Travelling to Corsica

After my mother completed a school project on Corsica’s history thirty years ago, we decided to take one of the most confusing flight journeys ever, and explore Corsica’s beautiful scenery.

We left home at 5am to get to Heathrow with three hours before we fly. Typically, we experienced serious traffic jams, due to overnight flooding. This left us with limited time.. stressed before we even began our four tier journey!!

You’d be surprised to hear that this journey was relatively stress free once we left Heathrow; despite having to get a bus from one side of Paris to the other; Future reference – Paris (CDG) and Paris (Orly) are miles from each other!
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Finally arriving in Figari at 10pm.. Astounded that we didn’t miss any flights, I began to relax… my part of the organising was done. All we needed to do was find our private villa, 6km from the airport… How hard can that be?

Well, with a very basic map and it being dark.. this turned out to be impossible. I turned on my data roaming to use google maps, and before i even managed to use it, i received a text.. “You have spent £36.39 using our Europe Zone Data”… Nightmare!!

We arrived at a house on an old track where we thought our villa may be, an old man opened his door, looking very confused. He invited us in, and we explained our dilemma. We tried calling the villa and the number was out of use… Everyone turned to me… “Does the Villa exist?”

After using Jean-Pierre’s internet, we found the correct address online and found our villa. Panic over? Definitely not.

It was now 12:30am, and with no number to call, we had no idea how to get into our villa. The area looked deserted. One light was on in one of the bedrooms, so we decided that was our villa and following our unsuccessful break in. We camped outside on the sunbeds, to begin with it was ok and we managed to sleep. Once it got to about 3am, I woke up feeling damp, freezing, but still found it pretty amusing! It was just so typical us! IMG_9534.JPG

Changing the plan to set up camp in the hire car, the four of us tried to sleep. Roughly an hour later… a car arrived, saved? Not yet.

He didn’t speak any english, and after Emily’s limited vocabulary and an attempt at charades… His mother arrived, who pointed out that we were not staying in her villa. Great…

She woke up her brother who owned the other Villa; who had no idea it was booked. So despite now being able to go inside our villa, it was not prepared for our arrival and therefore we still couldn’t get the remaining few hours of the night in a bed!!

Why did I ever think I’d be able to single handedly organise a stress free trip abroad? I am a rookie traveller!

The villa was stunning, and almost worth the wait…

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Les Villas de Petra Grossa, Domaine de Petra Grossa, Figari, 20114, France

 

 

 

 

 

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London

Following my return from Oman, I have headed straight to London to complete some work experience. It is within a headhunters, located in Bank. It has been so great to be contributing during an insight week, rather than just being a burden on everyone. Despite only doing research, it is research that seems to be really helpful, for a particular profile one guy is working on.

Anyway, whilst in London.. I won’t be visiting anything cultural. So instead thought i’d report on the places where i have eaten. This will motivate me to explore different places to eat everyday. Rather than just venturing to Pret daily.. As tempting as that is!

Here are a few locations I have been to so far:

Barbecoa (Jamie Oliver) – Bank

  • 82 WATLING STREET, LONDON, EC4M 9BX

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This salad box cost £4.95, which for a Lunch in London is pretty good! Probably wouldn’t justify it everyday, but for a work experience treat.. it was delicious. With a choice of three salad options, and the option to add meat which would make the total cost £6. Highly recommend for an easy, healthy lunch spot.

Wild Food Cafe – Covent Garden

  • 14 Neals Yard, 1st Floor, Covent Garden, WC2H 9DP

Safe to say this was a daring option to choose, when its raw and vegan. I’m not even vegetarian… but I enjoyed it!

In terms of cost, its relatively expensive. Which is to be expected at somewhere so unique. Our total bill was nearly £40, with two drinks, two starters and one pudding. 

I dragged along a cautious friend, who unfortunately wasn’t as keen.. but enjoyed this raw chocolate tart more. So for those who aren’t fussed about not eating meat, I would say go be daring! You might be pleasantly surprised.. I definitely was. 

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Day 8

So the day is here… The start of Ramadan!

Unfortunately from now on, we are unable to really explore. Seeing as some places are closed, and the others are just so difficult to fully experience without one drop of water throughout the trip.

IMG_7091Ramadan is the holy month in which Muslims commemorate the revelation of the Holy Quran. They do this by fasting during the daylight hours.

With every intention of respecting this, Louise and I wear our abayas whilst venturing outside to compound.

“Out of respect non-Muslims should not eat, drink or smoke in public places, even in their cars, between sunrise and sunset”

Firstly we looked round a traditional fish market in al seeb, with lovely old men selling the fresh fish they caught that morning.

