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Maybe, just maybe, it’ll make them think twice about throwing that plastic bottle in the ocean.
Paphos, Cyprus – How a turtle helped me remember why I travel to new places!
One of my travel mantras has been that the world is so huge with so many places to visit that I wouldn’t go to the same place twice. This trip broke that rule, I’d been to Paphos in Cyprus many years before and loved it’s history, culture and gorgeous castle on the harbour.
So when looking for a family holiday destination accessible from both Greece, where we were concluding a tour of the Peloponnese, and England from where my family would be flying in to join us, Cyprus was an obvious choice.
We were enjoying an evening on the promenade, and had just finished eating a fairly ordinary meal which hadn’t left me reeling in delight when I spotted a few people rushing to the harbourside.
A crowd was building along the waterfront. The dark sea alongside the busy pedestrianised promenade obviously held something exciting for the tourists but I had no idea what. I’d been waiting for the bill to arrive but couldn’t resist the pull of the crowd. OK, so I’m nosey, I admit it.
I had an inkling what it could be, the area’s known for turtles and I hadn’t seen one yet, I secretly hoped this evening could end on a high note.
After making sure the bill was in hand I couldn’t wait any longer to join the hyperactive crowd peering into the dark. Now here was where mobile phones came into their own, someone lit the area with their mobile torch and to everyone’s giddy joy there she was. Swimming just below the surface was the most gorgeous, apparently happy and healthy turtle.
I’ve been lucky to get quite up close and personal with turtles in Australia, but only in a rescue centre
I’d also seen one swimming off the coast there but to see one so close up in the wild was a real joy. I love the sea and all it holds and feel passionately that we should do much more to protect it. I was thrilled so many tourists could encounter this beautiful peaceful creature first hand.
Maybe, just maybe, it’ll make them think twice about throwing that plastic bottle in the ocean.
As people slowly moved away, their murky phone photos shooting up into social media as they went, a local guy approached and asked if I knew the story. A little bit wary of this enthusiastic local holding my arm I admitted I didn’t so he told me all about the turtle’s tale. Now all this could be a myth or a load of rubbish but here we go.
I was lucky enough to spend a week working in Tuscany. I know, sorry, stressful but someone had to do it, I’m such a martyr for my cause eh? On an afternoon off I was driven to this joy of a ancient mountain town, Volterra.
I’d seen it from a distance across the valley from the work location. High in the clouds first thing in the morning, safely nestling above the expanse of green valleys and hillsides later in the day.
I’m glad I wasn’t driving the roads are winding with huge drops to certain death on one side, although as a passenger I’m not sure which took my breath away most, the vertiginous drops or the STUNNING panoramic views beauty of nature all around! So if you do drive you may miss out on the numerous opportunities to look past the trees and extreme drops to the famous Tuscan views.
Painters, artists and writers have been drawn to this part of the world across the years. It is a calm, light, green, panoramic countryside and it’s very easy to understand why so many found it inspirational.
‘I am a product of my native land, Tuscany, Italy’ – Andrea Bocelli
We arrived in Volterra and parked in a municipal underground car park. Ignoring this very concrete 1970’s spiral of a carpark as anything other than a convenience, we got walking shoes on, credit cards and cameras at the ready and started the wonderful stroll. Starting with a view over red tiled roofs and out to the far fields rampant with greenery and various farmed crops.
This gem of a town hidden high in the Tuscan hills is worth the drive. Don’t miss the panoramic views near the car park on the main road into the town. The heavy red tiled roofs sit solid and reassuring as you look out over the valley, on the edge of town, although the brickwork is quite wonky in places. No doubt after years of carrying the burden of the deeply ridged terracotta tiles. It all adds to the sense of place, rooted strongly to this mountain top in this country of earthquakes and tremors.
The Romans built an impressive theatre here, wow they must have been fit to hike up those hills! No straight Roman road would climb this high. Surprisingly they still trekked all the way up here, despite the lack of straight roads to ascend the hills, and built amongst other things a huge theatre.
