Sunday, 31 July 2011

Our day trip to Lluc and Sóller.

During our holiday to Mallorca in May of this year we went on a day trip. It was a visit to the Monastery at Lluc, a trip through the northern mountainous region of Mallorca towards the Port of Sóller, into Sóller itself and then back to our hotel.

Mountainous Mallorca

It was the best excursion/day trip I can remember being on and I'm not exaggerating. As you know I don't affiliate link or make a penny from this blog but if ever I was to recommend a tour some place, this is one I would recommend for the experience it gave. It was a no frills excursions tour which turned out to be perfect for us as it seems to be on Trip Advisor for many more people too. As you know I don't like advertising businesses and I when I do so it's generally only because they've impressed us far beyond what we expected. This was a great tour, it was on time and did what it said on the tin but more importantly it had a really informative and great guide and had no hard sells or 'visits' to carpet factories and other retail opportunities. As I said, our guide was great and excellent at his job, his name was Joan (pronounced John when said in English rather than Mallorquin) and he gave a great local feel and insight to the tour, helping us along but also being understanding when we wandered off on our own little adventures during the trip - giving us advice too.

Although I can't go into it minute for minute as it was months ago and I'm pressed for time, here are some highlights of the tour:

Before we got to Lluc it was a trip along the ma-10 through the heart of Pollensa where the view was the image at the start of the post.

First stop was the Monastery at Lluc:

Lluc Monestary and grounds

There we went into the Monastery but Norngirl and I decided to go for a walk along a long path and up the hill for the views.

Lluc Monastery Walk

And found the big metal cross at the top.

Lluc Monastery Cross

Then found the awesome views of the surrounding valley and hills.

Hills around Lluc

Afterwards it was into the Monastery to listen to the choir and look at the ornate interior.

Lluc Monastery

Afterwards we found a place to get some water (and in Norngirls case - a small beer). When we came out of the shop we found a local cat who had also got hold of a snack.

Bird being eaten by Monastery Cat

Leaving the cycle of life to its own, we headed back onto a fun ride through the Mallorquin hills and the journey took in some cool karst (limestone) scenery. We didn't stop but some dude had done and this was taken from the coach:

Tourist taking in limestone scenery in Mallorca

Next up was a stop at a vantage point over looking Soller and the Port of Sóller.

 View of Port de Sóller from the hills

After a brief walk we were by the marina and had a look at the boats:

 Port de Sóller harbour

Before having a picnic by a metal tree sculpture/water feature.

 Port de Sóller metal tree

We then had a ride on a tram to the main part of Sóller.

Sóller to Port de Sóller tram

Where we were taken on a short walking tour around the town.

Central Sóller

And had a drink in front of the Church of St. Bartholomew.

Church of St. Bartholomew in Sóller

Sóller Angel

Before heading back to the bus.


The journey home was really nice, we were almost given a what's what of Mallorquin agriculture and life in Mallorca before being dropped off back in front of our hotel. It really was a great day and we really enjoyed it, if you read this Joan, thanks for the great tour :)

Saturday, 30 July 2011

July has been a little huge bit crazy.

So yeah.... Hi!

As a follow up to my last post. I so far haven't managed to get the blogger app to post yet, the post I tried to send from the airport is stuck in 'publishing' status from my phone and it's messed up and I haven't been able to get anything to work with that app since. It's had ample broadband, WiFi and data connection time so I dunno what the craic is with it. Probably something like my phone crashed or the app isn't compatible or just a one off. I might try reinstalling it at some point.

Other than that, I've been busy and stressed a little more than usual. Our trip away was awesome but since we got back it's been all very hectic and work has increased my stress levels no end.

I've been quickly coming to terms with the fact I'm being taken for a ride at work - in a corporate, cold and collected buy it cheap and bleed it for all it's worth type style, I've become aware more than ever that I am but a commodity to the company I work for. I think that employees being human with rights is just an inconvenience to many employers in the private sector. So I'll stick it out for now and keep my eyes open for other jobs. I doubt the greed of shareholders will subside any time soon so all being well I'll be aiming for a new job next year (unless the balance is miraculously tipped one way or the other). Hopefully something not for profit, a social enterprise or just a public sector job (if they ever are allowed to remove their recruitment freezes) will appear.

