And Ireland… the rest of the days!

And then I got back to Dublin… Oh Dublin… I loved Northern Ireland, but Ireland is something else… I loved Dublin! The first day back to the Republic of Ireland, however, we took a tour to the west coast of Ireland to check out the Cliffs of Moher and Galway County. The west coast of Ireland is magnificent – much like the rest of Ireland by the way, with a lot of green, water and lovely cows and sheeps.

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This cliffs are a magnificent sight and definitely worth a trip there. I had been to Galway before, but Galway county is lovely. Finally of Friday, the 17th, we finally had some time to see Dublin before my mom’s work started the next day. I spend the next 4 days walking around Dublin, going to some museums and shops, and although is not London, I could picture myself living there 🙂 .

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Temple bar is amazing, Trinity College is great and The Book of Kells and the old Library are definitely worth their money.

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The music on the streets, the great food and the nice people make Dublin a place to return to and soon. The only downside to Dublin is how expensive everything is…

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Other positive thing about Ireland: Guinness! I’m a huge Guinness fan, it’s my favorite beer, so I was in heaven for my stay there… I reached the most amount of beer I ever drunk during a diner… 1.5L of guinness!

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We finished the trip with a day tour to  Dunmore Caves, Kilkenny Castle and Glendalough. The caves I could have done without, a lot of steps down and then up and not a lot to see. Kilkenny is absolutely beautiful and Glendalough is breathtaking….

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Ending 2013 and starting 2014 in Casablanca

This New Year’s Eve, me and my mother went to Casablanca, Morocco.

The trip itself went nicely, Lisbon-Casablanca takes only 1 hour and 10 minutes. When we got there, we were rather positively impressed with our chosen hotel. Gray Boutique Hotel and Spa didn’t disappoint at first glance, the suite was exactly as it looked in the pictures online, very spacious, bathrobes, slippers and everything.

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That night we went to an amazing italian restaurant nearby, La Piazza, probably the best italian (pasta) I ever ate. After that, I sat on the couch and saw, for the first time, the classic movie Casablanca, which I loved!

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The next day we started to notice a few glitches on our “perfect” 5 stars hotel. The toilet was placed extremely high, and so were the towel hangers, the shower was not well isolated and the water leaked, almost flooding the bathroom, which was all in cement plates, which meant that the bath mat turned brown.

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The breakfast was nice enough, but laid out in a single small counter, which meant that all those delicious things were on top of each other. Then we went for a walk and went to see Hassan II MosqueAMAZING!

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With the most amazing doors, I loved it!

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After that we went for a ride around Casablanca.

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It was the last day of the year and we had NYE dinner at Rick’s Cafe, if you haven’t watched the movie Casablanca, it’s the cafe from the movie. The service was great, champagne, a lot of different entrés and even party hats (turbans for girls and fezzes for boys) were supplied. Me, being such a huge Whovian, as soon as I saw the fezzes I asked if I could get one instead, they said yes ;-).

“I wear a Fez now. Fezzes are cool!”

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Dinner was fantastic and the different styles of live music played made everything even better.

On January 1st I slept in (and it felt good) and then we went to have lunch around the beach club’s, where we saw the sea water filling in the pools… impressive. At night we finally tried out some Moroccan food: Chicken Pastilla, Tajine and Cous-Cous, at a local restaurant Al Mounia.

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Not having much to see anymore, we spent the next day visiting the “typical” Moroccan market… Morocco Mall =/.

Yesterday we came back to Portugal, after spending 1 hour in the check-in line and half an hour in the exchange bureau, we finally got to the plane (and due to overbooking, we both got upgraded to business class =D).

All and all it was a very nice trip, but I have to admit I’m not the biggest fan of North Africa. The biggest letdown for me was the hotel, that was not able to keep up at a 5* standard, with small things like never making the beds the same way and doing them all wrong, or not leaving enough towels, or us having to ask for more toilet paper because they forgot to replenish, or simple not being able to give us a decent city map!

London: Day 5

My fifth day in London, the 22nd November, was my day for parks and markets.

I went through the Camden markets (stables, Camden Town, Camden) and then I went through Regent Park, heading to 221B Baker Street to have a look at Sherlock’s shop museum (the museum itself I left for some other time).

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Then I headed to Notting Hill, to Portobello road market. Around here I got into a Brazilian cafe, where I saw “pastéis de nata” indicated as typically brazilian… well, they’re not, they are very much portuguese. Then crossed through Hyde Park, which I always find fascinating. I only know two cities in the world that have such huge park in the middle of them that you totally forget that you’re even in a city!

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At night (which means after 4pm basically), I went to Tower Hill and crossed the Tower Bridge. The London Eye photo is from another day, when I crossed the Westminster Bridge.

After that I went to the hotel, I changed hotels on this day, because of the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who (before I got the ticket to watch the episode on Celebration). So, I went, bought my dinner, and sat down on my king size bed eating and watching the Ultimate Guide of 50 years of Doctor Who.

London: Day 3

My conference ended, so Wednesday, 20th November, was a day to visit the city!

I managed to sleep in a little and then proceeded to watch The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Got off at Green Park, stopped in the park for coffee – big mistake, given that there are no trash cans around the Palace, did you know that?! I had to walk all the way to Buckingham Palace Road to dispose of the coffee cup.

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The band played a theme from James Bond, but I didn’t see much, I mainly saw the top of people’s heads. When I was finally ready to leave, given that I wasn’t seeing much and it had started to rain a bit, it started to hail, heavily!!! And I couldn’t go anywhere, because the guard was still leaving the Palace so no one could go through!!! Nice… I had to go to a gift shop to buy an umbrella, although I was already soaking wet!

