Articles tagged with "night"

Medan

Medan

Thunderstorms over Nicaragua

Thunderstorms over Nicaragua

The Hell Itch passed. By the time I got on the flight from Houston to Santiago it seemed like an insane dream. During the night, we flew over Nicaragua, and I tried to recognise places I’d been. The Milky Way was bright, and there were thunderstorms flickering on the horizon.


Milky Way over the caldera

Milky Way over the caldera

In this photo, you can see the glow of lava from the summit crater and also, in the distance, the glow of lava from another lava lake in Pu’u O’o crater.


Waikiki

Waikiki

I had wanted to go to Hawaii for years and years. It’s a common place for astronomers to go to, as it’s got one of the world’s best locations for observatories on top of Mauna Kea, but I’d never had a chance to go there. This year the opportunity finally came, when the IAU General Assembly was held there. Thousands of astronomers converged on Honolulu and spent a week sharing their research. I didn’t see much of the city – my time was taken up by preparing my own talks, giving my talks, and listening to other people’s talks. But I stayed in a hostel right by the beach so I went there a few times.


Pão de Açúcar

Pão de Açúcar

I went to Rio’s other extraordinarily famous viewpoint, Pão de Açúcar. I climbed Morro da Urca and then got a cable car up to the top to see the sun set and the city look incredible once again.


Cristo Redentor

Cristo Redentor

By the time it was getting properly dark, there were only a few people left. Raccoons were beginning to appear, looking for scraps of food. I got the last bus down and walked back to where I was staying in Botafogo.


Evening explosions

Evening explosions

I headed down from the crater at about 7.15am and I was back at the campsite by 8am. I slept for most of the day, finally shaking off the mystery illness, and in the afternoon I walked back up the path to spend some more time watching the very insides of the Earth spewing out. As night fell, the deep red glow of the lava came out again.


Rainy night at Circular Quay

Rainy night at Circular Quay

I’ve been to Sydney five times on three trips to Australia, and every time, it’s rained heavily at some point.


The bridge

The bridge

The classic sights of Sydney, on a warm winter’s evening.


NGTS

NGTS

The Next Generation Transit Survey is being commissioned at Paranal. It will consists of 12 small telescopes, all operating remotely to search for planets around other stars. I went over there to take some photos as they were preparing for their official first light.


Mirador El Litre

Mirador El Litre

It was a nice evening with much less smog that when I’d climbed Cerro Carbón a few days ago. I decided to head up the trail again, but just to Mirador El Litre, half way up the mountain, for some evening views of the city. I cycled from my house to La Piramide and realised when I got there that I’d left my bike lock at home. So I dragged the bike up the hill a little way, vaguely hid it in some undergrowth, and hoped there were no bike thieves around.

The evening views from the mirador were pretty awesome and I stayed until it was dark. Coming down the hill was scarier than I’d anticipated – my torch suddenly lit up two red eyes on the trail ahead of me, and I approached cautiously. Then, suddenly, as I got closer, there was an loud flap and the bird I’d woken up took off, almost flying into my face.

Back at the bottom, I found my bike still where I’d left it, and cycled home.


Familiar stars

Familiar stars

São Miguel do Gostoso is not far south of the equator, and when the night sky was clear I could see a lot of stars that I don’t see from Chile. It seemed strange to me to see the Plough to the north, familiar from my native mid-northern latitudes, and at the same time in the same sky see the Southern Cross to the south.


Two halves of the sky

Two halves of the sky

A view from out the back of the residencia, where you can see the southern stars trailing to the right, and the northern stars trailing to the left.


Hubble over UT3

Hubble over UT3

Spotting Hubble going over is always nice. It’s not so easy to see – you can’t miss the International Space Station when it goes over, but Hubble is much smaller and fainter. It also orbits a bit lower so it’s often crossing the sky in twilight. Tonight, though, it was already quite dark when I caught it going over UT3


Trails over Melipal and Yepun

Trails over Melipal and Yepun

Star trails over two of the four telescopes which make up the VLT. To make this image I stacked 750 individual photos, each one a 20s exposure at ISO 400, using a 24mm lens at f/1.4.

