Travel 2008 / 9 / Draft Sam / Anna Europe / Africa / North America
St Wolfgangsee, Salzburg
Contents Contents 1
/ Travel 2008 / 9
3 / Contents 4 / Windsor
6 / Stockholm 10 / Bath
12 / Turkey / Istanbul 16 / Gallipoli 18 / Belfast 20 / Salzburg 25 / Switzerland / Basel 26 / Luzern 28 / Zurich 30 / Ghent 32 / Peak District 34 / Edinburgh 38 / Egypt / Cairo 42 / Nile River 46 / France / Nice 48 / Monaco 50 / Provence 52 / Paris 56 / Cotswolds 58 / Cardiff 60 / Budapest 64 / New York 70 / Madrid 72 / Morocco / North 74 / Atlas Mountains 76 / Sahara 78 / Marrakesh 80 / Moscow 84 / Cornwall / Newquay 88 / Croatia / Dubrovnik 90 / Split 92 / Portugal / Algarve 94 / Lisbon 96 / What next? 98 / Travel 2008/9
Queen Hatsheputâ€™s temple, Luxor
Windsor Two weeks after returning from New Zealand, we headed for a weekend in Windsor. We stayed with Anna’s friend Verity from the Environment Agency. It was great to get outside and enjoy travelling / banishing the homesick blues.
Windsor Castle / the official residence of the Queen / is the largest / oldest occupied castle in the world. The Queen was absent as her flag was not flying. Most of the castle is visitable / meaning you can spend hours wandering the medieval hallways and gardens. We walked around the round tower to the north terrace. Inside the state apartments is Queen Mary’s doll house – a giant model house complete with garages / ball rooms / kitchens and the like. The gothic St George’s Chapel in the lower ward is home to the Order of the Garter / originally the knights who protect the monarch / but now the pinnacle of the honours system with members such as Nelson Mandela.
The long walk Windsor Great Park is a large national park that borders the castle. The long walk is a 6 mile walk straight from the castle to the copper horse on the hill. The weather was lovely and clear / with great views from the top of the hill. Verity placed a roast on before we left / so we returned to a lovely feast.
Windsor Tattoo Latter in the year we visited Verity in Windsor again to see the Windsor tattoo. The tattoo is a military display were big tough men get to dress up in silly uniforms and prance around playing bagpipes and riding horses. The Queen was in attendance / sitting right across from us.
largest / oldest occupied castle in the world
m Going strong in Gamla Stan We awoke in Stockholm on the Saturday morning after a cosy night in our cell. We were sharing a triple with ensuite with Karen in Långholmen / a former prison lovingly converted into a hostel in Stochholm’s archepelo. After a Swedish smorgasbord feast for breakfast we walked to Gamla Stan / Stockholm's old town. Gamla Stan is very pretty, set on a small island and full of pastel coloured medieval buildings / green church steeples towering above / flags fluttering. We had a royal afternoon, visiting the cathedral and palace. The cathedral / Storkyrkan / houses the royal weddings and contains a wonderful medieval wooden and elk antler statue of St George slaying the dragon. The palace / Kungliga Slottet / is a large Renaissance building on the site of the former medieval palace. We toured through the state rooms / sculpture gallery / the underground museum showing the history through the foundations. For a break from the cold we popped into a cellar café for hot chocolate and raspberry tart. We spent the evening wandering up Drottninggatan / the main shopping street flanked by small statues of Lions / and watching Swedes ice skate. For dinner, Anna found a great restaurant / Claes på hornet / where we feasted on fish stew / Swedish meatballs / roast reindeer / in an 18th Century dinning room.
Changing of the guard
Flagship and Falstaff After a big day on Saturday we took Sunday a little easier / settling for a day of culture. After another big breakfast we caught the Tunnelbana and bus to the island of Djurgården to the Vasamuseet. The Vasa museum houses the Vasa / a flagship of the Swedish navy in the 17th Century. The ship sunk 25 minutes into its maiden voyage in 1628 due to being incredibly top heavy. The 64 gun ship is 95% original / persevered by the cold low salt Baltic sea. After the museum we headed back to Gamla Stan to watch Verdi's Falstaff opera in the plush Stockholm Opera house. It was amusing watch an Italian comedy, set in England performed by Swedes.
The Vasa sunk in 25 minutes in 1628
Skansen We only had a short day on Monday / and spent it at the world's oldest open air museum / Skansen on Djurg책rden. Skansen is a mix of zoo and culture museum, housing / wolves / bears / reindeer / old buildings. It was a nice relaxed end to a great weekend away. The large grey owls were a highlight as it looked like their heads swivelled 360 degrees.
Bath We travelled by train to Bath with Anna’s friend Sri for a fun day out amongst the honey coloured stone in England’s oldest tourist destination.
After a quick look around the medieval centre of Bath, we had an early lunch at Sally Lunn’s. Sally Lunn buns to New Zealanders are sweet with currents and coconut icing. Confusingly these are Bath Buns in Bath / while a Sally Lunn is more like brioche. Still, we all enjoyed our traditional Sally Lunn buns. Next we split up / with Anna and Sri going bathing / while Sam rambled around.
Bathing Rambling Bath is set in a valley / and Sam set out to explore each side of the vale. The east side of Bath quickly gives way to greenery / affording views back at all the Georgian terraces on the west side. The famous Georgian crescents / semi circular roads with terraced houses in Georgian style / are all on the west. The Royal Crescent is the most famous, Camden Cresent gives great views back east, and Cavendish Crescent is cute.
Turkey / Is Bad Friday
We had a lovely lazy start to Good Friday / eating Anna's hot cross buns and packing. After a long flight and commute to and fro from airports we arrived at our scheduled hotel in Instanbul. However, the hotel had no record of our reservation from easyJet. We could not get a hold of easyJet as their contact number is only operational from 9-5. So we went to an over-priced hotel across the road for the night.
We awoke to a beautiful sunny day. After a bulshy breakfast we set out to the Sultanahmet area to find a nicer hotel. Due to it being Easter / all the hotels were full so we eventually settled on a mixed dorm under the gaze of the Blue Mosque.
To cheer ourselves up we headed over to Sultanahmet Camii (the Blue Mosque) to marvel at the lovely Iznik blue tiles decorating the interior then across Sultanahmet Square to Aya Sofia / a giant airy Byzantine basilica converted to a mosque. To keep our spirits up with snacked on simmit â€“ sesame bread rings / lokum â€“ Turkish delight / and baklava. For lunch we headed down to the Bosphorus for a tasty fish sandwich. We then climbed the hill to Topkapi Palace through Ottoman period wooden houses. Topkapi palace is a sprawling maze of buildings surrounding cloistered squares with plenty of fountains and tulips nestling amongst the tall trees. The palace harem is a beautiful collection of intricate tiles / dark wood / mother of pearl inlay / stained glass / and large recliners. For dinner we feasted on mezze / bread / and spiced meats.
