Thursday, December 17, 2009

2009 Holiday Card


Top Row - Left to Right
1) Sukur, Nigeria - A UNESCO World Heritage site
2) Top Mt. Muhavura, Uganda
3) Rhumsuki, Cameroon
Middle Row - Left to Right
1) New Years Eve 2008, Lagos Yacht Club
2) Oktoberfest, Lagos Yacht Club
3) Boat ride on Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda
Bottom Row - Left to Right
1) Hiking up Mt. Muhavura, Uganda
2) Lake Mburo NP, Uganda
3) Lake Bunyonyi Overlook, Uganda

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Yankari National Park, Nigeria

Bob, Sharon and Jonathan spent the four day weekend central Nigeria visiting Yankari National Park and the surrounding area. Bob only took a few photos so I will post them now until I get more and I will post more details about their trip (when I get them).
The baboons were fed well that weekend, first they ate the driver's/guard's food from the to of the car (they were warned) and then one of them jumped into Sharon and Jonathan's car and grabbed their rolls...  that was all she could grab before Sharon threw her and her baby out of the car.


There are lions in Nigeria...


The drivers, guards and guide.

Recent posts on past trips

Here are a few posts I have done this weekend.  I post them on the date of the event, not on the day of actual posting so I am posting this link so that you don't miss out.
Mountain Biking in Omo Forest – November 2009 / March 2009
Trip to Paris with my mom – October 2009
Added pictures to the Oktoberfest post

I am still working on
Uganda trip – September 2009
Third Mainland Bridge Bike Ride – November 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

GLO Lagos Marathon postponed...

Just like last year, the GLO Lagos Marathon (half marathon) scheduled this December has been postponed...  likely until February.  The marathon that was to hold in December 2008, was postponed until February 2009 and I assume the same will happen again.  It is unfortunate as the weather in December is cooler than in February. 

I have just updated my blog post for the February 2009 Half Marathon.  Check it out.

Wonderful spa right around the corner on Ikoyi Island

Many great places in Lagos, especially restaurants, are hidden behind walls and unless you are in the know...  you are in the dark that these places even exist.
The Grape Grazers Wine Club recently hosted a wine tasting event at the Clear Essence California Spa and Wellness Resort.  It is located on Ikoyi Island not far from where we live and the place is wonderful.  It is a members only spa but until they get enough members they may be open to non-members, at least they said they were.  It is pricey but for a special occasion or event, it would be worth it.

A one-year membership is 500,000 naira (~$3350).  Check out what the membership includes here.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mountain Biking in Omo Forest, November 8 (and Bob's trip in March)

Friend Jonathan arranged a Nigerian Field Society trip to go mountain biking in Omo Forest, located east of Lagos, about a 3 hour drive away. At about 7AM, a group of about 14 of us headed out in a convoy with Nigerian Police in the vehicles to help us get through the many check points (15+) where Nigerian Police try to get money from almost every vehicle that passes. "Anything for the weekend?" I hate it but on one hand they get paid so poorly, I don't blame them. I believe it is these check points and the bad roads that keep most Nigerians from traveling around their own country, other than going to their village and back, and when they can fly, they do. We have to travel with Nigerian Police in our car outside of Lagos and we are happy to have them as they get us right through the check points with no hassle (usually).
The drive was uneventful, though I was happy to have friends in the car who enjoyed reminiscing and listening to music from the 1980s, especially the metal (hair) bands! It was fun!
The goal was to ride to Omo Camp (~15km), eat lunch, then ride back. Because we got off to a slow start (Ilsa and Rob decided to add on some distance to their ride by taking the wrong road) and the crowd was not as fast as Jonathan had anticipated. Jonathan has got to be the fittest person I know and his estimates of how long a ride will take and the level of exertion are usually a bit underestimated! I was just OK but not all participants were in as good of shape as me (and I have not done much cardio since I tore a tendon in my foot training for the half marathon earlier this year) and did not have as much mountain biking experience. It is pretty flat around Lagos and most people think that when you travel outside of Lagos, it is also flat. Well that is not the case as Omo forest has hills. The route we took was a Jeep road, though it is mostly used by Okadas (motorcycles). Our driver served as the SAG wagon for about half of the ride but then had to stop as the bridge was washed out. About half of the group made it about half way to the iron bridge and we rode on another 5 km (3km short of the camp) before stopping for a snack and turning around.  Here are some pictures:

The road...


