Array ( [total] => 13 [pageSize] => 24 [page] => 0 [results] => Array ( [5626] => Array ( [iID] => 5626 [tTitle] => Eurovision 2016 [tSlug] => eurovision-2016 [iTime] => 1463176800 [iUpdate] => 1463282536 [tDescription] => The controversial change this year was separating the public vote from the jury vote, essentially each country awarding two sets of scores from 1 to 12. Up front, there was a lot of ‘hmpf, we’ll wait and see’, but with the nail biting finish, Australia winning the jury vote by a landslide, Russia winning the public vote by a landslide, and Ukraine taking overall first place, this change has already proven to be a huge win for Eurovision. Political voting still exists, but is less influential. The contest can now be more about songs that are both of quality and popular. How it should be.  The first semi opening, with Mans reprising last year's win, together with a bunch of kids, has been done before, but was no less enjoyable for it. Afterwards, quickly changing into a suit and hosting the show together with Petra Mede, the hosts were not nearly as funny as Mede herself was in 2013, but plenty of chuckles were had, still. The best part probably being the mockumentary The Nerd Nation, on how Sweden found his niche in taking over the world by becoming the best in… Eurovision. The switch to English in presenting is all but complete, token use of French and German only underscores the fact that English is the only language that really matters on the international stage. Similarly, the big five, all historically singing in their own language, have all but moved to English. Germany did so years ago, but Spain also relented this year, and, now, both France and Italy sang parts of their songs in English as well. After the two semifinals, it seemed obvious that the two countries to beat were Russia, with a good performance, if not as energetic as Sergey Lazarev put up in his video and Australia, which saw Dami Im, coached by Dannii Minogue, put down an excellent performance in the semis. Her performance of the final was not as good, yet, still, the Jury vote overwhelmingly went to Australia. Though, all of that didn’t matter, as Ukraine took away the crown, performing well in the Jury vote, coming in second, as well as the public vote, coming in third. Jamala’s performance in the finals was her best yet, which, combined with her rather prominent political message, must have been what carried her to the finish line. Outsiders were thought to be all women, including Bulgaria’s Poli Genova, who’s underproduced video clip didn’t nearly capture the energy and appeal of her live show, the future Czechia’s Gabriela Gunčíková, Serbia’s Sanja Vučić, Belgium’s Laura Tesoro and Armenia’s Iveta Mukuchyan. Yet, when the final tally was up, Sweden’s Frans and France’s Amir were fifth and sixth, after Ukraine, Australia, Russia and Bulgaria.  The Czech Republic came in second to last, only beating Germany, with Belgium coming in at a respectable 10th place. Amir, representing France, was a favourite with the bookies, but his performance missed a few notes too many, even though that had apparently little effect on his overall scoring. It was good to see that, for a change, this did mean that France did not, like often in the last few years, end up near the bottom of the table. Iveta, representing Armenia, was dressed nearly like super girl, but in black. Sanja, for Serbia, should have fired her make up artist as well as the person in charge of her wardrobe. She looked decidedly less attractive on stage as she did in her introductory video. Yet, her song, not unlike something Amy Winehouse would have done, was great, but only enough for an 18th place. Belgium only just beat the Netherlands into 11th place, which again showed that Douwe Bob’s crooner, not completely unlike the entry from the Dutch The Common Linnets a few years ago, which ended up taking second place in 2014, is the type of music I can’t make heads nor tails of. Sure, the break in the middle, a full silence for a good number of seconds was innovative, but not worth such a prominent result. Belgium did show that disco is not dead, even though San Marino’s performance, changed from a ballad to disco, surprisingly written by a Turk and performed by another Turk (come back, Turkey!), did not stand a chance to make it to the finals. Malta’s Ira Losco, returning to the contest after also representing Malta in 2002, was an early outside contender with a catchy and powerful song and, on stage, a good performance, perhaps even channeling Mariah Carey, though, if that, a four-month pregnant Mariah Carey. She came in 12th, a downer after coming in second in 2002. But, what’s up with Germany? Jamie-Lee’s cosplay inspired Ghost, straight from Tokyo's Harajuku, was catchy, somewhat ominous, and offbeat, and a decent performance. But, like last year’s also rather pleasant Black Smoke, did not meet expectations. Where Ann Sophie last year scored a total of zero points, Jamie-Lee still scrabbled together eleven, but both ended up dead last. Italy’s Francesca missed a few notes but looked much less bored on stage