THE MUST-DO PLACES FROM POLE TO POLE
The World is an amazing place with many visually stunning destinations. But do you know where they are? This website highlights 58 must-do places (100 planned) and events to visit. It is a companion to my coffee table book titled The MUST-DO PLACES from POLE to POLE, about great places and events. The book provides the visual imagery and brief descriptions of how it feels to be there including my top photographs while the website provides the factual background and illustrated travel information. A list of the ~100 top places and events is provided on the page Must-Do Places, located on the menu bar.
General comments and corrections to the articles are welcome and can be included in the GENERAL COMMENT page on the menu bar.
There is also a travel blog that I write when travelling, it is not as polished as the page articles. These posts will be deleted once they have been transformed into pages.
South Georgia Island update and considerations for visits during October -November
(posted 22 January 2016)
This is an Update to my South Georgia Island PageThe months of October -November present a different image to those of peak summer when the weather is warmer and more stable, and king penguin colonies are at their most spectacular. Instead, this is the time to witness huge elephant seal beach masters establish dominance and lord over their harems. King penguins still present in large numbers but their colonies are dispersed. Snow covers the ground and there is a definite "Antarctica" feel to the land with a soft, luminous light that is great for photography. At Gold Harbour, the foreshores were guarded by beach masters protecting their harems. Further along the backshore, colonies of king penguin okemboys were huddled tightly against the severe weather, while their adult counterparts were widely scattered from the shore to the hills beyond the tussock grass. There was a fierce wind that made walking ponderous, and so strong that it blew the falling snow horizontally, transforming the landscape into a black and white fantasy world. Yes, conditions were harsh but the experience was truly exhilarating. Read More
BARGA, PIETRASANTA and the LEANING TOWER of PISA
(posted 25 November 2015)
BARGAI like medieval towns; particularly those that are small, have atmosphere, are paved in cobblestone, and whose architecture have facades of timber and textured stone. Barga, a tiny fortified hillside village in the forests of Tuscany fitted all these. In olden times, Barga was an important trading centre and its compact fortified design kept out the marauding Lucca barons. Now after wandering through its narrow cobblestone streets it feels like a picturesque historic village, that has enjoyed far better times. Although it is impressive I would not like to live there with its steep up and down empty streets and shadowed alleyways. From across the road bridge, the village appears as a cone with its cathedral forming the apex and brightly painted buildings in autumn colours crowding together at its base. In between the buildings wind steep alleyways many with steps, lots of steps. However, there is gentler access through the fortified wall near the top of the hill on the opposite side of the village. Read More
(posted 26 october 2015)Lucca, the medieval walled town of Tuscany not far from Pisa. It is our third day wandering the narrow cobble streets, and we are slowing down. Not that it is boring or overly busy, rather the opposite, it is a living museum with an intact fortified wall, many piazzas and I am told 99 churches in the Lucca commune. It is just larger than we expected and there is lot to explore, and we enjoy strolling down the main street with the local families and their dogs. Read More
Paris will always be Paris (Paris Sera Toujours Paris)
(posted 20 october 2015)Well not quite. Yes, the buildings and monuments were the same, and the ambiance walking the streets felt very Parisian, with the curb site cafes full and food shop windows promoting cakes and cheese and ham as works as art. But there were changes. There were many more people on the street since our last visit 2 years ago, with the metro crowded most of the time. Prices have notably risen with the 2* and 3* restaurants with a set luncheon starting at €150 pp were now well beyond us. further many previous good affordable restaurants had lost their edge, probably victims of their own success. Still we found some excellent local restaurants, Relais Louis 13 was better than before with the chef greeting all his customers and there were new ones popping up all around. And of course, there was the Le Train Bleu, a unique dining experience in itself. One thing that still amazed us was the Parisian fascination with old books, the left bank of the Seine and our area was riddled with used antique book shops, in fact, there was one right next to our apartment block. Read More
A Greek Island Cruise.
(posted 13 october 2015)
The ShipIt was the end of the season for a Greek island cruise and we wanted small. But the smallest cruise ship I could find was the 450 passenger Seabourn Odyssey, a 6-star luxury liner. Still, that was petite compared to the other available vessels, most exceeding 1000 passengers. So how was the experience aboard the Seabourn Odyssey? The decor was elegant and luxurious, the cabins spacious and comfortable. Service was impeccable, and the food in the five restaurants ranged from good to superb. Also, the passengers were friendly, and as for travel, I couldn't feel any movement or vibration of the ship. But there were niggling issues. In the main restaurant women dressed in fashion evening gowns with high-high heels, while the men wore tuxedos, or white trousers and navy blue blazers sporting gold sleeve buttons. To me, this appeared very twee and pretentious, and led to the impression that the Seabourn vision was primarily to provide a floating luxury hotel that moves from port to port rather than being a ship exploring exotic places. So in conclusion, the Sebourn Odyssey was not for me.
