Right Here Waiting

Love the marbling of the algae around this odd couple

Love the marbling of the algae around this odd couple

‘The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/ Gang aft agley’. Today I got a sinking feeling of panic on hearing that my flight was delayed by over two hours due to the weather and I wouldn’t be able to make my connection. Getting a little more familiar with these situations, I established that hotels in Los Angeles are packed out due to the Special Olympics at the moment, so my only real option was to venture back out into Newark, New Jersey. The obliging lady at the check-in desk rearranged to the next viable alternative: unfortunately it’s 11 hours longer than my previous flights and with an extra stop-over but nothing I can do about that, so have had to shake off the annoyance. Right now I’m sat in an inordinately expensive, but simultaneously revolting, hotel relatively near to the airport so I can try again tomorrow. Not a favourable thing to happen when you’re supposed to be travelling on a budget, but a relatively small obstacle in comparison to other potential items from the list of ‘things that could go wrong’ (*touch wood*).

The plus side of this situation is that I’ve had plenty of time to relax after the hot energy of New York.

Touching John Lennon memorial in Strawberry Fields, Central Park

Touching John Lennon memorial in Strawberry Fields, Central Park

Fingers crossed that tomorrow will be easier.

Thanks, Alby

Thanks, Alby

Bright Lights, Bigger City

new york night

As our time in New York draws to a close, I thought I’d focus on two of the highlights of our trip: Central Park and the museums. I must admit, the attempted ‘renaissance style’ of many of the ‘old’ buildings did amuse me a little – purely because I’ve been spoilt by living in Europe. The architecture of the museums was still pretty impressive (if you don’t try to compare it!).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, on the side of the park, was enormous! We particularly enjoyed the Monet, Manet and Degas collections but, arguably, the most unique installation was the 10 B.C. Egyptian Temple of Dendur – that’s right the entire temple has been installed into the museum! Up on top there’s a summer drinks bar with beautiful views of the skyline over the park, but be warned: it has very limited seating.

IMG_3564

Temple of Dendur

Special exhibition - China through the looking glass.

Special exhibition – China through the looking glass.

That iconic Seurat

That iconic Seurat

View from the roof

View from the roof

We accidentally snuck into the Museum of natural history round the back as couldn’t find the entrance… it certainly rivals the London equivalent. For us, the Blue Whale representation and dinosaur collection were the best parts!

IMG_3549

Butterfly dispay

Butterfly display

Next onto the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). This is definitely one not to be missed – the Andy Warhol collection was particularly impressive but the whole gallery was impeccable.

IMG_3744 IMG_3747 IMG_3756 IMG_3755 IMG_3757

We ran out of time and money for the Guggenheim but at least managed to admire it’s unusual structure as we walked down the east side of the park.

IMG_3860

The park, in general, was draw-dropping – not just because of its immense size but also due to the beautiful variety. We loved the huge rock structures dotted about the place between the trees.

IMG_3857

We loved watching the little turtles poking their noses out from the algae. Spot the two here that have ventured out to enjoy the sun.

We spent ages eagerly watching the little turtles poking their noses out from the algae. Spot the two here that have ventured out to enjoy the sun.

Belvedere 'Castle'

Belvedere ‘Castle’

IMG_3866

We got very excited watching the various baseball games going on throughout the lawns – it always surprises me how different American culture is to English! Speaking of which – only in America would you get a complementary cake with your meal! Brunch here is apparently a huge thing at the weekends so Katherine and I headed to ‘Friends of a Farmer’ in Greenwich Village for omelette and pancakes with free apple corn cake stuff. Having said that, the portions are not as big here as they had been on the west coast – perhaps we’ve just not been going to the right places; in general we’ve found food to be extremely expensive, particularly fruit and veg. I paid $4 for two apples the other day. FOUR dollars.

IMG_3541

Final stop: Empire State building. We went up at night to get a little variety from the ‘Top of the Rock’. The view was suitably incredible but I still maintain that the top of the Rockefeller is better purely because you have the iconic Empire State within the view. It’s just like the Eiffel tower in Paris – you can go up the tower but I think better views of the city can be achieved up the Arc de triumph as the iconic structure dominates the skyline, creating views that truly can’t be mistaken for another large city.

