Array ( [total] => 15 [pageSize] => 24 [page] => 0 [results] => Array ( [5670] => Array ( [iID] => 5670 [tTitle] => What's the competition at the World Summit Award - Redux [tSlug] => whats-the-competition-at-the-world-summit-award-redux [iTime] => 1508796000 [iUpdate] => 1509966904 [tDescription] => Five years after Dérive app was nominated for the World Summit Award, which we eventually wonrepresenting Uganda in Abu Dhabi in early 2013, work of mine was nominated once more for the UN-backed World Summit Award.  Now, The Museum of Yesterday, a mobile app for exploring the hidden history of the old port of Rio de Janeiro, which I developed together with Agencia Publica, was selected to represent Brazil.  As Dérive app, The Museum of Yesterday is nominated in the Culture & Tourism category. In each of the eight categories, five winners will be selected in November, with winners going to Vienna in March for the 'grand finale'. Now, with 13 other submissions, The Museum of Yesterday was put on the shortlist for the grand jury to deliberate over.  Here's my take of the competitive field. + Cultural Infusion’s digital learning suite (Australia): Mobile apps for kids to build a bridge between their own and foreign cultures. Cultural Infusion makes a bunch of apps, with only trial versions available for free. I tried out one, Joko's Pocket Planet (Lite), which is cute, has a few small bugs, and seems to be a reasonable educational environment for younger kids. + HEARonymous (Austria): A mobile app providing (mostly paid) audioguides for museums. Not very original. + The Museum of Yesterday (Brazil): That's us! A compendium of the hidden history of the port of Rio de Janeiro, with a particular focus on it's less savoury past (slavery) and present (corruption), which requires the user to physically explore the port, with his mobile device indicating where to find the individual stories embedded in the app, as well as in reality. + Cardboard Stage (Canada): The platform's name references Google's Cardboard, a simple tool that turns a mobile device into a stereoscopic viewer. The site itself wants to be a platform for 'young artists' to reach a global audience, essentially by hosting 360 (panoramic) videos that can be immersively experienced with Google Cardboard. Sounds nice, except that their blog hasn't been updated in over two years, when they 'officially launched', while they only host the videos of eight artists.  It seems to me their ship has sailed, while also not offering anything quite unique; 360 videos can, after all, be hosted pretty much anywhere. + Luabooks (Colombia): Physical and interactive mobile 'books' for kids, in Spanish. I tried their app CatTron, which is essentially a series of cute kids-book illustrations, allowing for some basic interactions, like swiping and tapping, to generate simple changes to the illustrations themselves. + Virtual Tour inside El Muizz street (Egypt): Apparently designed for Oculus, it's as the name implies, a virtual tour of a historic street in Cairo. The app is only available for Android, but downloading it failed, the app store crashing every time I tried. + Confirmtkt (India): A (decent looking) train and bus ticket booking engine for India. + Forgotten Vilnius (Lithuania): A quite large online collection of old photos and maps of Vilnius. Somewhat interactive, the content seems to have received more attention than the presentation, which feels like it's more representative of web aesthetics from a decade ago. Only in Lithuanian. Travel Compute (Malaysia): 'Big Data' analysis for the travel industry. The creators need to be contacted if you're interested in a demo. + SnapCity (Portugal): A social network focused around physical locations where users can ask questions about their current city and (hopefully) have them answered by other users, who can be tipped, in real money, for their participation. SnapCity only covers half a dozen cities on the Iberian peninsula, which shows the biggest challenge apps like these have to overcome: traction. The interface is functional, but I don't see this taking off. It's just too difficult to compete with the likes of TripAdvisor or Google Local, also meaning that SnapCity is not conceptually groundbreaking. + Inland Sea (Qatar): An iPhone application that's essentially a basic guidebook of the 'inland sea', that is, desert, of Qatar. The app seems to be made with an off-the-shelf guidebook maker and looks more comprehensive than it is; for the many mapped locations, there isn't actually any detailed information available, except for a location and a name.  + (Sri Lanka): A (decent looking) accommodation booking engine for Sri Lanka. + The Next Rembrandt (The Netherlands): A super slick and heavily funded project to generate a unique 'Rembrandt' based on analysing existing work and letting the analysis, AI, and (human) analysts do the actual job. This project is stunning, as it should be, with funding and support from ING, Microsoft, TU Delft (my university) and Mauritshuis.  + Gone West (UK): A booking platform that 'removes your carbon footprint as you travel'. This, by planting trees to balance your CO2 output. They finished a successful Kickstarter campaign, collecting a bit over 15000 pounds. The details seem a bit fuzzy, as they claim that a long haul flight booked through them will see them, 'with their own hands' plant 'up to' 15 trees in your name. Less practical, according to their booking engine, a flight I tested their system with supposedly was available for 525 pounds, but ended up being 711 pounds after they forwarded me to the actual booking agent. So, conceptually clever, but needs work, as it doesn't appear to actually operate as a price comparison engine. Short-short list? It seems to me we stand a good chance to make it to Vienna, but, who knows who the actual jury will favour. Of the above list, LuaBooks seems a bit more comprehensive and enjoyable than Cultural Infusion (though that might just be my sense of beauty). The Virtual Tour of El Muizz street and Travel Compute are bit of a dark horse, while Confirmtkt, Cardboard Stage, SnapCity and Ayubo lack innovation or content.  If anything, our app, The Museum of Yesterday, is somewhat similar to Forgotten Vilnius, but is more accessible, for being in both English and Portuguese, while also adding the unique aspect that the user is required to physically explore the subject area, which itself is a unique proposition. Gone West is clever, but can only survive if it actually also works as a good price comparison engine. The Next Rembrandt is a sure-fire finalist. So, here's what I think will be the list of winners:  + The Next Rembrandt + Gone West + Luabooks (or maybe Cultural Infusion) + The Museum of Yesterday That leaves one spot to be filled to make five. I think contenders are The Virtual Tour of El Muizz street, Forgotten Vilnius and Travel Compute. Update (November 2017): We've won! Together with The Next Rembrandt, Luabooks, TravelCompute and SnapCity. Onwards to Vienna! [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 357 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1489 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 1 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 1 [iFullImage] => 1 [fLatitude] => -23.5755 [fLongitude] => -46.8554 [tLocation] => The yellow house [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20171024 ) [5557] => Array ( [iID] => 5557 [tTitle] => The only Europe in Africa [tSlug] => the-only-europe-in-africa [iTime] => 1420326000 [iUpdate] => 1420326000 [tDescription] => First passing from Carthaginians to Romans to Vandals to Visigoths, Tariq, the one who started conquering Spain by landing in Gibraltar, used Ceuta as a staging ground to cross the straits. Later, the area changed hands multiple times after the fall of the Umayyad caliphate, before Ceuta was conquered by the Portuguese in 1415. At the end of the 16th century, Portugal, including Ceuta, for a while was ruled by Spanish kings. When Portugal regained its independence in 1640, Ceuta was the only city in the Portuguese empire that sided with Spain, which was formalized in 1668 with the Treaty of Lisbon. Now, Ceuta, together with Melilla, a while to the east, are the only pieces of Europe on the African mainland. The border between Ceuta and Morocco is formed by seven hills, called the seven brothers, Septem Frates in Latin or Hepta Adelphoi in Greek, probably the etymological source of Ceuta, Cebta in Arabic. The border is formed by a wall of Israelite proportions, trying to keep aspiring Africans out. With that, Moroccans moving back and forth legally seem to facilitate much of the Ceuta economy. Taking a shared taxi from Tanger to Fnideq, from where it's a short walk to Ceuta, the car passed several dozen black Africans on the highway, all in small groups and all wrapped up in padded winter coats. I can't but imagine that, somehow, their plan was to get into Ceuta and the European Union. The Ceuta tourist office tries hard to attract tourists and position the exclave as a destination in its own right, promoting the city as a place where all religions live together in harmony. I more found Ceuta a place that has a hard time forging an identity for itself. Yes, it's in Spain, but walking around, I heard