Saturday, 28 December 2013

Christmas in London

Royal Albert Hall Christmas Eve 2013

London 22nd - 26th December, 2013

Our christmas traditions have been formed over years and years and been very family oriented including get together's for dinner or, as the case was in the later years, a lighter version of reunion with porridge (YES porridge), Finnish glögi (gluhwine), ginger cookies, sweets and other suitable horde'euvres before you hit the "kinkku" (oven baked leg of pork) and "lanttuloora" or swede casserole in the evening. We attended church for christmas carols like many other Finns because then everybody can join in including those that cannot sing, like me. The other time that I sing is during midsummer festivities. The difference is that summertime the noise is louder after consumption of suitable amounts of "firewater". Ask my late father-in-law. There are many things to do for christmas so preparations shall start minimum 2 months in advance. A letter to the Father Christmas has to be drafted and sent. You want this letter to be long and precise and in readable format. I use MSWord with a clearly visible font like "The Girl Next Door" (this reminds me of my early ages when my wife lived one floor up, unmarried). Additionally seasonal greeting cards has to be sorted out (only new ones will do). We cut the amount of cards every year but when they eventually are mailed the amount is still the same…..strange! Of course food ingredients must be carefully planned, purchased and prepared. Making marinated herrings is time consuming not to mention sienisalaatti (mushroom salad) with all that fine cutting to do. My wife is a master in this….. but she is not generally available. An important element has also been a thorough cleaning of the apartment and this is cleaning with a capital "C" that might take a week alone. So this is christmas in a typical Finnish family, like us.

 Come year 2013 all this came to a complete change. Our children had had their own homes for some time and created their own, less conventional, computer based traditions like chatting, tweeting, face booking and so on.  And when Mrs. T decided to take the big step and move abroad for an undetermined period of time to explore Andalucia and other unfamiliar regions we faced an entirely new situation. We have by now familiarized ourselves with Andalucia fairly well (read our previous blogs) and come to like it very much for many, many reasons. With christmas approaching we had to decide on how to get organized. Our son with his fiancée decided to spend their time in the Finnish Archipelago and we then felt for organizing a similarly unconventional treat for our daughter in London.  Therefore, fellow Spaniards, we spent our christmas outside of Spain.

Knightsbridge Underground Station…All passengers were found at Harrods.

Big Ben on a rainy day. Instead of Southbank Christmas Market we left for….

…….dry conditions at Covent Garden. 

Dominion Theatre same evening: "We Will Rock You"

"On a first day of christmas….."  we left the hotel for shopping. But first we enjoyed a full English Breakfast at a Taylor Walker Pub in Earls Court. The welcome was so friendly that most of the free time was spent there. A shopping plan had been drafted and marked on a map. We wanted our Ms. T to have a good time and to see as much as possible. Mr. T is notorious for detailed planning but even he is not trained to the perfection. Living in Costa del Sol means that you do not have to worry about rainfall, not really. But London is not Cost del Sol so one should consult weather forecasts before making plans. Indeed, the rainfall started in the morning and did not bother us as long as time was spent in Harrods or indoors in a shopping complex. However, in the afternoon things got worse. The rainfall was getting heavy. We purchased umbrellas, you know those cheap 5 pound sterling touristic things. A strong wind then set in, very strong indeed. As a result the 5 pound sterling umbrellas turned upside down and was of no use any longer. The other was discarded of and the other remains as a souvenir with Ms. T (the umbrella was designed with the colors of Union Jack). At this point CHANGE OF PLANS. No Southbank Christmas this time but straight into a taxi shortcutting to Covent Garden market place. Covent Garden is a BIG favorite of Mrs. T and myself since many years back. We spent considerable time in the shops and a wine cellar. Ms. T was rewarded for her patience with a delightful perfume of Penhaligon's. If you have not visited this shop, you must do so on your next visit to London and Covent Garden. In the evening we visited the Dominion Theatre that presented "We Will Rock You" with music by Queen (of course). Did we like it? YESSSSS...

Breakfast time at Taylor Walker, Earls Court.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Protection from the nearest hat shop.