Video


Southern Cross over Yepun and Melipal

Southern Cross over Yepun and Melipal

Everyone’s favourite southern constellation over two of the telescopes at Paranal, with the Coalsack Nebula, the Eta Carina nebula, and the two Magellanic Clouds also visible.


Laser fire

Laser fire

UT4 is equipped with a laser. It creates an artificial star from which the way the atmosphere is moving can be measured, and then corrected for in real time by distorting the telescope mirror. It’s incredible technology which allows amazingly sharp images to be taken, and it also looks extremely cool from out on the platform.


Star trails over the Residencia

Star trails over the Residencia

A view towards the residencia from the platform at Paranal. I made this photo by stacking 500 photos, each of which was a 5s exposure at ISO 3200.


Arctic night

Arctic night

After two weeks, just as I was really getting over my epic jetlag, it was time to head back to the other side of the planet. Once more over Siberia, but this time at night, so I wasn’t expecting to see too much. And the flight started badly when KLM didn’t have a vegetarian meal for me. They’d done exactly the same on the way out, so I was pretty disgusted at their incompetence when they screwed up a second time. I won’t be flying with KLM again.

So I slept angrily for a few hours, then woke up somewhere south of Novaya Zemlya. I looked out the window, and I thought I could see the very first light of dawn – the whole sky to the north looked bright. But sunrise was still hours away. As I looked, I realised that it was the northern lights.

The display filled the northern horizon and got brighter. I could see green curtains and red clouds drifting around the skies. It was a long way to the north and not as bright as the epic aurorae that I’d seen from the ground in Iceland in 2010, but it was still incredible. I felt like waking up the people near me – if I’d have been sleeping while this was going on outside I’d have wanted someone to tell me. But then again they might just think I was crazy. And if they were asleep they only had themselves to blame. So I watched the show by myself.


Rainy night in Taipei

Rainy night in Taipei

All week it had been the most beautiful weather, cool and fresh but clear blue skies and lots of sunshine, but at the weekend it took a turn for the worse. I’d got a cable car to Maokong, which was a pretty cool place for night views of the city, but then when I went back to the cable car station to go down, it turned out to be closed because of high winds. They were handing out large numbers of chairs to the people queueing, and we didn’t understand at all what was going on but we took chairs and joined the queue in sitting down. The winds got stronger and stronger and eventually we were all sat in a gale which blasted us with dust and debris. Occasionally the queue moved forward suddenly, but only when we got very close to the front did we work out that they were putting on replacement buses.

The next day, we went up Taipei 101. I always like going up tall buildings in cities at night, and even though this tall building was no longer the tallest one in the world I was still looking forward to going to the top. But, it’s a popular place, the queues were long, and although there was blue sky overhead when we went in, by the time we got to the top it was in cloud. We could see almost nothing.

Back down at the bottom, it was raining. I took a scenic route back to Taipei Main Station via some sculptures.


CN Tower

CN Tower

On a Thursday evening, I was gripped by a sudden urge to travel. It happens sometimes. I checked out flight prices, but it was Easter weekend and everywhere in Europe was absurdly overpriced. I looked down a list of flight prices, scrolling to ever higher prices in search of somewhere that was even remotely both affordable and interesting. And then I spotted a flight to Canada, for a very reasonable sum, leaving the next morning. Before I even knew what I was doing, I’d gone and bought the tickets.

And so only a matter of hours later I was touching down in Toronto, on a cold overcast April day. I headed into the city with no plan at all. One of the first things I caught sight of was naturally the CN Tower, once the tallest structure in the world. I went up and watched night fall over the city.


Foggy morning

Foggy morning

Sunday evening in Luxembourg was far from thrilling. I passed the evening in a cafe, which was not serving much food. I could only get soup, so I had three bowls for my evening meal.

In the morning I had to get up at 5am to catch a train back to London. I walked out into the darkness and found the country swathed in thick fog. As I walked back along the Corniche, the lights of the houses on the valley floor shone through.

