Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A-Z Challenge T is for.......


So in my 30 something years I have been incredibly lucky to have travelled a fair bit. I have never been abroad with my parents instead all of our holidays were UK based, sometimes holidays were a tent less than 30 miles away from home up in the Dales but the bonus is I have seen the country I live in and the UK can be proud of its heritage, it boasts some beautiful places - Cornwall, Devon, the New Forest, the Peak District and the list goes on.
My first adventure abroad was at 13 with school when we caught the ferry to Bologna, France and spent 1 night in a hotel by the port!

My first time flying was at 14 to France again on the school French exchange to a town near Lake Annecy. Within 2 days of being there the girl I was exchanging with told me she didn't like me and just wanted a trip to England. I didn't have a very happy time there but did get to go into the Alps skiing and fell in love with Chamonix - the wooden cabins, the glacier, the mountains, it looked spectacular.
Canada and America
Next trip was a school band tour to America and Canada where we stayed in Salem, Ohio for 1 week with families. It was a tiny Quaker town but I have never experienced a welcome like it. I felt like I was family and am still in touch with them today. They really did love the British, everywhere we went people wanted to know more about us. I was on awe of the Malls and got my first taste and life long addiction to Jelly Belly's.

From Ohio we crossed Lake Eire, saw Niagara falls (image from Google) and went on The Maid of the Mist under them. The falls are well worth seeing, it was also October so we were treated to the beautiful colours of fall as well, only adding to the beauty of the falls. The town was too touristy for me, even at the age of 16, no doubt a product of my UK holidays as a child which always avoided the touristy places. We then spent a week in Ontario (image from Google). Another place I would recommend is Lake Ontario - again beautiful and climbing the CN Tower. I have cousins in Ontario do got to see them and an elderly great Aunt and Uncle. I would dearly love to return to Canada and see more of it.
Following this at 19, I spent 6 months in Israel on a kibbutz by the sea of Galilee. I love Israel. I could of lived there and have very, very happy memories. A kibbutz is like an escape from reality, working the land, growing avocados, citrus fruit, watermelons, driving tractors and picking bananas was an ideal job for me. While there I travelled and got well and truly bitten by the bug. I slept on roof tops in Jerusalem (image Google), climbed Mount Olives, left a prayer in the wailing wall, saw the horrors of the holocaust, met amazing people, lazed on the beach in Tel Aviv, swam in the sea of Galilee and floated in the dead sea. I spent 2 weeks trekking over the Negev desert with camels and a Bedouin tribe, sleeping under the stars and in their tents. I climbed Masada and saw sun rise. In Eilat I snorkeled and saw corals like I'd never seen before in the Red Sea. I slept on the beach and was woken by local soldiers pointing riffles at us telling us to move on.

From here I crossed the border with 3 people I had met on the trek, spent 12 very long hot hours in a taxi with the Beatles blaring out. We saw Cairo, countless number of Mosques, the British museum with Tutankhamen's exhibit there. We galloped on horse back round the pyramids and were invited into the tour guides home to use his families toilet which turned out to be a grate in the middle of the one room, with the family sat round it on their rolled up bedding. We hired a Felucca and spent 3 days sailing from Cairo to Luxor down the Nile. On one side we would pass expensive cruise ships, turn your head the other way and you saw farmers cooling their cattle, girls collecting water and women washing clothes.

Luxor was beautiful. It was totally unspoilt. I believe it is now quite commercialised. We toured the Valley of the Queens and the Valley of the Kings. We saw temple upon temple but never bored. Onwards we went to Aswan and then back to Cairo. We spent our last week in a place called Dahab in the shadow of Mount Sinai. Here we met someone with a boat who took us out diving to shama sheikh, caught fish and BBQ'd them on board and provided all the drinks we wanted. All we did was get the alcohol with their money using our passports. In hind sight we could of been taken off to be sold but at 19 it's one big adventure. I then hitch hiked back to Tel Aviv and back to my kibbutz. I only returned home as my visa ran out!

Central America
The following summer I set off to Central America during my first year of Uni holidays with someone I barely knew. Landing in Mexico we took in the sights of the east coast working our way to the Guatemalan border, saw the pyramids of the sun and the moon, Acapulco (horrid place), remote travellers beaches off the beaten track renting hammocks on the beach or beach huts, loads of temples and ruins again never boring. One place I loved was called Oaxaca (pronounced Who-hacka) with their cafes on the streets and small traditional bands to serenade you. The markets were amazing, the people friendly. My eyes were open to true poverty with street children and lepers begging on the street. We climbed mountains to remote villages and attractions and lazed on some idyllic beaches. Another favourite place was an untouched island off the West coast of Mexico, near Cancun called Isla Mujeres which was out of this world, and here I will insert a photo. I have never been on beaches like it, you could wade out in the clearest sea I have ever been in for about a mile. There were no hotels, we rented hammocks on the beach to sleep in, there was only a basic town and the small market. I believe now it has sadly become a much more popular tourist destination.

Another country I have fallen in love with. It is breathtaking. The first place we ended up was Chichicastenango, if the name is not enough to fall in love with the markets were.

