Page 2 of Laura421 Travel Blog Posts

Asia » India November 11th 2018

This has been our first full day in south India. Sri Lanka, even in Colombo with its terrible traffic, is not as loud, not as crowded, not as full of garbage as it is here in Chennai. This city used to be called Madras, a name the British originally bestowed on this bustling city, but years ago starting in 1947 when India achieved its independence, the country began changing the British names for their cities to Tamil. Thus Bombay became Mumbai, Calcutta became Kolkata, Benares became Varanasi, Tanjore became Thanjavur, and Madras became Chennai. Many other cities changed their names too, but these are some of the most well known. This morning a new friend and I walked a bit through Chennai's crowded streets, but it was hard to talk with all the horns beeping, plus ... read more

Asia » Sri Lanka November 9th 2018

After travelling for ten days already, this is our last night in Sri Lanka; we have been so busy exploring this island nation that I have not had time, nor the will, to write. This little country with its beautiful name, Sri Lanka has both terribly congested cities and gorgeously beautiful landscapes that take your breath away. Colombo has little beauty; it is another overcrowded Asian city with modern signing on shops crammed next to each other on dirty city streets, plus it has the distinctive disadvantage of also having internationally known name brand stores, places I never want to shop in any country. How these expensive stores survive in poor countries is beyond understanding, but perhaps people feel that by having these expensive monstrosities their country can also partake in western culture, or at least ... read more

Middle East » United Arab Emirates » Dubai November 2nd 2018

The muezzin is calling, the second time this morning already and it's only 5:40AM. I love hearing it! The very first time I ever heard a muezzin call was when my daughter Laila and I travelled to Egypt, back in the spring of 2007. It is such a lovely, haunting call to prayer. Five times each day Muslims pray, and in Cairo I did not want to miss hearing even one of those times, so I'd opened our windows wide to allow this entrancing music to enter. We also heard the muezzin in Istanbul, in Morocco, in Jordan, in Israel, and now, here in the UAE. Such beautiful reminders to stop and pray, to my thinking no matter what one's religion. Heading off to Sri Lanka and south India this time, I am in Dubai for ... read more

Europe » Estonia » Tallinn September 29th 2018

This morning we will take a ferry across the Gulf of Finland to end this tour where it began, in Helsinki, Finland. Right now we are in gorgeous Tallinn, Estonia, the last of the three capital cities of the Baltic States. Heading in to this trip, fifteen days sounded like almost enough time to explore this part of the world, but, as usual, and of course, it is not. I especially need to go back to Lithuania, to see more of that little country and to try to find the town that is named after my family (or vice versa). My last name was made up by my father; unfortunately he - or someone else - chose a confusing to spell, abrupt name that sounds as if we are German, but we are not German at ... read more

Europe » Latvia » Riga Region » Riga September 27th 2018

We are in Riga, Latvia now, another pretty Baltic city in whose Old Town I searched and searched for Echinacea tincture since the bottle I brought from home is now almost totally empty. I don't dare stop taking it, as many people on our tour are still quite sick and continue to infect others. No one wants to be sick, either on tour or on our long flights home, so I want to continue taking it prophylactically. I must have asked at ten or even twenty shops, by pointing to a photo of the Echinacea flower on small boxes of loose tea, and saying "tinctura," but had no luck at all. Most shopkeepers spoke no English, and my Latvian only covers "hello" and "thank you," so these were difficult and frustrating interactions. I was also hunting ... read more

Europe » Lithuania » Vilnius September 26th 2018

Yesterday we left Belarus, crossing the border back into the more familiar European Union. We were told that this crossing could be lengthy and difficult, taking up to five hours or more, with again perhaps a border crossing guard asking to go through all our luggage. And this was heading into the EU! But, understandably, those crossing from the EU into Belarus are most carefully checked, and given that once inside the EU one can drive for thousands of miles without ever seeing another checked border point, we prepared to wait and try to gracefully accept whatever happened. The first stop, leaving Belarus, went very quickly and uneventfully. Happy with that part, we reboarded the bus and slowly processed to entering the EU station. What was surprising to see throughout this crossing was the very long ... read more

Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast » Minsk September 24th 2018

We are having a break this rainy Monday, which is appreciated since so many on this tour are sick. The coughing and sneezing and various aches and pains spread quickly through the bus, especially since many do not cover their coughs and sneezes, even though all of us are adults. Our immune systems are getting a strong workout anyway, going from sunshine and 80s/28 (Fahrenheit/Celsius) in Moscow (such a gift this time of year!) to chilly rain and 40s/8 (F/C) in the space of one day. Add in three new countries so far, plus sick people on our bus, and everyone's immunity is quite challenged. I've spent this down time packing, trying to catch up on insidiously, continuously accumulating emails, taking Echinacea root tincture prophylactically, and giving my raincoat and boots a chance to dry out, ... read more

Europe » Russia » Northwest » Moscow September 22nd 2018

St. Petersburg is the cultural capital of Russia. What gems it holds for its people and for us visitors! This tour has crammed in so many activities, museums, palaces, magnificent royal residences that I will definitely look to travel with Trafalgar again. To name only a few: we've been to the Hermitage, St. Isaac's Cathedral, summer and winter residences, everywhere that is listed as a highlight or as a must-see. On our last morning in St. Petersburg, before boarding the high speed train to Moscow, we took a boat cruise on the canals to get another perspective on the "Venice of the North." One very funny thing that happened while we were cruising was as our boat was ready to pass under one of the many canal bridges we saw a man standing in the middle ... read more

Europe » Russia » Northwest » Saint Petersburg September 19th 2018

This is our third and final night in St. Petersburg. Our days have been chockfull of activities, our tour trying to cram as much in our three days here as possible. Monday night I slept for four hours straight, and that turned out to be it, my third night in a row without adequate sleep. So on Tuesday I lasted until mid-afternoon, and then had the very unusual (for me) experience of feeling tired. This is a relatively unique occurrence for me, but without enough sleep for several nights even exciting days in a foreign country can feel heavy at times. And on Tuesday we had hardly any down time at all to catch our breath, which is actually the way I prefer to travel. Tuesday morning we visited the Hermitage, Peter the Great's (and other ... read more

Europe » Russia » Northwest » Saint Petersburg September 17th 2018

I am in Russia! St. Petersburg, to be specific. It's been a long and eventful twenty-nine hours since I climbed off the plane in Helsinki, Finland yesterday afternoon. Now it is bedtime; I can read the time on my clock, but my body is very confused and quite tired. This time I am travelling with Trafalgar, and so far I am very relieved that everything has been excellent. After Bill's and my less than pleasant trip with Cosmos this summer, I didn't know what to expect with this company and worried a bit that this might be another mistake. But so far all is very well. Much information is given during our bus travels, and the hotels are located perfectly in city centers. There are 47 of us on this tour, filling a whole bus, but ... read more

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