The train left Luxembourg in darkness, and I fell asleep in a more or less empty carriage. When I woke a couple of hours later, the carriage was full and I was surrounded by commuters heading into Brussels. A grey day was dawning, and rain was falling as I changed trains at Brussels. I got a coffee and pastry from the same cafe I’d been to on the way, and then got the Eurostar back to St. Pancras.


City twilight

City twilight

Picturesque as it was, Luxembourg was not a great place for a solo traveller. The demographic here was pretty different to the one I inhabit, and I wandered the streets for a while seeing few signs of fun nightlife but plenty of expensive restaurants. Not wanting to spend large quantities of Euros on my evening meal, I ended up getting a crêpe from a cafe, and then spending the evening walking around the high parts of town and watching night fall.


Luxembourg

Luxembourg

I’d kind of been to Luxembourg before, passing through at the age of six on the way from the UK to Switzerland on my first ever trip outside the UK. But it occurred to me that I had absolutely no idea what the place was like, would not recognise a picture of the place if I saw one, and yet it was only 300 miles away and very easy to get to.

So I bought some Eurostar tickets and went there. A high speed journey took me to grey rainy Brussels in less than two hours. I got a coffee and pastry for breakfast in Midi station, then got on the much slower train to Luxembourg. The clouds cleared and the sun was shining as we passed through the snowy forests of the Ardennes.

I can’t imagine ever getting bored of arriving in a place I’ve never been to before, especially one so close to home but so completely obscure to me. I was in a good mood as I walked out of the station and into the city. I walked randomly towards the centre, crossed a soaring bridge over the Pétrusse valley, and then found myself on the Corniche, a narrow road along a cliff edge over the Alzette valley. I was wondering why I’d never, to the best of my recollection, seen even a single photo of this town. Later, as the sun was setting, I went to the ruined fortifications of the city and headed up to some viewpoints as the lights were coming on.


Durban-Corbières

Durban-Corbières

I got a train to Narbonne, and then headed to Durban-Corbières, a tiny town in Languedoc-Rousillon. I spent a fantastic fortnight there with my family, relaxing in the hot sun, swimming in the pool, eating good food and enjoying a good life. I went for one moderately long cycle around the hills but otherwise did more or less nothing. My travel style is not normally like that; a holiday without uncertainty, hardship and fear is not really a holiday by my reckoning. But just every now and again it’s nice to actually relax. The view from our villa to the crumbling castle was more or less my only view of the outside world for two weeks.

Two weeks of slothful living passed very quickly, and all too soon it was time to pack up and go.


Icing on the cake

Icing on the cake

The orange glow receded. Árni reckoned the eruption was much smaller now than when he’d last seen it a week ago, but it had been awesome to see it nonetheless.

Our return journey was much slower than the outward leg. The trail had got icier, and the gale was getting stronger. We bounced around so much that I felt seasick, climbing back up to the heights of the Mýrdalsjökull. At one point, another car in the convoy got stuck, and Árni had to jump out to attach a towrope. The icy blast as he opened the door was breathtaking. It took a little while to extricate the other car, and I wondered if we would need to get out and push. I didn’t much fancy that.

Luckily we got going again, and pushed on. As we descended, I started to become sure that I could see the northern lights. When we reached the edge of the glacier, we stopped to reinflate the tyres, and here there was no doubt. The wind was whipping up a fog of blown snow, but through that I could see that the sky was full of dancing green lights. We carried on down, the wind began to drop and the lights got brighter.

We reached sea level at about 3am. I was beginning to get a tiny bit worried – my flight was leaving Keflavík at 8am and it was going to take a few more hours yet to reach Reykjavík. But if I missed my flight, then so be it. Right now I was just concerned with feeling awestruck. We stopped at Skógafoss, reinflated the tyres a bit more, and here the lights were stunning, flying overhead like curtains billowing in a colossal breeze.

We drove on, stopping in the middle of nowhere briefly to pick up some people whose car had broken down as they were trying to get to the volcano. The lights seemed brighter than I ever remembered them and at the end of a spectacular day of travelling, this was almost too much to take in. I was having a natural wonder overdose.