IMG_3793 IMG_3820 IMG_3787 IMG_3782 IMG_3784

And that’s all for now folks. Been kicked out of the Airbnb so just perched in Starbucks waiting to head to the airport for my two day flight to the South Pacific now!

Summer in the City

Washington Park Jazz

People say you shouldn’t visit New York in the summer. At first we thought this was immaterial as the heat seemed perfectly bearable, but over time it seems to have hit us! The worst area is the subway, as waves of very hot air keep you dripping with sweat whilst waiting in the dingy, run-down stations.

New York Subway New York Subway

The best way to sight-see to avoid the heat is on a boat/ferry! We splashed out on a ‘landmark cruise’ as wanted to get the best value out of our ‘explorer pass’ but if you haven’t got a pass or want to use it on other things then the Staten Island ferry is a viable alternative. We looped around the south of Manhattan and got some great views of the iconic, but surprisingly small, Lady Liberty.

Financial district manhatten Statue of Liberty IMG_3657 IMG_3653

To get a few different angles of the city we have been wandering around various districts to try and get a flavour of the variety here: Chelsea art’s district boasted the ‘high line’ park, created from an old rail line; Greenwich village was like stepping into the set of ‘Friends’ or ‘Sex in the City’ with locations from both shows available to track down for keen fans; Chinatown and Little Italy speak for themselves and Harlem was notably….how to put this kindly…’edgier’.

Flowers in 'High Line' park.

Flowers in ‘High Line’ park.

Apartment block from Friends.

Apartment block from Friends.

Harlem Street Art

Harlem Street Art

IMG_3581

I love pinkberry! It's a frozen yoghurt brand dotted about the place that we became familiar with in LA so it was nice to find it again!

I love pinkberry! It’s a frozen yoghurt brand dotted about the place that we became familiar with in LA so it was nice to find it again!

Heading down south we went to visit the very moving 9/11 memorial. It is incredibly well done: a series of square waterfalls lead to a middle drop where you can’t see the bottom, creating a ‘void’ where the two towers once stood.

IMG_3701

The old with the new. Over the memorial stands the 'One World Trading Centre' built to replace the twins. It is now the tallest building in the country.

The old with the new. Over the memorial stands the ‘One World Trading Centre’ built to replace the twins. It is now the tallest building in the country.

Brooklyn Bridge was pretty but packed! We didn’t walk the whole way across as were dead on our feet at this point. Below is the view back towards the financial district.

IMG_3732

I got excited by recognising the steps of the Courts of Justice from countless films, but Wall street itself was much like any other financial district. I’m not sure what I was expecting, perhaps for Leonardo DiCaprio to spring out into the street spilling cocaine trails behind him.

IMG_37122

Speaking of celebrities, we came down from a roof top bar south of Central Park to find a small group of paparazzi waiting outside the Directors Guild Theatre and stopped to ask what was going on. Crowds quickly gathered, nobody knowing what was happening at all, and crowd mentality led to us all hanging around for over an hour gossiping, sharing ‘speculations’ and generally swapping stories. The whole experience was actually pretty hilarious – trying to get intel out of the ‘pap’ who wouldn’t budge then asking the drivers in the flashy cars waiting outside… finally Tom Cruise emerged to much excitement and a flurry of flashes and screaming.

We cooled down with a trip to Times Square to see the mayhem at night.

IMG_3604

Empire State of Mind

View from Top of the Rock

Planning a holiday is not always easy. It can be, if you get lucky, but attempting to piece together a fairly ambitious agenda can create complications. I resent travel agents as I find that they simply do a lazier version than what you can do yourself if you screen all of the options on the internet. In addition to this, they tend to charge a fortune purely for the convenience of having somebody else scroll through the options for you. As soon as you attempt to plan anything slightly unusual they draw a blank. Don’t get me wrong, they work fantastically to make a large number of people’s lives ever so slightly easier, but if you’re on a budget of any description or trying something a little off the beaten track then look elsewhere. Anyway, I’ll touch back onto the planning stage a little later. Although the jabs, visas and organising can be stressful, the best feeling is having all of your documents sorted and setting off like a snail with all that you could need packed onto your back.

