May 2013 Archives

in eating and drinking |

doughballs02 spaghettiaglio02

Sis has an evening function so gis is having a sleepover at my place. We went to pizza express for early dinner. It’s one of the few pizza places I like. We had doughballs to start, it’s sort of a must have there, and you can even get them at supermarkets now. For mains we both had pasta, I had a pretty okay spaghetti aglio e olio. Too full for dessert so we got the bus home.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |

We still have some vouchers left for Le Fauchon, so we had lunch there. A nice soup and salad starter, oxtail for mains and a small chocolate cake. Tea and coffee too. Good bargain, even though the oxtail wasn’t completely melt off the bone, and I only had two bites of the cake.

Hot, hot, hot day. Walked mm back to the office and was about to leave when I bumped into ex-colleague. Chatted for a bit, by the time I left it was almost 3.30pm. Headed off to the market to get fruit and veg.

in all about people |

poolinvaders

Remembering that I live next to the pool, sometimes I get disturbed by people and staff walking and talking outside. In the middle of the night, this couple decided to sneak into the pool. 12.30am. And the pool is closed, and covered as it’s only open at weekends during May. These two were smoking, drinking, kicking the water and chatting. I watched for a while, annoyed that they’re out there: I hate when people loiter outside at night and I don’t feel completely safe until they’re gone. But they weren’t doing anything, I lost interest and went back to bed.

p.s. yes, topless.


in family first |

chi182flowers

I didn’t have water all day (maintenance) so I camped out at Sis’ place. We went for salad bar lunch, picked up my niece then just relaxed. I guess this is what I’ve missed, having family and a support system around me.

in eating and drinking |

umai005oyster umai016appletart

We had a groupon at one of those trying-to-be-swanky oyster restaurants. 25/F in a commercial building with good view. The groupon was for 18 oysters, 2 glasses of wine and a smoked salmon salad. Plus 10% off their a la carte menu. Not many wine choices, only one of each. Chardonnay or pinot or dessert wine. I had the pinot and mm had the dessert wine, not sure what it is, it’s from Germany and it was too dark to read the label.

Nine oysters each. Start from 7 o’clock position and move clockwise on the pic. Two each of sandy bay, coffin bay, irish rock and fin de claire. One of white pearl from France. We both liked the first two, cheaper, australian variety. The sandy bay was crisp and fresh; the coffin bay was more creamy and tasted of the sea. The others were good too but in general overpriced. Two shots offered too: one a wasabi cocktail and the other was a kamikaze. Tried one shot, decided against another. The smoked salmon salad was small and forgettable.

We decided to skip mains and ordered dessert. Chocolate fondant for mm and apple tart for me. Again, okay but not particularly memorable. The menu is the same tired steak/fish/pork chop combo that are okay but no imagination, no adventure. Quite pricey, even for us. Not value for money.

in family first |

mum2013bday001

Mum’s birthday was during the trip so we had a proper celebration today. Went for shabu shabu lunch — 90mins all you can eat. Parents and Gis get discounted price too. The beef was too fatty but the rest of the veg was good.

Ice cream cake back at Sis’ place. Small one, perfect for everyone to have a slice and none left over.

in how the day went |

robroadpool001

Woke up to a horrendous thunderstorm, heavy rain and very dark all around. When it started easing off in the afternoon I went off to the supermarket. Seemed like the whole neighbourhood had the same idea, the store started to fill up very quickly and there were long lines at the checkouts. So much so that they started running out of shopping baskets!

It even got nice enough for me to go swimming for half an hour.

in photography is life |



That’s all. No words.

in being healthy |

badminton

We took advantage of the sales to buy a couple of badminton rackets at a big discount. We’re determined to do some sports together, and badminton is easy and cheap. I gave all my rackets away in London so I need to get new ones. Just as well because the styles have evolved since. We’ll move to squash next.

in money business , outside interests |

cruise0006strudelbeer

Met with my financial advisor about the state of my investments. Emerged from the meeting fairly happy. I did task her with investigating if I have enough capital to generate enough income so I don’t need to work. I think I’m okay, just about.

We are also converting a couple of my accounts to another platform, one that is more flexible, easier to use online and has more investment options. One of the options we talked about was to invest in some single company funds. The one she recommended was a Barings Germany fund. In the past, I could invest in pan-European but not just Germany.

Why Germany? It’s been voted the most positively viewed country in the world. Economic stability is first a foremost. As is frugality, organisation and just that particular German way of doing things. I probably won’t like living there, then again, I loved loved loved Switzerland and I was living in the German-speaking part.

in photography is life |

flickrnew

I have been a flickr member since 2005, and a pro member since almost the beginning. When flickr was fun; before yahoo bought it. I kept my pro account after the yahoo takeover, and when they pretty much ignored it.

