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Category Archives: Travel Notes

Cologne Gothedral.

Another of my long-held dreams has finally come true – to check out Cologne Cathedral in the flesh. Crikey. It’s just monumental. Eerie. A huge stalagmite stabbing the low cloud up above. More gothic than the Sisters of Mercy ever were.

Cologne Cathedral

Oh my goodness

Read on: Mysteriously magnificent & imperially intricate…

Bowled over by the White Cliffs of Dover.

Last week’s busy overseas business itinerary, this time in London, ended with the usual installment of micro-tourism.

We rented a car and drove down to the White Cliffs of Dover, the sheer façade that drops into the English Channel. I’d long dreamed of getting down to the southern coast of England, the place where d’Artagnan came ashore (seeking out the queen’s diamonds wasn’t it? Will have to re-read the book), as did William the Conqueror, and I’m sure a whole hoard of other invaders and the like did…

White Cliffs of Dover in January

Read on: Cliffs, roads, jams and floods…

My 2014: A rush and a push and the land is ours and crisscrossed. 

There are just a few days left of this year, so I’d better rush and push and go over 2014 in review, before I get on to congratulating everyone for having a super year and wishing all the best for a supreme 2015…

So what was what, where, why, how, eh, and all that…

Geographical firsts.

Three years ago I came up with a list of what I reckon are the ‘Top-100 Must-See Places in the World‘ – a list of what I consider are the most mind-blowing sights around the planet. I hadn’t been to all the listed places – many were still left to ‘do’. This keeps things interesting – at least for moi! – as I get to keep steadily adding checks against the still-to-do’s (normally while on business trips – can’t beat two birds with one stone and all :).

In 2014 – six new checks:

– Patagonia;
– Big Island, Hawaii (details here and here);
– Norwegian Fjords;
– The Kurils;
– The tunnels of Jerusalem;
Kathmandu, Nepal.

So what else did I get to see this year that wouldn’t fit in the Top-100?

Four very impressive locations:

– The cliffs of Western Ireland (details here and here);
– The cliffs of Southern Portugal;
– Around and about Monaco;
Mount Fuji – again.

The Irish cliffs are like totally worthy of inclusion in my Top-100; however, for them to be included some place would have to be removed. But what? No easy task…

Here are a few more curious events from the past year… mostly a lot closer to home than the exotic locations of most of the Top-100:

– Meeting Angela Merkel;
– Buying an elephant;
– Witnessing a launch of Soyuz at Baikonur;
– Experiencing weightlessness;
– Being on Japan’s main TV channel;
– Our office being named the ‘Best Office in Moscow, 2014′.

Brand EK.

I’ve been doing fairly intense KL-PR stuff for years already. This year it was as intensive as ever…

– 50+ ‘top-tier’ (PR/media jargon) live interviews;
– 40+ presentations;
– 30 press conferences;
– 3 photo sessions.

All the above figures and events give us the following auxiliary stats too:

– 95 flights, 375 hours in the air;
– 45 new cities (maybe a few more – some might have slipped through the net);
– 3 new countries: Kazakhstan, Nepal, Luxembourg.

Transferring all the above onto a world map, we get the following. Red spots – business; green – tourism:

2014 in my eyes

And here’s a rundown of the trajectory of my movements around the globe, as extracted from my scribbles in my trusty travelogue-notepad:

Moscow – London – Davos – Tel Aviv – Moscow. Punta Cana – Sao Paulo – Brazil – Punta Arenas – Riyadh – Rome – Hannover – Seoul – Sanya – Moscow. Baikonur. Washington – Boston – Hawaii – San Francisco – Moscow. London again. Tokyo. London, Monaco. Munich, Bergen, Hong Kong – Kathmandu – Mumbai – Geneva – Moscow. Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky – Kuril Islands – Yuzhno–Sakhalinsk – Moscow. Washington – New York – Budapest – London – Tel Aviv – Paris – Moscow. Singapore – Jerusalem. Sochi. Wiesbaden – Luxembourg. Hong Kong – Tokyo – Osaka – Monaco – Dublin – Vienna – Moscow. Bologna – Venice – Barcelona – Faro – Lisbon – Moscow. Abu Dhabi, Star City.

And on that satisfying note folks, I shall sign off on the year. Thank you for your attention and patience! I wonder what next year’s travel-summary will look like. I think I’ll have to start taking it easier maybe – less non-stop marathon world-tours. Yeah, right!

Happy Boxing Day!

Cheers!

Seashells and a hotel on the seashore.

After staying the night in a hotel recently in the town of Cascais just outside Lisbon, I just had to put fingers to laptop to tell you about it. I’ve seen quite a few hotels in my time, but this is one of the few I’ll never forget…

Please meet the Fortaleza do Guincho. It’s simple, it’s classy, it’s cozy, it’s modest. A boutique hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant (we ate in the local greasy spoon fish fork, which deserved a Michelin star too:). In short: lovely lodgings.

But this hotel gets a whole blogpost dedicated to it not for any of the above-mentioned niceties. Instead, it comes down to the hackneyed real estate buying threesome: location, location, location. For this heavenly hotel is located right on the coast of the Atlantic – almost in it, in fact. The ocean’s literally outside your window. The sound noise of the waves crashing against the shore… it’s almost hypnotic – and can lull you into a doze-cum-meditation before you can say ’40 winks’ or ‘om’. Incredible. I want to go back already!

