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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)

Road Trip

Bristol, et al.

semi-overcast 22 °C
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Having spent the last few years jetting off abroad for weekends away to new cities and countries, it made me realise there were still patches missing that I had never visited in my own country.

Despite having seen mouse statues in Lithuanian sea side towns, and art villages in rural Germany, I had still never seen Stonehenge, Cardiff or Bath. Therefore whilst I was in the midst of visa approvals I had decided that I would take a visit to the West country on a nice weekend during the summer, similar to my trip to North Wales a few years back, stopping in a few places for a few hours before heading to the next. Keeping in mind the school holidays as well as the weather forecast the weekend chosen was the last in July, and together with Chris we set off early on Saturday morning towards Stonehenge.

Hearing it was best to prebook our tickets in advance we looked to be arriving on time. However despite the satnav telling us that we were only two minutes away, with a dual carriageway merging into single lanes, and everyone wanting to slow down for a photoshoot of the rocks themselves it ended up taking us 45 minutes to finally arrive!

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Once parked up at the new visitor centre we then took a short bus ride to the rocks themselves for some photos, surrounded by half of China. After taking in the sophisticated neolithic structure and grabbing a bite to eat we then continued our journey on to Wookey Hole.

Wookey Hole

Wookey Hole

The caves at Wookey Hole included a guided tour, and after raving it up with our glow sticks we entered to observe the stalagmites and -tites as well as the erosive features.

Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge

Our next and final destination of the day was Cheddar Gorge, where we walked up the side of the gorge to gain views over it as well as of the Bristol Channel and South Wales, before heading back down and stopping for a coffee inside the Gorge.

Inside Cheddar Gorge

Inside Cheddar Gorge

After resting up we then drove up the Gorge itself for some stunning views before heading to our hotel in Portishead for the evening.

Portishead

Portishead

Arriving at the hotel we checked in, had dinner and then took a quick drive to the coast before heading back and chilling with a bottle of wine after a long day.

Cardiff Bay

Cardiff Bay

After some rural attractions, the following morning we headed towards Cardiff, stopping at Cardiff Bay and viewing the waterside regeneration before driving through the city centre and then into the valleys, stopping by the house of my great grandmother.

Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle


Clifton Suspension Bridge

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Heading back to England we then took a brief visit to the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol before our final destination on this busy weekend - Bath.

Us at the Roman Baths

Us at the Roman Baths

After taking a look around the Roman Baths we then headed for a walk around the city looking at the architecture before our final drive back home.

Royal Crescent

Royal Crescent

A long and tiresome weekend but a great one - helped by the weather, but also by being able to drive around to enjoy the sights without getting bored!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged landscapes bridges history cave roman capital ancient Comments (0)

A Romantic Getaway

Italy - Florence

sunny 32 °C
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Waking up in Rimini after my side of the bed had been invaded throughout the night it was time to make our way towards the second stop on the trip - Florence.

Going back to the train station, we boarded a train back to Bologna, this time having a mooch around before our onward trip.

Piazza Maggiore, Bologna

Piazza Maggiore, Bologna

Dropping our bags off at the luggage storage in the station, we walked into the city centre, taking in the ambience of the historic Italian city, arriving at the Piazza Maggiore, taking a walk around the main square, towards the two leaning towers, before making our way back to the station. Quick, but enough to see the city itself.

Two Towers

Two Towers

After obtaining our bags we found out that we should have prebooked our onward travel, Unlike the other trains which were all regional and cost around €10-15, this was an express train whisking us through the central mountains, of which all second class tickets were already sold out.

Either we wait an hour to take a slow train that wouldn't arrive until 5pm, or we pay €40 and go business class for the half hour trip arriving in the early afternoon. We went for the latter and after briefly enjoying reclining chairs in AC, we arrived in the birthplace of the Renaissance - Florence.

Duomo

Duomo

The city is full of historical architecture, housing works by Michelangelo and da Vinci amongst others, and after dumping our stuff off at the hotel, we took a walk around starting with the Duomo cathedral, before making our way down to the Piazza della Signoria, where a copy of Michelangelo's David stands in it's original place.

David

David


Palazzo Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio

Walking down towards the Arno river, we crossed the Ponte Vecchio, towards the Pitti Palace, before walking back along the riverside to the hotel.

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio

A busy hot day much like the previous, we chilled out in the room before grabbing a pizza and having a relaxing evening before our final day of the trip...

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Italy Tagged art architecture history city italy2016 Comments (0)

Hungary for Budapest

sunny 29 °C
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The first time I visited Budapest, back in August 2013, I found the city to be beautiful, but under the highest temperatures in it's history - hitting almost 40˚C, it was a challenge to truly enjoy the city.

This time, Chris and I were much luckier. Despite threats of showers longing all week it was a beautifully sunny weekend in the high 20s. However with much of our luck being used on the weather, the travel there and back was our downfall.

Foxy & Kevin Bear joining us too

Foxy & Kevin Bear joining us too

With an early evening flight from Luton I took the afternoon off and we made our way to the airport with plenty of time to spare. With Luton Airport security being highly shambolic it took us a long time to finally get through - tonnes of bags being sidelined for further inspection but without anyone actually carrying it out. Waiting an age for our bags to finally be looked at, after solving the problem - a non-resealable bag being used for liquids, the stupid man resent the entire basket back through the scanner to end up back of the queue again.

Eventually getting our bags through we made our way into the departure lounge to find our flight had suddenly been given a two hour delay. Great - now we would arrive so late that the shops would all be shut by the time we arrived to grab some drinks. Next thing, it was back on time again.

