Sunday, 16 January 2011


Good morning all. I'm off to Antarctica for a fortnight as a guest of Hurtigruten on the Fram (above) and wont be posting again until February 5th. If you want to see what I'm doing go to and click on Antarctica then scroll down to The Weddell Sea to watch the video. Take care now.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Pizzeria il Grifone

Birdwatching in Sardinia is becoming increasingly popular with British birders. If for northing else because of the abundance of species not able to be seen in this country and the amazing ease with which you can find them.
Bosa is only 40 minutes for the airport at Algerho but it is well worth going to as Sardinia two remaining colonies of Griffon vultures are found here. You can travel to Bosa by car, from Alghero and you have two choices of road. The inland route on the SP292 via Villanova Monteleone or the SP49 that hugs the coast. The former twists and turns up into the mountains and affords some incredible views back to Alghero. The lower more direct route, has the mountains to one side and a very long drop to the sea on the other. The road is well surfaced and there are lay bys all along the route where you can stop and enjoy the views and scan for species.
Actually finding the vulture colony is as easy as falling off a log as just outside Bosa on the coast road is a pizzeria conveniently called the Grifone, even more conveniently there is large layby just opposite where you can park up and scan the cliffs behind. We managed to get four birds soaring above as we pulled up. Our friends however got nearly into double figures when they took the high road back to Alghero behind the colony. Have a lovely day now.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Tobago Cays

From the second your bare feet first touch the white sand of the Tobago Cays you know you’ve arrived somewhere special. With a 1,400 acre sand-bottom lagoon encompassing four uninhabited islands and a 4km aptly named Horseshoe Reef the Cays are recognized as the "jewel in the crown" for marine tourism in the Southern Grenadines. Although the Cays are uninhabited unfortunately this very uniqueness puts them under threat as they are rapidly becoming one of best known and most popular tourist destinations in the region.
Major visitors to the Cays include cruise ships bringing an estimated 10,000 visitors a year as well as small yachts and day charters from nearby resorts and hotels. The local people are not slow to latch on to this and some have set up stalls with the traditionally mass produced tee shirts and hats that you can see anywhere in the Caribbean whilst others offer restaurants and barbecues with lobsters and fish to the visitors.
Yet despite this the Cays have retained their beauty and wonder. A short walk from the beach across the islands brings you to a different world. Here the shallow lagoon offers peace and solitude with Tropical Mockingbirds fluttering about in the trees and it is possible if you are early enough to image you are marooned alone on a desert island. The emerald colours reflected by the shallow water and the reef are simply stunning and this surely must be one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Geiranger Fiord, Norway

The Hurtigruen has been called the most beautiful cruise in the world and you soon see why when you travel down the 10 miles of the fiord that leads to the World Heritage site of village of Geiranger. Cliffs that are thousands of feet high with waterfalls cascading down almost the same distance, glower over you and dwarf any ship beneath them. All this against a backdrop of blue sky and white clouds whilst Sea eagles drift nonchalantly past to keep you company. Have a great day now.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Wadi Araba

We had walked across the flat Wadi Araba, a parched plain that rises gently into the Jordanian mountains. Whilst we had had lunch under this lone acacia tree that offered us shelter from the dry heat our guide gathered firewood to make the sweet tea Jordanians are so fond of.  Three bee-eaters flew over us, their green and yellow plumage seemed to shine like jewels in the sunlight, followed a few minutes later by a huge griffon vulture drifting slowly only feet above as it searched for carrion.
Have a great day wherever you are.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The Dragon's Back

