Arwen a la monde


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Europe » Spain » Andalusia » Sierra Nevada September 21st 2009

Spanish Summit Challenge The Challenge: Climb to the Peak of Mulhacén The Ascent: 2200m; The Summit: 3482m The Charity: Shooting Star Children's' Hospice In late September I flew to Spain with a group from work to undertake another charity hiking challenge. (The previous one was in the highlands of Scotland a year ago.) The challenge this time was to trek to the top of Mulhacén, the highest mountain on the Iberian Peninsula in the Sierra Nevada range. The only peaks in Europe that are higher are found in the Alps and the Caucasus Mountains. We flew into Malaga and drove two hours to the town of Lanjarón. We were escorted by our three guides for the weekend - Mike (an ex-army Geordie with a thick accent and wicked sense of humor), Jane (an Eng... read more
Nothing but blue skies
Above the tree line

Europe » Poland » Lesser Poland » Kraków August 30th 2009

My birthday falls conveniently during the last bank holiday weekend of the summer and as this year was the big 3-0 a fun weekend away was warranted (as if I ever need an excuse to plan a trip with friends). Krakow was a random but, as it turns out, inspired choice. It was the perfect combination of beautiful, historic, charming and inexpensive. Nine friends and I spent three days exploring this enchanting city and left no pierogi (or flavored vodka) untasted. Worth a Visit Wawel Hill - On the left bank of the Vistula River rises Wawel Hill which is said to have been settled by predecessors to the Poles as early as the 7th century. At the top are a Royal Castle and a Cathedral where royal coronations have taken place since 1320. All over ... read more
A charming, colorful city
Wawel Hill
Castle close up

Europe » United Kingdom » Scotland » Midlothian » Edinburgh August 27th 2009

The Edinburgh Festival, combined with the Fringe Festival which has grown up around it, is a world famous performing arts festival which showcases the best in stand up comedy, theatre, music and more. I caught the last weekend of the festival with a group of friends from London (thanks to Simon for organizing such a brilliant weekend!) and we had a cracking time. The atmosphere in Edinburgh during the festival is electric - on every corner there are artists passing out fliers to their shows and the Royal Mile is overtaken by street performers, fire eaters, acrobats, singers and magicians. On Friday we checked out Edinburgh and got our bearings. Seven of us had rented a flat in New Town, about a 15 minute walk straight up hill to the high street. The location was perfect. ... read more
View from Edinburgh Castle
More from the Royal Mile
The Assembly

Europe » Germany » North Rhine-Westphalia » Cologne July 19th 2009

My dear friend Hannah - who I've known for the better part of a decade - is leaving Europe. She's been living just outside Cologne for the past year and she spent a couple of years in Brussels and was studying in Frankfurt before that (with a lot of time spent in Africa in between) so moving back to the U.S. is a big change for her. As her departure date neared, Hannah planned one last blow-out weekend in Germany with her expat friends and we descended on the charming city of Cologne from London, Edinburgh and Brussels. We weren't the only ones who descended - there were more stag and hen parties in Cologne that weekend than I've ever seen anywhere before. Apparently Cologne is known for its nightlife - and it certainly has more ... read more
The Dom from the front
View from the top of the Dom
The Rhine from the top of the Dom

Europe » Russia » South » Caucasus » Mt. Elbrus June 13th 2009

The best thing about working on Russian deals is making friends who are willing to show me around their beautiful and fascinating country. Trips to Moscow and St. Petersburg were a great start but last weekend we went further off the beaten path to visit the relatives of a friend in the remote Caucasus Mountains, as far west and south as you can go in Russia before reaching Chechnya and the Georgian border. We flew from Moscow to Mineralnye Vody (literally, "Mineral Water") which is adjacent to the town of Kislovodsk whose claims to fame are mud spas, hot springs and natural healing waters. For centuries people have been coming to Kislovodsk (which translates as "Sour Water") to drink its sulfuric waters (bottled by the Narzan company) in the hope of curing a variety of ailments. ... read more
Narzan baths built in the 19th century
Caucasus Mountains

Europe » France » Île-de-France » Paris May 31st 2009

Ten years ago, during the summer of 1999, I made my first trip to Paris. I have been back many times since then but this trip marked my first return to the most famous of Parisian landmarks - the Eiffel Tower. Last Saturday morning Malinda and I made our way over to the 7th arrondissement and half climbed, half rode up to the highest viewing platform. We were rewarded with gorgeous views of Paris - it was a beautifully clear and sunny day - and a glass of champagne at the top. We followed that up with a stroll along the Seine, up to the Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triumph and finally made a quick turn through the ever-charming Ile Saint-Louis and Ile de la Cite on our way home. After a quick nap we ... read more
Arc de Triumph
La Defense
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Europe » Spain » Balearic Islands » Minorca April 12th 2009

For the long Easter weekend a friend and I traveled to the least trumpeted of the Balearic Islands off the west coast of Spain, Menorca. Menorca is Ibiza and Mallorca's small, unassuming neighbor to the north. For a couple of friends looking to de-stress and unwind, it was the perfect island getaway. We rented a car and spent four days crisscrossing the tiny isle familiarizing ourselves with its cute beach hamlets and its two biggest towns, Port Mao and Ciutadella. There is enough of interest to keep you occupied for a long weekend but not so much that you feel pressured to hit one more museum at the expense of that all-important afternoon siesta. This is an island where soaking up the local, unique take on Spanish culture is as simple as finding a table at ... read more
Yachts in the port
Good Friday procession of confraternities
Church at dusk

Europe » Italy » Aosta Valley » Mont Blanc March 6th 2009

Beautiful town in the Italian Alps + good italian food + good friends + much improved snowboarding = a triumphant snow boarding weekend Courmayeur, a quaint and tiny Italian ski town at the foot of Mont Blanc, was the site of this year's ski trip. Last year when I went to Switzerland my snowboarding skills were fledgling at best. I had a patient and brilliant coach but still got frustrated quickly, fell constantly and wore myself out because I was fighting the board so much. Before this year's trip I was determined to have a little better handle on the sport. I set some small goals for myself: 1. Don't look like an idiot all weekend. 2. Don't fall off the button lift repeatedly like last year. 3. Maybe learn how to link turns? 4. Be ... read more
Blimp cloud
School is in session
Ski school

My friend Garron (whom you may remember from our travels together during the summer of 2006 and my visit to Rwanda in December 2007) has been living in Trinidad for the last year and invited a bunch of us to join him there for their biggest celebration of the year - Carnival! I used to automatically think of Rio de Janeiro and maybe New Orleans in connection with mardi gras celebrations but, as I have recently learned, Trinidad plays host to the greatest carnival on earth every year and when they're not celebrating it they're reminiscing about last year or preparing for the next one. One of the things that makes Trinidad's carnival so great is that you don't just go to watch - everyone participates. So, with a little help from friends in high places ... read more
Tropical Trinidad
Costumed Crowd
Yellow bird

Europe » Russia » Northwest » Moscow February 14th 2009

When the cold, dark London winter drags on for too long and the city begins to despair that the warmth and sun of spring will never come, many people head for the airport and hop a flight to someplace far from the dreary English shores. I, on the other hand, spent last weekend somewhere even colder, darker and snowier than London - Moscow! Perhaps not the most popular choice for a winter weekend getaway, but Red Square under a blanket of fresh snow was beautiful and the Russians know how to ward off even the most frightening temperatures with a combination of fur pelts and vodka. Despite some hairy last minute passport and visa issues I made my early Friday morning flight. I find that most European city breaks can be done easily from London without ... read more
Izmailovsky Market

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