Saturday, 3 November 2018

How NOT to buy a souvenir: 8 tips on avoiding that piece of useless junk.

souvenir stand
It was the first day of our travels in Mexico. It was hot, we were jet-lagged and we were awed by the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula - one of the new seven wonders of the world. There was a long line of eager souvenir sellers, all with wide grins, and near-identical trinkets. I was on a quest for something to remember our trip by. David was on a quest to do anything to make me happy. I had recently been ill, very ill, and he was being even more caring and generous than usual. All this amounted to a  perfect recipe to get taken advantage of, mercilessly, - and the Mexican souvenir sellers were happy to oblige.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Watch out for topes! And other life saving tips for driving in Mexico.

Driving in Mexico is stressful - I just want to get that out of the way to start with. The traffic is awful, the other drivers operate in a different universe of road rules (who am I kidding - what road rules), the road signs are someone's idea of a bad joke (when they exist at all), the frequent potholes are yawning caverns with 'journey to the centre of the earth' like proportions and don't get me started on the speed bumps.

Friday, 28 September 2018

Uxmal: Mayan ruins on a grand scale in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula

Uxmal Mayan ruins

For sheer size and grandeur the Mayan ruins of Uxmal and their imposing Pyramid of the Magician are hard to beat. Four hours by road from the beach resorts of Playa del Carmen, Uxmal's relative isolation means that like the pyramids and temples at Mayapan it doesn't suffer from the crowds which flock to Chichen Itza and Tulum. Our road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula took us to Merida, to see the flamingos of Celestun and from Merida it was an easy one hour's drive south to Uxmal.

Uxmal has the most impressive pyramid we saw in all of Yucatan. Rising up on a massive elliptical base The Pyramid of the Magician is reminiscent of a fortified European castle standing in silent defence of the city's long dead inhabitants.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

The Mayan Ruins of Coba: Pyramids in Mexico

Nohoch Mul Coba
We are in Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo, and it is HOT! What is it about the most interesting places in the world - they are either unbearably hot or freezing cold. Well into our second week of exploring the pyramids and ruins left on the Yucatan Peninsula by Mexico's Mayan Civilisation I am over the heat - which is partly why I nominate Coba as my favourite Mayan ruin. Coba is in the jungle (more of a forest really), nestled unpretentiously amongst a cool umbrella of trees with its pyramids and temples connected along timeworn shaded pathways.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

35J and 35K on a Qantas A380: The Best Economy Seats in the Sky!

Source: Qantas
What if I told you it is possible to book an airline seat with unlimited leg room, in a row of two seats (no middle seat), in a cabin of just 30 seats with its own toilet and great service, all for the cost of an economy fare plus an exit row surcharge. Would you believe me? Stuck in the 7th level of Dante's Hell downstairs on a long haul flight passengers can only dream of such luxury but for a lucky few life in the stratosphere between continents can be almost bearable. I am talking about one of the best kept secrets in the sky - seats 35J and 35K in the upstairs cabin on a Qantas A380.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Mayapan Archaeological Zone: Chichen Itza without the crowds!

Mayapan Archaeological Zone in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico has everything which Chichen Itza has - except on a smaller scale and without the bus tours and crowds. If you like Chichen Itza but wish you could wander through the ruins quietly with the place to yourself then you will love Mayapan.

Mayapan was the last great Mayan capital before the arrival of the Spanish conquerors. Founded in AD 1000 it dominated northern Yucatan politically and culturally until the mid-15th Century. One of the only Mayan capitals to be surrounded by walls, Mayapan had 12,000 inhabitants within a city centre of 6.5 square kilometres (4 square miles) and a further 5,000 outside the walls.

Friday, 3 August 2018

The flamingos of Celestun, Mexico: Everything you need to know before you go.

Have you ever seen a flamingo in flight? They take to the air in great clouds of pink, their long, elegant necks stretched out in front trailing a wing span tipped with a broad slash of inky black feathers. Am I the only one who didn't know flamingos have black feathers on their wings? When you see them in captivity their wings are always tucked neatly away with the beautiful ebony feathers hidden from sight.

Next to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza seeing flamingos in the wild was at the top of my wish list for our trip to Mexico.  Surprisingly, when I went in search of information about how, when and where to see them I came up with mostly blanks and conflicting information.  Hence this blog post. I have tried to include everything you need to know so you don't end up just blundering into town as we did hoping for the best.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Chichen Itza: Everything you need to know before you visit.

El Castillo Chichen Itza
Have you ever read a travel story in a newspaper or magazine (these days it is more likely to be a blog) and thought to yourself 'that is a place I just have to go'. Chichen Itza was like that for me. Way back in the early 2000s, I opened the Sunday paper to a story on a group of ancient Mayan temples I had never heard of. It was Chichen Itza. One glance at the photo of El Castillo, the massive step pyramid at the centre of the complex, and I was hooked. For once David took very little convincing, Mexico was already on his bucket list, but as it turned out it would take us ten years to get there. When we finally did, Chichen Itza was every bit as breathtaking as I imagined.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Have electric bikes ruined cycling in Europe?

The long slow drone of a pack of electric bicycles (e-bikes) approaches us from behind. They sound like a swarm of bees gathering into formation - ready to strike. As they get closer the volume increases and my nerves jangle with anticipation of their attack.

Struggling slowly uphill in the midday sun I glance around, desperately searching for an escape route. The bike path is narrow. To my left a tight, winding road is hostile with traffic. It runs through yet another wonderfully picturesque town, but I have no time out from ensuring my own survival to appreciate its beauty. Medieval buildings rise up on

Friday, 6 July 2018

How to pay a parking fine in Germany: The frustrating tale of a 15 euro ticket.

I admit it - we did the wrong thing! I am the third most law-abiding person on the planet. Only the Dalai Lama and the Pope are ahead of me in the queue. If a sign says don't do something I absolutely do not do it. I don't swim outside the flags (you have to live in Australia to understand that particular piece of lunacy), I don't litter, I don't speed and I don't park where I am not supposed to. Nor does David, while I am around at least. Except on a recent trip to Germany we did and with all the hassle and grief it caused us we are never, ever doing it again.