‘Roman Theatre of Volterra’
Spend a few of your euros to see the historic sites, you can get a multi saver although as time was limited I just chose to spend time at the ‘Roman Theatre of Volterra’. As I wandered around paved pathways and stared awestruck as mosaic floors and marble columns, still standing all these years on, I knew I was walking in the footsteps of Roman poets and actors in leather sandals alongside Roman goddesses in long white robes and gold headdresses.
They had the right idea building here, truly near to their gods in the clouds, although I can imagine them moving elsewhere in winter. This place is HIGH!
Get your pack packed and on your back. Yes it’s called a backpack for a really good reason!
Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone – Go Backpacking
OK, I’ll stand up and admit, I’m a traveller and I’m on a little bit of a mission.
I want to persuade you to go backpacking. Somewhere. Just once. Borrow a pack if you don’t want to invest just yet. You can stay where you like, hostel, campsite, B&B wherever you like.
City break or countryside hike, just be a backpacker for a day, a weekend or hopefully longer.
I have now been round Australia, with quite a big pack, which I still find awesome and unbelievable.I have been around the Greek Islands with a very small pack, carry on only. You can choose any style you like.
I realised people travel to recover, to discover, to lose themselves, to find themselves, to work, to go back to basics, to move forwards to a new life.
How a Day Alone in Pisa can Change Your Life (Even if you Don’t Drive a Ferrari)
I was sitting outside an Italian cafe sipping a coffee, eating a slice of heavy indulgent cheese cake and watching Ferraris drive by. The scene couldn’t have been more stereotypically Italian and more importantly I’d finally, in my mid 50s, become an independent traveller.
As a youngster we went camping each weekend, my parents had a caravan and I slept in the awning. You wouldn’t believe how much noise a tent zip makes when everyone else is asleep. There was always a closed Tupperware cup of milk waiting for me, with a digestive biscuit on the lid.
On rainy days the sound of pattering on the caravan roof accompanied the shouts of ‘rummy’ as we played cards as a family. It wasn’t until my very late teens that my parents finally had enough money to take the family overseas. My memories of camping in Bordeaux in France and the giant pinecones we collected are still cemented by the dish of similar pinecones in my home. I enjoyed it as I was able to spend time alone wandering on pine needles watching giant ants climb over obstacles I put in their way. Children don’t need expensive trips, but I wished for trips overseas like my school peers. It would be 40+ years until I got over my travel envy.
In my 20s, I went, just once, with a friend on the compulsory 18-30 holiday.
Those naive days of alcohol and sunburn. It was a total financial rip off, a taste of independence all the same. In hindsight I imagine my parents were having a few sleep-ness nights back home. I remember the escapades but it certainly wasn’t something I wished to repeat.
My 30s were the amazing years I watched my daughter grow.
I couldn’t afford many trips. I was lucky enough to be given some camping gear by a colleague, so I always tried to fit in a week or two camping near my parent’s Devon home.
As a special LIMITED TIME INTRODUCTORY OFFER my popular travel article about Doha, Qatar is going to be available on GPSmyCity FREE OF CHARGE for a full week.
What exactly is a GPS-guided travel article?
You know what it’s like, you did all your travel research, read loads of travel articles about your chosen destination, then you arrive.
As you walk around you get the feeling you’re missing out, that you’ve forgotten something. You get on the flight home and realise you missed an awesome trip or unique sight seeing opportunity.
How good would it have been if you’d only had access to the great blog post you’d read, right there and then? OK, so you may have added it to your browser bookmarks but you’d prefer not to use up expensive overseas data charges to download it and anyway the wifi was hit and miss or a bit too dodgy to trust.
Oh well, guess that not being able to find that great museum or gallery is just something you accept as a traveller. Or not!
Next trip you can use a GPS-guided travel article.
What exactly is a GPS-guided travel article?
It’s a travel article written by a fellow traveller with GPS coordinates embedded within it AND it includes a map of the route taken in the article.