Talking of that sort of issue. The no nonsense finance guru guy - Alvin Hall - has a new series on Radio 4 at the moment that has so far been a good listen. The series is called - Poorer Than Their Parents. So far the first episode was about Jobs and I didn't catch today's but will on catch up. Although it didn't really go into the scenarios and problems in the job market (besides the chicken and egg scenario of needing to have done a job before someone will give you a job doing it) that I've encountered (the focus was largely more on specific scenarios), the end comments by James (a guy doing an unpaid internship in London) rang very true to me when he mentioned the word 'vulnerable' - especially when his main issue was accommodation and his attempt to get employment putting him at risk with his living conditions. Alvin's solution to James was to basically become home help for a cheaper rent, which isn't a bad idea but really is a plaster over the problem rather than trying to sort the big issues. And people wonder why there is so much apathy from the younger generations and why they hope that they might just get lucky with something landing in their lap.

As I've said before, we only have a finite amount of resources in the world, for me, the elitist structure we've got set up isn't doing a very good job of managing it. I've only read what I could find online but I think Eric Hobsbawm talks a lot of sense on such subjects. In his 90s now, he still has a very sharp mind. For instance,  Hobsbawm, in an interview with the Guardian earlier this year said:

"the basic problems of the 21st century would require solutions that neither the pure market, nor pure liberal democracy can adequately deal with. And to that extent, a different combination, a different mix of public and private, of state action and control and freedom would have to be worked out.

What you will call that, I don't know. But it may well no longer be capitalism, certainly not in the sense in which we have known it in this country and the United States.

As I've said before, I personally think we're already in a period where we have corporate imperialism tempered with a liberal mindset. I'm not sure if stats back me up but from where I'm sitting it seems like the world isn't led by people and our quest to survive, grow and leave a better world for our future than we left. Rather it's individuals with the biggest wills banding together to secure the biggest wallets and dictating what happens to ensure they can pull the strings whilst those with the knowledge or foresight can only ask for them to think about what they're doing. What some of the motivation or intentions are for those with their stockpiles - well, beyond controlling or hording more, is beyond me. Is it just to feed their ego or make their life and their kids lives easy in the short term at the expense of everyone else? Is their a psychological reason or is it just ignorance or selective education? Who knows. However, such people who facilitate this don't seem to question their actions when faced with treating human beings as commodities. Looking through the history books, sadly, this has always been the case and those eager to keep the status quo will continue to say that we are where we are now because of the same old structure that operates to this day in just a continuously varying mix.

But why are we living for the past or the present which is always fleeting?

As I believe the Guardian interview quote from Eric Hobsbawm (refered to earlier) implies, Hobsbawm doesn't believe that the basic problems we face today can be addressed by the way we've being doing things to date and I agree. I feel humanity needs some major new ideas or adaptations to how we currently work and ones that can't be hijacked for obscene personal or ideological gain. But why do I get the feeling that like trying to get a job you're qualified for except for the experience, no one or no idea will be taken on board unless it has already been tried so no one with a new idea will be listened to. The only exceptions to this seems to be at extreme times because of necessity but lets hope it doesn't come to something so stupid as it's usually only the poorest who suffer at times of turmoil. Maybe I'm just impatient though as eventually there will be change as humanity, society and technology evolves, several generations all over the world might

I mean, if scientific reasoning is accurate on the subject. Whatever or where ever humanity is to go, it's not here and it's not now. Our planet has the ability to be a nice place to live and learn and create, but not for ever, eventually our genetic descendants will need to leave and if theory is correct, in the very far flung future, we're going to need to find a way to either control (unlikely) or to get out of our known universe. No offence but we're not looking too likely to achieve that given the world's current state and the fact that with the technology and abilities we have, we can't even look after ourselves on this dot in space let alone do something productive away from it.

As Hobsbawn says in his book - Darkness:

"If humanity is to have a recognizable future, it cannot be by prolonging the past or the present."

Not to jump the gun too much but before Alvin's whole series is fully aired, I can tell you now, I already believe those who made the decisions have already sold our children's futures and that either we or the next few generations will have to stand up to the plate to give humanity some care and attention.

