Right from the off I will say that during this blog I will not name any of the perpetrators of the following crimes as I do not think they are worth mentioning and should not receive any more attention than they have already received.
This blog will briefly describe some of the most widely reported news stories of the last year but that it not what this blog is about … we hear heart-break all the time about children being abducted or abusive relationships, soldiers who have been killed in combat or fatal car crashes but the media never really focus on the community spirit in the aftermath or the feelings and reactions of the many opposed to that of the mindless few.
In August 2011 we had the London riots. 3 days of violence, looting and anarchy on the streets however the day after the riots ended what happened? The people of London … the real community, came out of their houses and began a clear up that saw the community as a whole get together and create something positive to rise from the ashes of the riots. Thousands of Londoners took to the streets with brooms to clear the glass and litter away, people unselfishly helped those shop owners who had literally lost everything over night.
The people of London wanted their London back and wanted to prove to the world that this was not a violent place but a place where community spirit was strong. And it was this community that came together and showed that the mindless acts of a few will not destroy this.
London went on to host the 2012 Olympic games which was deemed a huge success and one of the highlights was the overwhelming welcoming that everyone received from the community as a whole and by the thousands of volunteers who gave up their own time to be part of such an event. The riots are now but a distant stain on the landscape but it is the legacy of those Londoners who made the Olympics so special that will live on.
We have recently seen the public outcry of sadness regarding two female police officers who were gunned down in cold blood in Greater Manchester.
Words will never be able to quantify the actions that led to these young officers being taken so soon but once again the public outpouring of affection and respect for people who largely were unknown to them has been inspiring to everyone.
The funerals of PC’s Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone took place over the last couple of days and thousands of members of the public along with thousands more members of the police and emergency services stood along the precession route and offered their minute of silence and bowed heads in respect of the fallen officers.
The heinous act of one single individual may live on in the annals of English crime but this will never and can never erase the acts of thousands who stood together side by side to say goodbye to two brave officers.
As I write this blog the whole country is nervously awaiting the outcome of the search for little April Jones who was abducted outside her home in Wales 5 days ago. April is only 5 years old and the news has gripped the whole of the UK and although the outcome is yet to be known the sheer scale of the search has been overwhelming.
44 police authorities are involved as well as coast guard, search and rescue teams, trackers and hundreds and hundreds of members of the public, many of whom have taken time off from their work are helping with the search.
Everyone has their fingers crossed for a positive outcome but yet again the act of one single individual has inadvertently brought together a whole community and in this case a country.
Sick individuals will always be out there and there will always be times of crisis and horror but what people should never forget is that it is during these times that the human race really shows its true strength, coming together in times of need, unselfish acts of help and assistance. One will never outweigh the many and although the press and media will always focus on the act itself, communities grow and become stronger and in times of darkness the community will never be more alight.
Its our time down here – Latino 777
In under 7 hours from Heathrow you can find yourself landing in the money rich Emirate of Dubai.
From the moment you arrive it is very apparent how much money has been thrown into Dubai for the tourist trade. There is still quite a lot of building work going on and every month the skyline is changing slightly – I would imagine that just 10 years ago this place looked very different but the current building work does not detract from the overall cleanliness and splendour of this place.
The first taste of Dubai you are likely to experience (apart from the heat which hits you like a brick wall) is your hotel and there are certainly no shortages of hotels in Dubai and most of these are at least 5 star.
I was lucky enough to stay a week in the Ritz Carlton on Jumeirah Beach and this 5 star hotel certainly did not disappoint. It is perfectly situated at the base of the Palm and near the Dubai Marina and The Walk (an area of restaurants and hotels).
I was expecting a high level of service from my first experience of a 5 star hotel but I was surprised when this level of service was also found in almost every restaurant and shop in Dubai – I found the whole experience to be extremely friendly and courteous.
From the beach you can see the Iconic Atlantis hotel in the distance and almost every hour you can see sky divers descend from the clear blue sky.
Although the skyline is not as Iconic as say New York, Dubai does have some interesting buildings (the one above certainly caught my eye). You can definitely see the influences from other countries when looking at the buildings.
Of course one building you will certainly come across in Dubai is the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the World). You can see this monster from anywhere in Dubai and it’s definitely worth a visit although I was disappointed that the observation deck is only on the 124th floor yet it stands at over 200 floors. At the base of this goliath you will find the Dubai Mall. Now the Dubai Mall is a monster as well, with over 1200 stores, you will also find a huge indoor aquarium, an Olympic size ice rink, a Sega park, fountains, water falls and The Village with Dubai’s only retractable roof.
