Loch Sunart Holiday

We booked a week in a holiday cottage on the south shore of Loch Sunart.  This is an area of the west coast of Scotland we haven’t really explored before.  Years ago we drove through part of this area to catch the ferry to the Isle of Mull, but it warranted a longer stay, especially as it has one of the highest populations of otters!

Our cottage was called Camus na h-Airdhe, one of a few cottages owned by the Laudale Estate.  The cottage looks out on Loch Sunart and from our french door windows we saw a small pod of dolphins, an otter, a pine marten, lots of heron, a raven and lots of smaller birds…oh and some amazing rainbows.  We also saw some deer and lots of seals.

It rained most, if not all, days!  Unfortunately the west coast of Scotland does seem to get the tail ends of the hurricanes and storms that travel across from the Caribbean and Florida areas, thanks to the North Atlantic jet stream.  Even our supposedly waterproof Gore-Tex over-trousers and jackets couldn’t hold back the rain on one of the days, but we didn’t allow it to spoil our holiday and it made lighting the wood burning stove in the evenings even nicer.

Enough waffle, onto some pictures.

Our cottage is shown in the first picture, albeit a bit dark as the sun was going down.

Scenes of Loch Sunart

 

Castle Tioram on Loch Moidart

A family picture at the Lighthouse which is on the most Westerly Point of Mainland UK!  I think we’d always thought Cornwall, on the southwest coast of England, would have the most westerly point, but nope it is in Scotland and here we are wrapped up and trying not to blow away!  (We now just have the most easterly point to do and we will have done them all.) The beach was one we stopped off at on the drive back and I couldn’t resist posting a photo of Ylva’s sandy nose!

Ardnamurchan Lighthouse

Various walk views

 

Scenes of Autumn

 

Year of Projects – weeks 9 & 10/52

Not much done…in fact nothing on my YOP list, but I have expanded my stash, which was definitely not on my ‘to do list’ oops!

But whilst in Orkney for a week, you HAVE to buy some wool from the rare North Ronaldsay sheep, which eat the seaweed on the coast of North Ronaldsay and Isle of Auskerry, which are the only 2 places they live.  So when I say ‘some wool’, what I mean is…

  • Enough undyed wool to knit a jumper (6 balls in Seal Grey and 1 in Slate Grey)
  • Enough dyed wool to add some interest to the jumper or for accessories
  • Enough fibre (in 3 different natural colours) to spin goodness knows how much more yarn
Oh and…
  • some silk hankies and silk in colours that will go on the scarf I am going to make for my sister’s 50th birthday (hand dyed on Orkney)
  • And while I’m at it I may as well buy 200g of sari silk because it was too beautiful and reasonably priced not to..despite having nothing to do with Orkney!!!
Hopeless!!
 
Anyway, I did manage to knit a bit of my 3rd hitchhiker scarf, using home spun yarn and did some spinning of one of my first dyeing efforts.
 
If you are interested in seeing some pictures of Orkney, please check out my Week in Orkney post.
 
3rd Hitchhiker scarf (with eyelets on 8th rows)

British 56s spun from first dyeing and drum carding practice
 
North Ronaldsay Aran Yarn

 

 

North Ronaldsay dyed yarn

 

North Ronaldsay fibre

 

Sari Silk

 

Silks

 

 

A week in Orkney

The Orkney Isles are located off the North Coast of Scotland.  Some of its Isles can clearly be seen from the North Coast, like at John O’Groats, where cyclists set off to (or arrive from) Lands End (on the South Coast of England).  For more than 10 years we have looked across and said ‘we must go there one day’…Orkney I mean…never have we thought we must cycle to Lands End 😉

With our reduced income we are exploring more of Scotland with our dog and our tent.  So, finally, we booked ourselves on a week long trip to Orkney.  

We based ourselves at The Orkney Caravan Park in Kirkwall.  A great location as we can easily walk into the town centre, its close to 3 supermarkets and its a lovely campground with lots of ‘extras’, like a campers kitchen with everything but an oven (so microwave, toaster, kettle, fridge, freezer etc.).  Its shower cubicles have sinks and toilets within, plus spare sink and toilet cubicles.  It is next to the leisure centre and you even get 2 free passes if you want to go swimming or play racket sports.

