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Stunning St. Lucia

Honeymoon - St. Lucia

all seasons in one day 29 °C
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After a relaxed day in Antigua, today was going to be much busier. We had arrived in St. Lucia, and were going on a full day tour. After having breakfast we headed down to the dock.

St. Lucia was another of the Covid concerned islands, with temperature checks and wristbands to wear. We queued up for our tour, and looked at the ominous clouds above us. Next thing we were led to the side of a building just in time to take cover from the downpour about to hit us. It only lasted around 5 minutes, but being tropical it soaked anything caught in it.

We then boarded our bus and as we took a quick drive through the city's streets, got an introduction to the island from our guide. We then headed out of the city and up the mountain side, for views over the harbour.

Overlooking the harbour

Overlooking the harbour

The route south passed many hills and valleys, as well as passing by other aspects that make up the heritage and life on the island - seeing banana crops, fuel storage and alcohol distilleries.

Banana Plantations

Banana Plantations

We then arrived at Soufriere, the main area for our tour today, and which is dominated by the majestic Pitons - two twin peaks that are icons of the island, and stylised on the flag.

The Pitons

The Pitons

Our first major sight here was the Diamond Botanical Garden, a former plantation converted into a park with many beautiful ornamental plants.

Plants

Plants

There was also a walk down a gorge towards a waterfall, which being geothermal and mineral rich had stained the rock beneath.

The Waterfall

The Waterfall

After this, we headed back to the coach and travelled around the other side of town to the world's only drive in volcano.

The Volcano

The Volcano

Of course the sulphur escaping into the air meant it absolutely stank around here, but it did mean we got to see the bubbling mud pools and steam vents. Sadly we didn't get to stay here for long enough to bathe in the mud baths.

Mud Baths

Mud Baths

By now it was lunch time and we headed down the road to Morne Coubaril Estate for a Caribbean lunch where we got chatting to some of our other travelling companions.

Morne Coubaril

Morne Coubaril

It was now time to head back towards the capital, but rather than drive back the way we came, this would be via a boat trip. We boarded a catamaran at the small port at Soufriere as once more a huge black cloud came our way. Again this didn't last long, and was over by the time we set sail.

Uh Oh...

Uh Oh...

There were beautiful views of the Pitons once more, as we enjoyed Rum Punch.

The Pitons

The Pitons

We sailed to the secluded Anse Conchon Beach, where like in St. Vincent the boat's ladder was lowered and those who wanted to could get out and go for a swim or walk on the beach.

Anse Conchon Beach

Anse Conchon Beach

We decided to stay aboard as we'd done plenty of swimming until now, and after being surrounded by locals selling knickknacks, we headed north back towards Castries. En route, there was one last sight, the beautiful Marigot Bay, where lots of expensive small boats are docked.

Marigot Bay

Marigot Bay

For the last bit of the sail, the music was ramped up and there as a real carnival atmosphere with tipsy passengers and crew enjoying the music and dancing.

Party Boat

Party Boat

After arriving back at port, we went for a quick wander around the capital, seeing the cathedral and main square.

The Cathedral

The Cathedral

We then headed back towards the ferry terminal where the scale of the ship's size dominating over the town was clear.

Hiding Ship

Hiding Ship

We were now coming towards the end of the cruise - with just one new island still to see, and only three more days. Once we got back to the cabin we found our flight tickets had been delivered. Then the mood turned. We had been allocated seats in separate rows - despite the fact the flight out had been 1/3 empty, and the flights contained the same people.

Chris went own to reception to ask why we had been separated, and if we could be moved. But when he came back, told me that a very rude lady on reception had stated that they probably couldn't do anything, if we had wanted to sit together we should have paid £35 each to select our seats (even though when I had looked at this option before we had left home this was not actually possible), and if they were able to find seats together we would have to pay £70 for it. We would need to go back down at 8pm to see if they had been able to do it.

I was livid. We weren't asking for a particular seat on the plane, just two seats together for a couple on their honeymoon who had paid a fortune for this cruise, and on a plane with tonnes of spare seats.

Being slightly tipsy from the Rum Punch meant I marched down to reception at full speed, where I spoke to someone else who fobbed me off saying that only the Flight Coordinator could get involved and there was nothing they could do. What a way to kill the mood of what had until just now been a really good day....

