Monthly Archives: October 2013

How to survive 32 hours of travelling for business

I have certainly learnt my lesson this year. Just because the schedule looks ok on paper doesn’t mean it’s ok. On paper (or on screen if you’ve gone totally “e”), things are only 2 dimensional. It doesn’t take into account that 2 overnight flights in a row are going to wipe you out even if you can sleep on planes or that a 5 hour tour of a city (see my Istanbul post) in a 9 hour window means you are on the go for the entire time or that 3.5 days in Cape Town really IS just enough time for your body to adjust before you yank it back to North American time zone and you have to readjust again. So, here’s what you do if you have to go to a conference halfway around the world:

  1. Do NOT schedule a 5 hour exam the day before you leave (I passed, by the way)
  2. Do take your own travel pillow with you even if travelling business
  3. Do drink loads and loads of water, not alcohol or soda/pop, in addition to the gallons of caffeine you will be consuming
  4. Do NOT expect to land after 22 hours on a plane, 3 takeoffs and landings and 32 hours travelling and go to a briefing session
  5. If you do make it to the briefing session, do NOT expect to stay awake
  6. Do take extra time for your body to adjust to the new environment and take a moment to relax before shoving your body back in a tin can (the plane) rather than travelling for 63 hours and only spending 96 hours on the ground
  7. Do boost your immune system because you will be breathing in so many things on the flight you just don’t even want to know
  8. Do sleep whenever you can, but preferably not during the plenary session when sitting at the front
  9. Do bring your paitience and humour with you and leave everything else at home
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Ok, enough about my new camera already!

If you’ve been following my blogs (subliminal message: follow my blog), you’ll see I’ve been testing out my new camera 🙂  But enough of that. Let’s talk turkey. My last business trip (blog on how to survive really, really, really long business trips coming soon) took me on a 9 hour layover in Istanbul. Be aware that I pack a lot of stuff into my trips, so 9 hours is plenty of time to leave the airport, see 75% of the major tourists sites, have dinner, make it back through security, use the lounge showers and still make frequent trips to the snack bar all on 4 hours of sleep.

I booked a great guide at Private Tours Istanbul (big shout out to Alina for organising and Ender for guiding) and they picked us up from the airport (quicker and cheaper than a cab and best choice when you have luggage) and took us right to city centre (old town). Despite the fact that we came in late afternoon on a Sunday when all the museums close at 6-ish and the Bazaar is closed as well, Ender made sure we saw at least 1 museum (Topkapi palace) and a walking tour of the outside of so much other stuff, my head is still spinning.  And we had dinner too.  Apologies in advance to Ender – I don’t remember all the facts and figures you told us so all historical mistakes in this blog are mine.

So, we headed into the Palace, which are actually extensive and elaborate grounds, not just a building.  Not only are many jewels and artifacts kept here like a museum, the buildings and grounds of Justice and the Harem are here too.

Inside Topkapi Palace

Inside Topkapi Palace

From the balconies, you can get panoramic views of the Bosphorus and see some of the other palaces on the neighbouring shores.  Also have a good view of the Asia side of Istanbul!

View from the balconies in Topkapi Palace

View from the balconies in Topkapi Palace

Sunsetting on a building in the palace

Sunsetting on a building in the palace

Outside, on our way to the hippodrome, you can see the Haggia Sophia on the right

DSC01062

And the Blue Mosque on the left.  Along with local characters.

Blue Mosque

Another interesting tidbit is the zero mile marker where all the roads started.  You can walk around it and try to find your city!

Zero Mile Marker

Zero Mile Marker

Night fell as we strolled along the hippodrome to the great obelisk at one end.

One end of the hippodrome

One end of the hippodrome

And off to one side, we could enter the public courtyard of the Blue Mosque. Prayers had already started so we didn’t go in, but sat on the outside admiring the graceful architecture

Blue Mosque first courtyard

But at last, it was time to leave and find dinner 🙂

Last Glance for the night

Last Glance for the night


Puuhonua o Honaunau OR the Refuge

Did you know that Hawaii has a rich cultural history as well as kick-ass beaches? We visited the National Park Puuhonua o Honaunau (and, yes, I can say this in Hawaiian and I have the straw grasshopper to prove it!) on our last day in Hawaii as a low key thing to do, but it’s a wonderful place to visit. If you get a chance, stay for the ranger talk (it’s free) and it means so much more.

