Travel - Places we've been.

Compared to some, we've not traveled far, but in our time Mandy and/or I have been to America, New Zealand, Hawaii, Russia, Bulgaria, Egypt, Israel, Kenya, Peru and quite a few other places.


Kenya

Possibly the most enjoyable trip we've had was our honeymoon.


Our Hotel in the Masai Mara

We went to Kenya on a safari and visited the Masai Mara, Tsavo and Lake Nakura. We stayed in lodges, which were, on the whole, extremely comfortable and provided good facilities, although checking your shower for, well, I'm not sure what, and sleeping under mosquito nets reminded you that this was not a B&B; back home.

While we were there, we took a hot air baloon flight over the Masai Mara, which was as unforgettable as the travel agents assure you it will be. If you get the chance, do it, you won't regret, even if you have a landing as bumpy as ours was!

Safari parks at home offer you the chance to see animals, but there's nothing like seeing them in their natural state, where people are the ones in the cages. We saw Lions, Cheetahs, Elephants, umpteen different kind of antelope, Hippos, Rhinos. The only major animal we didn't see were the reclusive Leopards, which was a shame, but we weren't disappointed.

We also spent a week on the beach, in Mombassa. Mombassa is not a place I'd bother going again or recommend anyone else go to. Stay in your hotel or, like us, rent a mini bus and drive up to Shimba Hills to see more animals.

On the other hand, the Indian Ocean was beautiful and snorkling amongst tropical fish was an unreal experience. We also took a lunch trip on a dow, run by a renowned local restaurant, on which we ate the most wonderful seafood I've ever had. Having said that, everyone in the hotel had some form of stomach upset, although most had not taking the boat trip, so I guess the hotel food (Ok, though it was) was to blame. It probably had more to do with our soft, western stomachs.



The Shelley Beach Hotel, Mombassa

Pictures above (top to bottom, left to right);

Girrafe's in the Masai Mara, Pelicans on Lake Nakura, Elephants in the Masai Mara, A resting Leopard in the Masai Mara, The first Lion we saw, in the Masai Mara, A herd of elephants in Tsavo.

Left; Balloon over the Masai Mara in the early morning .

 

Ever since our honeymoon, we've said we'd go on Safari again for our 10th anniversary (maybe that should read if we reach our 10th anniversary). I hope we stick by that.

Russia

Being the first BA tour group back into Moscow after the Chernobyl meant that around half the group had cancelled. They'd probably gone to the Lake District where all the radiation had ended up.

We arrived ready for hot weather, as Moscow was in the grip of the hottest weather they'd experienced in, I think, 80 years. Until, of course, we arrived, when the heavens opened.

We were only there for 3 days, but we got to see all the major sites. Standing on Red Square was really something in the early 80s, but I guess now GUM's full of Gucci and Benneton shops, it really wouldn't feel much different to Berlin or Paris.



St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square

The gold on the Kremlin was something else, although a little difficult to square with the egalitarian policies the founders of the Soviet Union were supposed to favour. Still, I guess foreign cash had to be attracted somehow and the idea of queuing for Lenin's tomb on such a short visit didn't really attract us.



The gold topped churches of the Kremlin

The most memorable things about Moscow are probably St Basil's Cathedral and the Metro, which made the grimy London Underground look dangerous and seedy.

One day we'd like to visit St. Petersburg and maybe return to Moscow in the winter.

Germany

We lived in Munich, Germany for a year and so travelled around a fair bit.

Munich, itself, ranks as one of my favourite places and being within an hour of the mountains and 3 hours of Italy and Switzerland makes it all the more attractive.



Boats on Starnbergersee

Around Munich, The Starnbergersee and the town of Starnberg are wonderful to visit and you should try to get to the monastry-cum-brewery at Andechs. You're supposed to eat in the self service restaurant as the Monk's disapprove of serving others, but Mandy thought that a little ordinary so we ate (and drank!) in the excellent gasthof next door.

Taking a trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen is worthwhile too, especially if you take the train or cable car to the top of the Zugspitze glacier, which borders Austria.

Being able to jump into the car and just drive all day to wherever you like was liberating and something which frequently frustrates me when I take an hour to go 40 miles in the UK. Obviously we used it to ski a lot, but we went to the attractive Austrian city of Salzburg a few times (only about an hour away) and also to the German town of Berchtesgarten, which is probably my favourite place in Germany.

Probably best known (infamous?) for being the home of Hitler's Eagle's Nest, the town is attractive in the normal Bavarian way and nestles amongst the mountains. I also bought a pair of ski boots very reasonably there years ago, so it has nothing but good memories for me.



A Weissbier and the mountains, Garmisch

We visited the Black Forest for a long weekend, staying in the small town of Triberg. It was pleasant enough, but, aside from the architecture, you could've been in the North Wales or Lake District forests. Hexenlochmuhl was probably the most memorable place, although Triberg and the lakeside town of Titisee-Neustadt were also attractive and compounded the feeling of similarity with Britain's Lake District.



