Travel has always been important to me, more so since having children. I derive a vast amount of pleasure from experiencing new cultures, landscapes and food I additionally I view it as a key part to our childrens development and important family.
Our travel has seen us exploring the UK, primarily the West-Country in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. These holidays have taught us how to make the most of the unpredictable weather!
We’ve explored Dorset, spending time near Ringwood and on the jurassic coast around Ringstead. The spectacular cliff top paths high above the sea providing spectacular views.
Moving further west, much of our time has been spent in Devon, and when we had a young family, we found little better than Mazzard Farm near Ottery-St-Mary. My heart lies in the South-Hams, where we have spent several Easters in and near to Hope Cove. The scenery is simply beautiful in almost any weather, and we have found what we believe to be the ultimate holiday property in Midships at Old Colonial House. Watching the sun drop into the sea as the colours develop in both the sky and the sea is hard to beat. Walking the coast path both east and west takes reveals spell-binding views, foam covered beaches, secluded inlets and a wide range of bird life.
Cornwall has seen us at the most southerly point in the mainland UK at the Lizard and the most westerly at Lands End. I love the fact that at these points, you’re basically squinting at France and the USA! I enjoy the food on offer from Tribute ale, cream teas (jam first, topped with clotted cream), and pasties, as well as the rapidly developing range of more contemporary dishes.
Mixing things up a little, we’ve spent a number of Easters in East Anglia, including Norfolk and Suffolk, in part due to my genealogy. The differences we’ve experienced between the West and East have been pronounced, both in terms of landscape and weather. The dry, bitingly cold wind rolling across open land is my enduring (if slightly unfair) over-arching memory of East-Anglia.
My love affair with Snowdonia, and I think that’s what it is, began when I was about 19. A friend of mine and I walked up Crib Goch, and round the horseshoe just before Easter one year. We were hung-over, it was blisteringly hot, and we only had 500ml of water each. Finding the cafe shut had been an unexpected and unwelcome discovery, leaving us parched. Without water, and needing to cool down, we swam in Llyn Llydaw, which was absolutely freezing! Since that time, I’ve visited many times, experiencing a wide range of weather conditions, but never failing to be awe-struck with the majesty of the landscape, the endless views, and the astonishing way that the area copes with such enormous tourist volumes. We have found the most wonderful guest house and hosts at Plas Coch in Llanberis, returning like friends to take part in events such as the Slateman triathlon and The Brutal. Descending from Pen-y-Pass down the Llanberis Pass is one of my biggest joys in life.
Choosing to largely (but not entirely) ignore the distractions of Patpong, Thailand proved a place rich in culture, history, food and beautiful landscapes. Taking in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle provided numerous opportunities for temples, delicious food and tuk tuks. An enduring image is the of the colours in the fields and mountains as the sun started to set. The length of the shadows and the depth and vividness of the greens was spell-binding.
A short hop to Kho Samui provided some relaxed down time, flying in to the airport which at that time was little more than a large shed with palm trees and hay bails acting as walls.
Visiting a life-long friend provided the necessary reason to fly to the West coast of America, and to explore California. Beyond Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge and Lombard Street, San Francisco is a charming and generally walkable city. With different parts of the city possessing vasty different personalities from Castro to the CBD, San Francisco has something for pretty much everybody.
A tour of Alcatraz has to be done, and it’s clear to see why inmates, who could see and hear the mainland were tempted to swim the cold and hazardous water to shore.
Travelling into the Sonoma and Napa valleys revealed buildings that looked as though they’d been transported from Bavarian forests and mountain tops and dropped into California. Disney does houses!
Yosemite provided a stunning change to the rolling valleys of the wine region, including some of the most familiar images, including Half Dome and El Capitan. Warm at the foot of the park, a short hike found us in snow and a different landscape, with the opportunity to create snow angels in pristine snow.
Driving from Yosemite to Lake Tahoe quickly found us driving in bitterly cold conditions, with snow chains rapidly fitted. Frozen wipers, a frozen windscreen and driving snow resulted in some of the toughest driving conditions I had experienced. Tahoe didn’t grab me for many reasons, though I’m sure that a trip in the summer would reveal a very different place.
A stop-over on the way to Australia gave us the opportunity to spend a couple of days with friends in Auckland. A lasting memory was getting a taxi from the airport into central Auckland, and having to stop for some chickens that were crossing the road! A laid back place that I could see myself settling in.
New York State and Rochester
A role with Oracle Corporation provided the opportunity to work and live in Rochester – up-state New York. Being the headquarters of Xerox, Bausch & Lomb and Kodak Rochester had attracted wealth and investment, however also its fair share of crime and pollution. The surrounding area contained some beautiful locations including the Finger Lakes, ready access to Lake Ontario, and Niagra Falls.
Noisy. Rude. Dirty. Threatening. Hated it.
