"bLog means boring-Log"
a burger with special requests (0 comments)
so we ordered burgers for lunch today at the office. since i was asked by the co-worker who took the orders, if i had any special requests, i told him my requests. around 45 minutes later, i got this...
how awesome is that. only... the cat looks a little... hm... strange. but i can accept that - after all, the guys are cooks, not art illustrators. and i got a heart too <3
day 07 in leprechaun land (0 comments)
oh no, time flies. and so we will we today. it is our last day
in ireland for this trip. as our flight will leave today in the evening, we decided to pay some sights in dublin[01-91] a short visit. for better agility and mobility we left our luggage at the hotel which is near to the station of the airport bus. in fact, it's just on the other side of st.stephen's green[01-05].
since our last booking did not include breakfast we went to a small cafe[10-11] we spotted when walking to the city centre. guess this means last english style breakfast for nina for a little while now.
after the breakfast we felt fortified again, so it was time to go to the trinity college[12-13], and enter the trinity college library.
that is where the book of kells is on display. since we watched the movie the secret of kells
and we loved the cat named pangur bán so much, it was a must to see the original book.
unfortunately visitors were not allowed to take pictures of the book itself. but since the rest of the library was also very impressive, we took loads of pictures in this really marvellous library[24-43].
lots of people, lots of busts, and especially lots of books. while the latter one would typically expect in a library, the first two things were rather uncommon - at least to the libraries i knew so far.
we continued our walk through dublin's city centre[44-91], saw lovely house facades[44,50-52,55-57,62-70,77-78], came very close to some seagulls[45,47-49,84] looking for food, wondered about the street performers[71-73] performance, and saw many other stuff.
dublin really is a wonderful city. a lot of quiet, green areas, but then again narrow, busy streets, full of people - a balanced mix. but finally and sadly, it was time to get on the bus, bid farewell, and catch our plane.
the weather was a little friendlier today, with sunshine from time to time, but most of the day was cloudy, with temperatures around 13°C.
this whole ireland trip was great. big thanks, as usual, to nina for accompanying me and doing most of the planing.
some stuff for the statistics department:
kilometres driven with car: 581
usable pics taken on trip: 750
track for day 07
track for day 01 to day 07
day 06 in leprechaun land (0 comments)
is all about anseriformes. well, actually just the suborder of the anatidae. ahm, to be even more precise... it is all about ducks, geese, and swans. and do not think i am an ornithologist. i just like animals. and it seems the best place to see those animals in ireland is at the wetland reserve called castle espie wetland centre.
as it turns out, the castle espi wetland centre[02-065] was right next to our last accommodation. furthermore it turns out, there is no castle anymore, just the wetland centre is all that's left. and also it turns out that today was a special halloween day for kids, so the place was full with families and little kids. this day, so full of twists and turns.
although extolled by the information centre, we did not spot a single otter. too bad, we really would have loved to see one. but it seems they are really shy, or maybe they are already long gone. who knows.
so, they really have a large collection of ducks, geese, and swans. unfortunately i cannot name any of the fowls on the pictures. they all looked different to me, so i guess it must be... a lot of different birds.
especially cute was the duckery[54-55], where young birds were kept separately from the rest of the flock.
there were also trails leading to hides where one could watch wild birds at the shore of strangford sea lough. while all the ducks were "domestic", those were the real wild birds. therefore also quite far away from the loud humans in the wetland centre.
then it was time to get back to dublin, as we had to return our car today. we did the usual stuff before returning the car, like cleaning it on the inside, filling the tank, and such. but before the actual return we brought our luggage to the hotel where we will spend the night. it was quite hard to find a parking lot, but we finally made it. as the rental car hire was not far away from our hotel, we decided to walk back to the hotel. on our way we made a stop at the "the bleeding horse" pub to have an amazing burger.
some people in the streets seemed to be going out and were in halloween dresses or costumes. since we were pretty tired, we did not join the party crowd, but rather got to our hotel, the stauntons on the green.
today the weather was like the average day of this trip so far: cloudy and overcast. the temperature dropped to 12°C.
