Countries Visited (not including Turnarounds): Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Great Britain, Greece, Iceland, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Moldova, Monaco, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, North Korea, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United States, Vatican City
London | Perth | Sydney | Melbourne
Seatguru - Most Comfy Seats On Any Airline
pprune.org - Pilot's rumour network
Kangaroo with a Sweet Tooth
Kronicles of Kris
The Adventures of Alle Malice
Joel's trek across Asia/Europe in a Hilux
Phil's Wine Site
I Can Has Cheezburger
The Flying Pinto
Girl on Raw
Things Bogans Like
Bobby at Up, Up and a Gay
Straight Guy in the Queer Skies
Skin by Falter
Friday, December 30, 2011It’s been quite a 2011 for me I must say. I feel as though this year I’ve seen change between becoming someone who has been here for ‘just a few years’ to ‘an experienced Dubai resident’. And I know it's somewhat of a cliche here in the blogging world, but I thought I'd do a summary post all the same.
Celebrating 5 Years
In February the blog hit the big 5 year mark. I didn’t think I’d even last 5 months. Many other blogs from others in this industry (some even from the same airline) pop up and disappear, and I never thought in the beginning that this was something I’d stick to. But the support from readers just blew me away and ultimately kept me going.
The Formspring Account
This blew up in size more than I could have ever dreamt of. The idea behind it was that people would ask me questions, then it would give me a few ideas as to what to write for my next post. Some of them did (The airline catering post is a great example) but mostly it’s a quick way for me to interact with you guys, as I really procrastinate with the email account nowadays.
Well they found out about the blog. Which as you can imagine led to a "Oh S**t” moment. But it also led to...
The Geneva Inaugural
Which was certainly an experience! A tough flight, both sectors full of management (including the President of the Airline) and non-stop posing and smiling. I must have done the Arabic Coffee service 5 times out of Dubai just so this one lady with a video camcorder could get the shot correct. The atmosphere amongst the crew was simply amazing, from the Captain to the Purser to the most junior Grade II. We were also invited to the gala dinner held on the same night we landed, the first ever inaugural crew to be invited, and we felt like celebs dressed in our cocktail gear, walking down a red carpet, wine and dined on the airline’s expense, which I have never experienced before. Mostly, especially in my old job at PCEC, I was the one serving the people who were wined and dined on their employee’s expense. We were lucky if we even had more than one choice at the buffet in the staff kitchen, let alone a 3 course meal. An amazing meal at that.
My inner 15 year old self almost squealed when I found out that Westlife were going to perform at the gala, and I even got to share the stage with them at some point! Talk about a good layover!
Geneva aside, I also operated flights to Amsterdam, Guangzhou and Copenhagen for the first time. Amsterdam was spent catching up with my mate Amy from my uni days, and Guangzhou was spent sleeping. Guangzhou was one of those unique Flight Attendant moments where you wake up in a strange bed and look around the room, think "Why am I not in my room?" then check the hotel stationary to find out where you REALLY are. And you all know what happened in Copenhagen...
Run Run Run...
The ultimate goal that I set myself for 2011 was to turn running from an occasional treadmill thing to a proper habit, and I’ve more than exceeded that this year. I never ran outdoors until I bought some sneakers during the Black Friday sales in New York, and I also bought a very basic pace monitor as well. It was probably the most motivating thing I could have done to kick my fitness into gear, and slowly but surely I started running more and more until it grew into an almost obsessive thing. First it was buying a new pair of Capri pants as my old ones were chaffing along the side seams. Then some good sports bras. Then more exercise pants and tank tops. Then a Garmin Forerunner for my birthday. Then it was trying out different recovery drink formulas and gels and energy bars that I would bring over from the US. Throughout all this I was pouring over my training log, seeing what was happening during my ‘off’ days, whether there was a correlation between poor running performance and lack of sleep, lack of good diet, too many flight hours. I love looking at the statistics and seeing how far I’ve come from a year ago, and I also feel that I’ve had less colds as well since taking it up and I have more energy during the morning and during flights as well, even night flights! Right now I’m booked to run my first ever 10km race at the Dubai Marathon, and whilst I don’t imagine myself having a cracking time, if I can just complete it it’ll mean the world to me because I know that I’ve come a very long way from what I was a year ago (running the 3km and getting beat by some very fit primary school kids), let alone from when I first moved here never having done any gym time before.
New Places Discovered
I don’t know why I didn’t do this more often – whenever I saw 4 or 5 days off in the roster, to book a mini holiday to Europe, somewhere I hadn’t been before. Riga, Reykjavik, Bergen and Vilnius. I had a ball, and took some great photos; I just hope I can do the same in 2012.