It can be difficult in Hong Kong’s bustling down town districts to realize that you are in the middle of a very green and mountainous area. Most of the island is dedicated parkland and forests offering mountain trails with ocean views. You can cross the island’s grassy heights and wooded valleys by using the Hong Kong Trail. One of the sections of this is known as The Dragon’s Back Trail, once voted Asia’s favourite hike by Time magazine. The main point is you are so close to the city but you feel you could be a hundred miles away.
The walk is aptly named as it follows the spine of the headland up and down like a dragon’s back, in fact at certain points it reminded us of the Great Wall as it climbed up and down. The walk has posts every half a kilometre that are numbered so if you do have an accident you can contact the emergency services, give them the post number and they will know exactly where you are. This system can also be found on other walks and it also lets you know how much longer you have to do and whether or not you need to increase your speed. The highest point on the trail is Shek O peak where at 248 metres you can look down at the houses of the wealthy tai pans clustered around the golf course. The Dragon’s Back trail is some 4.5km long and is graded as moderate and you should allow yourself about 2 and a half hours to complete it.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Morpeth Clock Tower

One of the most fascinating thngs about Northumberland is Morpeth’s clock tower, which stands at the entrance to Oldgate, and is a rare example of a freestanding bell tower, one of only three built. Originally built as a jail, the town stocks were in front of it. For many years it had a clock with only one pointer and until recently the curfew bell was still sounded at 8 o'clock each evening.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

L.S. Lowry

The artist L.S.Lowry visited Berwick whenever he could, staying in the Castle Hotel beside the railway station. Lowry visited Berwick many times from the mid-1930's until 1974. Often he would take the small paddle steamer ferry from Berwick across to Spital where he would set up his easel and paint. The Berwick Lowry Trail identifies the sites of eighteen of his finest paintings and drawings of the town and allows you to follow in his footsteps and stand where he painted. A leaflet about the trail is available in the Town’s tourist office. In all Lowry produced more than thirty drawings and paintings of the Berwick area. When staying in the Castle Inn he developed a bit of a soft spot for the receptionist and often gave her little pencil or charcoal drawings. Unfortunately she was not impressed and threw them away! Have a great day.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Stepwell in Adalaj

Stepwells are unique medieval water buildings. We visited one in the village of Adalaj, close to the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat. Imagine an area the size of a football pitch quarried down to a depth of some two hundred feet. The well at the bottom converted to a swimming pool and water source with hundreds of intricate carved steps leading down.
Built in 1499 by a Muslim king this one is intricately carved and is five stories in depth and provided basic water needs for drinking, washing and bathing. How on Earth this has not been awarded World Heritage status is totally beyond me.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Epicerie Gourmande, Lorie Valley

Tours and the Loire valey always have a place in my heart.The locals in the surrounding area have realised the tremendous potential of the tourist trade and little eating-places have sprung up all over the place. I had a midday meal in the Epicerie Gourmande (above), a lovely little family restaurant in the back of a grocers in Villandry. The locally produced beer and wines were superb as were the cured meats and traditionally made pâtés. The website has a list of excellent restaurants categorised into gastronomique, fish, vegetarian etc. Hope you enjoy your meals today!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Petra, Jordan

For most people Jordan means the ancient city Petra and if you are going to visit the country you should really go there, as it is an incredible experience, why on earth it isn’t one of the Seven Wonders of the World is totally beyond me. A city of palaces, theatres and tombs that has been carved from the solid rock, to see it at night is truly amazing.
There are many relatively cheap and comfortable hotels, as well as some expensive ones, right next door in the town of Wadi Musa. You can then walk down into Petra through the Siq after you’ve bought your ticket at Petra Gate. Take a bit of advice here and don’t take the horses as the men who operate the trips often ask for a personal tip as well as the traditional tip and can get quite shirty. The walk into the city is about half an hour down the road laid by the Romans, I took my sandals off for a bit to try and get closer to the legionaries who laid them, whilst the huge walls of the canyon towered above me.
The site of The Treasury as you enter the city is one that will stay with you forever but you will need to bring some water with you as the size of the city is huge and you can explore paths that take you high up into the hills to see other tombs and monuments. Do make an effort to climb up to the Monastery (above), the biggest tomb where there’s also a small café, the bushes outside inhabited by Palestine Sunbirds, tiny birds of a vivid iridescent green with a curved bill almost as big as they are.
It is the incredible patterns of the vast range of shades of reds, yellows and oranges found in the rocks here that stick in your mind. There are only two toilets in Petra but they’re worth looking at for the amazing patterns on the roof of the cave. It was rather bizarre holding the gent’s door open so a group of Swiss ladies could photograph the roof in there! There are two cafeterias/restaurants in the city where you can get traditional Jordanian and western food and some small stalls serving snacks however I combined the two by buying food in Wadi Musa before hand where it’s a lot cheaper!
Have a great day now.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Bow Windows In Menorca

