At The Airport Again…

At The Airport Again…

… But this time I’m not flying anywhere, say what?!

Monarch

A great fact, known to many Aviation Geeks, including my boyfriend, but not previously to myself is that most airports have an observation area. That’s a space where you can go and watch planes take off and land, great if you have excitable children to occupy, or an excitable Other Half for that matter, or you’re one of those travellers who really likes the flying part of travelling and finds planes fascinating.

TUI

The Manchester Observation area has the Concord, which you can book tours round, a lovely cafe and some cool information points too, which makes it a nice little day out. In all fairness we didn’t pick the best day to go, it was cold and overcast and we got a little bit lost on the way. I tired my hand at taking pictures of the planes but was rather hopeless, while my boyfriend managed to take some great shots.

BA

It seems weird doesn’t it? Hanging out at the airport and not going anywhere but it was weirdly fun and a good fantasy if you’re craving an adventure but can’t get away to go on one right now. Maybe…alternatively it might be torture!

I booked it!

I booked it!

I did IT.

Yea … I did THAT … I booked a post-graduation blow-out trip, because clearly I can’t see any need to have money left after graduation. *ahem*

As with the last time I posted about an adventure, I’m sat at a desk, where blogging is not my main job (I’m not even being paid for the main job I’m sat here for), I’m sipping on some team and rain is battering the window in true Manchester fashion; it’s so different from the place I am thinking of that it’s hard to comprehend.

I’ve booked a tour of Asia. I’ll talk about the politics of ‘Tour-ing’ rather than going it alone in another post but for now I’ll just tell you I’ve booked with STA travel, on their Indo-China tour, which will take me to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos in just four weeks. My brain feels like it might explode – I’ve wanted to go to Vietnam for so long, it’s a fairytale country in my heart and I can feel fireworks going off when I think I’ll be touching, tasting, seeing and smelling Vietnam in just a few short months.

It took a lot of time for me to work up the guts to book the tour. I’ve booked it with my boyfriend, for one thing, which means I’ve banked quite a lot on our relationship lasting (not that I’m worried), and it’s something your friends usually, unreservedly warn you against doing. But I’ve done that. He booked before me and then, somehow, a few weeks later right after an essay hand-in, I just walked up to the same travel agents (STA Manchester) and said “put me on the same trip”, which my lovely travel agent dutifully did.

I still have some planning to do, oh yes. We need to organise VISAs, look seriously at some insurance given that we’ll both want to take our cameras, buy Malarials, get injections (although I’m almost all up to date) and buy all the travel essentials of course. I’ve also got to sort my life out in terms of when I’m moving out of my flat, and how, and where I’m staying for Graduation – since we’ve booked the trip in June, meaning it clashes with just about everything. All accommodation stresses are sorted for us with a tour – fantastic – and although we’ve already already booked flights, we still need to work out money and a few other things.

I’ve been enchanted by the idea of going to Asia for a while, more so since I booked the trip I must say, I can’t wait to discover something new, something totally different. If anyone’s ever done the Indo-China tour with STA before, or toured with them at all, do please let me know below! If you have any recommendations or tips for any of those countries then please tell me those too, I’d be chuffed for any information.

Thank You For All Of 2014

Thank You For All Of 2014

There are quite a lot of us blogging about travel on the internet and one thing I notice is, that we don’t seem to mention how thankful we are often enough.

That’s not to say travel bloggers aren’t grateful or thankful, I can almost guarantee most of us are but we very rarely post our thanks. Now, I’m not paid to write these posts, obviously if I were I’d probably be a bit more together and on time, but looking back over the last year I’ve really noticed how much I was able to travel and how far I’ve been. And wow am I one lucky girl!

A view from the Charminar

From August 2013 to August 2014 I managed to visit 5 new countries, 18 news cities (unless I’ve forgotten or miss-categorized any) and 1 new continent. And I couldn’t have got there without a LOT of help! Although my travel is largely self-funded, there’s some things you just can’t do alone. I’ve got a small honours list of people who’ve helped me get there…get everywhere;

My wonderful parents. Without them I wouldn’t even have got to Turkey, since they paid for that, just as they’ve paid for every holiday I’ve been on with them throughout the years. They also paid for my paragliding, which was incredible. It’s not just the money either; as anyone who’s ever been on holiday, even in their home country, knows, the organisation takes a lot of time. From the airport parking, to the accommodation, to reading up on Trip Advisor, buying a holiday guide book, arranging kennels for the dog, driving me to the airport. My parents usually drive me to the airport even when they’re not coming away with me. I am exceptionally thankful for the amount they support me in all of my ventures and adventures. And for the cocktails they bought me in Turkey…

My lovely boyfriend, who’s only been around for the last year and a bit of my Travel-life but has increased my lust for travel tenfold. Not only does he make it a little bit competitive, which makes me just a little more fired-up to go and a little more likely to push myself the extra mile, but he helps me build my dreams, encourages me to carry them out and inspires me, with his dreams, to travel more. He’s also much more financially savvy than I am… so he keeps me realistic.