Kirkwall is the capital of the Orkney Isles and is on the Mainland.  There are various ferry ports across the Mainland giving you access to some of the other Isles:

  • from Kirkwall you can sail to the isles of Stronsay, Eday, Sanday, Westray and Papa Westray
  • from Stromness you can sail to the isles of Graemsay and Hoy
  • from Tingwall you can sail to the isles of Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre
  • from Houton you can sail to the isles of Flotta, Hoy, South Walls (there’s also a causeway from Hoy to South Walls)
  • there is also a causeway you can drive across to Land Holm, Burray and South Ronaldsay
So The Mainland seemed ideal to base ourselves for the week.  The most northerly isles are not feasible to do in a day, but we hoped to add to our list of Scottish Islands visited.
 
With the North Sea to the East and the Atlantic Ocean to the West the crossing was a wee bit choppier than we experienced visiting the Inner and Outer Hebrides Isles.  Our steward at the campground said the West side usually has the best weather, so if we encounter rain head West. 
 
Anyway, that’s more words than I usually write, so I’ll get to the pictures!  
 

The Mainland

Kirkwall 

Capital of Orkney, population 10,000.  Lots of 17th and 18th Century houses.
Kirkwall

 

 

 

 

 

St. Magnus Cathedral

The most northerly cathedral in Britain.  Romanesque architecture, built in 1137 and additions made over the next 300 years. It was built for the bishops of Orkney when the Isles were ruled by Norse Earls.

St. Magnus Cathedral

 The Bishop’s Palace built in the 12th Century and the Earl’s Palace built in 1607.

Peedie sea and the Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces

Stromness

Notice the side street called ‘Khyber Pass’!
Stromness

 

Ring of Brodgar

A neolithic henge erected between 2500 BC and 2000 BC! A UNESCO World Heritage Site.
   
Ring of Brodgar


The Standing Stones of Stenness

A neolithic henge, erected ~3100 BC…wiki says this could be the oldest henge in the UK!  
 
The Standing Stones of Stenness
 
 
 

Scara Brae and Skaill House

Scara Brae is a village (well 8 houses) which pre-dates the pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge, occupied 3180 BC to 2500 BC. A UNESCO World Heritage Site. Skaill House was built in 1620.
Skara Brae and Skaill House

East coast 

East coast facing west!

Mull Head Nature Reserve and The Gloup (sea arch)

The 2nd picture on the left is Auskerry Island, where the wool I have bought comes from.  They are the only other place to have the North Ronaldsay sea weed eating sheep.  There’s just one family on the island.  Gloup derives from Old Norse ‘gluppa’, meaning chasm, it is a collapsed sea cave.
Mull Head Nature Reserve and The Group

Yesnaby

There are some very interesting information boards here, which explain how this used to be part of a lake (below the equator!) millions of years ago and some of the cliffs were sanddunes on the edge of the lake!  That’s my husband and our dog on the top left picture.

Yesnaby

Brough of Birsay

This is an uninhabited tidal island.  The 3rd image is of a settlement, originally Christian (6th Century), then a Pictish settlement (7th-8th Century) and finally Norsemen (i.e. Vikings 9th Century).  The beach is full of beautiful shells, as shown in the bottom picture.
Brough of Birsay

Land Holm

A miniature Isle which is home to the Italian Chapel.  The chapel was built during World War II by Italian prisoners of war, who were there to construct the Churchill Barriers.
 
The Italian Chapel
 

Glimpse Holm and the Churchill Barriers

Glimpse Holm and shipwrecks at the Churchill Barriers

 

South Ronaldsay

Tomb of the Eagles

No photos inside the tomb, but we did crawl in.  16,000 human bones and 725 bird bones were found here.  The tomb dates back to 3500-2000 BC.
 
Tomb of the Eagles
  

Isle of Shapinsay

Balfour is the only village on the Isle of Shapinsay.  Balfour Castle, its gatehouse and douche, privately owned unfortunately…well not for the owners but for visitors to the Island.  RSPB Mill Dam site had lots of birds to spot from the bird hide above the loch.  The Smithy tea room had the best Orkney Fudge Cheesecake and ginger bread…so good we bought more cake to go!  We went on the ferry as foot passengers and it worked out a great half day trip.
Isle of Shapinsay

So to sum up our Orkney holiday…we really enjoyed the Mainland, so much so we only ended up doing one ferry trip to another isle, but we did explore all the ones joined by causeways.  We were blessed with the weather really, it rained some nights but days were mostly beautiful sunshine.  We visited lots of bird hides and spotted some new birds we haven’t seen before.  We ate loads of cakes!  Goodness knows what the scales will say when we are home!  Lots of places were dog friendly and the cafes that weren’t had picnic tables outside if you could cope with the wind!  Allistar did lose a bit of lettuce off his plate outside the Orkney Brewery.
 
