Bodrum, Turkey

A good way to get an introduction to Turkey is to fly to one of its resort cities. Bodrum is one of these. You could fly to Istanbul but this would be an entirely different experience. If you would prefer to see a more relaxed side of Turkey then Bodrum is good for this.

Bodrum is located on the southern coast of Bodrum Peninsula in Muğla Province in Aegean region of Turkey. The city is about half way along the peninsula about 30 minutes drive from Milas-Bodrum airport. If you book through a tour company or resort it’s likely they will provide a shuttle bus into the town or to the nearby resort you are staying at.

The city is built around the port and Bodrum castle and there are sea front cafes and restaurants you can hang out at along the waterfront. The architecture for houses in the region are usually painted white with some blue on the doors or windows, and the housing around the port follows this pattern.

The port has a marina for leisure boats and also you can catch ferries to nearby locations including Kos where you can then go across to other Greek Islands.

The sea is a beautiful warm blue and sailing boats dot the horizon. Out to the left from the seafront is the small turkish island of Kara Ada and further away to the right is Kos. You can see Kos from several of the towns on the peninsula and it’s worth considering a trip across there if you have time.

You can catch the local mini buses called dolmus to some of the bigger towns on the peninsular such as Gümbet and Bitez, and Turgutreis is on the end of the peninsula.

We visited Turgutreis, and from here we took a boat day trip around the end of the peninsula ending up at Gümüşlük, a beautiful sea side village with good restaurants where you can sample the local catch.

Getting out on a boat trip was our best day, and the boat stopped several times for swimming in the warm Mediterranean, jumping off the boat into the sea. (You can use the ladder if you prefer).

Bodrum is surrounded by beaches, some are sand, some are more stony and in some places where there is no beach there are beach clubs with steps down into the water. The beach at Turgetreis was quite good, but you might prefer to seek out even better beaches. Gümüşlük beach is quite small, but out in the bay there is a small island you can wade out to at certain times. There are beaches closer to Bodrum if you prefer to stay near the city.

You can arrange tours from Bodrum to nearby attractions. Your hotel or tour company will probably help with this. We booked a tour to Ephesus, which was quite a way away, and a full day trip. The ancient city is very well preserved and has some important archaeological monuments to walk round. It’s good to get a guide to explain the functions of the different parts of the city. We also had a photographer following us, who kept popping out from behind ancient stone walls to grab a shot. It was very warm and you need water and sun protection or soon you will wilt in the sun.

Turkish food is similar to Greek food but there are certainly healthy options. Don’t think it will be all kebabs as there are many restaurants doing healthy food especially tasty fish dishes.

The Turks we met were all very friendly and happy to help us out as we explored the area. They didn’t even mind when we crammed into full dolmus’s and were happy to pass our fares person by person across to the driver.

Sentier du Littoral

Sentier du Littoral

If you’re looking for somewhere to go for a couple of weeks by the sea which would be warm at the end of April, you can always consider Nice. There are plenty of hostels, but I ruled out dorms and most of the hostels were dorm only so I looked for budget hotels.

Nice airport is small and pretty easy to figure out. You need to get a bus into town. It goes along the promenade into the center. I got off a few stops early and walked into town on the prom. The hotel was easy to find, close to the square Messina, a very good location.

My hotel room wasn’t ready so I went down and sat on the beach watching some guys playing volleyball. Next morning, I walked down through the old town markets again towards the beach. They were brilliant and I got some strawberries to eat on the beach for  breakfast.

Nice is a pretty good city but I didn’t want to spend two weeks there. It is easy to get up and down the coast from there by train so I booked a couple of nights next in Cannes. A month before the film festival, the town was fairly quiet and I got a very central hotel for the cheapest price of the trip.

There is a hill behind the beach with a great view of the harbour from a monastery on the top, and you could see over to the St Raphael hills. The sun broke through after the rain and as I wandered down through some windy small streets, I started to see things to photograph. Now Cannes seemed a different place. The streets had more people, beautiful women walking the prom and some beach volleyball going on.

Close to Cannes is the island of Ile  San Marguerite, a twenty minute trip, but so different from Cannes. The island has no cars, is about 5 miles in circumference and is very beautiful and peaceful. Beautiful views across the bay towards the St Raphael headland, views across to a second island, and views to the snow capped alps. I bought a large pack of crisps for lunch and walked around the coast of the island. The island was wooded and had small beaches nestled in among rocks.

The next day I got the high speed train through to St Raphael. St Raphael is a relatively unpretentious resort and quite laid back. I walked the prom towards Frejus and again there was volleyball. I sat and watched the guys and girls punting the ball around. It reminded me of American and Australian beach culture and I was wondering if all countries are starting to look alike at the beach.

The next day the weather was good and I got up early, and having enjoyed walking on Ile San Marguerite, I set off to walk the Sentier du Littoral coastal path east back towards Cannes. The route goes round the Cap d’ Esterel to Agay, a small resort town.  The path was cut into the red volcanic rocks of the headland. The route passes through small bays and beaches and across promontories. The Cap du Dramont is a headland where the path rises up to the top of the cliffs and the vegetation is fantastic – a beautiful wilderness. There are a number of paths going off in different directions and I ended up at an outlook looking into the next bay with a brilliant Mediterranean panorama.

The next excursion was a catamaran across the bay to the legendary St Tropez. The boat crosses the bay, past Frejus on the right then the next set of hills along the coast. We came into the bay. I hadn’t been to St Tropez and as we saw old pastel painted buildings along the port bow I knew this was it. The harbour was so full of enormous boats that the pretty French fishing village image was destroyed. The streets were busy and I was glad I was there out of season.