Of all my friends, the biggest thanks over the last year go to Srivalli. My gorgeous bestie, who I’m not going to be able to see for quite some time since she’s back in India for the foreseeable future. Without Srivalli I wouldn’t have even been able to consider going to India – she made it not only affordable for me but also safer, possible to go alone and know I had someone when I got there, she stopped me getting ripped-off my tourist ‘deals’, she helped breach the language barrier and knew where not to go, which is sometimes half the battle. Also lots of love and respect to her Ama, Amama, Father, Sister, cousins and the rest of the family and friends who fed me, let me live in their houses for free, answered my endless questions, drove me around for free and let me into their lives; it was a magical experience made possible only by every one of them.

Umbrellas for street art

Paddling in the Blue Lagoon

Paddling in the Blue Lagoon

Then the rest of my friends, mostly for putting up with me running off all the time and supporting me in my dreams; mostly for still being there, as though no time has passed, when I return. What are friends for if not that? Especially Ellen, who’s been around for more years than I’ll say, who always has and always will inspire me to travel with her insatiable desire to travel too. I took my first trip sans-parents with Ellen, she’s always incredibly brave, unflappable and an extremely organised travel companion.

It’s been an amazing year and I’m so excited for this one for so many reasons! Thank you so much to everyone who supports my dreams, in all their shapes and sizes, and allows me to be crazy, disorganised and repeatedly absent. And thank you life … because without certain opportunities, which have allowed me to get jobs, I would never have had the money to travel like this.

Paragliding

Everyone here is paragliding

Lodge Evening

After Dark

Morning over the Lake

Morning over the Lake

A very traditional Mass

A very traditional Mass

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Frauenkopf- summit

Bucket List 2015

Bucket List 2015

As usual I don’t plan to complete the list, as I didn’t list year, but it’s fun to set yourself a challenge. I’ll update this as I plan things and go to things so you can see how I’m doing. Is there anywhere you’d like to hit up? My more serious Bucket List might contain getting a job, learning how to drive, entering a marathon etc. but…well, this one just doesn’t. Here’s my 2015 Travel Related Bucket List:

Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos [Semi-Planned]

Is it cheating to put this on because I’ve booked it? This will be my graduation present to myself (bloody better get good results hadn’t I?)! I’m so excited, I will be travelling on a tour with STA with my boyfriend too and I already can’t stop grinning when I think about it. I am most excited for Vietnam, as I’ve been obsessed with the idea of going since I watched the Top Gear Vietnam Special where they tour Vietnam on a motorbike. I won’t get to everything I want to see but I’ll see a lot. I’m also very excited – if that can be the word – to see the Killing Fields in Cambodia and the tunnels that were used during the time of the Viet Kong in Vietnam; I love war history.

Alderly Edge

Just outside of Manchester, or possibly technically in Greater Manchester, it’s certainly less dramatic than my previous one but it’s supposed to be a stunning view over Manchester. I’ve been meaning to get here for the last three years, it’s about time I got it done!

Chester Zoo

I love zoos, they’re one of my favourite places, and I haven’t made it to Chester Zoo yet; it’s a spring plan. (I did get to Blue Planet recently, or that would have been on my list too).

Whitby

I want to get the famous fish and chips – not that I didn’t have enough Fish and Chips at home, I worked in a chip shop for 4 years. I’m told I need to have kippers too. The idea of Whitby is so quintessentially British I can’t resist.

Snowdon

Well, Snowdonia but I want to pop up Snowdon too; I’m aware it’s not too high or challenging but I’d just like to say I’ve done it. It’s pretty do-able since I’m commuting to and from Wales a fair bit to see my boyfriend at the moment.

Estonia

I have some friends in Estonia who I met in Germany last year and I want to go and visit them, see what that little country is all about. I want to check out the architecture and the coast. And probably get drunk.

Hamburg

It was there last year, it remains there this year; it’s a German city that I’m annoyed I haven’t seen yet, I really haven’t done very much of north Germany and I’m dying to get over there again, money permitting.

Edinburgh

Yep, I’ve never been into Scotland at all, which is pretty shocking, but I have a craving for Edinburgh as a first stop. I mean, I always have wanted to go but I feel like this might be the year. I have the impression of it being a really good romantic city for a weekend.