than she did in her video clip. Yet, her constant averting her gaze held the middle between shyness and perhaps being ashamed of being Italy’s worst submission since their return to Eurovision in 2011. Spain’s backing vocalists should have been booted off stage. Backing vocalists are supposed to be the ones able to sing. Now, it was Spain’s Barei that sang well and put down a very catchy and energetic song. But, perhaps after the viewers having seen her awfully catchy video clip, the stage show was just too middle of the road, the jury and public awarding her with a lacklustre 22nd position. And that while singing in English. Frans, singing for Sweden, did reasonably well, grabbing fifth place, even though his performance in the finals left to be desired. Perhaps it was related to him being the only representative of a Scandinavian country, which is pretty unique. Even weirder, the Norwegian jury didn’t award a single point to Sweden. If that ain’t the absence of politics, I don’t know what is. Or is that the exact definition of politics? The new voting system, however, showed little love for the UK. The country hasn’t performed well for ages. After last winning in 1997, they came in second in 1998, third in 2002 and fifth in 2009. All other years since 1997, they saw themselves pretty much near the bottom, even with Engelbert Humperdinck’s excellent Love Will Set You Free in 2012, and Bonnie Tyler’s very decent Believe in Me. This year, Joe and Jake, performing much better than in their winning bid in the national finals, still only came in 24th, even though the public rewarded them noticeably better than the jury. The second big upset in the finals, after Ukraine winning the competition, was Poland. Barely getting any points from the juries, dangling in second-to-last place, the public vote propelled the country to 8th place overall. The song got a lot of love online before the show, but I though it rather boring, while the performance was mediocre, at best, though better than what Michał Szpak put down when he was selected to represent his country. Austria stood out for being the only country in the finals not singing in English, at all, but, surprisingly, in French. A good voice on Zoë saw her end up in 13th position. Was she behind, or ahead of the curve? Judging from the list of participants, with only France’s Amir singing mostly in French, Italy’s Francesca singing mostly in Italian, and some bits and pieces in their own languages from Ukraine’s Jamala and Bulgaria’s Poli Genova, the trend seems obvious. It would be great if Zoë is heralding a trend back to indigenous languages, though. Interestingly, both Iceland’s Greta Salóme and Albania’s Eneda Tarifa switched from their native language to English, between their national selection and the Eurovision semifinals, but both didn’t progress their initial trials. If both had stuck with singing in their original language, I would have given them a stronger chance in making it, both languages being amongst the most exotic in Europe. Israel also made changes to their song after first selecting it. The resulting piano ballad was a huge improvement, and Hovi Star did make it the finals, but he ended up being an also ran, together with finalists Cyprus, who showed that the band Minus One can do a good rock song, but that they need autotune in their list of instruments. Also in the finals, Lithuania’s Donny Montell did some catchy power pop, Latvia showed a powerful performance, Croatia’s Nina Kraljić did a Cranberries impression and Hungary’s hunk Freddie, together with his construction worker nerd backing vocals, tried to sway the gay vote. Countries that surprisingly didn’t make it to the finals included Bosnia, which I think had the most interesting song this year, combining some Balkan powerpop, rap and cello, and Denmark, from the second semifinal, which had a male trio doing a cute poppy song that felt like it should have been submitted perhaps twenty years ago, as it was also quite sugary and retro. Conversely, besides Poland as a surprise inclusion, with a mediocre performance and a rather boring ballad, Georgia, aspiring to be Oasis, and Azerbaijan, for whom the reasonably attractive Samra Rahimli showed off a body suit more interesting than her song, also clawed their ways into the finals. Meanwhile, Estonia’s Play, by Jüri Pootsmann sounded like an ominous Bond song, which, judging form the past, could have scored well, but also wasn’t considered good enough. I would also have liked to see Finland in the finals, which submitted a very upbeat song, though leaving a few things to be desired in Sandhja’s performance, as well as Belarus’ Ivan, whose performance started off with a video of him, nude, serenading a wolf. There were some less traditional entries that didn’t make it to the finals. Greece submitted a cross between Balkan and Hellenic power pop, with some spoken word thrown in, but also lacked a climax. Montenegro’s rock resembled Georgia’s, but wasn’t considered good enough by Europe, and rightly so. Norway threw in some tempo changes in a very nice piece, but the performance wasn’t good