After emailing P&O to complain about this problem and the appalling customer service, we headed for dinner and tried to enjoy the rest of the evening as best we could.

When 8pm came round we headed back down to reception to find a new set of people who knew nothing about our flight tickets. Speaking to a young guy called Calvin, we told him what had happened, and I ranted about the appalling customer service, this being yet another irritation on our holiday and the fact that not one person had yet had the decency to even say "I'm sorry, let me see what I can do". To which he said "I'm sorry". Whether it was genuine I don't know, but at least he had said it...

He told us he'd see what he could do and would give us a call later to let us know. In the meantime I had received an email back from P&O to say that as we were already on board, only the Flight Coordinator could do anything. Unsurprisingly, not even a 'sorry' in sight...

Expecting not to actually hear anything, and adjusting to the reality of probably having to spend the overnight flight back home separated we got into bed to head off to sleep. Then suddenly, the phone rang. It was Calvin, telling us he'd sorted out tickets and to come down to reception.

We got dressed and headed straight down, where he told us he'd sorted it and put us in seats together. He gave us the new tickets and we didn't need to pay. At least there was one nice person on board - but the question is, if this was so simple, why had it been such aggro to sort, why had we had to kick up such a fuss, and why had this not been done initially!?

By now it had been a very long day, and with another early tour tomorrow morning, we headed to bed.

Posted by kmmk17 17:25 Archived in Saint Lucia Tagged mountains rain boat beach volcano cathedral waterfall caribbean geology botanicalgarden Comments (1)

Beautiful BVI

Honeymoon - British Virgin Islands

all seasons in one day 27 °C
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We were now headed back towards the Eastern Caribbean, and the next place we'd be stopping was the British Virgin Islands - the eastern half of the Virgin Islands archipelago.

British Virgin Islands

British Virgin Islands

We had another excursion lined up for today, and so after grabbing breakfast we headed out to the ferry terminal. After hanging around for only 10 minutes or so, we then headed boarded a catamaran that would sail across the Sir Francis Drake Channel to the island of Virgin Gorda.

Like yesterday, the weather was a real mix - sometimes beautifully sunny, and at other times pouring down with rain. We decided to sit inside as the only space on the boat left was upstairs (and we'd felt sick enough on some of the boat trips already this last week!), and thank God we did! The sea was pretty rough and about halfway to the island it started hammering down.

We had got caught in a huge rainstorm, and the next thing the doors opened, in walking all those who had been sat outside, absolutely drenched - a huge wave had just covered the boat, with all those sat outside getting caught beneath it!

Watching the poor souls all shaken up had taken my mind off the sea sickness for a while, and thankfully the skies were now brightening up as we made it to Spanish Town. We then boarded some minibuses that took us to Devil's Bay on the south coast of the island, passing many beautiful murals en route.

Murals

Murals

The sun was shining as we made our way down through the vegetation to a beautiful white sandy beach and had a bit of a swim.

Heading to the beach

Heading to the beach

Devil's Bay

Devil's Bay

After this it was time to visit the most exciting and unique attraction on the island - The Baths. These are huge boulders of granite eroded by the sea which have piled up to create beautiful caverns on the beach.

We were the first ones in the group to wander through, and therefore got to enjoy the sights without a huge crowd in front of us. It started to rain as we entered, but that was fine as the caverns provided us with shelter!

Inside The Baths

Inside The Baths

It was a little bit dangerous, and for certain if this was western Europe, we'd have needed helmets (if we'd be allowed in at all). But hey, this is the Caribbean, so we just watched our heads and wandered across the slippy rocks!

Before long we made it to the other side and another beautiful beach, which The Baths imposed on. It was really beautiful here and the sun came out once more

The beach at The Baths

The beach at The Baths

However by the time we were about to leave, there was once again another rainstorm, we we hid under the covers of the café on the beach.

It didn't last long and once it ended we rinsed out all the sand from our shoes, before heading back up the hill to the minibuses. We then took an open-top minibus back to the port, where our guides had an honest conversation with us about the difficulty growing up in places like the British Virgin Islands, where there are little good opportunities for ambitious youth.

Getting back on the catamaran, as we were the last bus back there were now no spaces left in the indoor area of the boat, and so we sat outside. Thankfully it was much calmer on the way back and we were able to enjoy our rum punch.

