Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Stonehenge is one of the most enigmatic and known monuments in the world, also one of the 21 finalists of the New 7 Wonders and without a doubt a place to visit, not only by those interested in archeology, but certainly by everyone.

Historical context

This monument is by the same period as the pyramids and the pharaohs, but had a totally different civilization, and apparently not so developed either. However, there are still many unanswered questions about this monument and about the knowledge this civilization had, for example, the fact that the rocks are aligned with the winter solstice and the avenue with the summer solstice. How did they do that?

Stonehenge is a circle of stones, weighting more than 50 tons each, that were carried from about 240 km away (there several theories how they moved those stones). There are other archeological sites in the area that also prove that this civilization had knowledge that was lost and that nowadays it is still unknown to us.

Stonehenge
Stonehenge

Some curiosities about Stonehenge

Stonehenge had several construction and reconstruction phases, it’s believed it took thirty million working hours for the three phases. The archeological site is a complex of two main circles, one of them with blueish color stones, an avenue and by some man-made dirt hills in a shape of a circle surrounding the site as well. The archeological site area extends to the surrounding area, and a lot is still to be discovered. Unsurprisingly, this site is part of UNESCO World Heritage‘s list.

Regarding the surrounding area, even though this site is of an extreme importance, until recently it didn’t get the deserved investment by the British government, it was only in December 2013 that the visitor center opened and the busy road that was passing just a few meters from the main site was closed. Slowly, what is left by that road is now being reclaimed by Nature, but it is still quite visible how awful and damaging that road was, literally passing a few meters from those stones.

In order to avoid spoiling (too much) the area of the site, the visitor center was built 2,4km away from the main monument, which isn’t visible from there. At the visitor center you can see several animations of the construction an reconstructions phases of Stonehenge, and in real size. You also can test your strength, there is a fake stone with a rope attached, so that you can try to pull it and see how many people exactly like you would be needed to move that stone 🙂 It is quite impressive, trust me 🙂

How to get there?

The best way is really by car, the parking area is fairly big and without a doubt a hassle-free way to find the site.

Regarding public transportation, from London, you should take a bus to Amesbury, which is about 3km from the archeological site, and from there you can go either by foot or by taxi.

The distance from the nearest train station is considerably more, and even though trains are usually a more comfortable way of traveling, I don’t think it would be the best way to get to Stonehenge.

You can find detailed information how to get there on Stonehenge’s website.

And to conclude this article, it’s quite obvious why this is one of the most visited monuments in the world. It totally worths the time invested to get there to see what was built thousands of years ago. The work done by the local entities to restore and maintain the site is notorious, the visitor center is simple but really a must see. Even if late, it is nice to see that something is being done to keep Heritage preserved. The visitors can be a major reason for the deterioration of important sites, but in this case, at Stonehenge there is a fairly good safety distance to visit it without damaging, and even the entrance fee is to be used to ensure the safety and conservation of the site. You should visit one day.

2014 Review and 2015 Goals

2014 Review and 2015 Goals

Unfortunately the blog has been quite inactive, against what I planned last year, but surely I can’t postpone this post! Every year I write the previous’ year review and a few goals for the following year, I’ve been doing this for a few years and here I am again!

A heads up, I foresee that I failed a lot this year, regarding last year’s goals. A lot happened worth mentioning, but also a lot wasn’t done either…, but let’s see.

So, here we go!

2014 Review

English classes

Writing and speaking English is not an issue for me, but I want to take this travel writer thing really serious, and for that I decided to attend for some Advanced English classes which I’ll pay a bit for… but I see it as an investment.

Well, I did this indeed and I didn’t get much out of that. It is the second time I go for the wrong course, I want to improve my writing and the course I attended didn’t give me much of what I was looking for. Well, I won’t add that for 2015 goals either, as a few things will change.

Traveling

I plan to visit another continent, I postponed Africa so or I’ll go to North America or Oceania, I might pick North America first…

Well, this one was a fail… This year, technically, I left the Euroasian plate when I went to Madeira island, but that’s part of Portugal. So, not sure if I could count that as going to a new continent…, maybe I did 😀

Due to this, I’ll change slightly my original plan, in 2015 I want to visit at least three new countries!

