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The Road to Rhodes

Rhodes

sunny 29 °C
View Rhodes on kmmk17's travel map.

When it came to our summer holiday this year we were pretty open minded - all we wanted was somewhere warm, a nice hotel with good food, and not in Spain.

Nothing against Spain - they do what they do really well, but after going to Gran Canaria last year, and having been to Spain 11 times before, I really wanted to go somewhere new this year.

We looked around for a while and started to settle in on Greece. I had been to Athens 10 years ago, but that was all. Visiting one of the islands would be a different experience, and we started to settle in on Crete. Nevertheless, we didn't want to book anything too far in advance - all the Covid related cancellations and reschedulings had scarred us, so we waited until relatively close to the time.

Then just as we were ready to book at the hotel I had found, I had a thought - is Crete the island we wanted to visit? I started to think about Rhodes, and realised it had more to see. Last minute change of plan!

We looked at the flights and they were all pretty awful timings. Looked at hotels and last minute bookings meant a small choice that met our wants. In the end it worked out better to go on a package with Tui than to book everything independently. Going All-Inclusive with Tui was no more expensive than our usual Half Board independent trip, so we decided to make our lives easier and do that. Let's treat ourselves - after all, we had scrapped a holiday in August anyway!

The hotel we found looked pretty good - but there were some sketchy reviews - ants, dodgy WiFi, smelly nearby sewage works. But the reviews for other good places we'd stayed before had sketchy reviews, and did some of this matter anyway? We took a punt and decided just to go with it!

The Kresten Royal

The Kresten Royal

Several weeks later, it was almost time to head off. Then two days before we were due to leave, the Queen died. How annoying - all the drama, special TV programmes and general excitement of this generational event was taking place whilst we were heading out of the country. We had talked about going down to London - maybe to see the lying in state. Then there was the funeral - when would this take place and would be able to see it?

As our flight wasn't leaving until mid afternoon, we got to see the official proclamation of the new monarch on TV that morning. We had heard rumours that the funeral would take place on the Monday after we returned, which would give us time to head down to London the day before (the day after we got back) but this wasn't yet confirmed

Mourning

Mourning

It was soon time to head off. Once arriving at the airport there was no mistaking the country was in mourning. There were images of the Queen everywhere, as well as a Book of Condolence, which we had signed as we didn't have time to visit one at home.

Book of Condolence

Book of Condolence

By the time we would arrive in Greece, we would miss dinner so we grabbed food from the recently opened Burger King in the departure lounge, before boarding our plane.

It was a four hour flight, so we'd got some newspapers, puzzle books and music to keep us entertained. Some beautiful views en route over the Alps and Italy and then just after sunset we arrived at Rhodes Airport.

The Matterhorn

The Matterhorn

Frustratingly most of the UK flights were arriving at the same times, and so there was a lot of hanging about. Baggage reclaim took around an hour, and then we waited ages for our transfer coach to leave. It then decided to reverse the drop off route and so we were one of the last to get dropped off. By the time we arrived at the hotel it was just after midnight - even accounting for the loss of two hours, this still meant 10 hours end to end. Being late there was just one poor man on he reception dealing with all the new arrivals. Eventually we managed to get our key and head to the room.

The bar was still open for another half hour, so we decided to go and get a drink so we could at least do something on our first day!

The following morning we headed down to breakfast, had our fill and then headed to the nearby supermarket to get some supplies. We sussed out the local buses and headed back to the hotel. It was then finally time to start enjoying ourselves! We made our way to the top pool - just next to the hotel where there was a bar. Found ourselves some sun loungers and grabbed some drinks. All-inclusive meant free, so we started working our way through the cocktail list.

By the Pool

By the Pool

After having dinner we headed down to the bar and then sat and enjoyed some evening entertainment.

The following day we decided to head down to the lower pool, which we realised we didn't enjoy as much, despite being closer to the restaurant with the Souvlaki. We briefly went to the beach, where the pebbles hurt our feet, before heading back up to the top pool.

After two days in the hotel, on the Tuesday we had a day out - heading south to visit the ruins at Lindos. After breakfast, we headed to the bus stop and got on a direct bus to Lindos. It took around 90 minutes and picked up more and more people until there was no room left, but eventually we arrived at the very busy tourist town.

