lørdag 5. juli 2014

A Big Round of Applause for Costa Rica

A football adventure is over. Costa Rica was fighting like lions, but had to give in to a team which could not beat them on fair terms, and unfortunately it was a Newcastle player, Tim Krul, which had to use his dirty tricks to stress the Costa Rican players in the penalty shootout. I am for fair play, and it is sad to see that not all teams respect this, and play it fair. Anyway, the ticos can hold their heads high tonight, where they showed the world that it is possible. That everything is possible. Sometimes the dreams do not come true, but thank you for letting us all dream of the impossible for such a long time during the world cup.

Costa Rica. How much I miss that place sometimes. The carefree life. With little else to worry about than crossing the little river at the beach on the way to school, trying to forget the "rumors" that the river is full of alligators. Drinking Imperial at the beach and watching the endless ocean, and the eternal night sky. It feels like a far far place (and time) from the hectic life in London. The cold showers everyday (ice cold), all the strange animals that you in some wired way just got used to, and tried to forget when you went to sleep. The chicken that hided/fell asleep behind the toast machine in the kitchen, and thought that I did not see it...

The football every wednesday, where you had to walk on the completely dark road for kilometers, before you found the pitch somewhere deep into the forest, after passing big horses in the middle of the dark road, aggressive dogs, and some truly disturbing "screams" from the monkeys in the darkness. What do you not do for a game of football? The sunsets from "La Barrecuda", the pina coladas. I still remember everything as it was yesterday, but it is 5 years ago, and it is strange to think about how quick time goes.

Ofcourse, everything was not as carefree and nice as you remember it. But it has come to that afterwards. You remember the good times, the positive effects it had on your life. Who would I be, where would I be, and what would I do if I had not been there? No, thank you Costa Rica for playing an important part in my life choices and shaping who I am.

All young people, if they have the chance, should go and live abroad for a time when they are still figuring out about who they are, and laying their plans for their life. It helps you get to know yourself better. Because it is just you and the world. No one that has any expectations from you. You can be yourself, and find yourself, and think different thoughts which would maybe never come to you if you just had stayed in your normal environment. It can shape your life, and lead you in the right direction. At least it did for me.

So tonight I make a big round of applause for the Costa Rican football team (which had many players that has played or play in the norwegian football league I should mention), for giving us excitement and reminded at least me, why I love the game of football. It is fantastic to care so much, be so happy, sad, nervous and excited about something, which really don't mean anything at all. Thats the beauty of the game, and hopefully the disappointment will soon disappear in Costa Rica, and give way to pride instead. Because, truly, everything is possible. If you just dear to dream and think big.

Pura Vida

New York New York, 5 years after

It is a strange feeling. To get back to a place you have not been in a long time. To see how everything seems to be exactly the same, exactly as you remember it, but you know that it has gone 5 years in between. That was the feeling I got when I got back to New York this fall, for the first time since my big trip (which started this blog) back in 2009. The streets, the sounds, the iconic attractions were all there. I had changed, but not the city.

5 years ago I went on a life changing journey, when I travelled alone to US and Costa Rica. My first stop was New York, and it made a huge impression. To be back 5 years later was a fantastic feeling. But it may also be right to say that it was a little bit of dissapointment in there as well. The magic you feel for a place when you visit it for the first time, on your first big trip, is difficult or maybe impossible to experience again. Hence, it can never live up to the memories and feelings you felt at that time. Or maybe it did not even feel that magic at that time, but it is a magic feeling you have attached to your memory of the experience. Often I think that it is before and after travel which is the best part, and not always the travel itself. Dont get me wrong. I really enjoy it when Im there as well, but I think that the memories always create a bigger and better picture than how it actually feel at the time you are there.

Anyway, it was really great to be back in New York, and it was important for me to get back to the places I had seen in 2009, but also to add some new places to see. Times Square, Flatirion Building, Central Park, Ground Zero and Liberty Island was all on the list which I had visited on my previous trip, which was great to see again. Ground Zero made a special impression, and looked quite different from 5 years ago. They are contstantly builiding there, and at the moment it is 2 simular monuments where the two towers were standing.

