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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 (0)

Grey Skye's Ahead

Isle of Skye - Highlands

rain 16 °C
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After a brief stop of the Eilean Donan Castle, we made our way further west, crossing the bridge over to the Isle of Skye where we were instantly struck by beautiful mountain views.

This afternoon was the only time it was going to be dry during our stay on the island, and so with plenty of time, we made our way up to The Storr. This is the iconic view of Skye and one of the best of Scotland, but it was not without a struggle. Barely leaving the house these days, the strenuous 45 minute climb was hard going. It was very steep and only I made it to the top.

The Storr

The Storr

However it was definitely worth it. The views were incredible and lived up to their hype, despite the biting wind at the top.

After strolling back down the hillside it was now almost time to check into our hotel. Having driven across much of Skye to get to the Storr, it was only a short drive south back to Portree where we would stay for the next two nights.

Like Ullapool, this was the most important town for miles, and still had a population below 2,500. Therefore there were limited options for accommodation and food. We stayed in a hotel on the central square and parked around the corner, whilst after gong for a little wander over towards the port we grabbed dinner at an Indian restaurant. It seems every British town - even in the middle of nowhere - will have a Chippie and an Indian.

Portree Port

Portree Port

The following morning, as expected, it was wet and miserable. We drove north, past The Storr and on to Kilt Rock. Here, Loch Mealt drains into the sea over beautiful cliffs. However despite the rain, the dry weather until now meant ironically, that there wasn't a huge amount of water actually falling.

Kilt Rock

Kilt Rock

Getting soaked, we didn't hang about long, and continued our way north to the Quiraing, a landslip in the middle of the Trotternish peninsula. To get here was a steep windy drive. After driving through what felt like an amphitheatre, before a steep hairpin bend, we made it to the top.

From here there are supposed to be amazing views of spectacular scenery and on to the sea. But as we were in the clouds, sadly we'd have to imagine it.

Quiraing

Quiraing

We continued crossing the peninsula, and arrived on the other side above the town of Uig, which even in miserable weather looked beautiful.

Uig Bay

Uig Bay

Just around the corner from here is The Fairy Glen, an unusual landscape created by a landslip, that could easily have been home to the Teletubbies. Home to ponds and small mounds it was a very strange place, but due to the weather we didn't fancy walking around it and so after driving through it we turned around and returned back towards Uig.

Fairy Glen

Fairy Glen

We had originally also included visits to Neist Point and the Fairy Pools on the west and south sides of the island. However with terrible weather and both being over an hour away on low quality roads in opposite directions, we decided to give them both a miss and instead enjoy a relaxed afternoon.

After arriving back to the hotel, we chilled for a few hours before having dinner in the restaurant downstairs after a quick stroll to the watchtower that overlooks Loch Portree.

Watchtower

Watchtower

After two nights on Skye, the next morning we checked out of the hotel and headed back towards the mainland. The weather was abysmal - it was hammering down and the wind had really picked up. Then, as a lorry drove past - Smash! - a stone had smashed into the windscreen and caused a massive dent in the windscreen.

How annoying. In all the driving I'd done over the years this had never happened until now when I was in a hire car. But worse things were to come. As we crossed back across the Skye Bridge, and for no apparent reason, a massive crack started to form across the windscreen right in front of my face....

Posted by kmmk17 13:34 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged scenery bridge hill waterfall highlands&islands Comments (0)

Coastal Comfort

Turkey - Antalya

semi-overcast 34 °C
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For the last few years we have had a relaxing holiday during September. However with the ongoing Brexit mess at home putting me off an EU bound trip at risk of cancelled connections, and having been invited to the wedding in Istanbul during this time anyway, we decided to have a big all encompassing holiday, visiting various different parts of Turkey, which would include a stop on the coast. So after doing a bit of research for the route we booked ourselves a nice hotel for a few days of relaxation in Antalya.