The palace harem is a beautiful collection of intricate tiles / dark wood / mother of pearl inlay / stained glass / and large recliners
â€œ Blue Mosque
Spinning Sunday After a tasty Turkish breakfast of olives / cucumber / tomato / feta / egg / and bread under the gaze of the Blue Mosque we changed hotels again for a lovely 3 star around the corner before heading off to the Museum of Islamic Arts. The museum is set in an old palace / flanking the Hippodrome across from the Blue Mosque. Inside the palace is housed a lovely collection of Islamic calligraphy / tiles / carpets / Koran houses and some kitsch dioramas of nomadic Turks. To escape the grey day, we disappeared into the warren of small shops known as the Grand Bazaar. The stalls sell jewellery / leather goods / clothing / ceramics / and carpets. We only purchased some lovely handmade ethnic dolls / mostly treating the experience as a reconnaissance mission for later shopping. From the Grand Bazaar we ambled down the medieval streets to the Spice Bazaar / filled with lovely tastes and smells. We purchased some rich red Iranian saffron / smoky cinnamon sticks / Turkish tea / and green tea. After a tasty lamb kebab for lunch we decided to purge all the smoky toxins at a hammam (Turkish bath). We visited Cemberlitas Hammam / designed by the famous architect
Sinan. The bath has separate male and female areas. The hammam consists of a large octagonal room with a hot marble slab in the centre.
You start off by lying on the slab, staring up at the starry ceiling getting lost in your thoughts and the hubbub of the surrounding Turks. Once you have become sufficiently sweaty, a large Turk will gesture you over for a soapy massage. Sam felt like a raggedy doll during his / while Anna was scrubbed to the bone. After the massage, it is back to lying on the marble slab and sitting in the surrounding alcoves pouring cold or hot water over oneself. After a heady hour and a half you certainly feel relaxed and very clean.
Following another tasty dinner of lentil soup and mezze / we found ourselves sitting in the press museum listening to Turkish folk music / and Sufi poetry. The music was very relaxing and hypnotic with a great singer, guitar, pipes and drum. Four figures then came to the centre of the hall, discarded their black cloaks and slowly started twirling. These figures were whirling Dervishes / who spin round trying to attain a meditative state that will bring them closer to Allah. They spun round to four different songs, getting faster and faster, white skirts billowing, arms up flung and large fezs cocked to the side.
Gallipoli ANZAC appreciation
We woke early on the Monday for an organised tour to the Gallipoli peninsular. We had a small bus of 16 people / mostly Australian. After a tasty lunch we met our tour guide / a crazy old Turkish man whose grandfather and great uncle both died fighting the ANZACs. We started out at ANZAC Cove / where on April 25 1915 Australian and New Zealand forces landed. The beach was 2 miles from the intended landing point / a gently sloping beach. Instead, ANZAC Cove is at the foot of tall clay cliffs. ANZACs arrived carrying 40kg bags plus rifles. From ANZAC Cove we started up into the hills / stopping at the Lone Pine Cemetery. Lone Pine is the main Australian memorial and the site of the bloodiest battle of the campaign. Over 2000 Australians and 4400 Turks died over an area smaller than two tennis courts. The tour stopped to look down the clay cliffs to ANZAC Cove / headed up to the main Turkish memorial / then on to surviving trenches.
The tour finished at the New Zealand memorial at Chunuk Bair. Chunuk Bair is the highest point of the Gallipoli peninsular. The first objective of the Gallipoli campaign was to capture Chunuk Bair, the only ones to manage this were the Otago regiment, who held the hill top for 3 nights in August only for the British reinforcements to surrender the summit back to the Turks. We were proud New Zealanders standing at the memorial looking out across the beautiful coastlines. Most of the tour party went across the Dardenelles to Chanakkele for a tour of Troy the next day. We got on a local coach with a nice Australian couple back to Istanbul. The bus steward was amazing / scuttling up and down the bus bringing us tea / coffee / biscuits / and hand sanitizer.
Shopping like a king
The weather caved in on our last day / making it a great day to shop. We nervously eyed up carpet shops from the corner of our eyes / trying not to seem interested. Finally we bit the bullet and went into a shop behind the Blue Mosque and slightly off the main tourist trail.
Despite some bad luck with accommodation / and a bit of a scare with getting to the airport we had a fun time in Istanbul. The trip was a refreshing change to Europe / and we fully immersed ourselves in the Islamic history.
We were sat down in a large room filled with scrolled carpets and kilim and plied with strong Turkish tea. Various different carpets of different sizes were shown to us to start narrowing down the choices. We decided on a smallish size / about 1.5m long. Then carpets of different qualities were shown to us / different types of wool with thick to fine patterns. Of course we liked the highest quality. We then discussed colours and patterns / finally ending up with one perfect carpet on the floor. The final phase was the bargaining which took a small while until both parties were happy. With the intelligence gathered from our earlier foray / and still buzzing from our strong carpet bargaining we headed into the Grand Bazaar for further purchases, and more Turkish tea. We ended up with some beautiful hand painted tiles / clothing / and a painted box. After some more wonderful mezze it was time to go home. The traffic in Istanbul at rush hour is horrendous. The bus to the airport took two hours / meaning that we only just made our plane after some stunt driving by our driver. We eventually got home at 1.30am.
Belfast Black Cab tour
Belfast does not contain grand buildings or natural beauty. However, Belfast is fascinating due to The Troubles / the war between the Protestant Unionists and the Catholic Nationalists. The best way to get an understanding of the issues is to take a Black Cab tour. The taxi drivers will take you along Falls Road – Catholic / and Shankill Road – Protestant / showing the murals and large barb wired wall.
The next morning we set ourselves up for the day with an Ulster fry at Maggie Mays. The fry consisted of sausages / black pudding / bacon / fried egg / baked beans / tomato / fried soda bread / fried potato cake / and pancake.
Golden mile We stayed in a generic hotel around the corner from the Europa Hotel / the most bombed hotel in Europe. The Europa used to be the most fancy hotel in the centre of town, and therefore a prime target for the IRA. The golden mile, is a walk from the baroque City Hall to the lovely botanical gardens via Queen’s University and some funky bars. In the evening we visited the Crown Liquor Saloon which is gorgeously painted and has been restored many times due to the IRA bombs.
Giant’s Causeway Without needing to eat again for the day / we caught a bus out to the Giant’s Causeway in north east Northern Ireland. The causeway is a length of coastline with funky shaped rocks. The rock formations consist of 40,000 polygonal basalt columns.
Salzburg Old town
After an exceptionally early start / we arrived at our hotel in Salzburg at 10am / setting a new personal best. This gave us the whole day to explore the city / of which we took full advantage. We headed straight for the old town. The old town of Salzburg is nestled in the bosom of Monchsberg / a forested mountain capped by the castle, and wrapped around the river Salzach. Across the river lies the new town, which is still rather old.
Salzburg is primarily known for two reasons – 1) Mozart’s birthplace, 2) The Sound of Music. Avoiding all references to the sound of Music we started with Mozarts Geburtshaus / birthplace / in the old town. It was a weird conceptual museum and not really worth the entrance fee. We cheered ourselves up with some original Mozart Balls from Café Fürst on Getreidegasse, the main shopping street. Most of the shops along the street have wonderful signs hanging out front / even if most are now standard European high street chains like Zara. After a lovely lunch in the central market we visited the University Church / St Peter’s Abbey / and the Dom.
Monchsberg We climbed Monchsberg to Festung Hohensalzburg / Salzburg Castle. The museum inside the fortress houses the usual medieval armour and torture instruments. The state rooms were lovely. The main reason though for climbing the castle is the view / fantastic panoramas of the lovely old town / surrounding plains and the Alps. The castle itself if beautiful / mostly in a single white washed style / making it more fairy tale than most others in Europe. There is a nice walk through the forest on Monchsberg from the ancient castle to the modern art gallery / which affords lovely views across the old town to the castle.
