Category: Europe

Vilnius – across the old Iron curtain 1

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I grew up during the cold war. when I was 15 “those people” on the other side of the wall would murder us in our beds if they got the chance…

Whatever, but perhaps why I find Eastern European and former Soviet union country’s so interesting.

I’d had a fab time in Tallinn in Estonia, so Vilnius in Lithuania seemed a like next venture.

drinks

I always travel in style.

As we arrived to board our Ryanair plane, I noticed some “revellers” had been forced to make a quick exit and left their drinks behind.

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We arrived in Vilnius, and got a cab to our accommodation.

Interestingly, it was a in a forecourt, with a central door.

The accommodation was superb, but we never got to meet the owner, he just sent us these instructions by text.

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We had en-suit as expected, but also a kitchen and a washing machine (letter 2 were not needed, but nice to have).

Our room was spacious, but for good measure featured this cupboard, brilliantly designed so all our gear could be unpacked and stored and didn’t clutter up the room.

I’m thinking seriously about construction one for my spare room.

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We have a wander around, and some of the places look a bit boring and dull.

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Further along there was this interesting street with Cafe’s and bars.

We found out afterwards that (quite literally) all the businesses on the right hand side thrive and all the ones on the left, struggle and close.

raminita

We’d read about a free tour each day, run in different languages.

It’s a bit daft really (the premise, not the tour). It isn’t actually free, at the end you are asked to make a donation.

Some people gave Raminita (who was knowledgable, charismatic and spoke perfect English) half a Euro !.

We gave her 15 between us. There were a lot of Americans on our tour, and as it was a week before the Royal wedding, the girl in the middle was sporting a “Megan Markle” look.

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The George Bush plaque at city hall.

It was here, that he famously said, anyone who makes an enemy of Lithuania makes an enemy of the United States.

Everyone was really proud, until they found out he visited 3 other countries and said exactly the same thing 🙂

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We got to visit the famous republic of Uzupis.

The main entrance is this small bridge crossing the Vilnia river.

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In reality, Uzupis is a small bohemian neighbourhood.

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Although its not recognised by any country or the UN, it has its own constituation, printed in many languages.

It also has an army of 11 men and you can get your passport stamped there.

Overall, I really like it there. The way the people of the area and come together and really formed a community.

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Before we left Uzupis, I saw this mural.

I don’t completely agree with everything it says about Cannabis, but its certainly food for thought.

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We visit the writers wall, featuring plaques for famous Lithuanian writers.

One in particular is Antanas Skema. He wrote The White Shroud, banned during soviet times, it’s considered Lithuania’s first contemporary novel.

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We arrive at Cathedral square.

Statue of Grand Duke Gediminas.

Born in 1275 he was responsible for the creation of Vilnius as the capital of Lithuania.

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In the background, cathedral tower.

In the middle of the picture, one of the massive rocks, used to block roads so tanks couldn’t pass during the fight for independence.

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The actual cathedral itself is pretty spectacular.

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I decided to wander around inside.

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It’s been rebuilt and extended several times.

So this alcove for example is much older than the main hall.

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But we’ve wandered around now for hours and are in need of some refreshments.

We find this “authentic” place, where all the staff wore medieval costumes and there was a video showing a Knights pageant.

soup

Of the 2 traditional meals I wanted to try, soup served in a bowl made of bread.

The further into the soup you went, the more bread became available.

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We wandered along the Gedimino high street.

There was a festival to celebrate the anniversary of Lithuania joining the European Union.

Just as my countrymen are marching towards Brexit, the daftest thing I think the UK’s ever done.

Interesting to see the contrast.

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On the stage some children were singing. Time to keep walking.

Vilnius – across the old Iron curtain 2

tesla

We chose entertainment of a different kind.

The Tesla Pub, celebrates the life and work of Nikola Tesla, inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist and futurist he invented alternating current.

It had a really cool steam punk theme, some really good beer and an extensive wine selection.

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A more serious cultural site, the Museum of occupation.

Like many other countries, Lithuania was occupied by the Nazi’s, then “liberated” by the Soviets, who decided to stay.

The result, decades of misery for the people who lived there.

This corridor shows rooms where people were imprisoned for political “crimes” like writing poetry.

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This room with a raised glass floor, was the execution room.

Outside, the names of all the people who died there are inscribed on the wall.

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A running video showing Nazi’s at an event in black and white had some interesting background sound.

Then I realised. It was the Darth Vader music from star wars !.

Further along, this exhibit shows the classic weapon of the freedom fighter, the Molotov cocktail.

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A section of the original Wall of Vilnius, built in 1522.

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And a slightly more modern “tidy” version of the wall.

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Early evening and we wander around Kalnai park (an amazing park with miles of hills and forests to explore).

At the top, is the hill of 3 crosses.

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The hill was famous for 7 friars being beheaded there.

The view across Vilnius was pretty spectacular, although this photo (taken badly) doesn’t reflect that.

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Gediminis tower.

The first castle built overlooking the city, and an internation symbol of Lithuania.

Unfortunately, it was closed for repairs, so we had to take this picture from Cathedral square.

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The following day, we decide to head out of town.

Passing through the Gate of dawn, we head for the bus/coach station.

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The bus was cheap and pretty comfortable, to take us to…

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Trakai.

A nice place with lots of countryside and a castle to explore.

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There were loads of places to eat and drink, the place is massively popular with local people from Vilnius.

We decide to have a drink and something to eat. Kibinai is a sort of Lithuanian Cornish pasty.

I’d read about them while researching the trip and it was just as nice as I’d expected.

lake

We wander around the lake. The weather was fantastic throughout the trip.

bridge

There was a half marathon being run and at one point we found ourselves in the middle of this bridge (which connects a number of Island on the lake) with about 100 people running towards us.

We resisted the urge to jump in the water.

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Trakai Island castle.

It’s been built and rebuilt and then modernised.

You can tell by the different ages of the bricks in this picture.

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You have to pay to get in, but its only a few Euros.

Inside this sort of market square, children were being shown how to fight with plastic swords and fire toy bows and arrows.

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Inside, it the typical stately home thing with tables and plates and expensive chairs.

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There are maps and books, many dating back hundreds of years, but some created during soviet times.

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We wander around the moat.

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Exploring inside the old castle, with its spiral staircase.

I even found out that the staircases were designed to run clockwise-downwards.

The reason ?

The average knight is right handed.

The defending knight will be coming down the stairs so his sword will be in the optimum place.

The attacking knight will be travelling up the stairs, his sword will be flush to the wall, making attacks much more difficult.

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Some of the bricks used to build and repair the castle.

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Inside the castle, this spectacular 3 story arrangement with balcony’s and battlements.

With our castle adventure complete, its time to head home.

So Vilnius isn’t really a “see the Eiffel tower” sort of place, it was more about soaking up the atmosphere.

Once again, thanks for reading.

The search for adventure continues.

Iceland – the land of Ice and Fire 1

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Iceland is a country I’d wanted to visit for years.

The main problems I faced were

A, all the people I’d considered going with had already been.

and

B, It’s staggeringly expensive.