Northern Ireland

I am a geography nerd so Giants’ Causeway has been very high up my to-do list, for a long time, and yet it hasn’t been done. Again, I have a feeling this year might be the year, though I’m not sure if I’ll make it. I love to walk and be by the coast, and it’s one of the best examples of a limestone pavement you can get – that’s very exciting for me. While I’m heading that way I’d love to go via Belfast too, it’s the home town of one of my best friends and I’d love to check it out. Ireland has a really romantic appeal for me, there’s something very fairytale-ish about it in my head. But we’ll have to see.

It’s Not The Leaves That Are Leaving…

It’s Not The Leaves That Are Leaving…

Anyone know that quote? It’s Winnie the Pooh (or A.A.Milne really I suppose) and I love it!

Red LeavesDunham House River

Old Barn

Oh Deer They really get this close

Anyway, better late than never, one of my favourite places I can recommend in the North West, especially when all the autumn colours are a-glow, is Dunham Massey. It’s a lovely place for families too. The grounds are large, not as large as Tatton Park but big and wooded with a lovely garden and vegetable garden too. My favourite part of the day was watching the deer; I crept closer and close, until I realised creeping was an unnecessary precaution, these are really quite friendly as deer go. Apparently they will steal an ice cream from your hand in the summer.

Deer Deer Deer DSC02834 Mum & Dad find a deer Chard Vegetable Garden

If you’re as much of a fan of autumn golds and burnished orange as I am, then put it on your list for next year, or visit in the spring to catch the lovely fawns.

Wood Sculpture The House Mum Autumn Colours Autumn Colours Purple Plants Lime Tree Roses hydrangea

DSC02805

DSC02808

Aber-What?

Aber-What?

I’ve definitely not spent enough time in Wales. I have discovered over the last two months, taking terrible, but beautiful train journeys to Abergavenny and then Aberystwyth – the things we do for love, eh? – Wales is damn pretty and I need to go back some more.

Even things you expect to be bleak, like an old Iron Works or a mine, are instantly made more lush and intense by the dark green hills towering above, adding huge dollops of colour to every grey little town. Not all towns are grey of course, some of the villages are simply gorgeous, and even in tiny Abergavenny we found a lovely Italian restaurant and the most adorable tea shop (I can always find a tea shop) called Cwytch.

Blanaevon Iron Works

Blanaevon Iron Works

Blanaevon Iron Works

Cwytch the Cafe

Cwytch

We spent most time in Abergavenny walking; we hiked what, at first, felt more like a motorway just with human traffic, which turned out to be Pen Y Fan, the highest peak in the Brecon Beacons. The weather was bleak, grey and blowing an absolute gale, sometimes so strong I could barely climb a hill or hold myself steady at the top of a ridge but on a clear day the views must be fantastic. One of my favourite things about hill walking is watching as the sun starts to drop and seeing golden reflections bouncing off the hills in front and behind. I did what I usually do and attempted a route without a map but it all ended up okay in the end as we raced down the last hill trying to beat the torrential downpour that we had seen thundering towards us from miles away; there was nothing we could do at that stage.

Breccons

Selfie

So windy!

Breccons

 

Pen Y Fan

Pen Y Fan

Big Pit isn’t everyone’s cup of tea; taking a rickety ‘cage’ below ground and then being underground in the dark, in an ex-mine, relatively cold … it certainly isn’t my mum’s idea of fun. The tour is very tame though, you head down with ex-miners who make the funniest, best tour guides and then you walk around, having the danger spots pointed out to you, where things like Black Damp still lurk ominously, and seeing the stables where the poor mining ponies used to spend their lives. It’s not too small either; you never really have to crouch. Working in the conditions down there barely bares imaging with the freezing layer of water sat at ground level, the sticky dark mud, the jagged rock faces and the small working spaces. Our miner, from a long-standing family of miners, said he’d do it again though. The exhibitions, and the views, at the top of the pit are wonderful though and certainly worth heading in for – it’s that Welsh countryside again sweeping in from all angles and taking your breath away.

 

Little Steam Train

Big Pit…Little Steam Train

Big Pit

Big Pit

Gargoyle

Yea…I loved this house!