I clicked on flickr and was presented with the new layout. No warning. No explanation. No notification prior that this was happening. I saw this huge page with huge pictures of my photostream. There was a random pic from someone else they set as my cover page. I was told to upload a bigger and better avatar.

Yes, there’s now 1TB of storage for all accounts as well as a slew of other features. But here’s my problem: all the benefits I paid for are now part of the free account. In fact, it looks like the free account is even better than the old pro account. Lots of reaction, mostly negative from existing pro users. Wade through the usual resistance-to-interface-change whining and there are genuine problems:

  • not given any warning, no trial period
  • no option to change interface, some display features seem to have disappeared
  • glaring black background
  • even slower to load than before
  • organizer still doesn’t work
  • search doesn’t work, I got a blank page for a simple search on “ham”
  • infinite scrolling on photostream doesn’t work, is extremely slow
  • titles, descriptions and comments only on mouseover
  • uploader doesn’t work
  • defaulted to random cover picture that wasn’t mine — even facebook didn’t do that, they left the cover page area blank and asked the user to pick their own
  • assigning cover pic only limited to recent uploads, couldn’t search through sets
  • collections seem to have disappeared

Techradar’s post title said it all, Has Yahoo Lost Its Mind:

Most of it sounds like the sort of teething problems you encounter when a free service undergoes a radical revamp - but for its most loyal users, Flickr isn’t a free service. It’s something they pay for, and have done for a long time.


Exactly. I wouldn’t have minded the new site if I were a free member. If facebook or google or even yahoo mail change their design and functionality, I have nothing to say because these are services I use free of charge. I changed to timeline on facebook fairly early because I thought it was okay and knew it was better to embrace the inevitable early. The issue with flickr is, I’m a pro member. I’ve paid for this service for 8 years. I don’t think I’m wrong in expecting to be treated with a little more respect.


flickrprices

And what the hell have they done with the pro accounts, and pricing? They say pro accounts will be grandfathered, if it’s set to auto-renew. Mine isn’t, but I can still see the extension option. Apparently users also have until August to downgrade to a new free account, but nothing is said about refunds. My pro account has a whole year left, so what am I supposed to do? I don’t want to renew now, but I’m afraid the option will go away or the price will go up. The new pro pricing doubles to $50 and the only benefit is ad-free. I have adblock plus for that. I just don’t trust that I’ll have unlimited uploads with the new free account—I don’t upload all the time but when I do it’s a big batch.

Honestly, I don’t mind the new design. I don’t quite like it, especially how it’s In.Your.Face but I’ll get used to it. I just feel they didn’t do a good job in rolling out the new service, including the lack of a heads-up, not offering display options, and not fixing existing usability issues. This is not what we expect from a supposedly experienced business.

What really rankles is the way pro users are being treated. We loyally supported the service during the past few years, but because we’re not good ad revenue prospects, or not instant gratification mobile users, we’re being pushed to the side. Flickr was originally about photography and photographers, now they just seem to want to turn it into yet another social media site. By all means, try to attract new customers but don’t do it while alienating existing customers. This is not the way to run a business.

I know they have me locked in because migrating 15,000 images is a big endeavour, but I’ll probably need to look at alternatives. Like many others, I already have a 500px account and I just signed up for ipernity. If things get really rough at flickr, I’ll just eat that $25 fee and migrate over.

in eating and drinking |

workxmas0901ham

On Food & Drink Michel Roux Jr asked his guests (Monica Galetti!) if he gave them £5 what comfort food would they buy. Kate Goodman said salt & vinegar crisps and Monica Galetti (Monica Galetti!) said chocolate.

Without thinking, what came to my mind was ham. My ham obsession started when Mum fed me it after I came home from swimming lessons and I could never resist great quailty ham on the bone. SIgh. Sigh. Sigh.

All I can afford now is sliced ham in packets. Not very high quality, but I can still eat scads of it.

in being healthy , habitat |

robroadpool001

I live literally a stone’s throw from the pool. Some people hate it when other people use literally when they mean figuratively but if I opened my living room window and threw a stone, it really would land in the pool. This pic was taken from said living room window position.

So, I have no excuse. The pool opens at weekends during May, so I went out and did 40 laps. Breaststroke and freestyle. I don’t know if it’s even a 25m pool so I have no sense of distance. Did about 25mins. Together with shower time, the whole endeavour took less than 45mins. Again, no excuse.

in eating and drinking |

tartpommes001

Had a gathering with mm and her mum at her place. Cheese and dried sausages with a nice gewurztraminer. I made warm grilled vegetable salad (peppers, courgettes, butternut squash, cherry tomatoes, rocket). Also tried making a french apple tart, and mm requested apple crumble.

