Geneva this July is hot. If it were a human body it would be running a fever of over 38 degrees Celsius! And there was me thinking places like Morocco had a monopoly on sweltering temperatures. Clearly a myth. What makes it especially like an oven here is the lack of wind – plus the lake doesn’t seem to help out cooling the place either; that doesn’t stop folks gathering on the beaches along its shores…
How time flies?
We’re nearing the end of the first half of 2018 already (which will end, like every other year, with our company’s mega b–day bash). Just about six weeks left – and just a few more business trips – and that will be it: time for downing tools and having some well-earned rest and relaxation.
Well here I am on one of the above-mentioned business trips – in sunny Paris. Can’t complain, generally, of course. Paris is Paris, after all. But I can complain that it’s 95% business on this trip: just a few hours left for some sightseeing. Oh well, at least we were installed right in the center of the capital, which meant only one thing, in my book: a trip to my fave Paris museum – in the Pompidou Centre.
Coming to this place is always such a pleasure. I’ve been several times since my first visit in the early 2000s, and am never let down. This time though, I have to say, the exhibitions weren’t quite up to their usual high standard; at least that’s how it seemed to me. But that’s only subjective: I was on a roll of negativity, which started back in Morocco ). I’m sure objectively [sic], all was merveilleux.
Now, if you’re a regular reader of this here blog of mine, you’ll know how I like to keep things positive. No matter where I am, no matter the weather (mostly), no matter how jet-lagged, no matter how tired… – I keep things cheerful, cheery, chipper and chirpy. But sometimes, just occasionally, I find all that jolliness is tough to maintain. Not sure why. Maybe it’s something to do with the poles or the moon and tides. Anyway, I need my readers to help me find worthy places to see in Morocco (for my inevitable next visit) because this, my second time in the country, gave me very little to say ‘wow’ about…
Morocco has a long and rich history, so much so you can become engrossed reading about it once you get started. Especially the bit about the fossils of very early (from more than 300 millennia ago) Homo sapiens/Neanderthals. So careful with that link folks: it represents a black hole for your precious time. Worth it though: it’s the history of mankind, no less.
Today, there are suburbs that are more salubrious than the norm – pretty red residences, even new developments of villas with swimming pools in the back garden (as seen from the airplane), but these are very few and far between. Mostly here there’s a marked absence of luxury and other well-to-do-ness.
And, of course, being in Africa, the climate… yes – it’s no Faroese affair ). Hot and humid. In short, not my cup of tea, to put it mildly.
Now, given these unfortunate downsides, I did during my recent stay in Morocco wonder why the place so popular with tourists? Was I checking out all the wrong places in the country? Was I here in the wrong season? What else could I be getting wrong? Could any of you, dear readers, shed any light on this? What are the must-see places in Morocco I’m missing?
This was my second time in the northwestern African country. I was here back in 2012 for a conference in Marrakech. That time I was fairly in raptures about that ancient city with all its backstreets and hustle and bustle. So I’m warming to the theory that I may have got the season wrong.
Another thing: Marrakech isn’t by the sea. Maybe it’s the coast that’s the tourist-magnet, much like, say, Surfers Paradise? Hmmm. There are also the Atlas Mountains – which I didn’t investigate up close. Maybe those too?
Aaaaanyway. My mood sure lifted from this unusual and unexpected gloominess of mine when we reached our digs for the night: the Kasbah Tamadot. Just click that link and you’ll see why ). Talk about ‘oasis’?!
Btw: can you spot the telecommunications pole in the above pic?…
…It’s that single tall, thin ‘palm tree’ on the other side of the road from the hotel. Camouflaged!
…And it’s this fact that attracts most of the guests here. Sometimes he’s here in person and everyone wants a selfie with him (poor guy; and he comes he to relax:).
A very nice place, as you can see. Plus the views all around – exclusively Moroccan:
The Atlas Mountains in the background:
Kunst and birds…
We got up nice and early the following morning – before it gets crazy hot – for a stroll up the hillside at the foot of which the hotel is nestled.
It’s quite high up here (1300-1700 meters above sea level), plus the Sahara isn’t far to the east, so the vegetation… well, again – it’s no Faroes ).
There’s Branson’s hotel:
In closing, a word about the airport…
A grandiose construction, super-modern, really nicely done.