more Arabic than Spanish on the streets. Parking guards are all black and the few beggars are all Moroccan women. The area around the port is a conglomerate of large shopping outlets, including a huge Lidl, because of the city being a tax-free zone. Plenty of restaurants serve tapas, but as many serve kebabs. The owner of my hotel spoke French, Spanish and Arabic. Some shops put up signs saying they don't accept Dirham, Morocco's currency, implying that there are others that do. Police state? Out of character for both morocco and Spain is that all cars are keen on letting pedestrians cross, being overly courteous even. How did that happen? Ceuta does have a few bums on the street, at night sleeping in one of the few nooks and cranny on the peninsula. But, it seems, they are purposely left alone. On Sunday afternoon. As I was strolling through the town's high street, a bum, wearing his sleeping bag as a cape and having his few possessions scattered about him, was put on the spot by two policemen pouring out of a police car. The police asked questions, showed disdain, while the bum responded loudly in a raspy voice and, eventually handed over a piece of paper. I stood and watched to see how the drama would unfold, just as when a broad shouldered training suit and sunglasses wearing goon sat down on steps close to me. After a minute he got up and asked me what I was doing. "I'm looking at how this unfolds. What are you doing?" He turned out to be Guarda Civil, in plainclothes, asked for my ID and had it checked. Later, after I had gotten my ID back, he thanked me and walked off, together with what was another plainclothesman. The police eventually left the bum alone, who, after a while, put on a felt hat, slung his sleeping bag around him as a satchel, picked up his few belongings and walked off. Both on Gibraltar and in Ceuta, I stumbled upon young adults and kids playing war games. Kids with very real looking machine guns were circling each other at a distance over difficult terrain in order to achieve, literally, the high ground. In Gibraltar, some of them were wearing army fatigues, first confusing me into thinking the game was real, soldiers trying to prevent armed teenagers from entering the peninsula. Black face In Ceuta, strolling through town, I was passed by an overweight man dressed like, well, a bishop, or perhaps a king, as he seemed to be wearing a crown. Then, later, heading to my hotel, I stumbled upon a get together, lots of families with young kids, crowding around a big band which started playing as I walked past. Checking them out, I noticed a dressed up trio at the front of the parade. Two looked fairly identical, crowns, big white beards, long tunics, the third would have resembled a Moor, and was made up with black face. They were throwing candy around, taking it from a bag they were holding, kids scrambling for the sweet prizes flying through the air. Resembling the Dutch/Belgian Sinterklaas celebrations, these were actually the three kings. Yet, as Sinterklaas, these three were bringing gifts for kids, here not Christmas Day, but January 6, three kings, being the day kids get their presents at these end-of-year celebrations. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 1848 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1383 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462177379 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 5 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 35.8886 [fLongitude] => -5.31318 [tLocation] => Hercules statue [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20150104 ) [5553] => Array ( [iID] => 5553 [tTitle] => Geocaching in Sevilla [tSlug] => geocaching-in-sevilla [iTime] => 1419548400 [iUpdate] => 1419548400 [tDescription] => It's less than 500k from Lisbon, but Sevilla is not easy to get to. There is no train connection and though there is the occasional direct bus, I found them booked up several weeks before my trip. Instead, I had to struggle to get to the right train station in Lisbon, take a train to Faro, switch to a train to the border and from there take a bus to Sevilla. On the up, I shared my first train compartment with a girl who was carrying around in her backpack a small inquisitive terrier, curiously poking his head out and investigating everything around him. Back when was competing for travelers' eyeballs, that is, more than a decade ago, I was discussing the possibilities of a partnership with the gents behind In the end, the partnership didn't happen, but its psychogeographic tendencies never failed to interest me. Now, on Christmas Day, with virtually everything in Sevilla closed, I got around, finally, to doing a few caches myself, while enjoying the midwinter sun. Where caches, the objective of what's effectively a type of treasure hunt, used to be containers with gifts, where you'd take one out and put another in upon finding it, now, they're typically tiny magnetic containers with minuscule logbooks to mark your achievement. After Dérive app, I'm now working on a mobile exploration app that has some overlap with both geocaching and the dérive. The geocaching app is very decent for facilitating exploration, but fails in one aspect. Like the dérive, geocaching is about exploration, yet, the app provides a map of your area, which invites the user to take the shortest route to the cache currently set as the destination, instead of allowing the user to slowly drift to his objective. Also, the app, or perhaps it's a consequence of the online interface, doesn't deal well with content in multiple languages. Mostly, information on caches, when providing information in more than one language, is jumbled up and hard to sift through. A very well designed aspect of the app is that an Internet connection is not a necessity for using it. When connected, the app will download information on a bunch of nearby caches which is then available after disconnecting. I seem to recall that, in the past, finding caches was typically done through the decoding of a series of tasks or instructions, slowly directing the user to a destination and the physical cache, with wayfaring, using the user's current position, as an essential part of the discovery. A bit like doing a dérive on Dérive app, but with a tangible objective. However, the caches that I did in Seville, as well as the ones I later did elsewhere, where all very straightforward, all being just a destination with a story attached, with at the destination a cache with a logbook. I figure that, instead of using magnetic caches and little logbooks, finding caches could be made more interactive if the caches are in fact QR-codes pointing to a URL that's not made public elsewhere. Or, better still, if the geocaching app would have an integrated QR-code reader that would integrate the logging and commenting system. Then, as I was walking around in the gardens close to the Plaza de España, one of the must-sees in Sevilla, I fired up the geocaching app again. No detailed information on nearby caches were downloaded to be available offline, except for their locations. The one cache I pursued actually made me find a hidden QR-code. However, this turned out to be, perhaps a geocache, but specifically the objective of a hunt for the similar app Munzee. A few things on Sevilla The south of the Iberian peninsula for a long term was under Muslim control. This has left a clear and significant influence on the Spanish language as well as Spanish culture, even though it's also quite amazing how different Spain and, say, Morocco, are, basically the two countries that started to diverge when the Spanish completed the Reconquista at the end of the 15th century. All Spanish words that start with 'al-' derive from an Arabic counterpart, the Spanish 'Olé' might derive from 'Allah' and a lot of typical Andalusian architecture is essentially repurposed Moorish architecture. Earlier, it was the Phoenicians, specifically the Carthaginians, who kicked out the Tartessians to found the city of Spal, which was then romanized to Hispalis, from which the country derives its name. Under the Moors, the place name ending -is was Arabised to -iya, which later resulted in the English Seville and the Spanish Sevilla. Besides the scores of tapas and the overkill of street sellers panhandling chestnuts, the thing to eat in Sevilla appears to be thick hot chocolate with churros. I thought churros were Brazilian, but it turns out the Portuguese might have brought them with them from China, after becoming intermediaries between east Asia and Europe. The cathedral of Sevilla holds, most probably, the body of Columbus. Amazingly, though it's generally accepted the man was from Genoa, it's not at all sure. There's some suggestive proof he could have been Portuguese, Greek, Polish and even... Scottish. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 1927 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 568 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462214317 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 2 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 37.3832 [fLongitude] => -5.9897 [tLocation] => Alcazar [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20141226 ) [5552] => Array ( [iID] => 5552 [tTitle] => Remnants of a golden age [tSlug] => remnants-of-a-golden-age [iTime] => 1419289200 [iUpdate] => 1419289200 [tDescription] => Turkey occasionally gets hit by earthquakes but having them in Istanbul is rare. Even rarer are major earthquakes anywhere else on the European continent. One of the very few exceptions is the earthquake that levelled Lisbon in 1755. Much of the city, except one suburb built on a rocky outcrop, was raised to the ground. Now, as a consequence, most of the city is no more than some 250 years old, even though the town was formally founded by Phoenicians as a trading outpost already some 3000 years ago. The city rebounded quickly after the earthquake, because of the fabulous Brazilian riches that poured into to country. Where the Spanish were bleeding modern day Bolivia dry in Potosi, Portugal was getting its wealth from the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, specifically the mines around Ouro Preto. Both in some of the former colonial strongholds in Brazil, as well as in Lisbon, some of the elaborately decorated catholic churches are plastered, on the inside, with gold from Brazil. The vast amounts of money combined with the late renaissance sense of beauty quickly made Lisbon into a very pretty city, with some very impressive baroque architecture. Like Rome, Istanbul, Kampala and others, Lisbon claims to be built on seven hills. Combined with sights, such as the Ponte 25 de Abril (the day in 1974 of the Carnation Revolution, when Portugal shook off the shekels of dictatorial yoke), which is a near carbon copy of the Golden Gate in San Francisco (and producing a constant drone from the many cars crossing), and the remnants of the Portuguese golden age, the age of discovery, make Lisbon an worthwhile place to discover. If perhaps a bit too popular, at least over the holidays. In fact, Porto's compactness, combined with its lower profile, make that the more pleasant of the two, even if Lisbon experiences the warmest winters of all capitals on the European mainland (only Valetta is warmer). I had been to Lisbon before, but I wanted to visit the suburb of Belém, again. Meaning Bethlehem, the place represents the Portuguese desire to conquer the spice trade, first, and, through that, the world. Now, the two most prominent spots are the Torre de Belém and the Monument to the Discoveries. Still, on the banks of the wide river Tagus, they both feel a bit small, insufficient. Sure, Columbus was first turned down by the Portuguese king, before sailing to the Americas in the name of the Spanish queen, but it was the Portuguese who claimed the spice trade first, as well as the Orient and with that the European discovery of much of the African coast. A feat like that, deserves a monument of, well, monumental proportions. The marble edifice that is the Monument to the Discoveries is nice enough and simply faces the other side of the mouth of the river, as opposed to looking out at sea. Or maybe it's looking towards Africa? The tower, a short walk away, in its gothic grandeur, is a leftover of a bygone era. Later, walking somewhat off the beaten path in Belém, in the area around he train station from where I would head back to Lisbon, I got an inkling of how the Portuguese economy might be suffering. Downtown Lisbon and Porto are in great shape. But here, grubby streets and facades, street sellers without a stand trying to peddle bundles of socks, I was welcomed by overweight, early old people in shabby clothes. Just a coincidence, or was this Portugal outside of its main economic centers? The Tagus river is immense, more like a huge bay with the river, where it enters the bay, not much more than a sizeable stream. So, it's perhaps not too surprising that, when Portuguese explorers found a huge bay off the coast of Brazil, they thought that was also the mouth of river, calling it the Rio de Janeiro. In an unusual reverse role play, Lisbon copies what is the most iconic image of Rio. In the 1940s, eventually as proof of god's grace for keeping Portugal out of the Second World War, Lisbon got its own version of the towering statue of Christ the Redeemer. Here called Christ the King, it's on the other side of the bay from downtown Lisbon and stands, with huge plinth, some hundred meters tall. Visible from everywhere on the Lisbon shore, it receives very few visitors. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 1614 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1375 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461995107 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 17 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 38.678 [fLongitude] => -9.17148 [tLocation] => Cristo Rei [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20141223 ) [5551] => Array ( [iID] => 5551 [tTitle] => Food and drink in Porto [tSlug] => food-and-drink-in-porto [iTime] => 1418943600 [iUpdate] => 1516151528 [tDescription] => It's easy to forget that as little as 40 years ago, several Southern European countries, including Spain and Portugal, were still suffering from military dictatorships. Holding on to its colonies for significantly longer than the Brits and French, the Portuguese let go of its lands in Africa when military control of the country faded, only in 1974. The Museum of Serralves had an exhibition on SAAL, the collectives of architects and citizens building dozens of suburbs directly after the dictatorship. With the people, instead of just for the people. It's fascinating to see how much of the imagery, both the activist posters and the many photos which documented the movement, which wanted to replace the slums, essentially European favelas, with proper housing, resemble the imagery of the anti-dictatorship movement in South America, which happened roughly at the same time. Brazil, for one, replacing its dictatorial rule with a civilian a good decade later. Or is it that all demonstrations, in the 1970s/80s look alike and here it's just an ethnic similarity which struck me? Food On my meanderings through Porto, I was pleasantly surprised at how affordable Portugal is. Cheaper than São Paulo, for one, while, with both Porto and Lisbon being much more compact, the culinary variety is much easier to take in. One local dish is the Francesinha, based on the French croque-monsieur. It dates from the 1960s, when a native of Porto returned to his city after having spent some time in France and Belgium, from where he brought back the idea of the toasty, adapting it to local tastes, by adding more meat and a spicy sauce on top. This happened at the time the French started visiting Portugal as tourists. The French girls, baking on the beaches of Portugal, showed more skin than the more conservative Portuguese women did. So the dish, naturally perhaps, became associated with the French girls, both being hot and spicy; 'Francesinha' means 'little French girl'. The quality and style of the francesinha varies a lot from place to place. I asked around for a good recommendation. Another local favorite is tripe. This dates back to the 15th century, when the Portuguese fleet that was to conquer Ceuta in North Africa in 1415, left from Porto, taking all the meat provisions from the region with them, leaving those that stayed behind only tripe to eat. Tripe is so much associated with Porto that the Portuguese call those from Porto tripeiros, tripe peoples. I'm not a fan. From the greater region also comes feijoada à transmontana, a bean stew somewhat similar to the archetypical Brazilian dish feijoada. I was under the impression (as are Brazilians) that the Brazilian feijoada originated with African slaves, introducing West African cuisine to South America. The Portuguese disagree. It's of course possible some type of reverse osmosis occurred, from Africa to South America to Portugal. Or feijoada is simply the printing press of culinary feats. Drink Many of the names of the popular brands of port are foreign, primarily English, with a few Dutch exceptions. This dates back to the end of the 17th century. Port became very popular in England after 1703, when merchants were permitted to import it at a low duty, while war with France deprived English wine drinkers of French wine. Earlier, in 1678, a Liverpool wine merchant had sent two of his men to a region north of Porto, to learn the wine trade. But, while on a vacation in the Douro, the region where all Port comes from, the two men visited an abbot who so impressed them with the wine he served them, the men bought the abbot's complete supply, triggering a prolonged English interest in port. Several of the port houses give reasonably priced tours, which include port tastings. The portions are small, but the quality is good. 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[iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20141219 ) [5543] => Array ( [iID] => 5543 [tTitle] => Weekend in Paraty [tSlug] => weekend-in-paraty [iTime] => 1410127200 [iUpdate] => 1410127200 [tDescription] => Paraty rose to importance in the beginning of the 18th century, after the discovery of gold in Minas Gerais, the Brazilian province north of Sao Paulo and Rio. The mined gold was shipped to Portugal from Paraty and fuelled the economic boom of the very pretty colonial town, now very popular with both foreign and Brazilian tourists. The town only revived its economic prospects in the 1970s, when, at last, a paved road connected Paraty with Sao Paulo. Now, the town and area are more known as a source of cachaca, the Brazilian liquor essential to every Brazlian's favorite drink: caipirinha, as well as for its great beaches and very decent cuisine. Paraty has become something of an artists' colony. We spent a weekend on Jabaquara beach, next door to Paraty, to celebrate my successful completion of yet another revolution around the sun. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 6007 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1362 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461963728 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 4 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -23.2062 [fLongitude] => -44.7178 [tLocation] => Jabaquara beach [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20140908 ) [5512] => Array ( [iID] => 5512 [tTitle] => The city boomed [tSlug] => the-city-boomed [iTime] => 1400796000 [iUpdate] => 1400796000 [tDescription] => I joined a 'free' walking tour (they work for tips) which was decent enough, though only covering a tiny bit of the city. Both the tour guide, a thirty-something Argentine, and my first real impression of the city, strongly made a case for the third largest city in Latin America to be the not-so-distant cousin of any major Southern European, or perhaps Central European, city. Brazil's big cities have a European flavour, Montevideo could fairly easily be located in Southern Europe, but Buenos Aires feels like it's been been transplanted from across the Atlantic. Some Brazilians come away somewhat disappointed after visiting Portugal, the once mighty nation that stood at the cradle of Brazil, as well as South America. Spain fares a bit better, compared to Portugal, economically, but the 40 million Argentinians could easily rival the economic might of Spain, let alone combined with the rest of Spanish speaking South America, while the 190 million Brazilians could, in theory, dwarf half of Europe. The city's architecture, put together in the late 19th century, rivals that of any Central European capital. In fact, Buenos Aires and Budapest were considered so similar that Evita was partially shot in the Hungarian capital. If anything, the main drags of Buenos Aires, modelled after Paris and constructed around the same time as the Parisian thoroughfares, are probably outdoing those of Budapest and almost rival those in the city of love. With the struggling economy and restrictions on the exchange of foreign currency, there's a black market in US dollars. Except, the black market is condoned by the state, resulting in the street rate being called the 'blue dollar', with the value published daily in the national press. Fluctuating between roughly 10 and 12 pesos, the official rate for the dollar is stuck at 8. In the city's business district, where business seems to be as brisk as ever, mostly women constantly offer to change their pesos for your dollars. Or vice versa. Strangely, it is not uncommon for snack bars or small eateries, to not sell coffee. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 1609 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1326 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462114684 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 13 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -34.6084 [fLongitude] => -58.3722 [tLocation] => Plaza de Mayo [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20140523 ) [5486] => Array ( [iID] => 5486 [tTitle] => Buckle up, we're going to Ipanema [tSlug] => buckle-up-were-going-to-ipanema [iTime] => 1392678000 [iUpdate] => 1392678000 [tDescription] => Lonely Planet mentions that the area I'm staying in, Complexo de Alemão, has been recently pacified by Rio's Police Pacification Units, notoriously violent before then. Part of that pacification process was the recent installment of a cable car, with the intention of unlocking access for its inhabitants to the rest of Rio, by connecting it with a nearby transport hub. The cable car is very underutilized, operating at perhaps some 25% capacity and, with Rio's current plan of increasing transport fees, is feeling the pinch of the demonstrations by the Free Fare movement, who advocate not even for a price stabilization, but a complete annihilation of any charge for public transport in Rio. Rio has the fascinating distinction of having been the only city outside Europe to have once been the capital of a European country. Of Portugal, after Napoleon invaded the Iberian peninsula and the royal family relocated to Brazil. And, even after Brazil became independent in 1822, it remained a monarchy for some 60 years, before becoming a republic. With an 8 hour layover in Doha, Qatar Airways was kind enough to provide a reasonably fancy suite in the local Mövenpick. The flight to São Paolo, at nearly 15 hours the longest I've ever taken, while the plane would even continue to Buenos Aires, was surprisingly filled with East Asians. My first impression was them being Chinese, but Brazil, surprise, has the largest contingent of Japanese outside of Japan. There were also a few Portuguese speakers to be found in Doha and on my flight. And, again, the language reminded me of someone trying to speak Spanish with a mouthful of cotton balls. I suppose it shows that Portugal's distance from Rome and its location as a crossroads, more so, it seems, than Romania, has resulted in Portuguese being the most bastardized version of Latin. As a result, I struggle to understand someone speaking Portuguese, though, that said, reading the language is mostly doable. Brazil, like Argentina, had large economic growth in the first half of the 20th century, after a coffee boom saw the city's population rise to an astounding 800 thousand by the year 1900. As a result, the best parts of Carioca (Rio) architecture are constructs by, amongst others, Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeijer, as well as an impressive array of Art Deco architecture, including Rio's landmark feature, the statue of Christ the Redeemer. The architectural boom culminated in the creation, from the ground up, of Brasilia, to which Rio lost its status as capital in 1960. Culturally, it appears that Rio is still the city to beat in Brazil. Even though São Paolo is more of a beast, and the largest city in the Americas, Rio, for one, was the cradle of three of Brazil's most important musical genres: samba, choro, and bossa nova. Of course, Ipanema beach is perhaps the most popular stretch of sand in the country. Getting to my hostel in Rio was a challenge. I had booked through airbnb, but the actual place I booked wasn't available, and I was given alternative space. However, I also wasn't given clear directions on getting there, while the area, at least until recently and probably still in part, was and is known for its drugs related violence. I got my taxi voucher at the airport, but when, in the taxi, I told the driver which area I wanted to go to, he completely freaked out, in Portuguese, and refused to take me. Another taxi driver intervened and, after a good five minutes, we agreed that the area I needed to go to was ok enough for the driver to take me. Except, I didn't know the exact address. And the phone number I had, turned out to be incorrect. So, I was stuck in a potentially dangerous favela, in a taxi, with no idea where to go, at 9:30 in the evening, with a taxi driver who was much more stressed than relaxed. Eventually, it did all work out. I had he address of the place I had originally booked. A motorbike taxi got us there, where the son of the owner, with marginal English, drove me to the hostel I was to stay at. Where, in turn, no staff was present to take me in, one of the other guests showing me around, giving me bedding and whatnot. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2311 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1288 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462156242 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 9 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -22.8615 [fLongitude] => -43.2743 [tLocation] => Barraco55 [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20140218 ) [5378] => Array ( [iID] => 5378 [tTitle] => Facts and rumors [tSlug] => facts-and-rumors [iTime] => 1337464800 [iUpdate] => 1337464800 [tDescription] => After drinking till three am on the day of my arrival, talking politics and whatnot, after not having seen Johan for 16 years, my Saturday morning was spent in a bit of pain. But there is no rest for the wicked. The afternoon and evening were spent at a braai, commemorating the end of the youth expat rugby season. Rugby being such a major sport amongst expats in the region, that every year, 2000 of them gather in Dubai to compete against each other. It was only on the Sunday that I got my first real taste of Baku. We visited the airport market, a huge and sprawling bazaar on the edge of town, nowhere near the actual airport. The market, until recently, used to be close to the airport, but the thing was forcibly moved to its current location, perhaps or perhaps not because of Eurovision, to the opposite side of town. This was followed by a first glimpse of Baku, strolling