I think one of the core differences between a lot of people and the message we seem to get from 'The City' is that we seem to see 'wealth' in a different manner. Again, personally, I don't see wealth as numbers in a bank account that hold the promise of time, 'things' and services that gives you power, status and freedoms. My description of wealth would be the wealth of humanity: The ability to create a society and structure that can unlock the potential in each of us for a positive contribution to this place we call home all of our futures, not just one that eats up resources to maintain a human construct of nation states. The progress of ensuring the well being (and hopefully happiness) of everyone in the present. As well as a focus on a long term effort to progress knowledge and technology towards being able to answer the biggest unanswered questions of our existence so that we're not always just reactive creatures. The only alternative is suffering and ceasing to exist and since we already do exist, there is surely no harm in trying to make the most of our existence for the long haul.

On a side note... I have scheduled some posts today so there will be something to look at here again this week guaranteed :)

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

A game of Time and Typing

Blogging has gotten away from me lately. Lots going on at work and lots happening at home too...

Sadly not all of it productive. I got addicted to Age of Empires again... oops. I bought Age of Empires 3 Gold and the extra add on too when they were like a tenner in a sale about a year or two ago, they hadn't even been opened but a free weekend cropped up and well, time literally became history. Another game that had been neglected - sat unopened - since my birthday was Monopoly for the Wii. We've certainly made up for that though and become somewhat addicted to it too... thankfully those games tend to be quicker than the real life version... our longest games being around two hours and the quickest a mere 47 minutes.

Crusaders playing Fulham at Seaview

In other news the Crues played Fulham in Europa League Qualifying last Thursday which was brilliant. I still hope to write a big post on all that and the new stands etc at some point so I'll not go too far into it but in the revamped Seaview Stadium, Fulham put out a strong first team featuring 8 players who started in the Europa Cup Final in 2010. Crusaders lost 1-3 in the end but not before giving their fully pro and highly paid counterparts a good scare. We're really looking forward to our trip to London to see the away leg at Craven Cottage on Thursday night. We have our one for pride already so nothing will dampen our spirits, even the chance of rain :)

I finally got my hair cut (hurrah!) and totally unrelated we also had Gentlemen prefer Blondes night one weekend where we took both the food and the TV outside.

Illuminated Cloud

That was followed by Star Trek night the next weekend which concluded the first ever El Presidente's film festival.

I have half posts already written about those (not my hair cut mind though it was noteworthy in the speed of it, totally how it should be!) so hopefully when I can drag myself away from football and collecting resources and taking over maps I hope to get back to keeping up recording events as they pass. The problem again (as always) being the more that happens the more behind I get with the list.

Along those lines, well, mainly due to my old phone being a brick (albeit an amazingly indestructible brick!) from the last millennium - I dipped my feet into the murky waters of a contract phone and got an almost up to date handset. So I now have the ability to use apps, browse the web on the go and write a text message with a qwerty key pad. I never did learn how to use predictive text and now I never will - One small step for mankind, one giant techno-leap straight over a decade of unfortunate wrong wording for Simon.
Victory is mine!

So yeah, I'm going to have to use that blogger app at some point and give this a go on the move now I have no excuse. I'm not too sure how easy it'll be to add photos and they'll be mobile phone quality but I might give it a try and see how much of my data allowance it eats up if I can't find some free WiFi kicking about.

So that's my quick update, apologies for being an absent blogger so far this month, as far as social media goes I've probably written more words on Twitter than I have on my blog which is slightly worrying given my usual length of posts but enough about what I have or haven't done for now. Sleepy time, night all! Catch you soon.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

How I Met Your Blog Post

Ever lived in a city? Can appreciate a Liberal point of view? Possess a sense of humour? Yes?! You might be in luck my awesome readers! Haaaave you met How I Met Your Mother?

I'm sure plenty of you have but I'm going to type about it anyway. The show has been running in the states since 2005 and on the likes of E4 over here in the UK for some time but some how it slipped by my consciouness for six years before being brought to my attention via my sister-in-law and Norngirl and I starting to watch it on holiday in Mallorca back in May. Since then we've already caught up to date on as much as has been shown. On the DVDs the shows are about 20 minutes long and into those 20 minutes are crammed some brilliantly funny lines, imaginative plots, running jokes and a concept that leaves you guessing. I couldn't believe it was a US sitcom or why I hadn't seen it before May this year. If you're old enough - like 23+ you'll undoubtedly indentify with charicteristics of most of the core group of fictional friends who we get to know quite well.

