A Perambulation around Paramaribo: Part 4

So, continuing with my second expedition around Paramaribo, after walking down palm tree lined streets (which provided welcome relief from the relentless equatorial sunshine – on a brief aside, I got rather sunburned last week when I was out, so this week I took more precautions – the old long sleeved shirt and linen trousers routine, along with my “Indiana Jones-esque” hat.  Luckily it seems to have worked this time!).

I’d just reached the part of town where the mosque and synagogue are. They’re very close to one another, as in, right next door.  Middle East take note – you can be friends!

Mosque (left), synagogue (right).

Mosque (left), synagogue (right)

Unfortunately they were both closed, but they were rather picturesque nevertheless.  The synagogue, like the cathedral, is also built out of wood and dates from the seventeenth century.

The wooden synagogue

The wooden synagogue

The mosque was stunning.  I’ve always rather liked Islamic architecture.  I find that it is very elegant with all the domes, arches and geometric patterns, and this mosque was no different. Unfortunately there was no muezzin singing to complete the experience while I was standing outside, you can’t have it all I guess!

20141115_104722

Finally, having crossed off two more sights in the city, I decided to amble back towards the hotel/office.  I took a different route, in order to maximise the areas of town that I’d see.  Passing the block where Readytex was (where I bought my flag – see this post), I eventually emerged at the waterfront by the Central Market.  I’d definitely like to visit the market again before I leave, but decided not to today (it was starting to get rather quite hot at this point)!  Instead I continued along the bank of the Suriname river down the charming Waterkant (a key part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Historic Inner City of Paramaribo), past the Central Bank of Suriname.

The Central Bank of Suriname

The Central Bank of Suriname

As it’s a Saturday today, the bank is of course closed.  I’m aiming to go back one weekday though, as there’s a Numismatic Museum there that shows the history of money in Suriname.  It’s open 08:00-14:00, so I could always go in the morning before work, we shall see. Continuing along this road brought me back to Independence Square. I passed the National Assembly before returning to the office.

The National Assembly

The National Assembly

A Perambulation around Paramaribo: Part 3

Yeah!  It’s back once more (and I’m too lazy to think up a new title, so that’s also part of it).  Today is another quiet day (as work that was going to be done today ended up being given to us yesterday, which means it’s already been done – if that makes sense)?  Anyway, enough of that.  I’ve once more been out around the city, this time ticking off a couple more of the Lonely Planet sights.

The aim for the day was to go and have a look at the city’s mosque and synagogue.  However, the first building of note that I passed was the Foreign Ministry.

The Foreign Ministry

The Foreign Ministry (on the right)

Continuing along the road, I passed the cathedral (see my previous post for pictures) before heading down a road on the left.  I’d noticed on the map that there was a small square that looked like a park, as it was on the way to the mosque and synagogue, I thought I’d have a look.  The building in the centre of the grassy area was the Reformed Church.

The Reformed Chuch

The Reformed Church

Continuing down the palm lined streets in the hot Saturday morning sunshine, I enjoyed the Dutch colonial architecture that pervades the city.

20141115_104156

A little farther along, I came across some rather picturesque overgrown houses.  It reminded me of the old houses in Britain that have creepers growing all over them, a bit like Lincoln College at The Other Place, but with a more tropical atmosphere.

20141115_104332

Emerging on yet another street, I’d reached the area where the mosque and synagogue are, but, like the previous expedition, that’ll be in a separate part!

A Perambulation around Paramaribo: Part 2

There are two reasons why I decided to split up my trip into a multipart extravaganza.  The main reason is because one long post would have been exceptionally photo heavy, and secondly, because the internet is very slow here, and it would have taken an age to upload all the other photos.  Oh, and because everyone loves a multipart special!

Anyway, picking up from where we left off from yesterday, on my journey around the central area of Paramaribo, I’d reached the wooden cathedral of St Peter and St Paul.  It was rather striking, and is built entirely out of wood (as far as I know).  Crossing the road, I went inside.

20141108_114729

Unlike the mediæval stone cathedrals of Europe, this one was very light and airy inside.  This was definitely a good move, given how hot it was outside.  Being in the shade was a refreshing change at this point, as I’d been out in the sun for the best part of an hour and a half (and being of Northern European descent, my skin was getting a rather sound beating from the sun)!

20141108_114857

With the cathedral having been seen, it was time to make my way slowly back to the hotel where I was staying (and where the office is situated).  En route, I stopped by Independence Square (which I’d passed on my way into town, but hadn’t stopped at).  Various important government buildings surround the square, including the Presidential Palace, the Finance Ministry, and the National Assembly.

