Isle of Wight bus map.

I have been to the Isle of Wight before. And it’s quite astonishing how the eastern side of the island is different from the west.

From feb11-Isle of Wight

Quite unusually for UK (including the west of the island), the beaches here are sand as opposed pebbles. There were almost no waves to meantion of and on the horizon one could always spot an enourmous cargo or cruise ship.

From feb11-Isle of Wight

Walking alng the beach next to Shanklin you have the mandatory attributes of a modern british beach – numerous fast food places smelling of deep frying fat and brash neon gambling/game/entertainment halls. One good thing in going to a popular beach in february is that most of the loud and smelly places are closed. There is almost no one around and you can actually enjoy the surroundings.

I think Shanklin beach is quite special – there is almost a line, where civilizaton ends and the cost is left to it’s own devices.

From feb11-Isle of Wight

And then the going gets really interesting, because even though you still have the sand, rocks start appearing.

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You are surrounded by the cliff face on one side, the rising tide from the other and a beach that gets increasingly rocky – it was a brilliant dash back before you get trapped on one of the  taller rocks. And have to stay there until the tide goes back down again.

From feb11-Isle of Wight

The place is so desolated that at first you expect to see some stairs going back to the top of the cliff after the next bend. But after a while you do start believing that you have found a wild beach on this island. Please see my surprise, when I was going past a pile of scrap and recognised there was some order in it. Following it on I saw a set of stairs. No idea where they went, but there were so ingeniously made, that I recon someone could live there. Totally isolated if they wanted to, but not more that 30min walk from the nearest supermarket. Brilliant!

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After quite a lengthy walk to the north side of Sandown there is an amazing little beach that slowly shrinks as the shore goes from clay and mud to a white rock.

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When I finally climbed to the top of that clay cliff it was already past sundown, so not quite enough light to get good pictures. But even so I caught the moment when a whole gang of rabbits was going home to their little wholes from the nearest field.

From feb11-Isle of Wight

Rabbits are wonderful creatures to try and take a picture of in the dark. As as soon as they sense that you have spotted them, they freeze and hope that they blend in with the scenery enough for you to not notice where they are. At this point in time you set the camera for night mode, kill the flash and try to not make a sound as the camera takes a long exposure picture. Make the smallest movement and ether the little fellas are going to feel threatend and run away or your picture is going to blur like a drunken dream.

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I recon that this slide is caused by no one other than the rabbits! Their wholes go all the way to the edge and I think they might dig a bit too deep.

None the less how brilliant is it to see?

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Few words about Isle of Wight as far as people are concerned. The public transport is based solely on a network of busses going all around the island, where any sort of ticket is about 3 times the price of the London tube. The buses are mostly on time, but only run three times a day.

So most people have cars. And what cars are those… Honestly, I have been walking along a quiet country road of no significance and in around 30mins a Bentley, A retro US muscle car and a few high-end jeaps drove past me. This is in deep contrast to the neighbouring on the main land Southampton, where most cars are Fiestas.

In a word – astonishing!

The thing I like the most when going for some classical music with a proper orchestra is the few minutes before the performance, when all the musicians are gathering on the stage or in the pit. There is this very harmonic chaos in the air. The musicians tune their instruments, get ready and sometimes even slightly entertain the public. And you get the feeling that in a few minutes they will reveal something amazing to you, something magical, something you will never forget.

From feb11-London

How was this particular performance? I am no music expert and therefore I enjoyed it profoundly. I think the organaziers have split the performance into nice digestible 8, 32 and 32 more minute chunks. And yes, they are that specific. Which meant that people like me who don’t listen to classical music every day didn’t lose focus midway.

And of course the best of all was the selection of the pieces:

  1. Overture, Oberon by Weber
  2. Symphony No3, Op 97, Rhenish by Shumann
  3. Piano Concerto No5, in E flat Op 73, Emperor by Beethoven

Somehow they were all in tune with each other and felt very natural. A little bit of classical music is always nice, especially performed so wonderfully. There were a few niggles even I have noticed, but I shall keep quiet about those as they were vastly overshadowed by the times the performers got it right.