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I went then to Hyde Park Corner do proceed to Harrods and the Museums. I got in Harrods and I got lost! Man, that place is a labyrinth, I don’t know how anyone gets around in there knowingly… I found what I wanted though, the Harry Potter and Doctor Who merchandise.

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Yeah! That’s a Marauder’s map and a Gryffindor sword. And a real life size of a Nimbus 2001…

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The prices though are sky high in there, the wands (from the Noble collection) are somewhat 8 to 10 pounds higher than on other places.

From then I went to the Science Museum. The museum has a great space and a great collection, but focus to much in engineering and medicine =/… Still totally worth it! Here is the DNA molecule model, built in 1953 by Watson and Crick!!

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And a model of the pig Insulin, from 1967!

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I then went to the next door, to the Natural History Museum, where they have outside an espetacular ice ring.

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I have serious mixed feelings about this museum. No doubt they have a spectacular collection of several species of birds and other animals, but they are stuffed animals and when you think of it, it’s kind of creepy!

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If you don’t get what those are, they are hummingbirds.

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Then I went (again) to Oxford street, where I’m totally in love with John Lewis department store, mainly the fourth floor, where they have an array of beautiful yarns and sewing machines, and the ground floor, where there is an amazing array of mixers and baking accessories… Heaven!

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London: Day 1 & 2

I got off to a rocky start! My plane was delayed for over 2h30min, which meant that I arrived at Gatwick around 8:15 pm!!!

I finally managed to get to the hostel around 10pm, got into my room and was unpleasantly surprised by my bed – let me clarify that at the time of the booking, I requested a bottom bunk, so when I get to the room and see that the bunk beds have 3 levels and I’m on the middle, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. The room was complete and I was exhausted, so I went to sleep, thinking that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. It was, I don’t know why exactly, but I slept terrible – I was cold at first, because the window was open (for the smell of over 12 pairs of shoes), then in the middle of the night it was extremely hot, someone had closed the window and now there was the body heat and breathing of 12 full grown adults… that was the first night!

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(St James Park)

  

So on Monday I woke up quite early to get to the conference meeting: “Ancient DNA: the first three decades” at The Royal Society. It took me awhile to get myself oriented around the conference site, but I managed. And WOW! I could have spent the day hearing Dr Carles Lalueza-Fox (Institute of Evolutionary Biology, Barcelona, Spain) and Professor David Reich (Harvard Medical School, USA) talking about Neanderthals and Denisovans. At some moment, talking about the cut marks present on the Neanderthals from El Sidron, which are a sign of cannibalism, Dr Lalueza said: “Apparently, if you’re a cannibal, you can’t miss the tongue” – because of a specific cut mark that indicated the removal of the tongue. After presenting the data that indicated that there was some inbreeding between late Neanderthals and fairly modern Humans, someone asked Professor Reich: “So, you’re saying that they copulated?”, Reich avoided the word, maintaining the term of inbreeding, but he eventually said an undertoned “yeah” when the person in question didn’t gave up on the subject.

The afternoon was dedicated to microbes and diseases, with a fascinating talk about the “Ancient Pathogen Genomics” of the Y. pestis (black plague) and the M. leprae (leprosy) from Dr Johannes Krause (University of Tübingen, Germany). I find this subject fascinating and the papers are something else!

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When I ot back to the hostel, I was in desperate need to charge my phone! I’m a travelled girl, and I always carry around my universal charger, but it happens that due to the disposition of the electic sockets of my bunk bed, the charger didn’t fit, I looked around the room and nothing, the only electric sockets that exist are on the beds, and are all the same. So I came down to the common room, but the waiting list to charge stuff was quite big – I guess a lot of people has the same problem – so I complained in the reception desk, because it isn’t my fault that the sockets are not prepared to receive adaptars. So they lend me one small one!

Today morning I asked if I could change to the bottom bunk, and said yes… not all is lost!

The conferences today were somehow less on my area of interest – sure, the subject was mainly domestication (correlated to the Neolithic revolution), on subjects as crops and chicken. The second talk on chickens though, blew us all away! Dr Greger Larson (Durham University, UK) gave the funniest I ever heard. He started his talk explaining why Professor Dr Ian Barnes should be stopped and how he was glad that for once, Ian was not invited to speak at this conference and he then explained why: Dr Ian Barnes has better stories, better data, better everything, and he’s funnier that everyone in that room combined (and mind you, there were more than 200 people there). Following this, he explained that it’s not because something is fixed that it means that it’s old, explaining then how several kind of media would report such news! – Hilarious!!!! Super funny, made his point on his results, criticizing at the same time some of the huge problems on the way we get our information nowadays:

Daily Mail: “Shocking waste of taxes on study that proves all 100 million UK chickens are dirty foreign birds”.
Editors of high profile journals: “Chickens are first and best domesticated animal”. (Extra brownie points for getting two superlatives into one paper!)
BBC: “Yeti proven to be giant chicken”. 2bps of 16S perfectly matches a chicken.

To end an amazing presentation, Dr Larson “contacted” Dr Ian Barnes to comment on the “Yeti proven to be giant chicken” conclusion:

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Sadly, the conference came to an end today!

Now back at the Hostel (now on the bottom bunk, charging my PC and phone at the same time in the common room), I’m planning my day tomorrow! On the plans are the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, the Natural History and Science Museum, and the British Museum. Hyde Park and Harrods are also on my plans.

AH, and I tried the delicious eggnog latte from Starbucks! =D

OHHHH, AND IT’S FREAKING COLD!