Aberystwyth has a lot more to offer than Abergavenny obviously; everything from a scary array of cocktails at The Cambrian, to Pier Pressure – yep – the nightclub on the pier. My favourite part of my weekend there was hopping off the train and knowing I was in the vicinity of the sea. I could smell it as we walked up the highstreet in the dark so I could get my first glimpse of it. It is the perfect Victorian sea front, a little more run down than some I know, but still the beautiful tall, imposing houses, the beautiful baby-colours of some of the buildings, the idyllic pleasure pier and a smaller wooden one, giving those atmospheric lines that break up the otherwise flat beach-line. At one end of the beach is Constitution Hill and at the other is the Castle. The hill is a lovely little, steep walk, with another great view at the top (and a bonus cafe!). The great thing about Aber is that it’s surrounded by hills, so if you want to get a little perspective on life, you just need to pop up any hill of your choice and get some actual perspective.

Sea Side !!

Sea Side !!

Sea Side !!

Sea Side !!

Messing at the Train Station

Messing at the Train Station

At the top of Constitution Hill we were graced by a Red Kite and her mate. It made the perfect contrast for me with the grey, hectic, mess that Manchester can be, to see this beautiful, rusty red hunter gliding around up there, totally un-phased by our presence. The castle and the old college lie right next to each other, both surprisingly beautiful popping out of a town that could otherwise fade into less-impressive-ness.  Even though it was chilly while I was there I can already imagine lying in the sun traps between the ruins of the castle and I certainly wasn’t the only one taking photos.

Red hut

No that’s not Scandinavia that’s Aberystwyth!

Aber from Above

Red Kite

 

Sun, Sea and Surf in India

Sun, Sea and Surf in India

Pondicherry had a lot to make up for before I even got there. I was angry with the weather for cancelling my trip to Kerala – which was the part of the trip I’d been excited about for the longest – and we’d subsequently booked Pondicherry very last minute. We were hoping to beat the monsoon by racing to the opposite coast to the one it was currently ravaging; I must say it worked.

It’s getting a little less sharp in my brain so I thought I’d wrap up my India posts here. The highlight of the largely hilarious trip was the Night Bus there – the 8 and a bit hour journey from hell, where we realised the utterly wrong thing to have done was to have booked seats right above the wheels at the back of the bus. I attempted to lie horizontal but not a single bit of sleep occurred as my whole body flew up and down off the mattress with alarming violence, we found ourselves looping our arms around the rickety bars on the side of the bed to ensure we didn’t fly right out and as soon as it got dark I frequently panicked, due to the dramatic squealing of breaks and tipping of the coach, that we’d gone off road and been hijacked. Out of the window once I looked and just saw a dense black expanse of trees and potholed mud stretching as far as the bus lights carried my vision – I definitely thought we were going to die. And as for the creepy bus staff…

Tourist 'information'

Tourist ‘information’

Pondicherry

Pondicherry

Pondi Beach

We made it, were yelled at to hurry up getting off the bus and then were dumped in a deserted street, a little delirious, at 6.30am. The hotel wasn’t open and we got shouted out of a cafe, which had had its door open, so we headed for the seafront. That was glorious. The road there is closed to traffic from 8pm till 8am so it is just full of joggers and walkers and families with push chairs. The beach isn’t one for swimming off – just a pile of sharp-ish black rocks tumbling straight into the grey sea – but it looked very atmospheric, the sea reflecting the bright morning rays of sun back to us as we sat at Le Cafe, the only cafe on the sea-side, which is handily open 24hours, and munched our cheese on toast and masala omelettes. To the left of the cafe the promenade stretches a long way, past a large metal statue of Ghandi, surrounded by white pillars, and ghostly stalls, empty now, which fill at night with vendors selling brightly coloured sweets and children’s toys. At night the beach is a lovely place to sit and people watch. The dogs roam the streets and beaches in packs, but are mostly unthreatening, children plod past you trying to sell you anything for money, people have skype conversations while watching the sea; they sit together and share headphones, or let their children play on the now-cool rocks. It’s very serene. Pondicherry is mostly that, serene and harmless. One the last night in Pondicherry us and the rest of the town, it seemed, gathered on the rocks as though to watch a firework display, to gaze in awe (in my case fear) at three storms converging on each other in the sea, all heading our way, sending lightning strikes to the floor in broad white forks. Then when the rain started we sheltered again in Le Cafe and watched as umbrella sellers began to emerge from the streets and hassle passers-by.