track for day 06
day 05 in leprechaun land (0 comments)
we started this day
with a visit to one of the three sandy beaches in portrush, namely white rocks[001-018] bay. as it was sunday, some people also had the same idea and took a stroll on the beach, were walking their dogs, or were waiting for the flood, so they can kayak.
the beach really is beautiful, especially with the patterns[008-010] and the reflections in the sand, the little littoral caves[014-015] that got eroded by the sea over time, and the sound of the waves and wind. just the perfect place for relaxing sunday walks.
then we drove to dunluce castle[019-058]. hey, guess what... yes, it was used for the pyke of the greyjoy clan in game of thrones. now that came as a surprise, did it not. but to be fair, this really is an impressive castle, and also we were quite lucky with the weather and scaffoldings. it was built in the early 17th century on top of a castle from the 13th century. the castle itself is only accessible by one bridge, and has extremely steep drops on all sides - perfect for defence.
while the castle was still occupied, a large part of the kitchen collapsed into the sea, and from the whole kitchen staff only a boy survived, as he was sitting in a corner of the kitchen that did not fall into the sea. after that the owner's wife refused to life there any longer. since that the castle was uninhabited and started to deteriorate. as a consequence the north wall collapsed into the sea too in the 18th century.
then it was time to return to the giant's causeway[059-114] again. if you ever happen to go there, be advised that there is no need to pay for the parking, nor for the entrance. free parking lots were enough in the vicinity, and you only had to pay an entrance fee if you entered through the visitor centre, which you can easily, and legally bypass - tim gave us this tip yesterday.
legend has it, that an irish giant was challenged by an scottish giant to fight. so the irish giant started to build the causeway from ireland to scotland. but once the causeway was finished, the irish giant got frightened by the height of the scottish giant, and thus hid. his wife then dressed her husband as a baby and put him in a cradle. once the scottish giant saw the baby, he concluded from the size of the baby, that the father must have been enormous. thus he destroyed the causeway, so the irish giant could not follow him back to scotland.
funny thing is, there is a similar place with all those hexagonal basaltic columns at one coast in scotland too, which also stretches out into the sea. so maybe the legend is not so far fetched at all. and since even giants seem to be in need of a house, there might have been one ages ago. but all that is left after millions of years of weathering is the chimney stacks[091-092,111-112].
we kept on the top of the steep cliff of the causeway coast and did our hike there. the view was amazing, and again, we were pretty the only ones walking there, besides a few runners, people walking their dogs. only a few hikers or tourists were spotted.
it is really amazing how you can end up from being in a crowd to being totally alone within a few minutes or hundreds of metres. because at the main attractions there were even more people than yesterday - most likely because it was a nice sunday with sunshine from time to time with average temperatures around 13°C.
then it was time to get going to our accommodation for tonight. for this we had to go southward and through belfast. on the way we had a few short stops[115-120], and finally arrived at the old schoolhouse inn in comber. and it literally was an old schoolhouse, with boys and girls wing - we were in the boys wing.
at the inn there was also a fancy restaurant. and while we were pretty much underdressed we got some fine dining and an amazingly delicious fish pie. nomnomnom...
track for day 05
day 04 in leprechaun land (0 comments)
while packing our stuff and preparing for checkout on the morning of day 04
, we spotted a cute cat in front of our window. later we found out it was the b&b owner's cat, and it is rather rare that someone gets to spot the cat. tim, that was the owner's name, also told us that lots of people from the uk are here for halloween and holidays, including school kids, since they seem to have holidays now. again we did not know that halloween was such a big thing over here.
our first stop for today was the carrick-a-rede rope bridge[002-038], a rope bridge that was initially built by fishermen to get easier to their boats for salmon fishing. then later it was for tourists and fishermen alike, and finally it was another location for game of thrones.
and actually the bridge looks way longer in the actual scene than in real - it is the scene where balon greyjoy gets killed. also the island itself was way more an attraction than the rope bridge. really beautiful, but unfortunately full of people - a thing we were not used to over the last few days.
luckily the sun came out for a few minutes, and this gave a wonderful boost to all the colours of the sea, the stones, the flora, and the sky; just amazing.
