Let it snow London; blizzards of heavy snow hit London three times this past winter, from December 2017 until end of March 2018, almost springtime. The last time I experienced snow settling in London was during January / February 2011. What a pleasure trudging through Hampstead Heath, up towards Kenwood House and around the ponds and the village during all three snow-dumps.
With a change of plans over the festive period, we bravely set off on an impromptu road trip from London to Dunnet Head, the most northerly point in mainland Britain, Scotland. Heading to Scotland we travelled through the Lake District, exploring Kirkstone Pass; Lybster; Whaligoe Haven where the famous Billy Connolly filmed part of his television series titled The World Tour of Scotland; John O’ Groats; Dunnet Head; North West Highlands, Inverness; Cairngorms National Park with the snow-capped CairnGorm mountain range where disappointed skiers turned to sledging. Such serene vistas almost all looked fake, too perfect. Lost in its beauty, I experienced another side to Scotland (Fort William and Ben Nevis previously posted) that appealed to all of my senses in dramatic force. Forcefully dramatic; dramatically forceful. Four days later, the journey back to London took us through the Yorkshire Dales with miles of moors, valleys, waterfalls, hills and stone-built villages. Remote, rugged and rejuvenating, travelling the UK during the Christmas holidays proved to be an adventure that has to be repeated. With only Indian or Chinese restaurants open or rather still with availability at the last minute, I didn’t mind eating Indian food two nights in a row. […]
Moscow, the capital of Russia, is the twelve most populous city in the world, and the largest city on the European continent. Four nights worth of exploring such a marvel of a place isn’t anywhere near enough time to have visited all on my list. I particularly enjoy discovering at night, when the temperatures fell to -6 degrees: crisp, dry and exhilarating. Besides the incredibly arresting landmarks pulsating around Moscow’s core, being underground appealed to me just as much as being on top. Moscow’s metro is a life-changing experience! Public transport that is never delayed. Can you even begin to imagine what that must be like? The Moscow Metropolitan is the world record-holder for on-time departures and arrivals. According to the Moscow transport department, its accuracy equals 99.99%. Impressive! considering that the interval between trains during rush hour is only 90 seconds. Having the station names in both English and Russian goes a long way, following the number (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.) of the lines instead of the colours will allow you to breeze through to any desired destination below ground. Known as the most beautiful subway in the world, the Moscow metro’s 44 out of 200 […]
Thirteen years ago on the 14th August I visited Morocco for the first time, and fell in love with Tetouan. From Ceuta we caught a bus to the border of Morocco. Fortunately, our recently acquired Canadian travel-buddy spoke French but he struggled to haggle a cheaper taxi ride to Tetouan. Forty-kilometers later, mostly along the coast, we were dropped off in the middle of Tetouan. Once we’d found accommodation, we dumped our backpacks and permitted a young man working at the riad to lead us through the nearby ancient medina. Overpowering smells, only a few palatable, caused me to heave and at times I had to pinch my nose. The vibrant spices, the heaps of henna and varieties of olives enticed me to spend money. Adam’s (aka Omar) family run carpet shop happened to be the next port of call. How did that happen? A good few steps later, we climbed out on to a terrace to admire the magnificent view of the town: thousands of satellite dishes attached to crumbling white buildings, feral cats slinking in alley ways. We were served a glass of melted sugar with mint tea leaves, an instant injection of diabetes, before returning to the carpets below. Instantly I fell in love […]
Nestled in the ever-green heart of the Umgeni Valley, Karkloof Nature Reserve offers unspoilt trails amidst an undulating plateau – which has an average altitude of approximately one-thousand meters – mistbelt forest, grasslands, wetlands and wildlife – the non predatory type. I first hiked the reserve in February; as dawn descended and the sun exposed itself the sweltering heat appeared to increase at least five degrees per hour. The lush vegetation, a pulsating green as dense as a nineteenth century novel, kept the giraffe from sight. From the top of the jagged cliff face far in to the distance we spotted the head of a giraffe grazing the tops of acacias. Unfortuntately, we didn’t have the time to get up close and personal and vowed to return in the near future. Five months later, our pledge met, we returned in persuit of the elusive giraffe. The lush green grasslands moved over for the wintery browns and the blackened grasslands caused by controlled fires. The sun took a little longer to warm my bones, and only increased a degree per hour. As a lone yellow-billed kite, unusual to see at this time of the year, hovered on the thermals overhead, […]
