The holidays

It’s almost become a tradition that I tell about our holidays here on the blog. But as the blog has developed away from the very personal it seems progressively awkward. Anyway, I promise to make it brief and with a digression or two…

We started in the UK where there was another Bar Mitzvah in the family, the fourth and so far last. Just like at the Bar Mitzvah two years ago, I took a picture of the rabbi’s legs. And no, it’s not the rabbi on the left. It’s her on the right.

 

We enjoyed a little time in London, I even found time to meet with some of my lovely Twitter-ladies, described elsewhere on this blog. We also fitted in a bit of shopping…

Off we flew to Switzerland to spend a few days in David’s flat. The weather was gorgeous, so we enjoyed a lot of time on the balcony and David and Dane also went swimming in the lake. Our first mission was to visit some friends who we met in the UK, but who have since moved to the south of France. They live in the most gorgeous house in Provence and we spent four lovely days with them.

As those of you who know me well will know, we, like so many other from the middle classes, have a penchant for Tuscany. We’ve been there 4-5 times before but still chose to go again. We’d rented a flat at an Agri Turismo place which was quite nice, but not fantastic. As we’ve seen most of the sights more than once before, we took it rather easy and spent most mornings leisurely at the pool. One of the highlights was a visit with my old friend Helle Tesio and her husband Alfredo. We go more than 30 years back. Helle took us to Fattoria del Colle in Trequanda where she teaches advanced Italian cooking to groups of agri-tourists. I so want to go on that course!

Unfortunately, towards the end of the holiday, Dane got ill (something that practically never happens), and he was really rather poorly. So it was a long journey home where it, to sort of further the misery, rained constantly between Genoa and Geneva. It turned out that what Dane had was the flu, which he generously passed on to David and me once we were back in Coppet. So a few days were torn out of the calendar.

At friends in Provence, France
Best ice cream in Tuscany
Lizard caught in a glass (released min's later)

Fattoria del Colle, Trequanda

Siena wedding. Rather romantic.

San Gigmignano in the sunset

Dane and I are back now in Denmark where it is gloomily wet and only warm when the sun is out and where our basement was flooded once more. I’ve had the wood burning stove lit already!

Today I was reminded of our trip to Australia in 2008. The reminder was a talk about cake. When we were there, we were rather surprised by their consistently excellent coffee *flat whites* and the ubiquitous banana bread which is served warm with butter. When we came back, Dane asked me to bake it and I baked a random banana cake. It wasn’t right. Baked my way through numerous banana cake/bread recipes before I found one that Dane could approve of. So I baked one today. Here’s the recipe:

Banana bread

* 265g (1 3/4 cups) self-raising flour

* 40g (1/4 cup) plain flour

* 1 tsp ground cinnamon

* 140g (2/3 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar

* 125ml (1/2 cup) skim milk

* 2 eggs, lightly whisked

* 50g butter, melted, cooled

* 2 overripe medium bananas, mashed

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush an 11 x 21cm (base measurement) loaf pan with melted butter to lightly grease. Line the base and 2 opposite sides with non-stick baking paper, allowing it to overhang.

2. Sift the combined flours and cinnamon into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and make a well in the centre. Place the milk, eggs, melted butter and banana in a medium bowl, and stir until well combined. Add the banana mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the surface.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from oven and set aside in the pan for 5 minutes. Turn onto a wire rack to cool completely. Cut into slices to serve.

 

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Some, but only some, of my prejudices confirmed

Exactly as foretold by friends who’ve been, my visit to the United Arab Emirates has been a constant journey between Las Vegas and the Orient. Our hotel The Atlantis on “the Palm” (se picture of it in previous post) was opulent beyond description and with so many people serving that it was close to creepy. As a Scandinavian, it’s almost impossible not to be embarrassed when your suitcases are carried, your chair pulled out and the tap turned on for you in the public toilets. But it’s still wonderful to sleep in a perfect bed, bathe in utter luxury, look out at the azure sea when you pull the curtains and eat delicious meals everywhere you go.

Sitting at the pool, studying the most international crowd I’ve ever seen in one place is nothing short of sensational. Most interesting to us were of course the native arabs in their abayas and dishdashas, a good deal of the women with their faces totally covered. We were sick with curiosity as to how these women eat, so took great care to place ourselves so we could see some of them in the restaurants. The great majority of them will place themselves with their backs to the crowd and then simply remove the Niqab while eating. We only saw a few who stuck the food into their mouths behind the veil, which I have to admit looks stupidly awkward, but will work well if you need to lose weight. These people seem to be impossibly rich, which you must be to hire the luxury suite at the hotel at a mere £30,000 a night. But then it covers almost a thousand m2!