Once you are shopped out and the feet are blistered one of the most popular activities to undertake is a 4×4 desert safari. You’ll be picked up from your hotel and taken by 4×4 into the desert where you will be driven amongst the sand dunes (included in the safari is a visit to a camel farm, belly dancing, a desert BBQ under the stars etc).
Once back in the population most people will try to catch a glimpse of the worlds only 7 star hotel – The Burj Al Arab down on Jumeirah Beach. The only way to actually enter this extravagant creation if you’re not a guest is to book a table for food (I believe the cheapest option is breakfast at about £45.00). I found the best view is to enter the Madinat complex with its Souk and waterway system – this is a fantastic hotel complex with over 40 restaurants and if you pay for a water tour (not very expensive) then you will see the Burj Al Arab on your way round.
If your lucky when your down by the beach you may even see a few camels amongst the white sand.
Overall I was impressed with the level of service that Dubai offers and the cleanliness. There is still a lot of building work going on but it’s not drastic enough to ruin any photo ops. They have strict laws in the Emirates but these are not as strict as you are led to believe and you can get away with most things in the more Westernised areas and hotels. Alcohol is illegal in all public areas except for hotels and restaurants where it is widely available. The weather is hot with it being 20 degrees on its coldest winter day and rising to 53 degrees in the middle of summer but there are great deals to be had if you can handle the heat as this is their off-season.
Plenty to see and do but now I have experienced Dubai I am not sure if I would return any when soon … there are just too many places I would love to visit before returning.
Its our time down here – Latino 777
For years I’ve wanted to visit Croatia as I’ve heard it’s a great place for a holiday and the Dalmatian Coast has always been highly recommended so last month I finally got the chance and took a short break to Dubrovnik … and I’m so glad i did.
First impressions of Dubrovnik were good – we were staying in a villa which was half way up the hillside so the view was fantastic. Dubrovnik is pretty much built on a hillside with the old town and harbour at the foot and the Adriatic coastline sprawling out from the harbour.
This city was made for walking so you do not need to get taxi’s and buses etc but be warned there are an awful lot of steps in Dubrovnik so you do need to be fairly fit. The beach, the old town, the cable car, the old walls – all within easy walking distance of each other and everywhere you look you will find a photo opportunity. This place is very scenic, very clean and very historic.
The beach was our first place of call (as I was travelling with a group of lasses!) – the water is clear, there is fish swimming around your feet and there are plenty of sun loungers. There is a club house on the beach called East West (I think) and this will provide you with drinks, cocktails and food as well as a small nightclub – be warned this is table service only and you will be required to purchase a bottle of Vodka or Champagne at a princely sum.
The only downside of this beach is the lack of sand and the amount of stones! I would strongly recommend a pair of rubber shoes/flip-flops/sandals etc.
After the beach we decided to take on the challenge of one of the Kayaking tours – we did the 7km kayak around Lokrum island which took us to a small cove where we could jump out and do a bit of snorkelling (there was plenty of fish here to view). It was my first time in a Kayak but I loved it, I have to say it was harder than I imagined and with the sun blazing down this made it harder still but nonetheless still a fantastic experience.
Once in Dubrovnik you cannot miss the cable car that elevates up to the top of the hillside. You can see the cable car from almost anywhere in Dubrovnik and it is definitely a worthwhile trip to take. It costs around £7 return but the views are the best you can get of this extremely scenic city. Once at the top there is a great little restaurant overlooking the hillside and a museum in the old battlement reliving the war of 1991 (I would recommend walking around the old city first and then goto the museum as you really get to understand the horror this city faced when viewing the old BBC news clips from 1991).
Dubrovnik has the beach, has the views but it’s not until you enter the old town that you really become enchanted with this little pearl. Firstly the old town is surrounded by the old wall … there are a couple of entrances but none more impressive than the drawbridge entrance by the beach. This will lead you to the harbour with its many boat trips (you can take a glass bottom boat, a galleon, a ferry across to the island or a yacht).
We took the ferry across to Lokrum Island on one of the days. It only cost around £5 return and this included the entrance fee for the island. Once on the island you will find an old monastery that has been converted into a restaurant and an old church as well as an old fort although you will have a bit of a walk to reach this but the views are spectacular once the top has been reached. One thing that may stand out when your on the island is the amount of Peacocks that are roaming free – these birds are everywhere and fairly used to the human interaction. There are plenty of places to go swimming on the island and overall it is a good way of using up a few hours in a more peaceful environment and at the very least you get an extremely cheap boat ride.