Having boarded a bus from Denizli, after four hours we arrived in Antalya which was noticeably more humid than anywhere else we'd been on this trip so far. After making our way from the bus station to the city centre, we walked past the Old City which we would explore again soon, before shortly arriving at our hotel for the next few days, which was shaped like a big pyramid.

The Hotel

The Hotel

Inside the lobby was also impressive, as the building narrowed as it got higher creating a pyramid effect.

Inside the lobby

Inside the lobby

We got the keys to our room and found we'd be upgrading to a suite with a sea view and huge balcony overlooking the Taurus Mountains on the other side of the bay. We had a sofa, a bath and shower, and even a walk in wardrobe.

View from the balcony

View from the balcony

After settling in, we took a quick look around the hotel complex, before heading down the restaurant for our first dinner, choosing from the big variety of food on offer.

After a long day we settled in for the night and the following morning, awaking for the second day in a row with no stomach ache (the longest period in months), we headed down for breakfast before our first day getting to chill by the sea - finding it already a pleasant temperature even at first thing in the morning.

We started by getting a sun lounger by the outside pool, and were surprised to find that the pool itself was quite warm, even this early. After a few hours of dipping in and out of the pool, we headed down to the sea. The hotel itself was built on a cliff, and so didn't have a beach of it's own, but still had access to the sea via several staircases that wrapped around the hill.

Platform

Platform

Just above the access point to the sea was a platform full of sunbeds. After finding some to settle on, we headed down to the sea. It was slightly colder than the outside pool, and the sea was a little bit rough, with waves crashing against the rocks, so it wasn't the most enjoyable experience. I headed out for a swim and made my way to the floating platform the hotel had just off the shore.

After a while at the sea, we decided to head to the indoor pool, but when we arrived, found it was actually the coldest! Not enjoying the experience very much, after a quick go in the sauna, we headed back to the outdoor pool.

By now having spent all day in and out of the pool we decided to head back to the room for a shower and rest before dinner. However I made the mistake of holding my hunger for dinner, which caused me to feel shattered and too exhausted to really eat very much by the time dinner arrived. Heading back to the room afterwards I took an early night to try and get my energy back, and the next morning I felt more refreshed.

For our second full day we decided to explore some of the city, and took a short walk from the hotel to the Old City. We started off by walking through the park adjacent to the hotel towards the Hıdırlık Tower, one of the towers on the edge of the former city walls that is sometimes used as a lighthouse for the port.

Hıdırlık Tower

Hıdırlık Tower

We then continued our journey walking through the well kept streets of the Old City, past restaurants, bars and a few mosques.

The Yivliminare Mosque

The Yivliminare Mosque

We then arrived at the port, with many fancy boats offering tours of the area, before heading back up walking past shops and arriving the city centre.

Antalya Port

Antalya Port

We took a look around the Old Bazaar, before walking back towards the hotel, where we spent the rest of the day relaxing around the pool.

Our the following day (our last full day in Antalya) felt much different. Although technically warmer, it was much less humid, and slightly cloudy - from the balcony we could see the Taurus Mountains in their full glory, rather than being covered in humid haze.

Fancying seeing something new, we headed out of the city centre to see the Düden Falls - a waterfall that ends at the cliffs on the coast and tumbles straight into the sea.

Düden Falls

Düden Falls

After catching a bus back, we spent the afternoon around the hotel once again, before our last dinner. After this we took an evening walk into the old city to see Hadrian's Gate by night, the only remaining gate along the city walls.

Hadrian's Gate

Hadrian's Gate

The weather had been pretty good for us up until now, but it was suddenly about to change. As we were nodding off to sleep, we suddenly started to hear thunder. Taking a look a look outside our worst fears were confirmed - fork lightning in the bay that was headed our way, whilst we were in the tallest building around. Luckily we weren't hit, and it passed after around half an hour.

The following morning after breakfast we repacked our suitcases and left them at reception to spend a bit of time relaxing one last time. After a last few hours in the hotel we then made our way to the airport for our onward flight to our last destination in Turkey - Capadoccia.

