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The End of the World....?

In Search of the Penguins - Ushuaia

overcast 10 °C


Having made my way to the airport in Rio and transferred in Buenos Aires, where I would return in around 10 days time, I eventually made it to Ushuaia, at the bottom of Argentina for the real part of the holiday to begin.

Flying over Tierra del Fuego

Flying over Tierra del Fuego

Getting from the airport to the hotel was pretty quick as the city was rather small, yet it became immediately clear that 'summer' here was much more like a Scandinavian summer than it had been in Brazil.

After having met some new travel companions already, I settled in for the night after a long day of travelling, prepared for the new adventures ahead.

The following morning I left my suitcase in the lobby before having breakfast and enjoying views over the city from the hotel restaurant, perched on the top of a hill. With embarkation not until 4pm, I then headed off for my exploration of the city, beginning with a walk to a vantage point along a harbour road for views of the city with mountains in the background.

Then I headed towards the Plaza Islas Malvinas, where a big square had been converted into a memorial for the Falklands War thirty five years previously. Curiously (or not?) a man constantly sits in a box watching the square all day. Can't think why.....

Plaza Islas Malvinas

Plaza Islas Malvinas

Continuing, I made my way to the information centre, where I obtained a certificate for having reached the southernmost city in the world. However like most things Argentinian, this is debatable. The city of 70,000 is located on Tierra del Fuego, an island south of the continent itself; whilst there are also settlements on the southern (Chilean) side of the Beagle Channel such as Puerto Williams which are only classed as "towns" with populations of approximately 3,000.

At the End of the World sign

At the End of the World sign

Nevertheless I took the certificate anyway and continued towards past the harbour stopping at the End of the World sign and having views of the ship I would be boarding later on. The next stop was the End of the World museum, for some history on the city, before turning back and heading to the gift shops and supermarket eventually returning to the hotel to wait for the transfer at 3pm.

The ship

The ship

Enjoying my last drops of internet, we then all boarded the coach getting to know each other whilst we travelled, eventually making it to the port to board the ship. Getting a swipe on/off card, we had our photos taken and there we were - on board ready to set sail for Antarctica.

Entering Port

Entering Port

Having paid for my trip well in advance, I bagged the cheapest tickets for which I was required to share a Quad, and I soon met my travel companions - Cameron from the USA (who I had shared with the previous night), Gary from Canada and Bastian from Germany.

The Room

The Room


Staff Introductions

Staff Introductions

Not long after boarding we had an introduction with the staff of the ship in the lounge, which included the safety drill, testing our life jackets and even getting to sit in one of the covered lifeboats.

Safety Drill

Safety Drill


Goodbye to South America

Goodbye to South America

The ship then set sail and not long after we had our first dinner in the restaurant, where over views of the channel I got to know more people on the boat, which was made up of about 30% equally Americans, Brits and Australians, a with a handful of Canadians, and a scattering of others from Europe and Asia making up the rest of the numbers.

It quickly became clear that many people had the same ideas as me, booking this trip well in advance to secure the cheapest rooms! Isn't it always fun to meet people who have done the same thing?

Collecting my nice thick parka coat that would keep me warm for the duration of the trip, I then settled in for the night before tomorrow's rough crossing of the Drake Passage.

A great start to an unforgettable adventure.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Argentina Tagged mountains boat scenery war penguinhunt antarcticcruise Comments (0)

The Dam '16

Amsterdam

sunny 13 °C
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After coming back from Copenhagen late on Sunday night, on Friday evening after work I returned to Luton Airport to take a flight to Amsterdam where I would once again visit the Eurovision in Concert with my Dutch friends.

Being met at the airport briefly by Sandy and her boyfriend, I eventually made it to my hotel and took a long lie in after the busy week before meeting Sandy again on Saturday afternoon in the city centre.

On a Boat Tour

On a Boat Tour

Having been to Amsterdam four times previously, I was not too fussed about seeing that much, as the holiday was mostly about having a nice catch up, but nevertheless, we still took a lovely boat tour around the canals with Roel and some of his other Eurovision friends, before visiting the concert itself in the evening.

Hosts with Greta from Iceland

Hosts with Greta from Iceland

As ever, the concert gets just over half the acts of the year coming to perform their songs for an excitable crowd of fans, with some of the acts better than others. It was an enjoyable evening as always, and a nice taster of what to expect on my next holiday to Stockholm for the real event in a few weeks time.