A road sign next to the art gallery has a picture of a jug of beer and an arrow saing 500m. We followed the sign to Augustiner Br채ust체bl / the Augustiner brewery and largest beer garden in Salzburg. You pay a deposit on a ceramic mug and get it filled with yummy beer. There are food stalls serving barbequed mackerel amongst other edibles. After a light snack and a couple of beers, we headed in search of more food. We ended up at a traditional pub for some dumpling and Vienner Schnitzel / which was not as good as the food at the beer garden.
View from the art gallery back to the castle
the roof of the world was visible and it looked like icecream
23 Alpine panorama
Frantic site seeing
The next day we caught a tour into Salzkammergut, the mountain and lake district of Upper Austria. After a short drive we found ourselves at St Wolfgangsee, a picturesque lake in the alps. We caught a boat along / surrounded by snow capped mountains / colourful trees / and alpine villages.
On our last day we decided to buy a Salzburg Card. This lead to frantic site-seeing as we tried to get every once out of value out of the card.
We then transferred onto a cog train / 2nd steppest in the world / which transported us up 1800m onto one of those snow capped tops. The view from the top was spectacular / the roof of the world was visible and it looked like icecream. We had a tasty lunch and beer at the restaurant and took many photos before descending to St Wolfgang. St Wolfgang is a pilgramage site / with a lovely church set on the lake. The town is beautiful with wooden helmuted alpine houses. We drove back to Salzburg passing many film sites from The Sound of Music.
We started with Mozart's Residence / which has been rebuilt. The museum was vastly superior to his birthplace museum as it told the story of his life / with a free audio guide that played his various symphonies. We carried on with the Old Residence of the Archbishops and the Panorama / a blown up image of a 360 panorama of Salzburg painted in medieval times. The tourist boat on the river Salzach took us up to Helbrunn Palace / a weird pastiche with trick fountains and poorly executed statues. We quickly left, heading up to the cable car up Untersberg mountain. Unfortunately the weather had closed in so the views were not that good. We finished off in style with dinner and beer at the Augustiner Br채ust체bl.
and / Basel
Basel city gate
Zurich Town Hall
Thunderstorm We caught the Eurostar after work on the Friday for a short weekend break in Belgium, arriving in Ghent 2 1/2 hours later. Our Belgian friends Jonathan and Ivana were at the station to pick us up.
After dropping our gear at Ivanaâ€™s / we headed to the central canal for yummy Belgian beer. Our soiree was cut short by a short and violent thunderstorm / soaking us as we ran back to Ivanaâ€™s.
The next morning we caught the train back across Belgium to Durbuy in the French part / near Luxemburg.
Ghent has a very pretty old town / equally as nice as Bruges but a little larger. Like Bruges / there is a canal network ringed by lovely brick stepped gable houses.
Durbuy claims to be the Worldâ€™s smallest village with a few cute small stone cottages and a chateaux.
We wondered the streets and bridges looking at the at the markets / cathedrals / and castle.
On the way back to Ghent / we stopped off for a maise maze.
Peak Dist Picking up the car
We set off at 7am to get the tube out to Heathrow / not to catch a flight for a change. Unfortunately all but one tube line from Kings Cross were 'severly delayed'. Argh / Oh well we got there in the end to met the others / Sri / Liz / Sarah / and Elizabeth / at Terminal 2 to get a shuttle to the Sheradon Hotel to pick up our Thrifty hire car. After watching a bit of the Olympic rowing on a flat screen at the Hotel we jumped in the car and headed up on the M25 and onto the M1 to the Peak District.
Finding the elusive Eyam After being caught in a bit of traffic we made our way to the Peak District / it was suprising difficult to find the right twee stoned house village but after some help from the locals we made it. We were staying in a YHA hostel / stone and to Sam's delight with a turret / in Eyam. Eyam is called the 'Plague Village' as during the plague the village volunteraly quanteined itself and over 2/3 of the population perished. The disease was brought up on a piece of fabric by the local tailor. Some of the 'plague cottages' still exist. After finding that our hostel did not open until 3pm we headed to Bakewell.
Hathersage and Edale
As the name suggests it is famous for baking, in particular the Bakewell Tart / a short crust pastry shell with an almond and cherry filling / Tasty.
On Sunday morning we rose early to head out to Edale Valley. En route we stopped at Hathersage to see Little John’s Grave / Robin Hood's merry men / and had a nice cooked breakfast. Sam had the Little John / full English / while the girls opted for the Maid Marian / vegetarian option. Sam also managed to purchase some cheap £10 walking shoes.
We had a lovely pub lunch and a nice wander around before heading to Chatsworth House. We had originally planned to walk there and back but as we were a bit delayed we drove.
Mr Darcy's House / Chatsworth House Anna’s dreams were fulfilled as we spent 1.25 hours / as pre-told by the ticket man / walking through the house. Particularly impressive was the statue room containing an amazing statue of a veiled woman. Anna also enjoyed having her photo taken with 'Mr Darcy' / the bust of Matthew Macfadyen from the latest film. We then wandered through the gardens nibbling on English honey fudge and got annoyingly lost in the maze. The building and grounds were even more stunning in real life than in the movie / which we are all wanting to see again.
Pubtastic Back in Eyam, after a glass of wine and a slice of Bakewell tart / we braved the changing weather heading to the local pub / The Miner's Arms. We all had delicious meals. Sam had a lamb shank slow cooked in a red wine sauce with lavender mash and Anna had some lovely monk fish with chargrilled vegetables and more lovely wine.
We stopped at the green roofed visitors centre / collecting a map and a general idea of where to go from the helpful guide / then we set off up the highest Peak in the Peak District / Kinder Scout / 500m. It was a 3 hour round trip that in true English style finished at the pub for good grub and local ales and ciders. Some bits were a little challenging and the streams were a bit full from the recent rain. However, the hills looked stunning covered in blooming heather and the view back to the stone villages was breathtaking.
Back to London After the walk we lunched and then headed back to London. The trip was a bit faster on the way home and we avoided the tube opting to train back to Paddington instead. All in all a lovely weekend away.
blooming heather and the view back to the stone villages was breathtaking
From there we drove to Edale / parked the car and prepared for the walk. We had also stocked up on bakery food for the trip / Eccles cakes and chocolate cornflake cupcakes.
Edinburgh Its not often that we make it to the same place twice but thanks to some long term planning by our friend Sri / who purchased tickets for the Tattoo / we headed off to Edinburgh once more. We caught the train with Phil and Michael after work on Friday. After dumping our bags at the hostel we went out to an Edinburgh pub to meet an old friend of Phil's.
The girls flew up and we caught up with them in the morning. The hostel was one of the best that we have stayed in and cheap too. We had two rooms joined together with a bathroom and shower. Anna drew the short straw and ended up in the boys room. A cooked breakfast with toast and tea/coffee was cheap for ÂŁ4.95.