I wouldn’t say that history is really my thing…but I am interested in the Vikings and the Norse history of these Isles.  I think we will likely come back and stay on one of the more northern isles, but we think we will rent a cottage and not camp next time.  We slept fine, but as I write this, on our last evening, it is blowing a hoolie and we are in a sheltered spot in the town!  

How craft making and Scotland rescued me

Life before…

My life was consumed with working hard and very long hours to earn money for a few weeks a year of international travel.  We went to many fabulous and breathtaking places around the world including Hawaii, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Australia, various US states and parts of Italy.  I also travelled to Peru and Bolivia for 31 days as a mix of holiday and unpaid leave (Follow links to see photo highlights).  And so I thought my blog was turning into a travel blog…

The breakdown…

At the end of 2016 I started to burnout and lose control of my mind, I wasn’t coping at work despite (or perhaps because I was) working almost every waking hour and not making enough progress to satisfy my own high standards. By early 2017 I was a jibbering wreck, unable to stop crying all the time and was eventually signed off with anxiety and depression.  When my sick pay ran out I couldn’t face returning to work, stressed at the thought and afraid that my resilience was too weak and I would return to old habits of working every hour and so I requested a 12 month sabbatical (unpaid leave).  So I am due to return in September, unless I resign.

My new life…

Whilst off work I have started doing more craft type things, I have wet felted a hat and a handbag learned how to knit, made some sea glass jewellery, bought a spinning wheel and I’m now learning how to spin.  We bought a tent last autumn and instead of international travel we have been exploring the North of Scotland and some of its many Isles either with the tent or renting small cottages.
I have been blown away by the scenery that we have seen…and with my calmer mindset I can actually be present and fully enjoy being in the moment and after walking 20k steps enjoy an evening sitting in our tent with my husband and dog and knitting another hitchhiker scarf! Scotland has white sandy beaches and turquoise water, okay you need to wear layers, not a bikini…but then you often get a beach to yourselves!
As for my future…we shall see!
October 2017  
Isle of Eriskay, Western Isles, Scotland
 March 2018
Coral beach, Isle of Skye 

 

June 2018
Sango_Sands_beach_Durness.jpg
Sango Sands beach, Durness
Balnakeil beach, Durness, North Scotland

 

A perfect day on the Isle of Skye

We headed to Skye for a week to celebrate our 10th Wedding Anniversary.  I first came to Skye on our 1st Anniversary and we have been many times since, but usually just for 1 night and so we wanted to stay longer to explore areas we haven’t seen yet.  On our first full day we headed to the North West, beyond Dunvegan Castle and up to see Coral Beach.  We were up and out early, so fortunate to be the first ones there, although there were others shortly behind us.  The walk to the beach is only 1 mile each way, we walked a little further around the coast and saw an eagle perched on a rock.   We could also see some seals across the water on a tiny island.

The weather was my idea of perfect, cold enough to need a hat and scarf (made by me!) but sunny and blue skies.

We stopped for our picnic lunch at Dunvegan Pier, and then drove to the Duirinish area and explored the peninsula and walked to Neist Point lighthouse.  This is a tougher walk, it was fine heading out to see the lighthouse but goodness climbing back up was taking my breath!  I say this but a guy walked past us and climbed all the stairs and was then chatting to an elderly couple and he wasn’t out of breath at all…clearly I am not very fit. On our way back we saw a herd of deer.  The only thing missing was sight of an otter…but we have the rest of the week to keep searching for one.

I kept saying to my husband, shall we retire here?  He replied that if it rains the rest of the week I won’t be thinking that.  But on a sunny day Skye really is hard to beat.