Getting to the end of the harbour there was an arch in the wall, and looking through was the same pastel panorama seen from the catamaran. By timing it correctly it is possible to get round to the houses without getting soaked.

I saw a signpost for Sentier du Littoral and realized that this continued around the St Tropez headland. I only had a few hours but decided to walk as far as I could in the time. The path was along wild unkempt beaches with quite a number of shipwrecked yachts. They looked like new boats and it seemed a little crazy to leave them washed up on the shore at the mercy of the sea. Inland was very expensive looking villas, often with no one around and there were signs prohibiting entry with high fences to protect the rich from the lower castes.

Returning to the boat, the crew wouldn’t allow anyone on the top deck and they told us it was going to be rough! They weren’t kidding. As we got out away from the shore the waves were big and the catamaran was heading straight into them at full speed, dropping down into the troughs then smashing into the next wave. The waves were going right over the top of the boat washing right across the upper deck. The crew passed around sick bags. It seemed people inside the boat were faring worse than those of us stood at the back. A few macho types sat in the seats at the back unmoved, but gradually looking greener. I stood at the back holding onto a pillar. It was amazing.

Time to go back to Nice and I went down to the station ready to leave. I hadn’t enjoyed the train journey out because the TGV was such a closed environment. It was difficult to get any idea of the country you were passing through. As a way to get quickly from A to B they are great, but as a train trip they suck; so I bought a ticket on an old TER train. The ancient train was nearly empty and I opened a window and hung out the window. The train went slowly, it was a glorious day, and I got the most amazing views of the coast.

Nice beach is split into public and private parts. On the public beach the young hang out, beautiful bodied in groups of friends. It is open and hot, you have to take your own drinks and food, though there are some beach boys bringing beers. The private parts have loungers and umbrellas with waiter staff. There are areas roofed off for fine dining. Two worlds next to each other but so dissimilar. I went on the free public beaches, they had far more life to them.

I had more time to wander now than when I arrived in Nice and I found the rest of the old town up against the promontory and the end of the main beach. On top of the promontory is a pleasant park that is great to go up to as the sun was going down. The old town has some amazing smells especially on the spice stalls and in the flower stalls.

While the Sentier du Littoral isn’t an unbroken path on the Riviera coast, there are enough decent lengths of it to do some good walking and discover some parts of this coast that are still largely unspoiled. On subsequent trips to the Riviera, I’ve used Google Earth to find more paths along the coast for good days out.

Interrail France

Interrail France

Many years had passed since my interrailing holidays in my twenties. What I remembered about them was the intense feeling of freedom at being able to travel at will across many of the countries of Western Europe. In some situations, we had roughed it – like sleeping on the beach in Sardinia, or outside Barcelona station, and many of our overnights had been spent on long distance trains to keep costs down.

Tickets for interrailing had been limited to those aged 26 and younger, and once I’d gone over this age I’d taken holidays in different ways. But now in my thirties the rail companies had changed the rules. Older people could get interrail tickets, albeit at a higher cost and still can.

The rules for ticket locations had also changed. The tickets we had travelled on covered Western Europe, now tickets were banded across groups of countries. It was still possible to get a ticket to travel as broadly as we had, now into Eastern Europe, but these weren’t such good value. I had less than two weeks and one of the banded tickets with two or three countries looked like they would do the job.

When I thought about it, why not just get a ticket for one country and travel across it. So, I decided to get a ticket for the one and a half weeks in France where I had a smattering of the language. It wasn’t a big plan but France has a bit of everything and when asked what my plans were, I replied I was going to see the cities, mountains and the sea.

By far the cheapest way to get to France was a budget flight into Paris from my local airport and Paris’s Charles de Gaulle never fails to impress with its different architecture and glass surrounded elevators to ride.

I’d arranged to meet a friend who was staying over the weekend in Paris with her girlfriend. We met at the Sacre Coeur church in the evening and wandered around the side streets at the top, coming to rest on the steps in front of the church looking down the hill at the city. A scruffy student was strumming a guitar for the ladies and tourists. It seemed quite good and was getting me in the mood for the trip. I was being asked where I was going to go, and the only answer I could give was ‘South’. I didn’t know. I knew my next destination was going to be the mountains.

I booked a night at Annecy youth hostel, and the next morning got on the TGV south. The weather was cloudy when I arrived, but once I got through the town to the lake, I started to see the draw of Annecy. The lake was beautiful even on a crappy day. The hostel was a bit out of town, and up a steep hill. Memories of interrail were coming back – staying in places that were difficult to get to, labouring with giant packs. This time I had a smaller pack, no tent or sleeping bag.

The hostel was sufficiently out of town that I didn’t feel like going back there that night so I hung around the kitchen with my packet soup. That night I went down to the bar, there was a large party of middle-aged French people. They were partying big time. I got talking to one guy – they were Bretons and met up regularly for a party. They were dancing and really going for it. I sat at the bar with the barman managing a little French totally bemused by their antics, and they weren’t even all drinking.

The next morning, I woke early and decided to move on. The lake was beautiful but I was sure there would be something else as good at my next stop. I had formed a rough plan. I would head for Chamonix – somewhere I’d been some years before with a friend and had fond memories of, but my first stop would St Gervais.

St Gervais is a winter ski resort, but in the summer I wasn’t sure what I would find. I had the idea I would do some walking there. The train into the alps was great; it was empty and I could switch from side to side to see the views. The mountains were getting bigger and much closer. The train changed directions a few times. Odd to pull into a station, a bit of jerking and then set off in the way you came from.

