Category Archives: Experience

My office … the Port of Southampton

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.

Aerial view of the Eastern Docks in Southampton

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 .

Nuclear Sub arriving into Southampton

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.

All 7 P&O cruise ships leaving Southampton

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.

Containers being unloaded in Southampton

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.

The famous liner leaving Southampton

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.   

Looking out from the port to Royal Victoria Country Park where Florence Nightingale once worked

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.

QE2 docked at Southampton port

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

The Destination Wish List

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.

South Africa

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.

Greenland

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!

Dubai

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.

The Maldives

 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

The Magic of Lapland

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.

Opening up the ‘life’ jar

As i sit here bored beyond belief I have an overwhelming urge to re-live some of the moments I have been blessed with experiencing during my short stay on this mortal plane.

A while ago I decided to create my own little bucket list and I have to admit they are a fantastic way to push you into getting off the sofa and actually ‘doing’ instead of saying ‘one day’.

I have been truly fortunate to have ticked off so much of my list such as jumping out of an aeroplane and swimming with dolphins.


I’ve climbed into a cage and been lowered in with sharks and I’ve held a tiger cub on my lap.


One of the most memorable days in my life has to be when I took my daughter to Lapland – we flew 3 hours to Finland, crossed the Arctic Circle, spent the day with husky’s & reindeers, experienced skiddooing for the first time, met the real Santa, saw the Northern Lights (what a sight), and flew back – all in a day.


There was a day in an Eastern European country where we were able to fire real guns with real bullets including a pump action shot gun – no experience necessary but they did allow you to drink plenty of beer before taking the gun in hand ha ha.
I’ve only ever been in a helicopter once but it was over Niagara falls – I would love to experience that again … maybe over NYC this time.
Talking of NYC I’ve been lucky enough to visit the sleepless city on quite a few occasions and you haven’t lived until you’ve stepped out on the Empire State Building Observatory in a cloud!!! very eerie but amazing.
I’ve taken a horse & carriage around Central Park and was stood in Times Square when it was announced that Michael Jackson had passed away – very surreal moment (I had a ticket to see him in the O2 … gutted).
I’ve also been lucky enough to see the likes of Stevie Wonder, Eminem, Beyonce & Alicia Keys in concert.


If anyone wants to experience something a little out of the ordinary then I would suggest a trip to Reykjavik and go swimming in the Blue Lagoon – I did this a couple of years ago and would love to go back, swimming outside in minus temperatures is not as crazy as you may think.


One of my more crazy moments led me to getting drunk and booking a holiday to Austalia at 02.00am – it took me a while in the morning to figure out why my passport and credit card was out and the laptop still on but when I realised what I’d done I was just sooo relieved that I wasn’t going that day!!! in fact I had a whole 2 weeks to save ha ha still it was a great experience especially Bondi Beach at dawn.

Of course nothing outweighs the day my daughter was born and we have been so lucky to have experienced some of the above together.

As I put the lid back on the ‘life’ jar its made me want to tick off another experience … and there are still soooo many.

Until the next time … adios

Latino777 – Its our time down here

Pitch Invasions and Steaks

This weekend just gone, threw a host of emotions my way especially as my long suffering football club gained promotion after many years being locked in a downward spiral. The game itself was of little importance but the party atmosphere was long overdue and justly deserved after a long season and on the final whistle the scenes of thousands invading the pitch was fantastic to firstly watch and then join.

Along with the football we’ve recently seen street parties, BBQ’s and trips to the beach down here on the South Coast and almost all of them have included the consumption of a good ol steak or two. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much meat, this week alone I’ve encountered Nando’s & Rancho’s and I have an exclusive BBQ to attend on Friday (its not exclusive because of the expense or the people going but because there are only 3 of us attending!!!!).
Still … in this time of hardship and not knowing whether the next wage packet will ever turn up I can’t complain about eating out and I’m looking forward to spending time with my good friend ‘Meerkat Mac’ at the farm where I’m pretty sure more food will be consumed.

I can feel my gym membership calling lol

Latino777 – Its our time down here