Once back in the harbour you can walk back into the old town and onto the Strada (the main street) where you will come across little boutique type shops and an inordinate amount of restaurants (this is not the largest of cities but it surely has the most amount of restaurants than any city I’ve ever been to).
Whether by day or by night the old town captures the imagination as you are transported to another time yet still feeling modern. I’m sure they buffer the floor as it always looks wet and reflects the night lights brilliantly. Do not just stay on the main street, take a side alley and get lost in the maze of streets as this is where you will find many more small shops and galleries. Remember you can’t ever really get lost as the town is surrounded by the wall.
Once you’ve walked around the old town there is really only one place left to go and that’s onto the walls of the old town. For around £8 you can walk the entire length of the old walls which provide a fantastic view of the old town and harbour from every angle (it takes about an hour an a half but there are places to stop and get a drink on the way round).
Overall I was very impressed with Dubrovnik, I have been to many cities all over the world and this is certainly one of the most scenic I’ve seen. The food and drink are not cheap but then again it’s not as expensive as other European cities but the food is of good quality and the local beer is not that bad (and that can be cheap).
One thing I did enjoy about Dubrovnik is the fact that they have kept commercialism away from the city – you will not find a McDonald’s or a Burger King here, you will not find any shopping malls or big brand names. This is a city with a romantic hold on the past and this is what makes it stand out from the rest.
Can I recommend Dubrovnik? absolutely and we are already looking to go back next year.
Its our time down here – Latino 777
Well what can I say about the 2012 London Olympics … I was one of the millions of Britons who were probably not too bothered about the Olympics coming to GB. You dread the traffic and the extra security that is put in place, you are put off visiting friends in the capital for a few weeks and of course you dread what the expense will do to your paypacket long term.
Then the Opening Ceremony commenced!!!
With baited breath we sat and wondered is this going to be a disaster? The small snippets that were advertised did not look very spectacular or inspiring … and then it began and with it the excitement exploded and everyone in Great Britain sat up and realised what a momentous event this actually is and what it means to have it in our own back yard.
I remember thinking ‘its no wonder foreigners think the British are a nation of Hugh Grants’ at the beginning of the ceremony with all the Morris dancers and green fields and then out of nowhere the whole stadium changed and a darkness fell bringing with it the era of the industrial revolution and I thought now this is interesting.
When the Olympic rings were forged and lifted high into the stadium and the sparks reigned down I said to the room full of friends now that is going to take some beating in future ceremonies and then the surprises just kept on coming … from the Queen and James Bond, to Mr Beans little skit with the London Symphony Orchestra, to the introduction of the British scientist who created the internet!
We sat through the child catcher and Mary Poppins, an astonishingly talented deaf drummer and the sight of Mr Muhammad Ali with the Olympic Flag. We had a Beatle perform, we listened to generations of British music that has been heard the World over and still there was more …
Fireworks, Beckham, Dizzy Rascal, JK Rowling, thousands of volunteers, our greatest Olympians and then the lighting of the Olympic cauldron. With its 204 copper petals being lit by the future of British Sport in the shape of 7 young talented athletes the Olympic flame rose up and at that moment I believe everyone in this great nation was proud to be British.
The whole event had been a success, inspiring, clever, funny, interesting, loud, bright … we knew it was not going to be another Beijing but then again we’re British and it had to be British. We did our own thing and although not everyone around the globe would have understood all of it there was much to admire and I’m sure the organisers of Rio 2016 were thinking damn we’ve got some work to do.
Then it was time for the Olympians … all the athletes representing the 204 nations to slug it out in the pool, on the track, in the ring, on the road, on the court, on the beach … pretty much everywhere.
The Olympic Park looked awesome with the Olympic Stadium standing proud next to the Velodrome and the Aquatic centre and for us Brits it was all about when the first gold would arrive.
We didn’t have too long before Glover and Stanning delivered Team GB’s first gold in the rowing and shortly after Bradley Wiggins delivered another in the cycling.
The greatest thing about the Olympics in my humble opinion is that is enables all us viewers to get excited and caught up in sports that we would never usually watch. Its great to see the World come together under the umbrella of sport and its fantastic to see World Records broken and new legends take their place on the podiums but the ability to get a nation cheering and shouting at the TV at Judo or Canoing or Archery is just phenomenal.