A fantastic daughter in a fantastic Royal Albert Hall

On christmas eve we had reserved a Fine Dining package at the Royal Albert Hall followed with Carols "sung by Candlelight". But before that we had time to visit Hyde Park that host "Winter Wonderland" a theme park for the entire family. We particularly enjoyed the sculptures that was presented. And rain came in as showers now so we felt slightly cold. No worry! Warming caps could be found nearby as demonstrated above. As to the christmas eve I could go on writing for a week about the Royal Albert Hall or I could just let the above images speak for themselves. I think the later is appropriate. May I just tell that the hall is the dream of Prince Albert dating back to the mid 19th century. The first exhibition centre was finished by 1871, has been developed over the years and had its latest and greatest refurbishment at the end of 1990's up till 2004 with almost 70 million pounds spent to give the hall its present splendor. If you go to London do NOT miss this place. They also make tours outside performance hours.

St James's Park and Buckingham Palace with our Spanish friend.


Trafalgar Square and the statue of Nelson

Leicester Square

On Christmas Day London is more or less closed and no public transportation work. This is a fact of life whatever the London Underground website promises you. Our program for this day was to join a London Walking Tour following Charles Dickens footsteps in the neighborhood of Covent Garden. We took a taxi to St. James's Park and walked through the park, passed Whitehall and ended up at Trafalgar Square with some margin left time wise. Ms. T had set up a meeting with her good friend from Sevilla. He joined us fort the whole day and brought a special flavor to our christmas this year. We very much enjoyed his company and hope to see him on our forthcoming visit to Sevilla. The two hour themed walk with a guide provided insight into the (christmas) world of Charles Dickens and was a great ending to our London experience this time. On our way home we stopped for dinner at Bella Italia by Leicester Square. A nice small restaurant to recommend. As the final picture may I present the below capture from our walk - can we sense the times of Dickens?

Following the steps of Charles Dickens

Finally to "Nuestra Senoras" Mrs. T and Ms. T  - thank you for making this journey come through and thank you once more to our Spanish friend for wanting to join us and spend his christmas with us. Who's the lucky guy here and did we miss the "kinkku"?

Friday, 20 December 2013

PhotoHiking in Montes de Málaga Nature Park

A "Space Odyssey" in Málaga Mountains

PhotoHiking in Málaga Nature Park in December

Christmas time is approaching fast and I promised myself to make one PhotoHiking trip before the holiday season sets in. I had earlier acquired a map over the Málaga Mountains Nature Park that is situated just north-east of the city. The area was unknown to me so the map came in handy. From the A7 I followed the A7000 (old C-345) until I reached the area of El Cerrado where I turned left and continued until I parked by a rural hotel. The track A137 started just behind the hotel. It is a circular route and would take a hiker only an hour and twenty minutes to complete. For a photographer you should probably reserve almost three times more time. I have not had too much time for macrophotography during our stay in Andalucia, but this day was devoted to my favorite topic.

Growth season 19th December, 2013.
Winter Season
December Blossom

Summer Colours in December

Macrophotography is very interesting and quite different from picturing landscapes etc. It takes a good eye to spot the opportunities and the right angles for it. Patience is of essence, but the interesting thing is also that in a very small area you can detect so many things that we do not normally even notice. There is another world to discover and you can spend hours on the very same area. Below another exciting photo; something left over from the previous growth season….still "hanging in the air".

A "floating tistle"

The track I had chosen climb up to a mountain top and then descend another way back to the hotel area. I had reached the top when I noticed that rainy weather was approaching. I decided to continue for as far as possible and when the raindrops started to hit me I had to pack my gear and cover myself. I had by then consumed most of the time I had allowed for my trip - promised Mrs. T to be back at an set hour. I started my descend along a rather steep mountain slope, following the track that at some point showed signs of heavy water at times forcing itself down. This more demanding part of the track made the classification "medium demanding". This Nature Park is larger than one would expect, it is obviously rich in birdlife and has a nice variations in the landscape. There is also a fantastic view from the mirador over the entire Málaga area. Springtime must be beautiful there, worth another visit. Down the last picture covering part of the hiking track that I followed.

A nice and productive day out.

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