Too many places, not enough time.

Europe » Italy » Lazio » Rome September 29th 2015

So, day 2, new additions to the party, and my feet are still attached if slightly swollen. I always seem to manage to do that, walk myself half to death on the first day of a trip and then spend the rest of the trip utterly exhausted. The weather was still gorgeous at least. On the map Rome looks very walkable but yesterday had shown us it could be a bit of a hike, the Colosseum fortunately, was actually in decent walking distance. We arrived, avoided the tacky, plastic-clad gladiators touting for photos, and found the entrance. The gladiators have since been banned - apparently they would actually try to charge 50 euros simply for a photo with them. Crazy! My last memory of the Colosseum was on a sweltering day in mid-summer packed with crowds. ... read more
Arch of Constantine

Europe » Italy » Lazio » Rome September 28th 2015

First day of sight-seeing in the Eternal City, aaand the metro's closed. Of course, in true Italian style, this means we get to buy the tickets and get down to the station only to be turned back by police. No explanation given (later we were told it was due to a 'crash' which I sincerely hope is not true.) So we were sent over to the buses, which were ridiculously full. So we headed to the taxi queue, which was round the block. Mmmm. Luckily we managed to steal a taxi at drop-off and, thanks to the amazing (if slightly crazy) driver we got from Termini to the Vatican in 15 minutes. I think we may have gone through a park at some point but never mind. The Vatican was amazingly calm and we got through ... read more
Giant pinecone
Vatican interior
Amazing hairstyles

Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Bagan December 25th 2014

'Discover Burma' is the travel mantra of 2014 it would seem - in every list and travel guide we are being told to visit Burma whilst it's still untouched and before the hordes of tourists have despoiled it. Well, sorry to say folks, but Myanmar is well and truly discovered. Having lived in Mandalay the past few months during low season, the closest we've come to tourists is the usual smattering of German backpackers you find everywhere, mostly looking confused and hot on random street corners. Come high season however, and suddenly they all come out of the woodwork (well, from Australia, France and Germany mostly). Fleets of coaches are suddenly everywhere, plus a surprising number of families with very young children. Whilst I admire any parent dedicated enough to want to travel with their kids, ... read more

Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Mandalay October 28th 2014

This pretty much sums up the advice guidebooks give about getting ill in Myanmar. The Lonely Planet states outright 'local medical care is dismal and local hospitals should only be used out of desperation.' Having spent a fair bit of time in hospitals over the last few days I think that is a dramatic exaggeration and quite frankly insulting to the doctors here (the ones I met at least.) This said, being ill is never pleasant, contracting a tropical disease thousands of miles away from home where no-one speaks much English is very unpleasant. Travellers are advised to bring a complete supply of medication from home, including antibiotics if possible. Well, trying to march into a GP surgery in the UK and saying you want a bunch of drugs even though you're not ill is never ... read more

Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Mandalay October 9th 2014

Arriving a few days before Thadingyut (Festival of Lights) meant that we had a really easy first week with two days off school. I was really interested to see my first Burmese festival, the internet having promised ceremonies, processions and the whole city brightly illuminated at night. The reality, however, was a few Chinese lanterns being released and a few fireworks (but this has continued for the last month so it might not be festival-specific). It might be the fact that we live in the Chinese quarter of the city - our employers certainly didn't seem to celebrate at all. We made use of the mini-holiday though to see a bit more of Mandalay. This time to the main tourist attraction, the morally-complicated Mandalay Palace. Like many places in Myanmar, it was rebuilt (supposedly) by government-dictated ... read more
View from the watchtower

Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Mandalay October 8th 2014

Or rather, actually in Mandalay. Which doesn't resemble the idyll of Rudyard Kipling's poem much, so much as a modern, bustling and very dusty city. And then it turns out that Kipling never even made it to Mandalay anyway, so I am left rather disillusioned about the whole thing. On first impressions, despite the plethora of motorbikes, no working traffic lights and (apparently) no traffic laws, it seems rather safe and civilised and, unlike most places in South America, the drivers would actually be quite sad if they managed to kill you in the middle of the street. Despite arriving at the close of the rainy season it is still disgustingly hot and humid - thank god for air-conditioning - although it is so hot that I'm not counting on any decent photos of myself this ... read more
The Golden Monastary

Africa » Morocco » Meknès-Tafilalet » Erfoud September 15th 2014

Today we started the long drive south with a visit to a ski resort. Yup, a ski resort in Morocco - I feel a little stupid for not knowing that such things exist but the Sahara does not usually share countries with ski resorts. Fortunately the sun was shining and the shops selling postcards of snow-covered mountains seemed a little incongruous. The whole town seemed to have been modelled after a European ski resort with Swiss-style chalets and gardens everywhere. Odd but quite nice to stop for tea (they sold actual tea, not just the usual coffee or hot mint-water with enough sugar to put anyone in a coma that is usually the only thing on offer), before heading on. Next stop was unscheduled and brought about by someone screeching that there were monkeys next to ... read more
Ready to start
Miserable weather for a camel ride

Africa » Morocco » Fès-Boulemane » Fes September 14th 2014

Well let the title of the blog be my very disillusioning fact of the day. I went with the horribly stereotypical image of a whole city filled with fez-wearers, and left without having seen anyone apart from fat sock-and-sandal-wearing tourists in them. Apparently (despite the abundance being sold everywhere here) fezzes are not from Fez. Which probably should be spelt Fes anyway (though spelling seems to differ everywhere it's written anyway.) The wonder that is that little red hat so synonymous with northern Africa and Dr. Who is apparently actually from Fez in Turkey and has no business whatsoever being in Fez, Morocco. Sad times. Red hats aside, Fez/Fes is actually really quite beautiful. Still in complete ignorance over the soul-destroying fez fact, we started the day at the gate to the Royal Palace which, like ... read more
Carpet factory

Europe » Hungary » Central Hungary » Budapest June 19th 2014

Awaking with ridiculously sore feet (why do we always find it necessary to do everything possible on the first day and not pace ourselves?) we decided to stick closer to our temporary home in the Jewish quarter. We were a couple of blocks from the Dohány Street Synagogue, also called Budapest's 'Great Synagogue.' And great it certainly was. My only synagogue experience up until now had been attending a Bar Mitzvah in a modern synagogue in London. This one definitely beats it! It is the largest functioning synagogue in Europe, and the second largest in the world (the title being held by the Temple Emanu-El in New York) and can hold 3000 people. After being badly damaged toward the end of the Second World War, it was massively restored in the 1990s, partially from donations from ... read more
Great Synagogue

Europe » Hungary » Central Hungary » Budapest June 18th 2014

I have neglected this blog shamefully for quite some time. So, starting afresh in 2014 (mostly as I can't be bothered to fill in the gaps from the last couple of years), and having left South America after almost four years, the travelling year started with a city break to Budapest. Mostly because it has been on my 'to-visit' list for quite some time, also because of some pleasantly surprising cheap flights. More exciting parts of the world are to come, namely Morocco for a holiday, and Myanmar (fingers crossed!) for work. Setting off before the summer holidays start in Europe, Budapest still had very sunny weather and a smattering of tourists. We'd managed to get a very nice hostel (more like a private apartment thanks to the lack of any other guests) in the Jewish ... read more
St. Stephen's - Budapest

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