around the totally refurbished and very attractive downtown area. Johan's business is based in a 13 storey building close to the center of town, Fountain square. When that building was put up, some 15 years ago, it was the largest building in town. Now, it's being dwarfed by the fancy schmanzy high rises around it. Baku's whole downtown area has been refurbished in the last few years, a lot of it having been done in the last few months. The sandstone buildings in downtown Baku were all soot covered and have been meticulously cleaned. Pavements have all been redone in gorgeous colors, even more fountains have sprung up all over town, not just on Fountain square, and the gorgeous boulevard rivals any and probably surpasses most. This has clearly become one jaw dropping little town. Live! Sunday evening, the TROS, yes, the Dutch broadcaster, threw a party for Joan Franka, the Dutch entry to Eurovision, at the fancy restaurant Tosca. This invite-only event saw pretty much all Dutchees of Baku, a few dozen at most, as well as some colorfull additions, gather around for free food and drinks on a sizable terrace on Baku's boulevard. Joan Franka, who's half Turkish, which was spotted by a few non-Dutchees in the crowd, by looking at her, does a very nice song, if a bit too similar, accent and all, to Lena's from two years ago. She chose to not enter the stage in her rather absurd American Indian outfit, which, I believe, is going to cost her a place in the finals. Near the end of the evening, I managed to chat to her and convey my apprehension for the risk of her not obtaining a position in the finals, based on her dress. "This is who I am, so this is what I'll do." I then pointed out that it could be construed that she had something of an obligation to the Dutch to try and make it to the finals. "The Dutch chose me, Indian outfit and all, for who I am and how I performed, so that is how I choose to perform at the show." Not too unreasonable, indeed, but I doubt that outside of Holland, these views will be much appreciated. The TROS went all out, hosting half a dozen or so other entries to the Eurovision. Roman, the German entry, is a fantastic singer, but his song is too slow. The Austrian hip hop entry is extremely energetic and, I think, stands a very good chance to make it big. Portugal tried a bit too hard, coming across as a tad incincere, while the Slovenian entry, a bunch of cute girls, were, well, cute, while their song was too much of a ballad. Switzerland and Malta both have a competent song, but don't stand out enough to stand a decent chance, I suspect. There are still plenty of performances I would have loved to have seen live, standing mere meters, or less, away from the performers themselves. The Russian babushkas being one, Jedward being another. On Saturday's braai, several of the guests had traveled on the same plane as Jedward, flying into Baku, and showed off some of their photos, with the two brothers sporting their absurd hair. They had visited the international school on Friday and, earlier in the week, one of the brothers had pushed the other into the pool of the hotel they're staying at. When he emerged, his hair was still towering high, the water having had no effect whatsoever. Rumours Baku is very much a city where rumours and hearsay play major roles. The government's restriction of a free press means that no one has the full story while all have their own view, supported by their own experiences, extending them to create blanket statements only partially, at best, based on facts. Indeed, the general lack of reliable information fuelling rumours feels very Soviet-like. The earlier mentioned forced removal of people in order to build the Crystal Hall is one example. The Crystal Hall was built on newly reclaimed land, meaning that no one was forcibly removed to build the actual hall. However, people were removed to create the feeder highways. But, I'm now told, apparently that that feeder highway was in the cards already for five years. But, it is said, people weren't properly compensated for being removed. But, I learned, they were given the option of being paid a market-rate for every square meter of their property or offered alternative, comparable, accommodation. But, then it was communicated, all those people had extended their properties far beyond what they owned, on paper, meaning that compensation reflected their official possessions, not their actual possessions, meaning that, in short, they were whining about not getting what they thought they were due. In a climate of disinfirmation and lack of easy access to information, it's hard to uncover what is real and what is not. It is also said that 'Azerbaijan' doesn't care much about tourists for Eurovision. They want to make sure the officials are being put up and feted properly, and they want to put down a fantastic show, so that the projected 125 million viewers will want to be tourists to Azerbaijan next year, or the year after. Then, it's said that the 'thousands' of Eurovision London cabs were not actually ordered for the Eurovision, as the first were already driving around before last year's win. Then there are the conspirationists that say that, already two years ago, there apparently was talk that Azerbaijan was going to win the Eurovision. Two years ago, the country wasn't ready for it, yet, so they won last year's. Azerbaijan came in fifth in the year that Lena won, but Lena winning with such a big margin, the possibility of anyone taking the crown in that year feels unlikely. Still, Azerbaijan winning last year was quite the surprise, particularly because the quality of the two singers left a bit to be desired, even though the song itself was very nice. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2321 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1151 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462091884 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 18 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 40.3685 [fLongitude] => 49.845 [tLocation] => Tosca [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20120520 ) [5071] => Array ( [iID] => 5071 [tTitle] => It's all about the openness [tSlug] => its-all-about-the-openness [iTime] => 1292886000 [iUpdate] => 1292886000 [tDescription] => Morocco's train network and it's materiel are in excellent condition and, when possible, the preferred way of traveling. Our first stop after Casablanca was going to be Rabat, not even an hour away. Here, the medina is not too old, destroyed by the earthquake which also roughed up Lisbon in 1755, but more attractive, and less oppressing, then in Casablanca. The nearby old fort, the casbah, is pretty, almost feeling like a Greek village with it's walls partially painted blue, and has great views of the Atlantic and the town of Sale on the other side of the river dividing the two towns. Near the end of the day, we stumbled upon a large demonstration in front of the house of representatives. A few thousand mostly young adults, split up in a few groups identified by differently colored vests, were chanting songs and slogans. Just at dusk, the masses of what mostly must have been students made for some nice pictures. Shooting a few, I was quickly chased down by security guards in civilian clothing: "are you a journalist?", "ehm... A citizen journalist", I responded. "you have to delete the photos. Show me." I didn't feel that claims extolling the virtues of freedom of the press were going to go done very well at that very moment. And, additionally, it might have been bad to claim to be a journalist, without accreditation. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2492 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1047 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462217064 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 17 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 34.0235 [fLongitude] => -6.82225 [tLocation] => Tour Hassan [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20101221 ) [927] => Array ( [iID] => 927 [tTitle] => It's mellow in Melaka [tSlug] => its-mellow-in-melaka [iTime] => 1248818400 [iUpdate] => 1248818400 [tDescription] => The Portuguese, Dutch and British influence in Melaka is so clear, it makes it hard to accept it's in the most south east of South East Asia. The town square is surrounded by red brick Dutch colonial architecture, the low houses next to the Melaka river are straight out of some French colonial town, the food is as eclectic as in any European tourist town. And the weather, when we arrived, was as northern European as it gets: rainy and gloomy. Still, Melaka is lovely. We're staying at the Number Twenty Guesthouse, an old colonial building from the 17th century with basic but decent rooms, a wonderful lounge area and the excellent resident cat Thomas, a girl, who was good enough to claim our bed as his own. Arriving a bit later than expected, we strolled around the more commercial part of town, where we found two huge and modern malls, one with a decent English book store, the other with a video arcade which introduced me to yet another new rhythm game, EZ2Dancer, a combination of DDR and ParaParaRevolution. Excellent gameplay! The game, which requires you to dance as well as wave your hands