Flâneries in Doha


Doha, a set on Flickr.

Some views from Doha, Qatar.


President Mujica’s facts


(This is a non exhaustive list. It will be updated on a regular basis)

The Oriental Republic of Uruguay, home to 3.3 million people, has been in the spotlight lately due to its peculiar president, José “Pepe” Mujica. So I thought I would share some facts that would help you, dear flâneur, to understand why the Uruguayan president may be a cool guy.

– He donates 90% of his salary (U$12,500) to social assistance programs related to housing

– He has proposed to donate the presidential retirement benefits

– His entire wealth is nothing more than a 1987 VW Beetle, worth U$1,945. No bank accounts, no debts nor savings.

– In June, his government unveiled a proposal to legalize and monitor the marijuana market in Uruguay. This initiative will need 60% of the country to support it though.

– At the Rio+20 summit, his speech was truly breathtaking, focusing on human being’s pursuit of happiness. You can watch his intervention here (although the subtitles are not even half as powerful as what he really said). For a translated transcription of his speech, go here.

31/08/12 update:

 According to Monocle Magazine, Mujica is ‘the best leader in the world’, leaving far behind President Obama and François Hollande. Read the article here.

– In the beginning of August, the government sent a bill to the Parliament that would allow the state to grow and sell marijuana. This initiative seeks to reduce  crime associated with drug traffic.

04/01/2013 update:
Pepe Mujica featured in NYTimes!

Free the Patagonia

Today, I am going to give some space to the green voice inside me and talk to you about HidroAysén, a megaproject that aims to build five dams in Southern Chile. Picture this: a paradise of green forests, wild and free animals jumping around, and two large rivers completely flooded in order to produce 2,750 MW on average annually.  

What strikes me the most is the fact that the whole process of approving the hydroelectric power plants was quick and pretty noiseless, even if the impact this project would have is huge – it implies the flooding of six national parks, eleven national reserves, twenty-six conservation priority sites, sixteen wetland areas and thirty-two privately owned protected conservation areas. Yes, there are zillions of dollars involved and a duopoly at stake: Endesa, a majority-owned subsidiary of the Italian utility company Enel with a 51% and the national firm Colbun S.A, owning the other 49%. 

The good thing is that once this project was made public, many thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against it. So wide was the unrest that there were people rallying all around the world, from Paris to Sydney…but the company kept saying the dams are “environmentally friendly” and a “low impact solution” to the nation’s growing hunger for energy.

One may not be an environmentalist, but implementing this project would mean the destruction of a large area of the Chilean Patagonia. Of course, if we adopt a short-term perspective, maybe the first five years it wouldn’t matter the flooding be cause people that live there would be relocated and the company would even create new jobs. 

But what would happen in the long term? Most probably a devastating environmental damage will occur. 

There is much more that the simple approval of the dams at stake. The fact that President Piñera is closely related to the companies involved in this project (his brother-in-law, Eduardo Morel, was a Technology Advisor for Colbun SA until march) adds another layer to the series of irregularities detected since this project was made public. For instance, the 5,000 page environmental impact assessment provided by Hidroaysén poorly addressed the essential issues – such as the impacts on the local flora and fauna, and the demographic impacts on local communities. Also, there is the undeniable fact the Chile has other (economical) energy options such as solar radiation, geothermal, and wind – and the International Energy Agency recommended that the country foster them. And lastly, the project has chosen to ignore the volcanic gap at the dam sites, where an undiscovered volcano may be resting hidden between two ice fields.

Latest news, Colbun SA put the project on hold, citing lack of government backing. Thus, there are no dams in the horizon of the Chilean Patagonia at the moment. 

Paris through your 5 senses – Summer edition

In full sight – One of the problems you might have while in Paris is to suffer from chronic indecision if you have to chose what will you visit first. There are so many things to see (monuments, museums, parks, etc.) that you shall make a list before visiting the City of Lights. Forget about going from one museum to another the same day – it can be not only tiresome, but stressful as well. Better go to a museum in the morning, stroll in the parks, and finish with a monument such as the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe (both at walking distance from each other). Or start with the monuments in the morning so you can avoid queuing, stroll in the parks, and finish in a museum (consider that most of them close by 5 pm). My personal favourite is the Orsay Museum, just in front of the Senna River and not far from the Invalides esplanade.

The sound of music – Paris has so much to offer when it comes to cultural activities that you won’t have to worry about getting busy by night. Whether you are an open-air-jazz-concert-addict or a salsa dancer you will always find a place to go, the only restriction being that the bars and discos shut down at 2 am on weekdays. One of the best options is to buy in a kiosk L’Officiel des Spectacles, a very rich and up-to-date cultural guide of Paris and its region. And once you’ve got it, all you have to do is chose where will you end your night!

                                                             (French) Touch  This may be the favourite item of shopping addicts, and with good reason. Fashion capital of the world, Paris has a myriad of boutiques and stores where you can find that perfect dress or that lovely pair of shoes, as well as booking expensive rendez-vous with a designer that will make your fashion dream come true. Have you heard of Champs Elysées? Well, that is haven in Paris for fashionista’s from all around the world. Hugo Boss and Louis Vuitton will be your best friends if you have the money to pay for them, and if you don’t you can always go window-shopping. Then, if you are interested in vintage clothing you should head to Le Marais, where the frippery shops are legion. They are not that cheap but it is worth taking a look if you’re around the corner.

Smell the glamour – Somewhere in the world, French people have this weird reputation of smelling bad. I cannot confirm nor deny this sentence, but in this domain you will be more than satisfied when visiting Paris and you might need an entire week to visit all the boutiques and beauty shops before you get an idea of what scent is the one you need. Champs Elysées avenue is an option – pricy, you know – otherwise you might find what you are looking for at Boulevard Haussmann and its thousand of shops. Got some more days? Visit the Perfume Museum at the Opéra district.

Taste it! – On a lazy summer afternoon, the best decision you could make after sunbathing in a park is to go for an ice cream at Pozzetto. Having only 12 flavours based on milk or fruit recipes, they will prepare a certain amount everyday for its costumers, so be ready to queue for at least 5 minutes. Yoghurt and Gianduja won’t disappoint you, fig will be rather scarce depending on the season.