I saved up, and Nikki agreed to come along with me, as long as we did a different itinerary to the one she’d done previously.

So off we go.

flight

We flew with Easyjet and I got a chance to update my mind map for the year, and catch up with some Madam Secretary.

bleak

Iceland is the size of the US State of Kentucky. With a population of only 300,000 there are vast areas where nobody lives.

As we get the coach from the airport I can see that there are some houses who’s nearest neighbour is a mile away.

hotel

We arrived at the City Centre Hotel (an original name if ever I’ve heard one).

The Reykjavik locals were very helpful, but finding it wasn’t helped by there being 3 other hotels with similar names.

When I walked into the lobby I thought we’d made a terrible mistake. Despite it being above 8.5 on booking.com, the placed smelled awful…

Basically, all the hot water on the Island, is provided by hot springs. And they smell of sulphur. The hotel itself, was actually spotless, and I needn’t have worried.

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In the morning, we headed towards the harbour.

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Iceland has not had a standing Army since 1869 however, it was an early member of Nato.

Despite not having a Navy, its Coastguard service is heavily militarised as you can see from the ship above.

Walking further around the harbour, there were dozens of boats taking people out to see whales and dolphins.

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Lake Tjornin (which means pond).

In the background if Frikirkjan church and one of many modern (or strange, depending on your point of view) sculptures around the lake.

This one is called “Monument to the unknown bureaucrat”.

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We wander into the tourist information inside at the back of the picture, is this amazing table top map of the entire Island.

While here, we pick up a Reykjavik city card. It’s the cheapest way to see most of the attractions, museums and even an Island (more about that later).

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There are lots of really good walking opportunities in Iceland, but its so spread out and desolate in places that the tourist information can rent you an emergency beacon.

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But after only an hour, its time for coffee again.

A place called Idno, was right out of Agatha Christy.

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The Icelandic punk museum, ironically set up in a disused toilet.

It was originally opened by Jonny Rotten.

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Arnaholl park.

The statue is of Ingolfr Arnarson, considered to be Iceland’s first permanent settler.

The story goes that he threw his 2 high seat wooden pillars into the water and said wherever the pillars wash up, I’ll make my camp.

Two of his slaves spent 3 years looking for them. This lead to the foundation of Reykjavik in 874.

Either that, or the slaves got board and with time on their hands, made 2 pillars 🙂

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Inside the settlement exhibition.

It tells the story of the early settlers and how they lived.

The 10th century hall was excavated in 2001. Its 20m long and 8 metres wide with a 4 meter long fire hearth in the centre.

But its not just the foundations of a thousand year old house.

There are loads of interesting exhibits. In one of them, you could slide a time line and it would show you the various stages of construction.

pan

I stop in the cafe to plan out the rest of my day.

Its at this moment, that you get a taste of how expensive Iceland is.

Since very little is made or produced in Iceland, everything else has to be flown in.

In this case a cheese and ham Panini costs £12 !.

loom

From here, we visit the National Museum of Iceland.

There was lots of stuff about how they came under the rule of the Danish, and the dark times when the Lutheran church (which everyone was made to join) prevailed.

It said simply, it was easy to see if something was banned by the Lutheran church. If it was fun or pleasant, it was almost certainly not allowed and punishable by drowning or hanging.

I saw this very impressive loom which I decided to photograph.

hooks

Iceland depends heavily on its fishing industry.

I could only imagine what they were trying to catch with fish hooks this big.

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I hadn’t realised, that Britain had actually invaded Iceland during the 2nd world war.

It turned out, that the Icelanders were not allies of the Nazi’s, but it was felt best to “protect” the Island.

Various hospital and runways were built and at the end of the war, they were handed over to the Icelandic government.

cutter

Iceland cut all ties with Denmark in 1944.

In 1950 – 1975 they extended their fishing territory by 200 miles.

The “British” would fish in these waters under the protection of gunboats.

The trawl wire cutter featured above, is said to be the only weapon ever invented by Icelanders (it was used to cut the fishing nets of foreign fishing boats).

path

We’ve spent enough time indoors, so it’s time to get out and see the place.

It was cold, but nothing like freezing. We headed out along a coast path from Reykjavik.

You can see from the view why the country is so popular with walkers.

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As we wander along, I get the opportunity to visit Hofdi house.

Whenever I’ve thought of Iceland (and Reykjavik) I’ve always thought of the scene of Regan and Gorbachev standing outside it, before they conducted peace talks in 1986.

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With the town far behind us, we get to wander around the beach.

This isn’t Ibiza, but it was very quiet and peaceful and some of the rock formations were really impressive.

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The Sun voyager sculptor, constructed of stainless steel in 1990.

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We reach our destination, Kollafjourar bay where we’ll get a boat to Vioey Island.

You can see another coastguard boat in the background.

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A lovely trip across the water, was ruined by some loud American girls.

They had come to Iceland for a trip to celebrate passing their exams.

One of them had come back to the accommodation late and been sick on the possessions belonging to another. This had split the party into 2 factions and they spent the entire trip criticising the other group.

But I’m British and sat their politely even thought I desperately wanted to tell them to shut up.

raft

So, I’ distracted myself by reading the instructions for the life raft.

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The Island was even more desolate than the mainland.

We did find a cafe, and the hot chocolate there, was the nicest I’d ever tasted.

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The wind was howling, it was freezing cold and I was glad I had outdoor clothing.

We stop at this Lennon peace monument, built by Yoko Ono.

I’m not a cynic, but I’ve seen all of this sort of stuff, all over the world and its never really worked for me.

In this case, its round, shines a light in the sky and has the word peace, written in 24 languages on it.

Another hour in the freezing cold, and we head back. The annoying girls arrive late and the captain waits for them (even though they knew well when it was leaving).

There had been some “developments”. Texts had been exchanged and “that bitch” needed to apologise properly and pay for the clean up of “my shit” (there were young children on the boat).

hof

But enough Coronation Street – American style, we head back to the hotel to get cleaned up as were going out for the evening.

We have dinner at an amazing place called Hofnin.

Afterwards, a few drinks in a local bar and then were off to bad. Lots to do, the next day.

coach

Were picked up by our coach and head out on our tour.

The thing is, if you talk to most people, the 2 main things they talk about on a trip to Iceland are the Northern lights and the Blue Lagoon.

Interestingly, neither were of any interest to me.

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I’d signed up for the Golden circle tour.

You can see from above, its more diamond than circle, but in just 1 day, you can see some of the most amazing sights of Iceland.

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We stop to get supplies (drinks) at the Hverageroi shopping centre.

In the car park, big vehicles like this are common and we even saw coaches fitted out this way.

kitchen

Hverageroi was hit by an earthquake in 2008.

They have a small exhibition there, including an earthquake simulator which we didn’t have time to experience.

Instead, I took a picture of this kitchen. It was made up to look like a kitchen after an earthquake.

Looked like my kitchen after a Christmas party…

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Our next stop, a small but simple waterfall – Faxi.

A chance to stretch our legs, apparently the area is awash with Salmon.