enough to see Agnete march on to the finals. It meant that Sweden, automatically qualifying as the host nation, was the only one representing the Nordic countries. Then there were the entries that not surprisingly did not make it to the finals. Ireland’s Nicky Byrne, formerly of Westlife, missed a few notes and sang a middle of the road formulaic pop song. Slovenia’s ManuElla, like Albania, Iceland and Israel, adjusted her song after first being selected. And here, both her song and stage show vastly improved with the changes, making the song not horrible, but a few steps up from bearable. Switzerland’s Rykka, who I suspect might actually be a collective of women taking turns performing, considering how she changes her looks from week to week, missed a few notes too many, even if the song itself was nice enough. Moldova’s Lidia Isac knows how to sing, but her Falling Stars was just too middle of the road. More interestingly, when Romania was booted out of participating for being years overdue with their payments to the EBU, Isac offered the Romanian performer Ovidiu Anton to sing Falling Stars as a duet, which Anton politely declined.  On stage, Isac’s only companion was a dancing astronaut. So Montenegro. Overall, a year with a lot of contenders and a mildly deserved win. Also interesting were the many subdued stage shows, just one person on stage, though perhaps with backing vocals hiding in the wings. Next year will be Ukraine. I’m hoping for Lviv. Though Kiev would of course be awesome. 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[iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20160514 ) [5602] => Array ( [iID] => 5602 [tTitle] => Saying goodbye to Chilean food [tSlug] => saying-goodbye-to-chilean-food [iTime] => 1441144800 [iUpdate] => 1441144800 [tDescription] => Chile is a lovely and unique mix of Latin and more Northern European traits that's quite distinct from the rest of Latin America. What contributed to this has been the successive waves of European immigration, quite distinct from other Latin American countries, the tiny black community and a nearly wiped out indigenous American community. Where Buenos Aires feels like a copy of a major Spanish city, much of Chile feels like it was supposed to be in Europe, somewhere in the south, but it's unclear where exactly, and got misplaced along the way. But, one thing I do not understand is Chile's love for the hotdog. Hotdogs have a strangely loyal following in much of Latin America, but Chileans actually have a painful surplus of hot dog restaurants. This includes a McDonalds-like chain centered around hotdogs and draft beer. By far the favorite is the Italiano. So called not because it has any tangible connection with Italy, but because of the extensive splattering of sauces, ketchup, mayo and guacamole, together forming the colors of the Italian flag. Chilean food, in general, gets a bad rap, but, mostly, I've eaten very good anywhere I went. Granted, this is not in the least because of the strong Peruvian influence, but lots of 'native' Chilean food is also very good, particularly as hangover food, a lot of the dishes being relatively greasy and heavy on the carbs. But, besides the strange love for hot dogs, there are also a few other idiosyncrasies. One is a cheap coaster-size piece of fried bread called sopapilla, basically functioning as a vehicle for sauces. And there's the weird love for drinking coffee with a straw, which I suspect is due to the popularity of mate, sort of a herbal tea, in other parts of the continent, which is always consumed with a straw. Another thing Peruvians have established as a staple is the extensive consumption of a wide array of sandwiches. Nom nom nom nom. 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[iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20150902 ) [5590] => Array ( [iID] => 5590 [tTitle] => The heart of Mapuche [tSlug] => the-heart-of-mapuche [iTime] => 1436565600 [iUpdate] => 1436565600 [tDescription] => Wen the Spanish took over much of the continent, they were thwarted in present-day Chile by the Mapuche, roughly controlling the southern half of Chile. Early on, a captured Mapuche boy was put to work in the stables of a Spaniard. But, as a teenager, he escaped, taking several horses, not native to the continent, with him and, more importantly, the knowledge of how to handle them. As a result, the Mapuche remained independent until well into the 19th century. When they were pretty much annihilated. Temuco is the heart of the land of the Mapuche. Or, what's left of it. Here, the scenery is of an almost endles fertile green. But, Temuco is an uninspiring market town, though with plenty of leafy squares and a pleasant park on the edge of town. And a train museum. The Chinese have taken over the budget knickknack industry but run few restaurants. The butchers sell horse meat, though I failed to find a raw horse meat sandwich. The German présence, stronger in the south, also starts to be noticable, in food, architecture and, occasionally, ethnicity. 