It was also amazing to be back on Liberty Island and see the statue of Liberty again. I even saw a ship from my new company Norwegian Cruise Line sail out of Manhatten when I was out on the island, which also was a great view.

Of new places I saw was Empire State Building and the UN builiding.

Until next time,

Pura Vida

mandag 22. april 2013

24 Hours In Barcelona

A travel feature I wrote as a task for a travel editior/writing job I applied for in London. The task was to write a travel feature named "24 hours in...", and then choose one of my favourite places in the world. I chose Barcelona and I think it turned out to be a nice day:

24 hours in Barcelona

With its warm Mediterranean climate, rich history and timeless architecture, the chic Catalan capital is a city with character. Here is what we would do if we just had 24 hours in this fascinating city:

        The Olympic park and Castell de Montjuic

As the host of the 1992 Olympic Games, Barcelona did rejuvenate itself as an energetic and confident city. Dip into the Olympic spirit by visiting the city´s green lung, Montjuic, the Jewish mountain.  As you make your way up you will pass the Olympic stadium built for the international exhibition in 1929 and renovated for the 1992 games. At the top of Montjuic you find the 17th century Castell de Montjuic, a castle previously a feared prison for political activists during and after the Spanish civil war. From the edge of the castle you have a breathtaking view over the city and the Mediterranean Sea.
        Port cable car, Barceloneta, Icaria beach

Nothing beats the morning sun at the beach. Take the iconic port cable car, originally built for the international exhibition of 1888, with towers designed by the famous architect Gustav Eiffel, down to the beach of Barceloneta. The beach is already starting to fill up with tourists, so do the stroll over to the Olympic port, and you will find Icaria beach, which is the beach the locals go to, where you can find a little more quietness and relaxation than on the busier Barceloneta which you just passed.


-           Lunch at CDLC – restaurant and beach club

For lunch, head to the stylish CDLC (Carpe Diem Lounge Club) restaurant and beach club and take in the funky and laidback atmosphere. The menu consists of everything from Japanese sushi, Chinese spring rolls and Indonesian satay. Sit back and enjoy the sea breeze in a relaxed environment, at the beautiful wooden terrace overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.  

-           A visit to Santa Maria del Mar

After lunch, make a pilgrimage to the “Cathedral of the Sea”, known from the book with the same name, by Idefonso Falcones, also known as Santa Maria del Mar.  Travel back in time to the old world and the 14th century Barcelona, when the city experienced its golden age. As the most complete example of Catalan Gothic architecture, the church is found in the heart of the La Ribera district. You may ask how it is possible that a “cathedral of the sea”, can be landlocked deep within the narrow streets of La Ribera. The church used to be right on the beach, now it’s a 15-minute walk from the sea, due to the fact that the city has grown into the Mediterranean over the years.  The church is regarded by many as the most beautiful church of the city.
        Placa Espana, the magic fountain

Experience some magic after sunset at the majestic Placa Espana, where a magic fountain show, also built for the international exhibition of 1929, lit up the Catalan sky. You get the best view of the show from the heights, and the old bullfighting ring, las Arenas, has a viewing platform with a wide range of bars where you can see the fountain show high above the busy streets of the city, while you enjoy your mojito and some traditional Spanish tapas.  