The main premise of the show is that Ted Mosby, in the year 2030, is telling his two teenage children the story of how he met their mother. To that end we follow Ted taking a retrospective and life lessons learnt approach to his past. but this is 'future Ted' and his past is our present in reality - e.g in 2009 in the story was 2009 in real life but told from the perspective of 'Future' Ted in 2030 telling his kids about his life from their present. 'Current' or 'today's Ted (played by Josh Radnor) in the episodes doesn't know what he was to learn through the motions of life, love and friendship in the big apple, and we find what he and his friends got up to as if we were his kids. The key difference being that we the audience are kept on tentahooks waiting to find out that little bit more about who their mother actually is where as you'd really hope the characters of Ted's children do have some idea.

At it's base I'd describe it as 'Friends' meets 'Cheers' but with better jokes. I also see bits of Red Dwarf in there with Ted and Barney being friends who on one hand help each other but on the other hand represent opposing outlooks on life - I mean they're a bit like the characters of Arnold Rimmer and Dave Lister though it's not a perfect comparison because Barney and Ted do get on more.

According to this interview with E Entertainment the creators of the show say the concept for it came from the idea "Lets write about our friends and the stupid stuff we did in New York".

and it really shows because it really does feel like the characters fit so well to their setting and what life is like, especially for the characters of Marshal (played by Jason Segel) and Lilly (played by Alyson Hannigan) who portray a refreshingly realistic type of relationship for TV characters in a sitcom. For the most part, the show isn't filmed in New York but it is set there and apart from some of the car scenes, they do a great job of disguising this. Being set in NYC it does feel like you're there with them, they do lots of 'New York things' and spend a lot of time in their booth at their local, the MacLaren's Pub. The relationship with what is an awesome city really does add to the show but I can't say much more without starting to give things away.

As well as Ted - Architect - and his best friend Marshall Eriksen - new Lawyer - who is in a long term relationship with Lily Aldrin - kindergarten teacher, there is also Robin Scherbatsky (played by Cobie Smulders) - TV presenter/proud Canadian, and Barney Stinson (played by Neil Patrick Harris) - who does something for a not very nice company and gets paid loads for it, womanises and encourages all sorts of other randomness. I so badly would like to describe them all in more detail and reference more of the show but I'd have hated it if someone told me all the ins and outs of the characters and plot.

I'm honestly not trying to sell anything, I don't do affiliate linking on my blog. It's paid ad free :-) but if you haven't given it a chance before, I'd really recommend you do, not least because then you'll get all the obscure refreneces to it that might slip into my blog from time to time - it'd be hard not to being so densly packed with memes. Also this post serves as a 3 month warning as it is likely that when the DVDs of series 6 and then the seasons 7 and 8 are made and shown on our TV screens, that I will end up talking about it or at least referencing to it in more detail. The info is there on Wikipedia or various TV sites if you really want to know the plot without watching it but if you can, give it a watch, it's a program that really does take the pulse of today's late 20s/early 30's generation very well, a sparkles of a show, an experience that is legend. wait for it. dary!

Right, in the meantime I'm heading to read some of Barney's Blog. someone has to!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Alcúdia Old Town - In the Market for Roman Ruins

Getting back to our holiday to Mallorca in May, it was day two, the day after we'd realised that we'd forgotten how to relax. As we woke up to bright sunshine that cast rainbows onto our hotel room floor it wasn't long before we'd found the bar and the pool.

Shadow in the Rainbow

After a swim and some writing/reading and more drinks we took some time out of the sun in our room and watched the first couple of episodes of season one of 'How I Met Your Mother' on DVD on the laptop. It didn't take long for us to be totally addicted and the couple of episodes turned into half a dozen. It was a slow paced day, we watched the episodes with Vodka Sunrise cocktails and later enjoyed some more of the sun before heading along in the evening to the hotels film quiz.

We sucked at the quiz but after it it was announced there was to be a walk to the weekly market held in the old town of Alcúdia the next day, so keen to get our bearings anyway we made plans to head along. The market happens every Tuesday and Thursday in summer and though we were trying to take it easy, a bit of sightseeing and adventure was just the thing to tip the scales.

Slanty Trees

So day 3 began with a 2.5 mile walk to Alcudia Old Town where we the only ones except our guide to have thought the hike was a good idea. It was their loss as we chatted to our guide and found out a bit more about the area, the hotel and our guide himself. There were local and regional elections taking place in the area and like Northern Ireland at similar times, every lamp post and miscellaneous empty spot with a vantage point was being used to display election campaign banners and posters.

