A Travellerspoint blog

2011 - Turkey

A trip to see some of my friend's friends.

What was originally a spare of the moment thing back in December, sat at work one day with my friend Vanja, we booked ourselves on a return flight to Ankara in the hope that her friends would let us stay for the week. Luckily they agreed, and on the 15th of March 2011 we boarded the flight from Manchester to Ankara with a 4-hour wait in Munich on the way...I'd never met her friends before, so I was unsure what to expect, but staying in a new development only a 10 minute drive outside Gölbaşı near Ankara was very different to if we'd been in a resort.

When we arrived there was snow everywhere - not what I'd expected - but we didn't let it spoil our time there. On our first full day we visited the Ataturk (although the museum was shut) - the Mausoleum was beautiful! From there we went to the small lake (in the dark).

On our second day one of the people we were staying with had to work, so we drove down to the large lake and spent the day climbing the viewing tower, drinking coffee and playing in the many parks that are around the lake. There are some stunning views from the tower, and it is very family-orientated with parks and public bbq's all around.
On the Saturday we took the local bus to the market in Gölbaşı and then headed on another bus to the Ankamall; a huge shopping centre. After coffee and a wander round we went to the supermarket to buy fish for their tea, and fish fingers for me :)

For the rest of our stay we didn't really do much, but I'll never forget the walk me and Vanja made from where we were staying into Gölbaşı. The hills are very steep and I struggled a lot; but we made it! Another memory, which was rather bizarre would be the Sunday night escapade. One of their friends visited, and after copious amounts of vodka and beer, at 1am they decided we would drive to the other side of Ankara for a bowl of soup! They decided who was the most sober between them, and we headed out...apparantly it's normal for them to do this sort of thing, and they even took more cans of lager to drink in the car!

It was a brilliant week and I've never wanted to be back in a country more than I do now.

Posted by JosTravel2016 08:50 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

2011 - Norway

A short break to sub-zero beautifulness

Flying into Rygge Airport, our accommodation was only 3 stops on the bus from Oslo Central Station. Being self-catering was probably a good idea, as we didn't expect things to be maybe as expensive as they were. Three and a half days in what was a beautiful city, and I've come back with a terrible cold and feeling exhausted! However, it was truly worth it as we saw some amazing places!! Our first afternoon/evening saw us get lost on a bus and end up in a place called 'Stig' (excellent for us as we love Top Gear!).

Starting off with a trip to Bygdoy and visits to the Viking Ship Museum and the Kon Tiki Museum. We weren't able to get the ferry back across as the Fjords were frozen over! Instead we jumped on the bus and went to Ullevaal Stadium, only for that to be shut at weekends! After a wonder around we jumped back on the bus and headed to the Vigeland Sculpture Park - an amazing place with some lovely sculptures.

We started with the National Gallery to see Munch's 'Scream'. After hot chocolate and a bun in a cafe we headed onto Arkershus Fortress and the Resistance Museum (which was shut). There are amazing views from the top of here - especially when the sun sets!

Our last day and we went for a wander around the Folk Museum before heading back to the Central Station to get out train to the airport.

It was an amazing weekend - albeit a bit cold.

Posted by JosTravel2016 08:47 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

2010 - Tunisia

First trip to Africa!

What a fabulous experience for my first trip out of Europe! Staying half way between Sousse and Port El Kantaoui at the Royal Marhaba Salem hotel, I managed to pack in loads in the week I was there.

On this, our first full day, we took a walk down to the hotel beach with 3 others we'd met on the plane. I'm not one for sun-bathing as a rule, I like to be out exploring the country, but we wanted to go to the 'meet-the-rep' meeting just before lunch so made the most of a spare couple of hours by having a paddle and a walk to the rocks. It was down on the beach that we booked to take a camel ride that afternoon. I'm scared of heights, but I was determined to get on that camel. We went up into the hills and visited a small pottery place, and watched a woman making bread Tunisian-style in a wooden barrel. After giving the camel a bottle of coca-cola (?) we made our way back. It was a brilliant experience, and I finally got to ride a camel in Africa and watch the sun set on my descent back into the town.

The Friday morning market in Nabeul was our first stop on our day trip. The aromas from the spices and the vast amount of local produce was pouring out from every knuck and cranny. Being the largest market in Northern Africa, you can buy everything here, and the locals are really friendly. We stopped for a coffee in a cafe and watched as locals and tourists alike bustled around the streets. After lunch at a hotel in Hammamet, we went on for an afternoon at Friguia Safari Park. The most memorable parts of our trip to Friguia was with the Giraffes. For a small tip the Giraffe-keeper will take you into the Giraffe house and take a photo on your camera of you standing with one of the Giraffes. Now I know I'm small, but at the side of the Giraffe I felt tiny! Our trip to Friguia was only a couple of hours long, and it was at the wrong time of day. If you go before lunch or after 3pm you can go to the Aquarium and swin with the Dolphins. It's something I've always wanted to do; sadly it didn't happen on this trip.