Free Tour After staying out somewhat later than the rest / Phil and Michael did not rise until well after lunch. The rest of us set off out to the Royal Mile / that connects Edinburgh Castle with Holyrood Palace. It was a bit difficult to decide what we should do as some people had been to Edinburgh before and others had not. As we stood there dithering / someone in the group spotted that we were right next to a sign saying 'Free Tours of Edinburgh' and that they started in 10min / our decision was made. The tour went for 3 hours and although it was 'free' you were encouraged to make a small donation at the end which we were more than happy to do. Along the way we went around the Edinburgh Castle / St Giles' Cathedral / The Royal Mile / Old and New Town / Greyfriars Kirkyard (cemetery) and Greyfriars Bobby to name a few. At each stop we were told a story of the history of the site which took us anywhere from the loyal west highland terrier / Bobby / who lived at Greyfriars cemetery / both before and after his Master was alive / to witch trials and ghosts and Burke and Hare / bodysnatchers. We were also shown where J. K. Rowling got her inspiration for Hogwarts and the spot where she started writing / which now serves beer on tap. The Princes gardens used to be a public sewer for the City and after being drained and planted the soil is not-surprisingly rather fertile! Sam had great fun demonstrating the public humiliation that was seen as a fitting punishment for petty crimes.
The Fringe Fest
After the tour finished we met Phil and Michael for a late lunch at the 'Last Drop' in Grassmarket. I think you can guess what may have happened to people after they visited this pub back in the day... Sam did the Scottish proud by opting for haggis, neaps and tatties, chased down with a local brew. After lunch we caught a couple of Fringe Events. The Fringe Festival happens at the same time as the Tattoo and includes a number of street performances, drama and comedy / some free / some cost. We watched a Canadian performer getting members of the crowd to tie him up in chains, cover him in a bag and free himself / sounds a bit odd but he was good with the crowd. However his thunder was almost stolen by a passing streaker... Next we went back up to the Royal Mile to see a husband and wife team do some acrobats. The music and chirography was a bit odd at times but they did some neat tricks.
The Tattoo After dinner and drink at our hostel / again tasty food and cheap / we wrapped up and headed up to the Castle for the 10.30pm start of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The performance consisted of a mixture of brass bands / bag pipes / and marching girls. There were performers from America, Malaysia, Norway (Sam's favourite) and even New Zealand / they got some loud cheering from us. Each performance showed off their talent in terms of timing and precision. At the end all of the performers came out for the grand finale which stole the show. As darkness descended we were also treated to a light show across the castle telling the history of Scotland and a spectacular fireworks display / Awesome!
Late 'n' Live Phil had organised us some tickets to see Late 'n' Live comedy that started at 1am and went to 5am. So after a quick change at the hostel we set off. It was quite an experience and as always with comedy some performers were better than others. One comedian even had to be rescued from the crowd but luckily Ed Burns was on hand to save the day. The girls called it a night at 3am but the boys stayed until closing time and danced the night / early morning away.
After our efforts we were all a little weary. Following a sleep in we ventured out to the Meadows in search of some free fringe events that were rumoured to be on. However, we were unsuccessful so decided to visit the Writer's Museum in Lady's Stairs Close.
After another tasty pub dinner we went to start our ghost walk at 9.30pm that Liz had kindly booked. The ghost walk started much like ones we have been on before. We heard the lovely story of burking again, and about the body snatching trade. We also learnt why you would not want to walk down the road about 10pm at night / people threw their chamber pots onto the street.
The Museum features great Scottish writers such as Robert Burns / Sir Walter Scott / and Robert Louis Stevenson. The Museum is located in Lady Stairs House built in 1622 and features the 'miss step' on the staircase which was a step designed to be oddly shaped to trip up burglars who may attempt to entry in the dark of night / clever device. From the Writers Museum we headed down to Princes Street gardens and chanced upon a French Market. Stocked up with various cheeses, olives and bread we lay out in the sun and had a picnic lunch / yes sun in Edinburgh! We then went onto a food festival that was being held close by and through some local craft markets. By this time we were all getting tired again so headed back to the hostel in search of dinner options and a rest.
we all soon realised why they give out free drink vouchers for after the tour / Whiskey anyone?
After being taken through dark cobbled alleys, listening to our guide spinning dark story's we were all drawn into a sufficiently dark and fearful mood / although the boys would not admit to it. From the dark streets we were led into some of the vaults under street level that used to house the poorest Edinburgh residents. Edinburgh is built on two levels. Essentially when they needed to expand the buildings went both up and down. The poorest people would generally live on the top levels of the buildings which were often structurally unsound and could alight in a blaze easily or underground... The guide held the only torch as she led us into the dark musty brick lined vaults. Filling
37 us with fear of the occurrences in the vaults she led us from one room to the next until we reached the last. Our guide strategically placed the boys on one side of the room and the girls on the other and then turned off the light. The girls all huddled together and then a lovely colleague of the guideâ€™s proceeded to scare us all / Aghhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Anna was especially glad to leave the musky cellars and we all soon realised why they give out free drink vouchers for after the tour / Whiskey anyone?
Monday As it was a bank holiday we had one extra day up in Edinburgh. Michael and Phil decided to head off early to beat the rush on the trains and the girls had flights at various times. Sri / Heidi / Sam / and Anna decided to do a spot of retail therapy which was nice without the crowds in London. We then caught the 2.10pm train back to London which took 5 hours. We were very lucky to get seats as only 30 seats were unreserved on the train and some people had to stand the whole way!
Egypt / Ca Sunday / Off to Cairo
We had a leisurely start to our trip with an afternoon flight to Cairo. After a delay and some good service on Egypt Air we arrived in Cairo. We were picked up by tour representatives and driven to the Oasis Hotel in Giza. We excitedly woke up Anna’s parents and made arrangements for the following day.
Monday / First taste of Ancient Egypt
The pyramids are impressive / especially from a distance where they dominate the skyline. Up close you can see them falling apart and even hear small rock falls down the slopes. The tombs inside are very plain, hot and claustrophobic. The grounds around the pyramids are sand dunes traversed by people on camels trying to get you to take a photo in exchange for money.
Giza We awoke early to try and beat the crowds and the heat to the pyramids. Instead of a rip off £28 per person optional tour with our tour operators / we elected to do the pyramids ourselves which ended up being about £14 total for all four of us!
The Sphinx is beautiful and impressive, especially in length
The layout of the complex is impressive with three large pyramids sitting in a row / and the Sphinx lining up in front of the middle pyramid. The Sphinx is beautiful and impressive, especially in length / 60m.
After a swimming break back at the hotel we again ignored the optional rip of tour of ÂŁ28 to the museum and did it ourselves. We caught the free shuttle bus to the museum and guided ourselves round. The museum is very impressive a giant collection of / statues / stellae / sarcophagi arranged chronologically. It was interesting to see the skills of the carvers improve over the centauries only to fall apart during the Roman period.
The star of the museum is certainly Tutankhamun. The haul of treasure from his tomb is amazing, and makes you wonder what the grave robbers found in the tombs of the longer living Pharaohs / Tutankhamun was only Pharroh from the ages of 9 till 19. Almost everything from the tomb is gilded gold / chairs / beds / model boats / figures / jewlery / death mask / sarcophagi. The death mask is beautifully crafted, with flawless lines and sparkling jewels.
Old Cairo is only old in a modern sense / it is new compared to the Pyramids
Tuesday / Old Cairo
Old Cairo / Al-Azhar / is only old in a modern sense / it is new compared to the Pyramids. We caught the free shuttle bus from the hotel to the museum, then a local taxi further east to Al-Azhar.
Khan El-Khalili is the main bazaar in Cairo. A sprawling collection of medieval lanes selling anything you would want. We bought a small toy of a camel made from camel as a souvenir.
