A month ago we were packing again our luggage to move to another country. After the very useful experience in France, we were now ready to move to England, UK. After living for a year in France, we left with mixed impressions. I knew we had to move somewhere where we speak the language and where we can really integrate into society, and I believe we could not truly achieve this there.
When the expiry date of my fixed-term contract in France was approaching, I started looking for work options in England. After some promising interviews, I still had nothing safe and signed in my hand, but I did had an invitation to come for a follow up face-to-face interview that seemed 80% sure. I took a risk and quickly bought a one way only plane ticket and I came with all my luggage. I was aware that if I came only for a few days visit just for the interview and somehow it failed, I would return to Romania with the tail between my legs and depressed and it would be very difficult for to ever come back. Fortunately, the interview here went very well.
Probably the last of the great capitals that I have not been able to visit until now. It was in my plan to visit for a long time and I even had the plane ticket to London bought in the past but due to unfavorable circumstances I could not go. We left from Marseille, where we are now, and with Ryanair, we paid for 2 people return tickets just 97 EUR! Long Live Ryanair! The plane drops you at Stansted Airport which has a direct train connection to London. The train journey takes about 40 minutes and cost us 30 pounds (2 people). We arrived in London at Liverpool Street Station, one of the many giant train stations of this 10 million-strong metropolis. Getting out of the train and crossing the central corridor of the train station at rush hour, the atmosphere is simply overwhelming. Thousands of commuters traverse in a hurry between the subway and the numerous platforms that serve the suburban trains. But fortunately, the many signs, screens and information points make your life easy. We found our way to the subway entrance, we only had to find the platform of our line, which is not easy considering the fact that there are 4 subway lines serving this station.
The use the public transport, you will need an Oyster card, which is a universal card that is valid on the subway, train and bus, and prices for it may be shocking. The city is divided into 9 zones, and rates vary according to the number of zones you will cross. Avoid as much as you can buying one-time use tickets, they are the most expensive with rates starting from 5 pounds per trip. Better buy daily or weekly passes. To reach our hotel located in zone 4, we bought 2 weekly passes with unlimited trips valid in areas 1 to 4 for which we paid “only” 108 pounds (54 pounds per person). Fortunately, this is the only big expense you will encounter, during the rest of the holiday I had the pleasant surprise to discover that everything is cheaper here than in the South of France.
To reach our hotel near the Wembley Stadium, we used the Metropolitan Line, which is one of the newest line. It has large spacious trains lines and runs in express mode with few stations along Continue reading “The London Week”→
The summer is fast approaching and a small holiday was the perfect opportunity to take a road trip on the Cote d’Azur towards Saint Tropez. After visiting all of Marseille’s sights and surroundings, we wanted to go with our guest on a Côte d’Azur train trip, but unfortunately the unpredictable running schedule sprinkled with spontaneous strikes organised by the French SNCF lazy workers deprived us of this option. Another inconvenience would be that the train does not go all the way up to Saint Tropez, but only to Toulon or Nice, from where you have to take a local coach the rest of the way.
From Marseille to Saint Tropez there are only 150 km, but even for this distance, the train can be quite expensive if you do not buy the tickets well in advance. If you get a ticket today for tomorrow you can also spend around € 50 per person on such a train ride, so we’ve considered renting a car to make the trip. Unfortunately, this option can be quite expensive also if you do not make the reservation a few days in advance, but if you are 3 or 4 people in the car it is generally worth it. At the rental company called Thrift a Renault rented for one day costs 60 Euro + the insurance that on the internet costs 37.5 EUR … but if you take it from the office booth you will get it for 60 Euro’s ….. ( without this insurance you are liable to pay 1,000 EUR damage even for the Continue reading “Saint Tropez road trip France”→
Prague, a city that I always wanted to see and experience. I was always looking at the pictures of others and it seemed to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. After seeing it, I can say with all my heart that it is. The city offers beautiful landscapes, architecture, great old pedestrian squares, world class beer and bars where you can still smoke inside, and all this for prices almost identical to those in Romania.