Le Cafe Pondicherry Mornings

Pondicherry itself isn’t over burdened with ‘stuff to do’ but there are a lot of places to eat and a lot of luxury hotels with pools (we were so jealous). I probably had more food than is actually legal during the three days we spent there – including my first time trying Barracuda – and I had a lot of Iced Tea there, which is exceptionally good by the way. It was also an exercise in finding air-conditioned venues for much of the time; we certainly beat the monsoon. We popped into churches and museums as we stumbled across them but after a long walk on the seafront, during which we were asked to star in a Tamil Movie, which we did, we made a beeline for the House Boats. It was a little disappointing that so late in the day your options for what boat you can take seem to be pretty limited (our language barrier was also a massive problem). We hopped on the only boat that seemed to be available and headed out onto the water, weaving in and out of fishermen in their coracles and making for an island on the horizon. We hit up paradise beach totally unprepared with no swimming costumes (everyone was ignoring the No Swimming sign) and collected shells and walked instead. It had a tropical vibe, water sports galore, plenty of palm trees, white-ish sand and washed out beach huts with straw roofs. As with all Indian beaches, dodge the rubbish, but it was pretty clean and the water was warm. I put my toes into the Bay of Bengal for the first time ever!

Paradise Beach

Paradise Beach

Paradise Beach

On the Friday I dragged everybody on a short Auto ride to the other side of town to Serenity Beach, a beautiful mess of fishing nets and boats, in a rainbow of colours, with a small concrete path leading past the quaint beach houses, looking a little windswept, at the back of the beach. I came there to surf with Kalialay Surf School and I had one of the best mornings of my life, repeatedly plummeting from my board into the warm salty water while my friends watched be, in a bemused kind of way, from the stone groin. I harbour a lot of love for serenity beach, which has its own breed of serenity, the contentment (so it seemed) of fishermen and avid surfers, living a relatively simple life on the front line of nature. To some people it might have looked unreasonably messy or just plain shabby but I loved the how effortlessly the beach seemed to exude all its colours and how intensely I could smell the salt water.

Serenity Beach

Serenity Beach

Serenity Beach

Serenity Beach

Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the Meditation dome at Auroville challenged my typical travel incentives a little. I’m not the world’s greatest meditate-er and though I admire the ethos of a lot of communities, like those in Auroville, I can’t quite see myself identifying enough to ever become a part of them. Although, I would love to see inside the dome at Auroville. The Ashram is a small, lush space just behind the temple in Pondicherry that is made for meditation and personal thought. Nothing fancy but very serene and with beautiful flowers and a little history about the founder of this community, known as The Mother. Inside what I noticed most (not getting too far with inner thought) was the most graceful seeming woman I had ever seen; she was very old, bent right over the centre of the ashram and lost in her own world, wearing a beautiful dress, with quite an open back displaying her perfect posture and smooth shoulders. I was quite shocked by how beautiful she was and it wasn’t until she stood up, and began to move very slowly, I realised that she could barely walk, due to something wrong with her feet and legs; and yet I’d never seen anyone radiating so much peace and grace. We went on to Auroville which was colourful and tourist friendly, still peaceful and very secluded in a forest with beautiful gardens all around but at the same time very open and warm. And quite commercial, although the food is delicious and the shops are wonderful to look around, certainly worth spending a little time and money there.

 

 

The dome itself seems to have been deposited by an alien. Unlike almost any architectural structure I’ve ever seen these strange, dimpled golden orb shimmers oddly in the natural surroundings, fitting in and yet not quite fitting in, surreal and otherworldly; it’s like you can’t quite look at it straight, or can’t quite see it. How it seems to glow is quite magical and the surrealism is only heightened by the buzzards circling above it searching for prey in the clearing below; it looks like their being drawn to it to guard it. I would love to see the inside but it’s reserved for serious meditation and is by invitation only.

Auroville

Auroville

Auroville

The thing that rounded the trip off incredibly – before we piled back onto the hideous night bus in the pouring rain – was getting to see, and touch, a real elephant at the Ganesha temple in the centre of Pondi. I was so excited to see the temple elephant but hadn’t anticipated to be so scared of him when I came close to him the twilight. When there is no fence or large pit between you the elephant suddenly seems a lot bigger, even the Indian Elephant is majestically large, and obviously extremely docile with it, as it collected coins in the crook of its trunk and handed out blessings in return. I can see why people want to spend their lives working with elephants – there is a magical sensation that tingles all through your body when one touches you, you start to think there’s a reason these creatures are sacred, like they really are delivering you something godly in the gentle tickle of their long trunk. The thing that made me think was looking at his eyes though; they weren’t beautiful per say, they were scary. When you look at an elephants eyes you see that this is a wild creature, they look inherently wild, and there seems a shame in keeping them tame. I know he’s not treated badly, as a temple elephant, but he did look bored – maybe, if that’s possible – and it seemed just unfair to me, that he shouldn’t be stomping through the forest and foraging with a herd. Perhaps that’s a very naive view but I was pleased to get so close to such an awe-striking beast anyway.

Ganesha Temple

Ganesha Temple