 

 

Pastels

Cala lily
Bolivian desert

Bolivia – a country that exceeded my expectations

La Paz, Potosí and Chuquisaca
Potosí and Chuquisaca area – vicuña and rock formations
Potosí and Chuquisaca area – salt lake and volcanic features
Potosí and Chuquisaca area – Laguna Colorada, flamingos and rocks
Potosí and Chuquisaca area – flamingo, salt lakes and railway track that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid rode!
Uyuni Salt Flats
Uyuni Salt Flats early morning
Uyuni Salt Flats and salt hotel
Uyuni Salt Flats and train graveyard
5,000 perfectly preserved dinosaur footprints in the Cal Orck’o cliff

 

Quad bike trip to ‘crater’ viewpoint

Gadventures 11 day  Bolivia Discovery tour

 

 

I love Peru! I’ll let pictures tell a thousand words…

Ballestas islands boat trip from Paracas

Huacachina Pisco Winery and Oasis

Nazca Desert Cemetery

Arequipa

Animals on the road from Arequipa to Chivay

Volcanoes and Chivay

Colca Canyon 

Small town near Colca Canyon

Cusco

Ollantaytambo, Maras Salt Mines, Moray site and my favourite alpaca 

Machu Picchu 

Tambopata Rainforest / Amazon Jungle 

Lake Titicaca and the floating islands of Uros

Taquile Islands / Isla Amantani

 21 day – Gadventures Inca Heartland Trip

 

 

 

 

Lima Half Day Tour

City of Kings and Queens Tour by Haku Tours

 A brilliant tour and really interesting guide.  I was picked up at my hotel in Miraflores and driven into the centre of Lima.  First stop was the St. Franciscan Monastery for a look around the church, the museum and the catacombs. Yep those are bones through the grate, people should not throw money down there apparently.

St. Franciscan Monastery

Walking around Lima on such a beautiful sunny day you really do get to see it at its best. The bar is allegedly the oldest in South America…Hemingway is said to have been here. The green building is the old station which also is apparently the oldest in South America.  I am going on what the guide told me, but haven’t verified anything.

The main square has a nice atmosphere and we felt very safe.

Changing of the guard at the Presidential Palace being watched by some tourists, locals and a couple of nuns.

Changing the guard at the Presidential Palace

The tour was 3.5 hours and I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t too far to walk, our guide bought us an ice cream which was appreciated as it was a very hot day. We learnt lots about the history of all the palaces and the gruesome stories about the catacombs and all the bones and skulls in there. There was also a really interesting story about a painting of the last supper that was in the museum…the artist was hung because of what he painted and he had said that Jesus was homosexual.  Edwin was so enthusiastic and interested in history, architecture and art.  We were a small group of just me and another couple, so for $36 I thought it was well worth it and would recommend to anyone. 

 

A day trip to Vienna from Bratislava

I had seen a suggested day trip to Vienna from Bratislava on Tripadvisor but discovered the night before our journey, that the train station it suggested you arrive at, in Vienna, no longer exists!!

So instead we made some slight changes and caught the 8.43 train from Hlavne Stancia (Main Rail Station) to Wien Hauptbahnhof Hpf (Vienna) €14 return.  The journey takes about an hour and you pass mile upon mile of farmland and fields.  We had our ticket checked by a Slovakian conductor and when we entered Austria we then had it checked by an Austrian conductor.  Having understood nothing that people had been saying to us for a few days it was refreshing to then hear some German which I have limited but some knowledge of.  
 
At Wien Hpf we bought a Shoppers underground railcard, €6.10, that is active from 8am-8pm. Don’t forget to validate your ticket before you board the first train, after that you don’t need to do anything but make sure you have it on you.

From Hpf we took the underground to Schönbrunn to see Schönbrunn Palace. The Palace is opposite the underground station which is great and was easy enough to find, this is not a small palace!  There are a number of different ticketing options and we opted for the Imperial Tour €12.90.  You are given a time slot for your visit, ours was 2 hours ahead, so we had apple strudel and a hot drink in the garden and then wandered around the Christmas market.

Apple strudel at the palace

 

Schönbrunn palace

The time soon went by and we didn’t even get as far as looking at the gardens.  We paid 50c each to go to the toilet and when we got back to the hotel found we had been given a voucher for a free visit (it must have come with our food!) Ah well!  I would recommend you go inside the palace a bit before your time slot so you can drop off any big bags and join the queue.

After the tour we headed to Herrengasse station on the underground and were lucky to book the last 2 slots on the 5pm English language tour at the Spanische Hofreitschule (Spanish Riding School). 