After getting back to Road Town, we went for a little wander around the town. We began by heading off to the ferry terminal, where we managed to secure a passport stamp. "Happy Birthday for later this week" said the lady who'd seen my date of birth as she found a blank page to stamp.

We then headed back out towards the supermarket, hoping that the ominous black clouds heading this way wouldn't arrive too soon!

Road Town

Road Town

Having bought some drinks, we then made our way back to the ship, and chilled for a few hours before grabbing dinner. That night there was a silent disco being held on the decks, so we went along for a laugh.

Silent Disco

Silent Disco

There were two radio channels to choose from, and it was quite funny hearing tonnes of people (badly) singing along to two completely different songs, whilst others are sat there reading a book or sipping a cocktail!

After staying here a little while, we then headed back to the cabin to call it a night before tomorrow's next exploration.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 14:05 Archived in British Virgin Islands Tagged sea beach caribbean geology Comments (0)

Lava and Lounging in Lanzarote

Canary Islands - Lanzarote

sunny 27 °C
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After around half an hour of crossing the short channel between the islands we arrived in Lanzarote. The ferry port is on the south side of the island in Playa Blanca, which was luckily where we were staying, and it was only a short walk with our suitcases to the hotel.

Inside the hotel

Inside the hotel

Similar to the last, being built into the hillside, we arrived at the reception on one of the top floors of the hotel. Check in was pretty quick and we walked down the corridor towards our room we noticed ours had an extra sign. As we got closer we couldn't believe our luck as it said "suite".

Our room

Our room

Inside we found that we hadn't just been given an upgrade, but had received the best they had, a suite with a huge bed, sofa, two tvs, double balcony with sun loungers, and a complimentary bottle of wine.

Inside the room

Inside the room

After settling in, and taking a tour around the complex, we made our way down to our first dinner in the new hotel, and found it far better than that in Fuerteventura.

Sunset

Sunset

The rest of the evening to this long day of travelling was spent chilling and enjoying the sunset from the room - at least until the fireworks show later on, which were exploding just metres from our window!

Fireworks

Fireworks

The following day was another relax day. After breakfast we took a walk down the coast to the harbour, before sitting around the pools and taking a dip. The evening had an ABBA tribute act, and so we decided to sit watch the performance.

ABBA Tribute Act

ABBA Tribute Act

The following morning we had booked an excursion to the National Park. We woke up earlier than usual to be ready for the pick up at the hotel. Waiting before the pick up time many coaches showed up, but not the one for us. We waited and waited, as did a few other people who appeared to be on the same tour as us, but nothing. By now it was half an hour late so I made a call to the number of the confirmation form. I was told it would be on it's way, but when i queried that it was already now half an hour late I was told that it had already been here and we weren't there. Absolute rubbish, as we were there 15 minutes prior, but nevertheless no trip for us. I was told there was space on the excursion the following day but I would need to rebook.

I contacted the booking agency and explained and luckily they rebooked us without further charge. However by now I was not only annoyed at being lied to, but also having to get up early to sit around and wait for nothing. Tomorrow would now be another early start and who knows if we would even make it on a bus? Nevertheless we still had the day to relax, so we did the same as yesterday sitting around the pool before dinner and an evening walk.

Evening stroll along the coast

Evening stroll along the coast

The following morning after another early start we were not very hopeful. We showed up even earlier, and tried to be more pushy with each coach that did turn up to make sure we didn't miss the right one. But eventually the correct bus showed up - right on time and right outside the hotel, exactly where it was supposed to. This definitely didn't happen yesterday! As we boarded the bus the lady asked if I was Kevin - yes I said as she apologised for yesterday saying it was her fault!

Well, at least we were on the right bus. The other couple who were on the same tour as us however we not so fortunate, as after a bit of confusion were not allowed on. Who knows what was going on, but we were on a bus at least and headed to the national park.

Lago Verde

Lago Verde

After picking up many others, we finally made it to the tour proper. We began by stopping at the the Lago Verde, a green lagoon in the middle of a half submerged volcanic crater, filled with minerals and microorganisms. We had a nice view from the edge overlooking the lake, black sandy beach and the sea.

Landscape

Landscape

Continuing through the remnants of dried black lava from the last volcanic eruption, the next place on the trip was just down the coast at Los Hervideros. This coastal area has cliffs made from the solidification of the lava and subsequent erosion, causing unusual balconies overlooking the sea smashing into the cliffside.