            W Hotel, Bravo Signature Restaurant and Eclipse rooftop bar

Enjoy the late evening with a dinner at the stylish Michelin star rated Bravo Signature Restaurant at the W Hotel, located on the beachfront of Barceloneta. With sea view in a luxurious environment, you will be served from a menu of traditional Catalan dishes with delicious ingredients of meat, fish and seafood. Finish off the evening in the glamorous Eclipse rooftop bar at the 26th floor of the W for a cocktail or two, before you hit the soft pillow in your spectacular suite (that’s the name of the suite!) downstairs.

mandag 28. januar 2013

Wine Tasting and Drinks High Above London

Winetasting at Vinopolis, London
Last week I did something I have never done before. I went to winetasting. Would probably not have signed up for it, if it had not been a gift. To be honest, that is something I always have been a little bit "afraid" of, mainly because I dont have a clue about wine. If you asked me if a wine is good or not, it is a high chance that I would have said "yes its good", since I cant really taste the difference anyway. This is not entirely true anymore. I learned some interesting stuff about wine this evening, and next time I open a bottle of wine, I am sure I will be able to taste some more than just if it is red or white. We went to a place called "Vinopolis", which is rigth between London Bridge and Southwark Bridge, on the south side of the Thames. What you often forget when you live in London is all the different activities and opportunites which are right outside your doorstep, which is what I love about this city.

It started with a short video and introduction to how to taste wine and how the winetasting experience was going to work. Then we were free to walk around in the "wine cellar" and to tap our own wine from automatic machines, with information signs telling about the different wines. I think I like this way of doing it much more than the traditional "winetasting class". Here you were completely free to walk around and taste in your own tempo. But with the experts always around to ask anytime you had any questions. It was splitted up in different rooms of white wine, red wine, sparkeling wine, Champagne and tapas (with mulled wine). It was a highly interactive experience, and you had experts around which you could ask about anything (regarding wine). My main (silly) question (which was also how I introduced the question: "I have a silly question..."), is how on earth it is possible with all those different tastes in the wine, when it all comes from grapes. How is it possible that wine taste choclate (yes, some do), coffee (!), strawberry etc. if it is not added any fake stuff. Yes, the question is maybe silly, and probably show that I have no clue, but I dont think the girl working there really knew either. She came up with a "it is many different factors" answer, without really giving any explanation. What she did say however, was that it is not allowed to add any fake stuff to get the taste, it all has to come natural. Which I think makes wine making a very impressive "science". They also had English sparkling wine there, which I did not know that even existed. It was made in the same way as Champagne from France and Cava from Spain. When I worked as a guide in Catalonia in Spain last fall, one of our trips went to Freixenet, which is one of the biggest producers of Cava in Spain. This gave me a good insight into the production and history behind cava, since I had to learn it by heart. This made it more interesting to read about the production of English sparkling wine, which I learned was done in much of the same way as Cava.

Oxford Street from above
After the winetasting, we went over to a great bar which is called Paramount, and is located at the top of the Centre Point building, right next to Tottenham Court Road tubestation. You need a reservation in advance, but that just mean that you have to call in advance and tell that you are coming. We called just half an hour before we were there, and that went just fine, and best of all, it is free to enter! You take an elevator from the reseption at Centre Point, which takes you right to the 32th floor. If you take the stairs one more floor up, you arrive at the top floor, also called the "Viewing Gallery", where you can get great drinks from the bar and enjoy a spectacular view over London. The viewing gallery goes 360 degrees all around the building, and really feels like a hidden place above the city.

This week I have signed up for a new course in Travel journalism, called "Global Reporter", which I am really excited about. I would really love to be able to learn more about writing, and then especially travel writing. It would have been a dream for me to get something in print, and hopefully that will be a dream which will be achieved this year.

So last week I did something which I had never done before, which I think should be a goal to strive for each week. No matter how small or big, do something you have never done before, each week.

Pura Vida

Vinopolis: http://vinopolis.co.uk/
Paramount Bar: http://www.paramount.uk.net/level-32/bar/

mandag 21. januar 2013

A Continuation of an Old Blog

For a long time I have been playing with the thought of starting a new blog again. First and foremost to be able to share what happens in my life, my thoughts etc. with anyone who may be interested in a simple way. It has always turned into nothing. Until now, when I suddenly got the idea to continue my old blog, and not make up a completely new one. The "Pura Vida" blog was set up in 2008, as a travel blog for my planned trip to Costa Rica and the United States. It was an amazing experience, and I am very glad that I actually wrote down some stuff from that time, so I can go back and get an insight into my thoughts at that time. That trip did in many ways define and form my life in a big way. If it had not been for that trip I dont know if I would be at the place where I am today. Most likely not. The trip made me realise that I love travel. And it was in many ways during that trip (maybe without knowing it myself) that I made up my mind to study more, and take a master degree in what I believe to be my passion, Tourism (Travel). This even resulted in a dissertation where I researched and investigated the link between what I called, "Independet Travel", and how this relate to your self-development. For me it was crucial.