The apple tart recipe is from Michel Roux Jr, I saw him make it on Food & Drink and it looked straightforward.

Roll out 180g puff pastry into a 25cm round, chill in fridge. Spread over apple compote (an apple stewed with a bit of water and sugar) and lay over sliced apples. Eggwash the pastry edges, sprinkle 2tbsp sugar and dots of butter, glaze. Bake at 200°C for 30mins until golden brown.

Except it wasn’t straightforward. The pastry didn’t rise properly and the tart ended up with what Paul Hollywood would call soggy bottom. I have no idea why. May be the pastry wasn’t cold enough, may be the compote and apple slices weren’t cold enough, may be the compote was too wet, may be the oven wasn’t hot enough. I can bake fairly competently and have no problems with crumbles and choux pastry. I’m just not very good at regular pastry.

I pan-fried a slice in a regular frying pan and the bottom was crispy. Overall, the flavours were fine so it’s a matter of mastering the puff pastry.

in eating and drinking |

dxbwhisky

One of the tasks on the trip was to get whisky at DXB duty free. It helped that I saw the large selection last time, and on the layover to Copenhagen I was able to browse even more. I’d promised a GCLS friend I’d bring a bottle of VAT 69 to Dallas, so I got that. Big bargain, less than $20.

I could get another bottle, which would be for myself. I’d finished an Edradour (mostly making whisky honey & lemon when I was sick in Feb) so I wanted a Speyside or HIghland. In any case, not peated as the Ardbeg is still open. This ruled out a very tempting Laphroaig PX or an even more tempting Caol Ila 12. Sigh. I briefly thought about a Jura 16.

Original intention was Dalmore 12, seeing how popular it is. But I didn’t want to commit to a whole bottle of a standard expression without having tried it first. That was what I did with BNJ and the aforesaid Edradour, and I would have preferred Highland Park 12 over either one.

My eye was drawn to a Glengoyne Burnfoot. No age expression, travel retail only. Named in honour of the original name of the distillery. But the difference was, I had tried it before, sometime last year when RM and I were doing the distillery rounds. I have a bottle already at home. I remember it being smooth and sweet. And at a price of AED143, or £30 for 1 litre, is good value for money.

It’s as sweet as I remembered. Needed a drop of water and to sit a while for the flavour to develop and the kick to dissipate. Reviews say apple, I get sticky heaviness and lots of citrus to finish. Definitely a more than worthy successor to the rather sharp Edradour. Next time, Dalwhinnie or Old Pulteney or back to my favourite HP12.

in eating and drinking |

jaspassurfturf01 fccsummerpudding01

Met up with Sis to catch up. We’d originally arranged to meet at this bar/restaurant called the Globe but when I got there it was busy and the wait staff was unfriendly. Directed me to the bar where someone had already set up their laptop and some sort of credit card application form, probably someone on the staff. Didn’t like the noise level so I headed off elsewhere. Ended up at an old standby, Jaspas.

Pretty nice dinner, and the waitress was super nice and super friendly. We both had surf and turf and a glass of wine. Then walked over to the FCC for dessert, I had summer pudding. Sis had coffee and I tried the Dalmore 12. The FCC like all foreign correspondents clubs all over the world, a little British, a little old school, full of hard drinking journalists. I almost bought a Dalmore 12 in the duty free on the way back, but at the end opted for a Glengoyne Burnfoot instead. Having tried the Dalmore, I’m glad I decided against it. It’s not bad, just not exciting.

in being healthy , eating and drinking |

mielepots norwayrepsils

I got sick on the first day of our holiday, the first day in Copenhagen. Could have been on the plane, layover at Dubai, the train from the airport, or when walking around in the city. I knew when my throat felt so dry when I woke up after the first night. It wasn’t a sore throat, just an extremely uncomfortable dryness. I tried drinking throughout the day, and had a supply of ricola and chewing gum at hand.

By the time we got on the cruise I knew I was going to be sick. The worst day was Kiel, when my throat felt like it was on fire the whole day. Apart from that, I didn’t feel any worse than normal, no tiredness, no cough (yet) so I tried to continue with the holiday as normal.

The fiery throat abated somewhat over the next 2 days when we reached the fjords but the coughing started. Mum asked if I wanted to go to the medical centre, but I didn’t want to. By the time we reached Bergen, I had begun to run out of ricola but luckily we found a 7-eleven and bought some strepsils. Or as they call it, repsils. Big help, especially the double action ones.

What also helped was the availability of honey and lemon in the cafeteria. I took enough pots of honey at breakfast to last the whole day and there’s always sliced lemon at the tea/coffee station. Drinking 3-4 large glasses a day must have helped soothe the scratchiness in my throat. And the coughing too. If I were at home I would have added whisky (of course) but just the honey and lemon was good enough.