We visited the Al-Alzhar Mosque which is 1300 years old and contains the oldest university in the world. The Mosque was almost levelled after a large earthquake in 1992 / but with monetary help from around the world they repaired it. New Zealand contributed money, so we were welcomed warmly. A friendly man at the Mosque guided us around / Anna and Lorraine having to wear black overdresses and have their hair covered. The Mosque was very pretty with five minarets for the five times of prayer. We were taken up one of the minarets for a great panorama of Cairo.
Nile River Wednesday / Aswan
Armed with breakfast boxes from the hotel we had an early start with a flight to Aswan in southern Egypt. We were then acquainted with our Nile cruise ship / The Nile Beauty. It was one of the smaller cruise ships on the Nile and felt like we were in an Agatha Christy novel with all the wood panelling and Louis XIV furniture. We walked to the local market and bought some scarves, bargaining hard for every Egyptian pound.
Thursday / Temples and water Philae Temple Finally after being on a tour we actually had a tour with a guide on our 5th day / great value eh? Our tour guide / Bob / was a small Egyptian with a large hooked nose and a Master’s in Egyptology. We visited Philae Temple. Philae Temple was originally on an island now submerged in the waters of Aswan dam. It was moved to a new island above water between 1971 and 1981. The temple was very impressive with large lotus flower columns and hieroglyphic covered pylons.
Aswan Dam We then drove round to Aswan dam. The dam was created to regulate the Nile river / which used to flood every year / and provide electricity for Egypt. The Dam is 4km across and has created the world’s largest man made lake. We finished our time in Aswan with a ride in a felucca / traditional sail boat. It was very peaceful gliding along the Nile onboard.
Kom Ombo Temple Once back onboard / the Nile Beauty set sail north towards Luxor. We stopped briefly to tour Kom Ombo temple. Kom Ombo Temple was interesting as the temple was symmetric, with one half used to praise Horus, and the other Sobek. / Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris is the god of the sky and light and is represented with falcon head. /
Sobek was the god of crocodiles, so was there to appease the crocs in the Nile / now there are no crocodiles in the Nile north of Aswan dam. The temple contains two mummified crocodiles though.
Kom Ombo Temple contains a calendar carved into the stone with twelve months of 30 days each / 3 ten day weeks / and five days of festivities at the end of the year. The three seasons in Egypt / flood / plantation / harvest / are represented by the lion headed goddess Sekmet in different stages of pregnancy.
Kom Ombo Temple also contained representations of different surgical and dentistry tools carved into the stone. Opium and marijuana were used to block the pain.
Friday / More temples Edfu Temple After Kom Ombo the cruise ship continued on to Edfu where we overnighted. In the morning we visited Edfu Temple / the most complete Ancient Egyptian temple in the world. Edfu Temple reminded us of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, as every surface was carved. Some colour remained clinging to the figures. Edfu is dedicated to Horus, resulting in some great statues of falcons. Every year the priests took a golden statue of Horus / obviously disappeared over the years / down to the Nile to meet a golden statue of his wife Hathor who had sailed down the Nile from Denderah. This was a great time of festivities. The original sail boat can be found in the Louvre, and the French were generous enough to give the Egyptians a copy to place in the temple.
Karnak Temple After a long day sailing, and passing through Esna lock we finally arrived in Luxor. Luxor is supposed to be the highlight of the trip, so why we spent less time here / 18 hours / than in Cairo / 3 days / or Aswan / 2 days / is a bit of a mystery. We arrived in Luxor at 5pm and walked ourselves along to Karnak temple for the Sound and Light show as this was the our only chance to see the temple. Once again we did this ourselves rather than pay another rip off optional tour fee. Karnak is larger than St Peter’s in Rome and St Paul’s in London combined and is the largest ancient religious site in the world. Karnak was the spiritual home of Ancient Thebes, and was used to worship Amun-Ra / sun god / Montu / god of war / and Mut / mother goddess. The sound and light show was full of dramatic music and movie trailer voice overs. The lighting was simple white to highlight the different aspects being talked about. We walked through the temple, being stopped at various stages for the next instalment of the story.
Karnak is the largest ancient religious site in the world
Saturday / Tombs Valley of the Kings We started our last full day in Egypt early so that we could pack as much in as possible. The Valley of the Kings was first on the agenda. We visited three tombs / Ramses I / Ramses II / Ramses IV. With each tomb becoming larger and more impressive. The colour on the walls of the tombs was amazing / especially when you consider it has been a couple thousand years. The stories on the walls were to instruct the Pharaohs on how to achieve immortality with plenty of pictures of Osiris, Isis, Anubis and Horus.
Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatsheput Rather than a hidden tomb like the others / Queen Hatsheput had a three-tieredcolonnaded-temple constructed against the cliff face. The entrance way led onto a myrtle lined path straight to the Nile. Thutmose III, the Pharaoh that followed Hatsheput, removed references to her name from the temple.
Valley of the Queens As in the Valley of the Kings, we visited three tombs in the Valley of the Queens / Queen Tyti / Prince Ramesses. The tombs here were almost better than the kings, as the colours were more vivid and we were virtually the only people there.
Colossi of Memnon On the way back to the boat we briefly stopped at the Colossi of Menmon / two giant statues of seated figures. The figures seat at the front of the temple of Amenhotep of which very little remains.
Fly to Cairo
We collected our bags and were dropped at the airport for our flight to Cairo. In Cairo we stayed at the Intercontental, attached to the biggest shopping mall in Egypt. We had our rooms upgraded to suites, and there was a giant swimming pool wrapped around a pyramid, obelisk and felucca.
The colours were more vivid than the valley of the Kings
France / N With Anna’s parents we caught an early morning flight from Luton to Nice. Sam was along for a short weekend / while Anna was to spend a week in Provence / and her parents two weeks until we picked them up again in Paris.
Nice is located on the Cote d’Azure / blue coast. We walked along the promenade to La Château / the central hill. The water was beautiful and clear / and the sunshine came out to play. The top of the hill gave beautiful views across the mediterranean and Nice’s old town below. We had a lovely dinner at a nearby restaruant / Sam going for 3 kinds of pork with puy lentils / Anna and family going for salmon salad.
Monaco The next day, after a lovely breakfast of pastries and coffee we caught the bus to Monaco.
We climbed the hill to Monaco Ville / old town / and watched the changing of the guards. Afterwards we slowly descended past the baroque aqurium to the harbour / super yatch haven.
We caught a water taxi across to Monte Carlo, walking part of the Formula 1 racing track, and wasted a couple of Euro in the casino slot machines.
Monte Carlo Casino
Provence After Sam flew back to London, Anna and her parents hired a car and drove around Provence visiting Cannes / Arles/ Aix-en-Provence / Avignon / Lyon.
Bormes les Mimosas Arles
It was amazing to trace the steps of so may great artists. Driving through past the fields and villages it is easy to see how they were inspired to paint. Seeing both the cafe that featured in Van Gogh’s starry night painting and visiting the last residence and studio of Cezanne were moments to remember. They had essentially left Cezannes’ studio as he had it with all his furniture and even his coat hanging on the wall.
Aix-en-Provence They also enjoyed all the markets / Aix-enProvence is a market town. There were flower / clothes / fresh produce markets dotted around the place. There were also tempting biscuit shops everywhere with cute tins for sale.
Avignon Avignon is dominated by a huge Palace where the Pope lived in exile for sometime. We arrived late but just in time for some good shots of the outside and down to the river Rhone. We explored a little more in the morning / touring the ornate palace and seeing a green wall before driving on to Lyon.
