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A Weekend in Rio

In Search of the Penguins - Rio de Janeiro

semi-overcast 35 °C
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After a brief day and night in Brasilia, I boarded my flight onwards to one of the cities I was most excited about - Rio de Janeiro. Whilst Brasilia was a warm 25C, Rio added 10C to that. Just like January eh?

Flying over Rio

Flying over Rio

Getting from the airport into the city was a nightmare. As with Brasilia, hardly anyone spoke English, and the bus to the metro stop had nowhere to buy a travel card - just the ability to top one up. Trying to explain this to the guard, he just let me onto the bus without a ticket, where I then had a panicky 45 minutes trying to work out how I would get out of this without a fine at the other end.

Luckily finding that the ticket barrier was only for entry, I managed to escape and get across the walkway to the metro station where I managed to actually buy myself a metro card. Another 45 minutes and I was finally in central Rio checking into my hotel and settling in to a weekend in the city.

This evening I was being joined by my good friend Marina, whom I met and spent just two months with on my Erasmus in Germany. Marina was only spending one full day with me in Rio but it would still be a great time for us to catch up, 4½ years after our study abroad experience came to an end.

Evening Catch Up at Copacabana

Evening Catch Up at Copacabana

Upon her arrival we made our way over to Copacabana for an evening stroll along the promenade, buying some tat before enjoying Caipirinhas and Manjubinha at one of the restaurants on the beachside.

The following morning we had a busy day and so got up for a hearty breakfast before heading towards Christ the Redeemer, which as advised online had been prebooked. However despite the sunshine, upon arrival at the station we were told there was 0% visibility at the top. Telling us we could exchange our ticket for a later time we decided to come back later and explore other parts of the city first.

The city from Sugarloaf

The city from Sugarloaf

Heading to the next place on our list - Sugarloaf Mountain, we got on the cable cars quickly and headed up for views over the city, both the beautiful (Copacabana) and not so (Favellas).

Favellas (from a distance)

Favellas (from a distance)

Already in the 30s at just 10am we explored the top of the world famous mountain, before heading back down and into the city itself. Driving past the seating areas for the carnival that would be appearing a few weeks later, we arrived at the Santa Teresa Tram which had reopened around 18 months previously after a deadly derailment in 2011.

Carioca Aqueduct

Carioca Aqueduct

With new safety rails, the tram took a limited route into the Santa Teresa area across the Carioca Aqueduct that symbolises the Lapa area.

Escadaria Selarón

Escadaria Selarón

Walking down past the aqueduct, we made our way to the tiled Escadaria Selarón before making our way back to the Corcovado station to finally see Christ the Redeemer.

At Christ the Redeemer

At Christ the Redeemer

At the top were wonderful views of the surrounding areas, including Sugarloaf and the bay itself as well as the lagoon, Copacabana and the Maracanã stadium.

Over Rio

Over Rio

Spending lots of time taking photos and avoiding the other tourists doing the same, we made our way back down past the Lagoon to the Ipanema Beach, where we would walk to Pedra do Arpoador for views over the islands in the sea outside Rio.

Copacbana

Copacbana

We then continued to walk towards Copacabana itself where after changing, we got into the sea for a paddle. The sea was lovely and warm, although relatively rough and unfortunately full of litter. With each wave covering us come the wipe of the eyes from the sea water and the plastic.

Nevertheless it was still an enjoyable afternoon in the warm sea. And having enjoyed the beautiful surrounding views, we went off for a meal in a Brazilian restaurant before heading back to the hotel to chill.

After a rest we then headed back out to finish off our weekend together with some drinks back at Lapa.

Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain

Having had a busy few days and having seen the best sights of Rio, the following morning was much more chilled. Avoiding the Favella Tour promoted by the hotel, I went for a gentle stroll towards Flamengo Beach, with the Guanabara Bay in front of Sugarloaf, before heading into the city, past Lapa, to the cathedral.

Inside the Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral

The cathedral was designed to evoke a modern take on the Mayan Pyramids, but actually looks more like a giant concrete cheese grater. However inside, the huge stained glass windows transform what is an ugly exterior into a beautiful interior.