Plus, this time I didn’t try to run a half marathon in the middle of a flu, just slow 30mins on the treadmill in the gym, so I didn’t get more sick. Still coughing a little, just as well I still have a supply of honey.


in going places |

Back home in the afternoon. First thing was to shower — I hate going over 24hrs without a shower and we were out all day in Dubai, then off to the airport straightaway. Luckily the flight was only 6 and a bit hours which made it bearable. I have 1,650 pics and 10 videos to go through so it’ll be a project to sort and write up the trip. But there are highlights that have stuck in my mind.

    cruise0001rosenburg
  • quiet morning at Rosenborg Castle and grounds — we had time before boarding and the beautiful King’s Garden was the perfect place to rest after a couple of days of walking in Copenhagen

  • finding a huge flea market at Kiel that turned a potentially boring Sunday when nothing was open to a more interesting day


  • cruise0002geiranger cruise0003flambahn
  • breath-taking fjords: the rainy, foggy morning at Geiranger that turned into a beautiful blue sky evening cruise down the fjord; descending Stalheim’s hairpin bends in a coach; the too-numerous-to-count waterfalls and topped off with a ride on the steep Flamsbahn

  • catching a mini avalanche at Geirangerfjord and even better, it was right across our balcony

  • sampling caviar from a tube, whale meat and black cheese at the fish market at Bergen harbour, walking along the UNESCO listed Bryggen area


  • cruise0004oslo
  • sailing down another beautiful fjord to Oslo — this was when I had this thought that life is unfair, why can’t I have been born in Norway and able to live in this wonderful country. (Oh wait, I’m an EU/EEA citizen, I can.) Anyway, who wouldn’t want to have their own house on their own island like this one


  • cruise0007dubai cruise0008souk
  • crossing the Dubai Creek in a watertaxi called abra, only AED1 for a 10min ride from one side of the creek to the other, a bit like the traghettos in Venice

  • souks were interesting, I finally get to see the “mountains” of spices that I didn’t get to see in Tunisia



cruise0005hotdog cruise0006strudelbeer

Food on the trip was a game of two halves. The food on the cruise was exactly like the last one. So now we know, all MSC cruises have the same menu: same broken fatty bacon, same baked apple for breakfast, same pizza in the cafeteria, same overdone beef in the restaurant, same soggy vegetables, same no sugar added ice cream, same wines, same baked alaska for gala night. The few highlights were grilled prawns and chocolate tart in the restaurant, pan-fried calamari and rocket in the cafeteria and pots of honey so I could make endless honey & lemon for my flu.

Food at the stops was better. Hot dogs in Copenhagen brought back memories from last time I visited, over 10 years ago with mm. We were poor students and hot dogs from street carts were one of the few things we could afford, we didn’t complain because they tasted great. This time, the cart at the side of the station near our hotel was our favourite, so much so that we visited it twice.

Other food? Bratwurst, strudel and beer at Kiel, delicious salmon at Voss as part of our excursion, grilled king crab claw at Bergen fish market, prawns direct from the fisherman on his boat at Oslo harbour, lamb shawarma with three types of rice in a Dubai food court, Cheesecake Factory next to an indoor ski slope in the middle of the desert. We all must have gained weight, although hopefully not too much because we also did massive amounts of walking.

in going places |

dub169waterpark dub191burj

Slept till 9.30am again. Checked into our flight, deposited bags with concierge. Off to foodcourt for breakfast. This time I had falafel in pita with salad, halloumi and tahini sauce.

Got a taxi to Palm Atlantis (AED34), but turned out there was very little to see for non-residents. The water park looked fun, we were able to peek at the monorail station. By pretending to want to shop, we got into an area where we would look at the aquarium. The monorail is a bit of a joke, AED15 for 4 stops, 2 of which were closed. May be it’s too new.

Jumped into a taxi again headed to the Burj al Arab, the iconic luxurious hotel. To get inside anywhere near the building we had to pay at the welcome centre, so we opted to just quickly take pics while the taxi was waiting. Back to the Mall of the Emirates, cheesecake factory, carrefour and hanging around the food court till it was time to go to the airport.


in going places |

dub021downtown dub046candy

We were so tired, slept till 10am. Mum had to wake me up, heehee. Walked next door to the Mall of the Emirates for breakfast, only 5-10mins and I was soaked. So hot after the nice northern European weather. Quite a few choices at the food court, I opted for a mighty kafka, like a pizza with mixed meat kebab and cheese. With a drink it came to AED32 ($9), happy with it.