Everywhere was closed when I arrived. I got there at 1pm and the hotels didn’t open till 5pm. I wandered up the main street and at 1.15pm found a hotel open till 1.30pm and got a room. The guy seemed a bit surprised to see me and went off coming back with a shower head which was missing in the room. There was a tram up the mountain, but next day when I got there it wasn’t running, so I set off for a walk up the valley. My map showed some tracks up the mountainside but I couldn’t find them and I ended up walking up the side of the road. The road was getting higher, it was busy, and I realised I needed to cross it to get into the valley. It was ascending onto bridges and looked like it was going up a pass. It was not a route for a walker. Eventually I found a crossing place and continued this rather strange walk.

Down a track, through a small power station, then past a river prone to flooding, then through an industrial area and a graveyard. The graveyard was beautifully kept with some amazing flowers and photos of the deceased on plaques. Finally, a long straight road back to St Gervais. It had been a long odd walk in the hot sun through some strange surroundings but all around me the mountains were beautiful. I just wasn’t up there. That night I treated myself to a ham and cheese savoury crepe, dry cider and blackcurrant ice cream with liquor. The next day I took the cute red train into Chamonix.

The first time I’d been to Chamonix was also by train, but in the middle of winter. The line had taken me through gobsmacking amounts of snow. Now the weather was beautiful and I was able to gaze at the mountains through windows set high on the train sides for an unfettered view.

In Chamonix I searched around the hotels, and found a basic 2* hotel for 30 euros a night. It was a bargain and not too scruffy. Not saving money by sleeping on trains and camping I was this time looking for a good deal, but this trip was only for 10 days so it was ok to hotel it now and then.

I intended to get up into the mountains, and over the next two days I did some serious walking. The first day I walked through the forests to the Mer de Glace glacier, and the second day to the Le Brevent peak.

The Mer de Glace was a bit dirty looking in the summer and when I got there it was quite touristy, but the walks through the forests had been beautiful with outlooks across the valley to the mountains on the other side. You could go down to the edge of the glacier, and climb onto it using some iron ladders. There were kitted out people walking up it and you could see the little red helmets disappearing off into the distance.

For Le Brevent I wanted to get up high. I took the cable car to the first stop on the mountain and walked the remaining 3000 feet to the top. The track to the top was quite wide – probably a ski piste in winter and at the top was a cafe for the skiers where the tourists had gotten the cable car right up. It was curious to see old men with walking sticks at the top of a 2000 metre peak gazing across at Mt Blanc.

Walking back down seemed easy to the cable car I’d come from, and I thought I’d walk down to the valley. The track was probably a piste again, but it was endless zig zags all the way. It was exhausting on the legs and at the bottom I was finished. I’d listened to some walkers on the mountain and had learned the best way to walk was to get a cable car up the mountain but then walk across the mountain along the sides of the valley to a cable car further on at roughly the same height.

The next day my feet, legs and trainers were knackered and I got the train along the valley to Argentiere. I didn’t do much there but replaced my shorts which had split up the arse. At the end of the day, I knew I had done with the alps and it was time to head south again.

The train down from Paris had been a TGV but the brill trains in the alps had made me realize that I wasn’t happy on them. Everyone seemed miserable and they seemed quite soulless. People faffing about with laptops and gadgets, this wasn’t travel, it was more like a long commute. So, at Valence I got on one of the old-style TER trains. No need for a reservation and I started to feel happier.

Through to Marseille on an empty train with the compartments I remembered from interrailing days – I wallowed in nostalgia. Marseille station had some interesting characters and some pretty dodgy ones. You shouldn’t really judge a town by its railway station, but I decided to keep going and boarded another slow train, this time towards Nice.

I got off at St Raphael and found a reasonable hotel and headed out to catch the sunset over the sea. It was very beautiful and I took loads of photos on the promenade.

I stayed two nights in St Raphael, just moseying around, it seemed a relaxed place to laze around and not do an awful lot in the sunshine. Then I went on to Antibes. Antibes was a great old town with good views over the coast.

I decided to go on to the party town Juan Les Pins. No party and no pines. The beach was good though, but after finding myself a nice spot and having a swim, a crowd of German teenagers came and sat all around me. They cavorted in the waves noisily with a ball and lilo. They were both entertaining and slightly offensive – but not enough to give up my patch. In the evening. the sun getting lower gave the promenade a gorgeous golden light and I hung around taking photos before heading off to bed.

I’d reached the furthest point of my trip and it was time to head back towards Paris. Once again, I wasn’t tempted to stop off in Marseille. I broke the journey at Avignon, famous for its bridge. It was a well-mannered town, not exciting but pleasant enough.

I’d enjoyed the interrail experience again – doing it a little differently from my teenage years. Travelling alone had changed things, but I’d found plenty to keep me amused … so where next by train?



My sister had a new member of her family, and it was arranged that we would all meet up in Oban to get know him. She booked a nice large house in Ganavan a couple of kilometres from Oban town.

We arrived at the house and went into the main room. Our new member of the family was in the sitting room with my sister and husband. It was all very exciting. We spent the next few days in the environs of Ganavan getting to know him and exploring the coastline around there.

The weather was amazing and it felt like we were in the south of Europe but with views of the gorgeous Scottish coastline. Oban is set in the Firth of Lorn and is in a protected harbour with islands across to the west shielding it from the outer Irish Sea. Directly opposite is the island of Kerrara and further to the west the larger island of Mull. To the north west is the island of Lismore.

Oban was an easy walk from Ganavan along a fairly quiet minor road, and the views across the sound are pretty special.

