Monthly Archives: July 2012

Travel: St Andrews

I can cross the North Sea off my list. That’s my list of large bodies of water to dip my toes in. In this case I put the whole of my two feet in during a Scottish BBQ. It was a cold and rainy season in St. Andrews. But I was determined to feel the water. Actually, it was surprisingly only at hypothermia temperatures so not really that bad if you only stayed in for 10 seconds. And it led to me finding out that havianas can be very warm once molded to your feet. At least warmer than the surrounding sand.

To be clear, this was THE beach – the one that the famous Chariots of Fire race was filmed on and re-enacted for the 2012 Olympics!!

St. Andrews itself is a lovely little town and there’s really no other way to describe it. It’s more charming than nice and it’s too big and busy to be quiant. There’s enough to do in and around the town (if you take the bus, a cab or have a car) that can keep you and the family busy without rushing and there’s no such thing as hustle and bustle except the queue to take your photo on the stone bridge on the old course. (sorry, I’m not a golfer so i didn’t take a photo.)  the high street is well developed enough that you could actually spend a day shopping, yet you could walk from one end of town to the other in about 15 minutes- 20 minutes if you amble.

Most certainly the influx of university students and researchers combined with the golfers has driven the international diversity of offerings. I found both Jamaican blue mountain and Hawaiian kona coffee in a shop!

Now, unfortunately, the fly in the ointment is that with the golfers, the hotel prices are sky high for fairly mundane, uk village hotels. You would be better off with the b&bs or even the uni residence halls for the prices.

Highly recommended for a visit on any occasion, but be prepared to stop and smell the roses.

Travel: Safari animals-antelopes and others

K, I couldn’t just leave it at beautiful scenary and hair-raising stories about getting to the park! I had to get some animals in there. Travel tip #16: when photographing animals, set your camera to take fast pictures.

One of the first antelopes we saw was this 2-toned one. I’m sure our guide knew the species (he literally knew everything we could ask), but I’ve forgotten what it was. I’m almost sure it’s a Topi.

Then of course, we ran across some springy springboks. You really can’t imagine their springiness until you see it in person. It was too fast for me to capture as we literally saw them for less than a minute as they raced across the road in front of us. See the brown specks in the photo?

And it wouldn’t be complete with a gnu or two. We saw a number of Gnu (or Wildebeest) herds as we were there on the tail end of the migration. Although, as our guide pointed out, the animals didn’t read the guidebooks and they go where and when the food and water are there. While the gnus are quite strange and ugly creatures, they are impressive in a herd.

However, you usually ran across them with Zebras. We were told that they ran together because the animals looked for different things like water and they preferred different grasses (long and short) so it was an advantageous partnership.


Review: Maroon 5’s Overexposed

My review: I like it! What do I know about music? Nothing authoritative let me warn you. Although if umpteen years in the Royal Conservatory system hasn’t taught me scales by now, nothing will. So, let me tell you why I like this album, because my feelings about it is all I can really stand on.

The tunes are interesting – they have a great melodic line with some cool supporting beats and harmonies. There are some nice instrumental flourishes that add the finishing touches to the songs. They definitely make me want to bop my head and tap my toes even at work in my open office layout. And there is a nice variety in the mix – unlike some albums where after the 4th song you can’t tell them apart or other albums where it sounds like the group couldn’t decide on any sort of theme and just threw everything in.  More than one song is repeatable – I can listen to it a few times in a short period of time and don’t feel like I need to change the channel.

Adam Levine’s vocals are polished – not just the technical bits which he does so well, but his delivery is solid and genuine. I can’t sing along with him (not unless and even if I end up taking those singing lessons at some point in the future), but it doesn’t matter. I was particularly impressed with his rendition of “Kiss” and “Sad”. “Kiss” because on the rare occasion I’ve heard him sing an older song, he hasn’t come across as owning it or being fully immersed in it. This time, the older versions of the song faded away and it sounds like he’s invested in it. “Sad” because his slow ballads also haven’t come across with the depth and texture to his voice that I like in a slower tempo – this time, it comes across like he really feels it and it shows. Either that or he’s a brilliant technician and he sells it. Either way, I loved it.

Last comment – the whole thing makes me smile and when art evokes a feeling, that’s enough.

Travel: Safari

Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my! Sorry, not Dorothy here. But I did see lions when I went on safari in Tanzania (see first post on large kittens here). I can’t believe I haven’t posted a blog on this yet, although a bunch of my travel tips made it into my other posts. Getting to the safari was an adventure in itself. My friends were supposed to come with me, but due to one thing and another, neither of them (2 other girls) could make it, but my tickets were booked and off I went. Since I was travelling alone, I figured that it would be safer to fly from Dar es Salaam to Arusha, the starting point for most of the safaris, rather than taking the umpteen hours bus which could be hijacked, breakdown, and I don’t even want to comtemplate the state of the washrooms after that long.

So, off I went to the airport to wait for my flight…and wait…and wait – yup, delayed flight! ok, no prob – call the safari tour people to tell them I’d be late and get on the plane when it came. The flight path goes a little over the ocean as it swings towards Kilimanjaro…because the Arusha airport was closed (I remember this like it was yesterday). And that was the point that smoke started to fill the cabin and the pilot announced we would have to turn around and land (the bus is looking better all the time, huh?). Ok, so wait for the NEXT flight (I know, at this point, most people would have taken the bus!)…which was a government plane and was fine.

Finally, I get to Arusha and meet my safari guide….who tells me there that the group I was supposed to join left and I would have to wait for the next one – no problem – it was coming in the next day – and another person would be waiting too. But I would have to stay overnight, meet the other person and leave the next morning…..and, please don’t go out in Arusha at night alone. The hotel was fine except for the fact that my room fan wasn’t working and I was on the ground floor and door to the outside balcony didn’t really close….but that’s what cellphones are for, right?

The safari company really did take care of me though – the agent made sure I had all the right equipment (sleeping bag), enough cash (since I hadn’t planned on staying the night), came and checked on me that evening (and told me the other person didn’t make it in so it would just be me going) and had dinner with me so things were looking up.

The next morning, I had to take a car out to a meeting point to meet the group because they were coming from another direction. Spent an interesting half hour waiting at an impromptu roadside market at the crossroads between the road to the Serengeti, Arusha and another park. FINALLY met the other group – a couple of friends from Belgium (girl and boy) who would be my safari companions for the next 3 days.

phew!!!  and we hadn’t even reached the park yet!!! This is where I learned Travel tip #33 How to Enjoy African Time!

Here’s a couple of photos of driving into the Serengeti – I began to suspect that it would be worth it from these views.

[Both photos taken with colour slide film. Travel tip #36: When travelling on safari, expect dust, lots and lots of dust. Travel tip #37: Clean your camera lens often. Travel tip #38: Learn how to use Photoshop clone tool]