We then stayed in the old capital of Guatemala - Antigua which again is beautiful and we discovered the best chocolate cake shop in the world while there. There is still an active volcano near Antigua which we could see smoking. One night in a bar we met a Guatemalan girl - their culture is so different, you are either very poor or very rich there is no inbetween. You go from rich marble floored buildings to shacks in a mere few metres. This girl was from the rich camp and had spent her summer travelling Europe. She invited us to her home (with marble floors, 6 cars and an indoor pool) and we stayed there for a night with her family.
Honduras was horrid, I didn't enjoy it there that much, we felt very vulnerable but did the tourist attractions and the ruins and temples but didn't stay as long as planned.
Our plan was then to go up through Belize back into Mexico and do the West coast up to Cancun. However, half way from Honduras to Belize the bus driver turned round as the bus in front had been stopped by Gorillas and it was too dangerous. Our desire to see Belize was not strong enough to risk life and limb so we happily went back to Guatemala!.
Travelling for me then was holidays which included:
Rhodes - this was the first holiday I took staying in a proper hotel with my now hubby. I would love to back to Greece.
We took in the sights of Tunisia in 1997 on a 2 week all inclusive deal which we got last minute and paid £260.00 each. It was an amazing holiday as we didn't pay for anything!
This was where we spent our honeymoon. It is a lovely island although lacks any beaches but has a great history if you are interested in things like that. We also took a boat trip to Sicily and climbed Mount Etna which had only erupted 3 weeks before hand the lava in some places was still glowing.
This was a very sad trip as my father in law died in a car accident while living here so the purpose of this trip was to sort out his affairs. We spent the week over there though and enjoyed a few trips out and some shopping.

And then came trips with work.
San Antonio, Texas
I went to San Antonio for a weekend in 2009 for a works meeting I was running. The meeting was on for one hour but I got to spend 3 days there. It is a lovely town again with a great history - The Alamo, is a former Catholic mission and fortress compound, and the site of the Battle of the Alamo which took place in 1836. It is now a museum which I visited.

New Orleans
I was fortunate enough to visit New Orleans again for a works conference. I have mixed feelings about the place. It is actually very seedy and reminded me a little of Acapulco. Since the flooding the crime rate has really risen. The famous Bourbon street is incredibly seedy but well worth a walk down. By myself I would not of gone into any of the bars though!
This is another place where when taking a bus trip round you went from very rich affluent areas to very run down neighbourhoods. New Orleans did introduce me to their traditional foods like the Po Boy and the beignets desert which is mmmm.
This was my next destination with work for a conference but I was lucky enough to get an afternoon off to go and do the tourist things - I have always wanted to see the Eiffel tower, the Louvre, the triomphe etc. The only place I wanted to see which I didn't have time for was Moulin Rouge.
I trotted off in June 2011 to yet another conference for work to Lugano. I have never had much interest in travelling in Europe but was truly blown away by Switzerland. i would return there tomorrow if I could, who wouldn't want to wake up to this view every morning? Need I say more!
I again managed a bit of time to look around on my last afternoon and my friend who now lives in Switzerland came and stayed a night in the hotel with me and we climbed the alps the next day, took a boat trip etc.
Yet another meeting in July 2011 but sadly my trip to Vancouver consisted of airport - fly-taxi ride to hotel-meeting - sleep - meeting - meal out on same road as hotel - sleep -meeting - taxi ride-airport-home. I did see the Rocky's from the plane though!
Stockholm, Sweden
Yet another conference in Sept 2011. Again I was fortunate enough to get a little bit of time to look to look around - I got the train from the airport and was reliably told the hotel I was in was a 10 minute walk in 'that' direction. 'That' direction took me out of the city and on a very long walk. However on a plus side the 2 hours I spent walking to find the hotel was infact 10 minutes in the other direction from the station meant I got a good feel for Stockholm. It is a lovely place, again with plenty to see. it is also very expensive though.
Another place I have always wanted to see and never made and thanks to a works meeting in January 2012, i got to go and I paid for a nights extra accommodation so I could do the touristy things. The Vatican is something else, the artwork needs to be seen. ll over the town there are ruins and history. I got as far a as the Colosseum only to be told I could not go inside as I had a small wheel along suitcase with me. I would love to go back especially with t'hubby. The people I was with for the meeting said they would use it again and told me to make sure I was working on the meeting so we could make a weekend of it!
Frankfurt, Germany
This was the latest destination for work. I got a 2 hour walk around the town which was unexpected. I love seeing new places, their building, their shops and they way they live. This was only a snap shot of it but it was nice all the same.

Next week I am out in Madrid for a meeting, place I have never been and thanks to Northern airports and their flights time I need to go a day early so am looking forwards to a nice morning of sightseeing!

One day soon we hope to take the boys aboard and have a family holiday.

There are still many, many places I would love to go like Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Russia, Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, Dubai, Brazil, India and those are only the ones I can think of off the top of my head.
I have been incredibly fortunate with the amount of places I have already seen. I would not have the confidence to just jump on a plane like I did to Israel many years ago by myself or trek across a country alone. At least the work trips, although alone are well planned! Maybe one day in my old age, i will get a camper van and just go and drive across the world!

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