From Romania there is no low cost direct flight to Prague, but the ticket on Czech Airlines is not too expensive, around 150 EUR per person bought a month in advance. Our 3-star hotel taken with TUI agency cost us only 121 EUR for 7 nights and not only it was very decent it also had breakfast included in the price.
From Václav Havel Airport to Prague city center take the AE (Airport Express) bus, the trip takes about 40 minutes and the ticket is bought directly from the airport counter and costs 60 Czech crowns (CZK) or about 2.3 EUR per person. I would advise to bring with you some Czech currency in order to buy the tickets, otherwise you have to deal with the currency exchange offices in the airport that offer rip off exchange rates. You will get of at the “Hlavní nádraží” central railway station, which is a huge underground hub where you can access the buses, the subway, the S trains and especially the trams. I underline the trams because these are the main and easiest way of transportation in the city. The Czech capital is covered everywhere by tramlines, and they come every three minutes. The trams have dedicated stations and dedicated lanes, and around half of them are of the latest generation of Skoda trains. Tram tickets are found at any cigarette or food kiosk and are divided according to the length of time. A 30-minute ticket costs 24 CZK (1 EUR), and one 24-hour ticket costs 110 CZK (4.3 EUR) and can be used from the moment of validation on any line and any time you want until the expiration date.
Praga , un oras unde mi-am dorit de mult sa ajung. Ma uitam pe pozele altora si mi se parea unul din cele mai frumoase locuri din lume, acum ca am vazut pot sa zic cu mana pe inima ca asa e. Orasul ofera peisaje superbe , arhitectura si piete grozave , o bere de nota 10 si baruri in care se fumeaza, si toate acestea la preturi aproape identice cu cele din Romania.
Din Romania nu exista zbor low cost direct catre Praga, dar biletul la Czech Airlines nu este prea scump, respectiv 150 de EUR de persoana luat cu o luna inainte , iar hotelul de 3 stele luat prin TUI ne-a costat doar 121 EUR pentru 7 nopti si pe langa faptul ca a fost foarte decent avea si micul dejun inclus in pret.
De la aeroportul Václav Havel spre centrul orasului Praga se ia autobuzul AE (Airport Express), cursa dureaza cam 40 de minute si biletul il cumparati direct din aeroport si costa 60 de coroane cehe (CZK) adica 10 RON de persoana. Ar fi bine sa veniti cu putina valuta Ceha din tara ca sa puteti cumpara biletul, pentru a evita casele de schimb valutar din aeroport. Veti cobori la gara centrala “Praha hlavní nádraží” , care este un complex urias supra si subteran, unde aveti acces la autobuze , metrou , trenurile S si mai ales la tramvaie. Spun mai ales tramvaie pentru ca acestea sunt principalul si cel mai usor mod de transport in oras. Toata capitala este impanzita de linii de tramvai , si acestea vin cam din 3 din 3 minute , au statii dese si benzi dedicate, si cam jumatate din ele sunt de ultima generatie fabricate in tara de Skoda. Bilete pentru tramvaie se gasesc la orice chiosc de tigari sau alimentara si sunt impartite in functie de durata de timp. Un bilet de 30 de minute costa 24 CZK (4 Lei), iar unul pe 24 de ore costa 110 CZK (18 Lei) si poate fi folosit din momentul validarii pe orice linie si de cate ori vreti pana la momentul expirarii.
After six years at sea all I got is a lot of white hairs, a car, a plot of land, a few good and plenty bad memories. I dedicate this article to all young people who are thinking of going to work and live on the high seas in life.
I made my first voyage in 2010 during my last year at the naval academy and I was among the lucky few who began their cadet program during the academy… . Now that I think about it, I was among the lucky few who caught a cadet contract at all.
I was glad when I left, it was my first real adventure in life, the first time I was leaving home for such a long period, the first time I went to America and on my plane ticket was written Los Angeles. Los Angeles I didn’t get to see that time , I only saw the highway from the airport to the boat. The enthusiasm vanished in less than a week, when I realized that I would spend the next six months sleeping in a narrow bed in a narrow cabin, on a ship with a narrow deck, where everybody abuses you, where you work absolutely every day and where everyone only cares about their own skin.