We all get excited about the swimming, cycling, rowing, gymnastics and the track and field events but I cannot believe the tension I have felt whilst watching the beach volleyball or the equestrian events!!
Simply put the Olympics has taken a hold and every day we talk about the events, the athletes and the results and with the coverage being so widely accessible its going to leave a big black whole after the closing ceremony.
We have seen the Americans break records in the water, the Chinese dominate the gymnastics and the British kick ass in the cycling and it has been totally encapsulating so far with the track and field events to come.
I’m not sure how the rest of the world rates these Olympics but I do hope all those visitors from over seas that have paid all that money to come and visit our great capital is having a fantastic time and they are being welcomed with open arms.
I’m going up to London on Saturday and desperately tried to get a ticket for the Olympic Park (not for any event just to see the park and be a part of the atmosphere) but alas there are no tickets available … still I will continue to watch the TV (thank god for the Iphone) and keep supporting Team GB in all events and I hope all nations have a successful games and leave this great island with fond memories.
Til next time lets hope for more golds for Team GB, more World & Olympic Records broken by all nations and more tension … I personally cannot wait for Bolt vs Blake.
Its our time down here – Latino 777
For over 13 years now, I have worked in the Port of Southampton in the UK, one of the busiest ports for Roll on Roll off, Container and Cruise ships in the country.
In my time at the port I have seen Royal Dignity including Her Majesty the Queen on one of the many ship naming ceremonies, I have seen nuclear submarines and on a weekly basis I have the backdrop of the worlds largest and famous cruise ships such as Cunards Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary 2, Royal Caribbeans Independance of the Seas as well as P&O’s Oriana, Aurora and Ventura .
The last time we had a nuclear sub in Southampton there was a shooting on board and an officer was killed … that day brought an immense amount of police and armed response units.
This year we have seen the 3 Queens set sail from Southampton for the first time in their history for the Queens Diamond Jubilee.
and we have experienced all 7 P&O cruise ships sailing from Southampton in a convoy for their 175th anniversary.
As well as cruise ships we see Roll on Roll off vessels on a daily basis carrying the thousands of cars around the world including BMW Mini’s, Jaguars and LandRovers. Some of these RoRo vessels can carry 7500 cars!!
We also see some of the worlds largest container ships and Southampton has just been given the go ahead to expand their Western Dock development so that we can incorporate the very largest container vessels.
Since I started my career in the port back in 1999 the port has changed immensely and the Eastern Docks has seen 4 multi storey car parks built with a 5th one in the pipeline to increase the space for all the new vehicles being shipped so the skyline is ever changing. We have seen all the old storage units demolished and we are currently in the middle of a re-vamp affecting half the port.
But Southampton docks is probably most famous as being the port where the Titanic sailed from of course and I work a stones throw from 44-45 berth where the famous ship berthed all those years ago.
Southampton port is certainly not the worst place is the world to work and on a sunny day the view across the water can be breathtaking. The port is draped in history and is ever changing to keep up with the rigourous demands of the shipping industry. We are blessed here in Southampton with having 2 tides which allows vessels to come in and go out on the same day which is a huge incentive for many operators.
We see new vehicles before they are released to the general public and we often see the maiden voyages for many of the cruise ships as well as the last voyages some vessels ever take such as the QE2 which was such a famous sight for years in southampton.
The port run by Associated British Ports is one of the major employers in Southampton so I hope I stay within the industry for many years to come even though we are experiencing extremely tough times in the shipping trade especially on the imports side.
So until change comes my way I will continue to watch the cruise ships pass by the window, continue to work on the Roll on Roll vessels and continue to be a part of this historic port.
Latino 777 – Its our time down here
Surely the most significant invention of the past 50 years has to be the computer, at first it enabled us to complete complex maths problems without really knowing how to add up, then it revolutionised business with its spreadsheets, databases & e-mail and then it crossed into the 21st century and decided to become social, it threw away its boring work attire and put on a funky t-shirt, some jeans and trainers and inside these new rags we turn out the pockets to find Photoshop.
Photoshop began life as an advertising tool and you had to have a degree to use it but thankfully not anymore.
I love Photoshop and yes it can be extremely complicated and involved if you really decide to open it up but if your like me and just want to play then all the latest versions provide easy to use tools that can transform the most basic of photo’s.