in accordance with on-screen instructions has been around since 2000. However, due to Konami winning a lawsuit in 2005 against the creators of this game for EZ2Dancer being to similar to Beatmania, the producers of EZ2Dancer went bankrupt. On our second day, we headed over to Tanjung Bidara, a pretty beach some 30 kilometers from Melaka, for which we had to take three buses to get there, while hitching a ride back from the resort due to lack of public transport. On the weekends, the beach is probably still busy, but on the Tuesday we were there, it felt so deserted, we could have assumed the end of the world had arrived, without anyone letting us know. We had first wanted to go to the nearby island of Pulau Basar, but apparently, there are no operating resorts at the moment, as are there no shops, restaurants or cafes. So we opted for the slightly easier option of Tanjung Bidara. Luckily enough, none of our gear was stolen by, as we later found out, the monkeys prowling the beaches. Perhaps they only work on the weekends. It seems Melaka's more touristy area make its money on weekends. On our first day, a Monday, almost all cafes and restaurants were closed. On the second, a few were open, but though on Monday we had a superb dinner at Selvam, an Indian run roti house and the second place in Malaysia where we at superb Indian foods, after Kasim Mustafa in KL, we wanted to try something else on Tuesday, which meant really searching hard for something still open at... 8pm. When asking for some suggestions from a lady who was trying to get us into her teahouse, we were told there really was only one option available to us, the Geographer cafe. Why? "Well, you see, this is Tuesday". Though costing us three times as much as Selvam, while selling international fusion dishes (and gado-gado), the food and the place itself were both very decent. Afterwards, we rewarded the tea lady with a visit to her tea house. There, after entering the gate, we had to walk through a 50 meter long pretty alleyway, which, after turning a corner, opened up into a beautiful Chinese teahouse, formerly a temple. All the while, in the alleyway, I was half expecting to be clobbered on the head at some point, the whole thing a ploy to relieve me of my assets. In the teahouse, we were joined by two older Chinese ladies, who first talked about a long list of options we had for choosing what kind of tea, after which we received a private lecture on the benefits of tea in general, our picked tea, some black tea variant, in particular, as well as on the history of the 350 year old tea shop. The Zheng He tea shop is connected to the museum with the same name, which, of course, relates to history of China's most famous seafarer. Later, we visited the museum, where we found a whole area dedicated to Gavin Menzies' theories. Though the building is relatively new, at 350 years, the facade is claimed to be the same Zheng He used in the 15th century. Strolling around town, before heading back to KL, we found Melaka to be a cute little town, but with a strong focus on tourism. We missed the recently renovated Portuguese area of town as well as a chance to have little fishies nibble away at our dead skin. Simply too little time. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 4511 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 941 [iOldID] => 1306 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462139612 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 19 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 2.19407 [fLongitude] => 102.249 [tLocation] => Stadhuys [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20090729 ) [104] => Array ( [iID] => 104 [tTitle] => Tapas and a birth certificate [tSlug] => tapas-and-a-birth-certificate [iTime] => 1074726000 [iUpdate] => 1074726000 [tDescription] => Had dinner with my parents and Betsy today at a Portuguese restaurant serving tapas. Dinner was *very* good and not all that expensive (just over a 100 euros for four). Afterwards, we had a couple of drinks at our place and tried push-ups with someone sitting on your back. Hard. Earlier, I picked up my Iranian birth certificate. A good thing, since I've been waiting for that for over five months. Not only do I need it for Zimbabwe, I also need it to get an Iranian passport, with which I'll be allowed to enter the country. So this awfully nice guy at the embassy helped me out, filling in the right forms since they're in Farsi (I neither read nor speak the language) but to no avail. I was sent home, having to find the passport my mom traveled from Iran to the Netherlands with... back in 1977! They need it as proof for my leaving Iran. Great. I'm happy to see there's still a bit of bureaucracy left in the world. Turns out, my mom doesn't have the passport anymore (what a surprise!) so now I have to get proof of my starting to live in Delft, which was sometime back in 1978. When I arrived at the embassy, 10-ish, it was already crowded and I had to wait for close to an hour before I could request my birth certificate. When I finally *could* ask, the guy behind the desk kept on insisting it wasn't there. Vahid, the nice guy from before, had called me earlier in the week, saying that it actually had arrived, so I *knew* it was there, but the man was very sure he didn't have it. Luckily, Vahid helped me out again and the man was able to produce my birth certificate. 'He thought you said FakhImzadeh...' So at the next desk, handing over the papers to start the process of obtaining my passport, I had to produce proof of entering the Netherlands as well as three addresses of family or friends in Iran. I almost started to believe there was some conspiracy going on, trying to keep me from entering the country. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3757 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 94 [iOldID] => 140 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462167375 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 52.015 [fLongitude] => 4.35639 [tLocation] => Barcellos restaurant [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20040122 ) [597] => Array ( [iID] => 597 [tTitle] => A trip [tSlug] => a-trip [iTime] => 983055600 [iUpdate] => 983055600 [tDescription] => During our stay in Ghana, Geekcorps, being Stophe, organizes three trips up country. The first being a trip to Kakum National Park, where they have a canopy walk, suspended bridges hanging from treetops and one of only three in the world. The park is very close to both El Mina castle, one of the very first colonial forts in Ghana held by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the Danes and Cape Coast, also the location of a famous fort. Our next trip, which would bring us to Mole National Park, way in the North of Ghana, would take us one a trip of more then 12 hours, each way. This one, to Kakum, was going to be a short one. Only four hours in a run down tro-tro. Basically a minican in which, in the western world, a maximum of nine people are allowed. Here, the minimum is 15. Walk The whole canopy walk thing sounds much more spectacular than it actually is. Although the bridges are between 15 and 40meters up in the air, the forest is much less dense as what you would expect with a tropical rain forest. Not only can you see the floor of the forest along the whole trip, you can also see for miles and miles, making it a rather awkward tropical rain forest. For the girls it was more of an experience than for the boys. Jean, a geek, and Gladys, the Geekcorps secretary both had something of a difficult time trying to navigate the swaying bridges. As for the men, even Tomas, suffering from a mild form of fear of heights had no problem whatsoever to navigate through the woods and come back home again. Probably the most intriguing of the whole park was the fact that it was initiated by a Canadian, with minor help of some Ghanaians. This, however, is very typical of anything that actually is 'working' in Ghana. It is foreigners that achieve success in this country. That situation is very similar to what I experience at JoyFM and also resembles what I hear from other Geeks. The 'frame of mind' of Ghanaians does not seem to match that what is necessary to be successful according to western standards. That, in itself, is not a problem. However, if people or more specific, companies actually try to measure up to western standards, they would have no choice but to play according to the same rules. They don't seem to be able to do such a thing. Not that people are stupid. My shadow partner, Chico, has got a good feeling for graphical design. For one, he has created two proposals for the design of two different sites that, according to JoyFM management should be up and running in a matter of days. One should cover everything related to the government, one should be an entertainment site. The entertainment site would be at the same level as, that is, based on what Chico put forward for graphical design. However, in no way is there any consultation with anyone who would know what. Technically, these suggestions would entail. In addition, there is no eye, whatsoever, for detail, The ideas are there, but there is no one working them out. Anyway Besides Kakum, we also visited Cape Coast and El Mina. Two castles built during colonial times. From El Mina, many slaves were deported to the new worlds of North- and South America and the experience of walking through the place is kind of unsettling although interesting. The one night we were away, we staid at Hans' Cottage Botel. Run by a German and his Ghanaian wife, the place consists of a number of cottages next to a small lake and a reception cum restaurant cum nightclub on top of the small lake. Crocodiles freely move about, trying to scare the visitors, not really succeeding with their 45cm in length. 