First stop: Norwegian airways. They have a very unusual new take on long haul flights: pay for everything separately. If you want food, drinks, a blanket or headphones you have to splash out but in return you get a, relatively reasonably priced, direct flight to the states. Fair enough. Certainly better than Ryanair or Flybe! Arrival into JFK New York was not quite so pleasant. After the brain-numbing wait in customs and border protection, I proceeded to get completely blown away by the lack of clarity surrounding the subway system. Without the help of an obliging local I would have seriously struggled: the maps are few and far between in addition to being out of scale and unclear. Around two hours after my flight had landed, 5am UK time, I managed to clamber my way over to Katherine (sister) in the West-side Airbnb flat.

The pond central park

With a jet-lagged early start on our first day we headed out into the big city. They don’t seem to have any equivalent to supermarkets or ‘grocery stores’ and what’s more nobody seems to understand us when we ask about them! Katherine eventually found some cereal – labelled ‘whole foods’/’healthy option’ the second ingredient was sugar. No wonder there’s an obesity epidemic. We were very excited, however, to get our first glimpse of the incredible Central Park: the buildings loom over it around the edges like stilts – all much taller yet much thinner than the skyscrapers we’re used to in the UK.

Saks 5th Avenue

The walk down 5th Avenue was suitably glamorous with the luxury brands dotted down the extensive ‘side-walk’. The wide streets are a novelty: they create a sense of space to counteract the vertical streaks of building so the sun can shine down onto the pavements. It felt like walking around on a film set.  We poked our noses into a couple of the big shops such as Saks 5th Avenue but fairly quickly retreated with $$$ branded into our eyes. Grand central station intensified the feeling that we were stumbling into a film. We packed a lot of sites into the first day: The Chrysler building, United Nations building (relatively dull, I must admit), Times Square, Bryant park and the public library. Struggling with the heat we popped into the delightfully named ‘Café grumpy’ for an iced beverage of some description before heading to a classic deli.

Rockefeller Centre Grand Central Station

Times Square IMG_3288 Bryant Park

Deli sandwich with a ratio of mozzarella to bread of around 1:1!!

Deli sandwich with a ratio of mozzarella to bread of around 1:1!!

The queue at the Museum of Modern art for ‘free Fridays’ looped around the entire block so we instead headed to the ‘top of the rock’ observation deck. We used this as the first of three options on the ‘Explorer pass’ we bought to save us a couple of dollars on entrance fees. The timing was perfect as we soaked up the stunning view in full day light then waited for sunset then through to the magical moment when the lights gradually began to flicker on.

Empire State Building

Central Park view

Central Park view

New York at sunset empire state at night IMG_3484

At this point, fully exhausted, we crawled back via a pizza joint and settled down back at the flat. Busy day!

When The Sun Goes Down

Grand Bazaar Istanbul

Kitten on cushions istanbul

Istanbul was not at all as I had expected. I was taken aback by the religious fervour of the city; with mosques dotted extravagantly around the city and the ezan (call to prayer) blasting from the minarets five times a day, it is clear to see how devoted Muslims are to their faith. I will not get started here on the shock I felt at witnessing the position of women, as this is a debate which far exceeds my limited experiences. I will say, however, that we barely had the chance to speak to a woman throughout the duration of our stay!

The one exception was our visit to a traditional Hamman – there are many to choose between in the city – we opted for Cemberlitas Hamami as it seemed to be relatively reasonably priced (they’re not cheap!). Essentially, you are paying extravagantly for somebody to wash you. A lady would lather up the most enormous soapy clouds and scrub you with a mitten before dousing you with water from the taps at the edges of the heated marble room. The interior was very unusual, with the entire room made out of marble and the domed roof having holes to let the light in which gave the appearance of stars in the roof. Although it was slightly ridiculous, it would definitely be worth going for the ‘traditional bath’ over just the option to go into the heated room alone – was certainly an unusual experience!

Kittens Istanbul

Blue Mosque

Dervish dancer, spinning and spinning with that unusual 'mushroom' hat.

Dervish dancer, spinning and spinning with that unusual ‘mushroom’ hat.