Impression of the Greek islandsAt a ship lecture, we learned that the Greek islands were formed by volcanic activity leaving a string of arid islands immersed within a tranquil sea. So I can see the attraction of escaping the cold and damp of Northern Europe to a warm, picturesque location bathed in daily sunshine. But coming from Australia with its sunshine and sandy beaches we sought something different, something historic, something culturally unique. Although each island presented a different silhouette and feel, they were all heavily influenced by the large number of visitors disembarking from the cruise ships (including ours), so most of the shops in the narrow winding streets and alleyways were mainly fashion and souvenir shops serving the tourist. Read More
One Day in London
(posted 13 october 2015)We drove into central London ending in a mighty traffic jam caused by a major demonstration supporting migrants. From this gridlock we drove to our hotel in Westminster only to find a large group of Labour supporters spilling into the street from the pub below, celebrating Jeremy Corbyn recent election to labour leader. Accepting the dictum if you can't avoid, join, we walked to the focus of the demonstration in Parliament square, where I soon found myself at the centre of the activity. So looking back, the day turned out quite well ending in a memorable experience. Next day we visited Westminster abbey and took a boat ride along the Thames for old times' sake. Original Article
(posted 11 october 2015)Our last visit to Istanbul in 1991 felt like we were amongst a few westerners exploring an exotic and distant land. This time, however, we were not alone. Mass-tourism had cast its spell transforming many of the monuments into endless queues. But we had a strategy. Buy the tickets online and queue at the entrance 20-30 minutes before the doors opened. Fortunately, we stayed at the White House hotel right in the heart of the historic centre with its bustling narrow winding streets and a short walk to most of the major highlights. Both the Hagia Sophia the former Christian basilica, and the blue mosque were impressive by their scale and grandeur from the outside, particularly at dusk when they dominated the night sky and all their surroundings. Inside much less so, being cavernous and empty, with the jostle of visitors reducing the ambiance offered by the half-light of an enourmous chandelier and daylight streaming through high windows. One outstanding highlight was dinner at the seven hills terrace restaurant at dusk. On one side, we had a panorama of the city overlooking the Marmara sea, and on the other side, a spectacular view of both the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque as the lights were turned on. Read More
Oxford Revisited, Again
(posted 9th October 2015)Location, location, location is the popular mantra. Well, our stay at the 17 century Bath place hotel could not have had a better position, located a 100 metres from the heart of the colleges of Oxford. It took less than 1minute to walk through a twisted cobblestone passage to reach the Sheldonian Theatre. The passage passed through the 13th century Turf Tavern frequented by some locals and hordes of tourists. I know this, as our bathroom window opened onto the Turfs' courtyard. Still, little has changed around the colleges since we lived here some 30 years ago, so we bathed in its nostalgia, visiting many of the colleges, climbing both the Saint Marys church tower and the Sheldonian Theatre cupola (for the first time I must confess) to view the rooftops of Oxford. Now, I know from where the TV Morse program took its panoramic views of the old city. We also took the once a year opportunity offered by the Oxford Preservation Trust to visit the original stacks of the 16century Bodleian Library and the Radcliffe Camera. No photographs and certainly no speaking or touching in these holy places. Fortunately the new Weston library an extension of the Bodleian across the road had a historic manuscript and book exhibition, displaying one of the few original copies of the Magna Carta and a first edition of Newtons Principia Mathematica Read More
Our visit to York.
(posted 5th October 2015)We stayed 3 days in York. Dahlia remained at the Best Western in Dean Court opposite the York Minster Abbey, while I attended a writers conference at York University. We both liked York with its narrow winding medieval streets, particularly in the morning when there were very few visitors. In particular, we really enjoyed the grandeur of the York Minster and its long history. We took a tour of 13 persons. There was a point when the guide was recalling its history, starting around AD 180 then AD 250 and on and on to AD 637 when the first stone structure was erected. By the time the guide reached AD 1000, it sounded like she was talking about the modern era. Overall of the three prominent cathedrals we have visited York Minster Abby, Westminster Abbey and Notre Dame in Paris I would place it 2nd behind Westminster. Read More
Our visit to Stratford on Avon.
(posted 3 october 2015)We wanted to see a Shakespeare play but the season was over and all we could book was Volpone. Volpone? Never heard of it. Still, any play in the Royal Shakespeare Playhouse would be an experience. It developed that Volpone was a dark comedy about greed and corruption recast into the 21 century and written by Ben Johnson, one of Shakespeare's contemporaries. The plot was a bit suss, but the acting was superb. The central character played by Henry Goodman was a tour de force of acting moving easily from one characterization to another. It was a major, but pleasant surprise. We again stayed at the Mercure hotel, a structure composed by combining three 17th century Tudor buildings, located close to the heart of Stratford. Its lunch restaurant was good, but the breakfast cook needs to go back to cooking school. Finally, the ambiance of this historic Tudor town still can be felt, although many new tourist shops are trying to bury it. Read More
OUR KINGS CAMP SAFARI SOUTH AFRICA
(posted 3 october 2015)The manager picked us up from Hoedspruit airport and drove us the 40 km to Kings Camp Safari Lodge in the centre of the Timbavati game reserve. The camp reminded me of the movie Out of Africa, with a dining room overlooking a small waterhole frequented by buffalo and elephant, and thatched roofed chalets outfitted with exquisite period furniture. The general ambiance and the top quality meals completed the canvas of a classical African 19th century bush experience. Our Stay: We stayed 5 nights and had a private vehicle to ourselves. This allowed us to have 4 hour morning and afternoon game drives of our own choosing and be able to stop for extended times when we saw something of interest. This contrasted with the normal Timbavati Safari vehicle which had 6 persons per vehicle and the itinerary determined by consensus. At the extreme end we saw safari vehicles completely filled with 9 visitors seated 3 abreast; those in the centre hardly able to turn around. During our stay we had two unexpected bonuses: a wonderful bush breakfast under a stand of shade trees, and a buffet dinner in […] Read More
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