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Travel Memories: Mount Etna

Walking the snowy slopes of Mt Etna in glorious sunshine.

As part of my “get away from London at Christmas” travels, in 2005 I joined a Ramblers small group walking holiday in Sicily. It was a marvellous trip! We stayed at a small hotel in Francavilla and each day took a bus to our walk location. Mt Etna was visible from many locations, and the day of our walk on the slopes brought perfect conditions of clear skies and pleasant temperatures. You can tell by the clothing that it was cold up there, but not freezing. The peak of the mountain is visible with a plume of steam or smoke being blown left (better view in the top, cropped photo).

Travel Memories: a single photo from a trip — one that always makes me smile, or reflect, or want to go back.


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Travel Memories: Bruges

Moules-frites eaten outside in a shady square.

Mussels, chips and beer — where else but Bruges?

Travel Memories: a single photo from a trip — one that always makes me smile, or reflect, or want to go back.


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Travel Memories 7: QE2

On deck, Zeebrugge.

I always wanted to do those two iconic modes of travel: Concorde, and QE2. Although I missed out on Concorde, I did manage a long weekend on Queen Elizabeth 2 in 2006, just two years before the liner was retired from Cunard service. A friend and I did the trip from Southampton to Zeebrugge and back (with optional excursion to Bruges), just for the experience. This photo, taken at Zeebrugge, always makes me smile: it’s just so typically British! There’s nothing but a working port to look at, it’s cold enough to need jackets and blankets, but these people were determined to get their deck chair time.

Travel Memories: a single photo from a trip — one that always makes me smile, or reflect, or want to go back.


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Travel Memories 6: Madeira

Walking along Ponta de São Lourenço

While I lived in London (1989-99, 2004-09) I usually went away for Christmas. In 2007 I went to the island of Madeira, and while there I joined a guided walk along Ponta de São Lourenço, the easternmost point of the island. “Stunning” is an understatement! Rugged landscapes, sweeping views and weather very unlike London in December. It was an exhilarating day.

You can see the path of the walk in the feature photo; I’ve indicated the path with dots, and circled the people along one stretch. You can see a zoomed version of the stretch with people here. I don’t recall it feeling as dangerous as it looks!

Travel Memories: a single photo from a trip — one that always makes me smile, or reflect, or want to go back.


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Travel Memories 5: Coober Pedy

Hole in one, maybe?

Hands up if you have actually heard of Coober Pedy. I certainly had not until I’d lived in Australia for a while. However, if you’re an opal lover, you probably are familiar with this small mining town in the outback. Due to the searing summer heat, many people live in underground houses carved from the rock; there are even underground churches.

However, it was the golf club that really caught my attention. There’s no grass whatsoever, but there is carefully raked sand and gravel. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! Forgot your clubs? No problem, you can rent some.

Travel Memories: a single photo from a trip — one that always makes me smile, or reflect, or want to go back.


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Travel Memories 4: Granada

Flamenco in the afternoon.

The reason I went to Granada was to see the Alhambra, the Moorish palace/fortress. Checking online just now to date the Alhambra (largely 13th and 14th centuries), I see that these days (well, pre-pandemic) the site is so popular you must book timed tickets in advance; in 1992, I simply walked up from town when the mood took me. I wandered the back streets of the old town, stopped for tapas and sherry, listened to guitar and ‘canto jondo’. I strolled around the Generalife Gardens, where there always seemed to be the sound of water — gurgling, trickling, tumbling water. And I marvelled at the flamenco. Not paid performances or professionals, these were ordinary men and women, in jeans and skirts, having a great time dancing in tents set up in the streets. Some of the women wore elaborate (and heavy!) dresses. The makeshift tent floors vibrated and rang with the stamping of people’s feet, mothers danced with young children, and girls in their own ruffled dresses looked on hopefully from the sidelines. It was totally unexpected, and quite stupendous.

Travel Memories: a single photo from a trip — one that always makes me smile, or reflect, or want to go back.


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Travel Memories 3: Monaco

Is this row of helicopters not what you expected for Monaco? There is a reason! In 1998, while living in London, I won a trip for two to Monaco, courtesy of a radio station and whatever entity was sponsoring the trip. We flew to Nice, and then were taken in a private helicopter to Monaco. (If you have sharp eyes, you can just about make out the words “Heli Air Monaco” on the tail of the black helicopter in the feature photo.) The holiday was off to a great start! Sadly, the flight is more like a hop — practically up and then down again. Nonetheless, we felt as if we had arrived in style.

Travel Memories: a single photo from a trip — one that always makes me smile, or reflect, or want to go back.


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Travel Memories 2: Cannes

The Carlton Hotel, Cannes.

Back to 2008 for this photo. I was living in London, and the weather in August that year was dreadful: wet and grey and cold. On the spur of the moment, and desperate for some sun, I booked a trip to Nice for the bank holiday weekend. What bliss! Sun and blue skies and warmth, and, of course, France. Cannes is only a 30-40 minute train ride from Nice, so I went there too and ogled the rich people, the expensive yachts and the private beaches. I’d heard of the Carlton Hotel in association with the Cannes Film Festival — we’ve all seen photos of film celebrities posing at that hotel! — but was still surprised to see it in the flesh, so to speak.

Travel Memories: a single photo from a trip — one that always makes me smile, or reflect, or want to go back.


Travel Memories 1: Goa

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Travel Memories 1: Goa

Park Hyatt Hotel, Goa. The view from my balcony.

This photo was taken in 2013. From 3 March to 14 April, I had sailed on the tall ship Lord Nelson from Durban in South Africa to Kochi (Cochin) in India. Definitely the longest time at sea I’d ever spent! We did stop along the way — Mauritius, Sri Lanka — but still, it was many weeks on a boat with 40-odd other people in weather ranging from the high winds and chill of 35deg South to the hot humidity of the Equator. After we’d reached India and gone our separate ways, I headed to the Park Hyatt in Goa for a few days of spoiled luxury, a big bed, clean sheets and unlimited showers. And (of course) bubbly!

This is the first post of a new theme for me, called Travel Memories. I plan to post a single photo from a trip: one that always makes me smile, or reflect, or want to go back.