We left the hotel a few times to see some of the architectural feats of Dubai. Firstly, the truly amazing Burj Al Arab hotel in the shape of a giant sail. Both inside and out it takes your breath away. I believe that if the Pharaohs were still around, they’d build like this. Great splendour, lots of gold but still stylish. Click the link above to see the Wikipedia article or click here to see my own pictures.

The following day we went to the top of the man-made world, the Burj Khalifa. The elevator to the 124th floor is the fastest on the planet with 10 meters per second. That’s almost as fast as Usain Bolt… There’s a funny story to this fountain pen-like structure. Almost until its inauguration it was called Burj Dubai and signposted as such all over the city and beyond. But as Dubai ran out of money before the completion, they had to borrow a substantial amount from incredibly rich neighbour Abu Dhabi. Suddenly all signs were taken down and when they were put up again a few days later, the building had a new name, the Burj Khalifa. Khalifa happens to be the name of the ruler of Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi is where we went after Dubai – it’s a 90 minute taxi ride which will cost you around £40. My visit here with a dear friend will be in my next post. It is now very late and a taxi is picking us up here at 5am tomorrow morning to go home to windy, snowy Denmark.

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Egypt, the entertainment industry and tea towels

It’s hard to think of much beside or above the events in Egypt. If it’s not at the forefront of your mind, take a moment, close your eyes and imagine this huge country, smack in the centre of the Middle East, with a democratically elected government! If you, like me, believed all the propaganda you’ve heard about the Muslim Brotherhood, take a moment to read about them here, here and here. I can’t say that I agree with them in many of their view points, but they certainly aren’t what many rightwing politicians have so successfully tried to tell us, Al Qaidaish madmen who wish to take Egypt back to the Middle Ages. So – even if they win an election, there’s little risk that Egypt will be another Iran. Imagine the whole of the Right without their eternal argument that Israel must be supported in every way because it’s the only democracy in the Middle East. If you wish to REALLY follow the development in Egypt, some media are a lot better than others! Huffington Post (now sold to AOL?!?!) covers it well, as does Al Jazeera. Several of the correspondents from international newspapers currently in Cairo, tweet. By far the best method to follow the development as it unfolds is to find one of these and follow him or her on Twitter.

OK, there are other things happening in the world, most of which seem to pass me by at the moment. I’m going on holiday and feel most deserving of leisure and luxury. My husband’s company is hosting a corporate event in Dubai – as you do – and spouses are invited. I picture myself poolside with a book and half an eye on junior, playing in the pool. Let’s see what it’s really going to be like. After the corporate event we go on to Abu Dhabi to visit a dear friend who has lived there the past few years. I lost a Twitter-follower because I tweeted that many of the Westerners who choose to go and work there do it for money. I know a few people who have gone there or contemplated going because they got fabulous job offers (an architect, a doctor, a consultant), which they for various reasons couldn’t turn down. But I know and know of many more people who go there because there’s NO tax and super-cheap domestic help and giant golf courses. It isn’t quite the same as going to New York, Maputo or Bruxelles, is it?

Besides the really important stuff like politics and holidays there are few things that will enrage me as the entertainment industry and all the barriers they put up around their precious content. Not to mention their whining. Ugh. The other people here at my office know the range of swear-words I’ll fire off when I come across some content that I can’t move from one device to another because of all these stupid barriers or when I want to buy something and am told that “this content isn’t available in your territory”. Argh. The music industry has had more than 20 years to figure out what to do about the digitisation of content and they STILL haven’t figured it out. They spend all their money on lawyers and precious little on developing new ways to make money, but foremost an easy and fair way to pay for content. I believe that most people are ready to pay for content if it’s easy (EASY!) to access, easy to pay and easy and fair to handle once you “own” it.

On FTM (FollowTheMedia) I’ve read an article (and paid for it!!) on the latest developments. Something very interesting is under way from the Pirate Bay people. Stay tuned!

Before I fly off to the Arabic desert I’ll leave you with a few sweet tit-bits. Here’s a company that says We Are What We Do and try to help us with that. Making charity more palatable for us spoiled first-worlders. Check this tweet-towel. Oh, what a must-have for Tweeters. There must be some sort of cross-over you can do with a charity? Speaking of Twitter, here’s why you should probably have a Twitter account even if you don’t have time to tweet.

This is digitally created. I don't own this wonderful thing.