We headed on. The small hours grew larger, and I fell fast asleep. I woke as we approached Reykjavík, where we arrived at 5am. I had just enough time to brew a painfully strong coffee before heading back to the airport as the sun was rising. My weekend had been perilously close to turning into an appalling waste of time and money but we’d snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. I could not have been happier as I headed back to the UK. Later it turned out that just a few hours after I’d been there, the Fimmvörðuháls eruption stopped. After a day of calm, a new and much bigger eruption started a few miles away, causing massive disruption to European air travel as a huge ash cloud drifted over the continent. Much as I’d have loved to see that, my timing was pretty good. If I hadn’t left when I did I might still be there now.

Snæfell is still calling me. I’ll be going back to Iceland before too long.


Font Màgica

Font Màgica

I’d heard about the Font Màgica last time I was here. It sounded a bit cheesy and I wasn’t too keen on visiting, but on the other hand it was up on Montjuïc and I thought there might be some good views over the city. So we all went up there, arriving just as the show started.

To my surprise I was quite impressed. The timing was good, with the sun having set and the sky darkening as the water shone in rainbows of colour. The number of people there made it difficult to see the show that well, but it was better than I’d expected. And after it was over we walked up to the front of the Palau Nacional and looked out over the city as the crowds dispersed.


Still trailing

Still trailing

The nights passed. We lost half of one due to technical problems, but we were a night up thanks to the earlier “technical” night, so we weren’t unhappy. The observations ran smoothly and I had plenty of time during our long hours tracking each object to go out and look at the sky.

There were vizcachas, Andean foxes, and donkeys around the observatory. In the night, I kept hearing noises of animal movements in the dark, and I was never sure what was actually there. I’d go to remote parts of the observatory, set the camera going and then head back to the comfort of the control room, the kitchen, or the pool table, where each morning we would continue an epic series of games. One of them was slightly disrupted by a magnitude 5.5 earthquake, which I still maintain led to my narrow 39-38 defeat in the series.


Rotation

Rotation

Our run started early, in the end. A whole night was scheduled for technical work which ended up being finished early, so we were let at the NTT controls a night ahead of plan. This was a bonus, and we set to work, observing luminous stars in our galaxy and two others a few tens of thousands of light years away.

I had time during the night to set up some star trail shots. The sky was clear, though the humidity stayed just a little bit too high for conditions to be absolutely perfect.


Leuven again

Leuven again

I must have been in a really bad mood in February. I’d spent two days in Leuven, it had rained all the time, and I would rather have been in many other places. I wrote bad things about the place in my journal and generally didn’t like it. When I found that I would have to go back in November, straight after the Rammstein gig, I wasn’t too keen.

Maybe my February mood wasn’t so bad, it was just that my November mood was so good. Whatever the reason, I had a great time in Belgium this time. I was there for work but we also had time to socialise and enjoy the good vibe that Leuven has, when you’re in the right frame of mind to perceive it. When our meeting was over, I was disappointed to be heading back to London.


Brussels

Brussels

I stopped in Brussels on my way back home from Leuven. I got off in the centre and went for a quick look at the Grand Place, and I was going to walk down to Midi station but decided against it when it started raining heavily. I walked back to Brussels Central and got a train instead.


TV Tower

TV Tower

We got the train back to Prague and got back after sunset. Near the hostel I could see the Žižkov TV Tower. It looked pretty ugly, but I imagined that the views from the top would be good, so I headed up there. It was disappointing, in the end: the viewing area was inside behind panes of glass, and it was all lit up so that the views and photos were all spoiled by reflections.

At the bottom, I looked back up at the tower, and noticed the spooky ‘baby’ sculptures crawling up its legs. It looked ugly from far away, but it was much more of a work of art when seen up close. I took photos as the clouds raced overhead.


Wenceslas Square

Wenceslas Square

In 1989, as revolutions swept Europe and the continent changed forever, I was too young to know what was going on. But I did remember hearing certain places mentioned on the news, and Wenceslas Square was one of them. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered here as the communist regime fell.