Los Hervideros

Los Hervideros

After driving past the salt farms we headed further inland to the wine growing areas. Here grapes are grown in holes in the ground, which keep them warm and shielded from the wind. We had a taste of the local wine, which was almost syrup like, before boarding the bus again.

Wine Fields

Wine Fields

We were now headed for the edge of the national park proper, where there are camel rides. Although we weren't interested in taking a ride, we did watch others, including the couple who were refused onto our bus this morning - they must have been on a different tour to us after all!

Camel rides

Camel rides

After a lunch break we finally made it to the national park. Here it looked like Mars, with orange sand, and craters unlike anywhere else I'd ever seen. We stopped at the entrance to the park where a restaurant sits on the top of a steep hill next to geological experiment areas.

Fire

Fire

We were first shown the heat beneath us, with burning gravel just inches beneath our feet, before shown hay burning from just sitting inside a hole, and the most exciting - a geyser experiment with water being poured into a vent.

Geyser

Geyser

We then took a look inside the complex to see that the food served in the restaurant is cooked over a large natural chimney, before boarding the bus again for the last time.

National Park

National Park

We were now headed for a half hour tour around the national park which would take us up, down and through the landscape showing the rocks and craters that make this place so unique.

Looking inside a crater

Looking inside a crater

By now it was already getting late and after arriving back at the hotel we took a short rest before making our way down for dinner.

Our final day was spent enjoying the sun, pools and beach, as well as taking a walk down the coast and popping into the local shops.

Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca

With our time for collection the following day confirmed, tonight would be our final meal at the restaurant, and after tucking in to the last buffet, we enjoyed what remained of our final evening on the island.

The following morning we checked out and boarded our transfer bus to the airport. After 4 hours of screaming children and views over Central London, we eventually made it home, but again like the journey on the way there, found by the time we got home we were pretty tired and it had taken all day!

Nevertheless it was a great trip, enjoying something different from before, as well as a chance to finally rest after 9 months of working hard on our house.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 10:38 Archived in Spain Tagged sea beach island spain sand sun resort pool geothermal geology geography geysir canaries Comments (0)

Following Finn McCool

Ireland - Causeway Coast

sunny 20 °C
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With Northern Ireland being the only part of the UK I had yet to visit, it has always been on my list as somewhere to visit. And with Brexit just around the corner causing uncertainty as to how this tense and unique part of the country will look in the not too distant future, we decided to quickly pay a visit and literally walk out of the UK at an unmarked border whilst we still could!

With the weather always being unpredictable, expecting rain constantly, we were pleasantly surprised to arrive to a warm and sunny morning at Belfast Airport.

With the first part of the trip being about seeing the north coast and the Irish border, we hired a car from the airport, being much cheaper than taking our own over on the ferry, and after picking it up we headed out to our first stop, just up the road in Antrim.

We stopped by the shores of Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the British Isles. The legend states that Finn McCool (or Fionn mac Cumhaill), a legend in Irish Mythology, was fighting with a Scottish rival, and scooped a bit of land to throw at him - missed, and this formed the Isle of Man, whilst the missing earth flooded and created the lough. This seems highly unlikely, but nevertheless it was a nice spot to stop after getting used to the car, looking over the lake, which was so big that the other side could not even be seen.

Lough Neagh

Lough Neagh

After getting back in the car, we then stopped by the Tesco in Antrim to stock up on some supplies, before we made the decision to head up to the north coast today.

After an hour or so driving through the Antrim countryside, we made it to the port town of Ballycastle, where surprisingly the beautiful blue skies had disappeared amongst the mist clinging over the town. worrying, as our first site was on 15 minutes down the road, where we had hoped to obtain views over the Straits of Moyle in the North Channel over to Scotland. As we drove around the hilly rural roads towards Torr Head, with the weather clearing, we found a good vantage point, where it was just possible to see the Mull of Kintyre. Guessing that it would likely be no better down the road, we decided to stop here, enjoy the views, and then continue on our way along the Causeway coast.

Straits of Moyle

Straits of Moyle


Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Our next stop was just half an hour up the road - the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. The bridge is a modern version of the traditional bridge in use for almost 400 years to connect a rocky island just off the coast to the mainland, at 30 metres above the sea level below. Upon arrival it was quite busy, being a major stop of the tourist trail, and as we walked the twenty minutes down the beautiful coastline we passed many tourists - mostly Germans and Spanish.