Philharmonic Orchestra programme

Brighton beach

Posted: February 13, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

I have been to brighton several times now. Every time in different season. I remember  in the summer last year (2010) it was crowded, not terribly warm and I was more interested in Brighton as a city rather than the beach on it’s own.

This time I made sure to go alone. Don’t know how everyone else, but when I am next to the sea in and no swimsuits are involved I keep thinking about the people I am with rather than actually about the sea. Which is a shame really, because it’s like a mirror, shining sunlight into your inner self.

And there was plenty of sunshine to go round this weekend. And not just sunshine. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. And we got quite strong and very persistent wind from the sea. Now everyone know what a sunny and windy day means on the beach! – massive waves and excellent visibility to enjoy them coming!

From Brighton 12feb11

And this time the beach exceed my best expectations. It was pretty warm despite being mid-February. And not too many people. Just enough to make you aware that you are not alone in this world and also feel safe and be able to relax.

From Brighton 12feb11

But before we dive into my sentiments of the sea, let’s say a few words about the town in the clouds. Brighton is probably one of the strangest places I have ever been. Only here you can find high-end restaurants next to chippies. Or Boutique designer shops right next to something dreadful like Next. So quite an awesome town.

From Brighton 12feb11

Even more jaw-dropping are some of the people that I have seen there. Some were hopeless romantics listening to the sound of waves running up the shore. Others were the for the sheer thrill of running from the white foamy cream-like waves. Needless to say my feet were really wet straight away and it didn’t matter if I got splashed even more🙂

From Brighton 12feb11

There were other brave souls, who were trying to surf. Now I have never done it, but by the looks of things Brighton beach is not the perfect location for surfing. To compensate for lack of surfing waves most of them were wearing thick surfing suits and making some pleasant conversation. Those who did surf though were a lot of fun to watch!

From Brighton 12feb11

And most fascinating of all were the fisher men. Some were fishing from the marine wave barrier. Others had boats and were getting ready to sail out at sunset. Interestingly there were 2 japanease guys fishing and at least to my amateur look they were as competent as the locals.

From Brighton 12feb11

This was a brilliant trip I would adivse anyone in the proximity to try and make it here. Of course, weather permitting – even though it was sunny and I was well dressed the wind was more persistent than me, so I had to retreat to a safe distance after 5hrs excitment. Even my trusty waterproof jacket gave in and was wet throughout😉

[ moved from http://andrejserafim.wordpress.com/2008/03/06/land-of-narcissi-tranquility-and-sea/ ]

As it often happens in England the weather had decided to be indecisive right from the morning: some clouds, some wind and some sun. Us, humans were left with our theories whether it would rain or it would shine. BBC Weather had no real idea on this matter as they have changed the forecast throughout the previous week from shiny sunlight to gloomy raining and back.

This Sunday we have planned to visit the Isle of Wight, in particular Alum Bay on its west coast. Not too ambitious – we wanted to enjoy ourselves, not record a new personal high score on the amount of places visited in a day.

Alum Bay is famous because it was involved into an experiment of Guglielmo Marconi. It just happened to be the place, from where he transmitted a first radio signal to an hotel some away 20 miles.

This of course had a huge impact on the world as well all use wireless communications all the time now. However alone it is not a good enough reason to get a ferry and get a 2 hour bus ride. If you were to read about the history of wireless networks and come across the experiment of Guglielmo Marconi you would inevitably see a photograph of Alum Bay – a tall steep cliff meeting the sea. For people like me that picture is a good enough reason to travel.