It’s quite a small town but there are some good beaches around it near Ganavan and a ruined castle at Dunollie. The main reason you would go there is for its setting.

From Ganavan you can walk along the coast to Dunbeg and Dunstaffnage Castle. The castle was quite interesting and you could walk to the foot of its keep. It has sea on three sides and dates back the middle ages, though its strategic location has meant the area was inhabited going back 1500 years.

I walked across the fields to get there, while the rest of the family cycled there. The coastline is quite beautiful and many photos were taken.

Another day trip was to the island of Lismore. My family took bicycles on their cars and dropped me off as I was going to walk. We got the ferry across from Port Appin and I walked off into the island. They would cycle down the island while I would walk and we then met up at a great cafe part way down the island called the Isle of Lismore Cafe.

We then parted ways while they cycled to the south west corner of the island and I walked further south from the cafe and we met again at the ruined Achanduin Castle. The views from here across the loch was truly spectacular. I then walked back along the northern side of the island back the ferry port. It was quite a long walk but so worth it. They got back quicker and waited for me on the other side of the crossing for our return journey. The island was so beautiful in the sunshine and unspoiled with very few other visitors on that day.


If you are lucky enough to get good weather, I would highly recommend visiting the area. It’s a great place to chill out and relax, and was an excellent place for some family time.

Eastern Australia

Eastern Australia

Australia’s east coast is over 15,000 miles long. People spend six months or more travelling from Melbourne in the south to Cairns in the north or even further.

For my trip I had 10 days and I knew I would have to cherry pick. My original plan was to do a road trip from Melbourne to Sydney but when I started looking into it, the cost of hiring a car one way was prohibitive as I would have to pay for the car to be driven back. The journey between the two cities along the coast would need at least four days to do it justice and that didn’t really leave much time to see the cities.

I decided to fly between Melbourne and Sydney and that left me wondering what I could do to get out of the city for some of the trip. I decided to go out on the Great Ocean Road west of Melbourne as it is spectacular but I didn’t want to hire a vehicle so I booked on a coach to go as far as possible.

Arriving in Melbourne I booked into a small hotel at the end of Little Bourke Street on the other side of Chinatown. It was walkable from Southern Cross Flybus terminal where buses arrived from the airport.

I was pleased I had picked a hotel by Chinatown as it was an interesting area, certainly more interesting than the Central Business District I walked through to start with. There were side lanes off Little Bourke Street that were good to explore and some interesting restaurants from a wide range of Asian countries not just China.

I found my hotel and dropped off a bag as it was still early in the morning then found a cafe round the corner for a bacon sandwich and coffee.

I had no plan for the day so I just started walking. The buildings were low rise at this end of Little Bourke Street and I found this less claustrophobic than the hi-rise of the CBD though the sky scrapers would look good in photos from a distance.

I headed towards the Yarra river which cuts through the center of Melbourne. As I walked I saw the huge arena of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. I did a lap around it but it was shut up and I couldn’t go in. As I walked round I found a door I could look through so I could get a glimpse of the hallowed turf.

I then walked across the William Barak bridge towards the river. I couldn’t understand it at first but I could hear music as I walked. I realized the music was coming from the bridge. Speakers along the side of the bridge were playing aboriginal singing. It was quite cool and surreal.

The city I had walked through so far had been quite empty. As I came down the waters edge I saw there was an event going on on the river. It was a water skiing competition and many people had gathered to watch. I had arrived in the Moomba Festival, I would see water sports, carnivals, fun fair and a very long Chinese dragon parading the streets. I was lucky to arrive just as it was happening.

I spent the rest of the day walking around the river side inner city, there was plenty to see. I walked 10 miles that day.

The next day I decided to do something different. I went to the Fitzroy district. This was close to the hotel and I had read it was more alternative and edgy. I headed up Smith Street and it seemed very different to the parts of the city I had already seen. While it has undergone gentrification since the 80’s, it seemed a much poorer area than the city center. There were many street murals and the shops were much more varied with more artistic leanings. There were alternative clothes shops and some interesting looking pubs. It had a more community feel to it and the housing was quite varied from elegant road side houses with small gardens in front of them to city tenements.

I got a bit lost coming down the end of Brunswick Street and found myself in a park. Fitzroy Park. It was attractively laid out with some interesting buildings to photo and I spent quite some time there.

In the afternoon I figured out the Myki card for local transport and headed out to St Kilda. I had heard that this was a bit dodgy but it was a beautiful late afternoon and I walked out to Elwood and back along the coastal path then back to St Kilda’s beach strip and pier. I got a cone of very nice chips with some special seasoning and went out onto the pier for sunset. It was quite stunning and didn’t seem dodgy at all.

The next day I had read about an area of Melbourne called Yarra Bend. It was a preserved area of bush land along the side of the river near Victoria Park station. It was a short walk from the station and I headed up the far side of the river to get an experience of some bush in the city. It was quite wild and the paths narrowed the further I went into the bush arriving at a weir in the Yarra where the brown water cascaded over. On my way back I encountered an Australian fellow with a big stick. He warned me he had just seen a ‘dirty big snake’ and I should ‘watch my feet’.

The next day was my trip out onto the Great Ocean Road. I walked to Southern Cross early and figured out where to catch the train to Geelong. I had left so much time I was able to get an earlier train and then an early bus onto the Great Ocean Road. The day was beautiful and from the coach I could see glimpses of the coast through the road side trees. It looked gorgeous.

