Friday, July 21, 2017

Tales of Malta: Buggiba

Our hotel resort was in a town called Buggiba, which seemed pretty touristy and quite crowded. Some nice restaurants and some nice views as well.

 We had dinner here one night and were treated like part of the family that runs the place. Excellent food and really nice service.

 This is the view from our room - not too bad, huh? The pool water was freezing, but just the right amount of shock to combat the hot sun. It was pretty warm during the day.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tales of Malta: Gozo Island by Quad

Our next Malta adventure was a full day tour of Gozo (neighbor island) on Quads. Super fun experience and something a bit different than our traditional segway tour. We got to see the full island and really enjoyed the day.

Getting ready to ride!

Yes, the water really was that blue. Unfortunately also very cold or we would have done some scuba diving.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Tales of Malta: Valletta

The May bank holiday provided us with a few days of paid vacation so we decided to use our time share condo and venture to Malta. Pretty easy 4 hour flight, but once there we had some fun challenges navigating the roads and construction. Lots of wrong turns and a little profanity, but eventually we would find our way.

First day was spent in the Valletta area.

 The two photos below are from St John's Co-cathedral (don't ask me what the co is for). I renamed it "gaudiest cathedral ever". Every inch of wall is covered in gold leaf, painting or sculpture. While it has some wow factor, we both felt it was just too over the top.

The real draw is that it houses some of Caravaggio's best paintings including 'the beheading of John the Baptist' (for whom the Roman Catholic cathedral is dedicated.  The paintings were amazing and worth the price of admission in my book - but of course, no photos were allowed!

We then took a cute little train ride around the city. The architecture is interesting - has a middle eastern feel to it, but also European.

After some heavy duty walking, we decided to have a glass of local wine at this place below. Super cute and the wine was pretty good too. The waiter suggested one that went really well with the local black olives - biggest, juiciest olives I've ever seen - and they did go really well with the wine.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Year in Review - 15 July 2017

A year ago today we landed in Bristol going from the heat and humidity of Dubai to the cool damp of England. I can't believe it's been a year already! Here are a few highlights of our UK adventure.

August 2016
We moved into our rented house - a 3 bedroom bungalow with a lovely garden for the kitties to enjoy. While our lawn hasn't improved, we've spruced things up with some nice flowers.

October 2016
I started my new job with the University of Bristol. What a change from the frenetic fast pace of a competitive airline. I went from a 55-60 hour work week to a 35 hour work week and still feel like I'm semi-retired!

December 2016
We actually saw some snow! They told me it never happens, but never underestimate the power of hope! Thank goodness I was up early enough to catch it as it all melted by 8am.

January 2017
One of the perks of living in Europe is how quickly and cheaply we can visit other countries. In January, we took advantage of an amazing RyanAir deal and spent a long weekend in Dublin.

March 2017
By March, the UK is already into full blown spring, which means lots of budding, colourful trees and lots of rain and mud. We went for a nice walk along the Frome Valley trail and saw drizzle, sunshine and a downpour in a 60 minute window.

April 2017
The Easter break holiday provided a chance to explore - this time Venice and Croatia. Venice was beautiful but crowded and crazy. Croatia was also amazing and bit more laid back and quiet.

May 2017
It's not our fault these holidays are so close together! End of May took us to Malta - not a place we plan to return to but an interesting adventure nonetheless.

July 2017
July's focus has been on getting our UK driving licenses. We're allowed to drive legally on our US license for 12 months, but then need to apply for a UK license. I'll post the full process soon, but suffice to say, it's as stressful and annoying as it sounds, but I passed yesterday - just in the nick of time, eh?

Here's to year two!!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Adventure in Yvoire

Wanting to take a boat trip on Lake Geneva, we booked a day trip to the medieval French town of Yvoire. After an hour or so boat ride, we spent a few hours hanging out in this cute little town before heading back. Not much to do, but it was a beautiful sunny day with lots of photo opportunities.

As you can see, the place was packed! Can't imagine how crowded it would be in the middle of summer. Glad we were able to visit now.

Such a cute place! We didn't do much - walked around, had some lunch, popped in and out of a few shops. A nice relaxing day in an adorable little village.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Tales from the United Nations - Geneva

One of the highlights of our Geneva adventure was a tour of the United Nations - such an amazing and important organisation. And the tour was amazing - wish I could remember it all. If you ever have the chance, don't miss it.

There are around 20,000 people from all over the world working for/with the UN in Geneva. And you can see it as you walk around the city - it's as diverse as Dubai, with every language, type of dress and culture you can imagine. Very cool. There are currently 193 member states in the United Nations.

The room below is used for the Human Rights hearings and discussions. The ceiling, which you can see a bit of here is painted with lots of different colours and textures to represent the variety of cultures in the world. As expected, each country in the UN has a labelled chair - they are arranged alphabetically. And yes, Iran and Iraq sit next to one another, and no, it doesn't cause problems.

A closer view of the seats. After the member states come the special groups (can't remember what she called them) like the Vatican and Palestine - not voting members but invited to all discussions and can participate. Then come the observers, which could be non- government organisations like WWF or Bank Mondiale. Every seat has a microphone, translation earpiece and voting button (if appropriate).

The UN receives lots of gifts from the various countries so while this is 'just' a working office of the UN, it seems a bit more like a museum or art gallery. This was a gift from China and I can't represent it in the photos, but it's a tapestry with a changing perspective. The set of stairs you see in front stays in front no matter where you're standing to look at the tapestry.

This is where they hold discussions on weapons and conflict. Discussions on Isreal, Palestine and recently negotiations around a treaty to ban nuclear weapons take place in this very room. Pretty awesome to sit where these discussions have and are taking place.

There are hundreds of large and small conference rooms throughout the building. The amount of work and people involved is a bit overwhelming.

And of course, we had to get a good photo of the flag display. It was a sunny and very calm day so hard to see the flags themselves. No idea where the US flag is.

Monday, June 12, 2017

A weekend in Geneva

I'm a bit behind (as usual) on my vacation posting. At the end of May we spent the holiday weekend in Geneva, Switzerland. A very nice city - modern, international, home of the United Nations and some amazing food. It was also one of the most expensive cities we've visited. Here are a few highlights of the city itself.

I think the structure below was a mosque. And have a look at the trees - it's a special kind of pruning they do to ensure the trees don't get too wide and leafy. I've seen a few like this in Bristol as well.

This is the iconic Jet D'Eau (water jet) that is one of the tourist symbols for Geneva. It was originally installed as a safety value for a hydraulic system, but is now just a tourist attraction. It runs during the day all year round, except in really strong wind or frost and operates at night in the summer months.

This is a memorial to someone, but I can't remember who (I know, how's that for an attentive tourist?)

Yep, that's a segway. Scheduled another segway tour - if you follow the blog, you know how much we love those segways!

This is an ancient arsenal built in the 17th century originally as a granary and then used as a military storehouse. There are 5 cannons on display that were used throughout the 17th and 18th century. The murals on the walls depict some of the highlights of Geneva's history.

The tree above is used to announce the first day of spring in Geneva. (kind of like our Groundhog day, I guess). Each year, the city declares the start of spring when they see the first leaf on this tree.

Random park with life-sized checkers and chess.

A nod to the Calvinist and Methodist history of Geneva. We visited one church (couldn't take photos) that had been built by the Roman Catholics (gilt, pomp, ornate) and then taken over by Calvin. What an interesting contrast - huge, cathedral but no decorations at all - just a very simple alter with a bible on it.

A cut little fountain in the middle of 'old town'. Where the town used to gather to get fresh water, gossip, etc.