Saturday, 21 April 2018

Biltmore - America's largest private house.

Biltmore
Our plan was to visit Biltmore Estate in North Carolina to see the azaleas flowering. David has a soft spot for azaleas. This particular plan also involved blue skies and sunshine. I have a soft spot for not being cold and wet. Unfortunately neither the weather nor the azaleas co-operated. On the day of our visit, in early April, the skies were grey, the weather was cold, there was a constant threat of rain and only a few of Biltmore's azalea bushes had begun to blossom. At least the tulips were flowering. They were a great consolation prize. It is hard to imagine a more perfect flower. There were row upon row of them - vivid yellows, reds and purples all in full bloom challenging the chilly weather to move over and make way for spring.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

The White Squirrels of Brevard in Transylvania County, North Carolina

white squirrel
Have you ever seen a white squirrel? If your answer is yes, there is a good chance you have been to Brevard in Transylvania County, North Carolina. Brevard has a thriving, and much loved, population of white squirrels.  They are exactly like their eastern grey squirrel cousins except their fur is snowy white. When David and I read about Brevard's white squirrels we had to go searching for them - well, I had to go searching. David is not much of an animal person but he's always happy to come along on my  quests.

We had no real idea where to start looking except that David had read the town of Brevard was a good place to start. As it turned out, the squirrels were easy to find. Within a few minutes of arriving in town we spotted a snowy white squirrel in someone's front yard. Then as we headed down toward the Brevard College Campus, a known haunt for the little creatures, according to Google, we saw another and another and another. In all we spotted about six in the space of 15 minutes or so.They were fossicking and foraging alongside a few of their grey furred cousins.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Why we will never visit Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, again!

Saturn V Rocket, Kennedy Space Centre
Do you enjoy paying a lot of money to stand in line all day? If your answer is yes, then Kennedy Space Center is for you. If your answer is no, then don't even think about visiting.

Today David and I made the mistake of visiting Kennedy Space Center, at Cape Canaveral in Florida. We first went there 20 years ago and loved it. They had a real Saturn V rocket left over from the Apollo moon landing program. The Saturn V remains the largest and most powerful rocket ever built. Seeing it 20 years ago was nothing short of awesome. Seeing the same rocket today was a big mistake.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Wynwood Walls: Exploring Street Art in Miami.

Wynwood Walls
Wynwood Walls, Miami bills itself as the greatest collection of street art ever assembled in one place. Since its inception in 2009 the project has involved more than 90 artists representing 20 countries and covered 85,000 square feet of walls. I am a great fan of street art. Since falling in love with the genre on a visit to Valparaiso, Chile I have sought it out wherever we are in the world. With three days in Miami there was no way I was NOT going to drag David along to see Wynwood. As it turned out the district was only a ten minute drive from our hotel. The only tricky thing was parking on a Sunday. Wynwood Walls has revitalised a once run down area of Miami. Now there is no shortage of cafes, restaurants, bars - and cars vying for parking spots. If you happen to be in Miami and you like street art check it out!

Monday, 12 March 2018

Don't drink the yellow coke and 9 other life-saving tips for surviving Angkor Wat.

Preah Khan
There are more than a thousand temples in the jungles around Siem Reap in Cambodia. Angkor Wat is the one everyone has heard of but there are many others. If you want to cut to the chase and find out which temples to include on your itinerary, read Angkor Wat and the 7 must see temples of Angkor - just don't drink the yellow coke! If you would like a bit of friendly advice before you go temple hunting then read on for my life-saving (literally in one case) tips on how to survive the temples of Angkor.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Angkor Wat and the 7 must see temples of Angkor.

Angkor Wat

The Angkor Archaeological Park, just outside Siem Reap in Cambodia, has the largest concentration of temples in the world. According to Google there are more than a thousand scattered across some 200 square kilometres. Even the most intrepid traveller can hope to visit only a fraction. Are you up for a thousand temples - no! I didn't think so - but don't panic! Luckily for you, David and I have done all the hard work and over a three day marathon of religious monument hopping visited most of them - well it felt like it!  Actually we saw thirteen but they were absolutely the best thirteen. Out of that thirteen I have picked seven which you simply must visit.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

The Novice Monks of Wat Hanchey Temple, Cambodia

Garuda Wat Hanchey
It is the first morning of our Mekong River cruise aboard Scenic Spirit and we are standing at the top of a hill waiting for the rest of our group to come into view. They are climbing 300 steps to the temple at Wat Hanchey. As one of the 'walking wounded' I have ridden to the top in a mini-bus.  Only a month or two ago my healthier self would have been one of the first to take the challenge. That person is returning slowly, but not yet. I envy the climbers. By the time they reach the temple they will be able to view the temple through the prism of a well-earned achievement.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

A Mekong River Cruise with Scenic Spirit

Scenic Spirit
My first impression of Scenic Spirit was long before we saw the ship. On the overland journey from Siem Reap in Cambodia to Kampong Cham, our port of embarkation, the tour bus stopped for what was euphemistically called a 'happy stop'.  Lining up for the loo I got talking to a small group of other women. Passengers on the cruise before ours, they had disembarked Scenic Spirit that morning and were travelling toward Siem Reap.



Thursday, 14 December 2017

Is snorkeling on Ningaloo Reef overrated?

Turqouise Bay Ningaloo Reef
Ningaloo Reef is one of the largest fringing reefs on the planet. It extends for 260 kms (162 miles) along the coast of Western Australia from Red Bluff, near Carnarvon to Bundegi Beach just north of Exmouth. The turquoise blue waters are stunning, the fish and other marine animals prolific and, best of all, much of the reef can be accessed by stepping straight off the beach. What is there not to love? I am a self-confessed snorkeling addict married to an otherwise perfect husband, who doesn't swim. Being able to snorkel by stepping straight off a beach ought to be nirvana for me. It saves me going out alone on long boat trips to reach the coral.  Perhaps my expectations were too high but having nagged David for years to take me to Ningaloo Reef, I was disappointed.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Where can you see penguins in Sth Africa?

African penguinPenguins in Africa! It sounds like a contradiction in terms but there they were, on Boulders Beach, right where our guide book said they would be, dozens and dozens of African penguins. Also known as jackass penguins, because their call sounds a bit like a donkey, African penguins live along the south-western and southern coasts of Africa between Namibia and Port Elizabeth.  If you want to see them and you are in Cape Town just head out to Boulders Beach, Simons Town, a mere 45 minutes by car. Combine your visit with a trip to the Cape of Good Hope for a great day excursion.