The buses stop on the outskirts of the town, and everyone then walks down the hill, passing numerous stray cats, towards the quaint, traditional Greek town.

Streets of Lindos

Streets of Lindos

Many winding streets made this very busy, but before long we arrived at the entrance to the ruins. We bought out tickets online so we didn't need to queue for ages and headed straight through.

Lindos

Lindos

To be honest, these ruins were no more special than any other set of Greek ruins, but nevertheless they were still pretty and had beautiful views over the nearby bays.

Lindos Bay

Lindos Bay

We had a nice look around, before we headed back down through the beautiful town and eventually back to the bus station.

Arriving back at the hotel earlier than expected, we had time to go into the main restaurant for lunch (normally the effort to get dressed meant we opted for the Souvlaki and Pizza at the outside restaurant). We then had some more sunbathing before dinner and a visit to the bar that night.

After a day out, Wednesday was spent chilling in the hotel. However we overdid it a bit on the alcohol today. Too many strong cocktails too quickly. I had aimed to beat my record of 7 earlier in the week - but with 5 before lunch I ended up feeling queasy all day and gave up! A lesson for the rest of the week...

Cocktails Galore

Cocktails Galore

That afternoon there was a big changeover at the hotel. Many of the nice courteous (and mostly German) guests headed home, to be replaced by bus loads of Israelis who can only be described as "pushy". They made their presence known instantly and it meant and end to the nice orderly queues in the restaurant and the peaceful relaxing by the pool for the rest of the holiday...

The following day we again headed out of the hotel - making our way up to Rhodes Town. There is a lot of history here and it was a beautiful place to visit.

Site of the Colossus

Site of the Colossus

We started around the harbour - heading past many of the old buildings before reaching the site where the Colossus stood before being destroyed in the earthquake in 226BC, and now graced by a pair of Does. Pretty, but not quite on par with one of the seven Wonders of the World.

The Doe

The Doe

We then headed around to the other side of the harbour, passing three beautiful traditional windmills.

Mandraki Windmills

Mandraki Windmills

Just past these was a man looking after numerous cats, and finally at the end of the harbour entrance is another doe statue, and from where the Turkish coast can be seen, just 12 miles away.

Cats

Cats

We then headed south, entering the Old City, to where many of the most important old buildings on this island are located.

Grand Master's Palace

Grand Master's Palace

We walked past numerous souvenir shops, cafés, defensive and religious buildings of different types, representing the history of the rule of this island by the Romans, Ottomans, Italians and Greeks.

Old Town Streets

Old Town Streets

We then headed back towards the bus stop and eventually our hotel. Once again, being back at lunchtime we headed into the main restaurant for lunch. It was outside the entrance where we noticed one of the new guests, a young girl from Britain was hurriedly buying a T-shirt from the neighbouring gift shop, so she could enter for lunch - apparently dismayed that this 5* resort won't allow their guests to enter (barely) wearing a bikini...

The following day was our last full day. We again spent it around the pool, with cocktails and snacks before heading for dinner. Tonight the entertainment was "International Night", which basically meant getting out the bouzouki.

Bouzouki Time

Bouzouki Time

I decided to take a nice evening walk around the resort, taking a night time walk down to the beach and around the complex.

Evening view from our room

Evening view from our room

Our final day was now upon us, and thankfully our All inclusive wristbands weren't taken off us at check out, so we could again enjoy some drinks and snacks - particularly useful as our pick up was just before dinner time.

The airport was again full of faffing - lots of delays and extremely busy. A particular 'highlight' was the boarding of our flight at the exact same time as those at the gate next door. Everyone must get on an airport bus, and as there wasn't room to board both at the same time, we had to wait for all the stragglers heading to East Midlands before we could even start. In the end it meant boarding the flight 90 minutes later than departure was supposed to be - at around midnight - with estimated arrival back home at 2am (accounting for the time difference). Great...

This essentially made this a short haul overnight flight, and we eventually arrived home at around 3am (5am Greek time).

As planned, the following day we got up and headed into London to see the interesting, but busy and hectic funeral preparations - thank God for the extra bank holiday giving us chance to finally rest... even if my Out of Office was completely wrong...