Hmmm...  was it a good idea to go so soon after the rainy season ended?!  Me riding through one of the many water holes, some do depe your feet get soaked.

The washed out bridge with Rob standing on the other side (hard to see, I know).  The small picture is of me and Ilsa and was taken by Rob.


This was the bypass route, that we and the okadas use.  No more vehicle travel past this point.


The iron bridge over a river.  In front is Ilsa, Rob and Sharon.

Me


Overall it was a great trip. I met some new people, got in some good exercise, and got outside of Lagos. Unfortunately Bob missed out on this trip as he was in Houston. He had done this one before in March of this year, while I stayed home to get some work done.

Here are some pics from the earlier trip in March 2009, in the dry season.

Kevin, Bob, Jonathan and their guard.


The main bridge in March 2009, which was completely washed out in November.


One of the bridges in March 2009.
I don't recall seeing this one so it must have been beyond where we rode.



Omo Camp - Folks have camped here in the past but now that the bridges are washed out, it would take a bit of effort to get there with our stuff and water.


The standard transportation on these roads, an okada (motorcycle).



Sunday, November 1, 2009

Still working on the Paris and Uganda posts...

Oktoberfest at Lagos Yacht Club


Sunset in the Lagos Harbor the night an Oktoberfest celebration was held at the Lagos Yacht Club. A band was flown in from Bavaria (Koenig Ludwig Musikanten) we had Bavarian beer (brewed in Nigeria), sausage, sauerkraut and the rest of the fixins. We had a fun time but had to wait a long time for food... which meant more drinking! We had fun!
There were many toasts and each one was made while standing on the picnic table benches.
"Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der Gem├╝tlichkeit "
"Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der Gem├╝tlichkeit "

Bob, Ilsa & me

Ilsa's husband Rob...  Ilsa and Rob are either looking out for each other or
drinking way too much over here in Nigeria!

Joanne and Ingo...  Ingo made sure he had his big beer stein from home!
Ingo also made sure we pronounced the toast properly as he is one of our resident Germans.

The band... squint real hard and you may be able to see them in the background.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Third Mainland Bridge Bike Ride

I arranged another Third Mainland Bridge Bike ride for the Nigerian Field Society today (Oct 31). Thirty-one people showed up and we were escorted by Nigerian police on a 30km bike ride across the longest bridge connecting Ikoyi Island with the Lagos mainland. This is the route we drive to and from the airport. We had two SAG (support) wagons and we needed them this time as two riders had to jump in due to faulty bikes (pedal fell off and brakes malfunctioned then a derailleur fell off another bike). It was a beautiful mostly clear day for Lagos, although it is never very clear here due to the burning of trash, which is magnified on environmental day when everyone is supposed to be cleaning up and burning their trash (sound environmental?). More pictures and short captions coming soon...

Monday, October 26, 2009

The LAGOS INSIDER

Recently I started receiving an email from The Lagos Insider. Check out the link. To view past posts, go the the Archives. If you want to see each post as it is posted, subscribe. Get new Lagos hotel and restaurant ideas each week. I would post links to specific articles but the internet is toooooo slooooow for me. Sorry-o!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Staff Football Game

Sunday was the second staff football game and our team won 1-0! Unfortunately I did not get pictures of the other team... next time I will. The game was between the staff at our apartment complex and the staff at another complex. The game was played on a sand field at a nearby schcool. The rules were very strict... all players but the goal keeper had to be an employee. The participation was watched closely as a number of illegal players tried to sneak in, but were unsuccessful.

The trophy was donated by Sharon and Jonathan and a new label engraved and attached. A number of us donated money that went towards renting the field, making the goals, buying the nets and refreshments. There were limited jerseys so as one team member came off the field, he transferred his sweaty jersey to the guy going in if he was not wearing the proper color (blue or red)! Here are some photos.

Before
The Spectators (expats from L to R) - Bob, Sharon, Rob, Jonathan, Ilsa, Rob and Keith
The celebration has begun!