This meant we had a few hours to tour the shops and we bought a late lunch at Nordsee which sells nice salmon with wild rice, potatoes or vegetables, among other seafood and fish options.  The shopping streets of Vienna are so pretty.

Vienna shopping street

The Spanish horses and riders have Monday’s off, but on the tour you can see the horses in their stables. The other days they have morning practice sessions you can watch but I imagine you need to book well in advance.

Spanish riding school

After the tour of the Stables we headed to Philharmonikerstrasse (which was quite a challenge to find).  Here you will find the Hotel Sacher which has Cafe Mozart attached. Considering it is quite famous we were seated almost immediately, but it was very busy. I did try the Sachertorte (chocolate & apricot jam cake) which to be honest I found a bit dry and heavy (it was also lacking the mirror glaze I thought it was famous for).  Their other cakes looked delicious, but felt I should give it a go.

Hotel Sacher

We then walked to Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral) and could just make out the spire in the fog. There are lots of people trying to get you to see a concert, but we just didn’t have time.  It was then time for is to head back to Hpf station and catch the train to Bratislava.  

St Stephens cathedral

Inside the cathedral

Our train on the way back was an old fashioned one, with a corridor against one window and lots of little cabins that seated 6. No-one checked our ticket for Austria or Slovakia which was weird. 

Train carriage

 Considering how much cheaper it is to fly to and stay in Bratislava, this is a much cheaper way of seeing Vienna.

 
 

Countries visited or booked to visit in next couple of months

Liz Armstrong’s Travel Map

Liz Armstrong has been to: United Arab Emirates, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Denmark, Egypt, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Sri Lanka, Morocco, Maldives, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Peru, Sweden, Singapore, Slovakia, Tunisia, Turkey, United States, Vatican.
Get your own travel map from Matador Network.

Three Days in Dublin

Budget: £250 including flights, parking, 2 nights at Airbnb, food, entertainment and souvenirs. 

Day 1

I had booked my parking at Liverpool airport through Holiday Extras which gets you a discount but it still cost more than my bargain Ryanair £19.98 return flight from Liverpool! I landed in Dublin at 9.25am and caught the 700 Aircoach bus to Dublin.  My first planned stop was to the Tourist office opposite Trinity College. They look after luggage for €5 for the day and are open until 10pm.  I also bought a CitySightseeing 48 hour bus ticket from here.  A quick wander around Trinity College grounds. You can queue and pay to go into the library to see the Book of Kells, but I wasn’t interested enough.  

I hopped on the bus and jumped off at the Guinness Storehouse.  I spent a couple of hours in there, had some very nice Guinness bread with smoked salmon and cream cheese for lunch. The main entrance hall is in the shape of a Guinness pint glass!  Each floor has a different theme and on one you get to try some Guinness…this was my first try of it and everyone told me Guinness in Dublin is better than anywhere else.  I had a small mouthful and swilled it around before swallowing and yuck, not my thing at all. 

Back on the bus and did a full circuit around the red route. I then jumped off at Kilmainham Gaol (jail), which Tripadvisor currently lists as the number one thing to do.  It was very interesting and the tour guide told us of all the history of the jail and the political prisoners, the executions and the movies filmed there including Name of the Father and Michael Collins, as well as an episode of The Tudors.  I had a very nice fruit scone in their tea room.

I then caught the last tour bus back to stop one to collect my bag. I had an OK Thai meal at the Thai Orchid first. I then went to the Airbnb apartment I was staying at. Tesco was nearby so I stocked up on fruit and yogurt for breakfasts. It was great to have a fridge in the room (and a silent one).

Day 2

Back on the bus and jumped off at the stop before you get to the Park.  I popped to Subway, which was inside a Londis store and bought a sandwich, drink and cookies to have as a picnic in Dublin Zoo. As I am a member of RZSS they have a reciprocal arrangement for free entry, so that saved some money.  I wandered around for about 3 hours I think. The gorillas looked very cold, sad and fed up. The orangutan enclosure wasn’t open which was a shame as I love them. When I hopped back on the bus it was the same driver who’d dropped me off and he commented on how long I had been in there and asked if I enjoyed it.  All the bus guides give you slightly different presentation styles and humour. They are all very friendly and very helpful and so I would definitely recommend them.  Their buses are red and there are two different tour bus firms operating in different colours (green and yellow buses).  I then had a wander around the Temple Bar area and spotted the cinema times. At about 4pm I went back to the apartment for a wee lie down and rest whilst I waited for film time to start.  Dublin has loads of cinemas and the ticket price is really reasonable. I went to The Savoy cinema on O’Connell Street to see Steve Jobs movie.  The popcorn was very salty and they didn’t have a sweet version to mix with it. The seats were really comfortable though and there weren’t endless trailers before the movie.