This is how it looks from up above:

And this is what it looks like down on the ground:

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Just like the palaces here… unusual, unique architecture :)

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The cliff theme continues

Read on: View to the left, to the right and from my room…

A palace, a castle and a cape near Lisbon. 

Last week we had another free afternoon in Portugal. Naturally, we made the most of it.

On our way to Lisbon airport we made a quick detour off the highway to take in another two interesting Portuguese places of interest.

They’re not quite as monumental as the cliffs we saw on the southern coast of the country, but all the same they’re still worth a look. The first place, real close to Lisbon, is the town of Sintra (and its Pena Park). The other is the western-most point of Europe – Cabo da Roca – approx. 20km from Pena.

Pena Park is actually the grounds of Pena National Palace, perched high up on the top of a hill here (500 meters above sea level).There are various different touristic tidbits to check out in and around the grounds, but the main two are the palace itself plus Castelo Mouros – Castle of the Moors – another hilltop-located ancient construction (and the cooler of the two).

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Pena National Palace

Read on: Summer residence of the Portuguese royal family…

For Those about to Rocks: Earth, Wind and Ocean. 

We recently had a day spare after a partner conference in Portugal.

What were we to do?

Easy: get ourselves a rented car and race along the country’s south coast! We set out from the city of Faro.

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It’s a coastline of very impressive imposing cliffs – forever battling the ferocious forces of the ocean.

Read on: startlingly stunning!…

Dead season – best season.

I finally get it.

The best time to travel around Europe is November!

All the great-weather tourists have long disappeared, and it’s a month until the Christmas/New year tourists will be back en masse. Yep – November is the perfect time of year for leisurely strolls along European streets and visiting (empty!) cathedrals, palaces and museums. Of course, the weather’s not super fine like in summer, but then Europe – especially southern Europe – doesn’t have a harsh northern climate anyway, so it’s perfectly doable.

Of course, you have to expect some rain, and you need to put a coat on… Big deal. A small price to pay for avoiding throngs of folks everywhere getting in your face, for not having to stand forever in endless lines, and not needing to get out of the way of pictures being taken by a zillion other tourists.

A.B. and I were lucky on this quick trip to Europe: We managed two hours walking gondoliering around Venice and a whole day strolling around Barcelona.

Venice

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Read on: Two hours in Venice and an evening in Barcelona…

Nifty lifty.

On my business travels around the world, I come across some of the most ingeniously intriguing bits of tech-kit, which never cease to amaze me. Simple ideas, efficient ideas, effective ideas, smart ideas. And they normally were thought up long ago. Maybe they just seem quaint now because of modern hi-tech overload numbing? That’s possible. Still, they’re no less fascinating for it…

Here’s a perfect example: the paternoster (meaning ‘Our Father’ in German).

It’s an elevator that goes up and down non-stop with a fairground carousel-like action. Or you could think of it as a vertical escalator. Wikipedia describes it as similar to rosary beads passing through one’s fingers round and round. Not so sure about that one. Hmmm, photos don’t really help out either in trying to explain exactly what it is. But I think the animated gif on Wikipedia cracks it:

Paternoster: how it works?

The first ‘Our Daddy’ I saw was in Hamburg in the Axel Springer building in 2009. Nice.

Read on: Lift, I’m youк daddy!…

Slieve League’s paths and views: in a league of their own.

Top of the day to you, folks!

Here we are with the final installment of travel notes from Ireland – and another magical natural wonder from the west coast of the country: Slieve League.

The mountains this day were neither much higher nor steeper than the ones we’d seen the previous day, but the views, somehow were a lot better…

Slieve Laegue cliffs, Ireland

Read on: Chuckle chuckle…

Irish towns: Water, water, everywhere.

En route to the Cliffs of Moher in the north of Ireland, we stopped over in Sligo, the principal town of County Sligo (incidentally, where W.B. Yeats spent much of his youth. But, you poetry buffs, can you name the poet who wrote the words in the title of this post after the colon?:).

What struck me most here – and in other Irish towns we drove through or strolled around – was the prominence of water. I mean natural water sources – rivers and, if it’s nearby, the sea.

There seems to be a river or stream running right through the middle of just about every town in Ireland. Of course, rivers and streams run through most towns in most countries, but it seemed to me that in Ireland they’re all big and in-your-face – and often very fast flowing and choppy (and making a heck of a din).

In Moscow, for example, rivers seems to be deliberately put out of sight, as if they get in the way. The man-made riverside walls there are always really high, so you can often be forgiven for not noticing rivers there. In Ireland they’re central to the character and spirit of towns, prominently visible and taking pride of place.

Like the river Garavogue running through Sligo. Look at the pics and you’ll see what I mean. Incidentally, Garavogue means ‘little rough one’. I can see why…

Just looking at the little rough one’s rapids flowing through the center of town got me salivating for water-tourism. Those arches under that bridge really need canoeing through, followed by a quick turn to avoid the stone wall just after it. Oh how I miss canoe-catamaran-rafting adrenalin…

Sligo, Western Ireland

Read on: Sligo rapids…