Eurovision - Dusseldorf 2011
By far the highlight of my year. I got to catch up with the friends that I made in Oslo and saw the rehearsals, went to the parties, hung out in the Press Centre, met some of the performers and had a great time. I’d love to repeat the experience in Baku, especially since I haven’t been to Azerbaijan before, but it’s looking somewhat unlikely at this stage so I guess I’ll just have to reminisce about my great week in Dusseldorf.
Looking forward to 2012
So what of 2012? Well I'm not going anywhere, this job is just too good to leave! But I have decided to bite the bullet and finally try to get my driver's license. I know I have lived quite well without it for the past 6 years here in Dubai, and could get around very easily with public transport when I was in Perth, but its been 10 years now since I first took my driving test in Perth and caught air over a roundabout, which scared me a bit. I think I am ready to take it on now. There will be frustration, there may even be tears, but I know this is something I have to do sooner or later and I may as well try it now.
On that note, I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas (or other applicable holiday) and that you all have a wonderful New Year! :-D
Geneva photo credit to S. Perez 4 comments
Friday, December 16, 2011Even though I love my job to bits, there is one thing that if the airline took away from me I'd be resigning straight away - my travel benefits. I know that there are very few other jobs that would allow me to travel and enjoy other countries and cultures as much as this one, and whether it be on a layover or on my own time I still have a passion for travelling 6 years on. So when I saw on my October roster 4 days off sandwiched between some rest days, I was straight onto Trip Advisor trying to find cheap hotels to somewhere I hadn't been before. I was gravitating towards Vilnius, as after finishing off the Nordics in August, this would be my last city in the Baltics to cross of my 'countries visited' list. Tickets were booked, hotel was booked, and when I landed I even had a tour booked.
I had a great tour guide - if I do book one it's usually with a large-ish group, and I'm the youngest tourist there by about 15 years, and the entire tour is peppered with questions from others about history I've usually read about before the tour. So it was nice to be the only one on the tour (it was 4 degrees at 10.00am - I guess every other tourist wanted to sleep) and not only that the guide was actually my age - the lovely Natasha from Vilnius City Tours. She was as local as you could get, and very passionate about her home city. It was close to the best tour I think I've ever been on.
So now onto the landmarks, and the first stop was the Church of St Peter and Paul (Šv. apaštalų Petro ir Povilo bažnyčia)... I'm warning you all, this post is very photo-heavy, particularly with many places of worship, but I couldn't really help myself considering how insanely beautiful this was. The concept behind the sculptures in each chapel was that they were to be seen in some sort of theatrical sequence, with a clear beginning, middle and end. Also it is vastly different from every other church in Vilnius is that it doesn't go crazy with colour - white clearly dominates, but it still manages to be jaw-droppingly stunning.
Exterior of the church
Christening Bath in the Baptistery.
Chapel of the Holy Queens. The two large Turkish Drums somehow didn't seem to fit in with the church.
Chapel of St Augustine. The church is full of surprises, such as the elephant stucco sculptures on the left.
There was a christening on when I visited, but no one seemed to mind me taking photos, especially after a small Litas donation.
The stunning sailboat lantern, a gift from Venice. It's far more sparkly in real life.
The dome of the church. There's an inscription around the dome which is the same as St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City, which I've inadvertantly cut out from the picture. If you look right into the highest part of the dome you can see the face of God looking down on His people.
Chapel of St Ursula
Chapel of the Military Saints
So following the sequence, we come to the Chapel of the Crucifixtion
Stucco statue of the Queen of Death
Lots of skulls in this Chapel.
Gates of Dawn (Ausros Vartai), in the south part of the Old Town. There are a lot of pilgrims who flock here from neighbouring countries, so I had to make a few attempts at trying to see the Chapel. After the 7pm mass I managed to get a photo of...
Chapel of Our Lady of the Gates of Dawn. The sides of the altar is adorned in some intricate silver (possibly pewter) detailing. Such a joy to see.
So onto the Vilnius Cathdral and Cathedral Square...
Monument to Gediminas, the Grand Duke of Lithuania
Cathedral Bell Tower. You can climb here and take an amazing view of Vilnius, but I prefered to wait until I was at the Hill of the Three Crosses.
Front view of the Vilnius Cathedral (Arkikatedra Bazilika).
Chapel of St Casamir and sarcophagus.
Entrance to the National Museum of Lithuania, housed within the New Arsenal of the Vilnius Castle Complex. You can see Gediminas Castle Tower in the Background.
