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Krys's Travel log

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Welcome to my travel log! You will find here a lot more than in the travel reports, stripped from political correctness. Enjoy!

Log entries 81 - 90 of 1158 Page: 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Oct 31, 2012 08:00 PM South Pacific - Here it starts

South Pacific - Here it starts I had to work in the morning, despite taking the entire day off, but such is life. In the meantime, I had to pack, rummaging through my wardrobe. I would not matter had I forgotten a piece of clothing, as I was going to a relatively civilised part of the globe. I was relaxed about that. For a 'real star' travels with a credit card only. Anyway, all those hundreds of euros that withdrew while on a weekend trips in Carcassonne and Florence/Pisa for the purpose of taking this cash to French Polynesia, I forgot to pack! So, not only is my bank manager stressed, this cash is simply sitting idle in the safe in my flat. I had to ask my friends to take it and make a use of it.

Anyway, my British Airways flight to Los Angeles was leaving at 3pm. I got an upgrade as the flight was overbooked. It was a 10.5hrs journey, but it was a day flight, so I did not care that much, as I planned to beat the jet lag by staying up for the entire route. Surprisingly, on a hindsight I must say, it was the Total Recall, American Reunion, Madagascar 3 and Ted that kept me awake. I had time to watch another film, but I could not decide so instead I listened to my iPhone music.

Los Angeles International (LAX) could actually be the worst airport in the galaxy to transfer between international flights. Inconceivably, the LAX or US authorities decided to force ALL travellers, despite their intention to enter or not to enter the United States to pass through immigration. (I did experience this in Canada in 2004, I must say - but there is more.) So, it meant standing in two very long lines, one for the immigration booth, and the other for the customs. Ok, that does not sound too bad, provided you have at least three hours of layover between the flights. But at LAX, it also means that, depending on the next airline you are travelling, you need to exit into the United States onto the airport approach freeway and catch a bus to take you to the right terminal. Curiously, there are no monitors at the arrivals where you just collected your luggage (and despite what you might have been told, your luggage is not transferred between the flights - you have to collect it, clear it in the US, and then re-check it in out of the US within a few seconds) to inform you which terminal you should be seeking. So, you are lucky if you are travelling on one of the world's known airlines, their sign will be displayed somewhere outside the arrivals hall. But if you are travelling on Air Tahiti Nui, it will not. You are reliant on the bus driver to tell you where you need to go, either by foot or by bus...

Fortunately, the LAX terminal B had a public lounge, where one could relax and sip wines, beers and tuck into snacks. It levied a fee - $15 for one hour or $30 for 2-3 hours. The price included wifi and unlimited soft drinks, like coke, coffee, tea, and of course the beers and wines.

The Air Tahiti Nui was more difficult. It was an 8h flight, a night flight and my seat did not recline fully. Plus a dodgy bloke sitting next to me was stroking my foot. I chose to ignore this... act (inappropriate, inconsiderate... I am missing the right epithet here) but it did not help me snooze. Oh, well. The aircraft landed 30 minutes ahead of schedule, which helped me survive it, somewhat.

Oct 05, 2012 04:00 PM Carcassonne (FR) - a mediaeval fairytale place

Carcassonne (FR) - a mediaeval fairytale place After seeing Egyptian pyramids, the Angkor Wat, Krakow and the Wieliczka Salt Mine, Rome, Esfahan, Samarkand, and the Grand Mosque in Djenne, there should really be little to impress me, and yet Carcassonne in southern France did not fail. Honestly, the place was incredible! Furthermore, learning that it once belonged to one family augmented the awesomeness of the place. The city was complete. The citywalls were complete, circumventing the city full of narrow alleys, an impressive abbey, the family castle and a good bunch of mediaeval houses, entirely. It looked most impressive from the distance, rising immensely beyond the vineyards and rolling hills. And yet, I just wanted to see it because of the Luis de Funes's films Le Corniaud.