Posted by kmmk17 06:15 Archived in Turkey Tagged waterfalls sea sun waterfall swim swimming relax turkey2019 Comments (1)

Day Trip to Niagara

Canada - Niagara Falls

sunny 22 °C
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My first visit to Niagara Falls was back in the cold of November 2013, being stuck on the American side. Whilst you can walk between the falls and get right up close next to them, the way the falls are laid out means you don't really get to see them very well. I had at that point planned to quickly cross the border, but being short on time I decided this would have to be for some point in the future.

After then thinking more about visiting Canada itself, I decided it would be nice to see more of the country anyway, and with the opportunity at hand, booked the trip, and made an excursion to the better side of Niagara Falls part of it.

After a day of exploring Toronto with Halina, today Fara and I headed by ourselves to the waterfalls, and after a 2 hour coach trip arrived at the northern end of the border town. Being unsuccessful in navigating the buses, we walked along the Niagara gorge with views of the USA, before finally approaching the waterfall itself. And it soon became clear just how much more impressive it is to see it from this side.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

From the Canadian side, the whole falls structure becomes like an auditorium, and with it being a beautiful sunny day we enjoyed the light spray emerging from the crashing water, as we walked down towards the edge of the waterfalls themselves.

Overlooking the border bridge and the American Falls

Overlooking the border bridge and the American Falls

Other than the falls themselves, there wasn't an awful lot to see and do in the town - we had decided against crossing to the American side anyway, and didn't see a massive benefit of going on the boats, and so instead headed to grab some food, avoiding the much ruder Americans that had crossed the border, as opposed to the Canadians who were incredibly friendly.

And that's pretty much where today's story ends. We headed back to Toronto before our onward travel to Ottawa the following day.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 10:32 Archived in Canada Tagged waterfall border wet niagara Comments (0)

The Geothermal Interior

Iceland - Geysir

overcast 12 °C
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The final day in Iceland was to cover the most interior we would go. Passing back through Þingvellir we made our way to Geysir, the town that gave it's name to the geyser, where geothermality is in action.

Upon arrival the smell of sulphur was evident, with several hot pools and geysers simmering away. Although Geysir is named after the Geysir geyser, it is actually the Strokkur geyser that is featured on all the pictures. Whilst Geysir is the largest, it erupts just a few times per day, meanwhile the smaller Strokkur, still over 20m tall, erupts every few minutes.

Strokkur at Geysir

Strokkur at Geysir

Waiting around we quickly saw the full strength of the geyser before making our way back the gift shop and onwards to our next stop, the final iconic Icelandic destination - Gullfoss.

Gullfoss

Gullfoss

Gullfoss is a humongous three stage waterfall which dwarfs the hundreds of tourists that come to visit. As with most things in Iceland, it is easy to get up close and so the rocky headland around which the waterfall circles is a perfect place to witness the power of the falls.

Inside the Kerið volcanic crater

Inside the Kerið volcanic crater

Enjoying the beautiful view we then made our way south towards Kerið, a large former volcano with its crater now filled by a lake, with both a path around the top as well as around the lake.

Hellisheiðarvirkjun Geothermal Power Plant

Hellisheiðarvirkjun Geothermal Power Plant

After seeing everything we had planned, we then stopped en route back to the apartment at Hveragerði, a geothermal town, as well as the Hellisheiðarvirkjun geothermal power plant before heading back to the apartment for the final evening of the holiday. Having been told all week the smelly sulphuric water was clean enough to drink I was beginning to wonder if maybe it wasn't as bad as I had feared. Whilst taking a shower, I forgot to take off my silver ring, however after less than ten minutes it had turned to gold! Maybe I was right after all...

Bit of light driving

Bit of light driving

The following morning we got up nice and early to finally drop of the car after almost 800 miles in the last four days, and after no problems made our way to the airport for the flight home after four amazing days in the stunning country. Despite the high costs of the place - hotels, drinks, food (breakfast and lunch for two for three days = £40) etc, it was definitely worth it.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Iceland Tagged waterfall geothermal geysir Comments (0)

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