The Presidential Palace

The Presidential Palace

The Finance Ministry

The Finance Ministry

Moving round to the riverside edge of the square one finds Fort Zeelandia.  Originally built by the Dutch, it was extended and reinforced by the Brits (Fun Fact: it turns out Suriname was one of Britain’s colonies for a bit, but it was swapped for what is now New York as part of the peace settlement reached at the end of the Second Anglo-Dutch War).

Fort Zeelandia

Fort Zeelandia

The final stop on my two hour expedition was to the Palmentuin, the oldest park in Paramaribo, and a national monument.  It was a delightful place (aside from the warnings not to visit it at night from the FCO).  However at midday it was very peaceful.  It contains around 1,000 palm trees, giving it an exceptionally tropical vibe.

20141108_120817

After this, I strolled back to the office before grabbing lunch.  All in all, a very enjoyable and interesting morning!

A Perambulation around Paramaribo: Part 1

Due to various reasons, too numerous and tedious to list here, there has been no work to do since I arrived in Suriname on Tuesday evening.  I have however been required to man the office with my colleague during office hours.  Sadly this has led to exceptionally itchy feet being developed (figuratively speaking of course), as it seemed a bit of a wasted opportunity to sit in an office with nothing to do, whilst in a country one is highly unlikely to ever return to again.  Fortunately, my colleague this morning (for we work 7 days a week the entire time we are out here) said I could have a couple of hours off to have a look around.  Said colleague instantly became a hero in my book, and I seized the opportunity with a slightly manic level of enthusiasm.  Having a quick look at Lonely Planet webpage for Paramaribo, it lists the sum total of nine things to see (at the time of writing).  Of these, there are more or less two duplicates, leading to a realistic count of around seven things to see (although the Cathedral isn’t listed on that site).  Anyway, without further ado, let’s get down to business.

A tradition that I started during my Chilean exploits, I have bought the national flag of each country I have been to, and so top of the to do list was the need to acquire a Surinamese flag.  Fortunately I’d done my homework, and I knew exactly where to buy one.  There’s an arts and crafts shop called Readytex that caters to tourists, and so this was the first target of the day.  To get there I walked along the riverside, and enjoyed the colonial architecture and saw the Suriname River, along with the bridge and the wreck of De Goslar (link in Dutch), which was sunk in 1940 and has been there ever since.

20141108_104944

After buying my flag, I took a quick detour to look at a church, and went in search of the Central Market.  This was enormous, with all sorts of fruits, vegetables, and fish on sale from a plethora of vendors.

20141108_112711

Inside the covered area of the market was an enormous array of stalls, selling more fruit and vegetables.  There was also an upstairs section where clothes and other assortments were available for purchase.

20141108_113040

Looking at the ground floor of the market from the staircase up to the first floor

Next door to the main building of the market was another, smaller one that sold a variety of herbs and other odds and ends.

20141108_113724

After exploring these various stalls, I headed back out into the baking equatorial midday sunshine, and ambled to my next destination, the wooden cathedral of St Peter and St Paul.  That is where the next instalment will continue from.

Gooooood Morning Suriname!

So I have arrived.  The flights were long and uneventful, especially the transfer at Amsterdam Schiphol, but I am at least here.  It’s a stark contrast to the UK here, with temperatures of 30C all year round (much nicer than the 6C I left behind)!  Upon stepping off the plane, I was greeted with a smell I’d only encountered once before, in London.  It was the smell of the rainforest (hardly a big surprise given that the airport was in the Amazon!).  (In London the same smell may be found inside the Palm House at Kew Gardens in case you’re wondering why there’s a rainforest smell in London).

20141105_114541

Paramaribo is a rather quaint capital city.  There are no high rise buildings to be seen anywhere, and many of the houses are built in the style of Dutch houses.  Palm trees are found everywhere, and there are (what I assume to be) tropical birds singing.  Unfortunately, given that I’m working here rather than holidaying, I won’t get to see much of the city, but such is life.  Something is better than nothing though of course!

20141105_121616

Today is fairly quiet aside from a couple of meetings (in reality this equates a casual chat with various people), but tomorrow the work is likely to ramp up some more.

20141105_082805

Adventures in the Wilderness

Well, I’m back from Scotland, and have started my new job.  What better time to reminisce over the holidays?  As a result without any further ado, I’ll talk about my Scottish adventure.

AW and I planned a few months ago to visit the most remote pub on the island of Great Britain.  It’s in a small town called Inverie, and is accessible only by boat, or a 30 odd mile hike.  Obviously we decided to hike in, and then get the boat out (stopping overnight to enjoy the pub itself of course).

After getting the overnight train from Euston to Glasgow, then another train from Glasgow to Glenfinnan (with the viaduct of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets fame), we started our walk around 1pm.

