Sydney Cove, New South Wales, 25 Jan 2018
“Every Iranian I’ve met wants to drink alcohol, every couple I’ve met here want to hold hands in public, and every Iranian woman I’ve met wants to ditch hijab. So why not just, you know, stop doing it?”
What?” asked our guide, “And give the government an excuse to crack down again?”
The start of a new year is usually marked by people writing down 2017, crossing it out, and writing 2018. Sometimes it takes a while for that sort of irritating muscle memory to cut out. Me, I’m still writing years starting with “19”…
It’s also the traditional time for travel bloggers to take stock of where they have been, how much they have made, where they want to go next, how many thousands of dollars a month should be their goal…
Edinburgh is a city close to my heart. Perhaps my Scots ancestry has something to do with that, but Scotland’s ancient capital stands proud in delighting tourists and locals alike. The Royal Mile, with its gradual ascent to the craggy Castle, and its mediaeval warren of lanes and closes, invites exploration. The New Town – construction commenced 250 years ago – is elegance itself, full of grand shops, haughty restaurants, upmarket hotels.
Between the old and the new, the Princes Street Gardens and Waverley Station offer an escape from the everyday. The gardens with their trees and flowerbeds, benches and lawns, lie literally under the shadow of the castle towering above, impossibly romantic with sheer cliffs, grey stone walls, and bastions and turrets galore. Waverley, with its busy trains heading off to the Highlands and the Islands, is a Harry Potter melding of old and new. Few steam trains now, but easy to imagine Professor Minerva McGonagall stalking off to another term at Hogwarts, or yours truly, heading out to dive into the Scotch whisky vats on the distillery trail.
In years to come, we’ll probably laugh when we look back at these Trumpian days, when people believed, that if they just believed hard enough, then black would be white.
The days of fake news and alternative facts, when what was written down in black and white could be denied, if one said it often enough and loud enough.
On that note, let us consider the facts of copyright law.
I’m not a religious person myself, but on my travels I have found the grand sacred places of the world to be nodes of tranquillity and majesty, places where the spirit soars and one might reflect on one’s place in the cosmos. Ayasofya, Sagrada Familia, the Shah Mosque in Isfahan, Kinkaku-Ji Temple in Kyoto; all sublime and uplifting.
One of my favourite movies is that George Clooney classic, Up in the Air. George plays Ryan Bingham, a frequent flyer with millions of miles under his belt. As he says, “Last year I spent 322 days on the road, which means I had to spend 43 miserable days at home.”
Living in hotels, airport terminals, and yes, up in the air, demands certain skills and equipment. If you are going to thrive rather than merely survive, that is. There’s a friction about travel. The queues, the delays, the check-ins, the routines, the eternal hassling with clerks and taxi drivers.
CNN has produced a comprehensive list of the world’s best foods. I cannot argue with a list that places chocolate in the top three, and there are many national dishes, such as Peking Duck, Seafood Paella, Pho and so on.
Just looking at the list, and I’ve enjoyed 35 of the 50, seventeen of them in their native lands. Possibly a few more, if I were able to go back and check. I can’t remember having poutine in Canada. That sounds like one to stick in the memory, one way or another!
I’ve previously talked about the backwaters of Kerala in India, and how I’d love to take one of their houseboat cruises.
The contrast between the colourful, noisy, and chaotic Indian town of Alleppey, and the majesty and serenity of the lakes, rivers and canals beginning a few hundred metres away could not be greater. India is an acquired taste, to be sure, but I was enchanted by the waterways, with their jungled fringes, their tiny villages, their fields, fisherfolk, and birdlife.