Bought a daily metro pass (AED16, which turned out to be a bargain) and took the train to Dubai Mall. And now I realise even though on the map everything is close, it’s really more like Las Vegas and actually the distance between places and buildings is large. The walk from the station to the mall was 20mins, and already they had travelators.

The mall was huge, easy to get lost. It’s as if whoever built it was a world traveller and brought back all their favourite stores — Bloomingdale’s, Galeries Lafayette, M&S, Boots, Pottery Barn. Inside the mall is the aquarium, people stood mesmerised at the huge glass staring at the sharks, stingrays and thousands of fish. Opposite the aquarium is the 10,000 sqft Candylicious store, truly a kid’s heaven. Lunch was at Cheesecake Factory. Really. Shared a red velvet and a chocolate hershey’s. I had iced tea and it was nice to go back to the free refills mindset.

dub102spice dub119abra

Train to Al Ras station in Deira, the old town. Got a bit lost before finding our way to the spice souk. Too many storeholders harassing for business for us to be comfortable making any purchases. As well as the spice souk, there was also a souk selling kitchen and everyday utensils that was equally interesting.

Deira is separeated from the other parts of the city by the Creek, and there were watertaxis called abras crossing the creek. Only AED1 for a 10-15min journey that was lots of fun and huge value for money. There was another souk, this one sold clothing, material and “alibaba” shoes. Didn’t buy anything either.

dub220lambrice dub081fountain

Took train back to Dubai mall. Dinner was at the foodcourt. Parents got an Indian curry set (tandoori, lamb, biryani) and I got an Iranian lamb set with 3 types of rice. AED32 again. Caught the 9.30pm Dubai Fountain show at Burj Khalifa, next to the mall. Nothing like the Bellagio show, only 5mins but still it was nice to relax. Train back to Emirates mall, walked quickly around Carrefour and bought some halloumi.

Total walking: 3-4hrs.

in going places |

mus070appledonut

Had to be out of our cabin by 8.30am so we camped out at the cafeteria. More baked apple and doughnuts. Went to sit at the theatre to wait for our turn to disembark. Now we know the drill, but it was a long and impatient hour long wait till our group was called. Massive scrum to exit, get luggage and onto the double-decker bus to transfer to the airport. The bus was huge, and had a trolley in tow for bags. Quite sad to be driving through the familiar streets to the airport. It was another scrum to collect our bags and another massive queue to check-in. A youth orchestra in front of us had lots of musical instruments and lots of luggage problems. I could have paid for 10mins of internet (EUR3.50) on the ship to check-in online, but didn’t anticipate this long a queue.

Walked through duty free and bought salami and coke with my remaining coins. Ate croissant at the gate from the ship, but there were no water fountains so had to wait till we were on the plane. Seated in row 18, just behind business class so it was okay. Lunch was roast beef salad, lamb medallions, new potatoes and banoffe pie. Also had a much needed beer. Watched Silver Linings Playbook and Grand Designs. Arrived at DXB at 11.15pm, long transfer via train, long queue at immigration, by the time we got to the luggage belt our bags were one of the last remaining.

At least the taxi queue was manageable. The drive to our hotel was 20mins, at 120kph! Fare was AED80 ($20), pretty good. Hotel is the Ibis at Mall of the Emirates. Check-in at 12.40am, and we were too tired to argue that our rooms were on different floors. Quickly showered and went to bed. Hot already.

in going places |

oslo041balconyview oslo161harbour

Sailing into Oslo was a different experience than sailing through the fjords. Just as beautiful, but not as wild. There are houses in locations that are simply amazing, perched on the coast or on its own island. Walked around the deck 5 times after breakfast then settled to watch us sail in. Early lunch at cafeteria of lasagna, spinach, beet and rocket. Half a key lime pie and part of a chocolate mousse. Had gelato on deck with Mum, there’s a german beer festival too, with free sausages.

The cruise terminal is only a short walk into the city. Got a map and headed towards the parliament building and royal palace. Stopped by hard rock café and bought really expensive polo shirts (NOR499 $86 each, gulp). Small, neat, walkable city. We were back at harbourside in no time and continued visiting the Nobel Peace Center and the Brygge wharf area. Lots of restaurants and a marina, very cosmopolitan. The end of Brygge is the Astrup Fearnley museum, great architecture, didn’t go inside.

Spotted a fisherman selling seafood off his boat. Bought 250g prawns for NOR50, using the last of my coins. Shared the prawns back on the ship, sitting comfortably on deck. The hop-on-hop-off bus was parked right next to the ship, and it gave me free wifi for an hour, yay!