Blue Mosque

The city was certainly full of character. We were taken with the exceptionally kind way in which the local, apparently stray, cats were treated. Instead of being kicked and spurned they were often fed affectionately! The blue mosque, above, lived up to it’s iconic position as the key tourist attraction. Inside, however, was not quite as I had imagined. I guess in comparison to the beautiful Buddhist and Hindu temples of the far east, I had been a little off mark with my expectations. There was an incredibly intricate Iznik tiled roof (slightly less ‘blue’ than the name would suggest, perhaps), but the mosque itself was very stark inside to provide space for salat (prayer).

Blue Mosque roof

The best places to get views of the mosque and, indeed, the city itself, are the roof top bars and restaurants. We tried out the ‘Blue House Hotel’ and ‘Panoramic’ restaurant. Both had incredible views over the city and we went up to these spots to wait around for the sunsets each night. The lengthy call to prayer at the moment that the sun falls below the horizon helped to create an all-encompassing dramatic atmosphere

IMG_3204

Baklava and turkish dessert selection whilst we waited for the sun on top of the Blue House Hotel

Baklava and Turkish dessert selection whilst we waited for the sun on top of the Blue House Hotel

Blue Mosque at night

The Hagia Sofia museum, neighbouring the blue mosque, is also worth a visit, although don’t expect a typical ‘museum': it is, essentially, the interior of the building as it was when it was an imperial mosque. It didn’t take us too long to look around so this visit could easily fit into any day.

Interior of Hagia Sofia Museum

Interior of Hagia Sofia Museum

Of course, the Grand Bazaar is certainly worth a visit. Yet again though, it did not live up to my expectations. I was picturing a scene similar to the souks in Marrakech. The Grand Bazaar seemed rather more ‘up-market’. The individual stalls were shops rather than the kind of stalls you would expect in a traditional market. Unfortunately haggling was also significantly more difficult than we had expected! Due to the huge number of tourists crowded around the market it is difficult to try and push the price down significantly as there are so many alternative buyers flocking around! We did eventually find ourselves a few trinkets to take home as mementos. I personally preferred the Spice Bazaar: it was just as colourful yet much less busy and we happily wandered around the Turkish Delight stalls sampling the different flavours!

A display of Turkish Delights in the Spice Bazaar.

A display of Turkish Delights in the Spice Bazaar.

Mosque outside the spice bazaar where we were given free copies of the Quran

Mosque outside the spice bazaar where we were given free copies of the Quran

Traditional Turkish tea

Traditional Turkish tea

Spice Bazaar Istanbul

The food, in general was very interesting. To end on a funny note, we were very confused when presented with the following at a restaurant:

Turkish Bread

We’d placed our order and were swiftly given this along with the comment ‘enjoy your meal’. Anna thought they might have taken our order wrong. I thought our meal might be inside this enormous thing…like a weird pie. It turns out it was merely a dramatic air-filled flat bread and that the ‘enjoy your meal’ comment was merely a misunderstood English phrase which we were showered with after each dish was delivered.

For You Blue

Blue Lagoon Malta

‘There is no blue without yellow and without orange’ – Vincent Van Gogh

Malta, for me, was all about the colours. The sandy buildings in the ancient cities contrasted perfectly with the vivid blues of the sea. Spring was the perfect time to visit as the temperature was ideal and the landscape hadn’t yet been stripped of its flora. The transport system was absolutely fantastic. We paid under 2 euros for a whole day’s pass on the local bus network which took us around the island. Definitely not worth shelling out for taxis! Given Malta’s size, there is a surprisingly large amount to see and do! I’ll run through our highlights briefly:

1. Blue Lagoon, Comino – accessed via a ferry from the north of the Island. Pretty busy in the heat of the day though so time your visit carefully to avoid the crowds! Definitely must be done though. Hopefully the pictures speak for themselves but, in case they don’t, it boasted the clearest, bluest water that I have seen in a very long time – perhaps not since the Maldives!

