Sunday, February 15, 2015

Washington D.C

Of all the cities and small towns that I visited on my epic Grand Southern Contiki tour of the United States of America Washington D.C was one of the ones that surprised me the most. I was so fascinated by this city which in fact is not a city or a state nor is it even part of a state. It is in fact a very unique federal district created specifically to be the seat of government.

Founded in 1791 on land that had previously been part of Maryland and Virginia it is designed with four quadrants all leading to and meeting at the centre - the Capitol Building. Showing that in this strange space created to lead the people that literally all roads lead to the Capitol.

Not only does it have the allure of its strange status as a federal district but it wins over the hearts of visitors every year with its gorgeous monuments that stir the notion of making our lives matter and making a difference in us all.

So I went back with some friends late at night when most tourists and politicians had gone to bed to take some photos of the National Mall at night. Below are photos of the Washington Monument, the Capitol Building, the National WWII Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.  Enjoy :)

Looking down the National Mall towards the Washington Monument. 

The Capitol Building 

Washington Monument 

The National World War II Memorial 

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool 

The Lincoln Memorial 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

New York, New York!!

I have no idea where to even start with New York, what a place. It is huge and there is so much going on. The city is just so alive all the time! The Grand Southern Contiki Tour that I did finished in New York City so I decided to spend three days there before flying back to London. Three days was totally not enough time...

New York City is just busting at the seams with things to do, to see, to experience and of course one of my favourites things to eat! After spending 29 days in the US since I began my journey in Los Angeles I had encountered BIG food already - portions that could be gigantic! Starbucks even has a size bigger than venti (WHAT??!!!) that is a lot of coffee even for me (and that is saying something!). Little did I know that New York was going to pull out all the stops with the largest and cheapest pizza slices I have ever had! And wait for it the BIGGEST piece of cheesecake I have ever been served. Let's just say that I provided a bit of morning entertainment to the table of girls next to me at Carnegie Deli while I attempted to eat it. To give you an idea it was so big that I was just eating it from the side and the waitress even came over to check if everything was okay as it looked from her side that I hadn't touched it at all. For the record it defeated me but the bright side was that it was delicious and my very kind and helpful Airbnb host's scored themselves some cheesecake.

I visited Top of the Rock, walked around Ground Zero, strolled for hours in Central Park (which did you know is bigger than the principality of Monaco!), went to a Broadway Show, had drinks in Times Square, met up with some fantastic friends some of whom were on my tours in Europe, went to the Chelsea market, ate two Gray Papaya hot dogs, went to so many museums and still I barely even scraped the surface of what there is to experience in this vibrant city.

So decision made - I will just have to go to New York again and experience more! 

Here are some of my favourite shots from the Big Apple.

(Above) View from Top of the Rock

The 9/11 Memorial 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

I never thought I would see the Grand Canyon

One of the natural wonders of the world 
It is the third largest canyon in the world
Its base is about 1/3 of the Earth's age 

Scientist's take an educated guess that it took 3- 6 million years to form 
At 446km long it is thought to be carved by the Colorado River 
3028 million litres of water flow through it every year

It is 548m wide at its narrowest and 29km at its widest
On average its only 16km from rim to rim
It is essentially tilted with the Northern Rim being higher than the Southern Rim. 

But beyond all of these facts the Grand Canyon when standing looking out over it 
stretches out so far that even the imagination wonders if it realises how big it really is 
or how many mysteries these rocks capturing a timeline of the Earth's history could be holding

Some times it is hard to believe that you are doing things that you only ever dreamt about doing. I never thought I would see the Grand Canyon. It was just one of the many places and things on my bucket list, but not only have I biked along parts of the rim of the Grand Canyon but I even did a helicopter ride over it.

It was one of the ME Time Optionals on the Contiki Holidays tour that I did and it was the one that I was most looking forward too.  It did not disappoint! I was blown away by its sheer size, colour and ability to appear barren when in fact on the base it is very much alive.

I got to sit on the edge and look out over a natural wonder of this world. I even had to pinch myself to make sure it was real. Just goes to show sometimes you do get to do the things you never thought you would. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dawn is coming so open your eyes in the Monument Valley

The three Mittens in Monument Valley are part of the Colorado Plateau and is located on the Arizona-Utah state line. The valley lies within the Navajo Nation Reservation. 

Ever been somewhere that instantly reminds you of lyrics to a song? Well that is what happened to me when I visited Monument Valley. For those that know me this won't be strange as you have no doubt been around when something you have said has sparked me to start singing some lyrics from a song, in a not at all good singing voice.

Monument Valley with is magnificently red and orange coloured soil and rocks instantly had me humbling this little gem called Stay Alive by Jose Gonzalez. If you have never heard the song give it a try because in the words of Jose the dawn is coming so open your eyes and look into the sun as a new days rise!

