Saturday, November 01, 2008

Travels: outside the continental United States

So, what have I been up to in the last few months? Good question. Some work travels, some leisure travels, a busy time at work, and laziness. I'll skip right over the last 2 as, quite frankly, nobody is interested. Travel-wise, Simon and I spent a frenetic 2 weeks in the USA last month (much more on that later in the weekend); here I'll round up the other (you might say less interesting, which is generally fair) trips in what is essentially an advert for my Flickr stream.

London is not an uncommon destination for me on my work travels, and I'm not sure that I can add anything to what has already been said, so I won't. There was also a trip to Saudi Arabia, with no photos and no interest. This leaves Stavanger, Istanbul, The Netherlands, The Lake District, and Edinburgh.

Stavanger. I've been there a few times now and whilst it's lovely, I feel that I have ssen pretty much all there is to see in the compact town centre: a pair of pretty harbours, some nice old wood-frame buildings, expensive restaurants, expensive shops, expensive bars, and rain/sleet/snow. Thanks to work travel, I can always afford food and (if I'm feeling like justifying a £7 pint to accounts) drink. I feel sorry for the suckers who end up in Norway on their own dime (or should that be daim?): the country and people are excllent, but boy is stuff expensive. I know that they have a very high standard of living there, but for most people going to Norway is what it must be like to visit the UK from a third-world country. They need their high-class Scandinavian living to make up for the opressive weather, which often makes Aberdeen look like a tropical paradise in comparison. During my June trip, however, the weather was stunning: so warm that I was on the verge of sunburn (no big thing for the pastiest white boy in the world, but in Stavanger?), so the photos of that trip allowed me to get in some of my favourite blue sky meets buildings shots.I was across again for one night a couple of weeks ago, and you'll be pleased to know service was back to normal.

Lake District. Boy, that was a lot of text to say very little about Stavanger wasn't it? I'll attempt a little bit more brevity for the rest of the post. June saw a short family break in the Lake District, which is certainly the nicest part of England in my book. It could almost be a part of Scotland in terms of landscape; being very compact it's much easier to get around and over all the mountains compared to Scotland's wide open places, which has the flipside of being an ideal place for tourists to visit. Lots and lots of tourists. This little holiday can be summed up in 2 words: hills and food. The uphill exercise had no chance of canceling out the food, of which the Lakes have some of the best examples of meat, pies, dairy and Bakery that I've ever had. That trip came to an unpleasant end with my toilet back in Aberdeen flooding the flat below, which is a whole different story that doesn't need told. Here are some pretty pictures of the Lake District, though.

Istanbul. In July I had a pretty brief trip to Istanbul to subvert a meeting of the (pretty important) the excellent Italian (in Istanbul!) meal paid for by StatilHydro, I only had time to look out of a taxi window and take a brief wander through the area around my hotel. Thankfully this included the Bosphorus, Besiktas Stadium, and some of the old town area. Some photos (taken on my back-up pocket camera, hence the relatively low quality) are here. My very brief visit indicated that Istanbul seems to be worth another look: an intriguing mix of East and West, new and old, Roman and Ottoman, fun and frustrating. And I brought back some excellent Turkish Delight.

The Netherlands. Not Holland: I can't risk setting Simon off. Anyway, a couple of days for work in The Haugue revealed it to be a thoroughly charming little city with a nice mix of traditional and modern. It would certainly be an excellent and relaxed alternative to a weekend in Amsterdam if you're not in the mood for weed, porn, and prostitutes.

Edinburgh. Finally, this post is almost over! Last week I nipped down to Edinburgh for the day (as per usual, for work). I've not been there for quite a few years (other than in the railway station or airport) so forgot how nice it is. You can see why tourists flock there. It made me feel sad, though, because of the wonderfully-preserved old streets and buildings (especially around the west end of Princes Street and the Haymarket area). I've been reading the excellent Lost Aberdeen recently, which makes the blood boil regarding the immense number of old, beautiful, and interesting buildings that my city has demolished in the name of progress. Edinburgh is a glimpse of what Aberdeen should be: a mix of winding medieval streets, closes, pends, aracdes and beautiful neo-classical architecture spearheaded by one of the great architects (Archibald Simpson).

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