I started off using Microsoft Digital Editing Suite 10 a few years back but now use Adobe CS5 (if of course your interested).
I love this photo of Macy’s in New York, I gave it a kind of 1920’s black & white look and kept the colour in Macy’s to really draw your eye to it.
With these two we stay with the New York theme but focus on the Iconic Yellow Cab. The photo on the left is a fairly standard black and white with the colour left on the taxi’s and traffic lights. The second one is pretty much the same but I’ve blurred the background and just kept the cab in the foreground in focus to give it a very slightly different feel.
This one was my attempt of tilt shift photography – when the photo looks like a miniature or model of the actual subject. This photo was taken over a marina in Southampton, I love this style of editing but its not quite as easy as it looks.
Another photo taken in Southampton but this time I’ve used a gentle vignette to darken the edges and changed the hue of the sky and water but kept the beach original.
With a little cut and paste here and a little cut and paste there we can have a full scale alien invasion over Ocean Village in Southampton. I’m sure the residents didn’t mind me adding a little smoke, a few helicopters and a giant alien mother ship over their apartments – hopefully I didn’t affect the house values too much.
When CS5 was released those kind folks at Adobe provided us with a new tool to play with and this was the warp tool. This enables the user to very easily alter an image in ways that could only previously be done by Photoshop geniuses. I affectionately call this photo ‘Which way to Central Park love?’
As my beloved Red and Whites recently achieved promotion to the Golden League and the blue few found the trapdoor to the basement I thought I would sneak this one in. A fairly simple cut and paste job where the main difficulty was finding the players and managers in the poses that I had in my head. Up the Saints.
Now I’ve put a few examples up of how I’ve altered images or touched them up or completely changed them but anyone who knows me knows the kind of editing I like to do to pass the time. I call it my ‘Friends Remixed Editions’. If a friend wants a photo of them standing next to their favourite celeb or want to be on a movie poster then this is where I come in (most of the time they’re happy but I’ve not always asked their permission first … whoops).
My good friend Jody asked if I could make her Lily Allen for the day and so I did. I always find its the colour that is the hardest thing to match when your messing around with this kind of editing and trying to find a photo of your friend in the right pose (I sometimes have to mirror the image or change the angles but I get there in the end).
And once Jody asked to be Lily my very good friend Lucy wanted to be Amy Winehouse. I really didn’t need to do too much ha ha.
And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance … if you don’t give me a Big Mac meal NOW!!!!
One of my better attempts I feel. My friend Chloe wanting to kick Scarlett out of the photo and jump in next to Ryan Reynolds.
Going old skool in this photo, showing my old breakdancing mates how they would’ve looked if they were ever cool.
Now you may need to look really close to tell how I’ve edited this photo – that’s right I’ve given Nadine a personality oh yeah and changed my mate Steve into Nicola!!
Now my friend holly is a dance teacher so I guess that’s probably how she looks when she’s in the studio but what the hell I wanted to give her blonde hair!
A class edit of a classic Friends poster of an even more classic New York poster! Apart from my mate Jamie (far left) who seems to have an abnormally large head I think I got the rest ok … just.
I just had to place myself in a star wars photo … I’ve kept Harrison as he was and myself and good friend Darren are at the back and I put my girlfriend at the time in the front – sadly we aren’t together any more .. I just couldn’t get over the facial hair but she did have a lovely personality!
Me again, this time looking rather dapper in a suit although I think I’m just about to get decapitated!!!!
Now before you say it no this is not a relation or an ex girlfriend! I just think its best we move along (especially for my friend Darren who did not give me permission for this edit).
That’s a bit better, after moving swiftly away from the transvestite hooker from hell we meet my friend Siobhen who wanted to be Tinkerbell. Not my usual request but I was happy with the final outcome.
And this leads to my first and probably most favourite edit … The A Team replaced with a few, shall we say struggling to be, C Teamers.
I hope this blog has helped you pass a spare 5 minutes as the photo editing certainly helps me pass a few 5 minutes here or there.
Til next time … ps all photographs on this blog are under copyright unless you cut me in on any profits.
Latino777 – Its our time down here.
Another rain filled day in the South of England and once again my mind has started to wander. I’ve been lucky enough to have travelled to a fair few places over the years but there are so many that I have yet to experience.