The goal keeper and the trophy.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Offshore Fishing & Snorkeling

Jonathan arranged the boat so we (Jonathan, Sharon, me, Bob and new Lagos expats Ilsa and Rob) could go offshore and do some fishing on the way to a Canadian sunken ship (~60ft water depth) where we would fish and snorkel. On the way out, Sharon was our skipper while the boys (including our Nigerian skipper) did some trolling. Rob's first catch was a plastic bag followed by the first blue mackerel catch, then Jonathan hooked a fish which literally jumped into the boat and then he caught another fish which he had to work a little for. When we got to the wreck we all got out and went for a swim. The visibility was bad (5ft), as usual, but when you got down to the wreck you could see the schools of fish (Jacks), a large jellyfish and two small eels, a black and white spotted one and a green one (pictures not great). The current at the wreck was very strong and it was difficult to stay at the wreck (~10ft deep to top boat deck) unless you held on. Bob has gone diving here and we hope to do it again in the near future.

Sharon as skipper
Rob's first catch




Rob's first real catch

The Canadian Wreck
Jellyfish - anyone know what kind?
Hard to see but there are parts of two eels visible in this photo. The black and white one and in the top right corner is a green one folded back on itself.
On the way back into the harbor, Bob counted about 200 ships anchored offshore either waiting to get into the harbor or dead in the water. We drove through a fuel spill, one of many that probably occurs often (an assumption) outside Lagos.
Hoping to get pictures from others to add to this.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

Long Weekend in Paris, just me and my mom

Why Paris? Well my mother has never been oversees and when I moved to Lagos two and a half years ago she got a passport and we said we should meet in Paris. We finally did. I have training outside of Paris in Fontainebleau so we decided to meet at the front end of my business trip for 4 days.

Day 1
My flight arrived at ~6AM and my mom's flight arrived ~7:45AM. I met her when she came out from baggage claim and we attempted to get our planned shuttle but I ran out of change after I was on hold too long with the shuttle company so we decided to test out the RER train system, something I preferred to do anyway... but it did suck dragging our luggage around when making the two connections we needed to make. This was the definitely the cheaper route (40 euros for the taxi vs 21 euros for the train) and more of an experience... just what my mom needed after traveling 16 hours in economy class! We got to our hotel about 11AM and checked right in. We stayed near Invalides in the Hotel de Varenne, a hotel that was advertised in the Orange County Register Travel Section in an article my mom cut out just after I left for Lagos in 2007. It was a nice, quaint hotel in a great location, walking distance from everything... at least I thought it was (sorry mom!).
We rested for about an hour and then headed to the Eiffel Tower via Rue Cler, where we stopped for lunch. Rue Cler was the first place we saw the beautiful flower shops and the lovely fruit and vegetable displays. We ate pizza at Tribeca and it was great. I enjoyed a simple Margherita pizza with yummy cheese and my mom enjoyed the ham and mushroom pizza. This is where I started testing out the little French I had learned on the flight over.
Following lunch we made our way to the Eiffel Tower approaching it from the Parc Du Champ De Mars to the southeast, taking photos along the way. It is a spectacular engineering structure with striking symmetry. We wavered on whether or not to go to the top and decided to walk across the river to the Jardins Du Trocadero to take in the views from there. We relaxed on the steps above the fountains for about one hour and watched some street performers (dancers) do their thing while constantly being asked of we were interested in 3 metal Eiffel Tower figurines for the low cost of 1 euro ($1.40).
We decided to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower to see Paris at twilight and at night. The lines were not long at all. We stopped at the second level (400ft above the ground) to take photos and the scenery was beautiful! Paris is cut in two by the River Seine with many of the main attractions ( the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, Hotel de Invalides, Arc de Triomphe, etc.) lining the river and surrounded by 18th century buildings, mostly four stories, packed together and separated by narrow streets. Many people walk and take the Metro (train) or buses as the networks are immense and efficient. If they do drive, the drive small cars and we saw many Smart Cars.
Back to the views from the Eiffel Tower... We went to the top (900 ft above the ground) via elevator and it was twilight so we stayed up there until it got dark and I took lots of photos. It was amazing and we were lucky to have great weather! Suddenly an announcement came over the PA system telling us that the tower was now closed to all and we were instructed to exit and stay calm. Many folks left but I still needed to get photos so we stayed and then took the elevator down to the second level where we took more photos. From here we walked down the 360 stairs (instead of the elevator) to the first level (200ft above ground) taking more photos adn then we walked down another 360 stairs to the ground level... and my mom did not want to see any more stairs at that point. It was a long day. We headed back to the hotel on foot hoping to find a place to eat but we were out of luck. We got back to the hotel about 9:30PM and asked where we could eat... we had Japanese across the street from the hotel. It was good but not what I expected to eat in Paris!
View of Paris Streets View from the Eiffel Tower, looking at the Louvre


Night shot from the Eiffel Tower


Day 2

No alarm was set and we woke about 8AM and slowly got rolling. My mom slept all night which was good due her lengthy travel and the 8 hour time change (jet lag). I was recovering from 1.5 weeks of LONG work days since we returned from our Uganda vacation (I am still working on that post). Is that a violin I hear playing??? The walking and the stairs from the day before resulted in tired muscles that required sleep to recover.