after a short car ride we arrived at the ballintoy harbour[039-129]. seems also this place was taken for shootings of game of thrones scenes, namely the greyjoy's iron islands. there was even an ongoing GoT tour with loads of real-life greyjoys. i wonder, why there is no tour for fans of ramsay bolton - so much cooler than any greyjoy ever will be.
we did not go to the exact place where the shooting for GoT took place, and instead we walked in the opposite direction, away from the car park. and after a few minutes of walk, we were totally alone again.
the walk along the coastline was really amazing, again lots of vibrant colours - even without direct sunlight. the place looked like it was autumn, all earth-coloured, endless shades of brown, lush green and dried out blades of grass - really an amazing colour palette.
walking further along the seashore we came to the elephant rock[060,063,066-067,074,076-077]. and from the right angle, it really looked like a huge mammoth or elephant. we also found the stone arcs right next to it pretty impressive.
while we wanted to walk to white park bay, it turned out we could not walk on since the flood blocked our way along the coast. but it was wonderful so far, so it was okay, to just walk back again.
seems like another spare-time activity is to jump from rocks in neoprene suits, and it looked like these guys really had fun.
we spotted a lot of birds there[105-106,108-113,117-118,120], even rabbits[121-122], and a seal. the spotting of the latter made us very happy, since we really love these creatures very much.
back at the car we had a little snack and rest, and then drove on to dunseverick castle[130-132], which - you might have already guessed it - was ... of course ... another game of thrones location.
again we were pretty surprised what irish call a "castle", when it was in fact not more than the ruins of a ruined ruin. but well, why not - simply just enjoy and behold the beauty and magnificence of the impressive castle of dunseverick.
last stop for today was the giant's causeway[133-180], an area with hexagonal basalt columns, leading from the cliff foot to under the sea. almost all the stones are black, and if they are wet, it makes them even darker.
they combined halloween here with the mexican day of the dead[134,137], so there are these little decorated skulls all over the way down from the visitor centre to the shoreline.
there were a lot of people - at least compared to what we were used to earlier this day. but after all, the giant's causeway seems to be among the most famous tourist attractions of northern ireland. so this was to be expected.
it was already late, the sun set, and thus it was getting darker with every minute. so we soon walked back to the car, as we will return here tomorrow anyway.
back in portrush we went to our room in an uladh, tossed our camera gear, and went to grab some food from a take away. today's temperature was around 11°C and it was again cloudy all day long.
track for day 04
day 03 in leprechaun land (0 comments)
started like yesterday: with irish breakfast for nina and porridge and continental for me.
after check-out at the hotel we drove up north and had our first stop at the flagstaff viewpoint[03-15], which also was our first stop in northern ireland. one really gets an amazing view over the area. and although there were quite many parking lots, we were the only ones here.
when we drove on, we noticed a really big viaduct. so we tried to get closer to it, and parked somewhere near it. we then continued on foot, and finally arrived right under the craigmore viaduct[16-25]. this viaduct seems to be largest one in all ireland.
soon we arrived at the dark hedges[27-48], a road with old beech trees on either side, that build a dark, atmospheric tunnel. it got famous for being a film location for "game of thrones", and thus our guide book said it will be lots of people and traffic here. again, since it is off-season we were pretty lucky, and only a few cars and people were around.
the dark hedges really is a cool place. but it seems it is in great danger, as from the initially 150 beeches that were planted here in the late 18th century, currently only 90 survived. most of the trees were destroyed by storms and heavy winds, but also increased traffic became a danger to the trees with their partially exposed roots.
a one hour ride later, we arrived at portrush[49-77], where we would spend the night at the harbour heights b&b. so we checked in, left our luggage in the room, and went for a little stroll through the small seaside city. portrush is most famous for its golf courses, its sandy beaches[50-51], an amusement park and the largest nightclub complex.
all of this was not our main reason to choose portrush for our place of accommodation. it was more, because from here you can easily reach sights by day trips. but still we enjoyed the walk along the shore line, again with not many people around; mainly people walking their dogs.