Right now I am sitting at Starbucks, next to Tower of London, in (surprise!) London. I have now lived in London for about 2 and a half year, and it is strange to think about how quick time flies. It has been a little back and fourth though, since I last year worked as a travel guide, where I was so lucky to be able to work in England, but also in Paris and Barcelona/Catalonia. That was a great experience, where I feel like I experienced and learned a lot. In many ways I wish I started to write my blog at that time, when I was working. It could have been nice to be able to look back at my thoughts for these days as well. It may well be that I will try to write some words about these experiences anyway, even if it is in retrospect. In addition, I have a ton of pictures from last year, which is just saved at my computer, without beeing showed to anyone, so I guess I could try to upload some of them here as well.

I thought that the name (Pura Vida/Pure Life) and the idea of this blog was a good idea in the beginning, and I am happy to finaly make a try to continue with my writings. It somehow feels a little bit more scary this time, when it is not a specific trip I will try to cover. Anyway, I hope that some will find it interesting to read about my life here in London, which is an absolutely fantastic city to live in, and maybe I can try to share some of my experiences living abroad (from both England and Norway, which I both consider to be "home" now) in how the life was as a travel guide. Most of all I guess it is a little selfish project to try to write a blog, and most interesting for yourself. So in the end, I guess I am doing it all for myself, but if anyone care to read and may find it interesting I will be happy about that. And that is what it all is about, ist it? To be happy :)

Also, I would love to get some feedback and thoughts from you, with ideas about what I should write about. If this can be a way to keep in touch with old friends, from all over the world, that would also make the writing of this blog all worth it.