Jüri from Estonia

Jüri from Estonia


Keukenhof

Keukenhof

The following day I once again met up with Sandy and we went over to the Keukenhof Flower Garden, where each spring the gardens are laid out beautifully with tulips. This gave my holiday a real nice feel as not only was the weather the entire weekend great, but I also got to experience some new Dutch things despite having been to the country many times previously.

Clogs

Clogs

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Netherlands Tagged boat flowers friends eurovision Comments (0)

Magnificent Montenegro

#BalkanBants - Kotor

sunny 33 °C
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After a couple of days in Croatia, Johan and I continued our Balkan Tour just down the coast in Montenegro. Although just 37 miles to the south, as the whole of the Bay of Kotor was essentially fjords, it actually took 2 hours to travel the 60 miles by road. Although as there were stunning views of the bay, this wasn't really a problem.

View from the window

View from the window

After arriving in Kotor and settling into our apartment with stunning views overlooking the bay, we went to explore the Old City, taking a look inside the Cat Museum, the churches, and admiring the stunning coastal views of the nearby mountains.

Views over the Bay

Views over the Bay

The following day we took a morning stroll up to the St. John Fort, which gave us some absolutely stunning views of the bay, and after a photoshoot with some epic pictures and guzzling our drinks, we then headed for the bus station to catch a bus to Perast, just up the coast.

By the Bay

By the Bay

From Perast, small boats can be hired for €5 that take you over to the little island in the middle of the bay. The island has a church and a gift shop, as well as stunning views of the fjord all around. On our return back to the mainland, the captain even let us sit on the front of the boat, giving us front row seats as we encircled the island.

From the island

From the island

Whilst the weather was beautiful, the heat and mild humidity contributed to some of the sweatiest experiences of my life, and after waiting for a while for the first bus to take us back to Kotor, we found that it was very very busy. Standing all the way back to Kotor I was literally dripping with sweat, standing over some of the other passengers, as I held on trying not to fall over around the bends of the fjord.

Heading back to our apartment for dinner, we ate as we watched today's cruise ship leave before the sun set over the beautiful mountain view, all the time from the window of our apartment. Our last activity in the area was the head back down into the city to enjoy it lit up at night.

Old City by night

Old City by night

The following day we made our way down back into the Old City for our transfer to the wonderland of Albania.

Kotor was unbelievably beautiful, with stunning views that can only be matched by places such as Norway. However with this being the Balkans, the weather was completely different and meant that views from the tops of the mountains were entirely possible. Unlike Dubrovnik, the area was not so busy, and despite the tourists we were fully able to enjoy its splendour. It is one of my favourite places and I despite its small size, I would highly recommend it.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Montenegro Tagged boat history fjords island hill balkanbants Comments (0)

Fascinating Fjords

all seasons in one day 15 °C
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My last excitement this summer was to visit the Fjords around Norway's second city, Bergen. Celebrating mum's 50th and my brother's 21st, we went on our family holiday in several years, and for once I wasn't travelling alone!

Norway was incredibly expensive, and I guess it was very much how foreigners, particularly from Eastern Europe must feel when they come to Britain. However saying that, there were lots of good things like WiFi absolutely everywhere - from getting on the plane at Gatwick until we returned several days later at the other end I was essentially connected the whole time! Despite being Norway's second biggest city, Bergen was still remarkably small, taking very little time to walk round and explore. Hence our visit of just two and a half days was more than enough. Arriving in the afternoon and staying close to the centre of the city, the first evening was spent walking around the immediate vicinity, seeing the main shopping area and the city squares.

Bergen from Mount Fløyen

Bergen from Mount Fløyen

The following day we took the funicular to the top of the mountain that overlooks the whole city and bays nearby, before walking down and seeing the rest of the city, including the castle and it's most famous attraction - Bryggen, the old Hanseatic port buildings.

Bryggen

Bryggen

On our final full day we took a 3.5 hour cruise up the nearby fjords, into the heart of Norway, witnessing scale of the country's valleys. It was only when we travelled deep into the cruise that we had our first rainy day, which considering the rate of 75% for the city, was pretty good going.