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 11:45 Archived in Greece Tagged sea architecture history airport memorial sun pool tourists drunk Comments (0)

Pretty but Painful Pamukkale

Turkey - Pamukkale

sunny 24 °C
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After taking an internal flight from Istanbul we arrived at Denizli Airport for our transfer to Pamukkale. Pamukkale is an interesting village, thriving off tourism to it's two famous sites - the natural white travertine hillslopes caused by cooling salt water, which lead to ruins of an ancient spa city.

After an hour we arrived at our hotel, but by now it was already evening and so after a quick walk in the village to see it by night we settled in for the night.

We got up early the following morning to give us plenty of time to explore the sights, as we were only here one night. Heading down for breakfast, we were served a plethora of Turkish breakfast bites.

Hot Air Balloon

Hot Air Balloon

As we were eating, a hot air balloon landed in the fields behind us, whilst we were being being surrounded by all the stray cats of the neighbourhood.

One of the stray cats

One of the stray cats

Not long later we checked out, leaving our suitcase at the hotel before heading towards the travertines. Whilst researching I had wondered whether being white, the ground would be burning hot after being in the sun. This was concerning, as all visitors need to walk on it barefeet to protect it from erosion - however no one had complained about it at all! After putting my feet on it, I was surprised however to find that it was not hot at all, but was in fact quite a painful experience - as parts of the white salt floor were quite sharp! And yet not one had mentioned this anywhere I had read!? I was expecting to have my feet burned or catch a verruca, not have my feet stabbed.

Entering the Travertines

Entering the Travertines

Being early it was still quite quiet, as a lot of visitors arrive on day trips from the resorts on the coast. This meant we were able to explore the pools without too many people in the way. It was an interesting experience as this is quite a unique attraction.

The reflective pools

The reflective pools

Arriving at the top there were beautiful views of Pamukkale village and salt water pools down the hill slope.

Pools down the hill slope

Pools down the hill slope

We were now able to put our shoes back on and let our feet recover a little, as we moved to start exploring the historic Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis. It wasn't the best of ancient cities, but it was certainly one of the more interesting given its setting.

We headed up to the amphitheatre, where there were views over the entire area, although as it was built into the hill it turned out to be harder work than expected.

Amphitheatre

Amphitheatre

By now we had seen quite a lot, and yet it was not even 9:30am and so we were doing excellent for time. We headed back down towards the main thoroughfare and went in to see the hot pools.

The pool itself is quite unique as an earthquake in the 7th century caused a lot of the marble columns to fall into the pool itself which remain in situ to this day. Whilst this seemed really cool, it was somewhat impractical as you couldn't really see where they were as you moved around, causing you to knock your bare toes into them several times! Although sometimes they were useful to sit on!

The Pool

The Pool

After spending a little while in the pool feeling nice and relaxed we headed out and could already see just how busy it had become as there was now a queue back at the changing rooms. And as we headed back to the travertines it was difficult to get past all the people stood in the way whilst our feet were being stabbed again!

After getting back down to the bottom we headed back to our hotel to grab our bags and make our onward journey. We needed to get to the bus station in Denizli which was about a 15 minute drive away. Although having read there were buses, we hadn't seen one and with our suitcases in tow, we decided to just take a taxi and get there easier. After hailing one down we were on our way and upon arriving at the bus station and purchasing our tickets we boarded a bus headed for Antalya.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 03:37 Archived in Turkey Tagged landscapes architecture water hill old pool roman spa relax turkey2019 Comments (1)

Eclectic Istanbul

Turkey - Istanbul

sunny 27 °C
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After a few short trips this year, this trip was to be our big holiday for the year. A mix of exploration, adventure, relaxation, sun and reunions. However the stomach ulcer and toothache that had plagued me all summer had another sting in their tail. Having worse pain than ever before just weeks before the holiday was due to start, I again visited the doctors and changed to a strict diet - hoping to be healed enough by the time the trip came around, but sadly it was not to be.

Despite everything having been organised, booked and sorted for the trip, just two days before we were due to leave we made the sad decision to cancel the first half of the holiday. We would no longer be visiting the Caucasus, hopefully being able to resurrect that part of the trip in the near future. Instead we would now fly directly to Istanbul, where we would be attending the wedding of two of my friends from my Erasmus experience in Germany back in 2012, and subsequently continuing the second half of the planned trip. I therefore cancelled all the bookings and rescheduled our trip, which would now begin a week later.

