 days, 360 degrees, I got to know a lot of the markets, this time around I am getting to see a mixture, and the life of those that have, as oppose to the have nots.
Having Sushi on a trendy restaurant near Andinos
Talking with the team in Colombia we all agreed that life for the middle and upper classes is nice and easy in Colombia. For a sector of the middle class life is probably easier here that in the UK.
'Art' with the Andinos Shopping Area

However, below that life is very hard, poverty is still rampant and even in chic and elegant spots as the Andinos shopping area you get glimpses, like the passing of a cart, pulled by squalid horse, as they collect some scrap metal or cans to recycle.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Going to Down to Hell in Bogota or a Mojito in Andres

A little Mojito, or what I like to call a Tapa 

In the lower stages, Infierno = Hell
I had been before  here, during my first visit to Bogota with work, but this time I felt much more comfortable., I guess it makes a big difference knowing the people you are with and actually wanting to be there.
Andres is a strange theme bar, on several floors it is based around the Catholic after life Hell, Heaven and even the intermediate stage the Purgatory.
That is one Big Bib for a Big Messy Boy

You get huge mojitos, huge bibs for those like me that have a tendency to get messy. There is a surreal element that I loved all colourful, a bit like Alice in Wonderland.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Bogota on a sunny afternoon

For my second week around South America I ended up in Bogota, which for once was not grey and wet.
Despite being so close to the Ecuator temperature in Bogota is always around 22, or so it has it felt to me every single day I have been here. As the city stands so high up, +2000 metres above sea level and close to the Andes it has always been cloudy and wet. In the past I have wondered why people settled here and not in Medellin, which is always at 25 to 30 degrees.
However, this time the weather has been on my side, and the sun keeps shinning through the clouds.

Bogota Main Square ( Double Click on Pic )
I have spent a lovely day going around the city, enjoying the free museums, and the sun, that I am surely going to miss back in London. And this Sunday the city was mostly closed to traffic, which makes it a nightmare to get in, but very enjoyable once you are in, or if like me you are happy to take the Transmilenium, their Bendy Bus system.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Kuna Yala Islands or San Blas Islands

The more time I spend in Panama the more I am liking this country and the chance that I am getting on this work trip to do something else beyond the malls and spreadsheets.
The Kuna people live in three semi autonomous reservations in Panama and in a few villages in Colombia, and in some communities in Panama City, Colon, the Free Trade Zone in Panama, but the largest number live in Kuna Yala Islands or San Blas, a group of small islands off Panama in the Caribbean side.

So on Saturday early morning we took off and we drove 3 hours from Panama City, partly by motorway, main roads and dirt tracks. At 7 AM we reach the border of the reservation, where a small queue had formed, just in time for it to open.
The reservation is a world of lush greenery,of palms on an impossible on an impossible angle over pristine aquamarine sea which allows you think of Pirates of the Caribbean, but as every legend it has its dark side, the ever so young women with little babies.
Nonetheless the Kuna  proudly remember when in 1925 they stood against Panama and successfully managed to gain a degree of autonomy.
Poverty mixes with pride.

And how can you not be proud of this beautiful mix of sea and land, where I even saw dolphins jumping in front of our boat
As I emailed a friend from a boat in the middle off the Caribbean I could not help to wonder are we feeling more and more lonely the closer we get,

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Canal

About to turn 100 the Canal is one of the heights of human ingenuity and courage, that started back when the Spaniards first arrived in South America. They didn't only killed millions of Indians, forcibly converted them to Christianity and steal the resources. From the beginning they look at how they could cut short the route to Cipango and Asia.
I think he was not that impress by human ingenuity

However, it was not until 1914 that the Americans built the Canal, and in 1999 the Panamanians took it back, and despite all the doom and gloom that some people expected they have managed to operate it successfully and now expanding it.
The Canal helps the fight against climate change by dramatically cutting distances and the new expansion that will be finished in a couple of years will increase the size of the ships that can use it, cutting further emissions.