Fjords

Fjords

Despite the city being small, and our 4 day trip being very expensive and short, it was worth it, and I would highly recommend it, as the scenery was stunning!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Norway Tagged boat history fjords port Comments (0)

New York & The North East USA

RTW - New York

overcast 7 °C
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After 19 hours of travelling, I had finally arrived in my last destination, New York just after midnight on a cold November evening. I then had to make my way from JFK airport to my hotel in Chinatown, adding another hour or so to my day, but when I finally arrived I did find my room to be lovely and warm, and easily set about going to sleep and having a long lie in.

Grand Central

Grand Central

Waking up at about 9am, I decided not to keep lying in bed, as I had a very early start the next day, and so started exploring New York. I started my day going over to the Flatiron building, and then walking up Fifth Avenue, past the Public library, Rockefeller Center, and into Central Park - before heading back down to Grand Central station, the Chrysler Building and finally the UN building - where I had booked a tour in the late afternoon. The UN is classed as international territory, and once inside we got to see the Security Council chamber, (unfortunately the main debating hall was closed for repairs), and many artefacts and awards, before going to the shop and buying gifts and postcards with special UN stamps for postage.

UN

UN

After this I went off to Times Square to eat and then head back off to bed, as for the following three days I had booked an excursion to Niagara Falls and Washington DC.

Meeting early the following morning in Chinatown, I boarded the bus that would take us on our trip with mostly Chinese tourists, but also Europeans and some Americans and Australians. Each of our days involved early starts and late finishes, but crammed in a lot into just 3 days!

We began the trip heading north, stopping at the Secret Caverns en route...however with the trip already not being cheap, I decided that for most of these "optional excursions" as they were called, I would not bother with. Unfortunately this did mean hanging about outside on my own in the cold for 45 minutes most of the time...but in the end I realised this was probably worth it, as they were all tourist traps I wasn't bothered about.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Eventually we arrived at Niagara Falls in the evening, and after getting some dinner I went off to explore the falls in darkness, which meant that they were lit up with lights from the Canadian side. Unfortunately the way the trip was planned, and the experience of American immigration meant I had to scrap my plans to cross over into the Canadian side, where the best view undoubtedly was....but I did get to get insanely close to the waterfall edge!

Horseshoe Falls

Horseshoe Falls

We returned to the falls again the following morning to see them in daylight (where water got inside my camera and almost ruined the day's photos) after we had visited the Niagara Fort up by Lake Ontario, where there was even a view of Toronto!

View across Lake Ontario

View across Lake Ontario


US Capitol

US Capitol

On the final day of the excursion, we started by visiting Washington DC. Here we visited the Capitol building, the White House, and Lincoln Memorial before going on a river cruise past the airport and Pentagon.

Washington DC

Washington DC

We then went to the Space museum, where I touched part of the moon, before heading back off towards New York.

Stopping in Philadelphia for just 15 minutes, we got to see the Liberty Bell and the Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed, before making our way back to New York and completing our excursion.

Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell

Although the excursion was very quick, and involved a lot of driving, I really didn't mind, I got to see a lot of things and have now seen everything in the USA I wanted.

Having arrived back in New York, the following morning I got up and headed straight over to the World Trade Centre memorial site, which had just opened a few months previously, allowing visitors to see the new fountains on the site of the towers.

South Tower Fountain

South Tower Fountain

After visiting the moving site, I then took a short walk over to take the free Staten Island ferry which gives a great view of the Statue of Liberty as it goes past (which many others seemed to also realise).

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

The change in Staten Island involved a quick run through the ferry terminal to make the return ferry in 1 minute, or wait another half hour - successfully I made this, unlike many others who were shouting "ruuuuuuuuuuuuun" only to fail to board in time.

Manhattan

Manhattan

Making my way back to Manhattan I walked around much of the civic and financial buildings, such as Wall Street, before crossing Brooklyn Bridge and taking loads of pictures of the Manhattan skyline. It was here that I got a laugh, thanks to a girl was discussing with her friend the biggest issue in her life - that whenever someone asks her where she's from, when she replies Brooklyn they always reply "No, where are you REALLY from? ...Nobody is from Brooklyn" #FirstWorldProblems

Central Park

Central Park

On my final day I had a late flight, and so after leaving my suitcase back at my hotel, I went off back to the Rockefeller Centre, where I went up to the top floor, giving me great views to the north over Central Park, and to the south over Manhattan, with a great view of the Empire State Building in its full glory.

Manhattan

Manhattan

I then finished the day and my trip with a wander around Central Park, before heading off to the airport and my flight home.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in USA Tagged waterfalls boat tower park city capital parliament border rtw niagara liberty Comments (2)

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