In hindsight this was the right decision to make, as sad as it felt at the time, and I still ended up having a sick day during this time which reiterated that I just wasn't able to have an adventure holiday right now. Having had an extra week to rest, recover and do the right things, by the time it came around to our rescheduled holiday I was much more ready for the trip.

Despite waking up still feeling a bit ill I was determined to just get on holiday and have a break from everything, so we headed down to Heathrow for our flight. And with it being a normal airline instead of our usual budget airlines we got the luxury of in-flight entertainment and food. After a four hour flight, we came in to land at Istanbul Airport just as the evening arrived. Although after all these hours, it was only now that my stomach pains had started easing - being on the go all day had probably not helped it to settle.

Istanbul Airport was new and had replaced the one that I had used on my last visit, but it was not yet fully connected to the city and so we still had to take a bus to get the hotel. By now it was getting pretty late and as we didn't want to wait an extra half hour, we rushed around trying to buy our transport cards and top them up as quickly as possible to make the next bus. Luckily we made it, and finally we were headed into the city.

Around an hour or so later we made it, and after a short walk with our suitcases up and down the subway passes we arrived at the hotel for our first night, which was also where most of the other wedding guests were to stay. Whilst checking in we bumped into my friend Daniel from Malta, and his partner José, who were also attending the wedding and would be exploring the city with us for the next few days.

After a well earned rest, the following morning we went down for breakfast, being joined by Daniel and José. Not long later, after heading back to the room to get ready for the day we left the hotel and headed into the city. With today being our only full day to explore, we decided to tackle the oldest part - the Historic Peninsular, south of the Golden Horn. Starting with the Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest and largest in the world. It was as to be expected, full of shops teaming with items for sale, as well as people everywhere. It was also something new for me, as I hadn't got to see this on my previous visits.

Inside the Grand Bazaar

Inside the Grand Bazaar

After a little wander around, we headed out of the complex walking past the Column of Constantine towards the real heart of the city - the Sultanahmet district. With it being Friday we knew the Blue Mosque wouldn't be open in the morning, and so after checking it's opening times we headed over towards the Hagia Sofia, viewing it from the park between the sights.

Hagia Sofia

Hagia Sofia

After purchasing tickets for the Hagia Sofia, we headed around the museum, which was undergoing a bit of renovation, unfortunately lessening some of the impressive impact that would normally be encountered.

Inside the Hagia Sofia

Inside the Hagia Sofia

After exploring the lower and upper levels, we headed back out into the square, and with half an hour to wait, we decided to visit the Basilica Cistern. As we waited in the queue, we had some catch up conversations with Daniel, although it wasn't long before we entered the cistern.

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

Unfortunately inside had been drained so we weren't treated to any reflections but it was still an impressive sight. By now, the Blue Mosque was almost open so we headed over and made our way in.

Entering the Blue Mosque

Entering the Blue Mosque

Unfortunately like the Hagia Sofia it was undergoing restoration, and so the enormity and beauty of the mosque wasn't able to be seen, but it was still a nice visit.

Entering the Topkapı Palace

Entering the Topkapı Palace

Still early afternoon we had time to also visit the Topkapı Palace, and so headed over to the northern end of the peninsular. Buying our tickets, we entered not long after and took a walk around the complex. After taking views over the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn, we entered some of the museum areas. However after a long day and still not being 100% we started to feel quite tired, and so left to grab food and head back to the hotel for a rest.

Views over the Bosphorus

Views over the Bosphorus

With Camilla and Onur checking into the hotel tonight, on the way back to the hotel I thought about how funny it would be if we saw them at reception as we walked in. By coincidence, as we reached the entrance there they were coming out of a taxi! Knowing that there wouldn't be a lot of opportunities to spend much time with them on this busy weekend, we said a quick hello and had a short catch up as they waited for their room to be ready.

With more of their other guests arriving, including some Swedes who I had met a few times previously, we headed back to the room to find that our keys no longer worked. After heading back down to reception via the ridiculously slow lifts, and the entire population of Turkey who have no idea how one works, we eventually managed to get a chilled few hours.

