Showing posts from July, 2006

Leaving The Blogosphere (again)

There are many advantages to having some time without internet access, but not being able to blog is not one of them. Alas.

But, as is always the case, the cliche "I'll be back" applies. So don't go away.

Thank you to those of you who left comments whilst I was in Shetland. I do now have my results (though I didn't when I composed the post) and I am able to continue my studies next year.

On the Cyprus front, the idea of 'ethnic cleansing' on behalf of the Greeks is not one I had come across (obviously in the Greek side) but a theory to be investigated. As ever, I will do my own research. Watch this space.

Thank you very much for calling, bye for now.

Some People (the latest episode)

We have another winner of JP's Muppet Awards. This time it goes to the middle aged woman in baggage reclaim this morning. After waiting an age, the baggage eventually appeared on the conveyer belt, and her husband (or should I say 'Partner' to be on the safe side in this overly PC age?) collected their ridiculously heavy suitcase. He then tried to place it on the trolley she was holding, and despite requests to 'hold it still' she failed to notice, let alone use the big green brake lever and the trolley wobbled around like an excited dog, bashing in to those of us around her.Worryingly, she probably holds a driving license :S

Shetland: He's got a dream about buying some land...

..He's gonna give up the booze and one-night stands.It might come as something of a relief that today's chosen lyrics are not connected with me (though I do fancy a bit of land). In fact, the only connection with our trip is that they feature in one of the tunes which has accompanied us as we've been driving around. And what a tune it is. I wonder if someone with too much time on their hands can tell me which 70's classic I am referring to.So, 5 days in Shetland. Aside from visiting random relatives, what have I been up to?We spent a day exploring the north and west parts of the Shetland Mainland, which really does boast some stunning scenery. After the fog which dominated our first 24 hours or so, the weather cleared and we enjoyed hot sunshine. The weather was good enough in fact to enjoy spending time on one of the picturesque beaches, with its expanse of unspoiled sand and crystal clear waters. The water was so inviting that I donned my swimming shorts (not…

Shetland: In the Remote Part

The song title for this post is the most relevant yet; it describes my location well, and is by a Scottish group to boot.This post was going to come to you a few days ago from a B&B/Croft on a remote peninsula on the Shetland Mainlaind, but the reliability of the Vodafone email server (poor, despite good GPRS coverage) coupled with days packed with better things to do than blog means that I've got a bit behind with my diary.Anyway, I now have all the time in the world to ramble about my trip so far because I am fog-bound at Sumburgh Airport with no idea when and how I will leave the Shetlands. Apparently fog affects the flights here all the time in the summer, so I am a little bit annoyed that there were no warnings about this when booking, and no information on the Tourist Website under the 'Getting Here' section. The announcement has just been given that our flight is still delayed, with the next update due in an hour. At this rate I'll be on the boat to Aberd…

Shetland: Shine on you crazy diamond

Another cue from a song; I think that there is a bit of a trend emerging. And this one is (possibly) more relevant than the last.It turns out that my grandmother's 80 year old cousins are both in good enough shape to look after a few acres of land and keep sheep. As Skittles noted, the word 'legend' is often applied very liberally, but these guys certainly deserve the title.Along with their nephew and his wife we enjoyed a wonderful meal, complete with home grown spuds. Conversation flowed as we traced family links, learned about Shetland and just made general small talk. The evening flashed passed, and as we took our leave at midnight it was still twilight. I'm thrilled to have completed another link in the family chain, and really hope that it will remain for years to come; "Shine on..."Aside from meeting distant relatives, yesterday was filled with adventure. Despite the lingering fog, we opted to continue with plans to island-hop to Noss.We started wit…

Shetland: Showing off your something shaved and lacy

I attempted to post a photo of our successful rendezvous in Edinburgh, but so far it hasn't appeared.Anyway, continuing without the need for pictures, we have arrived. The journey was pleasant and smooth and we docked at 7.30am this morning. Sadly the clear skies evident as the twilight faded near John O'Groats at 10.30pm had given way to mist and drizzle when I looked out at 4.30am and have not reappeared since.Nevertheless, we've had a pleasant morning in Lerwick, finding our accommodation and indulging in a delicious and hearty brunch in a local cafe. Lerwick is fairly bustling, and does not feel that remote. Aside from a few Scandanavian influences in some of the buildings, we could be anywhere in the UK. We've seen the impressive Town Hall and the local loch and later plan to explore further, maybe visiting the Up-Helly-Aa exhibition.So what does the title of this post have to do with all this? It's a Kings of Leon lyric, quoted by Stan, and doesn't r…

Shetland: The Adventure Begins

Shetland: The Adventure Begins
Originally uploaded by JP1984.
After a pleasant journey north to York yesterday, I met with one of my travelling companions - Stan - and stayed with his brother. The sun was shining and it was great just to chill out.