 

Day 3

Back on the bus and I jumped off at the stop for Christ Church and Dublinia. Dublinia’s ground floor is all about Vikings and their part in creating Dublin and their history, the floor above was about Medieval Dublin, including a scale model of Dublin which is worth staying and watching through the whole electronic talk that lights up various parts of the model when explaining its history. I had late brunch at Copper Street Bistro and then walked down to Dublin Castle for a walk around the grounds.  Next stop was more wandering around and around the centre of Dublin, around Temple Bar, around the shopping areas. When my feet were finally ready to pack up I jumped back on a bus and came to the Collins Barracks (now the National Museumof Ireland) to sit in the warmth of their cafe and chill out with a cup of tea and cake.  It was then time to walk back to pick up my case and catch the bus back to the airport.

I haven’t listed all the meals and snacks I bought here but my Total spend came to £263, but that did include a Christmas present for Allistar which is why I went over budget!  I could have gone with a cheaper room without a private bathroom but I still thought the room was great value.

Guinness Storehouse

Guinness glass

Kilmainham Gaol

Silverback gorilla

Cold gorillas

Baby elephants

Dublinia and Christ Church

Dublin castle

Collins barracks

 

 

Costa Rica Adventure in Costa Rica, Central America – G Adventures

Spot wildlife while cruising through the canals of Tortuguero, search for the elusive quetzal bird, hike through the cloud forest, enjoy the gorgeous beaches of the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, savour a local lunch at a G Adventures- and MIF-supported coffee plantation

Source: Costa Rica Adventure in Costa Rica, Central America – G Adventures

Bolivia Discovery in Bolivia, South America – G Adventures

Explore the winding streets and markets of La Paz, experience the Uyuni Salt Flats and high mountain wilderness by 4×4, discover colonial cities and historic cultures in Bolivia

Source: Bolivia Discovery in Bolivia, South America – G Adventures

Inca Heartland in Peru, South America – G Adventures

Spot condors at Colca Canyon, trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, experience local life at a homestay on Lake Titicaca, explore the world’s highest capital city

Source: Inca Heartland in Peru, South America – G Adventures

South & Central America Adventure Booked

Having thought I would take some time off work to do a few weeks of voluntary service overseas, I got distracted by looking at holidays in South America!

I thought I would do the GAdventures Southern Cross trip from Lima to Rio, but then I couldn’t get excited about the Brazil part of the trip and wanted to go to Costa Rica instead.  After an hour with Alessandro at STA Travel in Victoria, London, we managed to work out that I could do Peru, Bolivia and then Costa Rica. Success!!

So I set off after Christmas for a 46 day trip to Peru, Bolivia and Costa Rica!

On my travels I will be able to tick off a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites (which I should start to keep track of as I’ve seen quite a few already).  I am excited to see Machu Picchu but have been realistic about my physical capability and have booked the train, rather than making the 4 day hike – this has also given me enough time to do the optional Jungle Safari!  I’ll be seeing Lake Titicaca, the Uyuni Salt Flats, volcanoes, hopefully turtles, condors and hopefully lots more.

I need to pack for all seasons as it is rainy (summer) season in Peru, Bolivia is high altitude so can be minus temperatures at night and Costa Rica will be hot and likely humid.

For anyone interested these are the trips that I’ve planned:

Inca Heartland Tour

Bolivia Discovery

Costa Rica Adventure

Photos and my progress will be tracked on this blog (wifi signal dependent!).  There are going to be quite a number of days where there won’t be any signal or indeed electricity!  However, I’ll try to keep it up to date when and where I can.

Top Five Packing Essentials For Any Backpacker

Now that you’ve got your backpack sorted it’s time to figure out what to take. Of course it will vary depending on where you go and how long you will be away but there are a few packing essentials that you’ll always want with you. These are my essentials – they’re all cheap and light […]

Source: Top Five Packing Essentials For Any Backpacker

Four holidays booked!