The island itself is very beautiful and green. As a matter of fact green is the dominating colour on the island, no wonder that buses and other objects on the road would go green where possible. And on the thick green carpet of grass one would often spot hares running wild and free. Although nice, hares are not as surprising as the selection of flowers on this island. Every pitch of grass however small would contain at least a few yellow narcissus (lent lily). They blossom just at this time, so all the numerous pathes of grass on the island would have a yellow highlight to them. Sometimes there would be more narcissi than grass itself.

But the hares, the pretty houses with curved rooftops, narcissi and other wonders of this island matter only before one sets eye on the Alum Bay and the sea. Once you step on the cliff or come down to the beach you enter a completely different world – time stops, sounds are different, light is different. Everything is not the same. You feel that the thoughts and troubles you had before you entered this world are completely irrelevant and you somehow forget about them really quickly. One thing you can see and comprehend is the sea, the wind and the sun. Luckily we did not have to comprehend the rain as well – it was nice and sunny during our visit to the foreign world of Alum Bay.

I don’t know how long we have stayed there, but the day just passed by without us noticing, I guess time really does run different there. But it is a small price to pay for the view of the freedom and power of the sea and the magnificence of the cliff.

Valencia

Posted: February 10, 2008 in Uncategorized
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[ moved from http://andrejserafim.wordpress.com/2008/02/10/valencia/ ]

Getting there

Valencia is on the middle of east coast of Spain. There are plenty of cheap airlines flying to Valencia from the UK. That is one of the reasons, why we chose the location. The choice was between Gerona (quite close to Barcelona) and Valencia. Most people would probably go for Gerona – Barcelona is a very beautiful large city with loads of places a tourist might visit. Personally I have not been there, but I have heard quite excited opinions about it from people I am willing to trust.

Because of a hunch, sheer chance or some other reason (no one can remember now) we have chosen Valencia as our destination. I think we were lucky. The destination was decided long before we actually started buying the tickets and booking the hotels. Actually, it was really close for us to stay at home and compete in pretending that we enjoy the January Southampton weather for that weekend. That’s why we were lucky – we managed to get back to the thought of going to Valencia before it was too late. I am so glad we did – Valencia is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen throughout my travels.

We landed in Valencia on a nice Airbus from Gatwick supplied by EasyJet – despite being a low price airline, they have done a good job (didn’t really like budget airlines before this). During the 3 days that we have spent in the wonderful city of the sun we stayed at a wonderful hotel Nova Victoria. It claims to be a 4 star hotel, I am no expert, but it was nice, clean and quiet – those are all the things I need in a hotel.

Valencian transport

The page Valencia @ Wikipedia will tell you that the population of Valencia is just under a million people and that it is the capital of an autonomous region with the same name. For visitors this should say that there is a separate language in Valencia, different from Castilian (main Spanish dialect).

Despite its size Valencia has a well developed metro system with 4 lines underground and 2 more tram lines connecting directly with the underground. The nicest thing is that 2 metro lines go up to the airport, which makes getting to the city really easy and quick. Going around the city in a metro is not really convenient as they follow the main streams of passengers, who live in Valencia or its suburbs and want to get to the center. We ony took the metro to the airport and the beach.

My companions might disagree with me, but I find that if one wishes to visit the city center and have a look around the place in general it is quite enough to use ones own feet. Our hotel was right in the center of the city, so we could reach any point withing 30 minutes on foot. And trust me, if you are in Valencia, you don’t want to miss out anything that you might meet on your way. This city is perfect to wander around and admire – taking random turns always proves to reveal something new and magnificent.

Experience of the city

Valencia is not spoiled by constant attention from tourists. When we wandered around we found many places, where people spoke Spanish only. Which made us learn some of it and brought a smile to everyone around us while we were at it. They were not mean about it though – usually the people of Valencia were genuinely trying to help us express ourselves. And would smile at our attempts – guess it was funny. Mostly we could understand each other with some time spent on rearranging the cultural differences.

It is quite interesting to see what people can do given this little information about our wishes. Usually it was enough to express an approximate direction or area of what you would like (for example a paella – common dish in valencia) and they would not bother you about all the fine detail they would usually ask people – would just go away and do something sensible.