Lyon Lyon / France’s second city is a mini-Paris / complete with a small version of the Eiffel Tower. The Basilique de Fourvière was beautiful both inside and out / and had great views of the city. There are many large wall murals in the city depicting everyday life. Some are very large and impressive.
Driving through past the fields and villages it is easy to see how they were inspired to paint
Saturday / wander
We enjoyed our second trip to Paris with Annaâ€™s parents more than our first two years previous. Having already seen the main sights there was no pressure.
Unfortunately on our first day, the weather was as bad as our previous trip. We wandered around Le Marais / Ile de la CitĂŠ / Ile de St Louis. We stopped to listed to an orchestra play under the arches of Le Marais before having lunch and heading back to the hotel. That evening the weather cleared and we walked up to the base of Monmatre / and along Boulevard de Clichy to Le Moulin Rouge.
Sunday / museum hop
As with our first trip to Paris, we came on the first Sunday of the month when most of the museums are free. With the weather having cleared up and museums beckoning we headed out early. We went straight for Musée d’Orsay as last time we only had 45 minutes here. d’Orsay is home to 19th centuary art and houses an amazing amount of works by the Impressionists / Anna’s favourite genre. Musée Rodin is not far from d’Orsay and was our second stop. The museum is set on lovely grounds with some bronze works in the garden while others remain in the palatial buildings. Across the road from Musée Rodin is Hotel de les Invalides / Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb / which unfortunately was not free so we wandered around the grounds. We finished with Musée Marmottan which we toured despite not being free. Marmottan includes a large number of Monet paintings bequethed by Monet’s son.
we came on the first Sunday of the month when most of the museums are free
Burford is a one street town running down a hill. We bought some tradional sweets and lardy buns / lots of butter and cinamon.
The countries oldest inn is here / so of course we had to stop for a nice local pint
With Anna’s parents and brother we took a Tracks Travel tour of the Cotswold region. The Cotswolds is famous for it’s gentile rolling hills and small stone villages
Someone with a sense of humour called this the Venice of the North due to the single small canal running through. We had a nice pub lunch to shelter from the rain.
There is a bloody history in Stow-on-the-Wold / one of the greatest ever town names. On 21 March 1646 / the Royalists were defeated at the Battle of Stow-on-the-Wold / hundreds of prisoners were confined for some time in the tiny St. Edwards church. The countries oldest inn is also here / so of course we had to stop for a nice local pint.
Along with some of Annaâ€™s mates, we purchased tickets to New Zealand versus Wales at the Millenium Stadium / Cardiff / part of the All Blacks grand slam of the home nations.
Drive to Cardiff
Another carhire from Thrifty at Heathrow, this time a Ford Focus with Karen driving. We drove along the M4 and over the second Severn crossing / a large suspension bridge built and maintained by John Laing / Samâ€™s company.
All Blacks After finding our small hotel on the edge of town, we walked in to see the sites and meet up with the rest of the group. We bought scarves and All Blacks tattoos. The Millennium Stadium is impressive / seating 75,000. The roof was closed due to the weather / increasing the noise when the Welsh sang. It was a good game of rugby / Wales started stronger / the All Blacks finished stronger. New Zealand 29 v Wales 9 Afterwards, we celebrated with a few brews on the town.
Driving tour We rose early, with Karen taking us on a driving tour of the city down to Cardiff Bay and out to some castles. We started with Caerphilly Castle, a large square ruin with moat. We had a nice walk around the grounds dodging all the swans. Castell Coch (red castle) was next, a splendid Victorian Gothic-revival castle with tall pointy turrets. The castle is in great repair and very colourful inside. We stopped for a yummy pub lunch in the old market town of Chippenham on the way home.
New Zealand 29 v Wales 9
Budapest While not as beautiful as Prague or Salzburg, or as charming as Tallinn or Bruges, Budapest is still a neat old town. We quickly found there were not too many activities in the city so took our time wandering around and sampling the delights. Budapest is the combination of two cities straddling the banks of the Danube, these cities are Buda and Pest. So in the spirit of joining the names, we visted Pest-Buda-Pest.
On our first day we explored Pest, the new town on the east of the Danube. We wandered down the main shopping street, Váci utca, to the Grand Market Hall. The market was full of wonderful fresh food, paprika and souvenirs. We bought some lovely bread and ham for a picnic lunch on the Danube looking across to the castle. With the chill setting in we located the Christmas market in the central square, warming ourselves with mulled wine and doughnuts. Feeling suitably Christmasy / we carried on up to St Stephen Cathedral / listening to a choir amongst the dark marble and candles. The Cathedral contains the mummified right hand of St Stephen, the former king who brought Christianity to Budapest.
The Cathedral is at the base of Andrássy út / a baroque boulevard built by the Hasburgs that could be from Vienna. We poked our heads into the Opera House, but could not get any tickets. After a rest back in our apartment, we headed back to Andrássy út for a fantastic meal. We had a three course feast with cocktails in a baroque 18th century dinning room, for less than £30.
We caught the metro from our apartment to the back of castle hill in Buda. This part of castle hill is full of the Burgher houses / a candy coloured combination of arches / cute windows / red tilled roofs / hitching posts / and cobble stones. We wondered down the hill past majolica tiled churches to Fisherman’s Bastion. A 19th Century pale stone Gothic revival lookout / with brilliant views to the Gothic parliament and the rest of Pest.
We caught mainland Europe’s oldest underground line out to City Park in Pest to Vajdahunyad Castle. The castle / like Fisherman’s Bastion / is a fantasy pastiche of what Budapest would like to portray. The castle has Gothic / Romanesque / and Baroque wings / each copied from actual castles around Hungary and Romania. It is both bizarre and brilliant. The lake around the castle is frozen during winter / forming the largest ice skating area in Budapest. We hired some skates and did laps infront of the castle under a blue sky / without falling down once.
The palatial buildings on the hill are mostly baroque fantasy pieces and house many different museums. We visited the city history museum / hopping for some rooms showing how the palace would have been originally inside. Unfortunately, the Hungarians never seemed interested in preserving much and only fragments remain. After ambling down castle hill and crossing the Chain Bridge we had a tasty lunch of paprika sausages and walnut doughnut in the Christmas market.
To reward ourselves we walked next door to the Széchényi Spa for a soak. The spa looks like the Kaiser palaces in Potsdam / large curving mustard walls with white trim and plenty of statues. The spa has three outdoor pools at 38 degrees / several indoor pools at varying temperatures and a sauna. There were also men playing chess while in the pools. After a lovely relaxing day we flew back to London ready to tackle work again.
a candy coloured combination of arches / cute windows / red tilled roofs / hitching posts / and cobble stones Parliment House
New York Arrival
We departed work early for Heathrow Terminal 5 for our flight to New York. It was much nicer than flying out of Stansted and to Annaâ€™s delight houses a Tiffanys. Before taking off we stocked up on Champagne for Christmas Day. After a flight watching three forgettable movies we arrived in New York. Despite it being midnight, all the public transport was working fine, we caught the monorail / the Long Island Rail Road / and the Subway to get to our hotel / Hilton Garden Inn Times Square. Our room was a lovely Kings size / on the 15th floor with views out to the Hudson River. It made a great base for our first forays into New York in Midtown.
Day 2 / Christmas day
After a decent sleep and a cream cheese bagel and white coffee breakfast, we set out in the rain to Times Square. Times Square is not actually a square / but an area centred on the bow tie intersection of 7th Avenue and Broadway. Every vertical surface is covered with neon and / or billboards. These were reflected further in the puddles and on the taxis.