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[tSlug] => the-rain-in-spain [iTime] => 978822000 [iUpdate] => 978822000 [tDescription] => The almost obligatory new year's sea dive, on which Vinca and I also had agreed, eventually was only done by Irene en Nico. During the night a really terrible storm had set in, where Vinca and I continuously wandered when exactly the windows would finally come down from their sockets, and because of that we had decided not to dive. Although it turned out that, the next day, not only was the storm not as strong as it had been during the night, the wind was also a warm wind. Locals, that is, Portuguese people, seem to celebrate new year inside. The streets where exceptionally empty, although many Portuguese had come from around Monte Gordo to spend the weekend at one of the parties the hotels were giving. This mainly meant eating till after 12 and then dancing, mostly to classical music. After witnessing Nico and Irene's morning dive, Vinca and I went to the little town of Tavira, a quaint little town where we spent some time drinking espresso in a nice little tavern. You can listen to what is was like there. Giso and Jaap staid in bed, after a night of heavy drinking in the 'NOX'. Vroom vroom Already before we left, we figured it would make sense if we would rent a car and drive around the Algarve a bit. We expected Monte Gordo to be less than very spectacular. Something that was also confirmed by a group of travelers that was in the same van with us, being picked up at the airport after arrival. They had rented a car. However, we were with a total of six people. Not amount that easily fits in one car. At first, to keep the price down, we considered renting a Fiat Palio. A reasonably spacious car, however not built to hold 4 people in the back. Additionally, I had had a quite interesting adventure with a Fiat Palio a couple of years ago, where the window next to the passengers seat almost without warning fell off the car. While driving. A Palio it was not going to be. A second option was a very expensive mini van. In stead we opted for twice the smallest car possible, a Fiat Punto. Not only turned this car to be reasonably cheap, just about $20 per person, excluding gas for a total of three days. It also is a very nice car to drive. And we now had the opportunity to split the group in two, if the need would arise. Sevilla Tuesday we went for Sevilla. The double 'l' you pronounce as a 'j', so when Nico, when later ordering a piece of chicken in some restaurant ordered a 'pollo' (with the double 'l', he not only received the chicken, but you could hear staff making fun of him in the back of the restaurant. Unfortunately, there is no highway between the Spanish-Portuguese border and Huelva, a Spanish town, some 80km after the border and some 70km from Sevilla. In stead you get a very busy secondary road, which resulted in the trip to Sevilla taking much longer than planned. The very reason why Vinca and I later in the week decided we would not go to Cordoba, another Spanish town, even further away than Sevilla. We still, however, could consider us lucky, that the very nasty looking Guarda Civil at the border didn't stop our car at seeing my terrorist-like face. The host of EXPO92 has two must-sees within it's city borders. The first is the Gothic cathedral, according to the Guiness book of records the largest in the world. Which is something interesting altogether, since later, in New York City, I was to come across another Gothic cathedral that claims to be the largest gothic cathedral in the world and also the largest cathedral in the world after the St. Peter in Rome and some creation in Ivory Coast. Either way, the cathedral is quite a sight and gives you a very nice view of the city of Sevilla. If it's not the biggest, it is still very impressive and also has a very interesting history attached to it. Originally, on the site of the cathedral, there used to stand a mosque, built by the conquering Mores, at the beginning of their conquest on the Iberian peninsula. When, finally after some 500 years, Christians took over from the Mores, they raised the mosque to the ground, except for its minaret, which they used as the bell tower for the newly to be constructed cathedral. Besides the interesting history, the church also probably harbors the remains of Columbus. Probably, since although there is an impressive grave for him in the church, no one is really sure whether his remains didn't get misplaced somewhere in the Caribbean. The other must see in Sevilla is, what is called, 'Alcazar'. A name that, even after having been to Sevilla, only can remind of the general from the Tintin comics. The guy that tries to stage a coup in some unnamed South American country and ends up as a knife throwing artist. Large parts of Portugal and Spain were part of the Morish empire, during the middle ages. In Spain, in Cordoba, Granada and Sevilla and in Portugal along the whole Algarve, many reminders of that era still exist. One thing in which the Mores differed from most occupying forces, is that they let Christians continue them practicing their faith. Alcazar was the location where Morish and Christian nobles had their luxurious houses with very luxurious gardens. Lisboa On Wednesday, Nico and Irene went for a bike ride around Monte Gordo. Something which was rewarded with Nico enjoying a flat tire along the way. Although the guide, at first, stubbornly refused to believe the tire was really flat and had it pumped up several times before he finally gave in. The kids, Vinca, Giso, Jaap and myself, took one of the two cars and drove to Lisbon. Again, a large part of the journey took us across secondary roads, where trucks and busses were keeping our speed down. And to make us even more joyous, just before arrival it started to rain badly, which only finished way after we returned. Lisbon supposedly is one of the 'undiscovered gems' of Europe and I have to admit that that seems to be true, even though we didn't have much time to explore the city, since Giso and Jaap already wanted to head back after a mere three hours. It is a fact that the Tower of Belem, the church and convent in the district of Belem, the old citadel, the small and zigzagging streets of the old town, the largest suspension bridge in Europe and the commercial center do give Lisbon the air of a Paris, London or Rome. And one that has largely still not been discovered by tourists at large. Prices are, although slightly higher than on the Algarve, very reasonable and since, without a hassle, you get large chunks of hash offered to you in the streets, what else could you ask for? A Jesus-on-a-mountain, just like in Rio? Well, it's got that too! We want Moor Earlier in the week, Vinca and I had taken up the plan to drive to Cordoba, in Spain. However, since the trip would take us first to Sevilla, we decided not to go there. The secondary road up to Huelva would simply take too long. Earlier in the week, the rest of the group had declared that in stead of going to Spain, again, they would rather drive around a bit in the Algarve. As it turned out, Vinca and I staid in the Algarve, visiting Silves and Estoi, the rest of the group went to Ayamonte, just across the border with Spain. Silves once was a Morish settlement but is now nothing more but a small, quaint, friendly town, not so much touched by tourism. Estoi, some 20km north of Faro, is nothing more than two streets converging but has two sights worth mentioning. The first is a totally not interesting dug up Roman ruin, for which you have to pay to see it. The second is a very neglected 16th century garden from some rich landowner. The garden is free to walk in and is quite impressive, even now, after so many years of neglect. The day basically was a day of chilling were we spent a large part of the day drinking coffee and, later, port in several of the bars of Silves and Estoi. Not that Portuguese bars are 'cosy' in a European sort of way. All bars, cafes, restaurants and most shops too, have one or more TVs in the waiting area. Not so much to please the customers, since they don't really seem to be watching that much. If anyone, it seems to be to please the workers. There and back And then Friday came about again. Vinca and I had the opportunity to sleep late and spend our day doing nothing much more than chilling. The rest of the group was to be picked up at 4:30am, to be driven to the airport. Our bus wasn't coming until 3:30pm. Not that we had an easy trip back. After arriving at Faro airport, we were told that our plain had a two and a half hour delay. In the end, that turned out to be a four hour delay. To compensate us for our troubles, the airline gave us a snack voucher. The snack voucher gave us a