Unequivocally, Durban is the warmest place to be – it is practically summer all year round with its sub-tropical climate and laid-back, friendly people. Most mornings (when I am home, of course), at first light, I spend at Durban’s vibrant beachfront: running along the soft, golden beach sand; cycling up to thirty kilometres along the promenade, up and down the piers, around Moses Mabhida Stadium, across the Umgeni River and back again; surfing even in winter, mostly with a spring wetsuit; and recently, my new found addiction, yoga with Lauren from SurfSup Yoga. At dawn this morning I warmed up with an hour’s run along the beach sand before enjoying a soothingly stimulating session of yoga at Snake Park Lawns, on the promenade. Exercising alongside the ocean, while watching the sun rise and sharing it with others that were clearly health conscious, was an experience to behold. A few hours later, mid afternoon, I returned to the beachfront with my camera where I experienced a completely different world compared to the world at dawn. A promenade teeming with people, from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, exultant and savouring everything the beachfront had to offer from rickshaw rides to Zulu dancing, […]
Whenever I visit Gwahumbe Game Lodge & Spa it’s as though I’m floating on a sea of tranquillity. One of my favourite little pieces of heaven just over an hour’s drive from Durban. Usually, I am either exploring the reserve by 4×4 or huffing and puffing along the 4×4 track on a mountain bike; however, this time I decide to self-indulge (actually, a friend treated me) in luxurious beauty treatments at the four-star (plus, in my opinion) spa. A decadent treat. As someone once said, resistance is futile… Before even reaching the main gate to the reserve, I stop a few times to photograph the rolling mountains with the sugar cane fields in the foreground blushing a vibrant green. The light haze from the sun enveloping the peaks make them appear too perfect for this world. Nature at it’s five-star best! At the main reception, where I announce my arrival, I help myself to a mug of Rooibos tea and take it down with me to the spa, overlooking more perfect peaks now with balls of cloud hovering above them, the sun almost disappearing for good. My favourite treatment without doubt is the hot stone massage. A […]
Welcome back, Europe! A Paris fling lasting two nights is simply not enough to explore the city’s inspiring grandeur, despite visiting twice previously many years ago. After each visit Paris becomes more appealing, I become more appreciative of its breath-taking architecture and heritage buildings, highlight after highlight – endless intrigue. Did you know that it’s free (yes, free!) entry in to the Notre-Dame Cathedral? A top tip when faced with a ceaseless queue of overheating bodies trying to penetrate the imposing cathedral. Look for a gap, nonchalantly fill the gap and pretend to be with the people in front of you, not looking over your shoulder, and mind your own business. Obviously this needs to happen as far in front of the queue as possible. And… la magie… Resistance becomes futile when Paris presents the opening night of Rigoletto at the Opera Bastille. What an exceptionally powerful performances by all, and such artistry and precision of symphony by the orchestra. Three acts later, I still yearned for more. I feel a humming session about to attack… In English, of course. ‘La donna mobile’ Rigoletto by Verdi Woman is fickle Like a feather in the wind, She changes […]
From Naughty Nimbin (to Sydney), we returned to Byron Bay for a swim in the calm sea, still not quite able to fathom why this place was again overcrowded with major traffic problems. Yes, it had beautiful beaches but so did most of Sydney’s north coast. Evans Head At Evans Head, a one-horse town compared to Byron Bay, we spent the night on an island overlooking the quaint harbour, in between where the boats docked. The stunning sunset, silhouetting the moorings, added to the tranquil feel of the place. Nambucca Heads Waking to heavy rain and wind that rocked the van, we set off early-ish the following morning and enjoyed a lunch over looking the river at Nambucca Heads, where the weather had cleared. Inspecting the 500 meters of rock gallery, we strolled along The Vee Wall to the pristine and uncrowded beaches beyond at Shelly Beach. Surprisingly, I spotted another two aboriginal people! Hat Head National Park Our next night’s rest landed us at Hat Head National Park. With only three other cars around in the park, and a few wallabies, we almost had the place to ourselves. The heavens opened again which prevented us from […]