Zimbabwe and Botswana
Don’t drink green spiced rum for breakfast on an empty stomach, accompanied only by sea urchins. Le Tousserok provided a luxurious break, and one of the most ill-judged drinking episodes of my life. Flying in to the island was the only time that we saw much of the landscape.
My memories of Corfu are a little indistinct due the passage of time, coupled with the fact that I was on an 18-30 holiday! Sandy beaches, souvlaki and lots of beer are my few memories. Oh, and a nurse called Alison.
Turkey – Bodrum
Often touted as the gateway between Europe and the East, Istanbul is occasionally mistaken as the capital of Turkey – being far more memorable and visited than Ankara. This is a city of enormous contrast from the substantial and historic Hagia Sophia, through to ultra modern shopping centres full of high end western brands. Get a tram and explore the city easily and cheaply, rather than slogging around on foot.
Egypt – Sinai
Luxor and Cairo
Staying in Luxor during the depth of the economic crisis, and after the Arab rising, we encountered a country with enormous financial problems, mile long queues for petrol, and begging beyond belief.
Trips to the Valley of Kings, Valley of Queens.
If Stockholm taught me one thing, it was to take your own alcohol! Drinking out is punitively expensive as a tourist, but then, why travel to such a beautiful city to get pissed? Gamla Stan and the Vasa were the highlights for me. Walking the streets marvelling at the beautiful buildings and people was a charming way to while away some time.
A wonderfully false and artificial town, Whistler has no pretence that it’s anything else – but it works for this Hollywood film-set depth. The best skiing I’ve ever experienced. Huge runs. Well-mannered queues (such as there were queues). Piste marshals. Affordable food. What’s not to love.
In much the same way as Sydney and Melbourne slug it out, Stockholm and Goteborg appear to compete in much the same way. While more industrial than Stockholm, Goteborg is a beautiful city with trams, cobbled streets and parks full of happy people. This was the first trip where I experienced 24 hours of light – looking out as I did at 2am to see a town square bathed in light.
The setting of one of my favourite films – In Bruges – this is a small, ancient and entirely worthwhile place to visit. The canals are easily walkable in a day or two, as are the few sights to see. This is a place where the ABV of beer starts at 6%, and doesn’t seem to have an upper limit!
Looking past the omni-present drugs, hookers, and sex shows Amsterdam is a pleasant city to walk, and all of the landmarks are within easy reach. The Van Gogh museum was enlightening, while the Anne Frank museum was sombre, and contemplative of the horrors inflicted in WW2. At the other end of the spectrum the sex museum was an eye-opener!
Cycling through Paris as the final leg of London to Paris twice has led to exhilaration, adrenalin and big smiles. I don’t feel that I’ve really connected with it as a city, and want to return.
Lot et Garonnes
Sienna and Florence
Melbourne and Sydney continually slug it out as being the cultural, sporting, commercial and tourist “capital” of this enormous country. I’m biased, having lived in Melbourne for a little under 18 months. While it lacks iconic landmarks like the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it more than compensates in other areas. Four seasons, the AFL, the Dandenongs, Wilsons Promontory, the Great Ocean Road and much more beside have made Melbourne a firm favourite.
Tasmania presented an interesting insight into some of the darker episodes in Australia’s history, including a trip to Port Arthur, as well as learning about the island-wide sweep that was designed to eradicate the indigenous community.
The Sydney Opera house is the most instantly recognisable tourist icon for Australia, closely followed by Ayers Rock. Louder, busier, warmer and wetter than Melbourne, it’s a great place to visit and people watch.
Surfers Paradise sticks in my memory as a wind-swept beach, a depressing town comprised of ugly tower blocks, and little else. It was a box-ticking exercise.
Cairns, the Barrier Reef, Port Douglas, Cape Tribulation and the Daintree National Park provided flora, fauna and no small degree of sun-burn. Being the tourist hub, Cairns itself is no place to spend much time, but the areas beyond beg to be explored.
Synonymous with the war of 1982, Mrs Thatcher, and more recently Top Gear, most people had little or no idea where the Falklands were until May 1982. Whether re-capturing the Islands was political (it secured a further term for Mrs T), economic (the oil, fishing and gas could be worth £billions), the last vestige of defence of our former empire, or truly to protect the wishes of the population is the subject of much discussion.
Whatever the reason, the FI population are fiercely British, and this is a destination that absolutely should not be missed. The wildlife is beyond belief, and the scenery and isolation are heart-grabbing.
You need to like the wind and air travel to get the most from a trip, but it’s absolutely worth it.
Cape Town and the Garden Route
If Johannesburg is the economic centre of SA, then Cape Town must surely be the most iconic travel destination – alongside Kruger National Park as one of jewels in the crown.
With Table Mountain as the back-drop, Cape Town has many other tourist calls including Camps Bay, Cape Peninsular, Robbin Island and much more
It’s also the start point for many people who are taking in the Garden Route.