as the b&b is fully booked for the next night, we had to find another accommodation in portrush. too bad we have to move, it would have been more convenient to just leave the luggage there. but the other b&b is just a few hundred metres away, so it's fine. yet the view from our window was awesome.
it seems halloween here really is a big thing. that is why, even in off-season, almost all hotels and b&bs are fully booked. that was a surprise to us.
today it was - again - mostly overcast and cloudy, with temperatures around 10°C.
track for day 03
day 02 in leprechaun land (0 comments)
we started day 02
with an irish breakfast for nina, and sweetened porridge and continental breakfast for me.
then we got in the car and headed for brú na bóinne[02-50], named as one of the world's most important prehistoric landscapes from the neolithic period. so the area includes megalithic passage graves, lots of monuments, mounds, standing stones, tombs, henges, and enclosures. all dating back from the early beginnings around 6000 years to the most active period dating back 5000 years to the neolithic period.
we decided to start with the site of knowth[03-36], an ancient monument and a neolithic passage grave inside a mound, that is about 12 metres high and 67 metres in diameter.
the mound is surrounded by 128 massive kerbstones (though one seems to have gone missing), almost all of them decorated with monolithic art carvings like spirals, diamond shapes, and serpent-like forms.
up to now, the meaning of the carvings is actually unknown. so maybe it could just have been eye candy; but this is rather unlikely. like all the monolithic findings in brú na bóinne all this stuff is older than stonehenge or the pyramids of egypt; unbelievable. especially when it comes to explaining how they could transport all the stones and pile them up to build the inside of the chamber hallways.
next station was newgrange[37-48], another round mound with an inner stone passageway and chambers. it is a bit larger in diameter than knwoth, and almost the same height. around the mound there are 97 kerbstones, and one big entrance stone. in newgrange one can even enter the chambers, but you are not allowed to take pictures inside, besides it would have been too dark anyway. but you get to know the profound knowledge of science and astronomy that was needed when planning this site.
once a year, exactly at the winter solstice, the sun would then fill the whole 19 metres of the passage and light up the inner chambers. the illumination lasts a little longer than 15 minutes. a small group of people is allowed in the chamber when this happens, and the good thing is everyone can apply for it; by drawing lots the lucky few get picked.
the inner chamber is 6 metres high and entirely built from stone slabs. it also contains three recesses and basin stones that contained the bones of the dead.
at the visitor centre it is shown how the building of the mounds was done, namely with ropes and logs to transport the stones. still it is hard to imagine how those people at the time could manage to transport several hundred tons of stone just to build those impressive monuments, of which the purpose is unknown today.
we have not been to dowth, the third mound. instead we drove back to carlingford, and took a walk through this lovely village[51-80], and enjoyed the lovely streets and halloween decorations.
not many people were in the streets, it obviously is off-season. though we saw some people through the windows of the few pubs and bars.
there is also john's castle[66-74] on a little hill looking over carlingford. it got its name because king john stayed there for three days in the 12th century. since we could not get inside, either because it was already closed as it was too late, or because it was renovated in off-season, or because it was not publicly accesible at all, we decided to go down to the beach.
after it got dark we went to "ma bakers" pub to have dinner. turns out there is a live band every thursday, the so called "the folk legends". and so we got free and cool live music, and carlingford local blond craft beer. and while this evening started with us being the only guests, the pub soon became crowded - seems the folk legends are pretty famous here in carlingford.
but then it was time to go to sleep and spend another night at the belvedere hotel in carlingford. today's average temperature was about 15°C, and it was overcast and cloudy most of the day again.
track for day 02
arrival and day 01 in leprechaun land (0 comments)
before our arrival in ireland, dublin we flew from vienna to munich and then on to frankfurt for our final change to our flight to dublin. this procedure took us six and a half hours, so we arrived at around 23:30 o'clock. all that was left for this day was to fetch our rental car from the airport, getting used to driving on the left, and then find our hotel with a little detour. outside temperature was around 10°C when we arrived at our first hotel, the "ashbourne court hotel" at around 00:30 o'clock IST, which is irish standard time (UTC+1).
