Saturday, 31 December 2011

Start spreading the news - I’m leaving today- I’ve been a part of it !

could there be a more a romantic way to spend it !?!

My final day in NYC…
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (this means coffee, croissant and window shopping) like in the flick, followed by a carriage ride eating warm pretzels through Central Park, including a stop for ice skating (still no good and still hang on to the sides) and hot chocolate. Amazing early dinner at the Plaza, (imagine Selfridges and Harrods combined but on a much smaller, more intimate scale) show on Broadway (Warhorse), and to finish off a midnight visit to the top of the Empire State....

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of - one hand in the air!

What can I say …  everyone has either been here, read about it, seen it on TV, knows all the stories …  so rather than waffle … I’ll keep the blog brief and share some pics instead … (half way down)

Now I have visited NYC before albeit a very brief trip (even briefer than this one), the things that surprised me this time were:-

A – this is the busiest month of the year for (Manhattan) NY, relatives come in, tourists come in, December holly time, and December bonus means there is a whole lotta’ folk in Manhattan.  Yet London (especially around Oxford Street / Harrods etc ..) this time of year feels far more crowded.  Which is also surprising given Manhattan is only 12 miles long x 2 miles wide.

B – I saw two shows on Broadway ..  despite ‘broadway’ running almost the full 12 mile length, with almost 40 theatres, only 3 of these are considered ‘broadway’. The rest of the official ‘broadway theatres’ are off broadway, and just meet the right criteria to be classified, (never new that till now)....

Thursday, 22 December 2011

not just tequila, cactus, sombreros oooh and speedy Gonzales !

A quick run down of the last couple of days.

22 million people in area roughly the same size as Greater London / Melbourne.

600 starbucks, 18% unemployment, 627 museums, 127 walmarts built in the last 4 years, Corona with lime, chilli and salt, vibrant colours everywhere, complex history, ruins 5,000 years old next to modern skyscrapers , and where 2000 pesos (£100) a month gets you a reasonable flat on the outskirts  … oh how I love complex Mexico City…. In fact maybe I’ll do a TEFL and move on here ….

Frida and Xochimilco - (the floating gardens)

A visit today to Fridas house, the blue house.  Frida Kahlo was the daughter of a german descended father and Indian mother, unusually but because of her fathers background and his role in Government Frida was sent to College in Mexico to study Medicine. 

She had suffered from polio at an early age.  One day on the way to college (at 18) an accident happened on the bus she was on and a pole speared her stomach, leg, back and pelvis (she ended up having 39 operations on her back). She took up painting as a kind of therapy while she spent two years recovering.  By now Diego Rivera was an established artist and 20 years her senior.  He was commissioned by the government to provide art to important buildings, it was through this that he met Fridas father, who asked would he provide Friday with lessons.  It is here they fell in love. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Mexico – a visual feast ! (and surprisingly VERY modern).

Mexico is amazing, my flight arrived late at the airport (which I am going to rank as new favourite airport) putting Koh Samui now in 2 and Southampton in 3. I rank based on ease and speed of getting from the front door to being seated and vice versa (I don’t count plane delays or Southampton with fly maybe would not be up there) …  Mexico City airport is modern, efficient it took 10 mins to get off, go through customs, grab luggage, another customs check, drugs check (due to Sth America trip) and out the door, brilliant. 

I then went to a taxi transfer stand, booked  a trip downtown $205 pesos (circa £10).  The man grabbed my luggage we went out and waited for a cab, but there was none from his firm, waited 5 mins while he went off somewhere, turns out he went to another cab firm, so off I went in cab company number two, when I hopped in the man handed me an envelope, which I opened in the back of the cab it was $10 pesos with a note that said the second company was cheaper than his, and here was the difference back.  I could not believe it.  Honest folk those Mexicans.

snappy snappy - managed to get some uploaded ..

Links to pics previously referred to in Rio blogs, please remember I ain't no photographer and using a touchphone I cannot work ;-)

Christ the Redeemeer , Sugar Loaf , Apartment of new friend, Hotel balcony Copacabana

CBT - x

Viva - needs a revolucion ! - Cuba

Drafting this at Havana airport, awaiting my flight to Mexico city … kindly upgraded (3rd time this trip) … this is about the only place in Cuba that offers decent internet access … (Cuba is connected only via satellite).