When I was there, the square was lined with markets and filled with tourists. I had walked past the top end of the square on my epic trek from the centre to my hostel, and now I walked back up to the top, knowing now which way lay endless suburbs and which way my hostel was.


Toompea

Toompea

It was just about dark when I got back into town. I headed back up Toompea again, hoping that the CD-selling giant would not be there this time so that I could enjoy the views at my leisure. Luckily he wasn’t. With clouds breaking up to reveal a deep blue sky, it was perfect photography weather.


Bratislava

Bratislava

I’d tried to come to Bratislava before. In January 2007, I had a trip booked, but then there were catastrophic delays in the Stansted Express and I missed the flight. So I felt like this was unfinished business, and I was in a good mood as we landed at Bratislava airport.

I got into town late. I went for a walk, and the city was quiet. I found my way down to the banks of the Danube, by the UFO bridge. A freight boat glided by in the darkness.


Ioannina

Ioannina

We didn’t spend a whole lot of time in Ioannina itself, but we had a look around the mediaeval fortress, and got a boat to the island in the lake and explored that. The town was the last stronghold of local legend Ali Pasha, who went rogue and declared his own personal fiefdom, ending up holed up in a small house on the island, where a crack squad of Ottomans eventually turned up to terminate him with extreme prejudice.


Back to Budapest

Back to Budapest

I’d wanted to go to Budapest for years, and had finally got there in February. A few months later I decided to go there again. I was planning to travel through the Balkans, and Budapest was a nice cheap place to get to, only a night train away from Belgrade. I booked to stay at the same hostel I’d been to before, and arrived two hours late with Wizz Air just as I had before. What was different, though, was that it was incredibly hot.

I only had one day in Budapest. Last time, I’d failed to find the soundtrack to Kontroll, an amazing film described boldly as the best Hungarian film of 2004. This time I made it my first priority, and with some recommendations of record shops from Olga the hostel owner, I got hold of it.

I’d got what I came for, and so I went out to Keleti station to buy a ticket for the night train to Serbia. In breathtaking heat I queued for about half an hour, in a long line of travellers. Serbia was a very popular destination, because the EXIT festival in Novi Sad was imminent.

I had a few hours to kill before the train, and so I went up Gellért Hill, to watch the lights of the city come on as night fell. It was good to be back in Hungary, but I reckoned it would be even better to be in Serbia. I headed back out to Keleti to get the midnight train to Belgrade.


Moon river

Moon river

We went to Calle Betis on Sunday to see what was going on there. Not much, was the answer. Most bars were closed, and the only one we found that was open was extremely quiet. We decided to call it a night at about 1am. Outside, the clouds had cleared, and the moon was shining.


Belfast

Belfast

The train to Belfast was busy but I got a window seat, and watched the Irish countryside pass by as night fell. It was raining heavily when I arrived, and it looked like being a miserable walk to the university. Luckily the rain soon stopped, and I found my way to the city centre, which was empty and quiet, and then to the hostel I was staying at, just across the road from Queens University.


Danube

Danube

I walked back along the Pest embankment to the hostel I was staying at. I stopped at a cash point, where I made a major miscalculation of the exchange rate. Pressing the number 0 one too many times, I found myself carrying over three hundred pounds worth of forints. Unaccustomed to carrying this much cash, I hurried nervously back to the hostel, where I eyed my fellow travellers with suspicion and paranoia.

As night fell I headed out to take night photos. As I got to the river bank, the sky was deep blue, Castle Hill was lighting up, and the city looked good.


Canals

Canals

We’d been hoping for a good night out in Gothenburg, but it was a Sunday and the only place that looked lively was charging 100SEK to get in. So we had a quiet evening. Compared to the first time I’d been here, it was far warmer, and it was nice to walk around without feeling exhausted by cold. Canals that had been frozen solid last time were liquid now, and parks that had been buried by snow were grassy.


Halmstad

Halmstad

We saw the sun setting over Denmark across the water. We arrived in Halmstad after dark, with our main aim being to check out the night life. But before we could do that, we needed somewhere to stay. My guide book said there was a place 4km out of town, towards the E6 motorway, so we headed out in that direction. We walked, and walked, and walked. My feet began to hurt. We walked on, and I started cursing Eldrik for travelling with a ridiculous wheely suitcase thing instead of an obviously more practical backpack. The constant rumbling got a bit tiring after a few kilometres, and eventually he started wheeling on the grass.