Municipal Theater

Municipal Theater

I then walked back via the city centre past the National Bank and Municipal Theatre before arriving at the hotel to relax and get ready for the onward adventure and the more January-like weather waiting for me at the bottom of the continent.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Brazil Tagged hills beach city erasmus penguinhunt Comments (0)

The Land Of Water And Ice

Iceland - South Coast

overcast 12 °C
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In the planning for the holiday there was always going to be one long day to the eastern side of the island, 4½ hours by road away - and we had aimed to have this on our first full day in order to leave the rest of the holiday more relaxing and enjoyable.

Getting up early we left the apartment by 7:30am and headed straight away towards Eyjafjallajökull - the infamous volcano that caused travel chaos in Spring 2010. Around this volcano was not only beautiful scenery, but also some super impressive waterfalls.

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss

The first was the fairytale Seljalandsfoss - a large waterfall dropping into a pool, with a walkway behind. A little further up the road was Gljúfrafoss, a waterfall inside a canyon, giving it a mystical dark feel.

Gljúfrafoss

Gljúfrafoss


Drive past Eyjafjallajökull

Drive past Eyjafjallajökull

After the short break we continued up the road to the other side of the volcano and Skógafoss, a large waterfall that crashes to the floor.

Skógafoss

Skógafoss


Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón

After these short breaks we continued up the ring road making a petrol stop en route before another hefty drive and our goal point, the stunning Jökulsárlón - a glacial lake at the bottom of Vatnajökull, the largest icecap in non-Arctic Europe. Even in summer, the lake is filled with melting glacial icebergs that sit metres from the road, surrounded by sea lions and tourists on boat tours.

Vatnajökull

Vatnajökull

Taking in the stunning views we then headed back towards Reykjavik stopping off on the other side of Vatnajökull at the hexagonal waterfall of Svartifoss.

Svartifoss

Svartifoss

Our last stop on the drive back, roughly halfway, was the hilltop peninsula of Dyrhólaey. After a bit of off road driving we made it to the top for views of the coast and the black beaches before the sunset.

Dyrhólaey

Dyrhólaey

Finally heading back down we then made the trip back to the apartment in Reykjavik after a 14 hour day, and a well earned lie in the following morning.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Iceland Tagged waterfalls water beach ice hill icebergs Comments (0)

Oh my god, it was 98 degrees

Italy - San Marino

semi-overcast 28 °C
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Less than a week after getting back from Budapest, it was time for the next getaway - this time to Italy with my friend and work colleague Fara.

We had planned a trip across the width of Italy to visit San Marino, Florence and Pisa, but as the only way to San Marino was to fly via Bologna or Ancona from Stansted, this meant a long first day of the trip.

Leaving home just after five I drove via Luton to Stansted early on Saturday morning to make our plane to the Italian city of Bologna, where after arrival we would then make our way to our hotel in Rimini. It was already very hot and in no time at all we were already disgustingly sweaty - what a contrast to the weather just a few hours ago at home.

After getting our tickets sorted we boarded our train, but after a fifteen minute delay it turned out there was a problem with our train, and so we had to board the following train. Unfortunately, this one was far busier and we ended up having to stand, crowded with a bunch of Americans who told us that things would only get worse - yesterday it was 98 degrees in Siena...which after translating is 36˚C...

Arriving in Rimini, we quickly checked in changed into summer attire, and made our way down to the bus stop for our hour ride to our third country of the day - San Marino.

Palazzo Pubblico

Palazzo Pubblico

After an hour in a lovely AC bus, driving through the Italian countryside, crossing the border and then making our way up Mount Titano, we arrived at the entrance to the Most Serene Republic's capital, taking in the quaint ambience and views over the nearby countryside, and the coast.

Mount Titano

Mount Titano


Quaint San Marino

Quaint San Marino

Reminiscent of Andorra, but with much less commercial tax free luxury goods, and more general tourist tat, we had a mooch around the 'city' for an hour and a half, paying for a tourist stamp and entering the castle before making our way back to Rimini, for some quick food and a relax before our last trip of the day, to the sight of Rimini - the beach.

Rimini beach at sunset

Rimini beach at sunset

Finding that a local event was going on we walked onto the beach to feel the warm Adriatic water before making our way back to the hotel for a well earned rest....