You can find thousands of these articles (from over 750 worldwide cities) at GPSmyCity. Once you download the app to your phone, you don’t even need an internet connection to view or use the guide and integrated map.
How cool is that! You’ll be able to take the same walk and not miss out on the reason you wanted to go there in the first place.
That’s going to be expensive isn’t it?
No, you can download the written content at your convenience, from GPSmyCity FREE OF CHARGE so that you can read it at your leisure later, without needing wi-fi.
Is that it?
No, if you do decide you want the full GPS-guided article, you just pay a small fee to upgrade ($1.99). Less than the price of a coffee to make sure you don’t miss out, that’s got to worth it, right?
It’s your own experienced personal travel guide, in your pocket.
Why am I telling you this?
As a special LIMITED TIME INTRODUCTORY OFFER my popular travel article about Doha, Qatar is going to be available on GPSmyCityFREE OF CHARGE for a full week.
You can download it FOR FREE from the directory from Monday (5th June 2017) until the following Sunday (11th June 2017)
GPS-guided travel articles can be accessed in two different ways:
Click on a link below for the article you are interested in (if you haven’t already downloaded the free GPSmyCity app, you will see a prompt to do so). After downloading the app, you will be directed to the article, where you can choose UPGRADE to get the GPS-guided version.
From the GPSmyCity app, you can browse by city to see which articles are available.
British Rail would be twitching and litigating against such apparent recklessness
Hanoi train station
The station in Hanoi is quite bare compared to Europe’s sign-written, commercial railways. Stark grey concrete and not a word of English or at least none that we could see. No shops or the niceties of vending machines or cafes.
The trains are utilitarian and reminiscent of a film noire.
It’d make a great cold war film set. In comparison to the madness of colour, sound and constant frenzied friendliness that is Hanoi it just made me feel cool, cold almost and quite vulnerable.
It was quite an odd feeling on a hot and humid day.
This was when we were sure that going on a G Adventures accompanied group trip was worth the money. The vast open station with platforms lined with long anonymous aged trains was quite daunting. You know in an exciting way.
Officials in Vietnam like a good uniform preferably with braids and metallic trimmings demanding respect.
I didn’t get to grips with who was the police, security or rail staff throughout the whole trip. We meekly followed our impressively uniformed train guard and Cambodian travel guide across train tracks, YES, we walked across the train tracks.
My untrained eye didn’t deceive me on that one as the seat dug into places it really shouldn’t, or at least not without due invitation!
Why You Should Go On A Bike Ride In Hoi An, Vietnam
What better way to immerse myself in the culture of Vietnam than to cycle. While somewhere in town a tailor was creating my beautiful hand made clothes, I decided to pass the time seeing a bit of the ‘real’ Vietnam.
Now let me admit I can ride a bike in the tradition of ‘you never forget’ however I have still to master the art of jumping up kerbs and no hands trick cycling a la BMX style. This basic skill of mine is enough to enable me to get from A – B but not in any artistic, or too speedy, fashion.
You can therefore imagine my trepidation / terror…
…when the cycle man arrived with a bunch of bikes with varying degrees of rust and dents, in my amateur opinion very aged brake cables and decidedly uncomfortable looking seats. My untrained eye didn’t deceive me on that one as the seat dug into places it really shouldn’t, or at least not without due invitation!
Well I had decided to try everything I could
I would embrace all new learning experiences with a smile so I got in position and set off. Wobble wasn’t the word to quite cover the way the cycle heaved quite violently at every bump, and let’s put it this way Vietnam is not known for its smooth pot-hole free highways.
We took our life in our hands…
to cross a major junction, remember I can’t do hands free so…mirror ( what mirror), signal (WHAT NO HANDS) manoeuvre (don’t go too fast they will hit you!) took on a threat level as significant to me as a two year old walking across the UK M1 motorway. OK I admit it I was scared. It lasted approximately one minute until I reached the other side and then the absolutely stunning beautiful although rather bumpy raised grass pathways between the rice fields.