Until then,

Pura Vida

tirsdag 21. juni 2011

Semana Santa, Sevilla 2011 - Religion and Football in Southern Spain

What follows is a travel feature I wrote for my Travel Journalism class, which was part of my master degree in Tourism Management at University of Westminster, London. I then travelled to Sevilla in Semana Santa (easter 2011), to get my story, where I wanted to combine some of the two great passions of the city, religion and football. To be back after almost 5 years was a really strange experience, which is difficult to explain. It was really like travelling in time. I hope you enjoy it.
Religion and football in southern Spain
Tom-André Baraas explores the two great passions of Seville, religion and football, in the holy week of Semana Santa.
His bare feet are hitting the dark asphalt, burdened by the heavy cross accompanied with melancholic music as the procession moves slowly towards the city. As the sky threatens to open again, people are holding tightly to their umbrellas. As the faces are hidden by black caps, it creates a mystical and powerful atmosphere. With floats of wooden sculptures imaging scenes from the passion of Christ and the life of Virgin Mary, it´s a mood in the crowd of sadness, pride and afterthoughts. The smell of incense is filling the air, and small tears are running down the cheeks of the elderly woman next to me. If it´s a sign of sorrow or happiness is difficult to tell. Dressed in a simple but elegant black dress, with a small silver coloured cross around her neck, I can almost feel how important and anticipated this procession feels for this Spanish woman with tears in her eyes.
Each year thousands of visitors travel to Seville to experience the world famous Easter celebration in the holy week of Semana Santa. The Andalucian celebration of Semana Santa is one of the most famous religious Easter celebrations in the world, and is together with Antigua in Guatemala, considered as the most intense and foremost religious Easter celebration to be experienced. As home to the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world, religion plays an important role in Seville. With the tomb of Christopher Columbus, the Seville Cathedral is one of the most important symbols of the city, with the characteristic Giralda tower, a former minaret tower converted into a bell tower, as the most characteristic symbol of the city. If it actually is Columbus who is buried here is another question, where Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic claims the same, it has always been a great mystery of what is true about the life, and afterlife, of this world famous explorer.
As the procession disappear into the small streets of the old city, the Santa Cruz district, I heading towards the Cathedral and the centre of the city.
Outside the Cathedral the sound of horseshoe against the cobblestones mixes together with Spanish language, and the tunes from a troubadour’s guitar which feels like a scene from the middle ages. No cars are to be seen, and the scene seems far away from London´s busy streets.
As I catch the new tram from behind the cathedral, from Puerta de Jerez, towards the majestic Plaza España and the Maria Lucia Park, the sky once again creates a shadow over the city. The new tram system, known as TUSSAM, is a handy and easy way to get around the city, and has the same ticketing system as the busses. With only four stations it connects the Prado de San Sebastián where the airport bus terminates, and gets you into the historic centre of town. It has been well worth the waiting time, and all the construction work in recent years, which now makes the city more appealing to visit.
Ever since I read Dan Browns “Digital Fortress” with the opening scene from Plaza España, after my last visit five years ago, I have wanted to see this place again. Plaza España was built as part of the Ibero-American Exposition in 1928, and is a part of the Maria Lucia Park, a green oase in the south part of the city. As I enter the ports, the rain starts to fall, and the atmosphere on the whole plaza change immediately. From a lively and sunny plaza full of tourists, it transforms into a dark and damp plaza, and the tourists are hiding like cats understanding that it´s bathing time. From the corner of the square, I can see a group of children that´s trapped in two small rowboats in the water channels in the middle of the Plaza. They start to sing a Spanish children song which rang out over the large square while the water falls from the sky. It lightens up the mood of the wet tourists hiding under the high ceilings of the towers. After a time the sky is brightening up again, and bring back the Spanish sun from its siesta. With all its tiled alcoves, representing the different provinces of Spain, the plaza really lives up to its name, and feels like a Spain in miniature.
Religion and football both play an important role in Seville, and sometimes it´s hard to tell what´s most important. The Sunday evening football match shows me that the passion definitely is at place when it comes to the pride of the cities football club. On my way in a taxi towards the stadium, I´m interested in how the taxi driver look at the importance of the football club, and on my limp Spanish I ask how important football is for the people in this city. “Es la vida” I get back from the front seat. ”It´s life”. It sums up the passion I soon am about to feel as I turn out of the taxi and into the warm Andalucían night filled with song.
“Y Sevilla, Sevilla, Sevilla, aquí estamos contigo” is heard everywhere outside the stadium. It´s only 15 minutes to match start and the mood of the fans is rising. The hymn of Sevilla Fútbol Club is song with great passion and creates an intense atmosphere inside the stadium. Tonight’s opponents are Villareal, which is only 4 points above Seville, in the fight for the right to play in Europe next year. The anticipation can be felt through the air. The old man in front of me, waving and shouting with great passion, and it seems like it helps, because Seville is leading 2-0 after just 15 minutes played. The atmosphere is electric and optimistic. It ends 3-2 in the end, and the people of Seville seem happy and satisfied.
When I leave the morning after, the city seems to be back to its normal state. It probably just will last until next week, when the “Feria” starts, and the city once again comes to life.