This must have been one of our busiest days for sight-seeing. We started the day with a visit to Kairouan. Here we visited the Water Basins, the Great Mosque, the Sidi Sahib Mausoleum, and finished at the Medina. The Great Mosque is a fabulous structure, and one of Tunisia's largest Mosques. We were given information on the prayer room before being taken into a small picture house to watch a short film on the history of Tunisia. After lunch we made our way to the stunning El Jem. Walking around the outside of the Amphitheatre, the second largest built by the Romans, I had to stop myself from running down the stairs to get in quicker. It was amazing to be able to explore both the seating area and down underneath; you can even see the scratch marks from the lions if you look closely enough. Out last stop was in Monastir, where we were given a choice between looking around the Medina or exploring the town for an hour. Having done a bit of research before I went, I knew that if we crossed the road from the Medina we would find the Ribat and the Grande Mosque. The Monastir Ribat was on my 'to-do' list; manly because some of my closest friends are huge Monty Python fans, and the Monastir Ribat was used in one of the most famous scenes in 'Life of Brian'. I only saw the Grande Mosque from a distance as I'd spent a bit long grabbing some shots of me at the Ribat!

With a break from two very busy days, Sunday was a quiet one with just a bit of sun bathing and resting :) We did venture out at one point to do a bit of shopping in the small supermarkets, but I think my mum needed a bit of a rest. I spent the afternoon down on the beach watching the Animation Team playing football with the guests; not sure one of them meant to slip and slide straight into the sea though???

I don't think we could've picked a worse day for this, but after a short taxi-ride into Port El Kantaoui we took a trip into the Med on a Pirate Ship. Whilst the sun was shining it was extremely windy, and not at all pleasant. I'm sure this is something best suited to the summer months. However, if you do go during the winter and fancy a boat ride, then there are a whole array of different types you can book trips on. Walking around the harbour you will find everything from Submarines to glass-bottomed boats. I guess I just wanted to be a pirate for a couple of hours....and really didn't like it very much.

Our last opportunity to take a full day to indulge in my favourite past-time, sight-seeing. Today, apart from El Jem of course, was probably one of the best trips we did. We started the day at the Bardo Museum which houses an enormous collection of Roman Mosaics. They were in the middle of a restoration programme while we there, so you saw a lot of mosaics up against the wall covered in bubblewrap. From here we took a trip to the Carthage Punic Port and drove around to where we could see the palace. We then carried on and pulled up outside the ancient ruins of Carthage. The first thing you come to as you enter the site is the Stalae on the Tophet, which is basically the graves of children who were sacrificed during the Punic era. As you walk through the site you come to a viewing point, and it's from here I stood mesmorised whilst looking out across the ancient ruins of Carthage and beyond into the Med. As soon as the tour guide had finished telling us about the site I was the first to go down the stairs and make my way into the ruins. Walking around, touching the various surfaces from stone to marble, (posing for pics!!), and taking in the feeling of history; it was a surreal experience that I'm not sure I could match easily. We left Carthage and made our way to Sidi Bou Said, the clifftop village in Tunis. The steep climb up the winding streets proved a bit too much for my mum, so she sat in the shade with another elderly tourist while I made my way to the top with the rest. The views of the coast from the very top were fabulous; and you can see for miles up the mediterranean. Despite having heard the story of the Olive trees 3 times (once on every trip), I couldn't resist having my photo taken with the one at the top of the hill...!

Our week in wonderful Tunisia was to end with a coach pick-up from the hotel at 12 noon. I spent my final few hours at our hotel lazing around at the side of the pool trying to catch a least a bit of a tan – and mainly failed!

The hotel was fantastic. The staff were polite, the rooms were lovely and clean, and the entertainment was pretty good most nights. We had belly dancers, a snake charmer, a strong man, and a night of karaoke.

Would love to go back someday – but for now there's so much more I want to see in the world...

Posted by JosTravel2016 08:44 Archived in Tunisia Comments (0)

2009 - Cyprus

My first real beach holiday

Originally booked as a holiday to Bulgaria in September, it had to be postponed due to my mum having open-heart surgery in the summer of 2009. Instead we ended up in Paphos for a week at the beginning of December, and to be honest it was probably better. The weather wasn't very nice, with thunder storms interupting most trips for a couple of days. But all in all it was quite a nice choice.