Left: The town of Triberg / Right: Hexenlochmuhl

The roads were quiet, and Black Forest Germans seem to be able to cope with A and B roads much better than Bavarians, making a weekend's driving a pleasure.

We also took a long weekend in Berlin. After Munich, it's dirty streets and rat filled canals came as a culture shock, but the old East is full of some wonderful gems of architecture, which the opulent West saw fit not to retain.

It was clear that the West wanted as much Neon to shine over the wall as possible and it now looks a like a rather tawdry and vulgar, whilst the East, gradually shorn of most of the ugly 60s buildings, is looking like the elegant city that Germany, no doubt, want as their capital.



West Berlin's 'Rotten Tooth'

I also took a short, 3 day trip to Lake Garda in Italy. Driving over the mountains beat trugging down the Autostradas, although seeing some of the worst excesses of Italian driving first hand was a bit of a shock.



Limone on Lake Garda

However, staying in Riva Del Garda was great. I stayed in a small, cheap, pension within walking distance of the town and wandered in to eat and drink in the evenings. During one day, I drove around the lake (almost 100 miles!) which was very picturesque. I stopped and spoke with a German who claimed to work for BMW and have the job of riding their bikes down through Italy as a tester (great job!) and stopped for lunch in Bardolino.

Another day, I took a boat ride on the lake, through the hoardes of windsurfers, to the town of Limone, which clings to the side of the cliff and the lake. It looks in peril of disappearing should it rain more than a couple of hours, but it was just how I envisaged an Italian lakeside village.

Given Garda's proximity to places like Venice, it's a great place to stay for a longer trip and it figures high on our list of places to visit.

Los Angeles

In 1996, I was lucky enough to go to Los Angeles for a couple of weeks on business. Of course, I spent most of my time in the office, but as that was in Marina Del Rey, just on Venice Beach, that really wasn't such a hardship.



Downtown LA

Aside from strolling along the prom at lunchtime and in the evenings, I took a bus ride into downtown LA. When I told the people at work I'd done this they seemed amazed that I'd lived to tell the tale, but I never felt threatened and all the people on the buses were extremely helpful.

I took a stroll around Alvera Street, the oldest part of LA. This is quite interesting, but its fairly amazing to a European that the idea of history in California is only a century old. Some of my friends live in houses older than Alvera Street!

That evening we ate on Redondo Beach Pier (Good seafood) and the following day I rented a dire Oldsmobile and drove down to Long Beach to see the Queen Mary (and drive on the street circuit familiar from F1 and Indy Car races). In the afternoon, I drove back up to Holywood (unless you're absolutely dead set on going there, don't bother, it was dull as ditch water) and then into the hills behind it and up to the Griffith Observatory, where the LA smog could be seen at its best - Apparently the native Americans (Indians live in India or England and cook great food, right?) called this area 'Valley of the Smoke' or something, so fog has obviously been a problem here for hundreds of years.

The final part of my day's driving was into the mountains. This was great, the roads were like I'd seen in all those films where the hero drives his sportscar into the mountains and I enjoyed even the atrocious Oldsmobile I'd rented.

As I said, I was staying and working in Marina Del Rey, which is attractive, but very quiet. One night, someone dropped me in nearby Santa Monica and if I ever go again, I'll beg to be allowed to stay there. As well as the typical indoor shopping mall, there is a pedestrianised shopping area with restaurants, cinemas, street traders and shops, which would've made evenings much less tedious.



Up in the mountains behind LA

Whilst I was there, lots of people said 'I bet you wanna stay for ever' and "Isn't it wonderful here?", but, frankly, I wouldn't mind if I never went there again, although that doesn't mean I would mind returning, just I'm indifferent. The coast and the mountains were pleasant, but the complete lack of green would depress me much more than a little rain now and then.

Maybe I should try and get a business trip to Florida next time?

New Zealand

Mandy and her sister went to visit their great aunt in Auckland a few years ago. The trip was long, but it was a chance to see part of the world neither may ever see again.

They stayed on the north Island, but visited Rotorua, famed for its hot springs and took a number of trips around Auckland, including one around the harbour.

Mandy has said to me that it was pleasant, but not thrilling, although she and her sister would've prefered to be a little more independent whilst they were there. Distant relatives, very kindly, put them up, but seemed to feel obliged to take them on guided tours.

On the way back, they spent a frantic day doing a day trip of Hawaii. Mandy's commented that this was probably the most enjoyable single part of the trip, as she'd expected to find Hawaii horriblty commercialised and actually found it not.

Stockholm, Sweden

Through visits to the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth (and aided by my interest in Scuba diving), I got to find out more about the Wasa and realised that, whilst 100 years younger, it is, in fact, almost the Mary Rose's twin, but almost perfectly preserved.

In 2015, I suggested to Mandy that we make a trip to Stockholm for a few days, take in the Wasa and explore the city.

Read about our trip here.

Naples, Italy

In June 2017, Mandy and I had a few days in Naples, visiting the ruins of Herculaneum and the subaqua ruins of Baia.

You can read about our trip here.

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