As most of the wedding guests were now at the hotel, during the evening a pre-wedding get together had been arranged at a local pub. We met Daniel and José in reception and headed down the road together. Finding the table, it wasn't long before we were joined by other wedding guests as well as the happy couple themselves. It was an enjoyable evening catching up with them but as ever it was over too soon!

The following day was the day of the wedding, although this wasn't starting until this evening. Therefore after breakfast we headed out once again with Daniel and José, this time for the Beyoğlu district on the north side of the Golden Horn. After taking the funicular down the hill, we arrived at the ferry port and took a boat over to the other side of the Bosphorus.

Ferry Across the Bosphorus

Ferry Across the Bosphorus

After a twenty minute trip, seeing the sights of the heart of Istanbul on the European side, we arrived in Asia. Although with time already catching up with us, and not much to see on this side, we walked back round the ferry port and boarded the same boat back to Europe. Asia had been stunning but 5 minutes was enough for now.

Upon arriving back in Europe, we started heading back to the hotel, saying goodbye to Daniel and José and walking up the hill past the Galata Tower.

Galata Tower

Galata Tower

This area was full of little tourist shops so we bought some postcards before walking back to the metro stop seeing the historic trams that run down the avenue towards Taksim Square. We then headed back to the hotel for a rest and afternoon nap to prepare us for the late wedding night to come.

Beyoğlu Trams

Beyoğlu Trams

After a good rest we then got ourselves ready for the wedding and headed down into reception to wait for the shuttle bus, where we caught up with some the wedding guests we were already getting to know quite well.

Not long later we boarded the bus and headed out of the city and into the woods to a lovely setting amongst the trees, which was where the wedding was being held. Upon arrival we were welcomed by the close family of the couple, and mingled with the other guests.

Wedding Venue

Wedding Venue

After waiting around for a while - the event was clearly being held in Turkish time, the happy couple emerged and walked towards the aisle hand in hand. After a very short ceremony in Turkish and English, which essentially consisted of them saying their names and the "I Dos", they were married, and we were led to the tables for a five course dinner.

Just Married!

Just Married!

We were sat together with the other Erasmus people, including our Turkish friend Merve, who I hadn't seen in 7 years, as well as a Turk who now lives in Germany who I didn't recognise, but had remembered me from the speech I gave on the last party night in Bremen back in July 2012. (I did later find a photo in which we had been photographed together, but that's hardly surprising considering the amount of people I met during that year!)

Dinner chats

Dinner chats

We had a fun time reminiscing on our shared experiences, and talking about the people we remembered, and sharing updates on how everyone was. As we had conversations, it was as if nothing had changed since the moment we had left. It was a really fun evening and showed yet again just how much of a unique experience Study Abroad is, as these were people we had spent up to just four months with and yet they were friends for life.

After eating dinner the married couple went round each table individually to say hello. Onur had studied in Bremen for the whole year, as I had, whilst Camilla had joined during the summer semester. Camilla was living in the same house as me, and one of their first meetings had been at a party I had thrown at our house the start of term, which Onur would himself move into a few months later. During the summer semester I was able to witness their relationship develop and so it was a real pleasure to be able to be here for thir wedding.

Photo with the happy couple

Photo with the happy couple

After some more chats on our table it was time for the traditional speeches and first dance, as well as a game of Mr & Mrs, which I now assume is a Scandinavian tradition, after seeing the same thing at a Danish Wedding.

After some Turkish music and dancing it hit midnight, and the older guests were heading home, whilst the younger guests were headed to the "After Party". This was a real change of scene, with more modern, western music.

After Party

After Party

The party was a lovely experience getting to spend some fun and slightly drunk times with friends, but as ever it was over too soon and before we knew it it had hit 3am. As we waited for the shuttle bus we chatted to the guests and happy couple for the last time recounting stories and reminiscing about our times together. We eventually got back to the hotel at about 4am, and said goodbye to everyone before getting a well earned sleep.

The following day was always planned as a write-off, and after waking in time for breakfast and seeing just a few of the wedding guests who had managed to wake from the night before, we headed back to bed for another few hours.

Waking at around lunchtime we spent the day lazing in the hotel, heading down to the swimming pool before heading out for some food at the local shopping centre. After three days of seeing everyone all the time it felt a bit strange not seeing anyone at all - but it was also refreshing just to relax.