Causeway Coast

Causeway Coast

When we got to the bridge itself there was a little wait, as only 8 people can cross at once - however it didn't take too long before we made it to the other side.

Crossing the bridge

Crossing the bridge

After returning back to the car, we headed out for another 20 minute drive along the coast towards the jewel in the crown - the Giant's Causeway. However as we left the car park we were stuck behind a German tourist coach, then then proceeded to take the same roads as us, clearly taking the Germans to the causeway too.

Eventually we arrived at the car park for the causeway, and after taking a look at the visitor's centre, we made our way down the coast to the shore, where we could walk along the causeway itself. The legend of it's creation is that Finn McCool (yes, him again) built a causeway to fight a Scottish giant, destroying it upon his return. In reality it's of volcanic origin (with similar landforms in Iceland amongst others) and these are the last bits to remain above sea level, uneroded.

Giant's Causeway

Giant's Causeway

Although busy, the area is big enough to still enjoy it in it's full glory, and with the blocks forming steps it was also super easy to get around.

On the Causeway

On the Causeway

As we started to leave the area, we were stopped by a pushy Russian-American who wanted a photo. Before even answering he has given me his camera and directed how I should take the panoramic photo of his family on the rocks. Cutting out the signpost I swooped around, before stopping to cut out the tourist who had just walked into the area. Handing it back to him he then wanted another one, this time wider, and with less rocks - to which his wife smirked "that's what we're here to see". Next thing I was back taking yet another photo for this rude man. Thankfully he didn't want another perfect photo and we quickly made our mistake back up the hill.

As we got back to the car, it was another relatively short drive to our accommodation for the night - a B&B on the outskirts of Derry, close to the border with the republic. We arrived and checked in, before heading out to get dinner. We did however quickly stop by the village of Muff, just across the border. As we couldn't drive across due to the terms of our rental agreement, we parked up just metres away, and walked across the border, where the only sign of the border was a change in speed (km/h instead of mph) and signs welcoming us to County Donegal.

Muff

Muff

We then made our way to the local McDonald's to grab some food, before we went back to our B&B. We then went for a walk just 15 metres down the road where the rural track crosses the border. Even less noticeable than in Muff - just a solitary speed sign at a stream. As we walked back it occurred to us just how arbitrary this really is, and how deeply affected this part of the word is going to become should Brexit not work out well.

Chris over the border

Chris over the border

After a long day, it was now time to finally sleep, and tomorrow we would explore Derry before making our way back to Belfast.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 09:50 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged hills coast borders lake ireland island border geology geography Comments (0)

Parliaments and glittery niqabs

Iceland - Reykjavik

overcast 12 °C
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After two early starts and a very busy day previously, it was finally time for a lie in and a more relaxed day.

Harpa

Harpa

Despite staying in the capital for two days already, we were only just making our way into the city centre to take a look around. Starting on Laugavegur - the main shopping street, we made our way along to the harbour, visiting the Harpa concert hall and the flee market, before heading into the old city centre.

Parliament

Parliament

Buying some souvenirs we then arrived at the Parliament, a very small town hall sized building, lost amongst the taller surrounding buildings, before heading back towards Laugavegur and Hallgrim's Cathedral.

Hallgrímskirkja

Hallgrímskirkja

The cathedral is situated behind a statue of Leif Erikson, the first man to make it to the Americas, and was finished less than thirty years ago. A tower inside gives great views of the city, and after taking a look around we walked back to the car paying a nominal amount for our car parking and having lunch back at the apartment.

Leif Erikson Statue

Leif Erikson Statue

Having a little rest we then headed back into the car and out of the city to the Þingvellir National Park, for a walk around the rift valley where the original parliament was located in the 10th century. Heading back to the apartment for dinner we then went out again to the city for a few drinks. Two drinks, around two thirds of the UK size quickly added up to £18 and after breaking the bank, we headed to a pub with live music.

Þingvellir

Þingvellir

Not knowing what to expect, we were quickly bombarded by a drag act blasting out her own composition of synth in Icelandic. Thirty minutes later the next act came out in a silver glittery niqab. As she started singing, it quickly became clear that this was the same person. Saturday nights in Iceland. What a time to be alive!

Catching the last bus back we had just one day of the holiday left to go.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Iceland Tagged nature history city cathedral parliament geology Comments (0)

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