We awoke on Christmas day to clear blue skies / a champagne breakfast / a few presents and cards that we brought with us. After resting up, we headed out to find New York really does not sleep / with more stores open than London had on New Years day.
To escape the rain, we caught the subway down to Macy’s / a very large department store taking up an entire block / with it’s own postcode. The escalators inside are all wooden / and their Christmas sale had already started. We picked up a couple of bargain souvenirs. After a break back at the hotel / we caught the subway up to 57th St in search of a rumoured burger joint ( aptly called Burger Joint). The diner was located inside the Park le Meridian, and you really had to ask staff to locate it. It was amazing walking from the plush lounge bar into an old 60’s diner. The burgers, fries and shakes were brilliant. Afterwards, we caught the subway back down to the Rockefeller Plaza / and watched people ice-skating infront of a very large and colourful Christmas tree.
After stumbling upon the Empire State Building / we decided to join the deceptively small queue as we figured there was nothing else to do. The queue is deceptive because you can never see how long it is. You seem to keep queuing to get into another queue to another floor around another corner for another queue. After two hours we finally made it to the top. The view went forever with the crisp clear skies. The Empire State truly towers over everything around it. Instead of queuing for two hours for the Empire State / I would recommend booking a timed ticket for the Top of the Rock / Rockefeller Plaza. A few photos later and after deciding the Chrysler Building has the best roof, we headed back down / thankfully only a short queue / and caught the subway to a snow covered Central Park. There were many people ice-skating, and it was quite magical as the sun set to twilight. We met with Karen and a few of her kiwi friends for a lovely Christmas dinner at the Café on the Rock / next to the Rockefeller ice-skating rink. The meal was a three course feast / which no-one could finish.
You seem to keep queuing to get into another queue to another floor around another corner for another queue
Day 1 / Midtown
View from the Empire State Building
Day 3 / Shopping Sadly we had to vacate our Hilton room for more modest / cheaper accommodation in the East Village. Our new room was rather small / but very clean and comfortable. The East Village area is very funky and young / full of tattoo parlours / bars / and restaurants it feels like Camden or Shoreditch in London. We started exploring the area by heading to the West Village / Greenwich and the boutique stores along Bleaker Street. Anna was very excited to come across the Magnolia Bakery / famous for fantastic cup-cakes and featured in Sex and the City. We started shopping in earnest after catching the subway up to Lexington Avenue. After a quick peak inside Bloomingdales we located a Levi’s store where we purchased a cheap pair of jeans each. We carried on down Lexington Avenue before switching to 5th Avenue for some window shopping. Anna was excited to find the 6 storey Tiffany’s store / but by then we were a little tired. Back in the East Village we had dinner at a tasty Vegan resturaunt named Angelica’s. We both ordered the Dragon bowl – beans / brown rice / tofu / seaweed / and pumpkin / with a black sesame dressing. The plate of food that came out was piled so high it was hard to see each other. Needless to say neither of us finished / leaving what looked like a normal sized main on our plates and receiving rather odd looks from the Waiter who came to collect our plates.
The plate of food that came out was piled so high it was hard to see each other
Day 4 / Downtown With the clouds having closed in again we caught the train to Brooklyn and walked back across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan. The wooden pathway down the middle of the bridge above the traffic was very neat. We could not see the tops of the midtown buildings due to the cloud / but the view was still good.
After a coffee at a Starbucks / across the road from another Starbucks and down the road from another one / we headed downtown to pay our respects at Ground Zero. The site was shrouded in boards with no peep holes, so we could not tell how far construction work has come / but we did find the firestation and wall bearing the names of those firemen that lost their lives that day. Having been solemn / we walked a block east and abused Wall St / thanking the NYSE for the current financial crises. Spotting what looked like another two hour queue for the ferry to Ellis Island in Battery Park / we ran away to the free Staten Island ferry terminal instead. The plan was to get this for a closer look at the Statue of Liberty. However with the poor visibility we decided against it and headed up to SoHo for more retail therapy. SoHo was great / much more our type of shopping than Lexington and 5th Avenues. We bought some more Leviâ€™s and Anna bought plenty of Mac make-up. We managed to spend four hours in the space of two blocks and had a tasty improptu lunch from a gourmet food supermarket. The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Met / is open late on Fridays and Saturdays and you can enter for only a donation. We arrived at 7.30pm after a slice of pizza en route and had an hour and a half whirlwind tour of the large amount of art on display. There were plenty of Picassos / Impressionists / plus a few weird and wonderfuls.
Monument from inside the Twin Towers
The people were very friendly, asking if you needed directions if you had a map out
Day 5 / MoMA
Fuelled by oatmeal / porridge to you and I / we spent our last day in midtown again bookended by shopping in Union Square. We caught the subway to Grand Central Station / the busiest train station in the World. The cavernous central hall is very pretty with a zodiac traversing the ceiling and art deco detailing everywhere. From here it is only a couple blocks walk to MoMA.
The Museum of Modern Art / MoMa is six storeys of modern art. If you start on the 6th floor and work your way down you will move through most modern art movements starting with cubism. The second floor is the equivalent of Londonâ€™s Tate Modern Turbine Hall / a special installation room. The installation was of macro video running in lurid colours while people lay watching in a daze / drapped on couches. The artwork was probably more about watching the people from the different angles bathed in light from each floor / than the actual video. After many Picassos / Miros / Warhols / we headed over to Central Park for a pastrami on rye before heading home to London.
Summary New York was a great trip / vastly different to anywhere we have been before. It felt more alien than Europe despite all the similarities to our own culture. The people were very friendly / asking if you needed directions if you had a map out. You could easily spend many more days exploring each of the neighbourhoods / we never made it to Chelsea / the Meatpacking district / Upper East and West sides / or Harlem / just to name a few. One day we will be back againâ€Ś
We convinced ten friends to travel with us to Morocco for a great weekâ€™s holiday. En route to Morocco eight of us / Sam / Anna / Karen / Liz / Ben / Steven / Michael / Fi / stopped over for a night in Madrid. Michael found us some neat accommodation which the 8 of us had to ourselves. We wandered the streets and piazzas, checked out the Royal Palace and ate plenty of tapas washed down with Spanish wine / and churros with hot chocolate. We also found time to visit the Prado and see paintings by Goya / VelĂĄzquez / El Grecco / Raphael / Rembrandt / with Sam doing his best acting as tour guide.
Morocco / Tangier
After a morning flight from Madrid we landed in Tangier around noon to find that the trains were not running due to recent flooding. Our taxis drivers dropped us instead to the CMT bus station. Unfortunately the next bus was not until 7pm / it was only 4pm when we found this / so we purchased tickets / checked in our luggage and set off to explore Tangier.
We had heard that Tangier was a â€˜get in / get outâ€™ sort of place so were nicely surprised by what we found. We climbed up into the medina and were hit by a number of smells / sounds / sights. Sam went straight for the olive stand and we also found some bread / snacking in the central square next to the courtyard.
Eight foreigners sitting on the fountain grazing attracted a bit of local attention / or maybe they were just as curious of us as we were of them. We were fascinated by all the djellaba wearing jedi / long hooded robes like those in Star Wars seemed to be common dress. After the snack we continued to explore the medina and headed up to the edge of town / looking across the Straits of Gibraltar to Spain. To fuel us for the bus journey we stopped at one of the seaside cafes and had delicious fish tagine before embarking on a very cold / long bus ride!