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[iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20150711 ) [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] => 1851 [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 ) [5555] => Array ( [iID] => 5555 [tTitle] => Gibberish [tSlug] => gibberish [iTime] => 1419980400 [iUpdate] => 1419980400 [tDescription] => Crossing the border from Spain into Gibraltar recalls crossing between EU member and non member states in the early nineties. There's a discernible but unspoken sense of unease, money changers are everywhere, grubby cafes sell crappy food and uncommon nationalities hang out a stone's throw away from the border crossing, just doing nothing but smoking and looking around somewhat feverishly. Passports are checked upon entry. Gibraltar, like the UK, is not part of Schengen. And, on an average day, the meager population of 30000 is augmented by the same number in visitors. Some come in on the occasional cruise, docking in Gibraltar, but most just cross the border from Spain, wanting to check out this modern anomaly, or needing to shop for dirt cheap alcohol, bottles of vodka going for as little as 2.5 pounds. After the passport check, there's no option but to cross the runway of the tiny airport, constructed parallel to the border. When planes land or take off, booms come down and entry and exit to the little enclave is temporarily suspended. There's little to see in Gibraltar. Except for Africa, or, supposedly, the southernmost pub in mainland Europe. And the rock with the only wild colony of monkeys In Europe. The rock is very windy. Much of the coastline is half heartedly blocked from easy access, though a few beaches are being cultivated. When you make it to the top of the rock, you might just pick up Moroccan cell phone services. At only 7 square kilometers, Gibraltar was ceded by the Spanish to the British as recent as 1713. The rock's name is a bastardization of Jabal Tariq, the rock of Tariq. Tariq was the governor of Tangier, who landed in Gibraltar in 711 to start the Moorish conquest of the Iberian peninsula. The name stuck. The term gibberish refers to a mix of languages somewhat commonplace in Gibraltar, people mixing up specifically English and Spanish in what's called Llanito. While hiking the rock, I talked to a local girl who was playing with a young puppy. With a very cockney accent, I asked her were she was from. "Oh, I'm just from here. Very boring, really." Perhaps so, but with the pitch black hair, piercing dark eyes and light skin, she could have easily been either Spanish or Moroccan. Not so much typically British. 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[iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20141231 ) [5554] => Array ( [iID] => 5554 [tTitle] => Picasso in Malaga [tSlug] => picasso-in-malaga [iTime] => 1419721200 [iUpdate] => 1419721200 [tDescription] => Birthplace of Picasso, the city is mostly modern. And, the connection with Picasso is a bit farcical; even though there's a Picasso museum that's worth visiting, the maestro left Malaga when he was 10 and never returned after turning 19. Like many of the cities in the region, Malaga was founded by the Phoenicians. The basement of the Picasso museum is also the site of Phoenician archeological remains. Originally called Malaka, the city produced royal, Tyrian, purple. Control shifted to the Punics, of Hannibal and Carthage, but became Roman in the third century BC, when Rome defeated Carthage in the second Punic war. 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[iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20141228 ) [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] => 1931 [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 ) [5416] => Array ( [iID] => 5416 [tTitle] => A balmy September in Barcelona [tSlug] => a-balmy-september-in-barcelona [iTime] => 1349042400 [iUpdate] => 1349042400 [tDescription] => After the cold of Liverpool, and both before and after our detour to Andorra, it was time for a break in sunny Spain. The day we arrived in Barcelona, we saw a colorfull spectacle downtown. Live classical music as well as puppets about three times the size of an average person, being carried around in the streets, dancing to live music performed by small bands moving along with them. This, pretty much exactly the same as a display I saw several years ago in Belgium. I would suspect there's a connection here which is related to the Spanish rule of the low countries, but UNESCO treats the Belgian experience, shared with northern France, as unique in its own right. Close to Barcelona, we visited the overly popular monestary of Montserrat, by some associated with the home of the holy grail in Arthurian legend. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2050 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1192 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461657924 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 16 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 41.5946 [fLongitude] => 1.838 [tLocation] => Santa Maria de Montserrat [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] => 20121001 ) [5415] => Array ( [iID] => 5415 [tTitle] => A visit to Andorra [tSlug] => a-visit-to-andorra [iTime] => 1348696800 [iUpdate] => 1348696800 [tDescription] => Andorra, though pretty, is also a bit boring. There's little to do but to ski and shop. And there's little skiing in summer. With no, or virtually no, sales tax, pretty much all products are, by default, some 20% cheaper than elsewhere in Europe. And with pleasure tax being significantly lower, alcohol, and to a lesser extent cigarettes, are ridiculously cheap. On the other hand, accommodation isn't cheap at all. And with space at a premium, the country basically consisting of three narrow valleys, you'll have to park your car in the mountains to park for free. Though Madrid is often cited as the highest capital in Europe, it is in fact Andorra la Vella, the old, some 400 meters higher than the capital of Spain. Andorra started life as a principality back in the 13th century, when the papal representative in Urgell signed an agreement with the count of Foix, both becoming the heads of state for the newly formed principality. The current papal representative is still one of the co-princes. The other, through a series of successions, reverted to the current president of France. Due to its small size, Andorra has mostly lived outside of the mainstream history of Europe. Though the country declared war on imperial Germany in the first world war, it was not included in the treaty of Versailles, which meant the two countries were officially at war until 1957. Since the second world war, Andorra has focussed on tourism. Partially through its excellently developed skiing facilities, partially as a tax haven. The country is not part of the EU, which amongst other things means that you can still smoke in bars and restaurants, though the de facto currency is the euro. The 85000 inhabitants entertain about 10 million tourists yearly. The country only joined the UN in 1993, when it formally adopted a constitution. The official language of the country is Catalan, also the most popular language, closely followed by Spanish. Surprisingly, there are three times more Portuguese speakers in Andorra as there are French speakers. At last, at LAST! Andorra was the last country in Europe I had not yet visited. At least until Kosovo loses its de-facto independence and exchanges it for a de-jure one. Or until, who knows, Catalunya, receives independence. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 4111 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1190 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462166778 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 5 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 42.508 [fLongitude] => 1.52415 [tLocation] => Pyrenees [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] => 20120927 ) [5064] => Array ( [iID] => 5064 [tTitle] => That Spanish guitar [tSlug] => that-spanish-guitar [iTime] => 1292454000 [iUpdate] => 1292454000 [tDescription] => Though most of the world is familiar with the way in which the Spaniards use and abuse the guitar, it's little else than one of the two members of the Arab-Andalusian branch of classical music. I was in luck, as the Trio Arabesque was going to perform at the Villa des Arts, which also had an excellent retrospective on the Moroccan artist Andre Elbaz. Or was I? The three artists were probably Moroccan, but the music wasn't, with tunes by Spanish, Argentinian and French composers. And did I also detect a few dropped notes? In downtown Casablanca, the Parc the la Ligue Arabe has seen many better days. If the park is representative for the Ligue, it really is no wonder the bickering is more common place than coherence is. The incorporated Yasmina amusement park is less then a shadow of it's former self. The Lonely Planet still lists it as recommended an excursion for when traveling with kids and pegs the entrance fee at 150 dirhams, about 15 euros. In reality, most of the rides are out of commission and the entrance is now a mere 2 dirham. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2933 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1042 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461977354 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 8 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 33.5879 [fLongitude] => -7.62288 [tLocation] => Parc de jeux Yasmina [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] => 20101216 ) [5063] => Array ( [iID] => 5063 [tTitle] => To the ends of the world [tSlug] => to-the-ends-of-the-world [iTime] => 1292367600 [iUpdate] => 1292367600 [tDescription] => The Phoenicians pioneered the color purple as a royal color, with Roman royalty being the most ready customers, having exclusive access to the uncommon dye. Though the color purple came from their natural heartland, roughly current day Lebanon, the similar royal blue, or indigo, came from off the shore of what is now Morocco. Indeed, Morocco has been a prized possession for millennia. First Phoenicians, then Romans, barbarians (called Berbers by the Romans), Mauritanians, Arabs, Ottomen, Portuguese, Spaniards