Yesterday’s dinner was one of the nicest, tonight’s dinner was disappointing with nothing to eat: beef wrapped asparagus, calamari risotto (only ate the calamari), potato crusted salmon, ricotta pie. Had a carafe of white wine and limoncello in the souvenir glass. Had to pack for disembarkation, bags out in corridor by 1am. Mindset adjustment needed, almost the end of the cruise.


in going places |

berg120bryggen berg095mktcrab

Early morning arrival at Bergen, 7am. Running out of things to eat at breakfast, settled for coco pops and hash browns. Rainy and cloudy day, plus the view from the deck was different from the last 2 days — Geiranger and Flam were the countryside destinations, and now we’re back to cities. Quite industrial and not much to see.

Here’s something the cruise companies don’t tell their passengers. When we got off the ship, there was a free shuttle bus right there. I’m sure it’s laid on by the city and not the cruise line, who would much prefer that we took their excursions. The bus to the city centre took only 10mins, and we were deposited by the lake. Just a short walk to the central square and the harbour. We stopped by a 7-eleven to get strepsils (they are called repsils here) and some chocolate for souvenir. I also replenished my coke zero supply.

The ultimate destination was the fish market. And what a market! There were lots of stalls both inside the market building and outside by the harbour. All manners of fresh seafood: fish, prawn, king crab, mussels, oysters, even whale meat. Free samples too, I tried fish soup, brown cheese, smoked salmon and whale meat which tasted like venison.

Walked onwards to the Bryggen district, which is UNESCO listed, with very pretty wooden houses. Didn’t linger too much, went back to the fish market. Ordered one large king crab (NOK140, $24) to share, the nice Italian lady at the stall grilled it for us and served it with some salad. Also bought 4 tubes of salmon caviar (NOK160) from them. The king crab was so fresh, so yummy. Sigh. If only it weren’t so expensive.

Back to the indoor market to buy brunost, or brown cheese, an intensely caramel-flavoured soft cheese that is quintessentially Norwegian. It’s one of those love it or hate it foodstuff, and we all loved it. Brown goat’s cheese was NOR89, they also had a black one flavoured with aquavit for NOR95.

By then it was raining steadily so time to head back to the shuttlebus stop. Only a morning at Bergen and it was really nice. We were back on the ship by 11.30am. Lunch at the restaurant: salad, pea & ham soup, spaghetti aglio e olio (excellent), trout with celeriac puree (good) and chocolate tart (also excellent). Went running for 30mins and did a few weights sets. Another gala evening. Dinner: gorgonzola mousse, tagliatelle with veal ragu, grilled king prawns (been waiting for this), cheese plate, baked alaska. Back to cafeteria for rocket and beet, having decided to skip the restaurant salad.

Total walking: 1.5-2hrs.

in going places |

flam008village

Our stop today was Flam, yet another beautiful fjord village. Went on deck after breakfast to watch the ship sail into the village and dock. Tiny village, so the ship dominated the village and I was in awe at how the people worked together to get us docked. Small boats came to get the thick ropes which they took back to the pier and wrapped around the stakes.

flam078tvindefossen flam122kjosfossen

This was the only place on our cruise that we joined an excursion. Full day, assembly at 10.15am. We got on a coach that took us to Gudvangen and the Naeroy valley. A brief 20min stop at a tunnel while construction was going on enabled us to stretch our legs a little. To Stalheim and down a 18% steep, narrow road with 13 hairpin bends that took us past the Sivlefossen waterfall. The coach stopped a few times for pictures but we couldn’t get off. There was even a rainbow at the bottom of the falls, so wonderful.

The next stop as the Tvindefossen falls, aka twins. A quick 15min break, so we had to move fast. One person on our coach was late and was almost left behind. Typical. Lunch was at the hotel Fleischer at Voss. The entire MSC excursion group, 6-7 coachload of people, for a buffet lunch that was really, really good. Salmon, salad, prawns, vegetables, jelly, caramel, fruit and even free beer.

There was some time after lunch for a little exploration around the hotel and station but soon we were all off again. Train to Myrdal then to what they advertise as the highlight, the flamsbana railway. 20.2km, 10 stations, 20 tunnels, one bridge and a 863m (2,831ft) drop, and the third most visited tourist attraction in Norway. The only stop where we could get off was at another waterfall, Kjosfossen. Then we rumbled all the way back to Flam. There was just about enough time to walk through the village and the shops before boarding at 5.30pm.

Italian night at the restaurant: antipasti, salad, seafood grill (swordfish, cuttlefish, prawn) and tiramisu. Went back to the cafeteria for rocket and their cuttlefish — better than at the restaurant! Walked 30mins with Mum on deck 7 and did some laundry.

in going places |

geir101harbour geir051storfossen

Greeted at breakfast by the sight of us sailing through the fjords towards our port today Geiranger. Rainy, or perhaps low clouds, but it didn’t deter everyone from going out on deck to take pictures of the beautiful scenery. We anchored in the harbour but not next to the dock so transfer to land was via tender. We queued up at the travel desk to get a number that corresponded to our tender, which could take 150 people onshore at a time. We were early so managed to get #3. Didn’t join any of the excursions.