When to go
Semana Santa (the holy week) is celebrated each year in the Easter week.
The Feria normally takes place two weeks after the Semana Santa, and is a fair and celebration taking place in Seville.
Need to know
Currency: Euro £1 = Euro 1.20
Time: GMT +1
International dial code: 00 34
How to do it?
Go independents
Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) flies from Gatwich and Stanstead from £45 return.
Easyjet (www.easyjet.com) flies from Gatwich from £60 return.
Be aware that the Easter week often is higher priced than other weeks. Be early with your bookings.
Where to stay
Oasis Backpackers Palace Sevilla (0034 954 227 731. www.oasissevilla.com) has doubles from £47, and mixed dorms for 6 people from £16. B&B.
Centrally located, with self catered breakfast, internet café and a roof terrace with bar.
Hotel Novotel Sevilla (0034 954 558 200. www.novotel.com) has doubles from £79.
Located right next to Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, the football stadium of Sevilla Fútbol club, and 15 minutes walking distance to the historic centre.
Zenit Sevilla Hotel (0034 954347434. www.zenithotels.com) has doubles from £89.
Located on the other side of the river, behind the popular bar street Calle Betis, with 10 minutes walking distance to the city centre.
Tickets to Sevilla FC football match
To get tickets to a Sevilla FC football match, just turn up at the stadium a day or two before and buy from the ticket office. Tickets from £30. For the less popular matches you even got two tickets for the price of one. Do not be tricked by all the ticket selling internet pages which claims that every match becomes sold out. They just try to sell you tickets which are often triple or even more of the price of what you have to pay if you buy them directly at the stadium.

torsdag 5. mai 2011

Invitation to Paradise city

"One way to get the most out of life is
to look upon it as an adventure."
William Feather

I´ve been thinking for such a long time that I would like to start writing at my blog again, but procrastination is a well known enemy. It also feels like you should have something important to say when you start writing again. Especially after so many months. I´ve no clue if I have anything important to say, probably not, but I write anyway...

So much has happened since last time I wrote here. I´ve lived in London for more or less 8 months and it´s been an adventure with both its ups and downs. I love my studies. That´s for sure. No, it´s not a joke. I really like it. Travel and Tourism (Master in Tourism Management) are exactly what I´m interested in, and I can really feel that it´s my real passion here in life that I´m studying. When you get excited about reading your school books, then you know you are doing the right thing(Okey, ALL is not that fun, but in general I really like it). When I started I was not sure at all how it would go. To take a masterdegree is difficult on its own. To take it in english is even more a challenge. But it has gone surprisingly good! I think I´ve improved my english alot this year as well, which is always a good thing. I decided already 5 years ago, when I decided to go and live abroad for the first time, that to learn and practice english propely is one of the most imporant things I could do, if I wanted to live and work in this international world we live in. And after 5 years, I have lived in Sevilla, Hatfield, Oslo, Costa Rica, Barcelona, London and travelled around USA and it´s really been an adventure, that´s for sure! With many great (and not so great) people I´ve met on my way. It has given me many exciting, but also challenging experiences, which I´ve learned a lot from. Even my spanish is now improving (even if it´s far from what I though it would be when I started 5 years ago).

About spanish. I went back to Sevilla this easter. After 4 and a half year. It was a very strange and nostalgic experience. To go back to such a place, which you almost look at and remember as a magical city and place, was very strange after such a long time. I´m not quite sure if I even can explain what I felt about it. It was painful and joyful at the same time. Because all the places have been there all the time, it´s just me who has been gone all this time. Everything really felt like it was just yesterday, but at the same time I know that I´ve changed so much since then, and so many things have happened. It was a really unique and strange experience to go back.

Like I said, I´ve met so many unique and extraordinary people on my way, for the last 5 years. Some of them I still have contact with, but all to many of them I´ve lost contact with. It´s so hard (well it really should´t be though) to keep contact with people when you live on so different places all around this small planet we live on. Some I´ve been so fortunate to see again later, which always is a great experience! But then again, it´s so easy to lose eachother again. I wish I could invite everyone to ONE city, so we all could sit on my balcony in this city, and drink Imperial, Cruz campo, Estrella, Tuborg and Heineken (If you don´t like beer, you can drink wine or champaign, it´s okey). It should be a warm place, where the sun always shine, and it has to be a beach ofcourse. And we could live happily in all our days (sounds like a marriage though). Okey, tell me if you´re in, and I send you an invitation when I´ve saved up enough money, and bought this amazing apartment in this amazing city (Let´s call it Paradise city). Just give me some time.. Hope to see you there! :)

Pura Vida