Moving away

By the end of 2014 I plan to be away from Ireland or being preparing my move. I learned to like this country, though I feel that I need another life changing event soon.

This one was also a fail, but for a good reason. My personal life changed a lot, so I postponed this for later. I won’t say for when, but it is something that eventually I’ll do.

Discover Ireland

Still about Ireland, I am going to buy a car soon which I intend to use almost every weekend to discover new places in Ireland and share with you all my experiences!

Well, I did this and in fairness not because I had this goal, I actually forgot about it. I bought the car just because my personal life changed and this was a big plus!

I drove a lot, but I haven’t visit that much as expected either, but surely the car helped to get to visit a few places that were unknown to me 🙂

Blog

As for the blog, I want to post at least once a week and avoid long posts (like this one).

And fail…, I started quite well, but the lack of visits to the blog, and comments, affected my motivation. Recently I found out that Google isn’t targeting my blog to the right audience (my fault, I’ll change a few about that). Hopefully 2015 will be better 🙂

Bring it on 2014, I challenge you to become better than 2013, like 2013 did with 2012 😀

Well, it wasn’t better than 2013, but it was a really damn good year! I am happy to write and acknowledge that the last three years of my life were amazing! A few less good things, but in overall I can consider myself as a lucky person!

Three Windows
Façade in a building in Berlin

Now about the blog itself

Regarding travel journal, I wrote 14 posts for the Japan Series, about the trip I did the year before. Two posts about the Romania Series (I still have a lot to do about this one), one post about Stockholm and one post about Eastbourne.

I also wrote two app reviews and a Tips and Tricks post about planning versus preparing for a trip.

As I mentioned before, I also noticed that the stats decreased significantly. In the last weeks I have tried to figure out what’s the reason behind that, and when this happened. I think I finally figured out what’s going on, but I’m not so sure yet how to fix it.

For a few years I follow Chris Guillebeau‘s blog, and honestly I think I got inspired to write these reviews after reading one of his earliest ones. I love traveling, and Chris is like the travel guru for me, I have learned a lot from his posts so I looked at it from a different perspective this time. What do I like there and why I keep following him after he finished his quest to visit all the countries in the world. Shame on me, I realized that for the last years I only looked at his posts and I saw the letters he strategically placed to form words, I never read it.

I spend a few hours re-reading one of his manifestos (279 Days To Overnight Success), and that kind of hit me in the face. My stats dropped because I changed this blog for me and not for my followers, I used to write in Portuguese (my native language) when my target audience were Portuguese native speakers. I wanted to improve my English (which I did, a lot) so I totally disrespected my followers and I disregarded my geo-stats.

I don’t seek Chris’ success, but it would be great to become meaningful and inspire other people like he does to me. My stats tell me that my followers are from Portugal and Brazil, therefore in 2015 I’ll write for them, in Portuguese, and occasionally in English (or maybe duo-lingual posts).

2015 Goals

  • Visit at least three new countries in 2015
  • Become more active with the blog (for real)
  • Paying attention to the stats and to my followers

Three things, it should be enough 🙂

For 2015 I also have a stretching goal, this one will be tough but hopefully I’ll do at least half of it! Ireland has an amazing tourism trail of 2500km, the Wild Atlantic Way. I plan to do this by bike in several different stages, maybe one weekend a month which would be about 200km a weekend… Yep, that’s just a stretching goal 🙂

And Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year for you 🙂

Eastbourne

Eastbourne

A few months ago I went to England to visit some friends that were living there. London is definitely the most visited place in England, even all UK, but this time my destination was the south. Less crowded, more country side, more “me”.

My friends were living in Eastbourne, a seaside resort city in the South of England. Tourism is one of the strongest industries in Eastbourne, the pier, the beach and the cliff walks are the most known.
I was lucky with the weather, we went for a walk through the cliff at Beachy Head and the weather was just amazing. Mid-March, and three sunny days welcomed me to England, it was just perfect for the cliff walk.