we started the first day
heading to trim castle, arriving at the priory of st. john the baptist[001-015] in trim. or at least what's left of it, which is ruins. but beautiful ones.
next we headed to the newtown clonbun parish church[017-026], newtown abbey, and the cathedral of peter and paul[028-037] which was adjacent. there was also a cemetery with very old gravestones. i really liked that place, especially with all the moss and the lichen with all those different colours.
on our little walk to trim castle[038-040,042,044,046,048,052-083], we passed the yellow steeple[043,047,050] of st. mary's abbey, and old bell tower that was built in the 14th, and damaged in the 17th century. then there was also the sheep gate.
we then decided to take a guided tour[067-083] through trim castle, which is also known as king john's castle. the tour itself was pretty interesting, also seeing the castle from the inside, with all the chambers and few privies for the high ranked occupants of the castle. we learned a lot about the habits and living standards of the middle ages.
when it was time for lunch we decided to have the classic fish'n'chips. we really like them and so this was one thing i was looking forward to on this trip. and they were good, nomnomnom.
going to st. patrick's cathedral church[088-103], also known as trim cathedral, was our after-dinner walk. the current church was a replacement built around 1800 for a church from the 15th century.
the inside of the church was rather small but very lovely, with beautiful stained glass windows and nice mosaic floors.
on our way back to the car, we made one more stop at the cathedral of st. peter and paul[106-108]. there were still no people at the ruins, and the place still seemed abandoned. although, this exact ruin was a filming location for a game of thrones scene.
we drove on to the hill of tara[109-122], got off the car and were greeted by loads of ravens and crows. pretty cool to see so many of them in one place. i fed them a little bit of what food we had left, but as always, they were very cautious and mistrustful of humans - so smart, so cute.
it is said that this is the "most spiritual place in ireland". and although it has a certain touch to it, i could not get that feeling. also, we did not see any fairies or leprechauns, so... no, just a nice, quiet place to me, where around 1000 years ago people chose to have the seat of the high-king of ireland, around 5000 maybe druids put neolithic monuments and a human habitat here, and only around 200 years ago irish rebels were defeated by the british troops here, ending in the death of over 400 irish people.
on our way out and back to the car, we were greeted by an native irish drunk. understanding the local accent is quite hard most of the time and takes a while to get accustomed to, but if the guy talking is also drunk, it gets really hard to get a grasp on what he's talking about. but he was friendly and bits and pieces we could understand, and so we had some kind of conversation. friendly, drunk irish people; we liked that.
about one hour later we arrived at the monasterboice[123-137], again a place with historic ruins on a cemetery, containing four famous high crosses. the first one is muiredach's high cross which is about 5.5 metres tall and considered to be the finest high cross in ireland (whatever that means). there's a similar high cross called westcross. the monastery built there was burned around 1000 years ago, the church that was then erected had a round tower[123,128-129], which again is the only thing that remained, besides the ruins of rest of the building.
again we were the only people there. but we had company, as we spotted our first cat there. unfortunately the tomcat was not interested in getting in contact with us, but rather left the scene as soon as we got too close to it - too sad.
as it was already getting late, the light got worse with every minute. that's when we decided to call it a day, although this place was really amazing. the colours, the atmosphere, the cemetery, the ruins, the cat... simply amazing.
so we drove on to carlingford to our b&b called the "belvedere hotel". once we got our luggage in our room, we decided to extend our stay for one more night and make this our temporary headquarter for day trips tomorrow. then we had an awesome fish pie and fish chowder for dinner.
it seems like in off-season people use the time to fix or renovate their castles. so there most castles are a building site now, enclosed by scaffoldings. i hope this does not apply to all the castles to come.
another good thing to mention: my tomtom watch tracked for over 9.5 hours, and was still running. so it lasts longer than my old tracking device. i am very happy with it.
today's high was around 13°C, it was cloudy and overcast all day long - how clichéd.