Žaliasis tiltas, also known as the Green Bridge, above the river Neris. There are still some Soviet realism sculptures on the bridge - there was much debate after Lithuanian independance as to whether or not to have them torn down.
A conversation between the banks of the Šnipiškės and Old Town sides of the Neris. This one is saying "I love you!"
"I love you too!"
So a few years ago someone floated about an idea of having local artists create sculptures to pepper throughout the city of Vilnius to make it more 'cultural' and 'tourist -friendly'. The rings underneath the bridge were derived from an old legend of someone scaring the residents and flying his light aircraft underneath the bridge - the rings were to prevent anyone from attempting the feat again. No explaination was given for the pipe-thing in the second picture, though I was assured by my guide that it was, indeed, a sculpture and not some city plumbing.
A short walk later and I was in Kalnai Park, also known to contain the Hill of the Three Crosses...
Amphitheatre in Kalnai Park.
The Three Crosses, from the front and rear.
View of Vilnius from the Hill of the Three Crosses. I know it looks like sunset here, but it was around 2pm or so when this shot was taken.
Vilnius also happens to contain its own micronation - The Republic of Užupis. Even in the gloomy weather it's one of the most colourful areas of the city and has a great bohemian feel to it. Very similar to Montmatre in Paris. Being a self-declared republic, it has its own army (of 12 people!), its own flag, currency, president and constitution. The constitution, especially, is a tourist attraction in itself, written in 8 languages and containing statements such as
And you get the idea. With the Independence Day falling on April Fool's Day are you surprised?
Entrances to Užupis.
The Angel of Užupis.
The infamous Constitution.
Užupis Bridge, covered with padlocks. Cute concept that can be found not only in Vilnius but in many places in Europe - A couple who get married, or otherwise commit, engrave or write their names on the padlock, sometimes as well as the date of the wedding, then throw the key away. Would have loved to have seen this tradition back in Australia - I think it's great!
The Frank Zappa statue. This is the most difficult thing to look for in the whole city - when driving past in the tour bus my guide pointed it out, and I couldn't even see it. I then went back, thinking I may as well get a photo, and missed it 4-5 times before finally seeing it. Apparently Mr Zappa has zero connection to the city of Vilnius - the proposal for erecting the statue was a 'test' of the new democratic processes by the artists just to see whether or not they could get the project approved. It was, they did up a bust (which wasn't too bad I must say) and hence you have the bust of Frank Zappa on a pole in a parking lot... I guess it ties in with the bohemian mindset that's seemingly everywhere here in Vilnius.
Church of All Saints, also built in the Baroque style. There was Sunday service on when I arrived, so I didn't go inside.
Church of St Catherine
St. Anne's Church, a Roman Catholic Church. Loving the gothic stylin'.
Vilnius University (Vilniaus Universitetas). The tiny tower on the left housed the old observatory.
The top facade of the National Theatre of Lithuania. Love the statue of the three muses.
The interior of the Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit (Staciatikiu Sv. Dvasios Cerkve). Jaw droppingly beautiful.
Interior of the Church of St Theresa. This was my guide's favourite church, as she said it totally changes character after dark. I tried to enter at around 6.30pm and couldn't get in, so was only able to take a photo the morning after. Beautifully decorated, I must admit.
And of course I have to give some mention to the food! The cuisine is basically similar to other snow-prone climates, lots of soups, creamy sauces, potatoes and what not. Very artery-clogging. It all tasted amazing, so amazing in fact I pretty much had a Lithuanian dish for every single meal. If you're a vegetarian though then there isn't a whole lot on offer here, I'm warning you guys.
I love borscht (Barščiai) - if you're frozen to your bones there's nothing that warms you up like it. I've had borscht everywhere - Riga, Moscow, Vilnius etc, and I've never had a bad serving.
Balandėliai - Cabbage Rolls stuffed with some minced meat, boiled and served with the best sauce I've ever had in my life! I wish I knew what was in that sauce - the only ingredients I could make out were sour cream and paprika...
Kėdainių blynai - Basically potato pancakes served with some sort of remoulade with minced meat in the centre. It was alright but very oily - I wouldn't want to be having this very often.
Cepelinai - The national dish. Named after the Zeppelin, these are made from potato and minced meat and big enough to fit in my hand. It's boiled and served coated in this sour cream and bacon sauce. Tastes absolutely divine.
I'm not finished with Vilnius just yet - I have some photos from the KGB Museum/Museum of the Genocide Victims which I think warrants a seperate post altogether, so stay tuned! 6 comments