Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Tunisia 2005

Another random travel experience picked out of the memory hat now - a fantastic trip to Tunisia with a friend I studied with on my journalism MA at Sheffield University way back when . . .

This trip has to count as my first ever "exotic" holiday. Everything before this was fairly safe and relatively similiar to home - Ibiza, Portugal, Greece, Australia, all great, but not particularly taxing.

Tunisia however was the first country where we had a sense of alienation, slightly disconcerting, things a little bit off kilter, a language we couldn't understand or even read but was as pretty as an illustration in the margins of fairytale books.

We stayed in Sousse, a large costal city with a large Medina and Casbah (finally we could actually sing Rock the Casbah while actually in one!!)

 There's a museum at the casbah with fantastic mosiacs from Roman villas in the area. Here's me with a selection of them ..
Here's the Ribat.

And here's some shots of the lovely beach, shame it was FREEZING!!!!

            Here is the view from our hotel window - racking my brains for the name of it!!
                          Next up Carthage, the desert, the salt flats and Sidi Bouzid

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Drizzley Derbyshire

Much as we enjoy travelling to exotic,warm and far flung destinations, we don't have the time or money to always be heading abroad. But lucky for us we have the delights of Derbyshire and the Peak District on our doorstep.

So last weekend we headed out to explore some of the sights within a stones throw of home.

First up - Pooles Cavern in Buxton, one of the country's best show caves.It's a 2 million year old, natural limestone cave that was officially opened as a show cave in 1853 and has 310 metres currently open to visitors.

Leaving behing the damp, dreary and frankly uninspiring Derbyshire weather we headed into a subterranean cavern, lit by LED lights that served to illuminate some of the highlights of the imposing cave.

Oddly named rock shapes include the Flitch of Bacon and the Poached Egg formations were revealed, looming up out of the darkness, while the ever present rushing sounds of water reminded us of the proximity of the nearby River Wye.

The Poached Egg formations - if poached eggs were four feet high and covered in primordial ectoplasm . .

                                       A fairy tale landscape of little stalagtites

The cave is named after an infamous outlaw who is believed to have make the dank, dark cavern his home. But he was not the only inhabitant, throughout the ages many people have made the inhospitable hole their home, workplace and site of worship.

      Some modern day cave dwellers check out the dimensions of the vast underground cavern!

                 Weird, slimy looking alien rock!! All rather odd looking . . .

After going deep underground we headed outwards and upwards to Solomon's Temple, an old Victorian Folly on the top of an old Bronze age barrow. It is situated in an undulating, green landscape shaped by the old lime works that were there years ago.

That's all from drizzley Derbyshire for now!!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Long weekend in London

Putting aside thoughts of more exotic travel for the time being, we are heading to London over the long April weekend.

 London is big. And confusing. Like this map that looks like coloured string in a washing machine spin cycle.

Being simple country folks based in scenic Derbyshire we do enjoy a trip to the big smoke at least once or twice a year.

Two or three days in the manic hustle and bustle of our capital city is enough to remind us of why we don't actually ever want to live or work there - being stuffed into someone else's armpit on the underground for any length of time is reminder enough!

Not that there's anything wrong with the city, indeed we love it, otherwise we wouldn't keep on going back. But this year I am not sure what or where we will see. We've been so many times . .. .

Last year we did some touristy things including HMS Belfast, walking over the upper gantries of Tower Bridge, visiting Kew Gardens, being terrifed by the mime artists on the banks of the Thames.

See this? We've over walked this.

So what this time? We've visited the boho, student chic of Camden, rooted through the retailer supplier shops on Font Hill Road, rummaged through antiques in the huge Portobello Road market. Spent time and money in Spital Fields and played spot the Monopoly streets.

We spent the hottest day of last year in St James' Park and admired the royal wedding preparations outside Buckingham Palace.

Over the years we've taken in the Gherkin, Selfridges, Oxford Street, the Shard, St Pauls, the Tate, the London Eye and everything in between.

           St James' Park - quite sweaty last April

We've lounged around the V and A, gaped in awe in the Natural History Museum, hopped on and off the tube countless times and unashamedly laughed at Cockfosters and Tooting Bec.

Plus thanks to various hen parties I've mixed cocktails in a swanky club, had numerous kareoke sessions, posed on red London buses, with police men and Johnny Depp lookalikes.

So what now - any suggestions? I need London inspiration on a tight budget, no West End shows or Cocktail bars for me. Give me cheap, give me easy - GIVE ME LONDON!!!!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Thought of the day

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.”

Lin Yutang

Places to see before you die

Trawling Facebook as I do on occasion, I came across an app titled The Travel List Challenge that invited you to rate how you compared against other people's travelling history.

All keen and excited I decided to take part and see how many sightsI had clapped eyes on, confident that I would score pretty highly . .