11008809_10153195171309360_7161878960287855246_o 11128580_10153195171719360_8276852425102833067_o 10560536_10153195206934360_7926167054573598491_o 11169760_10153195170099360_8181220001336498399_o 11157569_10153195206864360_1594239214835281655_o 11000558_10153195206189360_2583617390723408711_o

2. Mdina – a spectacular, ancient fortified city which served as the country’s capital until 1530. We arrived as the light was fading so could experience the city being lit up by lanterns. A fantastically authentic experience.

11149713_10153195215724360_3035130355954040451_o 11154953_10153195216239360_3561300663171553027_o

The lavish Maltese coffee speciality

The lavish Maltese coffee speciality

11157531_10153195216374360_7384206222566011631_o

3. The hiking path for the west coast beaches down from Golden Bay.

11154652_10153195208619360_5409054773577348234_o 11021531_10153195208299360_9154543374893797460_o 11174743_10153195211519360_300638740425254251_o 11206563_10153195211444360_4403370323137677335_o 11118363_10153195209144360_3537350592702253772_o

Slightly further north up the west coast you bump into ‘Popeye village’ in Anchor bay, the film set for the film which has been perfectly preserved and turned into a tourist attraction. We didn’t go into the village itself as we arrived quite late in the evening, but was great fun just to get a peek!

11119107_10153195211769360_3668941248464344901_o

4. The ‘three cities’ and the capital, Valetta. Think ‘Game of Thrones’. Very eye-catching and dramatic scenes!

11154944_10153195218209360_9214492210177166257_o 11060931_10153195217634360_2102456374324683873_o 11160639_10153195219099360_4034703315577602417_o 11149755_10153195219379360_3162990631619074071_o 11194387_10153195218494360_8480075112107177943_o 11206823_10153195169884360_4047910874743498657_o

Thought I'd finish on this rather enthusiastic not-so-medieval carriage driver!

Thought I’d finish on this rather enthusiastic not-so-medieval carriage driver!

Tiptoe Through The Tulips/ Trampled Underfoot

Tulips Keukenhof

Unfortunately I’ve dropped the ball in terms of keeping up to date – this trip to Holland to celebrate mum’s birthday took place in the middle of April. I’ve let exams (and further trips) keep me weighed down so there’s a fair bit of catching up to do! Also, as I’ve previously mentioned, it is far more difficult to keep up to date when I’m in (good) company! I’ve been fortunate enough to head out on three little adventures since my last post which all merit attention but, first things first, Holland in tulip season.

Tulips Holland IMG_2344

We arranged to stay in yet another Airbnb apartment. This one, however, was a little different! The five of us (the family together with the exception of my little brother) headed out to the outskirts of Amsterdam where a beautiful barge was waiting for us. The stay definitely expanded my ‘Airbnb’ horizons as I’d not considered that such ‘alternative’ options would be so readily available. After acclimatising to the gentle rocking it was a fantastically exciting place to stay, with swans popping up at the windows in the evenings and friendly ducks resting on our decking in the morning.

Mallard

Amsterdam itself seemed to me like a hybrid of Copenhagen and Berlin. Beautiful canals and those iconic narrow buildings yet slightly more dampened, in terms of the colour pallet, when compared directly to Copenhagen. Those looking for the famous ‘cafés’ would not be disappointed – the smell of Cannabis seems just around every corner. The red light district similarly lives up to its ‘no holds barred’ reputation! Wouldn’t recommend for families with small children but for anyone who is remotely curious – I’ve never seen anything like it! For slightly less risqué adventures – try exploring the quaint delft shops dotted about the city. There are also many notable museums and art galleries – My highlight was the tragic but fascinating Van Gogh museum.

IMG_19242

IMG_1968 IMG_1998 IMG_2008 IMG_1953

Now, the main reason we had opted for Holland at this time of year was, of course, the tulips. We arranged a trip to the world famous Keukenhof gardens and were completely taken aback by the ridiculous queues to get onto the public transport. By ‘ridiculous’ I mean a lady working there told us the queue we were looking at couldn’t possibly be for Keukenhof as the buses went from round the corner of the next building. 100 additions to the queue later we established that it was, indeed, our queue. It was over an hour shuffling, penguin fashion, before we caught sight of these gold-dust buses.

And that was just the beginning.

