Saturday, 30 April 2011

How to get from Stansted airport to central London?


London is one of European cities with many low-fare airline connections. There are at least four airports near the city of London - Heathrow (LHR), London City (LCY), Gatwick (LGW) and Stansted (STN).
London Heathrow Airport and London City are the closest to the city center and also the most expensive of the three. This unfortunately means low-fare airlines usually do not use it. If you are looking for a cheap flight you are stuck with the last two.


Regardless of how much you have payed for your low-fare airline ticket, a trip from the airport to city center (and back) can easily cost you more than that.
When flying to London Stansted Airport you have many different options for a transfer to the city center.
The fastest way at the moment is Stansted Express which reaches London Liverpool Street in 45 minutes and leaves the airport every 15 minutes.
For other train options check out the National Express East Anglia webpage.


Buses are the cheapest option at the moment. EasyBus company offers rides to Baker Street from £2. If you are planning to use their services you should book online as fast as possible. If for some reason, you fail to reserve your seat in advance, they have an office just next to the exit of the airport building (you can expect the ticket to cost around £9). They will put you on the first available minibus to the city. They leave every 20 minutes and take approximately 80 minutes to reach their destination.
You can also use their services to reach the airport from the city, but you should keep a possibility of congestion and other delays in mind. Your airplane will not wait for you!
It does not matter if you are not flying easyJet. You can use easyBus services regardless of that. They use a funny slogan stating "Even RyanAir passengers welcome!".
They also offer similar services from other airports (e.g. from London Gatwick Airport there is a connection to Earls Court that takes approximately 70 minutes).


There are also other - a bit more expensive bus and coach options. Those are worth checking out if easyBus has all seats booked or their destination does not suite you.


Of course in addition to that there are many rent-a-car and taxi options available, but any of those might cost you a fortune.

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Friday, 29 April 2011

Time to visit London again


It has been more then five years since my last trip to London. I thought it wouldn't take so long to return, but it did.
Since a friend of mine is living in the city suburbs, working for a British company, I thought to myself - when, if not now?

I have always had something important to do and London, being just a few hours and a few dozens of Euro away by any of the low-fare airlines, has been postponed for many times.


So, that's that - plans have been made, tickets bought and a couch reserved. London here I come!


I have chosen the date of my visit with the royal wedding in mind. I will be just missing the event and also hordes of tourists pouring in from all over the world. I hear Brits are divided into two groups these days - those who can hardly wait for the event to take place and others reserving airplane tickets to escape the madness.
If I were a local I would definitely fall into the second group.

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Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Door Guardian


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Monday, 25 April 2011

The streets of Vis, Croatia


On a recent sailing trip we did in Croatia, we also spent a night and the following morning in the town of Vis on Vis island.


The whole island has almost 4.000 inhabitants and lies the farthest from the coast of all inhabited Croatian islands.
In the time of Yugoslavia it was one of the countries main naval bases and only partly accessible to public.
During World War II it was heavily mined and still in 2008 34 mines were cleared from the island.


Vis is a picturesque Mediterranean little town, offering many opportunities for a good photo or two. So I took the chance and went on a slow stroll through the narrow, stone cobbled streets. These are a few of many nice ones I took in a quarter of an hour.


The first one is taken from the boat moored on the seafront of Vis. A Franciscan monastery looked really nice across the bay but I unfortunately ran out of time to take a closer look.


The other two photos are from one of many narrow streets. I hope you like them.


For those of you in doubt about the object on that last photo. It has obviously seen better days but it is still a door knocker.

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Friday, 22 April 2011

Dolphin encounter in Croatia


Seeing dolphins in nature is not something that happens every day. I consider myself very lucky for encountering them quite a few times.


If you have been reading through my previous posts, I guess you guessed it already - my last encounter with these beautiful animals happened during my last sailing trip in Croatia.