The following morning after breakfast we checked out of the hotel and headed to Taksim Square, taking a look around our last sight in Istanbul.

Taksim Square

Taksim Square

Not long later we caught our bus to the other airport of the city, crossing the Bosphorus to the Asian side, from where we would catch a flight and continue our trip by exploring Anatolia.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 13:26 Archived in Turkey Tagged architecture mosque wedding culture history city friends party drunk islam souq sickness erasmus turkey2019 Comments (2)

Beginning in Beijing

Cherry Blossom Adventures - Beijing

semi-overcast 25 °C
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After six months without travel, it was finally time for our two week 2018 holiday to East Asia. Beginning with the Chinese capital of Beijing.

The trip had been planned for over a year, in order to not only make Cherry Blossom season, but also to take advantage of the Easter Bank Holiday. It had been difficult to get all the dates to fit, and this first stopover was worked to take advantage of the 72 hour visa policy.

Annoyingly after booking, flights were cancelled and earlier flights were required in order to fit the visa policy. Only to find a few weeks later that the 72 hour visa was extended to 144 hours, making a lot of the stress unnecessary. Nevertheless, after a 10 hour overnight flight, with morning views of desolate Siberia and Mongolia, we finally arrived in a surprisingly modern looking Beijing.

Anticipating lots of smog, we were pleasantly surprised at the midday sky, being beautiful and blue. Getting to our courtyard hotel, we checked in and headed back out to make the most of the nice weather, heading first to Tiananmen Square, where the scale of the security checks throughout the city would become evident. It took us ten minutes to get into the square itself, by which time the Forbidden City had already been closed.

Tiananmen Gate

Tiananmen Gate

We enjoyed views of the Tiananmen Gate, before walking south into the huge square itself. A local guy asked to take a photo with us for his own photo collection, before we headed past Mao's mausoleum and exited the square heading into the souvenir shop we found.

Afterwards, and now by early evening, we headed north to the Olympic Park site, to see the Bird's Nest Stadium before ending our first day with food and bed.

Bird's Nest Stadium

Bird's Nest Stadium

With limited jetlag having travelled eastwards, the following morning we awoke early in plenty of time for our excursion to the Great Wall of China. Meeting our guide who wondered if we were brothers or friends (we went for friends), we jumped in the car for our private excursion, an hour or so north of the city. Although more expensive than a group tour, it meant our day would be much shorter, and thus more time to explore the rest of the city in our limited stay. We also got to arrive nice and early, beating the crowd.

Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China

Taking the cable car up, we quickly arrived at a relatively quiet section of the open wall, more extreme in steepness than expected. Our guide 'Jenny' was quite good, not too chatty, and also allowing us to explore it by ourselves, as well as giving us tips for the rest of our stay in the city. After lots of photos and walks (or climbs) across a short section we headed back down via toboggan, and back to Beijing.

Arriving back at lunchtime we headed out to the Temple of Heaven, one of the city's imperial temples which was used by Ming and Qing Emperors to pray a good Harvest.

Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven

With time left today, our last sight was the Summer Palace, located out in the north of the city. By this stage we were quite tired and achy, so we only took a look around the palace buildings to the north of the huge complex, before heading back to the hotel for a well earned sleep.

Inside the Summer Palace

Inside the Summer Palace

Our final day was to spend time at the Forbidden City. Originally we had planned to visit the mausoleum and National People's Congress first. However getting to Tiananmen at 8am, it was already packed and took an hour to get through the security. This was before the queues for these sights too, and thus we decided to give these a miss, and headed straight for the Forbidden City, where we toured the complex for few hours before exiting to the north and heading towards the Jingshan Hill for views over the complex.

Inside the Forbidden City

Inside the Forbidden City

Before climbing up the hill, we popped in the toilets. Chris went inside a cubical, before quickly running back out, I wondered what was going on as the attendant directed him to the one at the far end. Having noticed Chris's panicked face, he clearly knew that this panicked westerner would prefer a sit down toilet instead of a squat one and directed him accordingly!

