Riga Pt 2.

19 05 2010

Thursday in Riga was cause for celebration.  It was my 30th Birthday, a day that I cannot believe has come around so quickly.  In fact the whole reason I was in Riga was because my Parents had paid for mine and H’s flights (thank you) and the hotel (Hanza Hotel by the way is very nice, and fairly cheap.  I would recommend it).

Hannah had bought me an amazingly cool Watch to add to my growing collection.  Dev, KP and May-Z had found me a spectacularly crap commemorative Prince William and Harry mug.  Bimbo and Fat Bob bought an oil burner to help me sleep, which I am a bit scared of trying incase I set fire to my curtains.

After a leisurely breakfast we made a plan to walk to the TV tower which is on it’s own separate island.  This meant that we had to walk over one of the massive bridges.  Which built during the Communist era is now crumbling and doesn’t look particularly safe, but it has some brilliant graffitti on it.  

The tower started looming large as we walked towards it and only got bigger.  It is the tallest structure in the Baltics at 328m.  We paid our money and travelled up in the weird slopey lift to a height of 92m where we got a great view and a tour in German.  I think that we understood a lot of it and found out the Riga has a population of One Million, that the windows are covered in Rust and that the tower is on Rabbit Island.  Exciting stuff.

After scaling the tower we headed towards the old town for a drink and a look around the Occupation Museum, which despite being incredibly interesting also throughly depressed me.  It depressed me so much in fact that had to go and have cocktails in the Cuban Bar.  Followed by more, posher cocktails in the Skyline bar on the 26th floor of a hotel, with fantastic views over the whole of Riga.

Dinner that night was a medieval feast in a 12 century cellar restaurant called Rozengrals.  All of the recipes that they use can be traced back to the 12th or 13th century.  The wine comes in Goblets and the beer in tankards, and your bread comes in a hessian sack.  I partook in the French Onion soup and then the Rabbit Stew.  Both were amazing and well worth the money that we spent on them.

Friday was slightly sad as none of us actually wanted to leave the un-seasonably warm city, and we had a slow mooch around the old town and ended up in the Sun museum, which is a collection of images of the sun from around the World.  This was made better by the fact that we had a great guide who talked us through the whole collection and afterwards we could go and paint our own suns. Mine was terrible, as I have no artistic talent what so ever, but we all had fun designing ours.

I loved Riga, and although I try and go somewhere different every time I go away I would go back there.  I suspect though that this will become more and more touristy as cheap flights go there.  This was already evident as we saw a couple of Stag and Hen parties there, letting the country down with their drunken behaviour (you shouldn’t be falling in a ditch at 2 in the afternoon).

I am putting more photo’s up on my photo Blog and as always there are more on Flickr.

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Random Diary

17 05 2010
This is a bit of a catch up Blog, as I have been on Holiday and got lots to tell you, about all sorts of different things.  I am going to do it diary style.
 
Saturday 8th of May – Celebration of Steam at the Historic Dockyard.
 
H and I decided that we would go down to the Celebration of Steam, not sure what it would entail, but we had a great day.   Our £12 ticket, got us entry to HMS Warrior, which I had wanted to go on for ages, a Harbour tour on a

Traction Engine

boat, where we got to see part of the British Navy that is docked in Portsmouth.  As well as this there was a collection of traction engines and steam powered memorabelia including the world record holding fastest steam car in the world, which took the record by going nearly 150 mph.

 
There was also an Ale and Sausage Festival where we had a local tipple and an Ostrich burger.  Which I can say is very nice.
 
Monday 10th May – Natural History Museum – London
 
As we were flying to Riga Early on Tuesday we had decided to stay at Stanstead the night before which gave us the opportunity to go to London.

The Natural History Museum Dinosaur

  We had wanted to get to the Natural History Museum for ages and it didn’t disappoint.  It is spectacular but we could have done with having more time. 

 
After a swift meal in China Town we headed to Wimbledon to meet with May-Z who unfortunately wouldn’t be there for my birthday.  We had some great conversations about professional quiz-masters among others.
 
Tuesday 11th May – Riga
 
We flew to Riga from Stanstead on Ryan Air.  It was ok.  It was also my Dad’s birthday, so happy birthday to him.  I will write more about Riga in another Blog, but it was great fun.
 
Saturday 15th May- FA Cup Final
 
Pompey were in the FA Cup final, after a turbulent season with Relegation administration, numerous owners and players jumping ship, we had battled our way to Wembley. 
 
We defended brilliantly in the first half and were saved by the woodwork on 6 occasions and went in at half time 0-0.
 