See you pool-side. *takes cover*

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Dutiful parents…

… as we are, we tried to do something meaningful with Dane over the holidays. Possibly the best bit was finally getting up in the London Eye, which we’ve been talking about and meaning to do ever since we came over here. It was David’s birthday, so we wanted to combine something enjoyable for him with something enjoyable for Dane. They have a pretty good queuing system for the London Eye – first you queue for less than 1/2 hour to get your tickets. Then it says on the tickets, when you have to report back to another queue. After that it’s only another 1/2 hour. For us it was perfect – there was just time for a nice lunch a bit further down the river. Here are a couple of pictures – luckily it was sunny, but with ominous clouds, which lend quite some drama to the pictures.

London skyline with some bad weather coming
While we were still waiting
While we were still waiting

Later on we wondered around London for a few hours. I wonder if I’m quite normal. The two shops in London, which I feel I soon know inside out are the Apple Store and Hamley’s. Shouldn’t it be Harrods and Selfridges? Or Waterstone’s?

But since inside photographs from those two shops would probably be rather dull, here’s a picture from an encounter Dane had with two nice, elderly gentlemen in New Bond Street.

Its Roosevelt and Churchill in case you were wondering...
It's Roosevelt and Churchill in case you were wondering...

More pictures, also from Halloween and bonfire night here.

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There’s still hope!

Here’s a very happy story from the real world:

When we were on our holiday on the south coast we spent a day in Portsmouth at the Historic Dock Yard. Unfortunately Dane forgot his purse with (too much) money in it, in one of the museum shops there. As we were deliberating our options at home, the phone rang. It was a nice lady from the Surrey Wildlife Trust. She had had a call from a police station in Portsmouth that a purse had been found with a membership card to the Surrey Wildlife Trust in it. On it was Dane’s name, so the lady went on to the membership register, found us and called. She had a name and a number for the PC at the police station. I called the number several times but couldn’t get through. In the meantime we were back home, so I sent an e-mail to the main police station in Portsmouth. I got a reply from another nice lady with the name and phone number for an other PC at the local police station. It turned out that this particular police station is under the MOD (ministry of defence) and thus can’t be found on the Internet or in the phone book. There I spoke to another lady who could confirm that the purse had been found with all contents still in it, but alas, there was no way she could send it by post – not even using some of the money in it. It would have to be picked up by us in person. Portsmouth is quite a distance from here, so I asked if it would still be there around Christmas time, when we were planning to be back. She confirmed that and I resigned myself to being happy that the purse was found at all. It means a lot to Dane – it was bought in the Blue Mountains in Australia and it had a picture of himself and his best friend from Denmark in it.

A few days later the nice lady from the Portsmouth central police station sent me another e-mail to ask if the problem had been solved. I told her yes, but that we’d have to go there and pick it up in person. She thought that was rather annoying and asked if I would mind if she went down there and picked it up herself and then sent it off to me? If I’d mind??? You gotta be kiddin’, I could not believe anybody would be that kind. As it turned out, she could not pick it up, because she wasn’t a PC. So what did this lovely woman do? She got one of the police officers at her station to go and pick it up for her! And then she sent it – registered mail – to us.

Dane was thrilled to bits! And so was I. Isn’t it lovely that there are still people who will go out of their way to do a little something for others?

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3 things & 5 days in Wales

Sheep

Climbers

Consonants

 

We had five lovely days with David’s brother Peter and his significant other, Frieda. They showed us all sorts of things, medieval castles, one of the worlds biggest mazes, a stunningly beautiful hidden valley, climbers clinging to the rock wall and an exceptional National Trust garden, the Bodnant. As it is obvious from the pictures, the weather wasn’t very good. But since it wasn’t really bad either, we’re not complaining.

We’ve taken quite a few pictures and mine are already uploaded with comments. See here. Look towards the end of the set.

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A family holiday in pictures

We only had weather like this one whole day. Trust me that we enjoyed it from breakfast on the terrace till stargazing on the beach at night. This picture is taken from the front door of the family summer house, just to give you an idea. We’re in Pagham, Sussex.

 

David caught a mackerel and ate it!

Linda is showing off her wellies! Low tide and high winds.

 

Notice the “door steps”. When the tide is high, it really is. The road along the harbour is flooded on a daily basis! This is Bosham, Sussex.

Hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows is just the cure for a rainy day!

We went to Portsmouth and toured the Victory, Admiral Nelson’s ship at the battle of Trafalgar.

 

The plaque commemorating that Nelson fell here on this exact spot and a view heavenward, where you can get an idea of the weather conditions!  We can really recommend Portsmouth Historic Dockyard for a day or two out – also when the weather is good! We had a great time!

And here’s what we did when it just poured with rain (there wasn’t room for anything as prosaic as playing cards in this picture, but we did play a lot of Canasta and Estimation Whist):

(don’t bother burgling us – we always sleep with our Iphones and most of the gear isn’t ours anyway…)

 

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