Posted in: Home / Archives for December 2007

Traffic and Trinkets in Cairo

‘Don’t cross the road unless you have life insurance’ – that was my sister’s piece of advice before I went to Cairo, and I soon realised that she wasn’t kidding!

When I arrived, my airport transfer driver pulled out of the car-park and set off the wrong way down a one-way street. Amazingly, the locals are apparently unaware of their mortality and step out in front of the cars, inching their way ‘lane by lane’ across the road (the roads are far too busy for you to ever get all the way across in one go). That said, lane markings seem to be considered merely decorative – coming off the ring-road there were two lanes marked but there were five rows of cars trying to squeeze onto the slip road!

The traffic in Cairo means that it is impossible to estimate how long it will take you to get somewhere. It is ‘rush hour’ all day long, with traffic jams everywhere. To get to the pyramids from the school, it can take you half an hour or it can take you over an hour – you have to adopt the Egyptian mentality and not worry about schedules!

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Two essentials for a trip to Annecy: your camera, and your ID!

If you choose to attend a course in Annecy, be sure take a good camera as this is a particularly photogenic town!

The crisp mornings are my favourite time of day with the sun just rising, the mist swirling low over the lake and all around, the beautiful snow-capped mountains covered with evergreen trees.

The town itself is also a joy to explore with a mediaeval centre in the shadow of Annecy castle which took 4 centuries to complete.

Of particular interest is the Palais de l’Ile. This is a 12th Century building in the middle of one of the town’s main canals and with a triangular shape which resembles the bow of a stone ship heading out on to the lake. This is said to be one of the most photographed buildings in France!

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Don’t Panic in Barcelona!

I think it is about time that I tell you my genteel readers and loyal audience (yes I am talking to those two people actually reading this :) ) about my living arrangements here in Barcelona. I, like many others here, am sharing a flat. We are four of us at the moment with two Spanish girls who work, a French girl who is currently learning Spanish and wants to soon start a semester at a university in Barcelona and myself.

Luckily the French girl speaks very good German, so that makes my life easier. One of the Spanish girls does not speak any English, the French girl is only a beginner in Spanish and my reading is much better than my understanding, but with six languages between the four of us (Spanish, English, Bask, Catalan, French, German and a few words of Arabic and Italian thrown in) and a bit of arm waving and miming we manage to communicate surprisingly well! I might not start discussing astrophysics with the girls anytime soon, but then when does this ever come up in casual conversation with native German speakers?

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Sausages and so much more in Munich!

My short visit to Munich is rapidly coming to an end and so I reflect on my fortnights experiences in this big yet small city. I did not have many expectations before I came… well except that I would probably eat sausages and drink beer!

Of course it did not disappoint in this respect. I sampled many different beers and tried an assortment of sausages (and I fear my sausage count is close to 100 in a fortnight). The renowned Munich ‘weiss wurst’ with ‘suess senf’ is a must for any visitor. If possible, this first experience should be shared with a local so that they can demonstrate the eating ritual. Definitely worth a try!

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A single woman in Sorrento!

As a single woman traveling alone, I can honestly tell you that it is normally quite difficult to go to restaurants and sit alone, walk along the beach without having men come up to you thinking you are available, and have to endure the endless questions like “Where is your partner?” and so on…

So, I decided to do something different this time and book myself on a ‘cultural’ holiday as opposed to just a bog-standard holiday. I decided Italy was definitely the destination as a bit of romance wouldn’t go amiss either, but I was also determined to learn and experience something new this time round.

Then I came across this great school on the internet in Sorrento, in the heart of the town near the Amalfi Coast. I had seen a romantic film ‘Only You’ about one woman’s destiny to meet her future husband in Italy and in this film there was the beautiful Amalfi Coast, Positano etc. so I decided that this was the right place to be.

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Why I love Antibes!

Antibes is a charming town on the French Riviera. There is everything we need to enjoy a nice life. For instance the little café where we can drink an espresso, talking, while our face is warmed by the sunbeams. My god, everything is perfect!

If you do not believe it, read the following… I will describe a full day in Antibes!

To start with, I would like to relate a day during the week when I go to school as I am participating to a 3 month language stay.

At 8 o’clock, my alarm rings, it is not unpleasant as the sun is already shining. Then I take a short shower being enticed by a smell! Mmh… It‘s the smell of a coffee!

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Chocolate and Culture – Barcelona’s sweet side ;)

As I mentioned before, I was expecting to get many visitors here during my ‘exile’ in Spain. And indeed they came, or at least some of them. My mother visited me some weeks ago. Although I had to work most of the time when she was here  we tried to get the most out of our time together. I am not really into the touristy things but for my mum’s sake I tagged along and now feel as if I have fulfilled my quota of cultural activities for this year.

The first place we went to was the Parc Guell, which is quite close to the flat I live in. Being very famous it was absolutely packed on the particular day we choose to go, but I have to admit it was impressive. How impressive? Well my mum decided to finally find out how the camera on her mobile phone works (my mum has a better phone than me!) just so that she could take a few pictures including a fantastic view of the city. This is quite something, as my mum usually regards mobile phones and such as unnecessary technical gimmicks!

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Il est arrivé!!

Like the rest of France, our dear Stephane is shouting out the phrase: ”Beaujolais Nouveau has finally arrived!” Every year on the third Thursday in November the new wine is published, and not a minute before. In France this is an old and strong tradition, and it is also famous in the rest of the world. The ritual is the same if you are in Lyon, Paris, New York, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, London or Oslo, and also in our school in Antibes.

The school staff has arranged a free tasting of the new wine, and it was a great success. Together with beautiful decoration, bread and cheese, it all created a good atmosphere under the sun of the French Riviera.

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Sorrento and The Amalfi Coast – A Jewel in the Mediterranean

This place was always on my list of “must dos in life” as I had heard and read so much about this place, such as “it’s one of the most naturally beautiful places on Earth”, “the Amalfi Coast is one of the most spectacular coastlines that exist” etc. but I was determined to see it and judge it for myself despite what Byron, Caruso, Goethe, Wagner and many other famous visitors had written!

So, imagine my delight when I came across this school , only metres from the sea and beach and right in the heart of the city! I was given the unique experience of not only learning the Italian language, but also learning about the amazing Southern Italian culture so far removed from our own, and the staff were so welcoming and friendly as is traditional with Southern Italian hospitality.

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