After about an hour, we began to think that we weren’t in the right place. The hostel was supposedly on Växjögatan, and Eldrik grabbed a passer-by to practise his Swedish on. I could just about follow the gist of the conversation, and it went something like “Excuse me. Do you know if Växjögatan is near here?” “Växjögatan? I’ve never heard of it” “Um.. ok. Do you know of any hostels near here?” “Nope”

So we had definitely gone wrong. We were near a huge shopping centre, and there was a fast food place open, so we boosted morale by eating dirty burgers, then got a bus back into town to reconsider our options. Plan B was to check prices at hotels in town, but they were way beyond our means. We then moved onto Plan C, which was to skip Halmstad and head on to Gothenburg. We headed for the station, only to find that the next train wasn’t for almost two hours. So we quickly put together Plan D: we found a map of the town at the train station, and it appeared that my guide book had sent us out of town on the wrong road. We would head down what we thought now was the right road, and if we hadn’t found the hostel within 45 minutes, we’d get out of this place and head on. So off we went out of town again, and this time after about half an hour we found what we were looking for, the Hostel Laxen.

Once we’d recovered from our explorations, we got a bus back into town, and went out. After a few hours in the town centre I decided to head home. There were no night buses out in our direction, so I walked another three miles back out to the Laxen. In the morning, we walked back in, again, and headed north. We’d walked thirteen miles during our stay in Halmstad.


Valletta again

Valletta again

I wanted to go to Ħaġar Qim, supposedly one of the great ancient ruins of the world. It is thousands of years old, and shrouded in mystery. So as it was only 3.30pm, when I spotted a sign saying “Ħaġar Qim, 4km”, I decided to follow it. I walked for an hour, and then decided the sign had been lying because I was clearly nowhere near it. I walked on, but by now the sun was getting very low, so when I came to a sign saying Ħaġar Qim one way, and Siġġiewi the other, I had to choose between going down unlit roads to get to ruins that were probably already closed, or going to a nearby town and getting the bus back to Valletta. I decided on the latter, and thought at least it was a reason to come back here.

So I walked to Siġġiewi, got a bus back to Valletta, and then had a couple of hours to kill before I needed to head for the airport. I walked back down to the Lower Barrakka Gardens and took some photos. I had liked Malta a lot more than I thought I would.


Bucharest

Bucharest

It was hot and humid in Bucharest, and I stayed in a hostel above a really sleazy nightclub. I went for a late night walk around the city when I arrived. I’d read about Bucharest’s amazing stray dog problem before I came, and when I’d arrived on the night train from Chişinău I’d seen a few running about on the tracks. Now, in the quiet city at midnight, it was clear that some dark streets were dog territory and best avoided. The dogs apparently all descended from a time when there had been massive redevelopments in Bucharest, in which people were moved to higher quality accommodation but weren’t allowed to take their pets with them.

I managed to avoid getting bitten by the dogs of Bucharest, and I thought the city looked pretty impressive in places. It slightly reminded me of Beijing in a way, with its broad streets filled with pounding traffic, the activity and bustle carrying on late into the night, and the hot sweltering air.


Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Hong Kong was nearly a disaster. I walked through Hung Hom station, found a cashpoint and realised I didn’t have my wallet with me. I searched around for a lost property office, working out what kind of a plan I might have if the wallet was lost. I was imagining getting around by walking, and eating a slice of bread once a day, but luckily when I found the office, they radioed the train and someone found my wallet on the floor of my compartment.

I would have like Hong Kong anyway, but having seen my trip come back from the brink of disaster I was in an excellent mood as I walked out into Kowloon. I headed for Nathan Road and the Chungking Mansions, an incredible rabbit warren of restaurants, shops, currency exchanges and cheap accommodation. You can’t walk into the mansions carrying a rucksack and not get hassled by hotel owners, and I allowed myself to be persuaded into a place on the third floor. For a negligible cost I got myself a spot in a tiny airless room with two stainless steel traders from Bombay and a traveller from Melbourne.