Daring to dream in the second half, we had a penalty, which Kevin Prince Boateng scuffed and was saved, and then Didier Drogba scored the winner.  Not what the fairytale deserved.
 
Sunday 16th May – World Twenty-20 and Gigs.
 
Well done to England, World T-20 champions.  It was a brilliant final, with all parts of our team on fire.  Bowling was economical, Craig Kieswetter and KP were on fire, and we were finally steered home by Paul Collingwood and Eion Morgan with 3 overs to go, a huge margin in this form of the game.  To beat the Aussies was the icing on the cake.
 
As soon as this had finished I rushed out the door to go and see North Atlantic Oscilation at the Joiners. The Sarah Griffin Band were great, the Rebs were average and NAO were probably the best band that I had seen this year.
 
There you go, brief, but good.  I will catch you up on Riga later.  




Chock’s Away

17 03 2010

Yesterday afternoon I was taken up in a 2 seater aeroplane (an Ikarus C45 for those of you who care) by one of my colleagues.  After a brief overview of the plane and our pre-flight checks we left from Popham and headed on a bearing towards Four Marks before heading to Petersfield.  At this turn we radioed Air Traffic Control to see if we could transit the Southampton airport Airspace.

Brief note here, something that I learnt yesterday, a small plane can fly pretty much anywhere it likes as long as it is under 2000ft.  Over this you get into the Airspace of Airports and you have to ask for permission to cross them.

Unfortunately as it was heavy traffice we had to stay low over Portsmouth, but as a result I got some Photo’s of my parents house, my flat and some great ones of Fratton Park.  As we headed out to sea we turned again and headed west along the Isle of Wight, turning at the Needles and coming back Eastwards past Shanklin and Sandown.  I was allowed to take the controls and do a figure of 8 over H’s mum’s place.  After messing about for a bit we headed for a landing at Bembridge where Mike had to adjust quite a lot because he had come in a bit too high.  Touch down was pretty soft and we had to do a few checks  before we had a cup of tea and a sandwich and then headed back up again.

After a straight run back to Popham we landed after watching the 1950’s Antonov do a loop of the airfield.  All in all this is a brilliant way to spend an afternoon.  Massive thanks to Mike for taking me up.

There are more photo’s on Flickr, so click on the link over there.





Up and Away

16 03 2010

I am very excited, I am leaving work this afternoon to be taken up in a light aircraft.  One of my colleagues at work is an amatuer pilot and asked if anybody in the office wanted to go up.  The office women were not amused, but I was there like a shot.  I am taking my camera and hope to get some good ariel shots.  The flight plan includes circumnavigating the Isle of Wight, so it should be good.

Chock’s away!





Egypt

15 11 2007

Me and The Housemate have just been to Egypt, and bloody hell is it fantastic.  What an amazing country, but more on that later.

Right anyway, long story short, we got stuck in traffic, I mean really bad traffic on the way to the airport and panic was starting to set in.  Last check in was at 9, at 10 past we had just got to the car park, so instead of waiting for the bus we just ran to the terminal and got there as they closed the gate, we were the last people to get there and so had the last 2 seats (I got upgraded, get in, free meal and excess leg room).  The flight was uneventful and it got us there without stress or fuss and I had a nice chat to a mechanic about the fact that although Audis are more reliable than Alfas, they just dont feel the same to drive (sorry digressing I know, but I do love cars).

Anyway we got there and were taken to out hotel, the Pyramisa Isis in Luxor, a 5 (We will split the difference and call it a 3) star hotel where we were met by Khaled who then proceeded to rob me for all of the money that I had, in order to sign up for trips, to the Temples at Luxor and Karnak (A sound and light show here as well), a Hot Air Balloon ride and a visit to Valley of the Kings.

Anyway, first morning we woke at 4 am (Not intentional, there is a mosque with a loudspeaker pointing directly through our balcony window) so we got up and had a spot of breakfast and decided that we would walk into Luxor town and while we were there decided to go to the Temple.  As we were there quite early it was pretty much deserted so armed with our cameras we spent a while wandering around this amazing 3000 year old monument being guided by my Lonely Planet and mainly just staring open mouthed at the sheer complexity, size and colours of the place.  With brightly coloured artwork and giant statues and start of the 2 km long Avenue of Sphinxes, this is really a sight to behold.  After about an 90 minutes we decided that it would be a good idea to head back to the hotel for a swim, which we did, and then we went to Karnak in the evening for the sound and light show.