Squat Toilets

Squat Toilets

Up on Jingshan Hill

Up on Jingshan Hill

After walking up the hill for limited views through the smog, we walked through some hutongs to the nearest metro station and headed to our last sight in the city, Beijing Zoo. After having seen panda merchandise all over the city (even though pandas don't even live in this part of China) we decided to pay a visit to the few in Beijing.

Pandas

Pandas

After three busy days it was time to rest up for our early start the following morning, heading to the South Korean capital of Seoul.

Beijing was much more modern and less smoggy than expected. However it was shabby in a lot of places and the locals were not ones to be very courteous of tourists nor each other. Nevertheless an interesting place to visit!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 11:43 Archived in China Tagged architecture culture temple history palace zoo city hill capital eastasia Comments (0)

Busy in Barça

Catalonia - Barcelona

all seasons in one day 23 °C
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After almost a week by the beach in Salou, we took the train back up to Barcelona for the final weekend, in what felt like an entirely separate holiday.

After just over two hours, we arrived at our hotel around the corner from the Sagrada Familia. With much to see, we quickly dropped our bags off and headed into the city.

We began by walking over to the Hospital de Sant Pau, a UNESCO protected former hospital when the heavens opened. As we walked through the rain towards the Sagrada Familia, we ended up close to a flat where a fire has erupted on one of the roof top air conditioning units. With the road closed and many people standing watching we watched as the fire was put out before making it to the Gaudi Park outside the Nativity side of the cathedral.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Originally we had hoped to go inside the cathedral itself, however when we got there we realised that tickets for the whole weekend were not going to be available. As a special event was taking place, only morning slots were open, which had by now all sold out.

Catalan Parliament in Ciutadella Park

Catalan Parliament in Ciutadella Park

We therefore made our way over to the beach, before walking around the zoo site to the Ciutadella Park. Walking past the Catalan Parliament and the lake, we made it to the Arco de Triunfo, our last sight of the day, where a big protest movement towards the upcoming disputed independence referendum was being held. We could tell that this was about to kick off - with a week to go there was so much tension in the air.

Arco de Triunfo

Arco de Triunfo

Before heading back towards the hotel, we stopped for food, and then had a few hours to chill. We waited for it to get dark before heading back out to the Sagrada Familia for views of it lit up.

Sagrada Familia by night

Sagrada Familia by night

The following morning we got up for breakfast which felt like a step down. Having stayed in only a 3* after our week of 4*, we went down to find no pancakes, no chocolate syrup and no champagne! Nevertheless this was still a decent breakfast in a decent hotel. No worse than on any of other holidays this summer!

Plaça d'Espanya

Plaça d'Espanya

After having our fill, we made our way out for our full day of exploration in the city. Starting at Plaça d'Espanya, we went up to the roof of the bullring-turned-shopping centre for a view over the roundabout, Palau Nacional and Montjuïc before actually heading up there on foot.

Olympic Park

Olympic Park

After stopping at the Palau Nacional for views over Plaça d'Espanya, we then ended up at the site of the 1992 Olympic Games, before making our way across Montjuïc towards the eastern end with views over the port.

Barcelona Port

Barcelona Port

After a lot of uphill walking we then made our way down the cliffside path towards the city centre. After seeing the Columbus monument, we walked up Las Ramblas before entering the Old City and Plaça Sant Jaume. This was full of protesters for democracy, and after eventually making our way through the crowd, we continued towards the Barcelona cathedral.

Protesters in the Old City

Protesters in the Old City

By now we were feeling really achy, and so after a short walk we stopped for a break at the Plaça de Catalunya. Our final sights today were the Casa Batlló and Casa Milà, two fancy buildings designed by Gaudí.

Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló

Although still relatively early, after yet again walking around 10 miles, we headed back to the hotel for a long rest. Going back out for dinner later we decided not to view this evening's festival entertainment as we wanted to rest instead.

On our final day, we left our bags at the hotel and made our way out to Park Güell on the outskirts of the city centre. Full of Gaudi architecture it was unsurprisingly filled with tourists.

Park Güell

Park Güell

After having a look around the park, with views over the city, we made our way across the city towards Camp Nou, the FC Barcelona stadium filling up the remaining time before we needed to head to the airport for our early evening flight home after a busy but lovely week away.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 13:44 Archived in Spain Tagged architecture park hotel city cathedral catalonia olympic Comments (0)

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