So lets start with my most eager destination … Cape Town, S Africa. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to experience a cage dive with the Great White Sharks and Cape Town seems to be a great place to experience this. With Seal Island, Gansbaai & False Bay in close proximity this city seems to be ideal. I’ve done some research and Apex Predators would be my preferred company to go with. Chris & Monique Fallows run this company which has been used for many TV documentaries and their knowledge & respect of Great White Sharks seems second to none.
If you fancy a dip in the ocean with the planets fiercest predator then check out www.apexpredators.com
If I survive the encounter with Jaws then an abseil down Table Mountain must surely be next on the list – the highest commercial abseil in the World … and what a view you must get as you lean back over the backdrop of Cape Town.
Next on my list of destinations would be something a little different and that is Greenland. Disko Bay and the llulisat Icefjord looks absolutley stunning with Icebergs and untouched scenery. It would be great to dissapear from the rat race for a week and enter this land of serenity and ice. The skies look amazing with no artificial light and would feel quite overwhelming to stand under the stars in this landscape. Apparently the sun shines over 300 days of the year here!
Although Dubai has exploded in the last 10 years into a multi billion dollar tourist destination and is no longer a real reflection of the Middle East I would still love to experience this Emirate simply because of its ‘over the top’ mentality and its craving to be THE place to visit. The view from the Burj Khalifa must be out of this world (almost literally!) and I wouldn’t mind ordering an extremely small lunch at the Burj Al Arab just to experience 6 star dining or is it 7 stars? Maybe I’ll just order a Coke.
West Coast of America
I’ve travelled all up the Eastern Seaboard but never been across to the West coast as yet. I would love to visit San Francisco with its streets and harbour and I’ve always wanted to visit the giant redwoods. Alcatraz would also be very high on my list. Las Vegas would be a fantastic experience and The Grand Canyon is a must (the camera would be hot that day). Cannon Beach in Oregon would be a life time wish for me as this is the beach where the Goonies was filmed (one of my all time favourite movies). I guess you would have to visit Los Angeles as well if you were doing a tour of the West Coast and the 17 mile drive would be a pretty stretch of road to drive.
If I ever get married (and thats a big ‘IF’) then I can’t think of a better honeymoon destination that the Maldives. Exotic, remote, serene and beautiful with crystal clear waters and great food but as this is set aside for the honeymoon we’ll move swiftly on …
The Norwegian Fjords
I’ve never really been attracted to the cruise ship experience but if I was to holiday on a ship then the Norwegian Fjords would be where I would like to cruise. From the greenlands of the South to the snow capped mountains of the North you would see such a diverse side to this Scandinavian country.
Kenya & Tanzania
Kenya would be my ultimate destination for a Safari – camping out under the stars, slumming it with the African game … Awesome and Tanzania is home to Mount Kilimanjaro which is just shouting out for me to attempt to climb (I have commenced training).
Well I guess until I win the lottery I will only write about most of these places but I hope some of them will get experienced … and to those of you who have already had the pleasure of these destinations I am green with envy.
Latino777 – Its our time down here
So the open fire has died out, the chestnuts have ceased roasting and all remnants of Xmas have disappeared (apart from maybe the odd pound or two). The new year has begun and its only 11 short months till we do it all over again.
Maybe this year you want to experience something different, something magical, a place where your beliefs in all things Christmas still live strong and where children and adults alike can become one age … this place is Lapland.
Before you go as far as booking this ‘once in a lifetime experience’ you need to first decide whether you go for one day or for a few days. If you decide to go for a few days then you will most likely stay in a more commercial area with roads and hotels, street lights and cars and although there will be plenty to do this is not my idea of a magical wonderland. You will also have to decide whether you go to Sweden, Norway or Finland as they all have their own Lapland!
Personally I have only ever been to Northern Finland, deep into the Arctic Circle … to a place called Enontekio.
Every December you can fly from the UK to Lapland for one fun-filled magical day and I can tell you its everything I imagined it to be. I booked for 3 adults and 2 children with a company called Canterbury Travel who were very helpful and friendly. It cost £490 for an adult and £420 for a child. Now this is not cheap for one day by no stretch of the imagination however the flight is just over 3 hours long and you are provided with most of the required warm weather gear including ski suit, boots, hats, gloves, scarfs etc – you will need thermals though as the temperature can go as low as -30 (this year was very mild apparently with the temperature only being around -5). All food throughout the day is also provided (on the plane and in Lapland) and all activities are free once there – you can go on as much as you like as many times as you like. We did not even take money with us.
