Face of Petra

This is one of my favorite portraits I took on the run. It was taken in Petra, Jordan.

The Syrian

The Syrian. The guy was on a camel and then I ran and said hello. I also smiled.


Barcelona – where is my paella?

The next city in line in my crash tour was Barcelona. This has been an ongoing negotiation for about 6 months. We ended up everywhere in the world (almost – Arab Emirates, US, Zimbabwe…) before I got my Barcelona trip. Yes, those blogs will eventually make it here. Air China flies from Beijing to Barcelona via Vienna. Cheap flight though leaving Vienna at 7am meant grumpy face a good few hours into the trip. One tip to share with you, buy tickets for anything you really know you are going to see online, especially Park Güell, La Sagrada Familia, tours in the Palau de la Música Catalana.


Lobby of Palau de la Música Catalana

I love Barcelona.

Lets start with the most important. I loved Barcelona. Airport is easy. We were off the plan, through the airport and onto a bus. About €6 euros later (12 for two) we were at Plaça de Catalunya, a short walk to La Rambla.

This city is happening. There are people around. Walking up and down La Rambla, by the water, everywhere. Not just rushing around the city to complete errands, actually I have no idea where people were going, but they were going there all night as well. I always felt that each city had a different energy. That was after I’d been to cities like London, New York, Paris, CapeTown etc. Then you go to the rather subdued cities like Vienna. Barcelona is alive. The architecture is unique. European in its own way but with something different.

There is no good paella in Barcelona.

I have a Spanish colleague I love teasing about how much I love Spanish food like burritos, tacos, guacamole and enchiladas. All the Spanish words I picked up while living in the US. Last time I heard, burritos might not even be Mexican. I naively thought that paella was a staple of Barcelona and that it would be difficult for them to screw up their national food. Take New York, it takes effort to screw up a burger. I know McDonalds managed, but in a random restaurant, you can order a burger and it would be at least a decent burger. In Vienna, personally, I have not found a schnitzel that I liked or hated more than another. They are all the same. I’ve had A LOT of schnitzel, even in our work cantine. In Zimbabwe, sadza is sadza, I’m sure it can be screwed up but if it was served it would just taste like Sadza. I was looking forward to some Spanish food, trust me, I needed food with pizzaz. I tried different paella in Barcelona. They were all horrible. One was salty. Another seafood paella was missing seafood. The best advice I can give regarding food is that before you visit, do some research and figure out where to eat to get a decent meal.

The architecture, especially La Sagrada Familia is amazing.

I am not a big fan of going into churches. Well, lets put in another way – as a tourist of religion, I quite often find myself in churches, mosques and synagogues. So after a while, having been in some impressive churches, I was vaguely interested in seeing La Sagrada Familia. I didn’t get a chance to do homework since the tickets were booked the day before. I also never thought I could spend more than 30 minutes looking at a church. This was a true exception. I was quite happy to pay the €24 when usually our going rate for seeing something touristy is maximum €15.

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia: Ceiling designed to look like a forest

Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia as seen from the rooftop of Casa Mila(Gaudi)

The second shot is taken from Casa Mila, a house designed by Gaudi. It cost €21 to get in. Huge disappointment. I would recommend you reconsider if you are not sure. Besides a fancy rooftop that was designed in a way to cover up the chimneys, there really isn’t much to it. The living areas are a total snore.


Casa Mila from across the road – something of a rip-off


Casa Mila rooftop.

Casa Batlló, across the road also has the colorful and daring design of Gaudi. Unfortunately the line was too long, and after the disappointment of Casa Mila, we didn’t want to risk it. However, the fact that there was a line should’ve been a clue. Mila was line-less.

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The other Gaudi house in the same area – Casa Batlló

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Park Güell – Another Gaudi institution. Get tickets in advance. Its a hassle to get to and they will only let in a maximum number of people at a time.

The Park was OK. Definitely get your tickets online or wherever, before you go. The lizard was not a cool as it looked in picture. However, I would recommend visiting the park if you have the time.

Shopping is great in Barcelona

For those that like shopping, the Old Town has these cute little streets filled with stores with names I had never seen in addition to the usual – Benetton, Esprit, Sisley, H&M…. I was also allowed some time to do some serious shopping.

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Some of us take shopping quite seriously


But not all of us can power shop. My shopping caddy got tired.

All in all – I could live here.

Vienna – a day on the U-Bahn

As my days in Vienna are winding down, I decided that it may be a good idea to see the city. That basically meant I flew into a panic phase and started the last-minute “Oh My God there are still so many things I needed to do and I will do them today.” It turns out that I’ve been here for 10 months or so but spend most of my weekends in other countries (yes…I haven’t updated as well as i would have liked). I started on the U3 line that runs from Ottakring, going direction Simmering. The idea was to stop at every train station and take a picture. So a long detour on Mariahilferstrasse (HUGE shopping street) only meant that I didn’t go back on train as scheduled, so I will have to continue another time! The evening ended with fish and chips with friends in the 9th District.



Albertgasse, waiting for #2 train going to Ottakring


Designated starting point. Beginning of U3 line.


U-Bahn sign


A Photo mural at one of the stations




Photo mural at one of the stations

Hofburg Palace, at some point was Hitlers Headquarters during the war


Statue at Hofburg


Cart horses waiting for next ride


Statue commemorating the plague


Roof of Stephansdom


Lamp in a random courtyard we stumbled upon