A Thousand Places

Abundance of Rainbows: an uncharacteristically Greyfriars Bobby

A ridiculous number of rainbows

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.

Kerala Cruising

Kerala Cruising

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.

Kiwi as: TSS Earnslaw on Lake Wakkitypu

Kiwi as

I once wrote a book about New Zealand, in which I talked about BookCrossing, the Maori, the incredible scenery, and the odd way they speak.

My New Zealand friends tend to roll their eyes at the usual weary jokes about “fush and chups” and the unpronounceable Maori names – which are perfectly straightforward to them – but I could not disguise my affection for the place. If anything, it has grown over the years. I may be an Australian, but I love New Zealand. 

Jaguar on the Isle of Skye, Scotland

Skyedriver

I’ve driven on the Isle of Skye. We hired a Mercedes from Avis Prestige – a lovely car, but I was hoping for a Jag like the previous year – and set off from Fort William to Dunnet Head, the most northerly part of the British mainland. We may have spent a little too long at Eilean Donan, the glorious and much-photographed castle a little further south, and I was contemplating the chances of our arrival at the night’s accommodation before dusk.

Jenni and Mark at the end of Route 66 on Santa Monica Pier.

Santa Monica: end of the road

Jenni of Just Chasing Rabbits gives some reasons to visit the Santa Monic Pier. I can think of a dozen more, but really it’s because it’s fun.

I’ve been to Santa Monica Pier three times now. The first was when beginning a transcontinental odyssey. We’d driven down from San Francisco, we wanted to take a look at an American icon before heading up to Las Vegas, and we had a whale of a time, exploring and taking photographs and stuff. 

Majestic Masada in Israel, overlooking the Dead Sea

Majestic Masada

I love reading travel blogs where the personality of the blogger shines out. So many blogs are clones of each other, offering the same SEO-driven keyword-loaded content, the same identical structures, the same advertising. I like to travel, and I like reading about adventures in exotic places, but I swear if I read one more post about Ten best things to see in Paris I will scream out Sacré Merde and heave a baguette through my laptop. Or something.

Abby at The Winged Fork runs a quirky blog, focused on travel, food, and love. Assisted by her sister Sarah and friends, she covers a range of places and activities. How often do you see a blog post on the difficulties of foreign travel with a pair of extra-large breasts? Or eating invertebrates for dinner?

Sunset from a luxury houseboat in Kerala, India

Backwater bliss

Of all the places I’ve been in the world, the backwaters of Kerala in India impressed me most of all. There was an otherworldly feeling of tranquility and majesty as our tour boat glided through the lakes, along canals, past villages, fields, forests, and temples.

The locals lived simply but well, working in harmony with each other and their environment. The waterways served for transport, commerce, food source, and entertainment.

And inspiration. The calm waters reflecting the trees, the clouds, and the sun. The birds going about their business or rising like angels to seek higher things. I was charmed and delighted by the elegance of the land.

Soumya Nambiar of Travel, Books and Food (now there’s a happy combination) spent some time on one of these luxury houseboats, and in stumbling across her blog I am full of desire to immerse myself in the Kerala backwaters.

Twinned chimney pots on Gaudi house in Barcelona. Show me a good time.

Show me a good time

Here’s a bit of a giggle and a new approach to travel hacking. Using Tinder when you’re on the road to find the sweetest parts of a new city.

The only times I’ve been to Barcelona, I’ve had my wife with me, and um, I don’t have a Tinder account anyway, but what the hey. For those who are young, single, and looking for a good time, this may be the way to match up with a good guide and a foot massage king.

Just be careful not to put a foot wrong along the way, otherwise you might end up flat on your back re-examining your strategy.