Sunset in Eastbourne
Sunset in Eastbourne

The highest chalk cliff in Britain is in Eastbourne, the Beachy Head. The name has nothing to do with beach, in fact it is a corruption of two French words meaning “beautiful head(land)”. And it is beautiful indeed, the erosion is what keeps the white color constant. In some parts of the cliff, the erosion destroys up to a meter every year.

Beachy Head was also the scene of two major naval battles in the 17th century. It was also a strategic point during WW2 for radio communications. To reach London, the enemy aircraft had to pass near Beachy Head which would be detected with reasonable time.

The Eastbourne Pier, another iconic landmark, opened almost 150 years ago it is now one of the most popular attractions in the UK. On the pier stands an amusement arcade and several shops and food kiosks, and a tower that contains one of the first camera obscura ever made. Unfortunately it isn’t open all year…

A chaotic second time in London

A chaotic second time in London

This was my second time in London, though the first one being described on this blog, because this experience really has to be shared, as it was quite traumatic for me in a good and a bad way, since the first minute… Some of you are already used to my “misadventures“, my Interrail is probably one of the best examples (and some about Peru that I also have to write…), so here’s another one!

Last Friday, January 18th, exactly one week after my 30th Birthday! I decided to treat myself with a trip alone somewhere! So, London it was! Cool destination, just “right there”, cheap and perfect for a weekend escape! Let’s do it, I thought…

So, after making sure I would have a couch to surf, I missed my surfing times quite a lot, I booked my ticket! Almost everything assured for a great weekend! Until…, the day I had to travel…

First problem: taxi driver arrived late, and it was quite tight with time for my flight. According to the taxi call center, it was my fault because I booked the taxi just two hours before… yeah, because Cork is huge and they have a lot of bookings…, yeah right.. Not sure if I’ll use their services again…

Squirrel at Hyde Park
Squirrel at Hyde Park

Arrived at the airport, actually on time and with a nice discount because I booked the taxi online (cheaper not better), I went to the gate…, so far so good until…

Second problem: flight delayed 2 hours. I immediately texted my host, and I let him know I would arrive late… My last experience to London was the same, delayed flight, and with that in mind, I booked the bus for two hours after the expected arrival just to play safe! Nicely done, Gil! Thinking ahead! But…

Third problem: the flight was delayed ANOTHER 2 hours! FUCK!

Arriving in London, everything white! Actually, it was gorgeous! London is really beautiful when in white, but I still had to go to the city center…

Fourth problem: Obviously, I couldn’t use my ticket (easyBus), because I was way too late for that one! They could have a more permissive option, but again…, cheaper not better! I had to book another bus ticket, through another company which actually was cool, if not…

Fifth problem: The bus stop that was nearest my host’s place wasn’t the one I booked the ticket for, because the lady gave me the wrong information…, I had to get a taxi to get there…, but…

Sixth problem: The GPS gave the wrong information regarding my host’s place, I spend 30 minutes trying to find his house at 2 am in freaking cold London! But I did it, and it was fine!

Next day in London was a relaxing day, I’ve been there before and I just wanted an escape, so no running to see everything, no disappointment for not seeing everything either. I just did what I really like, getting lost in a city and enjoy it! I did it! Saturday was a cool day!

I went home quite early, and I spend the whole night at home just reading, not even going out to the crazy Londoner night life! I have a lot of night life in Cork, I was there to relax!

Sunday, just a walk through Hyde Park, breakfast with my host, and a lot of chat! That’s one of the things I love more about hospitality websites, the social part where we get to know real people with real stories, very relaxing time and quite interesting…

Did I say relaxing? Oh…, wait…

Seventh problem: easyBus let you take any bus between one hour before your booking schedule up to one hour after it. I managed to take the bus before mine, just to play safe, so I could get on time to the airport. I thought the traffic could be an issue…, and I was right! We were stuck in the middle of the highway in direction to the airport! AAARRGGGG!!!