I had thought the furthest I could get by coach was Lorne, but it turned out the bus went through to Apollo Bay. I had booked a room in Lorne though so I got off there. There was a lot more of the Great Ocean Road that I wouldn’t see but at least I’d seen some of it. It would have been better by car, motorbike, or even bicycle as you could pull off at the overlooks to see the coastline.

Lorne is a small coastal town with some tourist shops and a decent beach. I headed to the fish and chip shop and got a very tasty Grenadier fish. I had a quick look at the beach and headed to my comfortable sea view room to chill and write some postcards. The next morning I woke at 6.30 am and decided to go down to the beach. There was a fantastic sunrise and I walked along the beach out to the Lorne Jetty. I woke a sleeping seal lying on the rocks under the jetty and it flapped very agitatedly into the sea. Lorne had scored and I was very glad I’d stopped off there.

The next day it was raining and I retraced my steps to Melbourne. I was staying near the CBD this time and I looked for things to do in the rain. I got some interesting Vietnamese food and headed to the aquarium. One of the better aquariums I’ve been to and not too busy at around 4pm. As well as many smaller tanks it had a large tank you could walk through and see many larger fish including sharks and rays as well many colorful smaller fish.

The next day I flew to Sydney. The weather was atrocious flying in and I only got the briefest of glimpses of the harbour. Not much point getting a window seat.

I had booked two nights at the famous Bondi Beach. The guesthouse was very nice and much better than the rough place I’d stayed in the night before. It was quite a walk from the beach though and by the time I got there it was evening. The beach was lit up and looked good but no one was on it so I headed back.

My feet had recovered from the pounding on the first two days in Melbourne, and I decided to do the Bondi to Coogee beach walk. The weather was quite changeable, sometimes sunny and sometimes raining. The storms coming across the sea were making the sea quite impressive and there were many surfers out enjoying the conditions. You could see the rain clouds coming across and I found gaps between the rain to walk round the next headland before sheltering from the next rain storm. Some of the smaller beaches were really pretty and I didn’t mind not being on Bondi as it wasn’t really a beach day. There were great open air pools next some of the beaches and the sea was breaking over the rocks into them.

I reached Clovelly and I was starting to feel hungry. The Seasalt Clovelly cafe was packed but up in the back streets I found Clovelly Social House. They did me some pasta and it tasted really good.

I finished off the walk to Coogee and found a bus that was heading in my direction to rest my tired feet.

The next day I was moving again – to The Rocks. I caught the train to Town Hall station and came out of the station to torrential rain. I ducked into the nearest shop. It was the Queen Victoria Building. I’m not a fan of shopping centers, but this one was gorgeous. I hung around in there having breakfast until the rain stopped.

I walked down to my hotel in The Rocks and checked in. It was a great old pub and I got an excellent room overlooking the street. All the windows were open and it felt very fresh. In the late afternoon I wandered down to the quay side and behaved like a tourist checking out the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Even though I’d seen these places many times in photos it is still cool to see them for yourself.

The next day I went to Circular Quay and got the ferry across to Manly. The ferry journey was amazing through the harbour. I always like boat trips and this one was pretty special. The weather had turned good and I arrived in Manly in warm bright sunshine. There was another coastal walk here but I didn’t feel like doing this as it was so warm. I just hung out at the beach and found a good beach restaurant for something to eat. There were many runners going up and down the seafront. I’d expected to see beautiful girls in bikinis in Sydney but these girls were athletes. I walked round the coast to Shelly Beach and got an ice cream. It was a chilled last day, maybe I’d saved the best till last. Manly was a really nice place and a good way to end.



The tricky thing about Hossegor is figuring out how to get there if you’re not driving from France. It’s situated between Bordeaux in the north and Biarritz in the south. Biarritz is much closer and Bordeaux means an almost certain car hire to get there.

Biarritz though only has a small airport with a few flights a day. I did manage to find one though from Paris and found a good hook up flight to there from Manchester in the UK, both on Easyjet who performed very well.

Once you’re in Biarritz, how do you get to Hossegor which is 50 miles away? There are a couple of buses per day, there is a train that takes you 6 km away with a taxi or two hour walk along unknown roads, or again car hire.

I was going to Hossegor to watch the Roxy Pro / Quicksilver Pro surfing competition in October. I didn’t know how far the competition would be through by the time I got there, but before I flew the women’s competition had reached the semi’s and the men’s the quarters. I decided to hire a car.

I picked up the car at the airport and had a very fraught half hour driving a strange car in a strange country in the dark. I didn’t miss any more of the competition though.

Hossegor on the French Atlantic coast

The competition was on hold for a couple of days as they don’t surf unless conditions are suitable, and this gave me time to look around the beach and resort. I was staying centrally at the Oskar Hotel which was very good and not too pricy. The beach is beautiful, with gorgeous yellow sands and waves of differing sizes depending on which break you’re at. La Gravière where the competition was held had the largest waves with breaks further out and an amazing barrel close to the beach. The whole of this Atlantic coast has great beaches stretching from Biarritz north to Messanges. There are campsites in the woods as you go north which are great for family holidays by the dunes.

The resort has a number of restaurants and bars in a small square by the beach with a large TV screen to keep track of the competition and show other surfing related videos. It is really well set up for surfers.

Further back from the beach there is a small town center over the canal which has more shops, cafes and restaurants. If the weather isn’t so good or you need a break from the beach you can chill out here for a couple of hours.

Hossegor is next to Cap Breton and you can easily walk here where two rivers meet at the old port. There is a marina to look round and you can hire jet skiis. There are restaurants around the port and out to the other side along the waterfront.

The southerly side of the pier seemed to be popular with paddle boarders while the north side was more for surfers on the easier waves south of La Gravière. Fishermen were fishing off the harbour walls and jetties on each side of the river.