After the usual delays caused by allocated seating we were finally on the plane ready to take off when, oh - we had missed our slot and would have to wait an hour to actually take off. In the meantime, the trolley service came around and low and behold an hour after schedule we finally made it into the air. Eventually arriving late in Budapest we made our way to the hotel finally arriving and finally getting to sleep just before midnight.

With just a day and a half to actually see the city, we wasted no time the following morning grabbing breakfast and making our way into the city. Already by 10am it was in the high twenties and with two large hills to climb it was going to be a busy and sweaty day.

Parliament

Parliament

We began by visiting the Gothic Parliament building, where recently renovations to the square outside had taken place, before proceeding to walk down the east bank of the Danube, past the monument to the Jews shot during WWII, to the Lion flanked Chain Bridge.

Chain Bridge

Chain Bridge

Trying unsuccessfully to get Chris to show me his Lion impression, we crossed the bridge and made our way up Fisherman's Bastion, where there are fabulous views over the Parliament on the other side of the city.

Fisherman's Bastion

Fisherman's Bastion

Carrying on towards Buda Castle, we made our way back down the riverside and eventually to Gellert Hill, where after missing the correct turning we ended up scaling a rockface to make our way to the Liberty Monument at the top and gain stunning views over the whole city.

Budapest

Budapest


Central Market Hall

Central Market Hall

After making our way back down, having done the hardest parts of our walk around it was still early afternoon and so after stopping off at the Central Market to buy some tat we decided to head back to the hotel and spend the afternoon at the Thermal Baths.

Széchenyi Thermal Baths

Széchenyi Thermal Baths

The Széchenyi Baths are truly historic in the city and make up the largest complex in Europe. Whilst the inside baths were small and had numerous pools ranging up to 40˚C, there were also three large outside pools, including one with a rapid pool, that reached up to 38˚C. There was also a large screen up to show the Euro 2016 matches, which today also included Hungary vs Iceland, creating a wonderful atmosphere in the sun and heat of the Hungarian summer.

Returning back the the hotel after a few hours relaxing at the baths, we dropped off our swim clothes and made our way back into the city for dinner, before walking back up the main street to Chain Bridge for night time views of the Bridge and Buda Castle across the Danube.

Budapest by night

Budapest by night

The following morning we checked out and left our bags at the hotel before heading back to the Baths in the city park, walking down to Heroes's Square, before continuing down the tree lined Andrassy Avenue.

Heroes Square

Heroes Square

Stopping at the House of Terror, where the KGB Headquarters in Hungary were located, we had a history lesson in the Cold War era of the country which concluded our weekend break.

House of Terror

House of Terror

We then headed back the hotel to grab our bits and eventually make our way back to the airport for a delayed flight back to the UK.

A thoroughly enjoyable weekend in the beautiful Hungarian capital.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Hungary Tagged bridges architecture history city relax torture macabre Comments (0)

Tourism Cyprus

Cyprus - Larnaca

sunny 23 °C
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After two busy days in Cyprus, my final full day was my chance to rest and relax - but did I do so? Well, not really...a lie in was about as far as it went!

9am

9am


Larnaca

Larnaca

Getting up in time to grab breakfast, enjoying the beautiful sea view over Larnaca Bay, I eventually made my way down the promenade, past the Christmas decorations, despite it being in the 20s, arriving at Larnaca Fort.

Promenade

Promenade

The fort was built in the 14th century, and is now a museum, with history of the architecture of the island, as well as military installations in Larnaca. There are also good views of the coastline of the town, as well as the minaret of the mosque next door.

Larnaca Castle

Larnaca Castle

After taking a look in the shops and buying a few souvenirs, I then headed through the town towards the Salt Lake, located between Larnaca and the airport. Whilst the front of the town is well kept, the back streets appear much more like one expects of Mediterranean towns.

Salt Lake

Salt Lake

Arriving at the lake, after beating off what seemed like every fly on the island, I walked as far as I could get before my feet sunk too far into the saturated ground, with views of pure white ground stretching for miles ahead.

Arriving back in the town, I took a look around the Marina before heading back to the hotel for some dinner. Once it had got dark I then headed back out to re-explore the town with my camera again in tow, to take some night pictures of the lit up buildings.

Fort by night

Fort by night

Having another relaxing nights sleep, and a final leisurely morning in the town, I eventually made my way over to the modern Larnaca airport for my flight home.

Christmas at the airport

Christmas at the airport

Arriving well in advance of my flight, after getting a few essentials in the shops for the way I home I sat down before being approached by a lady who wanted to "ask a few questions". The lady worked for the Statistical Agency of Cyprus, and was asking tourists questions about their time on the island. Starting with basic questions "how long have you been in Cyprus", "where did you stay?", she eventually moved on the the question "Did you spend any money on clothes or shoes?" - taking a look at my muddy clothes from yesterday's walk to the salt lake, before I had even answered she had already ticked the "No" box! A bit rude, but quite hilarious at the time - I did stink a bit!

After speaking to that woman

After speaking to that woman

The final part of the holiday was the 5 hour flight back on Monarch, which after the inbound flight I had already figured this would be far from pleasurable. Whilst the seats were certainly much more spacious, Monarch had decided that as the plane wasn't going to be used again that evening after landing at Luton, they would instead park up at the hangar, and proceed to only open the front door - meaning people like me who were not paying an extra £30 and stuck at the back had to wait absolutely ages to get off, and on to a bus. Eventually arriving at immigration, which was only half open despite the plethora of staff sitting about, it proceeded to take 45 minutes to clear the airport - without needing to collect a bag - a new record!

Flights excluded, the holiday was certainly one of my favourites. Cyprus is a lovely island with good weather, a lot of history and things to see, as well as a very organised nature and friendly people. The best resort in the Mediterranean, and one I would definitely recommend.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Cyprus Tagged sea beach history fort airport christmas tourism Comments (0)

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