And so, at a not uncivilised hour, the journey continues this morning. Flat and featureless scenery has given way to something a little more picturesque, and we have just passed Durham and its striking cathedral.

We change trains at Edinburgh, where we should be joined by Skittles, the third member of this intrepid trio. I say should, because he had to leave very early this morning, and matters were complicated yesterday by his realisation that he needed to arrive at the station in time to renew his YP railcard. Those of you who know him will know that the odds are not certain, but he should have been underway for a while now and no news, as they say, is good news. At least after yesterday's conversation he knows that it's Waverle…

Naked Women (and other things)

Disturbingly, I noted this morning that since getting back from Cyprus and posting my thoughts several people have found this blog by searching for 'naked women' or 'topless'. It was probably my report on the Blue Lagoon which led them here, but I don't think it was what they were looking for (sorry, Nathan).

I'm off to Shetland this afternoon. At least, I begin my journey in that direction. Assuming that there is enough phone service for my free GPRS to work I will endeavour to post about things as they happen, so watch this space.

It should be a great week. Trees are apparently a novelty in that part of the world, the nearest railway station is said to be in Norway and rumour has it that a bus stop complete with TV and microwave is one of the main attractions. There is also some family history there for me - I am looking forward to seeing the house where my grandmother was born, and meeting (for the first time) her cousins.

Rock on.

Return of the Mack

You knew that I’d be back.

Spread the word. I have returned from a fantastic couple of weeks in Cyprus, and I am feeling very rested, despite not arriving home until some unearthly hour of the morning.

Because I enjoy writing, I kept some form of diary – which you will find in the preceding posts. If my aspirations get involved in travel writing go get anywhere, material may also get published on bethejam. I’d highly recommend a visit to the site, and keen readers will already find one article of mine which has been published.

I have to get packed for my next trip (to Shetland – watch this space) and I’m also going out shortly to an annual family BBQ, which will be fun. Before I go, however I would like to have a rant or two about some people I encountered on my flight home.

1) Airline stewardesses
- what is it with their constant misuse of the reflexive pronoun? If you don’t know what I am getting at, please leave a comment for myself at the end of this post.

2) The club class passeng…

Cyprus: Drinks at the Theo's

Drinks at the Theos’ turned out to be quite a social occasion; there were various other English people who were also staying in their villas as well as a couple of locals. Their house was very well appointed, and we sat out on one of the balconies enjoying the beautiful views across the hillside and out around the Chrysouchou Bay. Mrs Theo had made various things to eat, including some delicious pastries and a fresh fruit salad. Mmmm.

We met some interesting people, notably Andreas (the author of this book) and his wife. Andreas grew up in a village near Kyrenia (in the now occupied part of Cyprus) and I was able to learn a lot from him about the division of the island and the Turkish occupation.

He was not the first person to tell me that the hostility was not between Turkish and Greek Cypriots – who lived happily together in the past – but between the Cypriots in the south and the Turkish people occupying the north. The current situation is certainly very complex and I shared And…

Cyprus: Long Lunch

Originally uploaded by JP1984.
We decided to treat ourselves to a long lunch at Zouk today. It was bliss. Theo turned up, not in his 6-Series but in the flashy 5-Series with no number plates that I'd seen around. Class. Surprisingly,"Mr Fontana" was not there, which was annoying because this time we actually wanted to talk to him - about holding on to our 4x4 for a bit longer. He wasn't in the office when we popped by later, but the woman behind the desk assured us that he would definitely be at Zouk later. "Not so," came another (English) voice from behind the desk, "Tonight is his night with the family." Evidently there is also a "Mrs Fontana".