Iceland – the land of Ice and Fire 2

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The Kerid crater.

An inactive volcano. Our guide explained that Iceland is covered in volcanoes but most of them are flat and under underground, not like the Vesuvius thing we all think off.

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And now the thing I’ve always wanted to see.

The Gullfoss waterfall (which means Golden waterfall).

Even from the car park, the power of this thing is incredible.

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Nearer to it, the roar is incredible.

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I’d read that an attempt was made to use the waterfall to generate energy.

It was decided that this would ruin it, so it was sold to the Icelandic government.

One of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen.

soup

We drive to Haukadalur. Before we get to see the famous Geysers we stop for lunch.

For the 2nd time that day, I get to see something incredible – soup that costs £14 !

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We wander around the Geysers (there are dozens of them, all around).

Because the water is so clear, you can see right inside.

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I can’t imagine why, but some people like to throw coins into the Geysers.

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There are fences all around, so that some idiot can’t get to close and scald himself.

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The biggest one, goes off about every 15 minutes. There were hundreds of people standing next to it with cameras at the ready trying to time the perfect shot.

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And after 16 patient minutes, I’m rewarded with this shot.

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And now back on the coach to our final destination.

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The Thingvellir national park.

We leave the coach and walk in (the coach will re-join us at the car park at the top once were finished.

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The first government of Iceland, was set up in 930.

They would rule and pass judgements from the top of this area that you can see.

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This river is where adulterous women were drowned in Lutheran times.

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We carry on for the main attraction.

The entire area is in a rift valley.

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It marks the place where the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates meet.

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There are sections where you can actually walk inside the fissure.

The main things I wanted to see from the trip, are now complete, and I can relax.

Coach back to Reykjavik and then showers ready for dinner at an incredible venue.

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The food cellar.

A fine dining experience, and one of the most incredible meals I’ve ever eaten (I had steak, Nikki had some sort of vegetarian nonesense)

To illustrate, my “afters”. 4 sorts of of Ice cream made from different forest fruits and it was served on a rectangular piece of ice.

In short, no detail was spared.

piano

Afterwards, we have drinks in the Piano room.

The most expensive meal out I’d ever had but what an amazing evening.

church

The next day, we catch up with a few things.

Hallgrimskirkja church (which I thought looked a bit like a space ship).

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Named after Hallgrimur Petursson a famous poet and clergyman.

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At 75 metres high, the view from the top (which you have to pay for) is pretty amazing.

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All the more so, as there aren’t many tall buildings in Reykjavik for some reason, so you can see the whole city.

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A quick coffee and off we go. We’ve spent lots of time in the city, so its time to see a bit of countryside.

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We wander up Oskjuhlio hill. Its a fresh crisp day, and we see lots of small animals and birds.

I start to realise just how much I’ve grown to love Iceland and how much I’m regretting going home.

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As we wander farther up the hill, we come to a clearing, and see it for the first time. Perlan.

It looks like the lair of a bound villain, but actually its one of the most innovative tourist attractions I’ve ever seen.

perlan

Hot water storage tanks, used for decades were no longer needed.

So a dome was built on top and a series of attractions set up there.

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Incredibly, the worlds first indoor glacier.

Our guide disappeared for a few minutes, then re-appeared in down trousers (and yes, the woman on the screen is actually her).

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She explained it would be -15 centigrade and we should put on any spare clothing 🙂

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I’d seen various tours that would take you out for the day and let you wander through a tunnel in a glassier, but they were all around £250.

She gave a 1 hour tour of the glacier explaining how they are made and fascinatingly, how Tardigrades (known as the water bear) are the only living thing that can survive in a glacier.

After this, we had 40 minutes to wander around on our own.

glac

As we left the ice, there was an exhibition about Glaciers.

To much to write about here, but this one was interesting, it showed a camera, which had captured the growth and shrinkage of a glacier over 15 years.

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Augmented reality displays, including this one where you could point at things and they would react to the line of sight between your eye and your hand.

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But after the deep freeze, its time for some coffee.

The cafe had an amazing view of the city bellow.

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Outside on the observation deck, 360 degree views of the city.

With that, we head home.

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So, what an amazing trip, and so many things packed into just 3 days.

But its not over.

As we wander back, I buy myself a 66 degree’s north hat for hill walking (the brand isn’t well known outside Iceland, but their gear is superb.

My lasting memory of the trip, this singing Viking.

I don’t normally go back to places I’ve already been too, but I’m definitely going back to Iceland to see the rest of it.

Dobbiaco – adventures in the Dolomites

intro

Just came back from an amazing “walking trip” to the Dolomites in Italy.

Unfortunately, I sustained a leg injury, the week before. At one point it looked like my Dr wouldnt let me go, and would insist I stayed at home and rested it.

I’d been planning the trip for 3 years, so I was delighted when I was allowed to go (I knew I couldnt walk more than a few 100 metres, but I’m a resourcefull person and I knew I’d work something out).

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I’d been previously almost 30 years ago. At the time, my main walking trousers were Levi jeans and my Argos tent cost £40.

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Flying from Manchester (and ennoyingly, I’d have to fly back a different way) we arrived in Venice.

After some dinner and a few drinks, we were picked up by our transport and driven to Dobiacho with the rest of our group.

The hotel we stayed in was superb, the staff friend and very efficiency.

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The bar where we spent many of our evenings, had an extensive wine list and a friendly barman from Macedonia.

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The view from our window beckoned…

But alas I couldnt go out walking. After breakfast, the group headed off and Nikki went with them.

I headed into the town to recce the area and find some interesting things to do.

sign

First off, I find this map to some sort of water plant. I’ve got something a bit more exciting in mind.

I look around a bit more (walking very slowly) and then realise, the best way to find out whats going on, maybe the internet.

table

So, back to our hotel room, and this dainty table arrangment, reminiscent of the type of thing in Rhyle caravans when I was a youngster.

A bit of google and a trip to the conveniently located tourest information next door, I’ve got a plan and I’m all set.

A couple of pints and wait for Nikki to come back.

train2

In the morning, we walk to the station and get this train to Lienze, in Austria.

Trains have come a long way since the last time I was here, and the delapedated thing I drove before has been replaced by this sleek electric train that was speacious and comfortable.

river

There wasnt much to see there, appart from the opportunity to soak up the atmosphere of an Austrian mountain town.

Like any mountain river, this one was extremely fast flowing and we did’nt see any canoes on it.

helter

As we wander up the hill, we see this sort of helter skelter thing that you can race down, operating the breaks and steering it yourself.

It’s next to a ski slope, so I guess its there so theres something to do on the hillside, when its summer.

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We arrive at the Bruck castle.

Annoyingly, Monday is when everything closes in this part of the world, so we didnt get to see inside.

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The grounds were very nice, so we went exploring through the forest and around the lake.

pizza

That evening, we have dinner at the Ariston bar and one of the nicest ham and mushroom pizza’s I’ve ever eaten.

train

Next day, were back on the train.

This time were going to a place called Bolzano and we’ve got a specific goal in sight.

market

But first, we wander around the market.