I’m not sure as a solo traveler you would want to spend more than a few days at Hossegor if there was no competition going on. Probably not enough to do unless you wanted to join a surf school or were already a keen surfer. If you’re with a group hang out there as long as you want, it’s a beautiful place and the sea is fantastic.



Bratislava was previously known for stag and hen parties. Now those are much rarer and the city has much more to offer the general traveler. On our weekend we only saw two stag parties, one of which seemed very low on numbers with only two guys from Blackpool. There was a couple of places catering to these groups but most of the bars were just fun places to have a drink.

Our flights from the UK were super cheap being Ryanair but both flights coming from Yorkshire and Manchester had 3 hour delays so one guy arrived at 3.30 in the morning. The rest of us got there before midnight and had time to have a look round the town at night coming back around 2am. The nightscene wasn’t too busy but there was enough to keep us amused. Our favourite bar being the Goblin Pub which was down some steps in a cellar, and was full of young people having fun, with live music.

There were plenty of bars to look round and food to eat. We found a good cheap pizza place in the old town and there were lots of takeaways as well as bars and restaurants offering both cheaper options and sit down meals.

central Bratislava

The next day we explored the old town some more. It has some beautiful old buildings, then did a loop to the castle, over the river to the UFO bridge, through the park on the south side of the Danube, then back across the next bridge east on the river and back into the old town.

We went into the castle because it was raining and the entrance fee wasn’t too bad. The castle had been extensively refurbished and the was lots of information on this process in the lower galleries. As we went up the floors, the middle floors were pretty empty, but on the top floor there was an exhibition by Slovakian artist Martin Benka. He died in the 1970’s, but made a large body of work with paintings from both his time in Slovakia and travels abroad. The castle now seemed more interesting and then we discovered the lower floors with roman archaeology, went to the top tower up many steps and tried the cake from the castle shop which was really good. We spent a few hours in the castle and overall it seemed good value.

Leaving the castle we spotted a restaurant Modrá hviezda going down the steps to the river which we returned to for our evening meal. The game casserole and complimentary Slovakian spirit was my personal highlight of the trip.

We crossed the river to the UFO restaurant and went up the lift to the main room at the top of the tower. There is a bar and restaurant and above this a viewing platform which has fantastic 360 degree views of the city. The river goes to the east into central Slovakia and west out to Austria. North there is the old city and south many Soviet era looking blocks of flats which we didn’t get chance to visit.

From high on the platform one of our group spotted that there was some men fighting with swords in the park below and smoke from gunfire. We went down to have a look, and there was a large war reenactment going on in the park, with soldiers firing cannons at each other dressed up in period costume and generally having a good battle! It was all free and totally unexpected. Brilliant!

We then walked to the east side of the park and headed back across the large green bridge to the old town. We had spent most of the day doing this loop and had found plenty to do and were ready for food.

There are lots of other things you could do in Bratislava – there were bikes you can hire to cycle round the city, or you could cycle to the Austrian border which isn’t far. We found things for five guys but there are other options if your companions have other interests.

It’s really a very good looking city, with lots of pleasant outdoor spaces, shopping, nightlife and good eating to be had.



Croatia has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world since it became an independent country in the early 90’s. Its beautiful coastline and many islands drawing visitors both international and domestic. Its warm Adriatic climate is pleasant from spring though to autumn.

Dubrovnik in the far south of the country receives a good share of tourists with its walled city and beautiful surrounding islands and beaches. Its international airport and cruise liner port bringing in 1.3 million tourists a year.

The city has a population of around 40,000 people but in the summer months this can swell until the old city can suffer from serious over-tourism. In fact even in May when we visited the old city was full from 9 am to 6 pm and we chose to enter the city before and after these times for a more relaxing experience.

The authorities have had to limit the influx from cruise ships as each of these can dump 3000 tourists at a time on the city often in large tour groups. At its worst the city was receiving 13 cruise ships at a time, but now they have been staggered to lessen their impact. The new international airport also seems stretched by the amount of travelers with long queues when leaving the country.

Many of the hotels where tourists stay are situated to the north west of the old city on the Babin Kuk and Lapad peninsula and when they come into the city in bus loads the traffic can really snarl up.

Having said that, the tourists are there for a reason. The city is a really beautiful place, often referred to as the jewel of the Adriatic. If you time your visit to the old city well and spend the busy time outside the walls you can really enjoy your visit.

During the day time we visited Lokrum island, walked down the coast to Sveti Jakov beach (pictured), and walked on the top of the hill behind the city enjoying the panoramic views from the top before walking down the zig zag path back to the city.

If you have more time you can take boat trips further to the islands to the north of the city with half and full day trips running from the old port.

The walls of the old city are one of the main attractions of the old city and you can walk the circular walk in around an hour. There are kiosks to buy drinks if it is hot, and the views across the city and out to Lokrum are really good. The walls cost 200 kr when we were there but it was well worth it. There are passes for the city that might make it cheaper. We went on them 8.30 am when they opened, and at that time they weren’t too busy and you could get photos without feeling you were holding a queue of people up. Hang on to your ticket as you get asked to show it further round the walls.

Our favourite time in the city was early in the morning when the streets were empty and you could wander around the passageways and flights of steps without anyone walking into your photographs. In the evening there were many swallows flying above the city zooming down the canyons of the city walls. Sunset at the port was nice too as there weren’t too many people left by then and you could enjoy the golden colours over the boats and waters.

If you are wanting to get out on the sea, there are many boat trips and you can rent canoes to paddle around the city walls and out to Lokrum which isn’t far.