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in San Marino Tagged sea beach city hill independence italy2016 Comments (0)

UH converge on Devon

Woolacombe

semi-overcast 21 °C
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After many many foreign holidays I was finally taking a trip without going abroad. Having been planned for some time, 18 friends from university all descended on Devon for a Bank Holiday getaway to catch up and relive some of the fun from our university experience five years ago.

The team

The team

Booking the Friday off work I travelled down to the coast with Sian from Bedford and Saman from Letchworth, eventually arriving in Woolacombe by mid-afternoon - the only place en route where the sun was not shining.

Evening fun

Evening fun

The weekend proceeded along mostly in the same way, with lot of drunken banter and catch ups. With Friday being a busier day I took an earlier night, whereas Saturday was definitely the party night with us staying up until the early hours.

Relaxing on the beach in the sun

Relaxing on the beach in the sun

Meanwhile the days consisted of walks down the long hill to the beach to enjoy the sunshine and seaside resort. Lots of sunburn on Saturday and a long but fun game of mini golf on Sunday before the end of the weekend and return home on Monday.

Mini Golf

Mini Golf

This was a different kind of holiday to normal, but nevertheless it was thoroughly enjoyable sitting around more relaxed and enjoying the company of friends who we don't all get to see that often!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged sea beach friends drunk uni Comments (0)

Tourism Cyprus

Cyprus - Larnaca

sunny 23 °C
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After two busy days in Cyprus, my final full day was my chance to rest and relax - but did I do so? Well, not really...a lie in was about as far as it went!

9am

9am


Larnaca

Larnaca

Getting up in time to grab breakfast, enjoying the beautiful sea view over Larnaca Bay, I eventually made my way down the promenade, past the Christmas decorations, despite it being in the 20s, arriving at Larnaca Fort.

Promenade

Promenade

The fort was built in the 14th century, and is now a museum, with history of the architecture of the island, as well as military installations in Larnaca. There are also good views of the coastline of the town, as well as the minaret of the mosque next door.

Larnaca Castle

Larnaca Castle

After taking a look in the shops and buying a few souvenirs, I then headed through the town towards the Salt Lake, located between Larnaca and the airport. Whilst the front of the town is well kept, the back streets appear much more like one expects of Mediterranean towns.

Salt Lake

Salt Lake

Arriving at the lake, after beating off what seemed like every fly on the island, I walked as far as I could get before my feet sunk too far into the saturated ground, with views of pure white ground stretching for miles ahead.

Arriving back in the town, I took a look around the Marina before heading back to the hotel for some dinner. Once it had got dark I then headed back out to re-explore the town with my camera again in tow, to take some night pictures of the lit up buildings.

Fort by night

Fort by night

Having another relaxing nights sleep, and a final leisurely morning in the town, I eventually made my way over to the modern Larnaca airport for my flight home.

Christmas at the airport

Christmas at the airport

Arriving well in advance of my flight, after getting a few essentials in the shops for the way I home I sat down before being approached by a lady who wanted to "ask a few questions". The lady worked for the Statistical Agency of Cyprus, and was asking tourists questions about their time on the island. Starting with basic questions "how long have you been in Cyprus", "where did you stay?", she eventually moved on the the question "Did you spend any money on clothes or shoes?" - taking a look at my muddy clothes from yesterday's walk to the salt lake, before I had even answered she had already ticked the "No" box! A bit rude, but quite hilarious at the time - I did stink a bit!

After speaking to that woman

After speaking to that woman

The final part of the holiday was the 5 hour flight back on Monarch, which after the inbound flight I had already figured this would be far from pleasurable. Whilst the seats were certainly much more spacious, Monarch had decided that as the plane wasn't going to be used again that evening after landing at Luton, they would instead park up at the hangar, and proceed to only open the front door - meaning people like me who were not paying an extra £30 and stuck at the back had to wait absolutely ages to get off, and on to a bus. Eventually arriving at immigration, which was only half open despite the plethora of staff sitting about, it proceeded to take 45 minutes to clear the airport - without needing to collect a bag - a new record!

Flights excluded, the holiday was certainly one of my favourites. Cyprus is a lovely island with good weather, a lot of history and things to see, as well as a very organised nature and friendly people. The best resort in the Mediterranean, and one I would definitely recommend.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Cyprus Tagged sea beach history fort airport christmas tourism Comments (0)

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