Nikki spots some things she likes and we carry on our way to see…

utzi

… Utzi

A 5000 year old man found frozen in the mountains.

Archealogists have been able to find out all sorts of things by looking at what he ate, what he was wearing and stuff like that.

It’s the most significant find of its kind in history.

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The following day, Nikki goes out walking, and I head off to pursue my own projects.

On this occasion, a bus from the town goes right next to the Tre Cime (or 3 fingers). The jewel in the crown of the Dolomite mountains.

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I still can’t walk very far, but its an easy path and I take it slow, resting frequently.

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Slight problem, is that from my viewing point they look like this.

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If I’d been able to walk another mile I could have taken this picture which captures them much better. Never mind, at least I’ve been there, despite my injury.

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Because I got the first bus, nobody is there. I wait for 45 minutes for someone to come along and take a picture, but in the end I just do this selfie, pointing back down into the valley.

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But its a nice day, so I wander a bit more.

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Looking back across the valley to the hut.

I walk back and get the bus back into the town, feeling quite elated.

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Back in town, the Italian army are on manouvres.

They have a base just next to our hotel, and I get to see this Chinook landing (along with several attack helicopters).

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Following day, and it’s my return to Cortina.

30 years ago, while interailing, the “Dolimtes” were basicaly a trip to Cortina and some walks around there.

We camped in the town and bought Pizza’s for our evening meal, while spending most days out walking.

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I was delighted to find myself on this exact spot from 30 years ago.

My brother and I saw a Ferari. David was elated. I said well Dave, its not that uncomon is it. He asked me to clarify.

I said well, its not like you’ve seen a Harley Davidson parked there.

David replied, do you mean like that one ? and parked next to the Ferari was a Harley Davidson.

None of them were around on this day, but it a moment of pure nostalgia.

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We continued to explore the town and I saw this old bridge.

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Last time we were here, money was really tight, but this time we had a bit more resource and it was possible to get a cable car up to Faloria.

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Spectacular views of the valley and town bellow, and here you can even see some climbers.

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One thing that did facinate me last time, was Cortina was featured in the film For your eyes only.

The ski slope, Tobogan run and various other places all featured in the dramatic Ski-ing scene.

On the top of <name> there was a really interesting nature walk. Along the way, we saw this hut from the Silvester Stalone film Cliffhanger.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, I’m off to Malta in a few hours with another old friend, Nick Barker.

Near and far, the search for adventure continues…

Gran Canaria – adventure at the SportPesa IT conference

OK, so for full transparency:

I normally write about the places I visit, and since this website is called the adventures of an ordinary person, I do it with a personal slant (ie halfway through watching Swan Lake in Moscow, I left and went for a drink in an Irish Bar with an Australian Lawyer that I’d met. That’s what an ordinary person would do).

On this occasion, my amazing employer, organised a series of workshops and meetings called the Island SummIT, a meeting of all the IT teams from around the world, at the Baobab resort in Gran Canaria.

So, I was away working (as you’d expect me to do) but just like me, I found opportunities for adventure here and there and made the most of the oportunity. Therefore, this isn’t really a full article about the Island, rather an example of what you can do on a work trip with a bit of imagination.

Above is a picture of me “sailing”.

It seemed easy. We were flying from Manchester, and flying home to Liverpool.

Outbound, no problem I thought, I’d just get the train from Chester to Manchester Airport.

Big problem. A Virgin train, transporting people from London to Leeds, broke down. So in Llandudno, they were punted onto my train to Manchester and told to change there.

They had massive bags and there were hundreds off them. Result: it was like a bus in the 3rd world. I’m not talking, so busy you couldnt find a seat, I’m talking so busy 3 poeple were standing in a space for 2.

But the hell is over after 90 minutes, I arrive at Manchester Airport and meet up with my collegues (who are also my friends).

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On the flight, I find myself sat next to 2 young people, who could only be described as “love birds”. We make polite conversation, and I listen to Brian Tracy, 21 ways to be more productive, and jot down some ideas in my notebook (and I mean an actual notebook with a pen, not my laptop, which stays in my bag.

We arrive in the hotel, and I can’t believe it. I normaly travel to collect experiences. I stay in the simplest accommodation that will allow me to do this, and try to save money where I can, as the money I’m spending today, could finance the next trip, etc.

But, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to stay in a fabulous resort, and now I’m going to find out.

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The staff are amazing, professional, helpful and nothing is too much trouble.

Once checked in, I make my way to my room and I can’t believe how big this place is.

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It takes me a full 10 minutes to walk from my room to reception, and from one walkway on the 3rd floor, I see one of the hotels SEVEN pools.

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In the morning, I wake up. I have a balcony, and the view isnt amazing.

There’s a basketball court, what looks like a car park and some wastland.

I dont care, I’ve always said, you dont live on the outside of a house, you live on the inside. The room I’m in is massive, has a desk for me to work at, a sofa to relax on and a very comfortable bed.

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Best of all, when I go into the bathroom.

It has a separate bathroom and toilet, and there is even a telephone handset in the toilet.

I’m not interior designer, but I decided to photograph this bath. I’ve put on a bit of weight lately (although I have a plan to fix that in summer) but honestly, I could have fit in that bath 3 times.

But this is no time for indulgence, I’m on the company’s “dime”, keen to represent the UK office in a positive light and just like in my private life, learn as many new things as I can.

island_summIT

Our first morning. After a breakfast that would humble a king, its time to start work.

There are several talks, workshops, meets and greets and the like.

Obviously, we are the fastest growing gaming company in the world, in a competitive market so I can’t discuss a single thing I saw or heard.

But, it was fascinating, I met loads of cool people and it was ace to see how they’d found solutions to some of the same problems we’d been experiencing in the Liverpool office.

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With lunch and the days activities over, everyone heads back to their room to get ready for the evening.

I don’t. I’ve spent hours researching the area and things to do (Time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted, Rommel – The Dessert Fox).

So, I head for the beach and set off walking.

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But I’m not here to sit by the ocean.

Actually this is an area of outstanding natural beauty and I wander around exploring the sand dunes.

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There is a cordoned off area, with a real oasis (La Charca) and some unique bird and animal life to see.

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After 2 hours, I wander into the town. I see this guy, who constructs the Last Supper from Sand each day (I give him a couple of Euro’s, it seems wrong to photograph his work and not reward him somehow).

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Further along, the famous lighthouse. I’m normaly the first critic of beach holidays, but even I have to admit, the view, the air, the sea contribute to what is, an amazing expirience.

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Wandering back to my hotel, this picture shows half its length.

As a Rohan customer, I’ve got a series of adaptable outfits to cater for every evening. A formal shirt, and were off out for a Curry (probably the best one I’ve eaten outside Rusholme).

hackathon

The following day, and its back to the action.

A series of talks by various people from Dubai, Kenya and Bulgaria and one incredible talk about a system called Erlang.

Everything I love about IT.

30 years ago, Ericsson designed a programming language for their phone system. It had to be able to make hundred of thousand of connections. They needed to be reliable and consistent (as theyre phone-calls, if an email is a minute late, fine but phone conversations dont work that way) and it needed to be hyper secure (it could for example be used for a “global” switchboard for the UK NHS phone system, so confidentiality would be a must.