It was cool and humid. As evening fell I walked down to the tip of the Kowloon peninsula, for my first view of the skyline of Hong Kong Island.


Train to Shanghai

Train to Shanghai

In the morning I was woken at 7am by a thunderstorm, and felt disorientated to find myself in a strange room. I couldn’t sleep, and no-one else was up, so I decided to just hit the road. I’d thought about heading out to the river to see if I could get a boat down to Shanghai, but with heavy rain falling I decided just to get a train. I got the metro to the train station, taking note of the signs instructing me to ‘wait in safe-line’ and ‘care the gap’.

The station was a scene of chaos, and I felt that my lack of Chinese and shattered state was going to make things tricky. But the queues were fast moving, and the English-speaking girl behind the window sold me a ticket for a train leaving for Shanghai in ten minutes. I got on, found my way to a seat, and then slept all the way to Shangai, dreaming crazy dreams.

It was 4pm when I arrived in China’s biggest city, and I hadn’t eaten all day. I got on the metro, assisted by a friendly local who I thought might be after a tip like the woman at Beijing airport had been, but he wasn’t. He asked me where I was going, showed me how to buy a ticket, and was gone before I could say ‘xie xie’. And so I headed from the train station to Henan Zhong Lu, and walked down to the Huangpu River.


Mirador de San Nicolás

Mirador de San Nicolás

On top of the hill opposite the Alhambra was the mirador de San Nicolás. It was full of crusties, juggling, selling handicraft, smoking and chilling. I went up there one evening to take photos of the city at night, and while I was there, two policemen appeared and started to walk slowly across the square.

Instantly the atmosphere turned incredibly hostile. All the crusties started jeering and whistling at the policemen. They didn’t seem to mind too much, and carried on strolling past. Shouts and boos carried on until they got to the other side.

The square had been packed with tourists as well as crusties, but after the police had left, the tourists quickly dispersed.


Seeing stars

Seeing stars

During the fourth night, all was going smoothly. The air was dry, the skies were clear, and I was running as quickly through my observing programme as I could. Suddenly, after a couple of hours, the telescope control system started beeping – the humidity was higher than the telescope could take and I had to close everything down quickly. A few minutes later it had dropped right back down. I opened up again and carried on.

It did this a couple more times during the night. At 5.45am I closed up and I couldn’t open again. By dawn, the mountain was in thick cloud. The visibility was about ten metres, and the NOT quickly disappeared from sight as I drove back to the Residencia.


Suburb tour

Suburb tour

I wanted to go up the TV Tower in Vilnius. It looked like the views from it would be awesome, so I followed the instructions in my guidebook and got trolleybus number 7 from by the station. The windows of the aging machine were scratched and opaque, so it was a bit difficult to keep an eye on where we were as we rumbled out into the suburbs, but I kept on seeing the TV tower getting closer. After a while we seemed to be almost there, and then the tower disappeared behind a hill. I thought the next stop must be where I needed to get off, but we drove on for what seemed like ages, and when I caught sight of the tower again and it was miles away.

I got off, finding myself in Justiniškės. It was getting dark, and I was in a forest of Soviet-era tower blocks. There was no direct line from here to the tower, so all I could do was cross the road and get the number 7 trolleybus back into town. Later I found that my guidebook was wrong, and I needed bus number 7 as opposed to trolleybus number 7.

Having missed out on the tower, I decided to head back to Gediminas Hill. After a beautiful day, the skies were clear and the temperature was plummeting. Orion shone overhead, and the Old Town looked impressive as it lit up. I took a few photos, then headed back to the hostel, to sit by a warm fire all evening.


Riga

Riga

Ryanair had just started flying to Riga. I’d never been to the Baltic so I head north for a few days, for a slice of real winter weather.

I got to Riga late at night, and after I’d found a place to stay I headed out to explore. The city centre is ringed by parkland, and it was quiet and thickly covered with snow. Although the temperature was about -10°C it didn’t feel too cold.