The grounds are fairly large and it is a cultural park, not a play a game of ultimate frisbee park.  There is a rocky beach around the corner from the park, but unfortunately, you can’t access the water from inside the park. If you could, you would be granted refuge. Historical Hawaiian culture and law sounded harsh – which means to me that life on the islands was probably unforgiving before modern conveniences and there was a reason the law had to be harsh. But, you gotta like a culture that allows you an “out” or a “do over”.  If you could reach this place of refuge before they cut off your head, you were given a “do over” – everything forgiven, slate wiped clean.

 

This was the front area of the Place of Refuge

The foregrounds of the Place of Refugre

 

The Place of Refuge was on a bay with a beach to the right.

The water approach

The game board still worked!

Modern game on old gameboard

Modern game on old gameboard

They had fish ponds here for the king’s use.  There were still Tilapia in the ponds protecting their nests

Fish ponds

I suppose people running for safety would be happy to see these guys

I suppose people running for safety would be happy to see these guys

The ranger told us that people still felt the spirits of the place and would bring offerings here

The ranger told us that people still felt the spirits of the place and would bring offerings here

Wooden totems


At the top of the world

My Dad loves the stars – the ones up in the sky, not the Hollywood ones. So, on our recent trip to Hawaii, one of the only things he wanted to do was visit the observatories on top of Mauna Kea. To give this some context, this is the man who never, ever, ever expresses a preference for a birthday gift, Christmas gift or any type of gift. The entire family has to guess at what to give him. And that’s a lot of people doing a lot of guessing because we’re a gift-giving family. So everyone is very happy when he says he wants something in particular and me, the person who everyone asks what he wants, is absolutely ecstatic!

Back to the story, we took a trip with Hawaii Forest and Trail that takes you up the mountain, includes dinner, an astronomy tour and brings you back.  The observatories are located over 14000 ft above sea level (really, really, really high if you are wondering).  Which means this is something very few other people have done (despite the number of idiots up at the summit). It is harder to breathe and move around up there and it is cold especially if you aren’t feeling well.  Drink plenty of water and if you are prone to car sickness, take something before you go.

However, it also means the air is crystal clear up there. Be prepared to see some amazing scenery when you’re on the top. Also be prepared to freeze when you use the outhouses (no flush toilets), oh, and the latch on the middle one sticks so make sure there’s someone on the outside to let you back out 🙂

At the very top, it does look like you are floating on clouds.  When the sun started to go down, all the domes opened and started to move.

When the ast ronomers come out to play

When the astronomers come out to play

As the sun went down, we were treated to the reddest sky ever.

The reddest sunset

The reddest sunset

But without vegetation and with everyone bundled up, it looked like a scene out of an alien movie.  There were a lot of people up there, some with other tours some who just drove up. I don’t recommend just driving up as its a long drive and you get out of the car, take a photo and then attempt to make your way back down in the dark. Tours are way more funner.

Some of the observatories at the top

Some of the observatories at the top

On the way up (yes, I know these photos are not chronologically ordered), we were treated to sites such as these and included the area that the US astronauts practiced for the moon landing!!!

The older piles of volcanic rocks show their iron rich content

The older piles of volcanic rocks show their iron rich content

At 10000 feet we had already left all vegetation behind

At 10000 feet we had already left all vegetation behind


There’s more to Hawaii than the beach

There’s chocolate too!!!  Yup, Hawaii has a working chocolate farm www.ohcf.us/.  It’s a small farm but gives tours and grows specific species of chocolate…heck, do you really need extra reasons to visit a chocolate farm???

They process pretty much everything by hand on the farm and the first thing you see is the chocolate – excuse me! the COCOA beans on drying racks in the Hawaiian sun

The smell in the air was pure chocolate

The smell in the air was pure chocolate

They look artistic from a different angle:

Beneath the drying rack

Beneath the drying rack

 

But we soon leave these behind to look at the actual trees growing row on row. The ground is littered with fallen leaves on purpose. They are dry and crackle when you walk on them and deep. It gives me pause to think what they might be covering up, but the whole place is quite dry and not hiding any nasty surprises like mud or mice.

