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Category Archives: Travel Notes

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…

Atom Heart Moher.

When folks who’ve been to Ireland get asked what its best ‘must-see’ or ‘must-do’ bits are (besides Guinness), most reply with the Cliffs of Moher, and understandably so. The Internet even says these cliffs recently became one of the top must-sees, not just of the whole of Ireland, but the whole of Europe! Bold reckonings. But they might just be right…

This part of Ireland is stunningly beautiful.

200-meter high sheer cliffs facing out across ‘the pond‘, aka – the Atlantic Ocean. Monumentally magnificent. And the waves way down below – like 50 floors of a skyscraper down below – can still be heard up here at the top crashing against the rocks. Them some powerful waves.

Western Ireland, Cliffs of Moher

Read on: Raining cats and dogs…

Sado-tourism.

What are you supposed to do in Japan if you’ve a free Saturday, you’ve already ‘done’ Tokyo several times, you’ve just had a partner conference in Osaka, and Kyoto’s also been fully inspected before?

My Japanese trolls-cum-colleagues suggested shooting up to Fukushima, but when I asked them what’s really worth seeing there, they went all quiet. So with Kyushu and Hokkaido being too far for a day-trip, we ended up deciding to hop onto a train to speed over to the west coast of Japan, and then travel by boat a bit further – to the island of Sado.

Sado island, Japan

Source

Now, when my Japanese trolls colleagues kept referring to ‘island’ – ‘here on the island’, ‘they reside on the island’, etc. – it seemed a little strange to me. As if Japan were the ‘mainland’, and just Sado were an island. Still, I guess the largest island of Japan is both ‘main’ and ‘land’, so maybe I’m nitpicking… Hmmm.

Anyway, what’s there to see on the smaller island? :)

Simple: not much. Hardly anything interesting whatsoever. A visit is purely just for the check mark on a list of been to’s of the world. Japanese west coast/island: check.

But wait… There’s always something… Surely. Yes: here, it’s the colors of autumn across Japanese mountain ranges: simply stunning.

Sado island, Japan

Read on: Glide with Boeing…

Monaco – the view from above.

Hi folks!

Here I am in Monte Carlo, Monaco, to attend this year’s INTERPOL General Assembly. I love this place. I’ve been here several times before, but never tire of it. One thing I’d never gotten round to doing though was getting up into those hills that tower up above it.

This time, I finally managed it. It was just a shame that in the morning it was really overcast and rainy…

Monaco, Monte Carlo: bird eye view

The view from the top of the hill – from a village called La Turbie

Read on: Mercifully the weather soon cleared up…