The famous Glenfinnan viaduct

The famous Glenfinnan viaduct

The scenery was wonderful, but the weather was cloudy with light drizzle. The route was fairly simple, and essentially took us up a glen, over a pass, then back down the other side.  Unfortunately for us, the weather turned at the summit of the pass, and once we’d crossed over the other side, we were completely drenched, owing to the heavy rain and strong winds.  At around 7pm, we finally got down the second glen, when we were faced with having to ford a very deep and fast flowing river.  It took us quite a while to decide where to cross, and it was about knee deep (resulting in a total drenching)!  The challenge that immediately followed was to cross an area of land described by a sign as “dangerous bog”, which was rather reassuring. It was certainly a bog (I personally can vouch for this as I ended up thigh deep in it on several occasions)!  Anyway, we eventually got to where we were going to camp, but the weather was still horrendous, so instead we elected to push on through a forest to a bothy.

A'Chuil bothy and the surrounding countryside

A’Chuil bothy and the surrounding countryside

Upon reaching the bothy, we were ecstatic, and we quickly made ourselves at home and had some tea (after collecting water from the river outside).  There was one other occupant inside, a man called Dave who had done the walk many times, amongst lots of others in the area.  We chatted until 11pm or so, after which we went to sleep (after leaving some chocolate buttons out for the resident mice).

The next day dawned, and we packed and left.  The destination for this day was another bothy, around 7 miles away, and over another pass.  Luckily the weather was much better, with sunny spells instead. The first part of the route involved crossing yet another bog (and once more I fell in it rather deeply), but after that, there weren’t too many troubles.  Descending down from the pass at around 4ish was amazing, and the view was breathtaking (with the sun shining down over Loch Nevis – the sea loch where the bothy was on the shore of).

Loch Nevis

Loch Nevis

We reached the bothy at around half 6 or so, and therefore enjoyed a rather relaxing evening (with Dave who had arrived a few hours earlier) sitting outside in the sunshine, in the middle of nowhere, at peace with nature.  It was delightful.

Sourlies Bothy

Sourlies Bothy

The route the following day was subject to the tides (as the path went over the beach), and as a result, we had to leave at 6am. However, I’d been up since around half 3 owing to the mice who sounded like they were having an enormous party under the sleeping platform. We left just as the sun broke over the mountains, giving yet another beautiful view.

Sunrise over the Scottish Mountains

Sunrise over the Scottish Mountains

AW and I stopped at around half 7 to grab a quick breakfast on the road, as immediately after, there was a 600m ascent.  After breakfast, and what seemed like the longest climb in history, we made it to the top, and looked down the next and final valley.

The view towards Inverie

The view towards Inverie

We could see the village of Inverie (which is also on the edge of Loch Nevis), but it was a good 6 miles away still.  Having made it to the top, we rewarded ourselves with a long rest, and had some delicious (and ice cold) water from the mountain spring we were sitting beside.

That's what spring water actually looks like

That’s what spring water actually looks like

Then we hastened on, down the long valley to go to the village. Around 3 hours later, we finally arrived in Inverie absolutely knackered.

Not a walk for the fainthearted!

Not a walk for the fainthearted!

We dumped our stuff at the bunkhouse where we were staying, had a rather good shower, and headed out into the town.  First on the agenda (for it was only 1pm at this stage), was some lunch.  The pub wasn’t open until 3, so we elected to snack at the tearoom where we had an enormous pot of tea and a large sandwich (I chose cheese and haggis).

Cheese and haggis baguette.  Ideal!

Cheese and haggis baguette. Ideal!

After that, we moved to the pub, and enjoyed a few pints outside (until the midgies got too bad – they’d been plaguing us the whole trip to be honest, but that’s to be expected).

The most remote pub in Britain!

The most remote pub in Britain!

Supper time soon rolled around, and I decided to eat scallops (collected from Loch Nevis, so it couldn’t get more local).

Scallops from the Loch!

Scallops from the Loch!

After that, and a few more pints of course, it was bed time, which was great (as we actually had proper beds this time)!  We woke early the next morning, and caught the ferry to Mallaig, from which we got the train all the way home.

The ferry back to civilisation.

The ferry back to civilisation.

It was a great holiday, very challenging, but exceptionally rewarding (especially with respect to the scenery).  All in all though, let’s be honest, it was just a pub walk!

 

Busy Times!

Well, what a lot has happened since I last posted around three weeks ago!  Exams came and went, the viva voce came and went, and results also came and went.  I’m pleased to say that I got a 2.i, so that was an enormous relief.  I opted to wait for the results to be posted publicly on the Senate House boards, rather than check online which was a bit scary, but definitely worth it I think!

It’s currently May Week here, and I’ve been lucky enough to go to two May Balls (Robinson and Jesus).  A great time was had at both, and if I get round to it, I’ll do a write up of each (maybe).