Mosque entrance, Tangier
/ North73 Fez We arrived in Fex at 3am / the train would have arrived at 10pm / luckily we were still able to arrange a taxi pick up and the driver was kind enough to guide us through the Medina to our accommodation / we would never have found it without help.
The tanneries were a sight and smell. For centuries they have been using the tanneries to treat and die leather hides. The colours were intense with red dye – poppies / yellow – saffron / green – mint. Sadly the men that work in the tanneries have a short life expectancy.
After a sleep in and a delicious breakfast of olives / apricot jam / bread and pancake we sunned ourselves on the roof terrace and planned out our day. Once everyone was up we headed up to the hill to get a view across the medina. The medina in Fez is completely pedestrianised / apart from the leather laden donkeys. The tiny streets and alleys make it very difficult to navigate around but we eventually made it up a hill, even if it was not the one we intended / for stunning views.
Having been lead through the workers and giant coloured wells / we were taken to a viewing platform and a leather shop. We succumbed to temptation and between us walked out with a leather jacket – Michael / wallet – Sam / bag – Liz.
Our next stop was the tanneries / which proved illusive. After walking around in circles for awhile we stopped for a tasty lunch of chicken and olive / prune and lamb tagines. Here we met a true-to-life American Jedi who was very helpful and guided us to the tanneries.
Grinning with our first purchases of the trip we continued to wander lost in the medina labyrinth until dusk when we found a lovely café to sit and watch the sunset while drinking sweet mint tea / aka Berber whiskey. Determined to find our accommodation again we set off / after ending up down a number of dead ends we ended up paying a boy to take us back and settled down for a five course meal finished off with orange dusted in cinnamon.
Atlas Mou Tangier to Tinerhir
On our second morning in Fez we headed out to Hertz to pick up the cars. After the usual paper work we started the drive to Tinerhir. We found the roads were good to drive on but lacking in turn-off signage. Unfortunately due to recent heavy snow the route we wanted to take was closed. This forced us on a major detour costing an additional three hours of driving. The mountain pass was very windy with large pot holes and a few slow trucks.
After a good nights sleep and tasty breakfast in the sun on the terrace / we headed out to the Todra Gorge for a hike. Using a suggested walk in the Lonely Planet / we climbed to the top of one of the summits in the Gorge. At around 2000 metres up we felt slight effects of altitude. The walk was supposed to take us 1.5-2 hours but ended up taking around 4 hours.
The scenery was amazing from dry barren red soil landscapes / to thick snow / to lakes with palmeries. It was amazing staring out the window at the people going about their daily business pulling donkeys along with them. We restricted stops along the way and stopped for dinner just as the light was starting to dim. We inhaled a speedy dinner of Moroccan pizza / bread / olives before making one last push to reach Tinerhir. Thanks to better roads we arrived around 11pm / arriving to a second chicken tagine dinner.
Once descended / we stopped at a lovely hotel for lunch / dinner and they kindly offered to open the restaurant for us. We shared a spicy tomato / onion / olive / prune omelette cooked in a tagine of course. We then collected our bags and drove onto the Valley of the Roses to meet up with Sri and Sarah.
The walk was supposed to take us 1.5-2 hours but ended up taking around 4 hours
Sahara Valley of the Roses
Arriving around 9pm we had a late dinner and shared stories with Sri and Sarah who had arrived in Morocco the day before and been out to explore Essaouira on the coast. Waking early we set off down to Zagora, driving through oases and passing crumbling kasbahs. Unfortunately we had a tyre puncture on the way which required a change of tyres and changed our plans. Fi was quick on the phone to companies recommended in the Rough Guide and arranged a change of cars in Zagora to 4WDs and a night in the desert complete with camel trek.
as darkness fell the sky lit up like a snow globe
Sahara About 2 hours after leaving Zagora by 4WD we found ourselves at a camp ground in the Sahara Desert. It was fantastic and as darkness fell the sky lit up like a snow globe with all the stars and constellations clearly visible. The camp housed a crazy Englishman who had come out to get a feel for the place before competing in the Marathon des Salbes in April / 5 marathons over 7 days in the Sahara. We have his details so will keep an eye on his progress when the race begins.
With all the driving and eating, we felt a desert dessert walk was in order / heading up into the 300m sand dunes of Sâ€™Giga with the Englishman acting as guide.
The next morning we woke at dawn to ride on camels. They were a lot more comfortable than we had been advised and a bit of fun. After breakfast we headed back to Zagora stopping en route at the sacred oasis. Back in our cars we headed to Ourzazate to talk to Hertz and get a new car tyre.
Marrakes Ait Benhaddou
En route to Marrakesh that evening we stopped in at a world heritage site / Ait Benhaddou / for a photo stop. Ait Benhaddou is an impressive preserved Kasbah on a hill and a film set for Laurence of Arabia / Jesus of Nazareth / The Mummy / amongst others. Ignoring the offered 10 dirham donkey ride across the ankle deep river / we wadded over and took many photos.
Back in the cars we started our climb over the challenging Atlas Mountain pass / pot holes / narrow roads / clouds / hairpin bends / large trucks. Full credit to our drivers for getting us at our destination safely. We arrived in our Riad in Marrakesh late evening.
Marrakesh We had one full day in Marrakesh during which the team split up / some went sight seeing while others shopped the souks. We purchased / one large tagine – dinner for 6 people / two small ornate yellow tagines / one iron lamp / one large green engraved plate / one leather hold-all / a pair of leather sandals for Anna. The most we have ever bought on a trip but it was too tempting due to the selection of goods and the affordable prices. Sam really got into bargaining / and was even trying on 2 dirham (18p) postcards!
Tired from a day bargaining / we relaxed on the Riad’s terrace sipping tasty wine and popcorn. The Riad was owned by a lovely French couple who joined us for a glass of wine. They had only been in Marrakesh for one year but in that time had done a fantastic job on the décor. Suitably ‘chillaxed’ / new word for us / we headed to the central square for dinner and bargained our way to having 4 free meals. After some last minute shopping / bargaining / it was time to pack all our wares and head to bed before a mid morning flight back to London.
Summary All in all it was a fantastic trip, although it would have been nice to have two weeks instead of one. Everyone got on well and we had many laughs together. Things that we will take away are the fantastic scenery / gormet feasts / friendly people who went out of the way to help / and the shopping in Marrakesh.
Lamb and fig tagine
Croatia / D
Travel 2008/9 Contents 1
/ Travel 2008 / 9
3 / Contents 4 / Windsor
6 / Stockholm 10 / Bath
12 / Turkey / Istanbul 16 / Gallipoli 18 / Belfast
20 / Salzburg
25 / Switzerland / Basel 26 / Luzern 28 / Zurich 30 / Ghent
32 / Peak District 34 / Edinburgh 38 / Egypt / Cairo 42 / Nile River 46 / France / Nice 48 / Monaco 50 / Provence 52 / Paris 56 / Cotswolds 58 / Cardiff 60 / Budapest 64 / New York 70 / Madrid 72 / Morocco / North 74 / Atlas Mountains 76 / Sahara 78 / Marrakesh 80 / Moscow 84 / Cornwall / Newquay 88 / Croatia / Dubrovnik 90 / Split 92 / Portugal / Algarve 94 / Lisbon 96 / What next? 98 / Travel 2008/9