Geiranger is a small village right next to some mountains. Reminded me of Kirkwall when the 2 cruise ships arrived, the village was suddenly overran by a swarm of tourists. There were local tours available, like ferry tour, bus tour or electric bike. I was interested in the kayak tour, but…it’s difficult with the rest of the group.

The walk up to the Fjord Centre was a nice 45min stroll past the church and the storfossen waterfall. Really stunning views. The sky cleared somewhat by the time we came back down to shore level. Lunch options weren’t great — burgers, waffles — so we finished exploring, did some shopping and returned to the ship.

Lunch at the cafeteria was rocket, beets and cheese salad, very bad spatzle, tiny bit of pasta. almond tart and profiteroles where the caramel topping completely stuck to my teeth.

geir129village geir168fjord

Went running in the gym again, showered and went back up to deck to watch us the rest of the passengers come back and the ship start sailing. Almost 30mins late, compared with the advertised time of 4.30pm. The sun came out and it was so, so, so amazingly peaceful and beautiful to sail through the gorgeous fjords.

Dinner was proscuitto & melon, salad, basil risotto, quiche (not very good), italian trifle and rice pudding.

Total walking 2-3hrs.

in going places |

kiel097sunset

Happy that today we were at sea. Time to get some rest and try to deal with the sore throat. Fewer people at breakfast, I ended up having tomato, hash brown, baked apple, semolina and tea. I gave up on their tea bags, broke out my own supply of PG. Read till lunchtime. Lunch at the restaurant: salad, pasta with chicken ragu (too salty), bratwurst with sauerkraut and a terrible fruit tart that was falling into pieces.

Went to the gym and ran on the treadmill for 25mins, then tried out a few of their machines. No yacht club on this boat so the gym was at the bow with a straight view of what’s ahead of us.

Gala dinner tonight. Free cocktails at the bar. From experience we won’t get the chance to meet the captain so we weren’t bothered and sat around to relax. Hate the dressing up part. Dinner wasn’t that different from usual: salad, oxtail consummé, ravioli with spinach & ricotta (dry), leg of lamb, cheese plate, pear in red wine and chocolate no sugar ice cream.

Managed to catch a nice sunset though. This time of year, so far north, the sun doesn’t set till past 9pm, 10pm.

in going places |

kiel028fleamkt kiel046bratwurst

After the predicted scrum at breakfast, we disembarked in Kiel at 9.30am. This was going to be a bad day, I woke up with a very dry throat that worsened through the day. It’s like my throat was on fire. Ah well, have to soldier on.

It being a Sunday in Germany everything was closed. We hadn’t joined a tour, none of them sounded interesting. What luck that almost the whole of the centre of the town turned into a giant flea market. It was full of people and stalls selling junk, antiques, clothes, plants, toys, books, even empty wooden crates. We stopped and tried two different types of bratwurst: a traditional one from a traditional cart and one grilled over charcoal. There was another stall selling pea soup and sausage that I wanted to try but didn’t get a chance.

The end of the flea market was a shopping mall where everything was closed. We had a loo break then headed back. Before boarding we stopped at the Kiel Brewery and shared a strudel and beer. Really nice, very relaxing.

Late lunch on the ship at the other restaurant L’Oleandra. Seafood cocktail, salad, fried scampi on fish with saffron rice, apricot tart. Back to cabin to read, do laundry and drink honey & lemon. Dinner was mussels (salty), salad, risotto (okay), veal (very dry), limoncello sponge delizia (light).

in going places |

copen206garden copen213rosenborg

No late check-out so we deposited our luggage in the lockers at the station and had breakfast at the bakery again. Headed to the Rosenborg Castle and its grounds, King’s Garden. Very peaceful, really quiet and a good way to spend a morning. Walked back towards Stroget and visited the cathedral, Trinity church and another supermarket. Hot dogs for lunch at the station, where Mum struck up a conversation with the gentleman sitting next to us who had just gotten off a RCL cruise from Florida.

mus005cabin mus088cannoli

Taxi to port, embarkation was really quick as we were pretty early. This time we’re on the Musica, a smaller ship than the Splendida. Except the cabins were exactly the same! We had 2 adjoining cabins. Another same-ness: the cafeteria food and the safety drill. We had 1st seating at Le Maxim restaurant and the food was also the same. I had rice balls, salad, wiener schnitzel, cannoli and orange sorbet.