It is currently winter in Cuba but still around 30 every day, and humidity is high, guaranteed afternoon rain every day.

Cuba is one of the strangest places I have visited.  Havana is completely different to the rest of Cuba. It is so run down, with buildings crumbling all around (except the embassies) it feels like most of the houses were bombed a few weeks ago (click for random street scenes) yet there is a real earthiness to it, and those that live outside Havana (even though the areas and homes are nicer) aspire to live in Havana.  ( old car snaps are further down).

Friday, 16 December 2011

For 21 years I have often thought of a big fat Cuban with a Mojito …

But now I don’t smoke … 20 a day in the early years, 40 a day in the latter, a smoker for 23 years … I wanted a cuban with a mojito for the most part of that ..

I’m in Cuba (cannot load pics here but will when I get to the states) you gotta see it, to believe it!
 … 2 mojitos in & 1 x cuba libre in, soooo wanting a big fat Cuban (cigar not bloke) … but yet I can’t ..  I quit with Allen Carr easyway, 2 years ago, who teach you to get off nicotine .. as much as I want that Cuban, I know it is packed full of the stuff, and one drag will see me addicted again.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

John John (Darwin that is)

I'm in Panama, if you are back from your canoe trip, drop me an email !

Rio – could you be… the most beautiful place in the world (thanks prince / symbol)

Doing a wee catch up, and to be honest, Rio kinda’ passed in a bit of a hazy blur … mmm wonder why that was!? 

I spent 4 glorious days (not nearly enough), in what I honestly may be the closest city to paradise (well a CBT kinda paradise).  This place is packed with everything, it is not just the beaches, because it is also surrounded by lagoons, tropical forest, beautiful hills, amazing museums and galleries, and uber sexy people.  You hear all about the folk of Rio being the most beautiful in the world, but I came to the conclusion that it is not actually physical beauty, they are just so damn’ comfortable in their skin.  A real lack of make-up, no-one cares about size, they get it out regardless, hairy pits (not condoned by moi), just a real earthy quality.

Anyway, I would be uploading photos, but I am now in a place, where shall we say technology ain’t the best (more of that later though).  I will add them when in Mexico or the States.  (you need to read the other posts for updates on sugarloaf and my wondeful last day in Rio)
 a rough rundown on Rio … now there is no hop on – hop off bus in Rio (crazy and me thinks I should start one, although Hollywood tattoos and Tromso café are still up there), so feeling a little bit ahem unwell from the following day, I decided to take it relatively easy and booked myself on a half day trip to Tijuca forest and also to see Christ the Redeemer.  I struck lucky, the tour was booked out … damn those couples … so I got to actually go on a private tour 1:2:1 with a cousin of the dude that I originally booked the tour on, (this has happened quite a few times, most memorably in Morocco).

I crap myself on a ferris wheel, but Sugarloaf is a breeze !

Life is good.  Popped along to Rios biggest market (16 blocks), all home made goods and crafts.  I wanted to buy sooo much to a) support the locals b) some of the stuff is amazing, but I am on the road now and suitcase space is limited. 

Following the market, off to Sugarloaf mountain, the cable cars are split into two journeys, and believe me they are  freakin’ high!  Yet I felt completely calm about the ride.  Now given three week earlier I closed my eyes on the Hyde Park winter wonderland ferris wheel, I am starting to think I need to talk to someone. 

click for more ..

Rio - the extremes – my last day ..

I had been asking Sergio on the forest / Redeemer tour about the Favelas of Rio.  You pass a few on the way in from the airport, but the Government has built these huge fence / screen things to block the views and ensure the tourists only see the pretty, lovely bits … (it is a very pretty drive so they kinda did  good job) ….

Sergio picked me up at 7am, we spent the first couple of hours visiting the err umm safest favelas.  Soo hard to describe… and after much convincing from Sergio, I took no pics, (not safe to pull out a touch phone) but try to imagine the Mumbai slums, on about half the scale, with the threat, eeriness, and crime of central Jo’burg.