[Read more after photos]
I chose this career mainly to get to see the world rather than for money, but I soon I realized that you see the world only through airports, or when you are woken in the middle of the night to assist with the ship’s docking maneuvers, or you can see it in your only 6 hours break time if you sacrifice your sleep hours and if your legs are still able to support you. Port views are usually limited to a large container yard, often far away from any settlement, usually a 25 $ taxi ride away from the city. There are exceptions of course, ports like Hong Kong or Singapore, where the port is practically downtown. Or you can stay one month in a shipyard, or sit idle with your engine broken down somewhere nice. Sometimes when you sign on or off from the ship you’re lucky enough to catch a few nights at a hotel, then you can really get to see and enjoy the city, but due to economic reasons this happens rare. It happens sometimes to catch a long stay in some ports, where the cargo operations are very slow due to the management, but this is usually the case in third world countries, where you don’t want to stay long, and you definitely don’t want to go the city.
In these years I have learned, usually the hard way, that there is no justice on the ship, no matter how many rights and goodwill you have, you will still bite the dust. To survive here and climb above others have you have to step on their heads and be like a snake. And I realized that in an isolated environment if you give the power to a mentally deranged individual who had a bad childhood, he will start acting like the master of a slave plantation and will fuck everybody, and there will be no one around to keep him under control.
But this isolated environment also creates good things: you will make tight bonds and friends that in an office environment would never happen. Apparently if you spend a few months, day and night in a small confined space with the same few people, you either become very good friends with them, or you will find a thousand ways to kill them in their sleep and throw the body in the ocean at night without being seen by anyone. If you’re not a racist you will probably become one, because most people on board are. This starts also from the shipping and crewing companies who assign ranks and set the length and wages of your contract based on your nationality.
There is no more honor in this business, virtually all your life you will be a mercenary of the sea, in search of better conditions and pay. Before, each country had it’s own merchant fleet, manned with national crew. Nowadays you will find yourself celebrating New Year somewhere in West Africa, among pirates, in the company of barbed wire, surrounded by Russians and Filipinos, on a German ship sailing under the Liberian flag. Isn’t globalization beautiful?
And than there is the other life: the life ashore. Your time home between voyages, which may be shorter or longer, is not just a vacation, it’s basically your old life since before you started sailing, life that you are trying desperately to cling on to, but with each voyage it becomes more distant and unimportant to you. After 6 months on the high seas, you land in your country for 2-3 months and you simply do not understand what is going on around you. You missed your mother’s birthday, you missed the wedding of your best friend, you missed the latest movies … you missed a lot. And by the time you clear your head and start to adapt somewhat in society, your phone rings and you have to pack up and leave again.
Now imagine what it’s like to start a serious relationship in these conditions. Unless you’ve had your wedding in your early 20’s, or you are in a good consolidated relation with your high school sweetheart, you realize how damn hard it is to start and especially maintain such a relationship. Be prepared to face situations like: you just finished a contract and come back home to find that your girlfriend is pregnant and already moved in with another dude. But the good thing is that because of these situations you will have a stronger character and you cope more easily and more prepared in future years. And more importantly you will know how to select and value those who remained beside you during hard times.
Years of continuous non-interrupted daily work with many hours, little and random sleep time, eating food of doubtful quality, extreme swings of temperature, years of living in a vibrating and rolling environment where your time zones shifts daily, where the only available comfort you find in alcohol and tobacco and where coffee in large quantities is your best friend, will have an impact on your body. If you managed to escape serious physical injuries and accidents, you can be sure that you will pay in other ways. Those many white hairs that appeared on your head are just the surface syndrome.
[Read more after photos]
snow today, tropical heat tomorrow
cargo hold cleaning
another sleepless night at port watch
There is also the good part that everyone is thinking about: the money! If you sit isolated on a floating prison, means that you do not really have on what to spend the money you earn and you will put them aside. If you got some brains in your head and at the end of the contract you don’t not spend them all in one shot on a BMW, after a few contracts on the sea you can actually think about buying an apartment, a piece of land, or a house with cash down. So while your friends are struggling with credits at the bank for the next 30 years, you have a chance to avoid this. But as I said earlier, you will pay in other ways, whether it’s with your time, your health or happiness. It is the price worth it? … . That is for You to decide!