It was a nice walk, it wasn't too hot. When we arrived outside the walls of the town that date back to the 14th century we parted company with our guide for the day and went off exploring.

Walled City of Alcúdia

First of all we checked out the market which stretched from the lower walls at the base of the hill all the way through the lower part of the town. The market was very busy with people, mainly tourists but nothing much appeared to be being bought.

Alcudia Market

Except for the food sellers, most of the traders there seemed to be offering almost identical goods. The same bags, leather goods, t-shirts, jewellery and salt and pepper shakers adorned the packed stalls. I wasn't really impressed or interested to be honest and it seemed there were not many other people who were either. I'm probably just not the demographic for the goods on sale, I wasn't alone though as Norngirl didn't buy anything in the market itself either and found more that interested when she ventured into the regular shops, most of which were clothes and souvenir shops

Street in Alcúdia Old Town

Alcúdia Old Town itself was very pretty and picturesque. A stroll around the town through its grid like puzzle of tight streets was like stepping back in time.

Narrow street in Alcúdia Old Town

At the peak of the hill stands a grand building called the Church of St Jaume that was apparently (according to unsourced sources) finished in 1893.

Church of St Jaume Alcudia

Spirit of Flowers

Door to the Church of St Jaume

On our way around the town walled town we stopped for a beer and watched the world go by before carrying on to the tourist information centre. There we found some helpful leaflets about the island and the local area. One thing we did want to see were the ruins of the former Roman town. So that's where we headed next.

Alcudia Roman Archaeological Site

The entrance fee for the Roman Ruins was €3 and that included access to the small museum across the road from the Church which contained some of the archaeological artefacts from the site. The museum part was interesting but very small, really just the one big room with modern displays featuring the best major finds from the excavations of the site.

The best part though were the ruins. They are a good bit of a walk if you want to see everything including the amphitheatre but well worth it. Walking around the site gives quite an insight into the Roman settlement that once existed.

Alcúdia Roman Ruins

With the exposed foundations of buildings, a fair few pillars and more well preserved stone features there is lots to see, the site also has lots of information boards that explain the ins and outs of what your looking at.

Site of Roman Ruins

We had fun down by the amphitheatre, pretending to be gladiators. Norngirl also did a wee rendition of I'm a little teapot... don't ask, though it was a very good rendition.

Roman Amphitheater in Alcúdia

There were lots of nice views from the site too, like these poppies in a nearby field.


It was a really nice town to visit, the beer not too expensive, the tourist attractions very cheap (3 Euro's for the Ruins and Museum was a bargain) and plenty of history there to be seen, from walking the walls to visiting the church. We even made it back to admire the walls some more later in the week but more on that later.

Alcúdia Walls

All cultured out for the day and beginning to crave more 'How I Met Your Mother', we headed down into Alcudia Port. Realising that we enjoyed - or were at least capable - of relaxing by being active (yet still unable to unwind by sitting around or taking it completely easy) we booked ourselves onto a tour to Lluc and Soller for later on in the week.

The port part of Alcúdia is just a big tourist resort and the further south around the coast we saw later in the week, the more tourist-centric it seemed to become - at least the bigger the hotels got and the more fast food was on offer, very much not our thing. We headed back towards the calm of Alcanada and our hotel but before we did we stopped in a cafe and we got some refreshments. My drink being a usual that I have at home in teabag form but here I had a very nice tea leaf filtered cup of Rooiboss tea and it was very refreshing. Almost as refreshing as some of the oranges growing in gardens by the side of the road on the short walk between the Old Town and the port.

Orange Tree

We walked back to the hotel and in total it turns out we had walked a good 6 miles during the day by the time we got back to our room. Our feet were really starting to feel it so it was a quick dress change before plunging ourselves into an empty and very soothing swimming pool.

The rest of the day we did spend relaxing, turns out a long walk and tiring yourselves out is good way to facilitate relaxation of the lazy variety - it dawned on us this is probably one of the reasons why we love visiting big cities and sightseeing so much.

The evenings entertainment in the hotel was a thing called the 'Crazy Mix' and lets just say it was unique. We agreed after the show that the ladies who work there really don't get paid enough... because you couldn't have paid us to do what they did for anything short of a small fortune. We retired to our room with some drinks and day four was to be known as 'Gym Day'.


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