There's a rhythm in rush these days 
Where the lights don't move and the colours don't fade 
Leaves you empty with nothing but dreams 
In a world gone shallow 
In a world gone mean 

Sometimes there's things a man cannot know 
Gears won't turn and the leaves won't grow 
There's no place to run and no gasoline 
Engine won't turn 
And the train won't leave 
Engine won't turn 
And the train won't leave 

I will stay with you tonight 
Hold you close till the morning light 
In the morning watch a new day rise 
We'll do whatever just to stay alive 
We'll do whatever just to stay alive 

Well the way I feel is the way I write 
It isn't like the thoughts of the man who lies 
There is a truth and it's on our side 
Dawn is coming 
Open your eyes 

Look into the sun as the new days rise 
And I will wait for you tonight 
You're here forever and you're by my side 

I've been waiting all my life 
To feel your heart as it's keeping time 
We'll do whatever just to stay alive 

Dawn is coming 
Open your eyes 
Dawn is coming 
Open your eyes 
Dawn is coming 
Open your eyes 
Dawn is coming 
Open your eyes 

Look into the sun as the new days rise 
There's a rhythm in rush these days 
Where the lights don't move and the colours don't fade
Leave you empty with nothing but dreams
In a world gone shallow
In a world gone mean 

But there is a truth and it's on our side 
Dawn is coming open your eyes
Look into the sun as a new days rise 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Up, UP and AWAY!!

Never, ever, ever say no to a hot air balloon ride. Why would you? 

At the end of last year I made the trip across the Atlantic Ocean to a not so little country called the United States of America. Bound for a Contiki Holidays tour called the Grand Southern. The tour was going to go for 26 days starting in Los Angeles and ending in the big apple, New York city.

I have travelled quite a lot over the last few years (and that is definitely putting it mildly) but I really didn't know what to expect from the USA. It had been a while since I had been travelling in a country where they actually spoke English.

What did I find? Well I was amazed at the diversity of the USA. It was one of the things that I loved the most. Not only did the landscape change but the people completely changed with it. It was like you were crossing into different countries every time you entered a different state.

Over the next few weeks I am going to be posting some of my favourite photos and memories from the trip. Please excuse the fact that they won't be in any order besides which photos I wanted to go through first :)

Hot air ballooning was one of the best things that I did in the USA. It was on our last morning in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and those of us doing the ballooning had to get up very early even before the sun to get picked up and taken out to a big open area where we watched as our balloons began to be put up. Growing like something straight out of Alice in Wonderland the balloon or should I say envelope (yes no lies that is the proper name for the big bag that traps the hot air) rose into the dusk air. The gondola or wicker basket was made ready and we were asked to jump in...a leap of faith on our part that all was good and that this the oldest successful human-carrying flight technology was going to live up to its reputation.

And man did it ever! We slowly started ascending into the just starting to lighten sky. The sun rounded and rose from behind the foothills of the Sandia Mountains and coated the trees and us in the beautiful morning light filled with golden hues. If there is ever a good time to go on a hot air balloon ride here I would highly recommend October time as it is autumn and all the trees are showing off their best yellows, oranges, reds and greens. Add that golden morning light and you have pure visual magic.

Cruising over Albuquerque with its exotic river the Rio Grande (so exotic because like the Nile it flows through a desert) below and watching the town awaken was a fantastic way to spend my last day there and if ever someone offers me a hot air balloon ride I will never, ever, ever say no.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Valley of Lauterbrunnen

In the last ten years I have traveled quite a bit around Europe especially in the last two years while working for a holiday company. There is not one place that I regret visiting and no place that I would say is not worth at least one visit to experience it, but there are a couple that I love to visit time and time again. They just never get old.

One of these places is the majestic valley of Lauterbrunnen, in Switzerland. This valley inspired people like Goethe, Lord Byron and Tolkien so it's no wonder that it captures the hearts and imaginations of all who visit it. I recently went back to the valley with its 72 waterfalls and snow capped mountains for a holiday and had the chance to get a couple photos. Hope you enjoy!

Great things are done when men and mountains meet. - William Blake 

Thursday, October 2, 2014


Venice known as the floating city, the city of bridges, city of canals, city of masks
 and to be honest a city you will get lost in.

Built on muddy sediment and salt marshes this city is a maze of narrow alleyways and little bridges crossing canals that weave throughout the buildings that are crumpling and dipping lower in the sea every year. But luckily for us getting lost is just another excuse to have an adventure and Venice is the perfect city to explore.  

A city held up by alder wood pylons that have been driven down into some 100ft of silt is of course always going to be a magical place. Yet with a population of roughly 60 000 people it is today a city whose population is outnumbered by tourists on almost a daily basis in summer, some may argue that it's magical allure is fading. I personally felt very overwhelmed by Venice and its crowds the first time that I visited it, but what Venice needs is a second chance. A chance for it to show people its quieter more normal side. Now after having been to Venice more than thirteen times with a group I was finally able at the end of my summer season to go back to the islands on my own holiday to explore more and I discovered that the magic is not fading at all, changing yes perhaps but Venice will always have its allure. And if you take a chance and a few wrong turns you will find parts of Venice that are quietly beautiful in their serene state of ruin with water lapping at its door.

The Bridge of Sighs is an enclosed bridge connecting the Doge's Palace (Venetian Duke's and the rulers) and the prisons. Lord Byron named the bridge after he imagined the sigh prisoners would no doubt give as they crossed the bridge for the last time on the way to be put to death. These stone lace windows on the bridge would be their last look at freedom and their beloved Venice. 

San Marco (St Mark's Square) is the most famous square in Venice and is crowned with St Mark's Basicilia and the campanile (bell tower). 

A view of Santa Della Maria across the grande canal. 

Graffiti art protesting against the amount of tourists and the use of automatic boats on the canals can be found throughout the city. 

Act like a local and go buy some fresh produce at the markets where all the locals buy their fresh fish. 

The contrast of old and new in Venice is everywhere.

The area for exploration is so wide with its 118 islands to go and visit. 

Always changing, Venice even floods during high tide and walk ways need to be put down to try and keep people dry in  the popular areas.