Cyprus: The Blue Lagoon

Originally uploaded by JP1984.
We made it along the track to the Blue Lagoon. Admittedly the track was steep in places, and the drop from the edge was “noticeable” (if picturesque), but we made it nonetheless. Humorously it is only when one reaches the other end and turns around that the ‘Dangerous Road, Do Not Enter’ sign is visible, but we didn’t die on the way home either.

Parking up by a pickup truck belonging to a fisherman we made our way on to a little beach and swam in the crystal clear sea. I enjoyed snorkelling and there were lots of fish to be seen.

As we prepared to head home a speedboat arrived in the bay. Not unusual – there had been a couple floating around earlier. This time however we couldn’t help noticing that the passengers included one guy and four women who were either topless or completely naked. I couldn’t really see if the women were attractive or not but if they were I really do wonder how some guys manage it.

The scenery, the quiet bays and the …

Cyprus:"Mr Fontana"

When we first arrived at Zouk we were greeted like long lost friends by a Cypriot man we later remembered to be the boss of the car hire firm. Not being entirely sure of his name I shall call him simply "Mr Fontana".

When we popped in to the car hire office to swap our Daewoo saloon for a 4x4, the woman behind the desk described Zouk as “the boss’s new home”. She wasn’t far wrong, for almost every time I have been on the waterfront and passed Zouk, “Mr Fontana” has been there.

Amusingly his beaming “Hello, howareyou?” is invariably followed by the ringing of his mobile phone and an “excuse me” and so conversation never proceeds very far. On the one occasion that it did get further than a greeting, I was pleased to note that his attitude to car hire is as laid back as everything else in this part of the world seems to be. We enquired about taking our Toyota RAV4 to the Blue Lagoon – a bay along the Akamas Peninsula which is good for swimming and normally best reached by b…

Cyprus: The Mystery of Androuliki (solved)

Originally uploaded by JP1984.
Captain Zorba was to be found on the waterfront the other evening, and he joined us for a drink after our meal at The Village Tavern. Typically he was on good form (“almost perfect”) and we enjoyed a good chat. He no longer does boat trips, nor does he play his bouzouki in the local restaurants anymore, but he has instead seen a business niche and set up a chandlery shop and boat care scheme for the new ‘marina’. Shrewd.

We took the opportunity to ask him about Androuliki, and he was indeed able to shed some light on it. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that it is a Turkish Cypriot village, abandoned at the time of the 1974 invasion. Some such villages were used to house Greek Cypriot refugees from the northern part of the island, but Androuliki is apparently just that little bit too remote.

Cyprus: Nice to see you, to see you nice

One of the great things about having been to a place so many times before is that we have got to know some of the local people, to some extent at least. The big names include "Mr & Mrs Theo" - Theo's parents - who pop round from time to time to check that all is in order with the villa, "Mr Fontana" - the car hire firm boss - and "Zorba" who used to do boat trips and play his bouzouki in some of the local restuarants. They will probably crop up a little bit in this travel journal.

Mr Theo popped round with some fresh Olive Oil for us, and we have been invited for drinks at their house, which I am looking forward to. This necessitated finding a florist today (in search of a token gesture), which turned out to be quite an experience. A bunch of mixed flowers turned out to be relatively inexpensive and we watched in awe as the bunch was carefully selected, prepared, and arranged. The finished product is beautiful, and Mrs Theo will hopefully be ve…

Bursting the Bubble

I said that I would post some thoughts on leaving Oxford, and so here goes.

It is not without regret that I turned down the offer of studying for an MSc in Mathematical Modelling at Oxford, but after much thought and prayer I felt that it was the right thing to do. I hope instead to embark on a similar course at the University of Bath, where the course would appear to suit me better, and the change of scene would do me good. So – to quote a good friend of mine – the Oxford Bubble has been burst.

Of course, moving on is always hard, and after a fantastic four years amongst the dreaming spires it feels in some ways as though my whole world has been whipped from beneath my feet. Even if I stayed in Oxford my friendship group would largely have dispersed, and it feels strange to think that at the end of the summer we won’t all be back in the same place.