Karnak is amazing, dont get me wrong, its bigger than Luxor and has more features and it looks beautiful with its blue and green mood lighting, but if you go, take headphone and some atmospheric music (somthing like Sigur Ros may be quite good) because with the overly dramatic acting (One of the parts was played by Liz Taylor apparantly) it sounded like a deleted scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and I felt myself drifting off half way through.

The next day we had our guided tour around Karnak and it looks even more impressive in the daylight, thinking how imposing it must have looked in its full glory is mind blowing with its 40m high walls and hypostyle hall with 114 colums in it.  Aman our guide took us around pointing out the interesting features and the history of the place, then we went off on our own.  We actually tagged along behind a german tour group and got to see a statue that you had to pay to see for free.  Then back to Luxor for a guided tour around the temple, and this just doesn’t get any less impressive, infact once you know a bit more about it, some of it starts to make sense.  As turned out to be our usual afternoon activity,  we headed back to the hotel and hit the pool.

Saturday brought brilliantly hot weather again and yet another early start, but this time for a balloon ride with Ahmed the pilot and 12 other people.  Now I never realised that you could actually steer one of these things so that you don’t just have to go where the wind takes you, and we went in completely the opposite direction to all of the other balloons and flew over the west bank with Valley of the Queens and Hatchupsets temple, but most impressive of the lot was the Ramesseum with its massive archeology site and impressive colums, it gave the sheer scale of what the ancients could actually do.  Once we landed we were immediately swamped by kids wanting money from us, but we were warned not to as if we gave to one we would have to give to the whole village.  (A quick note on hassling.  In the Egyptian culture you will be hassled walking along the road, for Taxis, felucca rides, carriages, english newspapers, now ive travelled a bit and so am used to it.  Honestly I didnt think it was as bad as it could have been, but then I am not a woman.  One of the families in the hotel was there with their teenage daughter and she was pretty much scared to go out of the hotel.)

 After this we decided to go to the Luxor museum and take a gander at some mummies and artifacts going back way past BC (a note against this is what the hell were we doing over here during this period, ok we have stone henge, but its not exactly the most impressive piece of pre-christ arcitecture, and in both central and South America and Asia cutures were much more advanced than ours.).  This gave us our first taste of the finary of the burial tombs.

Sunday we headed to Valley of the Kings and went into 3 of the Rameses pharoahs tombs, and bloody hell were these decorated plushly with the ceilings covered with thousands of painted stars and scenes from the book of the dead depicted on every spare inch of wall, but as they have been robbed by unscrupulous heathens there isn’t a great deal else in them.  So anyway, hands up who thought that Tutankhamun was buried in a pyramid?  Well you are wrong, valley of the kings, 2000 years after the pyramids were built.  So there you go, the mummy is there, all of the acoutriments from the tomb are elsewhere, impressively robbed by the British (well actually, Carter tricked the Egyptian government into giving him 3 quarters of what he found).  After that we headed of to Hatchupsets temple to have a mooch about there and on the way back we stopped at the Colussi of Memnon, 2 enormous statutes that were the gateway to the cities of the dead.

During this visit we toured with a couple of ladies from Manchester called Glynis and Elaine.  They were excellent, and made great companions for this trip.  Over our dinner that night we got talking to Rachel and Nadia from Switzerland and we ended up going out into Luxor with them and some Egyptians and drinking into the wee small hours.  We also watched the football but that was a nil nil draw so not much to say there.

Monday was our day of rest and sat by the pool for the whole day nursing hangovers and I finally finished my book which I swapped for the excellent Moby Dick.  We had a lot to look forward to as we had booked a day trip to Cairo for Tuesday. 

We flew early morning and were met by our guide Eman and 3 others, talk about being treated like royalty, thats 2 people each.  The Cairo museum was superb, absolutely 100% brilliant, and Eman made this already fascinating subject come to life, she was so enthusiastic and so passionate about this subject that we didnt notice the fact that we had been in the museum for 4 hours, she is also tiny, about a foot shorter than me.  After this we headed out to Giza and went to the Pyramids and Sphinx, and yes they look like they do in the films so I wont bore you with those details, but I will yet again tell you that Eman went way above and beyond the call of duty by providing us with diagrams of how the pyramids were built and the the dynasties that built them.

On Wednesday we flew home to our cold and dreary nation, during which there was almost a passenger revolt as a couple of people didnt get the premium seats that they wanted due to it being a different type of plane.  It could have been worse, they could have waited for the correct plane and we would have been delayed for 6 hours.

Right enough of this, a special section on Brits abroad will come later but for now toodle pip.