South Georgia Island update and considerations for visits during October -November This is an Update to my South Georgia Island Page . The 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. Still the high risk of inclement weather […]
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BARGA, PIETRASANTA and the LEANING TOWER of PISA BARGA I 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. Down a narrow lane, just past the stone face carving into which you are told, to stick fingers in its eyes and nose to expunge […]
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Lucca

by lesadmin· October 26, 2015· in travel-blog· 0 comments
LUCCA 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. Although Its central piazza is well known seeing it in person is still quite an eye opener being oval in shape and encased by varying height buildings thrown higgidly piggidly together. Lucca was the birthplace of Puccini, and we attended a concert of his arias in the San Giovani basilica, a church with a history dating back to 1st Century BC. It turned out the concerts are quite famous and the singers come from all over Italy to perform. So all in all a memorable experience.
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Paris will always be Paris (Paris Sera Toujours Paris) 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. And then […]
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A Greek Island Cruise

by lesadmin· October 14, 2015· in travel-blog· 0 comments
A Greek Island Cruise. The Ship It 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 islands At a ship lecture, […]
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One Day in London

by lesadmin· October 14, 2015· in travel-blog· 0 comments
One Day in London 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.
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Istanbul Revisited

by lesadmin· October 11, 2015· in travel-blog· 0 comments
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 of an enormous 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 […]
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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 […]
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York UK

by lesadmin· October 05, 2015· in travel-blog· 0 comments
Our visit to York. 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.
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Our visit to Stratford on Avon. 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.
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