and French, roughly in that order, all tried their hand at controlling the country at the edge of the world. Of course, sometimes also in reverse, during the short reign of the Umayyad Caliphate, Morocco was the springboard for the conquest of the Iberian peninsula, resulting in what was the fifth largest contiguous empire ever, before the Umayyads were chased into what is now Spain. Though Niamh coined the term militant tourism for my style of travel, I'm much more organized as well as picky as a decade, or two, ago. The interwebs also allow you to, facilitating you researching your destination in any depth you like. Though I've been recharging my batteries for the last month in Holland, Niamh is fresh out of the challenge that is Sierra Leone, so I wanted to find a reasonable place to stay for our first few nights in Casablanca, our point of arrival. Surprisingly, though a city like Marrakech has perhaps 100 or so budget hotels bookable online, Casablanca only barely has a handful. And many get the most horrendous reviews, specifically on the quality of staff. I managed to find the two of us a reasonable place (I hope!), but as I'm arriving a few days earlier, getting myself hooked up with a reasonable place without paying too much was tricky. Due to fog, my arrival was delayed by almost five hours. We had to make a stopover in Marrakech, from where we left hours later. By the time I walked into the arrivals hall at the Casablanca airport, it was nearly 430 in the morning. However, by that time, my arranged pickup was nowhere to be seen and I had to call them in again. I came prepared enough, with iPad, book and Wired. And I had a whole row of seats to myself. But not for long. Pulling out my iPad, three kids quickly crowded around me, their eyes glued to the screen. And I wasn't able to get rid of them for the duration of the journey. Annoying as that occasionally was, the kids constantly asking for my attention, they were also exemplary for the 'failing' (that's sarcasm) of Dutch multiculturalism. All three kids were born of Moroccan parents. Their parents spoke Arabic with each other, though all kids used Dutch with each other. In fact, this being in-between St. Nicholas and Christmas, their two hottest topics were these very holidays, several times them breaking out in very Dutch holiday songs. A third important topic was where it was I lived. I explained I currently live in Africa. "Mom, mom", in dutch, "he lives in Africa!" then to me "can you teach me some African?" the oldest of the three, a boy, had been in Morocco before, though he was born in Holland. "You know, in Morocco, they constantly use their horns when they are driving! Even when there is no one around or nothing is happening. Toot toot. It's weird. I don't understand it." the girl, a headstrong and talkative little puppet, had to tell us that last year she came in first with regional gymnastics competitions and that she's really good. Whenever she couldn't hear or understand something, she politely said so. "excuse me?" (wablief?) "What is that you're saying?" one of the boys asked the girl. "it's when you don't understand something!" and to clarify even further, "I live in Maastricht." which is in the south of the Netherlands, where people tend to speak a tad more politely. All in all, these three overly hyper kids, I'm sure their parents where happy as it was, this guy practically taking care of their offspring for the duration of the journey, made very clear that what is typical for the multicultural society that is the Netherlands. Sure, first generation foreigners will have trouble adjusting, while second generation foreigners will feel stuck in the middle (these kids will somehow have to match their parents and their grandparents worldview with what they grow up with outside of the home), but one generation onwards, these children their offspring will, for all intents and purposes be as Dutch as the next, only perhaps a name and their looks setting them somewhat apart. Though I doubt even the former. I suspect that, as integration moves forward, foreign families will more and more look for giving their children names that might be indigenous to their culture, but also to their host culture. Case in point, one of the three kids was called Adam, the girl was called Sarah. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3305 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1041 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462106326 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 33.5923 [fLongitude] => -7.61524 [tLocation] => Hotel Oued-Dahab [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] => 20101215 ) [675] => Array ( [iID] => 675 [tTitle] => Madrid and Toledo [tSlug] => madrid-and-toledo [iTime] => 1030917600 [iUpdate] => 1030917600 [tDescription] => Last weekend, Betsy and I spent in Madrid and Toledo, taking a cheap Basiqair flight from Holland to Spain. Enjoying the good life. 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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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