It is the windows that draw me back to Mahon, that most British of Spanish cities. Situated on the eastern tip of Menorca, Mahon is the first city in Spain to see the sun rise in the morning and more often than not her windows throw the orange light around her streets, bouncing it back off each other as if playing with a football.
These are no ordinary windows however as they are huge bow windows with sashes brought by the British when they moved the capital here from Ciutadella in 1722. Still known in the local dialect as “boinders”, streets such as the Carrer Isobel II are adorned with these magnificent Georgian structures with their Sheraton and Chippendale style furniture in situ behind.
The British moved the capital here because of Mahon’s superb harbour, the largest in the Mediterranean, but the Phoenicians had a settlement long before as did the Carthaginians and the Romans. The harbour is indeed a magnificent site, it is also far easier to park, and it’s free, rather than in the city with its pay and display bays or in the underground carp park in the Placa de S’Espalnda.
Have a great day now.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

St Florent, Corsica

St Florent in northern Corsica is one of those places that is just too large to be a village and too small to be a town but it makes a good base to explore the north of the island as both Calvi (2 hours) and Bastia (1 hour) are within easy reach.

With about 1500 inhabitants it still retains much of its charm with its pastel washed houses, restaurants and bars that have no wide screen televisions with Match of the Day blaring out. In fact most of the local’s money comes from the sailing boats and huge motor yachts that make the short trip here from Italy and France as the string of some twenty plus restaurants along the front testify.
Do please note that in the summer the village can get very busy and noisy but if you have an apartment overlooking the harbour it’s well worth it. However in the old part of the village behind the seafront you will still find traditional life as it has gone on for centuries with small restaurants and shops serving local dishes, fish, cheeses, the local pate and wines that are a marvelous assault on the taste buds.
You’ll also find La Maison de Pizzas where everything is cooked in wooden fired ovens. It’s very popular with the locals and there’s also a little hatch where you can order a take away. We took our picnic up the short walk from the square to the old citadel. There is not much left of the original 15th century Genoese fort but from its ramparts you can get amazing views of Cap Corse, the old village and the mountains beyond. If you really do want to try something different then pay a visit to the open air cinema just to the south of the town! Have a great day.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Isle of Man Railway

The railway on The Isle of Man the is now owned by the Government of the island and is known as the Isle of Man Railway (IMR). Connecting Douglas, the capital with Castletown and Port Erin. Douglas station itself is quite an impressive complex especially when you consider it is now approximately half its original size.
At one time the system covered over 45 miles which when you think about it was quite a considerable amount on an island as small as the Isle of Man.
I loved the way the line still uses the original historic rolling stock and marvellous locomotives and there are few concessions to the modern way of running a railway. The main point is though is that is not just a piece of heritage railway for the tourists as it is still used by the local population on a regular basis. We spoke to school children, people doing their shopping and one unlucky person going to the dentist!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Warkworth, Northumberland

Every time I visit Warkworth here in Northumberland I'm struck by the fact that it doesn’t really seem to have made up its mind whether it’s a village with castle or castle with a village. All you can say is that trapped as it is within a meander of the River Coquet it still has a very medieval feel to it that has been lost in so many other Northeast villages. I took this shot for the castle's keep.
Have a great day now.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year

A happy New year to everyone. Unfortunately I can remember Katie as 12 year old!!!!!!

Have great day now.