However, since I left London quite early, I managed to arrive on time to my flight. No problem here, let’s go to the boarding gate…

Eighth problem: Which boarding gate? The boards had information regarding one boarding gate, then it disappeared, then it changed to another gate…, arrggg…, let’s see what happens next…

Being at the actual gate, my father called me to tell me he saw in the news that they were canceling a lot of flights in London due the bad weather. Which bad weather? It wasn’t even snowing! And the snow outside was like 1cm hight?? I told him that I was already queueing to the gate, and that it was everything fine…

Ninth problem: Now the interesting part…, all of us, at the queue, got a text from ryanair informing that the flight was delayed 2 hours… CRAP! But we waited there for a while, until…

Tenth problem: On the speakers, they informed us a BIG list of canceled flights…, and guess which one was the last in the list? Cork! And it gets better…, we had to get outside the lounge area, really outside the departing area, to get reallocated to a new flight. I had a feeling that this wasn’t over yet…, so I run!

Eleventh problem: NOOOOOO!!!! What a HUGEEEEE QUEUE!!!!! And it got even bigger! The queue was, probably without exaggeration, more than 3 thousand people! In front of me was like 100? Yeah, I was almost at the beginning of the queue, not that bad…

I have a lot of problems, but being awkwardly sociable isn’t one! I talked with everyone around me and I managed to get entertained during the whole time I was in that queue (which is going to be another problem listed below). Doing that, I was comfortable enough to ask them to take care of my luggage while I had to go to the toilette…

Twelfth problem: Diarrhea! Oh, it gets better and better! Luckily enough, I was so stressed that I did what I had to do in a few seconds, and I went back to the queue… They had my luggage there, with an iPad inside and a Nikon D5100… I left some expensive stuff to some stranger I had just met… Between that and having to go to the back of the queue, I decided to trust them, after all, I trusted my life every time I did couch surfing. In my opinion, we should trust others! Nothing happened, and I am glad I trusted them.

Thirteenth problem: No cellphone battery! There were sooo many people there, that even for the sockets people queued, I couldn’t even charge my phone! I had low battery, but it was enough to call my brother and ask him to try to find me another option to get back to Cork and to let my manager know that I wouldn’t work the following day…

Fourteenth problem: The first two hours we just moved two meters… No joking, really! It took us two hours to move two meters, because Ryanair thought one person to handle with 3000 customers was enough!!! Is this normal???? At some point, they added two more guys, and the queue started to move a little bit faster.

A chaotic second time in London - Pinterest
A chaotic second time in London – Pinterest

It was actually quite funny, people around me were with a really good sense of humor, making fun of the whole situation. London stops with a few flakes of snow, while the nordic countries keep working with REAL snow, the fact that Ryanair being the only company there with a queue, because the other ones took care of their customers, says a lot about the situation. We even drunk beer while in the queue!

Then, the different kinds of sense of humor, everyone was relaxed there (except a hungarian guy), what could we do? Only wait and see what happens…

Fifteenth problem: We spend 5 hours and a half in that damn queue! Just to get another flight ticket! It was insane, and I don’t want to think about those that had to check out their luggage and arrived later to the queue!

The stories around me were even scarier, some people were INSIDE the aircrafts when they got to know that their flights were canceled, for TWO HOURS!!!! And they had to pay for the refreshments while stuck inside the aircraft…, for TWO HOURS! Yeah, I was one of the lucky ones among them…

My new flight was scheduled for 9am, while the original one was scheduled for 9pm the day before! Exactly 12 hours “delay”, if we can call it a delay… No rest at all, I was lucky to have a proper dinner before this whole mess, so no hunger as well, just a wasted night at Stansted Airport…

Sixteenth problem: Again at the queue to the boarding gate, our flight was delayed again, but just half an hour. And while there, my brother texted me letting me know that it was snowing A LOT in Cork! Thank you bro! When someone is stressed, and without sleeping, let them know that they might face even more problems! Well played!

But no, snow in Cork wasn’t an issue. Guess the main issue was lack of de-icing liquid, and apparently that was not the airport’s fault, but the airline company that should ensure that they would have enough for these kind of situations. Ryanair is a cheap company, and they really don’t care about their passengers. They didn’t add new flights to the board to replace the canceled ones, they just moved their customers to the next available flights. They are cheap, and sometimes cheap is crap.

I didn’t work that day, I was exhausted, grumpy, and stressed. Better to avoid people when in this mood…

Ryanair? I’ll avoid them in the future, and cheap is definitely not the way to do it.