Back to Sergios, for mate and decisions on the rest of the day...

Monday, 12 December 2011

oh Rio - I wanna be the girl from Ipanema !

Tall and tan and young and lovely. The girl from Ipanema goes walking. That when she passes, each one she passes goes - ah

When she walks, she's like a samba. That swings so cool and sways so gentle. That when she passes, each one she passes goes - ooh

Okay .. so the description is a little way out ... :-) but I am in bloomin´ Rio ..  Ipanema to be exact, move to the hottest spot north of Havana in a couple of days, (Copacabana).

I love love love Rio, cosmopolitan, tropical, relaxed, fun, cocktails, scenic, sexy ...  just a quick story, longer blog later ...  in London Boris J has established (what has become known as Boris´ bikes) pushies that you swipe your visa and you can pick up ride and drop off at many many many points across London.  I discovered Boris bikes Rio style following circa 12 Cuba Libres, after a very drunken ride through Ipanema and Copacabana, and me not remembering much, the gent on reception reminded me this morning, that ´my´ bike is parked in the luggage storage room ... oh my ... (I am sure I am too old for this) ...

anyway few snaps of the glorious beaches (click on the links) Copacabana and Ipanema beach

Take Care
CBT - x

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Don’t cry for me Argentina ! a snap shot.

this got soo long you need to see the other updates posted below ... or refer to the tag cloud to the right ..

The time in Argentina (Buenos Aires) has flown, and I am writing this at the airport now on my way to Rio…
No such thing as jet lag … you can pack alot in after a 14 hour flight !
Got upgraded on the flight … economy plus … sat next to blokes in Argentinian trackies with a soccer ball on them, but was to slow to realise (until we landed to the craziest fanfare I have ever encountered at an airport, that they were part of the Argentinian Futbol team …. hey ho ... nice chaps and we had some funny moments trying to converse and practising respective languages.

Delta Parana – Tigre and my bird flu

On advice from the hotel (kudos given they earn $ from selling tours) I hired a jeep wrangler through the hotel (yeah I know CBT favourite means of travelling transport) … and took a drive to Tigre to canoe on the Delta Parana.  Lots of folk offer tours for this but do it yourself, as the tours are way too structured.  Pics here ... Delta Parana

Recoleta Cemetery

Very eerie, cemetery is huge, it is actually known as the ‘little city’ as the graves are in fact mini houses with actual rooms, placed on actual streets.  Recoleta is an extremely wealthy area, where the rich of Buenos moved to post a cholera outbreak downtown.  The cemetery is home to military men and women, politicians and persons of significance to Argentina, including Eva Peron. 

Check the pics out here Recoleta & Eva

Yee hah gaucho …. Pampa Opera

Hilarious night at Pampa Opera, now I can’t get the camera to take night pics, I did get some good videos but cannot yet work out how to upload and link ..(oh how I am ageing) until then you can get an idea of the show from the video on their home page ..  click here ... Pampa 

It is an equestrian show, combined with dance and music that tells the story of Buenos Aires . There are over 50 artists and horses, and it was seriously one of the most breath-taking shows I have ever seen, fights, horses falling over (all staged).. etc .. gobsmacking.. 

La Boca – Bombonera – Boca Jnrs – Caminito

So on my little tour of the city, we passed through La Boca and Caminito, (home of Boca Jnrs) driver said never past 5, especially alone and female…. Oooh that sounds right up my alley so 5pm, off I trotted…

Thursday, 8 December 2011

so goodbye yellow brick road...

...where the dogs of society howl ! you can´t plant me in your penthouse, I´m going back to my plough.

Posting this as I sip iced tea in Buenos Aires !  Hola ...

Before I update on the ´road trip´ though, I must sign out of London .... (keeping this brief about to head to Tigre)!  The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of farewells, emotion and mmmm you guessed it champagne and cocktails and funnily enough champagne cocktails !

aside from all the bits you have to do when leaving your current life, not to mention the time still being consumed by the police stuff, the last couple of weeks have been full of debauchery ... of which I have no regrets.... read on !