The Cocoa tree grove with leaves carpetting the ground

The Cocoa tree grove with leaves carpetting the ground

 

If you’ve never seen cocoa pods on the tree before, they look like something out of an alien movie. The farm grows a couple kinds of cocoa and the colour and striations on the pods can differ. The cocoa flower is amazingly small. There was only one left on the tree.

These were piled in a wheelbarrow waiting to be processed

These were piled in a wheelbarrow waiting to be processed

I had to look hard to find it and then it was really hard to photograph at an awkward angle on a slippery floor

I had to look hard to find it and then it was really hard to photograph at an awkward angle on a slippery floor

Cocoa pods

The tour explains how it goes from these pods to cleaning to drying to a finished product. When the pods were cut open, we can see the seeds which are coated in a milky substance (also sweet) and attached to a fiber (also sweet) which some visitors found irresistable.

Fresh cocoa seeds and visitors

Fresh cocoa seeds and visitors

 

And the final product

yum!

yum!

 

 

 

 

 


A Travel blog hidden as a Camera review

The nice thing about a camera that you can lose in most women’s purses is that you can carry it everywhere! Not only did I go snorkelling with it, I just went photo happy.

The zoom is really quite serviceable for a pocket camera. 5x zoom gets you just that bit closer.

Far away

The zoom is not bad for such a small camera

The zoom is not bad for such a small camera

 

However, I don’t JUST take photos of animals.  Tried some photography in more of a dusk setting:

A hibiscus of a different colour

And then went really macro, but this colour was so technicolour that I’m not sure if the camera could handle it:

Technicolour hibiscus

 

And also tried it out on landscapes. Colour rendering is good here in mixed light and the bright sunshine of the beach without being contrasty. (Does it sound like I know what I’m doing when I use words like “contrasty”?)

Buildings at an abandoned sheep shearing station

Buildings at an abandoned sheep shearing station

Bright, sunshiny day

 

Lastly, one of the only “action” shots I took in Hawaii and it held up pretty decently:

Along with the butt shots of animals, the requisite "photo from a moving car"

Along with the butt shots of animals, the requisite “photo from a moving car”

 

So, in conclusion, the Sony DSC-TX30 is a very versatile camera for a wide range of shots.  A lot of what I took is certainly suitable to frame and put on your wall, to gain some “oohs” and “aahs” as a computer wallpaper and to vividly bring your vacation back to life!

 

 

 


Adventures with my new camera (2)

So the true test of my sony DSC-TX30 was to stick it underwater (that is, after all, the second main reason I bought it!).  Took it to Hawaii and went out into the ocean with it and promptly forgot how to turn off the touch screen! Because it is a touch screen, it becomes a little difficult to change the settings when your fingers are wet. The screen is definitely not as responsive with wet fingers and when you want to take a photo underwater one minute and then above water the next, well…..Just leave it on underwater setting and live with it – it’s not bad.

Okaaay, underwater – here are things you need to know. It doesn’t matter about the screen – it’s not like you can see anything in it. This was a true “point and shoot” exercise. Between my snorkelling mask, refraction of the bright (bright!!!) sunshine and less than pristine water and composition went out the window. LUCKILY, the fish didn’t move AS fast as you think.

In this first photo, you can see how cloudy the water is especially close to the surface, yet the camera was still good enough to pick up the fish.

Even in cloudy water

 

Just to be sure, took some shots of the bottom to make sure the camera was working.

The bottom of the sea

 

And in the very shallow water (as I was being pushed around by all the waves), you get a decent vacation shot.

Really hoped the fish was in that general direction

Really hoped the fish was in that general direction

 

Really pleased in quieter waters that it also picked up paler fish

 

 

Anonymous White Fish

 

And lastly, setting it to the underwater mode, and taking the photo in bright sunshine above the water, you still get a reminder of your exotic holiday.

Just as good above water

Just as good above water