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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 Album: Switzerland

Walking in the mountains above Interlaken

There was such an enthusiastic response to my recent post about mountains that I thought I would share more photos from the Bernese Oberland area in Switzerland. These shots are from three walks in June 2008 (which explains the less-than-fantastic quality of the photos). To see a much better version of the map below, click here.

Map of trains, buses and walking routes accessible from Interlaken. Just hop on a train, and go!

Walk 1: After my visit to Jungfraujoch and Top of Europe (more photos here), I walked from Kleine Scheidegg to Wengen, a route that takes about 2 hrs and 45 minutes. This was a lovely stroll with a gentle descent of only 800 m.

Walk 2: From Harder Kulm to Interlaken, roughly 2.5 hours – and a descent of 2500 m. My knees were shaking by the time that one was over!

These four photos were taken from the balcony of my hotel, the Metropole. Stunning views of Jungfrau, in all conditions (well, the foggy one is not so stunning).

Walk 3: Along Schynige Platte, a generally flat 2.5-hour circular walk on a plateau.

If you have enjoyed these walks in the mountains of Switzerland, be sure to visit Jo’s Monday Walk for other walks.

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There’s nothing like a mountain to make you feel small

Mountains have a great way of telling you just how insignificant you are in the scale of things.

Descent to the caves of Taittinger

Eighteen metres (59 feet) below the ground in Reims, France, lie the caves of Taittinger, one of the finest producers of champagne. To make the descent to the caves, you must negotiate this spiral staircase.

spiral staircase to the Taittinger caves
The Taittinger caves occupy some of the vaults of the ancient Saint Nicaise Abbey. These stairs are in the old abbey vaults.
stairs from the old Saint Nicaise Abbey
In World War I, the caves were used as places of refuge for civilians and Allied soldiers. If you look closely, you can make out the year 1914 in this graffiti carved into the wall.
World War I graffiti in Taittinger caves
A pupitre with bottles is visible at the foot of these stairs. The bottles of champagne are placed in the pupitre and rotated so that the sediment collects in the necks.
pupitre at the base of the stairs
And this is what it’s all about…
Taittinger champagne
(The first four photos were taken in the caves of Taittinger in May 2005 on a poor quality print camera, and later scanned to digital. The final photo was taken in October 2014: the champagne in the glass is not Taittinger, but the backdrop is a bag from Taittinger; it appeared recently in this post.)