FullSizeRender-1.jpgSo we had been out of the compound, attempting to be respectful of this cultural event, for a maximum of 20 minutes… Before…

We visit a fruit and veg stall, where there are a different type of dates.. So Louise asks if we can try them and mid mouthful screams at me and hits the date out of my hand… Apologising profusely!

Honestly, with food in front us… Of course we wouldn’t think about anything else 🙄

During Ramadan, the whole dynamics of the country change, with rush hours on the roads being later, work hours being shorter and places being open at different times. Apparently the roads become worse.. with constant accidents, due to people being easily aggravated during their fasting.

After 40 minutes in our abayas and the heat of the day, we rushed home for some water. I honestly admire everyone that commits to the fast… it shows wonderful restraint and commitment to their religion and beliefs!

 

 

 

Day 6

With one member of the team down, we ventured for coffee with Louise’s friend who lives on a neighbouring compound. After being here for five years, she has collected traditional and authentic omani decor, adapting their home into a sophisticated and cultural abode.

I thought I would share a story about the most unlucky.. yet lucky wadi-dog! Wadi-dog is the term used for the wild dogs that live in Oman. Since arriving in Oman, I have not seen one dog on a lead.. compared to the UK where dogs are treated as a child in most families.

However, there are still plenty of dogs.. Wild dogs roaming around fish markets and outside the compounds. It is clear from being here, that in Oman… dogs are treated very differently.

In the Quran dogs are referred to as “if you attack him, he lolls out his tongue, or if you leave him alone, he (still) lolls out his tongue” (Surah 7-178).

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Habiba

This is ‘Habiba’; which translates into English as beloved. The local charity; Omani Paws, “A group of people who spray, neuter and re-home these wadi-dogs”. They saved Habiba from being drowned.

She has been adopted by a lovely family. As you can see, they spoil her rotten and she lives a life of luxury. Which will carry on when they take her back to the UK with them, when they leave Oman.

Her unlucky streak began again at the age of 7 months. Whilst being a usual energetic puppy… she decided to jump over a wall that had a 30ft drop! Doing so, she broke her front leg in two places. With the family at hand, they rushed her to the closest vets. With blood pouring from her mouth, they were expecting the worst. A broken leg was in some ways lucky.. seeing the severity of the accident.
Whilst arriving home, this nurturing family noticed her discomfort on her back hip. Initially, the vets believed it to be a scorpion sting.

However, it turned out to be a huge burn, accidentally inflicted by the vets during the surgery for her leg. This was due to her temperature dropping. So they applied heat packs on her hind legs, to keep her warm enough.

Luckily, she is now a few months on from her accident, and is now recovering. And despite the trauma she has been through… she is still a very friendly, energetic and beautiful animal!

At a cost to the family of 600rials (approx £1200)… despite everything she remains a very lucky dog!

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Day 5

After our binge boozing the day before, we definitely followed with a lazy day! Nursing our serious hangovers, we relaxed by the pool and discussed the antics from the night before. Being three members of the Whyte family, of course.. there were plenty! Sophie got the most out of her last few hours of the 40 degree tanning weather, before she flew home… prepared for London and the world of working?

Her flight was at 5am on Sunday morning, and despite a hangover, she still managed to finish one book and read another in three hours. I’m yet to reach chapter 3 of my book…

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Day 4

In Oman, Thursday is the new Friday, so shortly after I posted about our adventures in Muttrah, the weekend began with Kev supplying strong G&T’s from 6pm. The reason the weekend starts so early here is that their holy day is a Friday, rather than a Sunday in the UK.

So forgetting to start the BBQ… we carried on drinking… resulting in Louise and I trying to be ‘down with the kids’ and crashing their pool party. Anyway, explaining to Sophie how i managed to return home with soaking wet clothes, I realised how technology has changed the simplest of things. With Oli having to ask “Phone? Watch waterproof?” before pushing me in!

Having to look presentable for our bubbly brunch at the grand hyatt hotel, for 12pm the next day, was a struggle. Before the drinking began again at 2pm, we were not feeling the love for Kev!

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Bubbly Brunch @ Grand Hyatt Hotel

Bubbly bunches are put on by hotels, to allow anyone to enjoy the finest of their cultural cuisine, within the luxury of a 5 star hotel. Accompanied by alcohol, which cannot be bought or consumed anywhere outside of hotels in Oman. We paid 35 rials, which converts to £62.63, with the current exchange rate. With their not being any pubs or restaurants where alcohol can be consumed, these brunches are how the community of expats, westerners and tourists socialise.