Lokrum has a regular ferry service from the old port and the island is much quieter than the city with walks around the island and to features such as a beautiful pool called the Dead Sea, a monastery with botanical gardens, and a fort at the top of the island.

Walking in the pine forests with cypress and olive trees in amongst is very relaxing and you can spend a happy few hours here and have a swim at one of the rocky beaches.

If you want to get a view of the city from up high you can go up the hill behind the city to the centuries old Fort Imperial . There is a cable car that used to run, but this was out of service when we were there, so we caught a number 17 bus to the village of Bosanka high on the hill. From here it was a short walk to the top of the hill with stunning panoramas across the bay and beautiful views inland across to the mountains of Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the top is a pricy but good restaurant where you can stop for a meal before walking down the path back to the old city. Alternatively you can get a taxi or mini bus up to the top from the city.

If you want beaches, there are beaches out on the Babin Kuk peninsula if you are staying there, or closer to the city such as Banje Beach just south east of the old walls which has a good beach bar, or you can walk further to Sveti Jakov for a small beach by a ruined hotel complex.

Dubrovnik convinced me that I want to spend more time in Croatia, to hunt out some of the beautiful parts along the coast and spend more time on the islands. This is without even considering the inland parts of the country with its varied landscape and national parks.

North Wales

North Wales

North Wales has a lot to offer. Beautiful beaches, ancient castles, fantastic mountain and coastal scenery, and lots of great places to stay.

Coming from England the usual route is via the A55 along the north coast of Wales. If you are coming from the Midlands or South you may come via Shrewsbury, or there are several roads up from South Wales.

If you are coming to Wales to see heritage, there are great castles at Harlech, Caenarfon, Criccieth and Conwy to name a few. There are over 100 castles in Wales still standing with a good number in North Wales. On our trip we stayed at Harlech so spent the most time visiting this castle. It has fantastic coastal views from the ramparts and also across to Snowdonia. You can make out the Snowden horseshoe on a clear day. It is in a good state of repair and if you have kids they will love exploring the turrets and passageways.

Caenarfon castle is also in good repair and is sat between Snowdonia and Anglesey so if you are exploring that part of North Wales is worth a look. Caenarfon is situated on the Menai Straight and you have good views across the water to Anglesey. We had a meal at the Black Boy pub while in Caenarfon which had good food with a roaring fire.

If you are looking for beaches the Llŷn Peninsular has some good ones with seaside villages and resorts to visit with sea cliffs and beautiful coastal paths. Harlech beach is a great beach to walk on. You can go down some steps near Llanfair two miles south of Harlech and walk up the beach for several miles, then combine this with a visit to the castle. This was one of our best days, the beach is really nice and there are plenty of places in Harlech to get something to eat.

The north coast of Wales has a more developed coastline between the resorts of Rhyl and Llandudno. Llandudno has a good beach and a long pier to walk out onto. There are many hotels along the seafront and you can stop here for a night before going on into Snowdonia or it would be possible to base yourself here for longer.

We also stopped at Colwyn Bay for an ice cream and to view the coast with out to some sea wind farms and Liverpool off to the east. Locals were exercising along the long promenade and you can see the Little Orme hill off to the west. Great Orme is further to the west by Llandudno. They are both of historical and natural interest as well as being of interest to tourists. There are rare wild flowers and butterflies and moths on Great Orme as well as a herd of Kashmir goats and colonies of rare bats. It has walking paths or you can catch the tram or cable car from Llandudno.

North Wales caters very well for walkers with stunning panoramas in Snowdonia National Park centered around Snowdon the highest mountain in Wales. It is higher than any mountain in England. Many visitors will focus on climbing Snowdon but this has lead it to become very busy, so you may wish to walk by one of the other peaks in the area. The Snowdon railway increases the visitors right at the top of the mountain, but if you are not walking too well these days may be a way to see the panoramic views going up the line and from the top.

The Wales Coast Path is another alternative walking route that passes through North Wales. It goes around the coast of Wales for 870 miles, and you may wish to walk stretches near to where you are staying in North Wales. Sections in the north include the Anglesey Coastal Path, the North Wales Coastal Path and the Llŷn Coastal Path.

If you are a fan of heritage railways Wales has a number of these. There are two going from Porthmadog – the Festiniog Railway and the Welsh Highland Railway. The stations for these have now been combined into one so you can link up between the two lines. This means you can travel 40 miles from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Caernarfon via Porthmadog. We traveled on the Festiniog Railway leg with some great views across the estuary at Porthmadog and a glimpse of Snowdon before heading up the valley by the Afon Dwyryd river to the former slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog.

The Llechwedd Slate Caverns are a popular tourist attraction at Blaenau Ffestiniog , and if you get an early train you can visit these before heading back to Porthmadog. They are 5 minutes away from the station by taxi. Also here is Zip World Titan for Europe’s largest zip wire area.

For somewhere quite unlike anywhere else I’ve seen in the UK, Portmeirion is an Italian style village set on the estuary banks of the River Dwyryd. The architecture is the brainchild of designer Sir Clough Williams-Ellis and is somewhere you have to see if you are in this part of Wales. It has featured in a number of TV shows most famously 1960’s tv show The Prisoner.

You can easily spend a week in North Wales without running out of things to do, in fact you will probably only scratch the surface.



Why pick Kyoto when travelling to Japan for the first time? Kyoto survived the Second World War largely intact as it wasn’t made a target for many American bombing raids. The temples, houses and important city buildings didn’t need to be rebuilt following the war. This is lead it to remain a center for Japanese culture, especially older culture, and this can make a wonderful introduction to Japan.