The gardens themselves were quite possibly the busiest tourist attraction I have been to in my life. The only experience that comes close is being cow-herded through the Vatican. I tried my best to capture pictures of the stunning gardens with as few people in as possible but this was only achievable if you were within 20cm of the actual flowers. Luckily it did quieten down a little later in the evening as it drew towards closing time.

IMG_2113 IMG_2306

The tulip fields surrounding the gardens, in my opinion, were equally stunning. Yet unfortunately the crowds had begun to spill out into them as well!

The tulip fields surrounding the gardens, in my opinion, were equally stunning. Yet unfortunately the crowds had begun to spill out into them as well!

IMG_2288 IMG_2382

IMG_2436

The magical moment when the crowds had dissipated before closing time.

IMG_2399

Overall, yes the gardens were unquestionably beautiful, but do not go imagining the gardens to be the idyllic peaceful masterpieces you see in the brochures. I’d definitely recommend timing your visit to as close towards closing time as possible!

City Of Black & White

Museum Island

Museum Island

Bubble blower

IMG_1864

We were a little taken aback, on arriving into Germany for the first time, to find the most inefficient train station I’ve seen in quite a while. No clear signs or indication of which train is on which platform at all! Heading into central Berlin, things didn’t immediately improve as there seemed to be nobody there. Perhaps this due to the fact that at 10/11 in the morning the tourists and party-lovers are either still out or are crashing… anyway, having got up at 3 to catch a cheap early flight a little ‘crash’ was a necessary detour before heading out. Airbnb in Mitte – again very easy and very good value.

First stop – the nearest shop in sight to get warmer clothes inc. hat/gloves which I had ridiculously left behind.

Take two – now layered up like the Michelin man it felt safe to venture out into the city.

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

Reichstag Building - historical edifice built for the Imperial Diet of the German Empire.

Reichstag Building – historical edifice built for the Imperial Diet of the German Empire.

IMG_1689

In the wake of a snowy winter, all the colour seems to have been sapped from the City. This is particularly evident in the striking Holocaust memorial below.

IMG_1747 IMG_1739 IMG_1749

It does get a little brighter, however, when it comes to the street art. The East Side Gallery in particular is a must-see! (section of the remaining Berlin Wall covered in ‘grafitti’)

IMG_1876

IMG_1838 IMG_1834 IMG_1843 IMG_1849 IMG_1855 IMG_1878

Topography of Terror - on the site of the old Gestop base you can find a fantastic little summary of Nazi Germany in this small museum.

Topography of Terror – on the site of the old Gestop base you can find a fantastic little summary of Nazi Germany in this small museum.

IMG-20150219-WA0018

IMG_1780

Berliner Dom (Cathedral)

Berliner Dom (Cathedral)

IMG_1863 IMG_1879

Apple Strudel!

Apple Strudel!

IMG-20150218-WA0018

Overall, I apologize in advance for offending anybody, it was not particularly my cup of tea. Very bleak, stark and sombre. Fascinating in terms of historical content – the scars of past wars are clearly visible and it hosts a phenomenal range of museums. You may consider visiting in the summer, however I felt the stories held by the city seemed to strike even harder in the bitter cold, making it a memorable but fairly solemn experience.

IMG_1896

More Than A Memory

IMG_1453

Finally, I’ve caught up to the present day. Yesterday morning at the bright and early time of 8.30 I arrived back into London after a weekend in Athens. What a fantastic time to visit Greece! The weather was warm and sunny, yet not too hot, and there was barely a tourist in sight (with the slight exception of the acropolis, but you can’t ask for the impossible). The perks of travelling in Europe at this time of year include incredibly reasonable prices. The entirety of this trip, including accommodation and flights, cost less than £100. Incidentally, ‘airbnb‘ is a fantastic site to use when looking places to stay in any of 190+ countries across the world. It basically consists of a variety of houses/flats/studios that the owners are letting out on a temporary basis to tourists. There’s no minimum time period, you can stay for as little as one night. Our flat was an idyllic two bedroomed apartment within 4 minutes walking distance from the Acropolis and with a stunning view across Athens from the balcony window. Use the following link www.airbnb.co.uk/c/sffrenchconstant?s=8 or my personal referral code sffrenchconstant to get a further £17 off your accommodation.