Apart from that, I’ve been relaxing a lot, eating lots of good food (the highlight being some fried wild mushrooms that JW collected), along with the usual post-Cambridge exam Pimm’s and croquet combination. Oh, and visiting the pub, a lot.

Anyway, today’s the Sedgwick Club “May Ball”, so that ought to be a lot of fun.

Looking ahead to next week, known as “Grad Week” (as it’s the week where everyone except the graduands leave Cambridge), I’m off to Wales for a Part III holiday from Sunday to Tuesday.  Then my graduation takes place on Saturday week which is quite a sad moment really, as it means I’ll be finally leaving this amazing place, and will no longer be in statu pupillari.

Travel Concept #1 – The Islands of Western Scotland

Right, so this blog has a lot of travel stuff on it, and I’m back in that procrastinatorial mindset.  The result is that I’ve created a new category of posts – ooooo, exciting!  Basically I’ll just write down ideas I have for journeys I’d like to do at some point.  So, what’s the first one I hear you ask?  Well, read on and find out.

I’ve long had a love of islands.  I’m not sure why, but they always fascinate me.  Their close relationship to the sea, and the communities that live on them.  I guess it’s not a particular surprise, given that I’ve lived on an (admittedly fairly large) island my whole life, and the UK is by definition, and island nation.  A few years ago, Martin Clunes did a series of three documentaries about the smaller islands around the UK (watch them on YouTube here, they are excellent).

Anyway, I’ve been told that the islands off the west coast of Scotland are beautiful (and I’ve visited Skye and Arran already.  They were simply stunning, so it’s safe to assume that the others are equally great, and it’d be marvellous to go back to those two islands anyway). But all the best trips need a purpose.  Fortunately, whilst in the depths of procrastination, it struck me.  What’s Scotland famous for? Whisky.  Obviously.  So, why not merge a trip to the Scottish islands with a tour of all their respective distilleries?  A quick search online later, and I had the complete list of distilleries.  13 in total, spread over six islands (Arran, Islay, Jura, Lewis/Harris, Mull, and Skye).  A few minutes after that, and the route was planned, with the ferries all worked out.

A trip to Harris and Lewis would give me the chance to visit the Callanish Standing Stones, which is something I’ve wanted to do for quite a long time.  They’re essentially similar to Stonehenge, but far less touristy and in a much more picturesque location!  The geology of this part of the world is amazing too.  I had a trip to Arran in Part IA, Skye in Part II, and have also studied Mull extensively in Part IB. Lewis is home to the oldest rocks in the UK – the Lewisian Gneiss (at a whopping 2.7 billion years old).  A sample of the Lewisian Gneiss also happens to be my favourite one in my rock collection (admittedly I collected it from Skye, but the rock type is the same)!

Now all I need are nine days free and a car with a decent sized boot!

So, without further ado, here’s the concept:

Island Distillery Itinerary (click to enlarge)

Island Distillery Itinerary (click to enlarge) – ferry prices include two people and a car

A Cheeky Ramble

I’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time, and after graduation seemed like the perfect time to start ticking off fun travel things.  I mentioned it to AW, and he seemed very keen, so we’ll be going together.  What is it I hear you ask?  Well, it’s a walk to the most remote pub on the island of Great Britain.  Called the Old Forge, it is situated on the remote Knoydart Peninsula in the highlands (just opposite the Isle of Skye).  It’ll take three days to walk there from the nearest town (Glenfinnan), camping for two nights along the way (one wild camping in a tent, the other, if it’s not full, in a bothy). You’ll definitely recognise Glenfinnan, or rather, its railway viaduct. It’s this bridge from the Harry Potter film series, and is where scenes like this were filmed.  As me and AW will be getting the train to the start of the walk, we’ll get to travel over it, which will be great!

One of the benefits of walking in the Scottish Highlands in the summer is the long days.  Owing to its high latitude, in the summer, sunrise is around 04:30, with sunset taking place well past 22:00, so there’s a lot of time for walking!  The maps are faultless in the UK, courtesy of the Ordnance Survey, founded in 1791 to make detailed maps of the whole country.  The remoteness of the Highlands means that you’re almost always alone in beautiful mountains.  The only downside is that it usually rains, and there is a rather significant population of midges, ticks, and other delightful insects that enjoy eating you.

Once me and AW make it to the town of Inverie, and have enjoyed a celebratory pint and pub supper, the next morning, we’ll have to head back.  We won’t be walking out though, but instead getting a boat across the sea loch to Mallaig, before getting the train back to the Home Counties.

All that remains now is to finalise the details and book everything up!

(If you’re interested in the route we’re planning to follow, the route described on this excellent blog here is what we’ll be aiming to emulate).

PS:  The geology is pretty interesting around here too, so that’s an added bonus!