Nevada, Utah and Arizona provided endless vistas, long drives, and much exploring. We took in the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon and Lake Powell. The views were straight from spaghetti westerns in places. The most memorable moment was tubing in a secluded side-canyon off Lake Powell – having it all to ourselves.
Travelling around Peru really was Trains, Planes and Automobiles. We didn’t particularly connect with Lima and its incessant, 24×7 traffic mayhem. Cusco, Paracas, Aquas Calientes, Puno and Ollantaytambo were an absolute treat for all our senses.
Getting lost in Lima while driving back to the airport was, by some margin, the most stressful driving experience of my life. It was also the time I came close to unilaterally declaring a divorce!
We left the country after 3 weeks feeling that we’d only just started our time in Peru.
St Petersburg was an absolute revelation in so many respects, starting with the process of getting a visa! Once we’d completed the necessary and relatively complex formalities, we were blown away by the beauty, size, architecture, cuisine and history of Russia’s second city.
It is an absolute treasure trove of former palaces, grand buildings, waterways, museums, restaurants and shopping. It was clean and we felt entirely safe.
Kiev and Chernobyl
The calamitous and deathly events of 1986 when Europe was subjected to a radioactive cloud were but nothing compared to the devastation that nearly resulted. Only the sacrifice of hundreds of people, and some small degree of fortune, meant that a massively larger explosion was fortunately averted. Kiev is a beautiful city and worth visiting in its own right, with magnificent parks, religious buildings and attractions. It’s an immensely walkable place.
Chernobyl itself, or more correctly Pripyat, is some distance away, and can only be visited with a guide and a government minder. While much of it is undeniably arranged for photographic opportunities, it’s an eery place to walk around – a frozen memory of a town only recently completed.
The colonial influence was all too clear to see as we toured Sri Lanka around it’s perimeter and through the centre – this being good and bad. We travelled extensively by car, taking in tea plantations, farms, cities and coastline.
I’ve rarely, if ever, seen such sustained and crazy road conditions involving tuk-tuks, lorries, buses, cars, motorbikes, pedestrians, animals, pot-holes and all manner of motoring fun!
The highlight was seeing a Blue Whale from about 25m away. The lowlight was the boat trip to get to and from the Blue Whale!
I just wish Sri Lanka would take more care of its environment, and discover recycling.
Not all cities have a greater association with one single historical event than Krakow. The epi-centre of the holocaust is arguably this region, and the camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau really are beyond describing – providing as they do some window onto what was, and what might have been.
Krakow itself is an entirely charming walled ancient town which deserves visiting in it’s own right, and not simply as part of a visit to the camps. Wonderful restaurants, cobbled ancient streets, small boutique shops and enormous history.
Costa Rica is a country that is blessed with so much including a vast array of wildlife, volcanoes, coastline, rivers, mountains, lush countryside, relative security, and relative political stability. It values its wildlife and the tourism that this brings, and has a progressive (if not always environmentally sensitive) approach to power generation.
A good road system makes independent travel entirely possible, though not always quick.
Few people know that Tromso translates to “Sell a kidney expensive” in Norwegian. And it lives up to its name quite well! 24 hours of dark in the winter, or 24 hours of daylight in the summer make for a good start in the visiting stakes.
Whale-watching, dog-sledding, cross-country skiing, and the Northern Lights are a few of the major attractions on offer. It is in most part of charming small town in the Winter while snow is on the ground and the lights twinkle.
For me, I’ve visited twice to take part in the Polar Night Half-Marathon, seeing it while the Christmas lights are still up – resulting in a magical feel.
Pack a suitcase of money, and if you’re planning on outdoor activities at night in the winter, lots and lots of layers of clothing!
Just bonkers beautiful. A place where a building built 700 years ago is recent.
Prague must have one of the most unfortunate reputations for stag-dos and everything that goes with that label, including cheap beer and readily available companions. I guess if you want to drink heavily and support human trafficking, it really is the go-to destination.
I found it in most part un-interesting, over-hyped and ultimately disappointing.
Talking to most people about Tallinn, you frequently get one of two responses. Either “Where’s that?”, or “Isn’t that the stag-do place?”. I’d heard from a colleague over 25 years ago just how beautiful it was, and I decided to find out.
What I discovered was a truly wonderful city. Walkable, clean, safe, vibrant, friendly and architecturally enchanting. Sure, if you go looking there are many distractions for younger, single males, but that’s true of most major European cities.
Boston is a favourite American city of mine, of which I have few – being more of an outdoor person. I love the architecture, the small feel to it, and the cultural and historical links back to the UK.
A belated “landmark” birthday trip to Boston see a lifelong friend took in all of the major sites in Boston including the Boston Freedom Trail, Boston Common, Cheers Pub, a trip into the harbour, and the Boston Tea Party exhibition.
The summer of 2018 saw us take a different direction as a family, turning choosing to volunteer with animals. In this article, I recount one of the best weeks of our lives, at Riverside Wildlife and Rehabilitation Centre in the Limpopo region.
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