But, voice over IP and various other things happened, it never took off, and was forgotten about.

Incredibly, 30 years later, cutting edge web developers are using it, as all of its qualities are ideally suite to transaction based websites.

So, something written 30 years ago and forgotten is born again.

With the formal part of the meeting over, I wander to reception.

I think the picture captures the scale and grandour of the hotel.

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I decide to wander around the hotel and get a feel for it.

There’s a pretty cool bar near reception and it has this incredible view.

I get a pint of the local beer and relax.

But I can’t relax too much.

The formal part of the meeting will be closed of with a Gala dinner, which I’m really looking forward to (I’ll get to relax and chat to the friends I’ve met in meeting and workshops).

The problem is, despite being loaded with Rohan clothing for every kind of event, I’ve no formal evening wear.

So I improvise. The excellent Meg at work, who is a keen Everton fan, helped me to purchase a football shirt. I hope it will work for the evening (well, it has SportPesa printed on the front of it, so lets see what happens).

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We have drinks in the VIP area, and a few people start asking about my top.

Forced to do what I always do in situations like this (and honestly, the only thing I can do) I tell the truth.

I explain:

I have no interest in football whatsoever and I’m not an Everton fan (although I’m sure theyre a fab club)

My heroes are mountaineers like Chris Bonington and Doug Scott.

But…  I work for SportPesa. We work at the top 1% of the technology industry, and the people I work with are amazing.

So, I wear my football shirt because I’m proud to wear the SportPesa logo.

The dinner and meal are fantastic. I got to bed about 2am, and I’m exausted.

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In the morning, I’m up and off exploring the Dunes again.

The company have arranged “a water based event” but the details are limited.

A bus takes us to the coast then I see it.

They have hired this incredible Catamaran (I’ve never sailed in one before so its amazing).

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But this isnt just “sailing” we have our own DJ and a free bar.

In the same way that I’ve built shelters and slept out in the woods to see what is like…

It’s amazing to be on a Catamaran, relaxing with a G&T, living like Rock star or premier league player, just to see what thats like.

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We sailed out to meet some other boats and there was the option to go Paragliding or Jetski-ing.

I did’t do either, I just relaxed on the boat. I can only remember a handful of times in my life that I’ve felt so relaxed.

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The slight low point, is when we pull into port and the food is served.

Its paella and seafood which I dont like.

I’m so relaxed, I hardly care.

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The DJ starts banging out gangster rap.

Not to everyone’s taste, but I personally love that stuff. The dance-floor is full (dance-floor, on a boat).

Our trip nearly over, were heading out to sea, to watch the sunset.

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What an amazing end to a perfect day.

Bus takes us home, a few drinks at the hotels panoramic bar, then its off to bed. Completely shattered.

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The next day is free.

I have a lie in until 8am. As I wander towards breakfast I see that there are some turtles.

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I wander into town, and see the main Casino in the area is called Chester – the name of the city I live in 🙂

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I pickup the mountain bike I’d arranged to hire from Free Motion.

Extremely professional, I get this amazing hybrid bike for just 21 Euros for the whole day.

They even give me a recommended list of places to visit and a map (and comment that they have shops in every town, so if I dont want to cycle back, just leave the bike in one of the other shops and get the bus home).

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Baking hot day, but the freedom and simple pleasure of riding a bike.

I peddle in one direction to an oil refinery and then head back and ride to Play del Ingles.

I’m glad I did.

When I told some friends I was heading to Gran Canaria, they’d warned me some part of it were like Blackpool.

I’d dismissed that (after all, the place we were staying was like acapulco).

When I got there, there were bins with vomit in them, gangs of what I can only describe as hooligans, and when I locked my bike up and went in a german bar, they would let me in, as “your English, you wont enjoy it”.

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On the way back, I saw adverts for disbled carts, which were everywhere. At least someone was having fun there.

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So, back to Meloneras. I lock up my bike and go for a walk along the front.

I dont recall the name of this hotel, but everyone of the rooms on the front had its own personal pool.

I don’t know when at the moment, but one day, I’m going to stay there.

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Cycling up and down, a friendly Italian couple offer to take a picture of me.

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Exhausted, I had back home. A minibus is coming to pick me up the next morning at 4am, so I need to make it an early night.

I get a couple of drinks around the pool with some of the lads and as I sit there, I realise just how lucky I am to have experienced this amazing week.

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But, I’m a simple man.

For my last meal, I’ve found a chinese restaurant.

I go over on my own at 7pm. Because I’m early, I’m the only customer and I have spring rolls, beef and mushroom and some delicious red wine.

I wander back in a really good mood. Perhaps I should have more trips away, that aren’t projects and where I just relax and unwind 🙂

Seeking adventure in Andalucia

Me standing in front of the bridge at Ronda

After receiving a brochure from Inntravel, I’d been reading about adventure holidays in Andalucia Spain.

Then I realised Nikki’s sister and brother in law have just bought a new house there which they’re doing up.

So, a chance to catch up with family, see their new house and find some adventure.

The Rock of Gibraltar

Lyn and Vic work out of Gibraltar, so we flew there, and I was delighted to see the rock once again.

Having lunch in La Linea

We cross the border into Spain and have lunch at La Linea.

It’s late October and the difference in weather from Chester is obvious. Warm with lots of sunshine.

Driving on the motorway with the roof down

From here, we jump in the car and drive to Algodonales where Lyn and Vic live.

I dont think I’ve ever driven on a motorway, with the roof down, so this was a first for me.

Outside Lyn and Vic's house in the Andalucian mountains

We arrive at their house, which is high in the mountains.

They also own a camper van (I hope to own one one day and explore the UK and Europe, once I’ve retired – see what happens).

View throug living room showing mountains and a reservoir

Inside the house, there are spectacular views of the hill side and the Zahara El Gastor, a reservoir where water sports are popular.

Its late afternoon by now, so we spend the evening having a barbecue on the balcony and I get to see Saturn through a telescope.

Pa Yoyo cafe and cheese shop

In the morning, were heading out for adventure, but first stop off for some essential supplies.

Tasting different sheep and goat's cheese inside the shop

In the UK, we normally have sandwiches when we go out walking, but for this trip, its been decided that well have picnics.

We stop at the excellent Payoyo cheese shop and purchase some sheep and goats cheese (which I’d never tasted before).

Overlooking the town of Grazalema

We arrive at the town of Grazalema. One of the famous white villages of the area.

It’s a sort of Chamonix of the Grazalema national park and the first point on the days mountain walk.

Map of the Grazalema national park

As you’d imagine, in a country the size of Spain, the national park is proportionally massive compared to the UK.

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But before we head into the mountains, we have a stop for coffee.

Walking in mountains with perfect weather

This mornings amazing walk, is only about 4 miles, but starting off high, has spectacular views and scenery.

Mountain view, down through a forest

The highest point on the trail, looking back.