Alas and alack, I only got a paulty 15 out of 100! Shameful, although my excuse is that it seemed rather biased in favour of the USA, a place I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting, with a whopping 32 out of the 100 being American!

So, after feeling rather slighted by this list, I have decided to compile my own top ten sights (as 100 would take a while) from my own experience.

1) Angkor Wat - Cambodia. An incredible temple complex, rich with carvings, lush with greenery and lakes.

2) Taj Mahal - Agra, India. A monument to love, every bit as incredible as people say it is - Ornate and majestic even in the hectic whirl of hundreds of visitors.

3) Florence's Cathedral, tower and duomo. A gorgeous decorative feast for the eyes that offers a panoramic view of the sprawling city.

4) The canals of Venice - roaming them in the mists, discovering hidden alleyways that open into ornate,  squares overlooked by the decaying grandeur of palaces

5) Grand Palace - Bangkok, Thailand. An incredible, glittering, blinding spectacle, with golden towers, demons and detailing.

6) Aythuyya - Thailand. One of the old capital cities, a deserted, crumbling relic of former glory, complete with immense buddhas that watch serenely as the world around them falls apart.

7) Ho Chi Minh City, South Vietnam. My first ever experience of Asia, and one that sticks the most vividly - the noise, the crowds, the utter feeling of alienation. Brilliant!

8) Parc Guell and Casa Batllo - Barcelona. Just two of Antoni Gaudi's incredible creations, vivid, dreamlike, bizarre and incredible!

9) Nambung National Park (Pinnacles), Western Australia - Thousands of limestone pillars strewn across an incredible, moon like, lunar desert.

10) Watching the light show over Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong - A cheesy, yet amazing experience!

That, in my humble, and limited experience covers some of the most amazing things I have had the fortune to see so far . . ..

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Envy envy envy

As much as I am looking forward to my next travel adventure, and am aware of how much I have already seen, I can never hear of other people's travel plans without at least a tremour of envy.

So this post should be entitled "Places I really really want to go! NOW"

You can blame my sister and mother for this post, as they are preparing to head off to Euro Disney and Paris. Now Euro Disney and the scary 6ft trademark rat  I can take or leave, but, and this is a big but, I HAVE NEVER BEEN TO PARIS!

Yeap, I've said it - I've been across the globe, seen some of the most exotic sights imaginable, but I have never ever stepped foot in our continential neighbours capital city!

And this set me off thinking, where else do I want to visit before I shuffle off this mortal coil? So here, in no particular order, are some of my top travel desires . . .

Yes. Eiffel Tower, frogs legs, snails, stripy jumpers and berets, plus any other sterotypical French images you can shake a stick at. Must get on the train and do Paris in Springtime -or any other time for that matter!

Machu Picchu, yes I know it involves walking . . . . ..  . . but I am pretty sure it's worth it.


Ever since I was little I have had a yen for the white clapboard houses, autumn leaves and seductive names of New England - Cape Cod, Mystic, Vermount, Martha's Vineyard, pumpkin harvests and a simpler way of life. I even used to cut up travel brochures and fill up a scrap book of pictures .  .. ..

 4) CUBA
Havana, big old cars, rum, cigars and Salsa. makes me want to get up and shake some booty in a smoke filled club on some seedy backstreet  . . .

That's it for now, I've a list as long as my arm but in order to keep posts a little less sprawling I will take up the list later . . . .

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Another slide show for your delight!

In celebration of going back to Italy this year I've just added another Tripwow slide show covering the three Italian trips I've taken over the past five years.
There's Rome, Venice and last year's multi city extravaganza!
TripWow is pretty cool, it's really easy to use, you just select photos off your Facebook albums, add your own music if you like, name the places you've visited and chose a theme - it does the rest.
The only difficulty I have is when it comes to embedding it on my site, the sizing seems to have altered since last time I did it, hence it is a bit squished looking . . . .

Back to Rome, who'd a thought it!

Well, what a turn up for the books, after swearing blind to the other half for the past five years that I "never go anywhere twice as there is some much more I want to see . ." what are we doing? Yeap heading back to Rome, my all time favourite city to date.

What you may ask has caused such a U turn on my part? . .  Well, you can blame a close friend for opting to go all continental on me and get married in the Eternal City in June.

Well I couldn't possibly pass up the chance to:

1) See my lovely friend get hitched in the most romantic city in the world and

2) Make a holiday out of it!!

So three days in Rome, mopping up the sights we missed the first time and then onwards to the glamourous island of Capri for a few days before popping to Sorrento for some trips to the Amalfi coast, Pompei and some other Italian delights.

Already got the hotels booked and working up an itinerary, Capri is new to me, so far I've only got the Grotto Azure on the list, any ideas? . . . .

Watch this space for more updates on travels old and new, and plenty more pictures! :)