cheese sandwich, egg on a role and a small bottle of coke. Great. But we did get to say the Lethal Weapon version of Mel Gibson! Besides the not so great trip back, this type of vacation clearly caters to older couples who want to encounter as little uncertainties on their holiday as possible. They want to be able to speak their own language, they want to eat their own food. Literally, to them it must feel as if they really haven't left home. That's also why we were welcomed in Monte Gordo by a guide from our travel organization. The very friendly lady even wanted to explain, in as much detail as humanly possible, how to use an ATM in Monte Gordo ("And then you set the language...") Of course, she also showed up at the airport. It was a pity though she didn't know of our delay before we were picked up at our hotel. Luckily enough, the bottle of whisky I had bought when flying in to Faro was still one quarter full, which gave me about an hour to relax. Ready... Get set... Go! Eventually we went to bed, Saturday morning at 4am. Sunday afternoon at 1pm I was already in a plane going to Reykjavik. For the first time in years I was getting a normal meal on the flight and, a first for me, the plain was equipped with LCD displays. A pity they were showing old episodes of Frasier, the problem not so much lying in that they were 'old', but that they were 'Frasier'. After our four our delay at Faro, everything fell perfectly in to place. When I arrived at my gate on Sunday, I had still 10 minutes left to drink a coffee. I couldn't have been there any minute earlier. That is, of course, not true if I would have slept less than the four and a half hours that I did. Saying goodbye to my Love was more difficult for me as I expected. It seems that, because of the busy weeks and months prior to leaving, I hadn't really had the time to consider the consequences of us not seeing each other for so long a time. Only when on Saturday night, we lay together in bed, after tying together too many loose ends during the day, did it slowly dawn on my what really was going to happen over the coming months. And I didn't like the prospect at all of not seeing my baby for four months at least. Morning did eventually come around and we staid in bed just a little bit longer to enjoy each other just that little bit more. Eventually, four wet eyes later, we did manage to say goodbye for now. Just before finally getting up, Vinca asked me where her box was. "Which box?", I replied. "The box in which you will take me with you!" 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[iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20010107 ) [589] => Array ( [iID] => 589 [tTitle] => White Christmas [tSlug] => white-christmas [iTime] => 978217200 [iUpdate] => 978217200 [tDescription] => I spent most of Christmas at my girlfriend's. Her mom, Remke, being both a university professor and a great cook prepared the most wonderful meals for the Christmas dinners. And to top it all of, it even had started to snow on Christmas eve, making for a something of a white Christmas. On Christmas day, Vinca (my girlfriend) and I, walked around Leiden a bit, to try and get something of that 'white Christmas feeling'. The weather became worse (or better, depending how you look at it) as the week moved on. On Wednesday, the layer of snow covering the land had grown into as much as 10cm in places. To make matters worse, I had a minor accident with my car on Wednesday, just before picking up a laptop. I had to bring the car to the garage though. Lap top One of the managers of OGD Software, an, as you've probably guessed, software company, was so kind as to borrow me a laptop for my time abroad. However, the laptop wasn't working anymore. That is, if I could get it to work, I could keep it. Unfortunately, I couldn't., although a friend of mine, Nico, was so kind as to try to get it to work during my stay in Portugal. Later, after returning from Portugal, Nico confirmed the suspicion I had in relation to why the laptop wasn't working. It seemed the processor hadn't been adequately cooled and broke down because of that. If anything, I now have a non working laptop to give me comfort. Meanwhile, the tickets for Portugal had arrived. To refresh your mind, we (my girlfriend and I) were going there because we were invited by my parents. They hoped to get all the kids to go to the Algarve with them. Because we weren't sure whether Vinca would have the time to join, Vinca and I booked our tickets much later. Although we all flew on the same day, my parents were to arrive on Friday, in the evening, going back the next Friday in the morning. Vinca and I were to leave Friday morning, to return the next Friday in the evening. All in all, almost two whole days of an extra vacation, which proves that all good things come to those who wait. The trip to Monte Gordo was fairly uneventful, if not very inconvenient. We had to get out of bed at 3:30am, to be picked up by a cab at 4:10. Since the cab still hadn't showed some 15 minutes later, it was a good thing that we, accidentally, had awoken Vinca's mum. She was already trying to start her car when, finally, the cab did come. At Schiphol, I was mildly surprised that after the body shop, the chocolate shop and the toy shop, they now also had a cheese counter. Monte Gordo itself was very much what we expected of it. And we didn't expect much. The village, if you could call it that, was not much more than a large collection of gray colored concrete hotels. All menus from all restaurants where available in multiple languages. English, French, German and Dutch being just a couple of the available selection. As these things go, to a location and a vacation style such as this, older couples flock to it as flies to a fire. At some point, to have some form of entertainment, Vinca and I played a game, where the winner would be the first one to spot a second couple of our age. After some 30 minutes, we gave up. At the local tourist office, I asked if the new year was celebrated in Monte Gordo with some special kind of event. The reply was plain and simple: "We have bars, discos...". "But is anything organized, especially for the new year?" I tried to ask again. "Well", she said, "In Villa Real", a small but real town some 5km from Monte Gordo, on the border with Spain, "there will be a party in the street. If the weather is good." So, I asked whether she new anything about the weather for new year's eve. "Not so good"... Surprise Although we had rented an apartment, breakfast was included in the price. Still, the fully equipped kitchen we had to our disposal invited us to go shopping for goodies. At the local supermarket we tried, a large guy was filling up his overcoat with bottles of J&B whiskey, looking at the counter to make sure no-one saw him. Strangely enough, he didn't see me, nor Vinca, since we approached from the other direction. First, I bumped into him, later Vinca. Both on purpose. Without being disturbed, he kept on filling his jacket. When later, with much difficulty, we tried to tell the Portuguese shop-owner that this guy was stealing his liquor supply, we stopped when the thief was walking past us. The reply of the shopkeeper? "Do you want meat?" In the evening we went to the hotel my parents had booked. I asked one of the clerks what their expected time of arrival would be. "Nine o'clock. But they fly Martinair, so it could be 10, 11, who knows!" Fine. Luckily, the transfer from Faro airport did arrive at nine and we were happily united. Not a moment to soon, that is, because since Vinca had used her GSM to check the time earlier in the evening, we had arrived at the hotel an hour earlier as planned. In Portugal it's one hour earlier as in the Netherlands. Finally for some dinner. And very soon we understood the usefulness of the fully accepted Portuguese practice of ordering half a portion for dinner. If you don't open your mouth, you get a German sized portion of Spanish food at Greek prices. After dinner, Vinca and I went for a role on the beach. Putting the jaws together After an extensive walk on the beach on Saturday, walking from Monte Gordo to Vila Real, we all joined for dinner. Waiting, outside, for a table to free up, one of the patrons, who was Dutch and had eaten at the restaurant, just had to tell Nico that he should take the piglet. Something they normally never serve, but was truly delicious. Nico took the piglet. And was very satisfied with it. Although staff tried to make it clear they had only one specific piece left, Nico had to get the piglet on his plate. He only came back from his decision after he bit in a piece of jaw, concluding he had already eaten an ear and an eye. Celebrating the new year wasn't as thrilling as it could have been. Not that it was bad, it was just a little bit boring. The group simply was too divers and made it difficult to have a very good time together. Nico and Irene preferably watching some game show or cabaret on the telly, Jaap en Giso wanting to go for a (large) number of beers on the town and Vinca and I just wanting to 'go' some place together. However, some Yahtzee and Scrabble pulled us through the evening and we watched the Germans celebrate the New Year an hour early on television. 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