View down a valley

After we reach the top, we loop back around and get this view down the Puerto del Boyar.

One of Andalucia's white villages

With our first walk complete, its time to relax (it is a holiday after all !).

Andalucia is famous for its white villages and we were delighted to visit our 2nd one of the day, Zahara de la Sierra.

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Not only that, but when we arrived, there was a medieval festival taking place.

The whole town had been transported back in time to 1483 to celebrate the Moros Y Christianos (the reconquest of the Kingdom of Granada by Castilla.

I like to be festive, so couldn’t resist joining in (when I say joining in, I dont mean costumes or any of that rubbish, I found a table and had a drink).

Map of the Via Verdi bike trails

After breakfast on our 2nd day, It’s been decided that we’ll rent some mountain bikes and do a section of the Via Verde trail.

There are over 6000 km of trails in Spain. Originally planned as a railway that would link even the smallest village, it ground to a halt during the civil war.

But the actual route’s are mostly complete and with tunnels and viaducts make superb cycling trails.

A car parked over 2 spaces

I read once, that a patriot is someone who loves his country, and a nationalist is someone who hates everyone else’s!.

I’m neither, though I do sensibly recognise differences between European nationality like Germans who are organised etc.

I’d been told that “Spanish parking” was among the worst in the world. I can’t comment on that, but the picture above says a lot.

Holiday bicycles

We arrived to pick up our bikes.

The bikes were modern, in excellent condition and they had a full workshop to effect any repairs.

Other thing I noticed was the 4wheel bicycle “things” of the kind I’d not seen since a family holiday in Rhyl when I was 10!.

A cycling trail

We were issued with bikes, a simple map (pictured above) and to my surprise, no helmets.

I asked about tools and spare inner-tubes. They explained that the trail is fairly flat and interspersed with roads. If we have a puncture, just call them from our mobiles and they’d send someone to help.

Thankfully, not needed the whole day.

We set off and the scenery and weather, quite the nicest I’ve ever cycled in.

One of the long tunnels on the trail

The route has lots of tunnels. Quite exciting and reminiscent of the Monsal trail.

Having a picnic on the trail

There were a few cafe’s and nature exhibitions along the way. I stopped a few times, as the heat was baking hot (but that didn’t take away from the fun)

After a few hours, we stop for our picnic. A civilised affair, with red wine.

Me on a bike with wearing cycling gear

As well as tunnels, the route features some viaducts and I was able to stop and get this picture.

I was glad I took my specialist cycling clothes. It was baking hot and jeans and suchlike would have had me heading for home within an hour.

The days cycling complete, we head for home (we gave the bikes back, obviously 🙂

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On the third day, an injection of culture is needed, so we head to an amazing place called Ronda.

A very popular tourist attraction, the bridge is an iconic symbol of the area.

Originally founded in the 6th century, Ronda has a population of 35000.

Spectacular bridge in Ronda

I’m neither geologist nor architect, but basically, Ronda was a town split between 2 sides of the El Tajo Gorge.

To make day to day living even viable, they built the spectacular Puente Nuevo bridge.

Bridges and walkways leading down to the lower levels of Ronda

We wander around the old town. It really was a fantastic place and due to its hight, had multiple levels.

Having lunch outside in a busy street

After lots of exploring, we decide to stop and have lunch.

Ronda's ancient Arab baths

Although the town was packed with tourists, there were a few places where you could find peace and quiet.

The Arab baths were such a place, and had a fascinating video explaining the many rooms in the baths and what they were used for.

Ronda also features a bull fighting ring – we didn’t care to visit.

Steps leading down

Casa del rey moro was fascinating.

It had a nice garden with Peacocks, but a walkway that led down to the bottom of the Gorge.

Dark wall with light showing through openings

Further down the steps, this room with amazing lighting effects.

Bottom of the steps on the waters edge with some other tourists

And at the bottom, the place where people could collect water or catch a boat somewhere.

Some houses and shops underneath a rocky overhang

We leave Ronda and drive to a place called Setenil.

Faced with a similar problem to the people of Ronda, the people of Setenil chose an alternative and simply built their town inside the Gorge.

Some houses on each side with a rock "roof"

We walked around the town and had coffee.

This was my favourite spot. Houses had literally been built around the rocks.

We head home and in the evening have dinner in Agodonales.

The Vinyard at Chinchilla wine

Day 5 of our trip, and in the morning we visit a local Bodega.

Chinchilla wine’s had been widely recommended so we decided to go along.

The owner of Chinchilla wine giving a talk on wine production

They showed us the vineyard, how the wine was made and then a wine tasting session with some Tapas.

We met an interesting chap from Finland. A wine importer, he’d brought his family along for a holiday.

A long, windy road heading high into the mountains

In the afternoon, we head for Sera de la Lijar.

You can see from the roads we drove on just how high up it was.

Paragliders launching from high in the mountains

The top of Siera de la Lijar is popular with Paragliders.

View showing hills and a lake from high in the mountains

Lyn had worked out a route for us to walk.

It was late afternoon and I was feeling a bit tired so I just sat and enjoyed the view.

Train stopped at Ronda

Our last day, and its sadly time to head home (but adventure can be added to any scenario).

A train runs from Ronda back to La Linea near Gibraltar.

Inside a Spanish train

It’s a 2 hour journey. There’s a monitor showing the progress of the train, and very comfortable seats.

A storks nest on top of a telegraph pole

The telephone lines running next to the trainline have become a home for local storks.

Back at La Linea, were picked up by Lyn and head across the border to Gibraltar.

Enormous floating hotel and small yellow "dolphin" boat

Back in Gibraltar I get a look at the famous (or infamous to the locals) Sunborn hotel and Casino.

Next to it, something I intend to do next time I’m there. The Dolphin boat, where you can go out and see Dolphins.

Inside Bianca's having drinks and dinner

I saw most of Gibraltar, last time I was here, on a superbly organised tour by Lyn.

On that occasion, eccentric thing I wanted to do was a have a drink in the famous Bianca’s, a sort of expat Mecca.

But it was closed for refurbishment.

This time, it was open, and we were able to relax and meet some of the people who’ve made Gibraltar their home.

Overall, a fantastic trip and I hope this provides inspiration for anyone thinking of going there. And special thanks to Lyn and Vic for providing accommodation and acting as tour guides.

Cyprus 1.

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It was Christmas time again, and I’d decided that Cyprus looked like an ace destination.

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I’d been to Cyprus earlier that year with Dan and Glenn.

With the pressure on at work, I hadn’t properly planned the trip properly.

We’d gone for 2 and a half days, it takes 4 hours to fly there. I worked out the UK/Cyprus time wrong so got everyone off too the beach at 5am, the list goes on.

Despite this, we still had a pretty good time and I saw enough on that trip to know I’d return to Cyprus.

achilleos-city-hotel

This time I was a bit more organised.

We arrived at Larnaca airport and collected our rental car (we had accommodation booked at the 5 places we’d be visiting through the 8 days that we were there).

The flight was fairly late so we went straight to our hotel, got cleaned up and head straight out for the evening.

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It was a Saturday night and there was a really good vibe.