I managed to see most of the things on my "to-see" list, and I don't think I would return just to see the things I missed....(I did say I want to see as many countries as possible after all). It is probably better to do this day-by-day, as I'm sure it won't make sense otherwise.

On our first full day we set off just before lunch and walked to the harbour. After stopping a couple of times for a coffee or two I climbed the fort. Ok, so it's not very big, but the views are amazing! We then walked back along a bit and after having a spot of lunch we went to the mosaics. These are so lovely, and there's also an Odien which you can climb up onto and take some pictures. There is also the 40 pillars there, but it started pouring down and it was the first of many thunder storms, so we gave them a miss and headed for the nearest cafe. Our second day the morning was spent with a trip on the bus to the Paphos Market; situated at the top of a hill there are many cafes that overlook the cliffs. In the afternoon we bough tickets for the "hop-on, hop-off" bus and went to the Tombs of the Kings. This place is amazing, and I was running up and down the stairs to take pictures of all the tombs. However, this again was cut short as we suffered a second thunder storm. Having caught the bus back to the harbour, we made our way back to the hotel in time to get ready to go out for tea.

Day three wasn't much better, as my mum wanted her hair doing and it was still thundering outside. I used the 24-hour bus tickets we'd bought and went to a couple of museums while my mum went to the hairdressers. I got back after lunch, and to be honest there wasn't much more we could do with the weather being so bad. We decided to catch a bus up to Coral Bay, but when we got there it was still raining and everything was closed - not good! Day four was pretty much the same; bad weather and not a lot to do in the hotel. Luckily we had made friends with a few people and one of them had hired a car. They offered to take me to see the tree of hankies, and on the way back I asked if we could nip around the back of a department store - someone had said there was a little church and some ruins which were free to look at. It was a pretty good tip, as behind Debenhams in Paphos is a little church which has tombs, mosaics and St Pauls Pillar. I'd been looking for the Pillar since I arrived, and was more than pleased to discover that's where I'd been sent to explore!

Day five was probably one of the best. Despite the weather being fantastic I sat on a coach most of the day to go up to the Troodos Mountains. They are spectacular! It's a long drive, but well worth it. We saw the huge statue of Mikarius, and his tomb, and we visited Kykkos Monestary and another, smaller monestary on the way back down. Kykkos Monestary is huge, and the inside of the church is covered in gold. We had lunch overlooking the mountains, but the tour guide was not very helpful. The only downside to that day trip was driving back down the mountains. It is a very long way, on narrow winding roads with huge drops down the side, and most of the coach fell asleep (and snored!). Day six was another really hot day, and another day that I spent the majority of the time on a coach. We visited Nicosia (my love of capitals shines through!!). It was really lovely, although I didn't really like crossing the border to the Turkish side. We saw the Eleftheria Freedom Monument, Famagusta Gate, the Venetian Walls, and climed the viewing tower in Debenhams to see panoramic views of the City. It was a lovely day trip, and we saw Aphrodites Rock on the way back - just a shame I spent most of my last full day of proper sunshine on a coach.

Posted by JosTravel2016 08:43 Comments (0)

2008 - Netherlands

A trip to the bulb fields and more.

This would be the second time I took my mum on holiday abroad and was in 2008. She had always wanted to visit the bulb-fields so I booked to go to Amsterdam on that basis. We stayed in a lovely b&b outside the City, and had to get the little boat across the river from Central Station to get there, however we used normal buses for the rest of our trip as they were closer to get to. We stayed Monday to Friday and got to see quite a bit; not as much as I'd have liked, but enough.

We took a day trip to the Keukenhoff Gardens and spent hours walking around looking at all the displays. They say you should time it right; go too early in the year and nothing has flowered, go too late and everything has died off! ...we timed it perfectly. All the displays were really bright, and the colours were amazing. I climbed the windmill whilst my mum sat and listened to the Brass Band which was playing. I had told my mum not to take all her money out with her, and it was a good job she'd listened. Taking just a small amount of cash proved wise as on the way to the gardens she lost it!!!

Other things we managed to do whilst there was the ritual sight-seeing tour, although I'd never done one by canal boat before. It was really nice seeing the City from the water, and the guide was extremely knowledgable about the history of Amsterdam. We also spent a morning looking around the Botanical Gardens before spending the afternoon at the Van Gogh Museum. I would have like to have visited Anne Franks house, and possibly the Rembrandt Museum, but time and money told me otherwise; although I did see them from the outside. We did pass the Rembrandt monument, which was nice, but the museum would have been a bonus.

Having seen the capital, and the gardens, I'm not sure I'd go back to the Netherlands. I'm not a big drinker, and don't much like the "cafes", so it's not really a place I felt comfortable in.

Posted by JosTravel2016 08:41 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

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