Finishing exams so late in the term-my final exam was on the final day of official term-was odd, but having to work so hard gave me somet…

Cyprus: The Mystery of Androuliki

Originally uploaded by JP1984.
We had a day exploring the Akamas peninsula today, winding our way out through the beautiful village of Neo Chorio and out on dirt roads, eventually dropping down to the other side to Lara bay, where a turtle conservation project is in place. Unfortunately there were no turtles to be seen (not even at the Turtle Station itself) but there was a lot of interesting information about the project, and the beach was a great spot for a picnic lunch and a spot of swimming (though the sea on this side was not as clear).

On our return journey, after taking in the views from a Forestry Lookout Post atop a hill (and working our way back down the hair-raising road) we decided to take a loop which bought us back round through the village of Androuliki. The map lied to us when it showed the dirt road as having no junctions or ambiguous forks, but we navigated ourselves there eventually. As we approached however we could see that the whole village looked desert…

Cyprus: Which way now?

Originally uploaded by JP1984.
Out and about in Cyprus I was amused by the ‘quality’ and inconsistency of some of the road signs. My particular favourite was the one in the photograph where we could apparently set off in completely opposite directions at the junction and still cover the same distance to Lefkosia. I was also amused by the various signs to ‘Secret EOKA Hideouts’. EOKA was – I think - a guerrilla group who fought for independence (again, I need to do some more research) but the need to signpost ‘Secret Hideouts’, especially when the signage for more important things was so poor, made me smile.

The lack of good signs was also evident on the road down the valley from the Troodos. The road was evidently being improved in stages, but in a completely random and unmethodical way, and with no warning bar perhaps a few skidmarks we often rounded a blind bend or crested a hill to find that the new, wide and smooth road suddenly reverted to little more than a track for …

Cyprus: Getting Here

By booking directly with the guy who owns the villa out here we were not tied to flights and times and - perhaps surprisingly - British Airways offered us by far the best deal. A lot cheaper than the likes of FirstChoice and without the need for an early start, the flight out was rather good. Sam worked out how to check in to the de-restricted Club Class row of seats so I enjoyed ample leg-room, and an extra table in lieu of a middle seat in the row. Food (and drinks) were complimentary and all started well.

Unfortunately, 25 minutes before landing it transpired that a plane had burst its tyres upon landing at Paphos and was blocking the runway. This meant that we had to divert to Larnaca, which was an inconvenience but not without its novelty value. It's just as well, I guess, that Cyprus has more than one airport. Paphos did not reopen in time for us to take off again and fly there, so this meant it was time for a bus transfer.

One plane of people in to one bus does not go. …

Cyprus: A Day In The Troodos

Originally uploaded by JP1984.
Cyprus’ interior is dominated by a mountain range, known as the Troodos. The roads wind along the edge of forested mountains, overlooking breathtaking valleys and occasionally passing through civilization in the form of some very picturesque traditional villages. No holiday in Cyprus would be complete without a day in the Troodos and we enjoyed visiting old haunts and exploring some new ones.

The first port of call was the Moufflon sanctuary in Stavros, where we saw (drum roll please) some Moufflon – Cyprus’ native sheep-like creature. I’m not sure exactly what Moufflon are (I guess I’d better look it up at some point) but I’ve heard varying rumours, ranging from ‘a type of sheep’ to ‘a cross between a sheep and a goat’. None of them seem quite satisfactory. They’re impressive creatures though, and the males are endowed with massive curly horns.

Our journey in to the heart of the island then continued – pausing on occasion, including at a smal…

Cyprus: Day One in the Big Brother House...

Originally uploaded by JP1984.
...well, not quite. The villa in which I currently reside might be isolated from the outside world, and possess an open plan living area with breakfast bar and a swimming pool, but the similarities end there. Probably just as well.

Anyway, I have arrived on the beautiful island of Cyprus and although I don't have internet access, I do have my trusty PDA and - as any aspiring travel writer should - I have decided to record some of my thoughts for uploading on my return.

The journey was a bit of an epic, but not unpleasant. I might write about it in another post, but for now I'll pick up from when we arrived at Zouk, the new cafe-bar on the waterfront in the local village. It was about midnight, and the place was buzzing with locals. Theo, the villa owner appeared and bought us drinks and a pizza (not traditional Cypriot cuisine, I know, but it was amazing nonetheless) before taking us up the hill to the villa. I got to ride in his (blac…