Happily deciding to only lunch at the chaotic Byron Bay instead of spending the night, we headed in to the mountains before experiencing the day at naughty Nimbin, New South Wales. Recalling the strict instruction, “Only use the campervan on dirt tracks leading to campsites,” from Apollo’s campervan hire assistant, we briefly reconsidered our plight. “What’s the worst that could happen?” “Exactly!” Resistance is futile! Shake, rattle and roll, lasting over an hour, over what should have been termed, or should that be warned, ‘4×4 only track’ where any vehicles are concerned. At least we made it, and even more impressive so did the sleeper van, and surprisingly even so, all the crockery arrived in one piece too. Exciting, right? Well, wait until you step foot inside a place where not another on this Earth could touch it. Welcome to Nimbin – “Australia’s weed capital” – a quaint place with psychedelic buildings. People gaudily coated in tie-dye clothing strolled around aimlessly without a care in the world. Cafés filled with all sorts of people, from businessmen to tramps. Anything goes. Outside, at the back of a café we noticed the kites flying high, how everyone was clearly […]
The moment we collected the camper van, all singing all dancing home on wheels, from the other side of Sydney, the real adventure began. For ten nights we slept in the van while exploring the North Coast of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Not even thirty minutes after Apollo signed over their beast to us, we’d gently knocked a van’s wing mirror while trying to parallel-park the vehicle near Bondi Beach while stopping off for a bite to eat. Ouch! Hawks Nest A few hours later, after taking up most of a shopping’s car park while stocking up on groceries, we arrived at Hawks Nest, our first port of call, many minutes too late. The campsite had locked its boom gate and no one answered the emergency number on the office door. They definitely weren’t open for business. Ah look! The beach with a car park – a perfect spot to spend the night. Without any interruptions, we slept soundly. A forty-minute run along the silky soft sand had me rearing to go first thing the next morning. Seal Rocks At the stunning, pristine beaches of Seal Rocks we spent a night at Treachery Camp. […]
For years I had longed to experience a campervan trip along the north coast of Sydney, Australia and finally I did it! Two weeks in total, I spent the first two nights at the Sydney Harbour Marriott and the last night at the exceptionally beautiful Park Hyatt Sydney – a well-deserved treat after thirteen nights in a camper van. Talk about a room with a view! From there I relished exploring the spectacular city: the buzzing Circular Quay, along the waterfront to Wharf 2 and the Opera House, around the foreshore to the lush green spaces of the Royal Botanic Gardens, over to the Olympic swimming pool alongside the water’s edge, up to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, back along the waterfront to the western side where the promenade leads to the The Rocks, a pulsating hub of cafes, restaurants, bars and historic architecture. The other side of the iconic Harbour Bridge led me to Dawes Point where a wedding ceremony took place, and people posing for photographs in front of the Luna Park’s Ferris Wheel. At sunset on the second evening we caught a ferry to Manly Beach, one of Australia’s most famous surfing beaches, and […]
From Cape Town we drove through some spectacular passes and dramatic landscapes making up the Great Karoo that led us to Plettenberg Bay. The highlight of the journey to our final destination had to be spending the night in Matjiesfontein at the Lord Milner Hotel, lord of the manner more like… Imagine stepping back in time over a century ago… I’ve always longed to inhabit the Earth when only wild beasts freely roamed, without us humans around to destroy everything precious. Well, Matjiesfontein is a little like how I imagine the Earth to have been after the first set of humans developed in to ‘town’ dwellers, and ceased the beasts from roaming free. Okay, that may be a slight case of imagination running riot… But, excusing the mild digression, one definitely steps back in time at least one-hundred-and-thirty years when visiting Matjiesfontein in the Great Karroo, Western Cape. Nothing has changed, bar a lick or two of paint perhaps, since 1884. What else could a klein dorpie with this much character ever possibly need? When they refer to it as klein, it truly couldn’t be tinier.
A trip to Cape Town wouldn’t feel complete without visiting the African Penguins at Boulders Beach. Let’s arrive early, we thought, and enjoy a swim with the penguins at Boulders Beach. Okay, but only after devouring the hotel’s five-star breakfast that started at 7am. Well, early out of season is a lot different to early in season. After discovering that not a space existed at the main car park we ended up parking along a residential road past the second car park. With the sun beating down in a blemish free sky, already melting the suntan lotion from my body, we discovered hundreds of bodies down on the beach. Families sprawled out on the soft, white sand, up on the impressive granite boulders that naturally protect the beach from the wind and unruly waves. What an idyllic swimming spot, albeit it slightly colder than Durbs’ Indian Ocean. A few penguins, feathers ruffled, languorously basked in the sun, on the sand, on the rocks. Others dipped in to the sea to get away from the larger two-legged creatures. Four or five juvenile birds were moulting on the beach. And a rogue couldn’t resist attacking a sandal: starving little fella. […]