Carcassonne is totally captivating. UNESCO listed the spot as a World Heritage Site in 1997, and rightly so. The walled city is unique and the fortifications are one of the kind.

Southern France boasts loads and loads of walled mediaeval cities, such as Aigues Mortes, but Carcassonne is simply the most fabulous of them all. And at scale!

Sep 28, 2012 04:00 PM Pisa and Florence (IT) - a quick look again

Pisa and Florence (IT) - a quick look again It has been almost exactly 17 years since my first, and the last, time in Pisa and Florence. Perhaps 17 is the magic number. I booked a weekend trip, after seeing a rather inviting price of a flight from London to Pisa with Ryanair, probably my least favourite airline. Landing in Pisa, quick transfer by road to Florence, overnight in Florence and then a train ride back to Pisa, before the flight back to London.

Sep 27, 2012 04:00 PM Carcassonne (FR) - soon

Carcassonne (FR) - soon So, the times of cheap flights are long gone, but occasionally, Ryanair puts a few tickets for a very good price. I looked up on the map searching for a good place for a weekend trip. And there it was - Carcassonne. I remember that my mom once told me about Paczkow, the Polish Carcassonne. I have never been to Paczkow. And since I have never been to Carcassonne, why not start with Carcassonne. The original.

Aug 28, 2012 04:00 PM South Pacific - All booked!

South Pacific - All booked! Having spent weeks online researching the best possibe route, and then days trying to find availability on airplanes and hotels, the trip to the islands of South Pacific is finally booked. Not the original wish-itinerary, but close enough.

The plan looks like this:
01 Nov - Rapa Nui
05 Nov - Tahiti
06 Nov - Bora Bora
07 Nov - Tahiti/Mo'orea
08 Nov - New Caledonia
09 Nov - Vanuatu
10 Nov - Fiji
12 Nov - Tonga
14 Nov - Samoa
15 Nov - Rarotoga
17 Nov - New Zealand

Aug 03, 2012 04:00 PM Baku - Glamour in the making

Baku - Glamour in the making What is Baku’s current municipal architecture plan is a mystery. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the oil boom guaranteed erection of grand palaces and mansions. This is when the tiny, UNESCO-listed, old town stopped being the city’s prominent feature. Today, Azerbaijan’s capital city is busy constructing massive high rise modern buildings, made of glass and steel. And there are many futuristic structures in the plan. The break-up of the Soviet Union and the second oil boom in the early twenty-first century resulted in a steady flow of petrodollars.

How long had Baku been on my wish list is hard to say. It crossed my mind in high school, after reading the obligatory book by one Poland’s most celebrated authors, however politically motivated or parabolical it was. It was titled Early Spring (pol: Przedwiosnie), and Baku featured right at the beginning in the chapter called Glass Houses. Although metaphorical then, today Baku is boasting an increasing number of glass (and steel) houses.

The old town, which features a few interesting spots and sights dating back to the eleventh century is really small. It is a tiny maze of little alleys and stairways, but it is relatively easy to navigate. The northern and western parts of the city wall still stand, and parts are still being renovated. There are a few round wall towers and small gates. Yet, it is not as spectacular as other old towns in Central Asia. Plus, it is really overwhelmed by massive palaces and mansions constructed in the twentieth century, some of which are very interesting and some of which are not.

The seafront Bulvar, meticulously kept by the authorities, probably refreshed before the Eurovision contests earlier this year, could actually be one of my favourite spots. It is a park and promenade, which, sadly, is steadily being interrupted by the construction of shopping malls. Fortunately the malls are being constructed alongside the park and do not take the entire width of it. There is still plenty of room between the shore and the malls. Actually, enough space to put three or four more of those. The park has plenty of shaded areas provided by countless species of trees planted on swathes of curbed lawns. They include baobabs and silk trees. There are cacti and other ‘recreational’ plants as well, and every few hundred yards, there is a cafe or a bar serving cold drinks.