We had dinner outside listening to a live band and had an amazing evening.

larnaca beach

In the morning we wake up full of life, and as the sun is shining, we go for a walk on the beach.

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We briefly visit St Lazarus church.

car

We return to the car park to collect our rental car and head for our next destination, the capital Nicosia.

Money can be hard to come by in Cyprus, so they have even resorted to using cats as a replacement for security guards.

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We arrive in Nicosia.

The capital is packed. We end up driving around in circles for ages to find somewhere to park.

We reach an area with loads of empty bays. I take this picture of the sign and we walk a mile back to our hotel.

I show it to the girl in reception and ask her what it says ?.

She smiles and explains that the sign says “coaches only”. We leave our bags, go back to the car and spend another half hour finding a parking spot.

nic_Street

In the middle of the day, the city was pretty quiet, but after lunch it was heaving (but then it would be, it was the last Saturday before Christmas !).

With no clear itinerary for the afternoon/evening we just wander around, relax and have something nice to eat and drink.

nat_struggle_mus

The next day we have breakfast at a streetside cafe and then go out exploring.

Its the day before Christmas eve. As we enter The national struggle museum, the staff there seem startled and delighted that someone has come to see it.

Moreover, since most of artefacts and information are about horrible acts committed by the British and how they were killed by the Cypriots, they seem surprised we’re so interested.

Although we were the only people there, the stuff inside was fascinating and we spent a full 2 hours looking around and reading the articles.

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Wandering into town, we pass the Liberty monument.

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One of the Venetian walls around Nicosia town centre.

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In 1974 the Turkish invaded Cyprus and annexed 8% of the country. The border  runs for 180 kilometres right across Cyprus.

The Green line (as the border is known) runs right through Nicosia and splits it into North and South.

A visit to the North was one of the things I really wanted to do. Nikki cautioned that it was occupied territory and there were ethical issues to be considered.

After a brief discussion, we decide that an hour spent there and a cup of coffee is ok considering its Europe’s last divided city.

We present our passports and are invited in with a smile.

turk_side

Once in the northern part of Nicosia, everything is much cheaper.

The main problem the authorities have, is nock off sportswear (which was everywhere).

We had a look around, but as so often happens in situations like this, there wasn’t that much to see.

This compound was the most interesting thing we could find, we had coffee and returned to the Green line.

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Following day, its Christmas eve and were back in our rented car heading for the Troodos mountains.

It was fantastic to be really warm, yet there was loads of snow on the ground.

trood_hotel

When Nikki and I arrived, they were very welcoming, but they looked at us a bit strange.

Later I realised why. Everyone else staying at the hotel was there with children, parents and grandparents.

They had very friendly staff and a nice bar. My kind of Christmas eve.

trood_hot_snow

In the morning, all the staff were dressed as Father Christmas and children were opening presents and stuff like that.

We had our walking boots on and we were off to spend Christmas day on the hill doing the Artemis trail.

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Trekking through a snow covered forest.

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We could see from the snow drifts, we were the first people to walk here since the last snow.

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This incredible view from the top of one of the hills.

We got back in time for Christmas dinner and a few drinks.

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The following day we tried to walk up Mount Olympus.

Unfortunately, the very top is a Radar station, so we couldn’t “bag” the peak (the golfball thing you can see at the top of this picture is the Radar dome).

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As we leave the Troodos mountains, we stop at Kykkos monastery for lunch.

It looked like some UN staff had taken a day off to visit the monastery as well.

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From the outside, the Monastery is in a familiar format.

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Inside, the monastery has amazing paintings.

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We continue along, flanked by cedar trees.

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Some other people have the same idea as us, as we park up the car and go for a walk in the Paphos forest.

Cyprus 2.

mariela

Our next destination is Polis and I stayed at the Mariela hotel as I had previously with Dan and Glenn.

polis_beach

As we check in, the owner recognises me as a previous guest. Put our bags in our room and head for the beach.

It was quite melancholy to see the beach which had been in blazing sunshine the last time I’d seen it be overcast.

polis_bar

Worse the friendly bar where we all had beers at 9am in the morning was closed.

donkey

We spend another afternoon and evening relaxing around Polis (and its important to do that, or you can come back from a holiday more tired then when you went away 🙂

Polis is right near the Akamas peninsula which has some spectacular walking that I’m really looking forward to.

The next day, we drive out and at the car park, I see this donkey. I remember that during the war for independence, the Donkey was the symbol of the resistance (and now the symbol of Cyprus itself).

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We set off on the Aphrodite trail.

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Rocky shrubland underfoot, but the weather is nice and bright, yet cool enough for a hard day of walking.

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We cover about 12 miles, passing through thorny forests like this one and we later meet up with a Russian walker out with his family who we help with directions.

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As the route goes higher, we get this view back to Polis. The route is said to follow the path taken by Aphrodite and and Adonis.

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The route is circular, but this iconic shot is taken at the “top” of the route.

The view there was one of the very best I think I’ve seen on a coastal walk.

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As we head back down, we see this mountain goat.

I know how well they can climb, but I’ve honestly no idea how it got up there.

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The walk begins/ends at the Baths of Aphrodite.

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The place where the epitome of beauty would bath, wasn’t very inspiring to my eyes.

paph_coast

After a good nights sleep, we head for our final destination Paphos.

The harbour was pretty quiet and we had a cup of tea and a look around.

fort

We had a walk around inside Paphos castle on the waterfront.

It was rebuilt in the 1300’s.

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Inspired by the castle and with not much going on in the town (turns out the beach is actually a bus ride up the coast) we decide to explore some of the older sites in Paphos.

Paphos archaeological park covered a massive area and had loads of interesting things to see.

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Paphos Mosaics was located on the site and showed how they had recovered and restored many of the Mosaics there.

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Obviously, the Mosaics were stored indoors.

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Further around, and amphitheatre (which I’ve always loved) and a lighthouse in the background.

closed

In the evening, town is pretty dead.

We walk around for an hour, until we find a really nice Italian, that’s full of locals.

or1

Next day we decide to drive out to the beach.

On the way we stop off at the Tomb of the Kings.

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I always like exploring under ground and I was in my element (although annoyingly, I’d forgotten my headtorch).

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A peaceful spot where I sit down and contemplate life (and disappointingly realise that I’m going home very shortly).

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We arrive at the beach.

It’s interesting, as there seems to be a series of large resorts, which are all closed.

So much so after walking along the beach for 2 hours, there was literally now where to get a drink.

We headed inland and found a sort of Cowboy themed bar, where I had a steak and a couple of beers.

cyp_mw

Another quiet night, and then were off back to Larnaca for the final evening of our trip.

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On the way, we stop off at an enormous ancient site, called Kourion.

Much of the area was covered, which worked out well, as shortly after we arrived, the heavens opened.

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We’d seen a lot of archaelogical stuff in the previous days, so were feeling a bit “party’d” out.

Just at the right moment, another amphitheatre.

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Its lunchtime by now, and I actually convince Nikki to have lunch at Macdonalds.

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Our next stop is Aphrodite’s rock, where she is said to have been born.

