Monthly Archives: December 2014

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!

Year-end festive fete – 2014.

As per tradition, we recently had our New Year/Christmas blowout – the kind of party other, duller companies tend to call their ‘corporate do’. That hardly describes what we have though – and more and more so every year…

Last Friday some 1700 KLers and scores of guests from around the world all gathered in Moscow’s massive Olympic Stadium for our mega-bash. We ate, drank and were merry; we danced, bantered and awarded each other prizes; we took part in – or watched – the sublime ice spectacle and KL-stage show (in which around 110 employees took part); then danced some more, then some more again… all to wind up the year as is only right and proper – and usher in the next and even better 12 months.

new-year-xmas-party-2015-1

new-year-xmas-party-2015-2

Read on: Full 100 grams of pure Christmas creative partying decadence…

Weightlessness: awesomeness.

I recently discovered a most unpleasant feature of my favorite Sony RX-100: it doesn’t take pics in zero gravity! Instead, it curtly announces ‘Drop detected’ on the screen and switches itself off. But I didn’t drop it! The only thing that was dropped was the level of gravity – to zero! Sony, I know you’ve enough troubles as it is right now, but please – this issue needs addressing!!

Zero gravity experience

I later found out that it’s possible to turn off this ‘feature’, but in the heat of the moment, when about to enter a state of weightlessness, delving into complex multi-branch menus on your chosen piece of photographic kit is the last thing you want to be doing. But thankfully nothing was missed this time – just about everyone on this zero-gravity mission (I’ll get to the details shortly) had a camera and was happily snapping away throughout the duration…

This is my one pic of the day’s events – before my camera conked:

Zero gravity experienceSneak preview: we went all floating-in-the-air-like-spacemen-in-a-spaceship in this beast

So, weightlessness – complete weightlessness, zero gravitation… What is it?

Actually, it’s not quite as exotic and out-of-reach as you might at first think. Let me show you by way of a mini experiment…

Get up from your chair right now and jump up and down.

No, really, I’m serious!

Zero gravity experience

Zero gravity experience

Read on: Weeeeeeeeeh!…

Abu-Dhabi-Finali-Mondiali.

How time flies… It’s now nearly two weeks since I was in Abu Dhabi for a high-speed adrenalin injection, and only just now have I gotten round to putting fingers to keyboard. So apologies for the delay folks; sometimes I need a full reboot – a few days of catching up on sleep and spending quality time with my family. Everything else – for later. Now, here’s that later…

So, like I say, I was in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, for the Finali Mondiali.

Abu Dhabi Ferrari Challenge

But why? Well, why, that is, apart from ‘it’s nice and sunny down in the Middle East’, like always?

Easy. Sometimes you need to meet face-to-face the folks you normally communicate with only by telephone or email. Mod-coms are all very good, but they’ll never by any match for personal interaction for catching up properly…

To take an analogy, let’s say you’re barbequing on the shore of a lake. Your pal’s also barbequing nearby – but on the shore of a neighboring lake. And you’re Skyping each other.

Question: Are you eating together or separately?

Answer, IMHO: You’re eating separately, and only imitating human interaction.

Homo sapiens – we were all designed to interact with one another. And the closer and more personal, the better. And that’s why I was in Abu Dhabi. Ok, that’s enough theory/work… Now: FUN!

There were tons of fun to be had in Abu Dhabi, so much so I’m struggling to work out which particular tons were the funniest. I think… yes – for me the best was the mega roller-coaster here (interestingly sometimes referred to as a Russian mountain – turns out roller-coasters first appeared in St. Petersburg – in the 18th century!!). What can I say? It’s mega!

Abu Dhabi Ferrari World1 second

Read on: May the luck be with us next time!…

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:

Fortaleza do GuinchoSource

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

portugal-hotel-2Just like the palaces here… unusual, unique architecture :)

portugal-hotel-3The 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).

portugal-sintra-cabo-de-roca-1Pena National Palace

Read on: Summer residence of the Portuguese royal family…

How much per minute? The Spanish parking pricing conundrum.

Still in Spain, after Barca, we headed over to the city of Seville. We needed to park up the motor for a few hours, so drove to the parking lot in the airport. And that’s when we saw it: Absurdity with a capital A. Or so it seemed at first…

On the wall of the parking lot hangs this here price list:

909254_1000Qué?

No folks, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. And no, that hasn’t been Photoshopped. Those figures, though very unreal, are actually for real.

What? How? Why? Anyone have a clue?

Read on: The reality of the matter turned out to be much more prosaic…

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

barcelona-venice-2

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