Btw – what’s that alphabet there? Anyone know?
I’ve seen a zillion airports, but not many compare to this one. At least, looks-wise.
Because function-wise… I’ve never known a slower airport! Everything here takes ages! Passport control, baggage, taxis.. Even ‘fast track’ service is sluggish – its ‘fast-tracked’ passport control took five minutes – the actual ‘control’, I mean – not the queuing up!
Still, looking on the bright side – ok, things are slow, but at least the service is actually passenger oriented – and works. For I went and mislaid my trusty travel wallet – with all my travel papers and my two passports in it – while filling out all the forms at the airport. A while later – they found it, called me, I drove back to the airport, and was returned everything. Respect!
But I’m afraid that didn’t make up for the 40-minute security check – just to get into the airport!
Then another 10 minutes for the other security check after passport control.
Then the five minutes while they check every page of my passport!
So again folks – please do tell me what I’m missing in Morocco, why am I… not ‘getting’ it? )
PS: Oh, and guess who was staying at the Virgin hotel?…
All the photos from Morocco are here.
Football/soccer is in the air all around the world this summer – especially in Russia. So, sticking to this theme, herewith, a footie-post; but not even a mention of the World Cup…
But, since I was on the Faroe Islands recently, I just had to tell you about their national football team. Though the territory they cover is tiny, their national team, made up exclusively of non-professionals, does rather well against other – professional – national teams.
I was told how they once played Russia’s national team – and the half-time score was… 1:0 to the Faroes! Wait: so, the team of some small islands with a population of around 50,000 – made up of amateurs (i.e., folks who play in their spare time as a hobby, be they postal delivery workers, teachers, mechanics, students…) were at one point beating the national team of the world’s largest country with a population of 140 MILLION?!!
There are more Faroese tales of the unexpected:
The Faroe Islands pulled one of the biggest upsets in footballing history when they beat Austria 1–0 in their first ever competitive international on 12 September 1990. The game, a Euro 92 qualifier, was played in Landskrona, Sweden, because there were no grass pitches on the Islands. Torkil Nielsen, a salesman for his local builders company, scored the goal. 32-year-old national coach Páll Guðlaugsson became a folk hero overnight, and is today remembered by his players as a fearless character who always believed that the Faroe Islands could get a result against the bigger nations. American sports magazine Soccerphile rated the Faroese victory number 10 of the all-time football greatest upsets.
On 9 September 2009, the Faroe Islands recorded their first competitive win since the 2002 World Cup qualification stage after beating Lithuania 2–1.
On 11 August 2010, the Faroe Islands came close to an away win in Estonia during the UEFA Euro 2012 qualifiers. The Faroes took the lead in the first half with a goal by Jóan Símun Edmundsson. The score was still 1–0 after 90 minutes played, but Estonia scored twice during stoppage time and the Faroe Islands lost the match 2–1.
On our stroll around the Faroese capital, in among houses with grass growing on their roofs, we came across another patch of grass, which turned out to be the football pitch of the national side!
In fact, there are two pitches side-by-side:
In total, I counted four football pitches on the islands. That is, one per every 12,000 inhabitants. Just to compare: to match such a football-pitches-per-capita in Moscow, the city – officially of around 12 million – would need a full 1000 pitches! That is, 20 times more than today’s 48 stadiums in the Russian capital!
Btw: that there pitch you can see is the very one on which the Faroe Islands were one-up against Russia at half time! ➡
That’s all for today folks. Back soon!…
You’ve seen what the Faroe Islands look like down on the ground. Now, let’s have a look at them from up above in a helicopter.
Hardly any words today folks; just a ton of oh-my-green-and-glorious pics for your viewing pleasure…
This is the north-western edge of the islands; the best pics were taken in the morning – against the sun. But I think a sunset view of these parts needs to be checked too. That will have to be for another day though.
Off flies our ride! But he promised to return a while later…
Oh how I wanted to get up some of those clearly volcanic peaks for trek/climb in such clear and beautiful weather. Maybe I will one day…
Stroll time – on the westernmost island of the Faroes – Mykines.
I like paths; walked a great many; but I can’t recall one with views all around as breathtaking as this one!
‘Faroe’, btw, means ~’sheep island’ in Faroese. Well, as I can vouch personally, nothing’s changed in thousands of years!…
In closing – a few words about the Faroese climate.