Perhaps I am being subjective here, and on other ships, at other companies, the life on board is better. I write to you sharing my experience on container ships, deck department. But one thing is certain: nobody will give you back the time spent at sea.
If you enjoyed this article, check out also my FB page Fb GarciaCalavera.ro, where you can click on the Like button to subscribe.
Desi vremea era foarte capricioasa ne-am hotarat Duminica sa plecam la plimbare prin Dobrogea. Vroiam de mult timp sa vad cetatile antice Enisala si Histria , care spre rusinea mea de Dobrogean nu le vazusem niciodata pana acum. Drumul nu a inceput incurajator , imediat cum am intrat pe drumul spre Tulcea a inceput sa ploua greu , dar din fericire norii pareau sa mearga in Sud , inapoi spre Constanta , astfel ca printr-un noroc incredibil la putin timp dupa ce am intrat in Judetul Tulcea , ploaia aproape ca se oprise.
Prima oprire a fost la Enisala , unde se ajunge foarte usor: se merge pe drumul E87 care leaga Constanta de Tulcea pana in orasul Babadag si de acolo venind dinspre Constanta se face dreapta spre Enisala. Drumul a fost recent renovat si este foarte bun. Dupa ce treceti de satul Enisala uitati-va foarte atent dupa un indicator foarte mic si obscur care indica drumul laturalnic spre cetate…. noi din pacate l-am ratat prima oara. [Citeste mai departe dupa poze]
Desi am avut ocazia sa vad Spania in timpul voiajelor , imi doream de mult o vacanta in aceasta tara minunata ca sa o pot savura cum trebuie. Micile sederi si escapade prin Barcelona si Valenciaau fost frumoase dar prea scurte , asa ca intre pauzele dintre cursuri am reusit sa evadez cu iubita 9 zile in capitala Spaniei, Madrid. Am zburat cu Wizzair din Bucuresti , si biletele luate cu o luna inainte au fost 100 de Euro de persoana. Cu Wizzair nu veti avea probleme atata timp cat respectati la litera limitele si conditiile companiei , mai ales cand e vorba de bagajele de mana admise pe zbor.
Am aterizat tarziu in tara si la gazdele noastre de acolo , carora doresc sa le multumesc din suflet pentru ospitalitate, si ne-am bagat direct la somn. Dimineata ne-am trezit cu o priveliste frumoasa a suburbiei Torrejon de Ardoz , care este un cartier nou de langa Madrid, un cartier linistit planificat si executat asa cum trebuie , plin de spatii verzi si parcuri unde Continue reading “Madrid Spania Review”→
Jacksonville , the port city from which I started my last ship contract, represents the American style in all its splendor, specific to the conservative South. The flight to get there was very long, and although we missed our last connection in JFK Airport in New York due to the long ques and long VISA , ID and security checks in the airport, it was no stress: our ship was running late Continue reading “Jacksonville USA – two days visit”→
Jacksonville , orasul port din care m-am imbarcat in penultimul voiaj , reprezinta stilul american in toata splendoarea lui specifica Sudului conservator de care apartine. Zborul pana acolo a fost unul lung , si desi nu am prins ultima legatura la aeroportul JFK din New York datorita procesului lung de verificare a actelor si scopului vizitei la autoritatile americane , nu a fost nici o problema , nava fiind oricum in intarziere. Datorita unor circumstante favorabile mie …si mai putin favorabile celor de la vapor , am prins 3 nopti cazare la Jacksonville , timp in care am explorat si fotografiat cat mai mult din oras.
Ce sare in ochi la prima vedere cum iesi din aeroport , este ca e plin de masini Pick-up uriase peste tot. Agentul care m-a luat conducea o Toyota Tundra care in orice oras de stil European ar fi ocupat lejer 2