Although we have seen only the center of the city, I am quite positive that this is the most beautiful city I have ever seen. My companions probably had something to do with this impression – we had a hell of a good time, but even so – the city is magnificent.

The combination of old city’s streets and a modern city’s drive is incredible. Yes, there is a commercial center and all the high and ugly buildings are there as well, but they are well overpowered by the amount of old and beautiful architecture.

The largest impression, at least for me, was sun and 20C in January plus a magnificent idea of the city to create a park in a former riverbed. The green snake of trees, bushes, benches, flowers and fountains splits the city into 2. The parts are connected with bridges, both new and old, which makes it even more special.

This makes it incredible easy to go through the city just by following the riverbed – you are in the middle of town, yet you can walk to miles between tress (given that you go along the path of the river). Fountains in Valencia are a completely special story of their own.

The people of Valencia use the riverbed park as a place for jogging and cycling, so it is always full of people, even at night. Which is great and makes you feel safe there even at midnight – nights are really warm, so everyone wants to go outside and either jog or just walk, cycle or enjoy the moonlight. And this time everyone includes you.

This was my first visit to Spain and I doubt that all cities in the country are like that, but even if so, it is definitely worth visiting Valencia – no doubts about it.

Food

One of my companions was very persuasive about trying out several Spanish dishes:

Paella – a dish of rice and meat usually served at lunch time (about 3pm local time). Comes in a variety of ingredients and tastes. We had several attempts to get one – the most successful was in a place so far away from the tourist world, that we had serious trouble communicating, but we got a paella and some fish out of them, both superb.

Horchata – a white colour drink made from almond nuts, great in hot weather.

Churos – stripes of pastry deep fried and sprinkled with sugar. Usually served with thick version of hot chocolate. Really depends on the place, where you get them. But if it is the right one, they are delicious.

Bocadillo– sandwiches with the strangest of ingredients, we had a tortilla (omelet) one – delicious. The guy serving it looked so hot that the feminine side of our company could not stop talking about him for the rest of the vacation.

Sea in January

The beach in Valencia is a classical sandy Mediterranean beach with low waves and plenty of wind from land. Because it was January there were not many people there, so searching for food proved to be a problem. Took us some time to find a place serving food. It was a kebab place, so we were quite reluctant to go there first – a kebab is always a kebab, but we could not find anything better, so had to settle for that.

While we were searching for a place to eat we came across a school festival. Kids and their teachers were dressed up in costumes according to a theme special to each class going through the streets with music and dances.

The sea itself was really peaceful and somehow brought the sensation of the whole city together – peaceful and calm, yet understanding that time goes on. Sometimes rushing, sometimes slowing down, but never standing. I know that I will enjoy coming back to Valencia.

Follow up to Christmas 2007 part 1 – airport

[ moved from http://andrejserafim.wordpress.com/2007/12/16/christmas-2007-part-2-flight/ ]

Yes, the airport was a nightmare as it usually comes with airports. And no one really likes airports. But flights… Those are completely different.

When we just took off, I noticed that the view was really clear – no clouds or fog or any other obstructions much too common in england. I was lucky enough to get a seat with a window – after all that waiting at the airport, I thought it was worth it. And that was the first time I have ever seen London from a plane at night. It was spectacular.

It all started with some mist near the horizon and there I saw red flames…

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[ moved from http://andrejserafim.wordpress.com/2007/12/15/christmas-2007-part-1-getting-there/ ]

For me Christmas is all about the morning on the 25th of December, I have an image from my childhood that I wake up early in the morning, and there is sunlight outside (means I woke up really late) and I can see the world through the drawing of the frost on the window. Actually when I was a kid I remember I could not see anything because those patterns covered most of the window. And there should be a smell of a Christmas tree and snow outside and nice food in the fridge. Also there should be a special Christmas spirit around everything.

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