Though my first impressions were positive, it does turn out that the internet doesn’t tell lies: the weather here is pretty darn awful generally. We were just very lucky: a full day of bright sunshine is very much a rarity here. More often than not it’s rainy, foggy, windy, murky and bleak.
(Btw – those are birds up in the sky; we didn’t see a single mosquito)
Windy, as per usual:
So if ever you’re heading here – take some good weather with you. Otherwise…
PS: the hotel we stayed at was wonderful. Highly recommend: the Foroyar. The food was outstanding.
Cattle sheep grid!:
Kunst in the rooms…
…And in the restaurant:
And that, folks, is it from the fair Faroes. Gotta get back here and get some trekking in. If only there was a season when it didn’t rain…
All the photos from the Faroe Islands are here.
First off: geography test!
Who’s heard of the Faroe Islands?
Ok, and who can point them out on a world map? I reckon not all that many. But that’s just wrong! Because these islands are so mandatorily categorically must-see – if only via photographs on a blog on the internet. So here you are folks – plenty of pics of these wonderful remote islands…
Have you ever been inside a genuine fortress built by actual Crusaders? I hadn’t – and I’ve been to so many different interesting historical places in the world I’ve lost count. But finally, recently, I did it: my first crusader castle visit!
Here we are – a fortress built on a high, small patch of land jutting out into the sea that’s surrounded practically on all sides by steep slopes, and down below in the sea are the ruins of former piers and docks.
Not long after leaving Japan, I read in the Russian press that there’d just been an earthquake there causing several deaths and a ‘transportation collapse’! Oh my Geiger, I thought, and quickly looked for more details on other sites on the web. Well, sadly they were right about the deaths – a few dozen, but ‘transportation collapse’? The earthquake was registered as a 6 on the moment magnitude scale. Sure, it gives everything a real good shake – but it doesn’t knock you, the dog, or the furniture over.
And ‘trains grinding to a halt’ (the article went on)? Of course they did; they’re meant to: special systems are installed on all the railroads to make the trains do just that! And besides, in Japan, there’s a magical 15-20-second warning sent out to all cellphones before an earthquake hits! How on earth that is possible I have no idea, but it sure is massively helpful. I’ve seen it for myself (back in 2011): we were in a car and a local’s mobile emitted a warning signal (so we quickly pulled up), and 15 seconds later the lampposts and traffic-lights started shaking along the road (it turned out it was aftershocks of the (9-magnitude) 2011 earthquake).
In Japan, all buildings, all roads, all bridges, all towers, all infrastructure – it’s all designed and built specially so as to withstand strong earthquakes. Even a 9-magnitude quake damages very little at all! So magnitude-6? You can work that one out yourselves ).
Sure, there’s rail disruption. Sure, the airports aren’t firing on all cylinders. But that’s it. And after a while – everything automatically starts to move and fly again. Japan is quite ready for earthquakes; it has to be.
Ok. That’s enough about earthquakes…
Here I am, back in one of my fave countries – Japan. The work ethic here is really quite extraordinary: they work a lot, then some more, then more, and then even more. Thankfully, they also know how to unwind of a weekend, which is what we needed to do after our long trip getting here. So off we popped – out of the big city and up into the mountains – to a ryokan with an onsen in the village of Hakon.
Never been to Japan? You really must one day.
June in Tokyo is rain season.
We’d been warned, and figured we’d pack a brolly in our suitcases and would be sorted, but… oh my gush! I was not expecting it to be raining cats and dogs non-stop all day and night without letting up for a minute.
As ever, we were here on business, and, as ever, I needed my mandatory portion of tourism. But there was no chance of that with all the incessant torrential rain. Oh my grrrr.
Thankfully, we did get some Japanese rest and relaxation in before the rain began. We drove somewhere in the direction of Hakone, holed ourselves up in a ryokan, and immersed our travel-weary bodies in the onsen waters. Add to that a steady flow of Kirin and Sapporo, and later into the evening a few drams of both hot and cold sake (and Hibiki too) with a delightful nectarine chaser, and it all added up to wonderful way to wind down. But I’ll tell you more about that in another post.
Back to today (a few days ago). Mercifully it was weekday, so we didn’t really mind the rain.