Despite travelling from Inverness to London every week, I still haven’t lost that urge to travel.  Currently I have four holidays planned, ok so one is a trip down to stay with my folks…but still it lifts my spirits no end having holidays on the horizon.

In September I have booked myself on a yoga retreat in Ibiza.  I have had no end of teasing about me going to Ibiza…not about doing yoga, not about going on my own, instead it is the ‘making shapes on a dance floor, foam parties and getting drunk in the streets jokes’.  I have never been to Ibiza before and to be honest didn’t think I ever would, as I also thought it was just all about drunken people and raves…are they still called raves?  I am looking forward to going and have been trying to do a little yoga every day since I booked it…I don’t want to embarrass myself too much.  I feel I am already walking straighter and feeling more energised. 

In November I am visiting the Wirral to stay with my folks.  I have been planning a reunion for a company I worked for in Liverpool for nearly 9 years.  The venue is booked, deposit paid and 39 confirmed attendees so far.  I will also catch up with my friends from the Wirral, so it should be a great week of reunions.

In December I am off to Bratislava for a long weekend with my best friend Helen.  We will be taking in a visit to Vienna whilst we are there.  We visited Budapest a few years ago and I expect the same sort of chilly temperatures so will be stuffing thermal vests and long johns in my hand luggage.

Finally in June 2016…yes I really have booked a holiday 11 months in advance…Helen and I are off to Michigan.  In 1991-1992 Helen and I were both au pairs in Michigan and next year will be the 25th Anniversary!!!  I looked after  three girls (twin babies Molly and Trish and four year old Erin.).  It will be the twins 25th birthday whilst we are there, so a double 25 year celebration!

No holidays planned with my husband yet, but likely we will rent a cottage in Italy near Florence at some point and maybe a mini break to Islay.  I buy 10 extra days holiday a year, he doesn’t and then he spends 5 of his days on boys trips (usually to Scotland games).  So that gives me 15 days a year to sneak in more trips than him 🙂

Universal Studios Singapore

Well I make it no secret that I love Minions, so a trip to see them at Universal Studios was obviously a top priority for me.  A brilliant day out and a fair bit of money spent on the Express Pass to jump the queues, but there is no way we would have got on all the rides without it.  I also spent a fair bit of money in the Minion shops…no surprise there.

Minions at Universal Studios Singapore

New family members

 

Purple Minion Invasion

 

Brisbane

 
With my husband still sick with a bad case of flu, I decided to still venture out to Brisbane.  My cousin, Robyn, dropped me off at Apollo Wharf ferry terminal and I caught a ferry to the city centre.  Going along the river you can see some amazing houses and with the sun shining and the blue skies, despite it being winter, it makes Brisbane seem a very desirable place to live. But it would be way too hot for me in the summer. 

Brisbane

Brisbane City skyline

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia Zoo

We had seen a programme, back in the UK, about two tiger cubs called Spot and Stripe.  They lived at Australia Zoo so we were keen to include a visit to the zoo in the hope of seeing them.  Unfortunately we didn’t get to see those particular tigers but we did see some of their other tigers who they go into the enclosures with and they treat them like they are house cats.  Stroking them, giving them milk, and you can pay extra to either go on a walk with the tigers or to have a photo taken stroking one.  We didn’t pay the extra money for those experiences, I was nervous enough stroking the kangaroo!!  

Tigers at Australia Zoo

I really enjoyed our day there with my husband, cousin and her family.  The boys were really well behaved, despite it being a long day and we pretty much had got there when it opened and left just before closing. It was during half term but it didn’t feel too busy, it seemed like there was plenty of space and lots to see. We got to stroke a koala bear and kangaroos, so definitely a more hands on experience than I have had at other zoos.

Australia zoo

 

Sydney & Bondi Beach Tour

We decided to do the Hop On/Hop Off bus tour around Sydney, which included a separate bus tour of Bondi Beach.  Each tour takes around 90 minutes, although there isn’t much commentary but it is in quite a few languages. 

Selection of shots taken on the tour bus

I spotted this really cool building which I think is a lovely idea.

Green Building

I am not sure why people rave so much about Bondi Beach, we have seen much nicer beaches around Sydney.