Once you land in Enontekio the first thing you’ll be greeted with is snow and lots of it. You are taken into the small yet cosy airport where you collect all your ski suits and boots etc and you are handed a helmet. Once suited and booted and as cosy as a bug in a rug you leave the confines of the airport and venture out in the cold and you soon realise what the helmets are for … Skidoos, yes everyone gets a skidoo ride on a sledge from the airport to the village. It takes around 25 minutes and you travel through a beautiful white forest straight from a postcard. One thing you will also notice the minute you arrive is that it never really gets light in Enontekio at this time of year. You get around 3 hours of grey light and then its back to being dark with nothing but the natural glow from the snow to light your way.
After 3 hours on a plane and half hour on a skidoo you finally reach your destination … the kids are excited and the adults make a bee line for the hot soup that is on offer at the entrance.
So what can you do once your there??? The kids can try their hand at kick sledding, you can take a ride on a husky sledge or a reindeer sleigh, you can take a ride on an arctic horse sleigh or go hill sledding. For the adults there is the option of taking a skidoo out for a blast or you can go for a hot chocolate and cookie in the Ice Castle (a building made up entirely of ice).
Of course you can just have a good old-fashioned snow ball fight.
There is also a small tourist shop (of course) and a modern wooden restaurant where they serve hot food all day long as you can go in as many times as you wish.
If at anytime the cold is starting to nip at those toes you can always find a Kota to warm up in … these are beautiful log cabins built solely for warmth with nothing but seats and a warm hearth fire.
The main event though is of course the visit to the man himself and they certainly get this right. Each family throughout the day is transported by skidoo to a separate area where you wait until the great man is ready for you. The wait is not a long one although you are sat in a teepee with a roaring fire so you don’t mind. If you are lucky it will be snowing when you are called as you start the short walk through a snow-covered pathway lit by candlelight. Soon you come across a log cabin and are welcomed by one of santa’s helpers who invites you in to see the big man.
It’s about as real as it can get with the log fire and Xmas tree in the corner of the room and an extremely realistic and friendly santa sitting in the corner. Letters from wishful children can be found around the cabin but it does not feel like a santa’s grotto – not too commercial. Like I said, it feels and looks about as real as can be and the fact that there is snow all around and it is cold outside makes the whole experience really awe-inspiring for the kids and adults alike. The children receive their gift and even this is done with great efficiency – each child receives a gift with their name on it from father christmas unlike a santa’s grotto in a dept store where it would be blue for a boy and red for a girl etc.
So after about 6 hours of snowball fights and sleigh rides and meeting the big man himself its time to start the journey back to the airport. This is more relaxing than the skidoo journey from the airport as it’s by coach and as you enter, the children receive certificates for crossing the arctic circle and learning to husky ride.
So a short journey back to the airport and you are ready to shed yourself of your winter warmers and climb aboard the aeroplane for your journey back to the UK.
Final comments: Yes it is expensive for one day but the memories should last a lifetime and everyone who went with me loved it – it is packed full of activities you would not normally do and everyone is worn out by the end of it.
Latino777 – Its our time down here.
Its been a while since my last post but I thought I’d write and re-live my memories of a recent trip to Reykjavik the capital of Iceland and the adventure playground of kings.
Firstly from the UK Iceland is only 2 hours away and there is no time difference so it’s easily accessible and not too expensive to get to either. After you land at Keflavik airport you have a 45 min bus ride to Reykjavik – this gives you a taste of what Iceland is … a mixture of glaciers and Volcanoes.
At this stage the landscape is desolate and dry – don’t expect to see much greenery, just lava rocks covered in moss. Looking around you feel like you could almost be on a different planet!
Then you enter civilisation and the city know as Reykjavik. With less than 300,000 inhabitants, it’s not a particularly large city but its big enough. The city center however is not that big and can be walked around in half a day with ease. During my last visit I stayed at the Leiffur Eriksson in the city center, a perfectly adequate hotel in a fantastic location with the Hallgrimskirkja church immediately opposite which is the tallest building in Reykjavik so you know where your hotel is anywhere in the city.
For a small fee you can visit the observation deck in the church for a great 360 view of the city and harbour.
So you’ve arrived at your hotel and now you want to explore the city .. what can you expect? There are a decent amount of shops but not as many as you would find in most other capital cities but there are ample coffee houses and restaurants If you get a chance grab a coffee in Cafe Babalu, its small but distinctly unique in its bohemian and serial killer way!