While we were on a course for Jabuka island, they suddenly appeared in the distance on our port (i.e. left) side. Unfortunately a few moments later they were gone. When we already thought that was the end of it, they reappeared just next to the hull of our boat. We were sailing at around 6 knots without the motor. It seemed they liked this fact and swam with us for a while. There were around 10 dolphins in this group - some small and some quite large ones.


After five minutes of playing around and under our boat they decided to get back on their way.
I had just enough time to take a few photos, but none of them came out very impressive. It is quite hard to guess where and when is a dolphin going to come out from under the water. When it does swim to the surface, this happens just for a moment and then it is gone again.
This means luck is quite a factor when trying to take a good photo of a dolphin.


I hope one day I will be lucky enough to actually swim with dolphins in their natural habitat.
This time water was not really all that warm (it was just under 11 degrees Celsius) and I didn't even think about jumping in.
I am not sure doing that out on the high seas is such a good idea anyway. After all, those are wild animals I am talking about and anything can happen.

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Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Wordless Wednesday: View of Hvar seafront


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Monday, 18 April 2011

Sailing to Jabuka island


One of the goals of our last sailing trip was to sail around Jabuka island. Actually it is not so very special. This rock in the middle of the Adriatic sea can hardly be called an island. It really is small.


Jabuka in Croatian language means Apple. So if Apple corporation will ever be thinking of changing that bitten apple logo of theirs - a silhouette of this Apple island might be a good idea. I should probably put copyright on that one...


We tried to sail there a couple of times before but never made it all the way around.
Well this time I am proud to say we did it.


When we were closing in on the island we noticed an interesting thing... Some of the navigation devices on our boat started to act weird. For instance autopilot kept loosing direction. At first we thought it was some random electronic fault but after a while we realized only compass-based devices were having problems.
It was not a coincidence. Jabuka island was to blame.
As we learned later on, it is a volcanic island and one of its main building materials is magnetite - the most magnetic of all naturally occurring minerals on Earth.
When they hold a sailing regatta in those waters competitors even have to switch between radio channels because some of them simply stop working around the island. I guess this is a bit like what the Bermuda triangle must feel.


As I said all of this didn't stop us and we made it around there and back without much trouble. We had perfect winds and nice sunny weather. Nevertheless this trip took most of the day. When we were looking for a place to spend the night it was dark already.

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Thursday, 14 April 2011

The best fish is a fresh fish


Adriatic sea is a perfect place for tasting some good quality, fresh fish. While on a boat, there is a good chance you even catch your own meal. When doing this, you should always keep in mind local rules and regulations (e.g. in Croatia you need to purchase a fishing permit).
I have posted a thing or two about fishing before. Since I am no expert in the field of fishing, don't expect too much.


If catching your own food is not your thing, you can always buy fresh fish from local fishermen, but you can trust me that the one you catch yourself always tastes better then any other.
If you do not come across any fishing boats at sea, you can visit fish markets in early mornings. Almost every coast town in Croatia has one. Prices may vary between seasons (demand is rather high in summer months).


During our last sailing trip we also tried catching our own fish and almost got lucky. We sailed right next to a large school of tuna fish. They were jumping out of the water in feeding frenzy. They were obviously engaged in a group fishing activity, probably chasing sardines or some other kind of tuna food. One of them was obviously fascinated by our bait. It swallowed the bait and went on its way. The line twitched hard and then unfortunately - snapped. It was all over in a couple of seconds and our dinner swam off.
As unfortunate as this might seem, I can't imagine what would we have done if we (by some strange miracle) lifted a 10 kilo tuna onto our boat. I am pretty sure at least the whole deck would be bathing in blood if nothing else.


Since that fish took our only hook with it, that was the end of our fishing.


Luckily after a while we saw some fishermen returning from the sea and bought our lunch from them. We opted for two large tuna-like fish. We got them for a really nice price and they turned out to be extra delicious when taken out of the oven a couple of hours later.


We did not complicate with preparation. We simply cut them opened, cleaned them, chopped them in nice thick pieces, seasoned them with some freshly picked local rosemary and put them on a bed of already half baked potatoes. It was delicious!