We made our way from the hotel to the Musee Du Louvre, passing in front of the Hotel des Invalides, crossing the Seine River on the Point Alexandre III bridge, passing by the Grand Palais and Petit Palais (which we could not go in front of due to some police activity), viewing the Place de la Concorde Obilisque and finally entering the Jardin Des Tuileries to enjoy a coffee and hot chocolate (cafe creme and chocolate chaud) by the one of the pools. We enjoyed the greenery (just lounging outside enjoying the quiet time was wonderful for me), the sculptures and the colorful flowers. We entered though the underground mall entrance at 99 Rue de Rivoli to purchase a two day Museum Pass for 32 euros each, a pass that would get us into many (but not all) main attractions. After a little shopping at Sephora (: )), we entered the Louvre and followed Rick Steve's tour found in his Paris 2010 book which I highly recommend (get his free podcasts/MP3 audio tours from his website www.ricksteves.com or through the iTunes store).

The Louvre houses one of the world's most important art collections and the building itself dates back to the 12th Century. It was occupied by many French kings, to include Louis XIII, XIV, XV and became a museum in 1793.

First stop was Venus de Milo, then the Victory of Samothrace (winged woman), then the Mona Lisa... too much to see in one week much less a morning!

From the Louvre we went to the Musee d'Orsay just across the Seine River. The museum was installed in the former Orsay railway station, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900 and displays collections of art from the period 1848 to 1914.


Victory at Somothrace - the winged woman

Venus de Milo
Mona Lisa

Musee d Orsay


Mom & ???  (Need the Rick Steve's Book!)
Me & Van Gogh

Arc de Triomphe

Church near the Hotel (Invalides)... during the day...
...and at night.

Day 3.

We were up at 7AM, got ready and headed to the Metro Station hop on the train (30 minute ride) to Versailles arriving at 9:15AM. We toured the chatuae, walked through the garden and then the Grand Trianon. Loius XIV, XVI and Marie Antionette were the biggest stars... oh yeah... and Napoleon!

We took a tram back the the chateau (our feet hurt!) then walke dto a ccafe for lunch. We were headed back to Paris on the train at 4PM. We walked in search of ice cream and finally found it then rested in the hotel before our eveining excursion to the Arc de Triomphe (AdT). We walked part of the way there from the hotel and then got on the Metro (our feet were still sore!) which stopped at the AdT. We got there at about 8PM and though my mom did not want to go up the 284 stairs (spiral staircase), she decided to do it and it was worth it. The view from the top was amazing.

We grabbed a sandwich to split on the way back to the hotel via the Metro and got home at 10:15PM. It was another long but very good day.


Versaiilles

I am losing my patience with Blogspot...  I havve to relaod these pics but it will take time...  I may just post them on facebook!  Frustrated!

Day 4
We woke at 8AM, got ready, checked mom in for her flight and paid for the hotel. We then headed to the LTour bus stop to hop on the open top bus for a short tour on the way to the Notre Dame and Saint Chapelle Cathedrals. The plan was to pay for the bus tour so that my mom could tour the rest of the city once I left for training in Fontainbleau. We took the bus to the churches but before visitng we stopped for breakfast. Both cathedrals were amazing.  I love the stained glass windows. 

After the cathedrals, the trip got a little hectic as the tour bus, which normally runs on a 20 minute schedule decided not to run as scheduled and I needed to get to the hotel to catch a bus to Fountainbleau...  we ran and then caught a cab and arrived at the hotel just in time to run up to the room, get my bag and hop in the taxi as I needed to get to Fountainbleau for a Sunday afternoon Meet and Greet for the course I was taking.  From that point my mom was on her own and she spent her afternoon on the tour bus to see the rest of Paris! 


Notre Dame Cathedral
Bored Gargoyle
Mass in session (see the small man in green)

St.Chapelle Cathedral

St. Chapelle Cathedral





I attended training in Fountainbleau, France, about an hour taxi ride from Paris.  Here are some pics.
Fountainbleau Chateau