A few iconic shots of Dubai

Recently went out power boating in Dubai an awesome way to capture some iconic shots of the city.

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The “Twister” – Cayan Tower in Dubai Marina

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Packed in tight at the Marina!

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A hazy Dubai Skyline

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At the top of the Palm – looking back at Atlantis

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The ocean view of the Burj Al Arab

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Burj Al Arab with her neighbour, Jumeirah Beach Hotel

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Marina skyline

What kind of Explorer are you?

And why do you love the world?

I was faced with these two quite challenging questions when I stumbled onto the (brilliant) BBC travel website today! It’s not something I think I’ve ever really stopped and asked myself before. Why do I like exploring new places? Why does anyone? I kind of have an inkling that I just like seeing the world. I’m always intrigued that some people grow up and live in places on earth that I can’t imagine. I love trying new foods. I don’t go anywhere without a camera. All little ideas but I don’t think I’d be able to really articulate concisely an answer to these questions. But fear not, the BBC posed an online quiz to help me uncover some answers.  I was quite keen to find out, so I jumped straight into the survey! If you feel like finding out the same answers for you, you can take the quiz here.

I won’t ruin it by telling you all the questions, but they did kind of make me think about what is important to me. Question 7, “In a new place, what do you always have on you?” I thought was really interesting. Some of the multiple choice answers, were things like a phrase book so you can converse with the locals, or a restuarant guide so you know where to get the best food. For me, without fail, the 1 item that always comes with me is my camera. My trusty SLR and I have been together for 8 years now, which I think in the world where tech is replaced every 5 minutes, is a relative eternity. She’s a warrior (yes of course she’s a she!). As much I try to look after her, she’s been dropped, drenched, sunburnt, manhandled and frozen, yet she still ploughs on capturing everything I want her to!

So, after completing all of the questions, I found out the answer. I am a documentarian! Who knew?! If you don’t know what a documentarian is, see my description:

“For you, the only thing better than seeing a jaw-dropping view is capturing it forever. You thrive on finding the beauty around you, and showcasing it in stunning, unique ways. After all, there’s a big, beautiful world out there. It’s practically your duty to capture as much of it as possible!”

Thinking about it, how I’ve just written about my camera, I’d say it’s pretty much spot on.

So, what kind of Explorer are you?

In Vespa heaven!

Even though I have never owned one, I’ve always loved Vespas. If I was ever going to get a scooter, I don’t think I could get anything other than a Vespa – they just seem to carry off “cool” so easily!

On my recent trip to Spain I got a bit obsessed by them. Firstly, the Vespa seems to be the most popular means of transport for people to get around cities. This is quite unique for me, especially considering where I currently live, 2 wheels is definitely not the safest way to travel in Dubai. In Spain though, seemingly around every street corner, there is one parked up outside a cafe.fave Primarily its young teens you see bombing around on often beaten up old Vespas, but I also really liked seeing very well to do gentlemen riding to work on them too.

So I got a bit carried away and spent quite a bit of my holiday photographing as many interesting Vespas as I could find! I started out just taking pictures of every one I saw but then, as my little project evolved, I tried to find as many unique bikes as I could, different colours, different designs, or just plain antique PX’s that looked like they’d done a millions Kms!

I thought I would try to share my favourite Vespa that I found, but it is so hard to choose out of all the bikes I saw. Here’s a very small collection (from about 200 photos!) of some of my favourites, but if you keep reading you will see I narrow a favourite down to 2:

I absolutely love the really old bikes, like these two:

The English in me is quite drawn to the Vespas with the early 1960’s mod iconography:

But here are the two winners from 2 weeks travelling around Spain!

I didn’t see many yellow bikes, so this one wins on originality. Looks like it’s seen a few scrapes along the way too! And the other bike really caught my eye, firstly it’s silver and I loved the addition of some decoration!

#vespa #vespas

The Tour de Espana

During the summer in Dubai, we try to go somewhere for a couple of weeks to escape the Middle East heat and humidity. This year, we also had a friends wedding to go to in Spain so thought we’d use the opportunity to explore some parts of the country we’ve never been to.

We flew straight into Barcelona, which is definitely up there as one of my favourite European cities.It seems to be a city that has everything, great coastal climate, fantastic food and restaurant scene, stunning architecture and a real vibrant feel to it. I could definitely see myself living there, even if to just be able to buy fresh Pan Catalan everyday!

Our friends wedding was at Tamarit Castle, located about 10 minutes from the town of Tarragona, which itself is 1 hour south of Barcelona. You couldn’t pick a more picturesque venue for a wedding with the Castle, set in a small forest, overlooking the Mediterranean. For the few days we were there for the wedding we stayed in a gorgeous town close to Tarragona called Altafulla. The old quarter part of the town is full of steep, cobbled streets and as you wander down them, you get the feeling you’re in a different time, where life doesn’t run at a million miles an hour. Everything seems to happen so much more slowly, you see a few guys sat outside a cafe playing dominoes, with a couple of small shopkeepers watching on.  As you keep walking downhill, passing many small tapas bars along the route, you eventually reach a stunning coastline and beautiful sandy beaches.