Miraflores locks, the first set from the Pacific

Friday, 21 September 2012

Cerro Ancon or the Beauty of Panama

Since I finished my year backpacking I have been worried about how close I am staying to the idea of traveling while I am writing from the Marriot,even if that is the Marrriot Courtyard. And today I came to realized that who cares. Travel opens the mind, by showing me the beauty the world has, and how much it has to offer.
The Mothercare Team by the Octopus
Some random pic
And a lot of this beauty has been man made, and today I saw a bit of both, I went up Cerro Ancon, and I saw the beauty of the jungle and then I saw the beauty of the Canal. 
The American Bridge above the Canal
Gleddis and Tai sweating up the Cerro

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Back on the road, but before that I would like to say

I am glad to be back on the road, three weeks travelling through South America. I know it is not the same than a year back packing, and I know that I am travelling with work. Nonetheless it gives me enough time to soak on life on the other side of the world. More importantly, it gives me time to remember how good life is, and how sadly sometimes I just forget that.

In the last month I kept feeling how I was letting myself down.

I watched the Paralympics, the superhumans, and I kept wondering what was I complaining about, what has life not given me. A challenge to overcome is to lose your arms and legs, to lose your sight. To be a child and lose your leg, not today when is trendy to be disable, but years ago, those are mountains to overcome, and so they did, and did us all proud

So from Panama I feel happy and in a great mood

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

A dream crashes to the ground

For all the times people have spoken about crises and have made it sound like Armagedon, this time it does feel like it.
I am in Galicia for a few days, visiting my family, friends and spending a few days sun bathing. I have never seen a country so beaten, so utterly hopeless. The only thing they do is wonder how bad the next piece of news is going to be.
I am starting to believe that is not the economics, not the corruption, not the utter stupidity of this country that will bring it to its knees, but the feeling of defeat that has taken over its people, of despair.
How can you go for applying to the G8 to where they are today, neither positions is just anothr Almodovar movie, just drama, drama

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The sun is shinning in Madrid

It has been a long winter and after a full month in the UK I have managed to get myself out of London and down to Madrid, even if it is just for two days I am delighted to be away from the grey and damp London.
I think the most depressing thing is that London is always beautiful at this time of the year, the trees have blosom and London is just full of life.
Sadly this is year is not meant to be

We seem to have brought the good weather with us, because Madrid, as London has been grey and awful, but a bit Sahara heat and the skies are now clear.

I am most impressed with this looks like an infinity pool....just a bit of glass

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Madrid Gets Ready to Strike

Sunset in Madrid
I am in Madrid at the moment, coinciding with the General Strike.
Until very recently the view, based in the results of the General election was that the country was ready to accept the austery measures and dismantling the welfare state.

I am not sure, based in the results in Andalusia and Asturias last weekend this really stands.

Tomorrow we will know what is the support, will the country show how displeased it is with the measures taken so far or will fear stop people from striking. Fear of losing your job in a country with 25% unemployment.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Leaving Providdencia, Leaving Paradise

After our last spot of diving, which was frightening, when I got high on nitrogen and felt I was flying and found my self 55 metres below the surface and amazing at the same, at least the second immersion which was very shallow, leaving Providencia is painful.
The people here are truly hospitable, the place is gorgeous and the sea is just a bliss.
It looks like I will be back

Friday, 23 March 2012

The Divine Child of Providence‏ ( El nino divino )

We thought it would be a good idea to go and have some seafood before leaving Providence. So after two dives and feeling enough hunger to eat a horse, not something I would say to one of my fellow divers who owns two, we walked towards South West Beach.

The long, almost deserted, beach has white sand and palms trees that seem placed there to be phtographed. The mangroves just behind do give the water a slightly muddy look, but only for a couple of metres. Look further into the sea and water is crystal clear and inviting.

The Divine Child is one of the three beach huts along the white sand, unmissiable with a Baby Jesus at its front, well more like a toddler.

Thankfully I didn't let this put me off as the mixed platter was truly amazing, fish, crab, half a lobster, rice, platain all for less than 9 quid.