Andrew & Susan

Andrew Susan

Andrew & Susan

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Middle East » Iran » East » Yazd November 19th 2017

Tuesday 7 November We left Shiraz to travel to Yazd. En route we stopped at the early Achaemenid ruins at Pasargardae. Not too far from Persepolis this was the city built by Cyrus the Great somewhat earlier. There isn't a vast amount to see at this spread out site - but enough to give an impression of what this could have been like 2,500 years ago. Slightly hard to imagine the gardens that were here in the desert but we saw the irrigation channels. We had a lunch break at a small town called Abarkuh - we saw a very impressive ice house here in the desert. The town also has an old Cypress tree and a tall wind tower... We arrived in Yazd as night fell, staying at the lovely Dad hotel, a converted caravanserai. ... read more
Pasargadae - Tomb of Cyrus
Tower of Silence
Eternal flame (since c470AD)

Middle East » Iran » South » Persepolis November 19th 2017

I was oddly anxious about visiting Persepolis. I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of whether it would be a disappointment - had Alexander made such a thorough demolition job in 330BC that there would be nothing worth seeing. In retrospect I needn't have worried, there is plenty to see and it is still an impressive place. Vahid walked us around the main elements of the site - I think we were lucky that it wasn't blazing sunshine at this exposed place. Whilst the buildings are fragmentary there are lots of marvellous reliefs to look at. We then had free time to explore further - Susan went for tea, I went to see the rock cut tombs in the hillside above the site. Going up the hill gave the opportunity to look down over the ... read more
Persepolis - Approaching the platform
The Gate of All Nations

Middle East » Iran » South November 19th 2017

Sat 4 November Esfahan to Shiraz After a fairly straight forward, if long, drive we arrived in Shiraz in late afternoon. Another historic city with plenty to see - and we only touched the surface. Just enough afternoon daylight for us to walk to the formal gardens near the hotel; these were nice if quite simple and going into the autumn colours. We also visited the Tomb of Hafez as darkness fell. A nice spot and very popular with locals and tourists. We had dinner near the hotel - Susan managed to order a dish of liver, heart and kidney (she loved it), I had a koobiyeh (simple lamb kebab). Sunday was spent at Persepolis (see separate entry). In the evening we had a walk into town and ended up at the small friendly Café Naqashi ... read more
Masjed-e Nasir al-Molk
"the pink mosque"
Masjed-e Nasir al-Molk

Middle East » Iran » West » Esfahan November 19th 2017

Wednesday 1 November We arrived in time to relax for a while before going out to start exploring this amazing city. For a start we walked down to the Se-o-e Pol (33 arch bridge), a fabulous sight and popular with tourists and locals alike. We realised that we were going to start seeing other European tourist groups for the first time. Luckily the city is big enough and the numbers small enough so that this is not a problem. After this some of us went to the Shahrzad restaurant and had possibly the best ever plate of lamb chops followed by a shared dish of the local speciality, khoresht-e mast (google it). At the end of the dinner the waiters plied us with local nougat (gaz). Thursday 2 November Esfahan A day of sightseeing in this ... read more
The 33 arch bridge in Esfahan
Women's mosque
Masjad e Imam

Middle East » Iran » North » Tabriz November 19th 2017

Saturday. Another day another castle! Some of our group decided that a day exploring Tabriz would be fun, the rest of us headed for the hills to see Babak castle. This remote site on a crag was three hours from Tabriz by bus then about 20 minutes in ancient four wheel drive jeeps followed by a 40 min walk. Not as strenuous as we thought it might be but the final steps up and across the cliff felt exposed to the drop. The views were worth it when we reached the top. After a good bumble about and picnic snacks we headed back the way we had come. Back in Tabriz we all went out for dinner, a good 40 minute walk away from the hotel - sadly the restaurant recommended in both the guidebooks had ... read more
Spice section in the Tabriz bazaar
Takht e Soleyman
Avicenna in Hamedan

Middle East » Iran » North » Tabriz November 18th 2017

Tuesday. To Qazvin via Alamut Looking back I can’t work out whether I enjoyed this day. We spent quite some time getting out of Tehran and driving to the outskirts of Qazvin where we changed to a smaller bus to tackle the mountain roads. One of the odd, but nerdily interesting, events was realising, when the driver filled up, that petrol/diesel costs about 6p a litre (compared to around £1.20 in London). Our objective for the day was the Assassin sect’s castle of Alamut. Three hours or so from leaving the motorway we arrived at the foot of an outcrop which seemed to be crowned with scaffolding and corrugated iron….the castle. The surrounding countryside was either bleached by the summer into a pale brown dustiness or covered in trees that were turning beautiful shades of gold ... read more
autumn colours near Alamut
Most of the gang at Alamut

Middle East » Iran » North » Tehran November 14th 2017

Preamble: I can’t really remember when the idea of visiting Iran first made its way into my head. It might have been over ten years ago when I bought a book on Islamic architecture and gazed at photographs of amazing tilework at mosques in Esfahan. In late 2016 we started thinking of where to go for our next sabbatical and Iran had by then made it to the shortlist. When we started looking at the practicalities we realised that this wasn’t as simple as buying a plane ticket and making it up from there. Politics raised its inconvenient head and as Brits we needed to go on an organised trip. Finding that a visa would cost £165 meant that we wanted a trip that would last a few weeks and found the Explore “Iran in depth” ... read more
Tehran from 12th floor hotel balcony
National Museum
Bowl in museum

Middle East » Lebanon » Beirut June 18th 2011

We had decided to go on an organised trip as our first trip to the Lebanon as we had only a week and wanted an easy time in terms of travelling around, booking places to stay etc . So there we were at T1 Heathrow people spotting to try and guess who we might be spending the next week with. We flew out from London to Beirut on BMI, not the BMI Baby offshoot that the number of ankle biters on the plane might have led you to believe. I normally sleep like a "baby" on flights but this was four and a half hours of screaming wakefulness. And we were late so dashing my hopes of seeing all the second half of the Champions League Final destruction of Man Utd by Messi and Co in ... read more
Hezbollah Flag
Anjar & flowers
Baalbek baker

Middle East » Turkey » Mediterranean » Antakya October 12th 2010

6 Oct, Yumartalik to Antakya On a bright morning we drove east through gently rolling countryside on backroads until all of a sudden we rounded a bend and joined some brand new and very empty toll motorway. This looked like it must be associated with the oil terminals that soon came into view. The coastline from just east of Yumartalik until we left it at Iskenderun - at least an hour's drive - was busy with modern industrial plants and container ships and tankers either coming or going. The motorway is slightly elevated between the coastal strip and the mountains so we had a view of the sea all the way. Just south of Iskenderun the motorway finishes and the road turns inland and upwards. From previous reading I had thought this was going to be ... read more
Antakya - Old Town street
Antakya - St Peter's Church

Middle East » Turkey » Mediterranean » Adana October 10th 2010

Preamble: some of you will know that one of us is a bit of a castle anorak and we have travelled the world seeing piles of stones from Spanish forts in Cuba through to marvellous Crusader castles in Syria and east to Japan and many (many) places in between. This trip was to see some of the castles and other sites/ sights in the area of Turkey around the top right/north east corner of the Mediterranean. This area has many ruins from the Hittites, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Armenians before the Mamelukes/Ottomans finally extinguished the Cilician Armenian kingdom in the 1370s. We were only here for a week so the challenge was to see lots but not get "not another bloody castle ruin" fatigue or spend too much time in the car. Lots of versions of ... read more
Sis/Kozan - looking south
Yilan Kale - main gate
Yumartalik Harbour

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