One of Reykjavik’s most famous restaurants in the Perlan. strangely enough a pearl shaped restaurant sitting atop a hill overlooking the city – even if you don’t fancy eating it’s still worth a visit for the views. It is also only minutes from Reykjavik’s geothermal beach where you will find golden sand and be able to swim in the sea.
Fish is the delicacy of Iceland but you can just as easy get hamburger and chips. One thing you may notice walking around – there are no McDonald’s!!!! that’s right, I did not see one McDonald’s in the whole city. This leads me to the second thing you may notice when perusing the shops … its expensive in Iceland! I’m guessing due to the cost it is not feasible to open many fast food joints – I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing – yes the food can be pricey but all the food I ate was fantastic. I experienced the best steak and caramelised onion baguette I’ve ever had during my stay.
Staying in the city for the moment, what is there to do when the sun goes down? Reykjavik has a nightlife like every other capital city and it comes alive at the weekend with many clubs and bars rammed to capacity. You will not be disappointed with the choice although the clubs do not start getting full until midnight. As with the food, the alcohol is also expensive … very expensive and you should expect to pay around £7-£8 a pint! (did you know beer was only legalised in Iceland in 1989).
So you’ve walked around the city, seen the sights, had a coffee and something to eat … now what??? Well this is why you come to Iceland.
Iceland has many tours and experiences that you will find hard to compare to with other major cities. The most popular tour is the Golden Circle tour which takes you to the Geysir, the Gulfoss waterfall and the tectonic plates where Europe meets America.
The Geysir erupts every couple of minutes so you will not be disappointed.
The path leads you right down to the plateau so you get as close as you possibly can to this impressive waterfall.
Along with this tour I also went caving which was a great experience and snorkeling in Lake Silfra (this lake has some of the clearest and cleanest water in the world – so clean you can drink from it as the water comes directly from the nearby glacier). The water is cold though – so cold you have to wear a dry suit but the view under the water is dramatic and as almost as far as the eye can see.
If this doesn’t float your boat how about whale watching or horse-riding on a black sandy beach? Maybe you’d like to take a helicopter to the top of a volcano or land on a glacier – yes you can do all this and much, much more.
If you fancy staying up til 2am you can go hunting for the Northern Lights – I have been extremely fortuitous to have seen the lights and wow what an experience. If you don’t manage to see them on your first trip, the tour operator usually allows you to go on every tour during the week (free of charge) until you see them.
So lets recap … you’ve seen Reykjavik and all it has to offer, you have been on a few tours, seen some volcanoes, paid £8 for a pint and maybe been lucky enough to see the sky light up with dancing colours – is this the end of your trip? hell no, on your way back to the airport almost everyone stops by the Blue Lagoon. This is a geothermal outdoor spa experience like no other. Yes its most likely cold outside and maybe you think all the people in their speedo’s and bikini’s are slightly mad when you first walk in but honestly its one of the best experiences you’ll have on this trip.
For around £25 you can spend as much time as your flight back allows. The water is naturally heated and is very warm so you really want it to be cold outside, there are jacuzzi’s and steam rooms, as well as a swim-up-to bar and always plenty of room for you to relax until your flight back home.
Would I recommend Iceland? Absolutely. It may not have much sun and the temperature may not appeal to all but you will experience things that you can probably only experience in Iceland.
One last note … although its cold in Iceland, don’t let that put you off, it’s not as cold as you may think, the temperature rarely falls below -2 in the winter so a good coat, hat, scarf and gloves and your all set. For the summer months you probably won’t even need that.
So until the next time öruggur og hamingjusamur ferðast (safe and happy travelling).
Latino777 – Its our time down here.
As a hot-blooded male I have a healthy admiration for beautiful women. Below are my 5 current hot to trot females but for every gorgeous, talented woman there’s an air stealer … those women who have as much talent as a mosquito and only look good in a very dark room or on radio.
HOTS5. Megan Fox – this 25 year-old model/actress is probably best know as the sex kitten in the Transformers movies. She keeps on dropping out of my top 5 but at this moment she has just scraped through lol. 3. Katy Perry – Now this 26 year-old songstress is a real handful and ever since she kissed a girl and liked it – we’ve liked her. A deserved beauty in my top 5 I feel.
Now I’m not even going to waste any time writing about the females below as they are just not worth writing about.
5. Any female that has ever been on Big Brother.
Latino777 – It’s our time down here.