Bondi beach

 

 

Blue Mountains National Park

It was about a 130km drive up to the Blue Mountains to see the three sisters and visit the National Park.  There was a cable car that took us down into the rain forest and we did a walk around the wooden footpaths and then walked down to a waterfall. We then took the scary train back up and Allistar took the other cable car that went across vertically and came back. It was a lot cooler temperatures in this area, but at least it was a sunny day.

Katoomba

Blue Mountains

World’s steepest train?

Me on the train, eyes closed and covered!

 

 

Home and Away Location!

 
We visited Palm Beach area and saw them filming a Home and Away scene!  We walked up the hill/steps and made our way up to the lighthouse. It was a bit of a trek uphill for my unfit legs but I was pleased I made it.  The view was pretty great from the top.

Barrenjoey Lighthouse and Palm Beach

View from Barrenjoey Lighthouse

 

Palm beach

 

Humpback Whale Watching off Manly Coast

Today I learnt that Southern Hemisphere humpback whales tend to have white(ish) sides/undersides, unlike the Northern Hemisphere ones.  I have seen humpbacks in Hawaii and Cape Cod and I never tire of seeing them.  This is the first time we have gone watching and not seen a series of breaches.  There was an adult and juvenile whale that kept coming up beside our boat.  We took a trip from Manly and it wasn’t too choppy.

Whale watching off the Manly coast

 

Australia Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park

I know a blog is supposed to have lots of words but I don’t want to end up with a backlog and a lot of the purpose of this blog is to remind myself what we did and provide a selection of photos for family to see, so here’s a short post about today.

My brother-in-law, Tony, was our expert guide for the day, with me being chauffeur.  Our day at the National Park including some terrible kangaroo photos, hey ho!

Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park

Kangaroos and view to Palm Beach area

 

Australia…our first few days

I am very behind wth my posts because of jet lag and nights out, so here is a brief selection of photos from our various days out.  

We caught the bus to Manly and then hopped on the ferry to Watson’s Bay.  We saw some whales offshore but too brief a glimpse for a photo.  Allistar obviously went for the beer taster at the 4 Pines Brewery pub.

A day trip to Sydney on the bus led us to walk through Sydney Botanical Gardens (which is free!)…

Sydney Botanical Gardens

At the bottom of the hill, when walking through the gardens, you find Sydney Opera House …which is not how I thought it was, it is 3 separate buildings and the tiles are just like bathroom type tiles.  Here is a selection of shots.

Sydney Opera House

And a small selection of photos of Harbour Bridge.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

 

 

 

Dubai Day 2

We were quite late waking up and so headed for breakfast with only 30 mins left before they were due to stop serving.  I was a complete piggy eating 6 pancakes with fruit…or at least I thought I was a piggy until Allistar beat me in that by having two waffles with maple syrup, strawberries, whipped cream with berries and because that wasn’t quite sweet enough he asked for icing sugar as well!! (Photo inserted below in Aquarium montage.)  Our piling on the pounds day just continued all day, ending with a Cold Stone Creamery Love It sized ice cream!  Now lying in bed having had a peppermint tea and still feeling like I may well explode.

Anyway, apart from eating we did manage to squeeze in some tourist stuff.  Firstly we hopped in a cab from the hotel to Dubai Mall.  We headed straight to the At The Top Burj Khalifa and headed up at 12pm.  We hadn’t pre booked for the lower floor (124), so the only choice you have is to buy the VIP ticket which takes you to the higher floor (148) anyway.  

Burj Khalifa

We went back in the evening to see the fountain display and see it lit close up.

After our trip to the top of the Burj Khalifa, we stopped at the food court which is closed off and hidden from the view of Muslims who are fasting for Ramadan.  Then we had a look around the aquarium which was great value we thought.  Especially in comparison to Blue Planet Aquarium that I used to work at.  

Dubai Aquarium

 

Dubai Day 1

We travelled from Glasgow to Dubai overnight, arriving at the Raffles Hotel at about 8am, luckily our Room was ready.  We had a wander around Wafi Mall, a game of glow in the dark mini golf, a snooze back in the room, afternoon tea in the Club Room, a swim in the pool, soup and canapés back in the Club Room, another wander round the Mall, bought a yummy ice cream and then crashed out in the sauna which is our balcony to upload these photos.  We will venture out tomorrow but this was intentionally a lazy day.