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. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Linlithgow Palace

Roofless and ruined the wonder that is Linlithgow Palace still shines through.

David I was the first monarch to build a residence on this spot overlooking a small inland loch in 1124. Linlithgow even means the "loch in the damp hollow", but Linlithgow Palace is most famous for being the residence of the Stewart family. James V, Mary Queen of Scots and Princess Elizabeth all being born here. Although ravaged by fire in 1424 the palace rose like a phoenix from the ashes through James I who started to build a new palace. Over the next centuries his heirs built on and the palace grew to be the impressive quadrangular abode that captured the hearts of the Stewart Queens. Sadly when James VI moved his court to London when he was named James I of England, Linlithgow Palace fell quickly into decline. 

Climbing Arthur's Seat

So many moons ago when I was a young and naive traveler....hahahaha who am I kidding I would probably make some of the same travelling mistakes again and again. One such travelling mistake happened the first time I ever visited Edinburgh with my sister and friend Kristin (haha yes I am naming and shaming). Well we were visiting Edinburgh and decided we would of course climb the famous Arthur's Seat.

Now we knew you could walk to it from the city centre, we could see a mountain so we put two and two together and thought of course that we had made four. We started climbing and climbing...and after walking for quite some time we were starting to doubt ourselves so we asked a jogger when they came by if in fact we needed to carry on walking. His answer was something along the lines of: "sorry girls this is not Arthur's Seat. That is it over there" cue the pointing to the mountain next to the one we had just climbed. Oh the EPIC fail of two and two making ten. We never did get to climb Arthur's Seat on that visit as time was not on our side.

BUT years later and I finally climbed the right mountain! YES :) My fellow Scotland road tripper Katie and I decided to start our Scotland Footsteps road trip with climbing Arthur's Seat. It was also the start of our road trip shoes apt;y named CON - TIKI in the spirit of making life count, enjoy!

View from halfway up Arthur's Seat

Celebrations as we reached the top. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

I am a citizen, not of Athens...

Recently when I did a London to Athens tour with Contiki we had our final night of the tour in Athens at a hotel that had a rooftop terrace and I took these photos of the Acropolis and the surrounding area around our hotel.

Standing on the rooftop I remembered all the legends I had studied at university and the words of Socrates: 

 "I am a citizen, not of Athens or Greece but of the world"

The Acropolis


Walking up the many stairs you catch your first glimpse of the walls of Dubrovnik so solid and so strong. 


Ragusa, the age old Latin and Dalmatian name for what we now know as Dubrovnik is a gem in the Adriatic Sea. Summer or winter, good weather or bad Dubrovnik still has the power to draw people to visit it in their hundreds.

My first trip to Dubrovnik was during my Contiki training last year. Every person on my training had a moment, a day when they were ready to pack it all in and give up on training. Dubrovnik was mine. It was in this majestic city that I tiredness had reached its limits. Walking down Srd mountain with swollen ankles and a sore knee rushing to get back in time to meet up with our trainer to be quizzed on all the things we had to 'Find Out' that day it all just reached a turning point. That night I was ready to say goodbye and go back to a normal office job behind a desk.

Dubrovnik made me stop. The city was so amazing not only in it's ancient history but in it's modern history as well with the Croatian War of Independence between 1991-1995 that I was enthralled. It was travelling and exploration that got me applying to Contiki in the first place and it was through Dubrovnik that I was reminded of this on training. It kept me going all the way to the end of the 66 days. Four days after which I went out on my first tour and have not looked back.

But recently when I had some time between tours my friend and absolutely amazing fellow tour manager Meagan decided to go back to Croatia and stay in Dubrovnik for the first time since training. The city's wonder had not diminished in the slightest. If anything it seemed even more wonderful as we actually had the time to explore, wander and just soak it all in. There is a very good reason why it has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979.

George Bernard Shaw once said when he visited the city in 1929 that "If you want to see heaven on earth, come to Dubrovnik".

So here are some photos from my time in this little piece of heaven on earth and some tips for how to spend your time:

Meagan shows her balancing skills with the old town of Dubrovnik in the background. 

View from our apartment that we found on Airbnb a fantastic website for places to stay all over the world. We could not have asked for a better location. 

Walking the walls of Dubrovnik is an absolute must when visiting but I would recommend getting up early to be one of the first to walk the 2km of wall to avoid the crowds and the heat or even make sure you are one of the very last to get access before they close for ticket sales. 

Some may recognise the walls from the TV series Game of Thrones as it is where they film the Kings Landing scenes. 

The main street in Dubrovnik - there are red sign posts by each street telling you what restaurants and stores can be found done them. 

Mesmerised Meagan looks out over the old town of Dubrovnik. 

There is an engraving that can be found on the fortress Lovrijenac that encompasses the heart of Dubrovnik it is: "Non bene pro toto venditur Libertas auro" which means " Liberty can not be sold for all the gold in the world".

Some tips 

  • Bar Gallerie is a small but really cool bar where you can get your cocktails served in little sand buckets.
  • Revlin is a good club to go and get your dance on late into the night and early into the morning. The fire display that the barmen do is so cool. 
  • Buza Bar is definitely worth a visit for a cold local beer with amazing views and photo opportunities but their prices are expensive compared to other places so I wouldn't linger too long. BUT definitely go once it is worth it. 
  • Best swimming spot if you ask me is not the little beach near East West bar ( They have very nice cocktails) as this gets very crowded but head to the rocks where the locals hang out. If you go to the Old Town harbour and head to the right following the city walls you will walk all the way around the corner and find an awesome swimming spot where there are even poles to help you get in and out of the water. Way better than the crowded beach. 
  • Best restaurant with a fantastic view Lady Pi-Pi. We had lunch there and it was so good!!! It is Croatian grill style food. Best to get there early as you can't reserve tables and it is very popular with those brave enough to climb the mountain of steps to get to it. 
  • Day trips to Montenegro are great - Kotor and Budva are so gorgeous - photos below from en-route to Kotor and in Kotor. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Majesty of the Cathedral of St Andrews

It was the largest and most magnificent cathedral in Scotland. 
Built in 1158 and dedicated to Andrew the Apostle this Roman Catholic cathedral dominated the kingdom of Fife which in fact did not actually have a king at all. 
It became the centre of the Medieval Catholic Church in Scotland. 
Yet today it is but a ghost of its former glory.

Today you walk through the stone arch entrance and are graced with a strange feeling of being both inside and out. 
The cathedral fell into ruin and disuse during the Scottish Reformation in the 16th Century.
So long since gone are its 30m high ceilings.
 Yet three of its exterior walls still stand to some extent allowing you to imagine and sense the huge scale that was this cathedrals original 118m length and 51m width. 

Empty spaces where altars and stained glass should be. 

Silent witnesses to watch over the crumbling of something that once stood so tall. 

A longing looking out at the North Sea. 

Funny how no matter how much stone a building can lose it can still stand as tall as the day it was built in the minds of those that visit it.