Explored a little, back to cabin for shower and reading.

in going places |

copen278bfastbread copen281smorgsborg

For $200 per room per night, there wasn’t even breakfast. There was a leaflet in the room advertising breakfast buffet at the Vietnamese restaurant a few doors down. Not for us. We headed to Andersen Bakery, which we spotted yesterday. Great location next to the station, prices that weren’t outrageous. And what great bread! We had 6 to share between 4 of us, a mixture of sweet pastry and multigrain rolls. Really enjoyable.

copen086mermaid copen097statue

Headed back to the station to purchase a 24hr city pass (DKK70) and got the #26 to the Little Mermaid. The walk wasn’t as far as last time, probably cos we went from the right direction. The statue itself is small, perched on a rock next to a nondescript harbourside strip. Tons, and I mean tons, of tourists milling about but enough of a gap between people posing to get pics without people. Just when one group would leave, another group would arrive on a coach, it was never ending.

The park next to it is nice, neat flowerbeds and a few statues. A bridge, what looks like a government building, a church and a fountain. Lots to see. Got the bus 1A back to near the Palace attempting to find lunch. I also managed to exchange DKK350 worth of old notes to new ones, enough for lunch. Nothing really appealed so we got another bus back to the station and got smorgsbord and hot dogs which we ate back in our hotel room. The hot dogs were great, the smorgsbord so-so.

copen157riveropera copen194christiania

Another bus #9A to the opera house next to the harbour. Very pretty, although very quiet and not many people. Next stop was Christiana which is described as a freetown. It’s basically a bohemian commune full of graffiti, stalls selling typical hippie stuff and I wonder if my parents recognise the smell of pot. Hmm. There are also “no photo” signs so I had to be discreet. Not very interesting, to be honest.

And then a wonderful discovery: the harbour bus is included in the city pass. Instead of paying for one of the harbour tours in the glass boats, we just got on a harbour bus which took us all the way north to the end point, didn’t get off and rode the boat until the library. Saw the same sights, even more than the tours I think. Bus back to the hotel, brief visit to Lidl and dinner was takeaway kebab and beer.

Another long day with lots of walking. Over 3hrs.


in going places |

copen045nyhavn

Flight was actually at 12.35am, so the trip started today. Flight to Dubai was around 8hrs, can’t remember. Watched the Hobbit, enjoyed it. There was a midnight snack of chicken foccacia and breakfast was mushroom omelette. Slept for about 3hrs. Arrived at Dubai at 5am, next flight was 8.30am so a long wait. Walked around the duty free sussing out which whisky to buy on the way back, found one of those lounge seats and napped for an hour or so. Flight to Copenhagen was 6-7hrs. Watched Pitch Perfect, Django Unchained and old eps of Gold Rush. Breakfast of mixed mezze and lunch of chicken and potatoes.

Finally arrived at 1pm. The queue at the 2 immigration counters was long but got going finally. Very pretty airport, we were admiring the wooden flooring especially. A big crowd at the ticket counter for the train, but we finally got our tickets and were on the train in no time. DKK144 ($25) for 4 people. The journey was quick and efficient, as we expected. Only 15mins and 3 stops. Our hotel is one block over from the station, but it meant we had to schlep our luggage over, sigh. It’s more like a glorified hostel than hotel, there is no reception and check-in/out is automated. I did manage to get someone on the phone to check in early. The room is basic, bed, desk, a couple of chairs, a couple of hangers on hooks. Clean and functional though. No keys or key card, everything opened via door codes we were given at reservation. Copenhagen is extremely expensive and this basic room was $200 a night.

Have to admire my parents for their energy and stamina. After freshening up we were out already. Beautiful afternoon for strolling. First stop was Tivoli Gardens. It’s an amusement park now, I remember going there with mm during the winter and it was so cold! We didn’t go in, just snapped a few pics at the entrance. Then it was City Hall and the pedestrian zone called Stroget, a mile-long shopping street and side streets. Eventually we made it to Nyhavn, a pretty harbourside strip heaving with people, bars and restaurants. Much as I would have liked to sit for a beer, they decided not to.

copen274turkbuffet

Dinner was actually at a Turkish buffet because we couldn’t find anything and were getting tired. Upstairs, following a guy with a placard. Neater and prettier restaurant than expected. The buffet was okay, just what we needed: salads, lamb, chicken, cous cous. Had a Tuborg beer too, but horrified to learn that they charged for water. Ah well, need to adjust mindset.

Total walking: around 3hrs.

in going places |

med001dxb

The good thing about a late night flight is you have the whole day still to do stuff. The bad thing about a late night flight is you’re all set and then you have to wait a whole day before setting off.

Seriously, nothing much to do. Met with sis and gis for a bit, had a glass of wine then bought takeaway home to eat. That’s it. Dubai next.


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