View over Altafulla

View over Altafulla

From the Costa Dorada we headed south to Granada, set at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, in the Andalucia region. The town is probably most famous (to tourists anyway) for the Alhambra, an enormous hilltop complex consisting of, among many other spectacular sites, a Palace, church, gardens, and a surrounding fortress. If you’re in Granada it’s definitely worth seeing, even if for the spectacular views it provides over the city. It’s a tourist magnet however, so if you want to enjoy it at it lowest traffic flow, head there first thing in the morning.

For me, the most enjoyable aspect of Granada is the “free” Tapas rule all the bars seem to have. Walk into any bar or cafe lining the narrow pedestrian streets of Granada, order a drink, and out with it will come delicious free Tapas. Aside from just getting free food, it’s a great way to sample a lot of the flavours of Andalucia! My favourite of the many Tapas bars we tried was Taberna Granados, on Carrera de la Virgen.

Granada Rooftops

Granada Rooftops

After a few days in Granada we jumped on a train and headed west to Seville and spent 5 days exploring this incredible city. Set on the banks of the Rio Guadalquivir, and seemingly drenched in permanent sunshine, Seville is a city that feels like home after spending just 1 or 2 days there. It’s best seeing the city on foot, getting lost in the tiny streets that form the heart of Seville. It doesn’t matter if at some point you don’t know where you are, just keep walking and you always end up somewhere familiar. The more obvious places to visit are of course worth seeing.  Alcazar is again like walking back in time – its incredible to think it has seen over a thousand years of history. For me, one of the most interesting tourist attractions was the Plaza de Toros (Bullring) of the Real Maestranza, purely because it’s a type of building or monument I have never seen before. Amazing to think it was first built well over 200 years ago and is still used today. There will be more on that in another post!

Plaza de Espana

Plaza de Espana – Seville

For an eating stop, I think La Chunga was my favourite of all the places we tried which serves Tapas y platos de aqui y alli! It’s a pretty small bar, just off Calle Albuera, but it is always full, has a great atmosphere and kind of goes without saying that the food (and the Vino Tinto) is awesome!

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The last stop of the tour was Madrid. I’m not normally drawn to big cities but as it was kind of on the way back to Barcelona, and we had never been, we decided to spend just 2 days there. It’s obviously impossible to really appreciate such a big city in such a small amount of time, but my first impression of Madrid was it doesn’t have the same draw as many other cities of the world. Yes there are things to see, grand buildings, museums, squares to wander through and more bars and restaurants than you could ever go to, but for me it lacks the charm of somewhere like Paris for instance.

It was amazing to be back in Europe again and the places we visited in Spain were such a cultural contrast to Dubai where we live currently and even Australian cities. I think it’s made me re-appreciate how amazing some of the countries and cities in Europe are – need to start planning the next visit.

Hola! Como esta usted?

At the end of June, the Exploring continues! We’re flying to Barcelona for a friends wedding and then spending a couple of weeks travelling around as much of Spain as we can. Current route is Barcelona – Tarragona (for the wedding) – Granada – Seville – Madrid – Barcelona. So, in preparation for the adventure, I decided for my May monthly challenge to try to learn some Spanish.

I never learnt Spanish in school so I don’t even really have a base to build off. The extent of my Spanish skills come from a few different sources:

1.) The early trip to Nerja when I was 4, I think I learnt “Bambino” and maybe “Hola”!

2.) Later family holidays to Lanzarote, improved a little bit more, (Adios, Gracias etc)

3) Pulp Fiction. I know, what Spanish is there to learn in Pulp Fiction? A surprising amount (Buenos noches, Donde esta la Zapateria, Que hora es?)

So as you can see, I was pretty much starting from scratch!

Learning a language when you’re a bit older is quite hard! Firstly, trying to fit some learning into the day, between going to work and recovering at the weekend is proving to be quite difficult! The only real bit of free time I have is the drive to work, so I have discovered 15 minute “Learn Spanish” podcasts to listen to in the car. Turns out you can learn quite a bit from listening to Johnny Spanish and Christina!

But, the bigger issue seems to be that my brain is no longer the sponge it used to be when I was a kid! I forget words and phrases in minutes! No sooner I have I remembered my most likely needed phrase (Lo siento, no hablo espanol.), then I have forgotten it again!

I think, naturally the only way to learn a language properly is to live in the country and immerse yourself in it.Not sure 2 weeks travelling around Spain is going to build too much fluency for me, but it might help me string a sentence together.

Hasta la proxima!