track for the day of arrival
track for day 01
china magic lantern festival (0 comments)
for over a month the luno festival
took place on the donauinsel. and we payed it a visit. we got there around 20:00 o'clock, when it was already dark, and we had three hours to see all the attractions on display there. the front entrance is a huge impressive gate[001-005,132-133,136-147] with two dragons on each side in front of it, and loads of carps on the other side. that was a really monumental start for the festival.
we decided to walk in a clockwise circle, so our next object was a tea pot[006-007,117], with tea cups, bottles, and pots. everything was so bright and colourful and big. really amazing and notable.
then we came to a really huge temple[008-010] that was partially made, and totally covered in china spoons, plates, bowls and other pottery - wow.
also very beautiful were big statues showing all the chinese signs of the zodiac[011-016,114-116], like tiger, rabbit, ox, rat, pig, horse, etc. i especially liked the tiger.
a little candy house was also on display, as were pandas[018-020,065-066,093-094,112,127-131,135]. actually pandas were all over this place, be it as lanterns or statues, or even as masks, one could put on there.
then there was a huge group of monkeys[021-023,113] - 2016 is the year of the monkey - depicting a big monkey surrounded by lots of smaller ones and a peach. unfortunately i did not remember the story of the monkey and the peach.
very, very high was a reproduction of the vienna opera house[024-025,032,091-092], that really looked imposing. i was wondering how this could stand against stronger wind gusts or a storm. some parts on the side were already a little damaged, so the silk used will be worn out by the weather after a while it seems.
again big and impressive, a greek fountain[026-031,033-035,068] with several statues sitting around it. oversized music instruments and glamour accessories were also very beautiful to watch.
a total of 25 kilometres of silk was used to build over 30 structures that are lit by about 18.000 LED lights. it took over 100 workers four weeks to move and assemble almost 20 tons of bamboo, steel and silk. these are really remarkable numbers.
a cavalry[040-041,095] of eight riders was to form a guard of honour. with the lighting bottom-up this had a rather intimidating touch, but maybe that was on purpose. the riders had arms that were lifted and lowered by motors - the whole arrangement was rather creepy.
way more pleasing was the topic of the underwater fauna[047-050], showing fish and starfish, that built a tunnel that led to one of the side entrances. again very colourful and bright. but we did not leave yet, there was still lots to see.
like live performances on the open air stage[042-046], that showed traditional chinese theatre performances, with traditional masks, instruments and themes. those shown here also included fire breathing; great to watch.
after a while of watching we decided to have a little snack while the majority of the visitors were still watching the show. but it turns out the culinary variety was pretty limited as they were already closing down and most of the kitchen wares have already been cleaned. so we had to go with the left overs.
in return for the rather poor meal we then admired the huge chef[051-054] with all the stuff he cooked and prepared. they looked funny and totally reminded us of cartoon characters.
one more setup using only steel and led lights, was the swans and ballet dancers[055-056], which also included big diamond and sphere shapes.
another reproduction was shown, namely the temple of heaven[058-060,069], again quite tall and marvellous. the original temple is situated in beijing.
at kiosks[061-062] one could buy various items, from jade items to traditional chinese items like folding fans, wooden sculptures, kites, lanterns, etc. to more modern stuff like small clay figurines of doraemon (who actually is japanese) or american superheroes. quite the contrast, but they had clay pandas there too, so it blended in perfectly.
besides the opera house, there was another special for the show in vienna, a 20 metres high johann strauss[063-064] statue. the lighting of the blocks around the statue changed colours to the beat of a strauss waltz.
back to the chinese themes, were huge dragon lanterns[070-071], that revealed some 3d parts on them when we got closer to it. those lanterns were several metres high and looked very stunning.
a huge pot and a bottle[072,076-077,087,089-090], each one of several metres of height turned out to be made of tiny glass kegs. each one fixed with wire to a metal core. each one of the objects contained around 40.000 kegs - pretty crazy.
to me it seemed the venetian masks[073-075] were a little misplaced, but beautiful nonetheless.
then there was another really huge temple[078-086,088] with all kind of little characters outside, and lots of pillars with mask faces around it - maybe the chinese counterpart to the venetian masks? who knows.