The good thing about Qatar is that whilst it isn’t cheap, it isn’t prohibitively expensive so try it now before the crowds.
5 Things To Do In Doha, Qatar – The Up And Coming Jewel Of The Middle East
I’m sure most of you have heard of Dubai, but Qatar may not be on your radar, unless of course you’re a soccer fan. In which case you’ll be aware the FIFA World Cup will be held there in 2022. I’m not going to dig any deeper on that, just please don’t judge a place or its people until you’ve been there.
Dubai is leading the field in this area in the development of tourism but Qatar is not far behind, and with all the positivity and enthusiasm I’m sure they will soon be not far behind. The good thing about Qatar is that whilst it isn’t cheap, it isn’t prohibitively expensive so try it now before the crowds.
The modern hi-tech airport in Doha is an award winner and their staff are probably the friendliest airport staff I’ve come across. I’m impressed as I’m sure it’s not easy to keep your calm when stressed travellers are shouting in every language you can imagine. The taxi rank is easy to find, the taxis are all aqua blue.
You’ll no doubt be ferried down the city centre roads which are 6 lane motorways. They are packed with the biggest variety of 4x4s doing U turns and lane jumping you’ll see. If you don’t need to drive, don’t, it’s a skill here so let the taxis take the strain. The taxi drivers are mostly Indian, I asked ours if he liked driving in Doha or India. He laughed, much preferring Doha, as in India he advised us the traffic is just as chaotic but there are people, cattle, dogs and tuk-tuks as well. He thought the actions of the Ferraris, Bentleys and 4x4s were much easier to predict!
If you’re heading across the globe you may be offered a stopover in Qatar, you can do much worse. Try to arrange a long weekend in Doha, it has some real gems.
1. Museum of Islamic Art
I could easily spend a full day here, on a regular basis. It’s a huge well designed modern museum, packed with well protected and well labelled artifacts from across a huge swath of the ancient and modern muslim world.
The various galleries span three floors. The fourth floor was closed on our visit, I think probably to prepare another exhibit. There was a temporary ‘threads’ exhibition on the ground floor, all of which was stunning in it’s beauty and history, it included unique an no doubt highly prized historic pieces. The whole museum is an educational, artistic and informative haven from the heat. If I lived in this city this would be a regular haunt.
The cafe at the entrance is worth a visit too, although menu quite small, it’s ideal for a drink and snack. The free parking and free entry is great, and unexpected.
They should ask for donations as I’m sure all the tourists and locals alike would give generously. The fund could go towards continued protection of our art and histories, vital work in these troubled times.
‘Hello love, here’s your jacket spud and beans and by the way how about holding a Python later.’
Vietnam – Mekong Delta Day Trip – Coconuts, toffee and snakes
We had Mekong Delta trip as an item on the Vietnam to do list. You may already be familiar with my 1 – 2 – 3 method of planning a trip.
No? Well quick recap:
1 – MUST DO THIS!
2 – Really want to do this
3 – Will I have time / money to do this?
So back to the Mekong. It was a no 1 but prior to the trip I’d not booked it. We knew we had a few days spare at the end of our Vietnam tour so a trip to a local agent would not be a problem. We’d compare prices and get the best deal.
In hindsight maybe we should have done that, however as we had travelled and enjoyed our whole trip with the tour guide we didn’t. We took his recommendation and slotted into a trip he knew about.
We climbed on board a very rickety boat, very rickety!
If it’d been at the beginning of the journey it would have made me nervous but by now we’d melted into the way of the East. We’d accepted their Health and Safety concerns aren’t managed quite as they are in the West. Those who’ve been there will understand I am using a tad of understatement here! Some others on the trip were ‘newbies’ apparent by less creased clothes and a more nervous demeanour.
The local guide chatted to us in English and gave us a small printed map of our trip. We’d be out all day and see a lot, lunch included. The first stop off was reached and I took my life in my very shaky hands as I climbed up a rusty ironwork bridge to land. I love land. I don’t like bridges.
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