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.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Singapore's Light to Night Festival: Not quite Vivid Sydney but almost!

Light to Night Festival

Vivid Sydney started on 25 May. If you are in Sydney, don't miss it. Without a doubt my favourite Sydney festival, Vivid draws tourists from around the world. Sadly Vivid often clashes with our travel plans and we manage to miss it about two years in three. 2018 is no different, but this year we got a great consolation prize. We stumbled upon Singapore's Light to Night Festival. Held in January and currently in its second year, Light to Night lights up the majestic buildings of central Singapore in a way which gives Vivid a run for its money.  Take a look at my photos and tell me what you think -

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Travel Bloggers share their favourite must-read books and must-see films for destinations around the world.

Credit:The Whole World or Nothing
Have you ever been to a destination where a book or film was a 'must-read', or 'must-see', before (or after) your visit? Whether it is fiction or non-fiction, sometimes when you travel to somewhere new there is a book which cries out to be read, or a film to be watched. Tracking down which book to read isn't always easy though, so I asked other travel bloggers to share their recommendations, and this is what they came up with.

Note: I have listed the destinations in alphabetical order under the country they are situated in. I intend this to be an ongoing resource. If you check back from time to time you will find new destinations and recommendations.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Where Does Basa Come From? The confronting secret of Vietnamese fish farms.

Have you ever eaten basa fish? I have, but never again. Basa is a fish farmed in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. Once upon a time if I heard the phrase 'fish farm' it would conjure up images of crystal clear ocean enclosures with a never ending supply of fresh, clean seawater where the fish were living more or less in their natural environment. Not any more! That was before we visited a Vietnamese fish farm.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Biltmore - America's largest private house.

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.