A strange sort of arrangement, as you turn off the main coastal road see to drive in the wrong direction towards a car park.

There are cafes and souvenir shops here. I wander around, I find there is a tunnel that leads down and underneath the road.

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The view above, on the left, showing the “doorway” that lead from the car park to the beach.

Apparently, this was created as lots of unnecessary accidents had occurred with people crossing the road on foot.

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Aphrodite’s rock on the right.

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And with that, the trip ends as it began.

Back in Larnaca, we check back into our hotel and head out for the evening.

An early flight will be taking us back to the UK in the morning.

But for now I’m enjoying life’s simple pleasures, good company, cold beer and an amazing travel destination.

Malta & Gozo 1.

intro

We quite like to go away at Christmas, and this time we decided to visit Malta and Gozo.

Above I’m pictured in front of the Azure window as featured in Game of Thrones.

julie

A few (quite a few) years ago, me and my friends decided to go on holiday together.

Opinion was divided amongst the group. Some of us wanted a “summer holiday”, others wanted to visit the Alps (you can probably guess which camp I was in).

As it was Julie, Mac and Caz went to Malta and had a really good time, while Lee and I went to the Alps and went Interailing around Europe.

I remember hearing all about Malta and always wondered what it was like. Now I was going to find out.

rain_breakfast

We’d be spending 8 days over Christmas touring the Island with short stop off’s and 2 night breaks.

We fly into Malta international airport. The only airport in fact, since the Island is actually 16 miles long.

We get a taxi to our first destination Marsaxlokk, A traditional fishing village with 3.5 thousand inhabitants.

It was late in the evening, so we found somewhere local for dinner then had drinks in a few bars before retiring to bed.

In the morning, our hotel had a rooftop bar where we had breakfast (which luckily had a roof, as the weather was terrible).

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So, not a perfect start to our trip, but as usual we’ve got a contingency.

Travelling via the capital Valletta we head for a fortified medieval city called Mdina.

We used the bus service extensively throughout out trip and found it to be very comfortable and reliable.

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And Mdina certainly was fortified, it had the massive walls all around it.

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It was an interesting place to visit and an ideal “rain” destination.

Which was good, as the rain was getting worse.

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Inside the walls, a small bar where we shelter from the rain.

Very atmospheric and the wine and beer were really nice. We spent about 2 hours in here, as we’d seen everything by now and it was tipping down outside.

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We wander back through the alleyways and head home.

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Back at Marsaxlokk to get cleaned up, then were out for the evening.

La Nostra Padrona is recommended by our hotel and my steak was delicious.

One thing to note about Malta, is that most meals come with a sort of pre-starter, and if you dont know this and your hungry, you order a pretty big starter and then can’t finish your main.

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In the morning we go out for a walk before breakfast, and the weather has changed completely.

Marsaxlokk is known for its special kind of boats which are painted in local colours and a bit “boxy”.

We wander further to see the Parish church before heading back for our breakfast.

With a walking trip planned later that morning I eat plenty as I’ll need the calories.

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We wander along the coast then head inland along a farm track.

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Short while afterwards, we cross the island and wander along a coastal path.

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And then we reach St Peter’s Pool.

A lovely quiet cove where we enjoyed the sunshine and had a swim.

There seemed to be a sort of abandoned hotel here.

Its a shame, as it would have made a superb destination for weekend breaks (and would have allowed us to buy some cold drinks).

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With cold drinks on our mind, we wander back to the village and relax by the ocean.The waterside cafe in Marsaxlokk.

gozoferry

With our 2 days complete, were off to our next destination Xlendi, on Malta’s sister Island, Gozo.

Gozo can only be reached by ferry, so we get another bus to Cirkewwa.

The journey is quite short (30 mins).

We got some drinks and while Nikki looked out at the Mediterranean ocean, I wandered around the shop (they had an extensive selection of English books and magazines).

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Between Malta and Gozo is an Island called Camino which features a beautiful swimming spot called the Blue Lagoon.

I’d wanted to see it, but its only 500m across and only has 1 hotel which was closed. With no resources on the Island, the ferry’s weren’t sailing there.

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We get a tax to Xlendi and check into the Hotel San Andrea.

The view of the bay from our balcony window is one of my favourite memories of the trip.

Since its late afternoon, we wander around the town and explore (I find a nice pub and Nikki a respectable Italian restaurant).

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In the evening, we out out at Zafiro and I try the local Risotto.

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We’ve earmarked two incredible coastal walks while on Gozo, so the next morning its an early breakfast and out.

The road’s out of town have these amazing countryside valleys in between them.

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We head up a farm track and I pause for this picture.

A discussion about whether a path is privately owned, puts us off balance.

After another discussion and reviewing the “picture” which the tourist board describes as a map, we find an alternative route and were re back on track.

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We stop at this pool which has all sorts of wildlife and birds.

It’s also a nice spot to stop for some rest and a drink.

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We reach the Dwejra bay and are rewarded with these amazing pictures.

The Fungus rock above is home to many unique plants and animals and although people dive and fish around here, they aren’t allowed on the rock.

It takes its name from the Fungus Cynomorium coccineum which the Knights discovered had medicinal properties.

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Continuing along the sandy coastal path.

Five different species of Gekko live here, of which 2 are unique in the entire world.

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There are many forts on the coast. Dwejfra fort was built in the 1700’s and later used by the coastguard.

Its been restored to superb condition and had a museum inside with a historical video.

You could also go onto the top battlement.

Anther half mile and we reach the thing we really wanted to see. The Azure window.

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That’s me standing on top of it, to give some idea of its size.

Its not recommended to stand on top, but it was a once in a lifetime thing. Nikki took this picture from the cost.

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This is a close up off me.

As you can see, there are cracks forming in the rock. Although I felt safe, if I’d walked 3 feet forward I would have been in the water !.

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There were some souvenir shops, but we got the bus to the capital of Gozo, Victoria and did some sight seeing.

At one point, we were in a bar, and someone who worked there, and bought an Angel to go on top of his tree.

He had dropped it, and it didn’t light up. I used my headtorch for additional lighting and with my penknife started fixing it.

And after all the buildup, I coulnt fix it. Instead, we gave him a tip of the price of the Angel so all was well.

Some nice Tappa’s for dinner, and then bus back to Xlendi.

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A different route this morning, heading out of the bay.

Looking back, we could see our hotel.

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Starting off at a lower level, it follows the coast.

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After a while, it heads inland across rough tracks, and we see some people out on mountain bikes.

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The walk PDF’s we got off the internet were enthusiastically written, but not recently researched.

The walk along the cliff edge (yes, its about 4 feet away from a 350 foot drop) come to an end as someone has built a wall.

We circumnavigate and rejoin the path.

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Back next to the ocean, the surroundings have changed once again.

We continue, heading for the port town of Mgarr.

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Just outside town we arrive at Fort Chambray.

This place was amazing, an old fort on the outside, had been converted into modern flats and apartments on the inside.

I would have loved to live there.

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Just before we reach Mgarr harbour, we get this view of Camino island.