All there was left were a pair of heads and a pair of tails.


On the photos above you can see phases those two fish went through. Unfortunately the most important phase - dinner served on a plate accompanied with a glass of excellent white wine is not there.
With food like that around, people tend to forget all about photography...

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Monday, 11 April 2011

What to cook on a sailing trip?


When we go sailing we take care of cooking by ourselves. Actually one of the crew members is usually chosen as Master Chef and the menu is then mostly up to him.


Our sailing crew-list usually consists of friends who know each other pretty well and are not too picky when food is concerned. This means the menu mostly consists of simple dishes, that do not require much preparation. Our scope is on other things... well, mostly it is drinking. This simply means we usually eat a lot of pasta and similar simple dishes.
However, if there is a chance for a gourmet pleasure, we don't think twice to take it.


When at sea there is a good chance you come across some tasty fish. Let us just say we got our hands on some really tasty fish this time, but more about that in my next post.


Well let me get back to those simple dishes... We usually don't have a problem with preparation and cleaning the dishes but I know quite a few that think even little cooking is too much cooking.


I have a two word tip for all the lazy chefs out there: Microwave Owen. Yes, that's right. A microwave oven usually isn't on the standard equipment list for various types of charter sailing boats. I guess that should not be a problem - you can always bring your own.
With a right list of microwave-ready dishes all of you lazy sailing chefs out there will have a bit easier time preparing food and more time for other activities.


Before you get too excited... there is actually a reason why they don't put microwave ovens on sailing boats as standard equipment. When at sea there is only 12V electric current available on board (standard 220V current is available only when plugged-in to an outside source). This can also be easily resolved - simply bring a 12V to 220V converter. Be careful that you do not empty the batteries completely (after the meal you might need to start the engine again).


As far as I am concerned, I vote for the good old-fashioned way. Chicken in creamy sauce, cooked au gratin and seasoned with some fresh picked Mediterranean rosemary looks extra-delicious on those photos, doesn't it?

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Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Sunset fishing


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Monday, 4 April 2011

Sailing Checklist


Let me just point out this is a sailing list I use for colder months. This one was used for a sailing trip in southern Adriatic (Croatia) which took place at the end of March. You should probably have that in mind when adjusting it for summer sailing trips.


Sailing Checklist
ItemQuantityPacked
Passport & Passport copy
1
Y
Passport copy
1Y
Cash (EUR)
200
Y
Cash (HRK)
1000Y
Credit cards
2
Y
GSM & charger
1
Y
Digital camera & charger
1
Y
Maps
2
N
MP3 Player
1
N
MP3 Music CDs20
Y
Sunglasses
1
Y
Swiss army knife
1
Y
Books
1
N
Board & card games3
N
Pen & paper
1
N
Teva sandals
1
Y
Trekking shoes
1
Y
Rubber boots1Y
Diving mask, snorkel & fins1N
Sailing suit (jacket & pants)
1
Y
Gloves
1
Y
Towel (bathing)
1
Y
Wind jacket
1
Y
Cap (wollen)
1
Y
Cap (baseball)
1
Y
Underpants
3
Y
T-shirts
3
Y
Socks
3
Y
Sweat shirt
2
Y
Trekking pants
1
Y
Zip-off pants
1
Y
Long sleeve shirt2
Y
Backpack (30 l)
1
Y
Short pants
1
Y
Toilet set bag (toothbrush, etc.)
1
Y
Sunscreen
1
Y
Lip gloss (protective)
1
Y
Medicine (pills, plasters, etc.)
n
Y
Condoms (pack)
1
Y
Schnapps flask (full)1
Y
Food & drinks for the road
n
Y
Head lamp1
Y
Cigarette lighter
1
Y


All of the items listed above are to be taken into consideration. Unfortunately because of lack of space I decided to leave a few (not so essential) items behind.

Food and drinks are to be provided separately. This also includes bottled drinking water which is usually not available on-board.

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