The airport is about an hour’s drive from the centre, depending on traffic. There taxis right outside the arrival hall, but it is hard to tell, which of the taxis are genuine and which are just the regular taxi bandits, who prey on the visitors to overcharge them dearly. When arriving late at night, it is probably best to pre-arrange an airport pick-up. A standard taxi (most of which are London Taxis) would cost approximately 20 AZN (€22) at night.

Jul 07, 2012 04:00 PM In St Petersburg. White nights

In St Petersburg. White nights The thing people say about St Petersburg in the summer that the city never sleeps because of the white nights is actually true. The Petrovians kept lower profie in the afternoons, and then started to come out when the sun began to set - about 11pm. The bars and cafes filled up at midnight! It actually did not get dark at all. It was interesting to experience that.

I saw white nights in Norway before, in Oslo and Tromso (where the sun did not set at all), but streets were not as busy as in St Petersburg. Well, reportedly, the population of St Petersburg is around 4.5 million, whilst Oslo is about ten times smaller, and Tromso - I am not even sure, but maybe a hundred times smaller...

One of the more pleasant ways to tour St Petersburg in the evening, and around sunset, is to take one of many boats and see the city from the canals, from under the many bridges, and from the main river - the Neva.

Jul 06, 2012 04:00 PM In Pushkin. The Tsars' Village

In Pushkin. The Tsars' Village About 25km south of St Petersburg, Peter the Great's second wife Elisabeth and Catherine the Great built a grand flamboyant palace, gardens and pavilions, which were connected with the capital by the country's first train line.

The place can be visited as a day trip by bying an excursion organised (well, that is a stretch, considering how chaotic things can get) by a number of 'operators' right at the front of the grand department store on the Nevsky Prospect. But the best way, it would probably be to get there early on a public transport. There are trains (out of the Vitebsky Station), minivans or a taxi. There is not that much to see there and the 'organised' tours take forever.

The place is now know as Pushkin, named after one of the Russia's more loved poet, who, famously, died in a shootout duel.

Jul 05, 2012 04:00 PM In St Petersburg. For the first time...

In St Petersburg. For the first time... Formerly known as Leningrad (and therefore retaining its airport code from that time - LED), Sankt Petersburg is Russia's second city. It is where Mr Putin comes from. It was founded in 1703 by Peter the Great, as a demonstration of power, in the face of the Swedes.

Well, the guy made a great job! He had seen a lot of Dutch places, like Amsterdam, and decided to build his new capital on the top of swamps spread out on a number of islands. This means loads of bridges and canals. The architecture isn't bad, either. It verges on Baroque and Neo-Classicism, which was the main style of mansions, palaces, and more palaces.

One of the main features of the city, which is outstandingly Russian is the cathedral of the Holy Blood. It resembles the grand Cathedral of St Basil's in Moscow.

Jul 04, 2012 04:00 PM In Warsaw. In Transit.

In Warsaw. In Transit. Once again in Warsaw. Yet first time in 2012. I could see the airport was upgraded...

This time, I was only passing through Poland's capital. In transit to Russia. My plane from London landed at 11pm, so there was no time to do anything in Warsaw. That is not entirely true. If one wanted, there would be still plenty to do. But my flight to St Petersburg was next morning, in the morning...

I booked a room at the Radisson Blu Warsaw Center, as the hotel made a good offer. I think I paid GBP80, which was about acceptable for one night. I had stayed at that hotel a few times in 2010. I had not been overly impressed, I have to admit. The rooms had been so so, the beds really uncomfortable and the aircon not very efficient. The lobby bar had not employed the most professional bartenders in the world and the personnel overall had been cold...

So, how did it happen that this time, I had been given an incredible three room suite? Well, two-and-a-half room suite. It had a sitting room, a study, a bedroom and a massive bathroom, plus a toilet in the hall. I was impressed. Such a shame I was staying there only a few hours...

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