an awe-inspiring sight was the very long dragon[096-110] that stood close to the danube river. my estimation was that it is between 80 and 100 metres in length; unfortunately i could not find any details about it. this one really was my favorite.
we almost had finished our round when there was an announcement that the festival will be closed soon, so we hurried to the aztec temple[118-126,134], all in dark green, with a huge god(dess) in the middle and several heads to the left and right of it.
almost the same green was a group of pandas around a very huge panda sitting in the middle and on top of a bamboo seat - very cute and lovely. chinese people really seem to dig pandas. but so do we, right? those cute and fluffy bears are just adorable.
then we were escorted to the exit by security guards who were already collecting all the people still on the venue and escorting them to the exit. so, like usually, we were among the last people leaving. but before leaving i took another few pictures of the carps and dragons at the exit. and i found out how dragons are born: a carp that could leap the falls of the yellow river at the dragon gate, would be transformed into a dragon. now that is important knowledge, and that is why the gate shows carps on one side, and dragons on the other side - mystery solved.
this was really a spectacular festival, totally worth the visit. the dimensions of some objects were gigantic, the level of detail was amazing, and the craft work was most impressive. we totally loved the chinese lantern festival.
a little side note: i used my tomtom watch (as described in my previous bLog-post) for gps tracking this time, and i was very pleased with the recorded track. very accurate and the device is not annoying, as it is on my wrist, and not dangling in front of me all the time as it was with my canmore g-porter gp-102+ that was strapped to my camera belt. what a nice device.
tomtom spark 3 cardio + music (0 comments)
it was time for a new sports gadget, as lately i was growing unhappy with my current setup while running, consisting of a heart rate monitor belt, in-ear headphones with cable that are about to break every moment now, and the runtastic app on my mobile phone for gps tracking, heart rate monitoring and playing music. way too many cables and straps, also the runtastic app got worse for me with every update and lately it took ages to get gps working, and once it worked it did not do so reliably. so why not get rid of as much ballast as possible and pack it all into one new and shiny device?
after quite an amount of research i decided that the tomtom spark 3 cardio + music
would be the best choice for me. here is why i thought so; it has an optical heart rate monitor that is embedded in the wristband; it has a mass storage device that can hold 3gb of (mp3) files; it does the gps tracking (that's what tomtom is best known for) and uses "quickgps" that should get it started faster; it has interval training support and you can get warnings if you are out of a customizable boundaries, such as heart rate zone range. as a bonus it is also water resistant to 40 metres, and it is controlled by just one button.
the only thing i was yet unsure about was how to transfer the information to my laptop and then to runtastic, as runtastic is known to be not so open to other sources of input rather than its own. thus a direct link was not possible. although there is a command line utility that enables communication with older tomtom watches this latest model was nowhere mentioned in the documentation.
but once the watch was unpacked, this problem was quickly solved. the watch automatically and effortlessly synchronises with my mobile phone via bluetooth, then transfers the data to the tomtom site at once. there i can export the data to various formats, such as tcx files, which then can be imported easily on the runtastic site. ha, now that was surprisingly easy.
for listening to music i bought wireless in-ear headphones. pairing them via bluetooth with either the watch or the mobile phone was a matter of a few seconds. the mp3 files can be transferred via the included usb cable, the watch itself shows up as a mass storage device, and can be mounted without any problems in linux. the files can be arranged in playlists using the m3u8 (m3u with utf-8) standard.
the only downside is the firmware upgrade management, which requires either a windows or a macintosh operating system. luckily, nina has the latter one. so once in a while i might have to borrow her macbook to hook my watch to it and install firmware upgrades. i do not think that would happen too often.
no more cables, no more straps - i am happy. a first test showed the gps really starts very fast; once the "quickgps" was updated via bluetooth and the smartphone, it took less than ten seconds to get full bars on the gps indicator, and the watch was ready to go - how awesome. i covered it with a lot of layers of cloth, and still the gps data was extremely accurate.
i think the watch might also serve as a mere gps tracker for my next holidays or photo trips, as you can disable all the other features of the sports tracker. on internet discussion forums i read the battery lasts up to eleven hours with these settings; i will try that as soon as possible.