Panorama from the balcony of our airbnb apartment.

Panorama from the balcony of our airbnb apartment.

As the major sights of the city are fairly close together we found it easily manageable to to everything that we’d hoped to achieve at a leisurely pace within two full days. The Acropolis, of course, the temple of Zeus and the national gardens were well worth a visit. Lycabettus hill, the highest point in the city, and Philopappos hill boast spectacular views of the Acropolis and the city as a whole. Don’t shy away from the steep walks up to these points as the walks themselves are a beautiful exploration into the olive groves and natural ‘wilderness’ hidden in the city. Wandering through the city itself, you stumble across one monument and ruin after another. A fascinating city to visit and, in my opinion, a far more pleasant experience than its rival, Rome. Well worth researching the history to whet your appetite before you go.

View from Lycabettus

View from Lycabettus

19th century chapel of St.George atop Lycabettus.

19th century chapel of St.George atop Lycabettus.

Hadiran's library

Hadiran’s library

Classic greek salad in a little balcony overlooking the cobbled street.

Classic greek salad in a little balcony overlooking the cobbled street.

Orange trees are scattered generously across the city. Here's one in the national garden

Orange trees are scattered generously across the city. Here’s one in the national garden

Temple of Zeus

Temple of Zeus

What a great place to stay!! Some ingenious homeless group have tapped into the caves in Lycabettus hill. Fantastic views all day and night!

What a great place to stay!! Some ingenious homeless group have tapped into the caves in Lycabettus hill. Fantastic views all day and night!

IMG_1441

Such a shame that the front of the Parthenon was covered in scaffolding! Ah well, can't have everything!

Such a shame that the front of the Parthenon was covered in scaffolding! Ah well, can’t have everything!

IMG_1369

Temple in the ancient grecian Agora

Temple in the ancient grecian Agora

Temple of Athena looking out over athens from the corner of the Acropolis

Temple of Athena looking out over athens from the corner of the Acropolis

Odeum of Herodes Atticus

Odeum of Herodes Atticus

Walking up Philopappus hill

Walking up Philopappus hill

Little wet sparrow

Little wet sparrow

Lycabettus Hill from below

Lycabettus Hill from below

IMG-20150208-WA0030

Theatre of Dionysus

Theatre of Dionysus

Erectheum on the Acropolis

Erectheum on the Acropolis

Bring It On Home / Christmas In The Sun

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when the weather’s good there’s no place like Cornwall. http://www.westbriton.co.uk/Cornwall-officially-England-s-picturesque-county/story-25893227-detail/story.html. – Watch this space for a fantastic new website guiding you through this spectacular county: http://www.wearecornwall.com/. In the mean time here’s a youtube showcase: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsvjIkECQVI&feature=youtu.be

London too, although one of the most crowded places I’ve ever experienced, has many treasures to uncover. Undoubtedly another must-see destination if you haven’t yet joined the ranks of London tourists!

For Christmas 2014 we travelled to a different kind of ‘home’. As my dad was brought up in Zimbabwe, his three sisters remain scattered around southern Africa, with two of them based in Cape Town, South Africa. A lot of people are hesitant about spending Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere. As you can image, I cannot think of a better way to spend the holiday! To swap the winter for the summer is my idea of paradise. What’s more, to be able to spend such a special time with our relatives is priceless.

IMG_0666

Hout Bay Seal

Hout Bay Seal

Heading towards Chapman's Peak drive.

Heading towards Chapman’s Peak drive.

Dassie

Dassie

IMG_0773

Penguins at Boulders Beach

Penguins at Boulders Beach

IMG_0823

IMG_0839 IMG_0884

Gansbaii

Gansbaii

IMG_0953

Shark cage diving at Gansbaai

Shark cage diving at Gansbaai

IMG_1008 (3) IMG_1008 (1) IMG_1021

Stilbaai

Stilbaai

Cable up Table Mountain

Cable up Table Mountain

IMG_1046

Beautiful little sun bird

Beautiful little sun bird

IMG_1244

The Iconic Protea

IMG_1129 IMG_1220