The food was out of this world. I have not experienced quality and choices like it. I actually found it quite stressful! There was a pork room, for non muslims, which was overwhelming for the expats who have limited access to pork. And when they do, its very pricey, for example 12 richmond sausages cost them around £12, compared to £2 we would pay in Tesco.

The main course section had a salad bar, sushi, roasts, seafood – including Oysters which Sophie was brave enough to try! We had from 1-5 to enjoy this selection, very surprised we were even affected by the alcohol! Eloquently presented and tasted delicious!!BeFunky Collage_188.jpg

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The pudding section: as you can see, anything you could imagine!

 

 

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We definitely took advantage of the included alcohol, and are paying for it today!

Day 3

Today’s adventures took us to the coastal town of Mutrah, this is renowned as the old town of Muscat. The gates to Muscat used to be closed at last light and opened at first light. If you weren’t able to get through the gates in time, you would have been locked in the desert for the night with nothing. This is before Sultan Qaboos came into power.

IMG_0041The first thing I learned in Oman, is how much they value their leader; Sultan Qaboos. In 1970, he started to revolutionise the country, through changing his father’s attitude to leadership. He has been educated in a private school in England and trained in Sandhurst. And rather than holding onto their wealth, he has invested everything into the coutcry, by modernising the infrastructure. When he took over Oman, it had 3 primary schools, 10k of paved roads and 2 health centres. Today Oman is peaceful and prosperous, whilst also preserving much of the character and heritage of the country, making Oman so unique.

Anyway, as I said we visited Mutrah, where we went to the traditional souk (market). Which sells Omani and Indian artefacts, antiques, traditional textiles, hardware and jewellery. Navigating around the souk was a challenging maize of avenues, we are so lucky to have Louise who has visited many times and knew what she was doing.

As three whytes on tour, we were constantly haggling for the best deal. This may of resulted in Louise encountering a man being over friendly and Sophie accidentally revealing slightly too much. The reaction was hilarious, safe to say we got a cracking deal on that one!

IMG_2120The highlight of today: definitely when we were heading to the car after the souk and whilst being dramatic over how hot the car was… We found this adorable lady who gave Louise her child’s ice cream. Then runs into the shop to get us all an ice cream to cool down. Whilst chatting, I said how much I loved her dressing that she wears such beautiful colour rather than just black. Well… Being Omani and Muslim she literally offered us the shirt off her back, in the form of her dress!! The Omanis are incredibly generous, being English I assume they’re taking the mick.

Tomorrow will be the least cultural with us heading to an incredibly fancy hotel to get smashed; Grand Hyatt. Might make a post?!

Day 2

Following my early night, I was once again woken by the morning prayer. To which after tossing and turning, I could not fall back asleep. So I got out of bed at 5am, which isn’t ridiculously early for the Jordan family, who leave for school at 6am and work at 6:30. The days start earlier here, due to the early starts helping to avoid the heat of the day. The shops are generally open from 8am-12pm, then closing for the afternoon and opening again 4pm-midnight. But school starts at 7:30am and finishes at 2pm.

After heading to the gym with Louise at 6:30am, definitely a record time for me! We headed to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, it was a great privilege to experience the extent to their religion and culture. We were incredibly lucky for a kind lady; Sister Naima; to tour us around, explaining everything in such great detail.

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The quality and detail of the architecture is overwhelming, with the Arab’s using global materials to create the most oare-inspiring buildings. Every wall within the mosque has Arabic written just under the ceiling, which translate into positive religious versus, one translating into, “God, don’t cover up my heart after you have guided me”.

The total capacity for people to prayer within the Grand Mosque is 20,000 people, with the total size being 416,000 square meters. Men and women pray separately, and they pray in lines, touching shoulder-to-shoulder. This is to demonstrate everyone being on the same level and equal in every way.

Due to women having commitments at home, they have the ability to pray at home. Whereas Men are required to pray five times a day within the mosque. This makes the size of the mens prayer room huge in comparison to the women’s, with the capacity of the men’s being 6,600 compared to 750 within the women’s prayer room.

The chandelier in the featured image weighs 8 tonne, and is 8 by 15 metres in size. It is the second largest chandelier in the world, with Dubai taking the lead. Apart from my sheer amazement at the size and beauty of the chandelier, I wondered how an earth it is maintained. The light bulbs are changed by someone being lifted up in a crane, where the side opens up to a staircase leading to each section. It has never been taken down since it was placed up there in 2001.

To top today off, Naima was incredibly generous and gifted Louise and I the prettiest of habayas. We are now very prepared to be respectful during Ramadan next week. Heads up, they’re surprisingly cool, despite being black and covering the whole body. I think its the loose fit!

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