It can be visited on its own or if you have time, it can easily be included in a longer Japanese tour. It is only an hour from Osaka by train and about three and a half hours from Tokyo by bullet train.

If you decide to focus on Kyoto, the most likely entry point is Kansai Airport south west of Osaka. From here you can catch the Haruka JR train via Osaka to Kyoto main station. Generally this is direct with two stops in Osaka, but it is possible you may have to change train in Osaka if there are any train works occurring. If you have bought a Japanese sim card in the airport, you can follow your journey on mobile phone.

Kansai was hit by one of the unexpectedly high number of typhoons to pass over Japan in 2018 – typhoon Jebi, and was out of action for a few weeks while it was repaired. The international runway was underwater for several days and many flights were cancelled. Also a ship drifted into the causeway connecting the airport’s man made island to the mainland, cutting off road traffic for several days and impacting rail traffic. This hadn’t happened before but is a sign of the changing weather patterns across the world.

Fortunately for our trip the main runway had reopened, and the causeway had trains running again, but not a good time for the airport or its staff.

Arriving in Kyoto, you come out of the train station on the north side to see the Kyoto Tower high above the city. Going up this to the observation deck is a good way to get your bearings in the city. You can make out the line of the Kamogata River on the eastern side of city and the station complex below to the south, with the main railway line snaking off to the east. The city lies in a plain or basin with wooded hills to the east, west and north. Looking to the south west is an urban landscape stretching to Osaka.

The observation deck has information boards and telescopes so you can pick out landmarks, but looking down to the north you can see there is a large temple close to the station. This is the Higashihonganji Temple, and entry to the temple grounds is free. A good place to start your exploration of the city. Opposite it to the east there is a garden with a lake – Shosei-en Garden, which you might want to look at before heading off to your hotel. Also in the station area there are many restaurants where you can eat if you are hungry after your journey.

Many of the temples in the city are free to look at the grounds, but you pay to go into the buildings. Also there may be separate gardens which you often have to pay for. With so many temples in the city, you will need to choose which you want to pay for, or the costs can mount up.

Rather than catching taxi’s around the city, or figuring out the local transport straight away, we chose hotels that were within walking distance of each other,  (see the hearts on the map). Obviously this depends on how much luggage you bring – we choose to travel as light as possible. We picked three hotels that allowed us to see different parts of the city over the ten days we were there.

Our first hotel, or in this case Japanese guesthouse, was in South Higashiyama on the other side of the Kamo river from the station. It took about thirty minutes to walk there, and as it was quite a hot day, we were glad to find a beautiful little restaurant near to the guesthouse to wait until check in time.

The Kamo river is a popular spot with the locals for walking and cycling, and has an impressive variety of bird life for a river in the middle of a city, evidence for what a clean city Kyoto is. There isn’t a huge traffic problem either as many of the locals cycle around the city, and you should be able to hire bike. The grid like nature of the city means you can easily cycle down one of the quieter parallel streets off the main roads.

Higashiyama is next to a range of wooded hills running north to south and here you can find some of the best temples of the area. Start off with the Kiyomizu-dera temple early in the morning. This as well as the main temple has a Shinto shrine and a short walk through the woods to the Koyasu Pagoda. It is a pleasant way to start the day before the crowds. There is a small cafe for a drink and snack if you get there early enough by the Otowa waterfall, which the Japanese believe can bring success, love and long life from drinking the waters.

From a base on this side of the river you can explore the sights of Higashiyama and spend time in Gion, where you may catch sight of Maiko or Geiko. Gion is busy by day, but quietens down at night and walks in the area are quite pleasant in the evening before getting something to eat. Gion centres around Shijo Dori street, which has good people watching when strolling under the green canopies of the shops. Starting from the river and heading to the Yasaka Shrine and Maruyama Park. Nearby is the temple of Chion-in which is one of the major Buddhist temples and has two Japanese Gardens in the grounds (you have to pay). If you are lucky you may catch a Buddhist ceremony in the main temple conducted by the monks, and don’t forget to check out the huge bell before you leave.

Going further north into Higashiyama there are more major temples and museums and galleries, but it depends how close you are staying to these as to how far you want to walk. By bike you can get further into the area. There are also many beautiful old streets in the area to explore, the Yasaka Kamimachi area is good with its beautiful pagoda and there are canal side walks in north Gion that are pleasant.

We also stayed on the west of the Kamo River near Imperial Park. By now we had figured out the trains and were able to make journeys to the edge of the city to places like Kibune and Kurama in the north. These have beautiful shrines in the woods and you can walk between the two villages on a woodland path. Kibune has some pleasant restaurants to eat at by a noisy stream, and Kurama has hot springs to bathe in.

We went out to Arashiyama, to see the famous Bamboo Forest, which is mobbed with tourists. Arashiyama though has quite a few places to visit and you can walk more pleasantly away from the crowds by the river. If you like you can hire a boat to punt you up the river. We walked up the west bank and found a tiny shrine in the woods with a good lookout. If you like monkeys there is a monkey park you can climb up the hill to, and make some simian friends.

No trip to Kyoto would be complete without visiting the Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine south of the city on the train line at Inari. It’s 10000 vermillion Torii gates stretching to the top of the 764 foot hill are something to behold. If you don’t like being in crowds, get there early in the morning, or you can even go up at night for a somewhat spooky experience. The statues of stone foxes and Japanese gargoyles are sure to make you jump in the dark. You may even see a few cats out for their nightly prowls.

Our ten days gave us a good taste for the city, and we hope this blog gives you some ideas. It would definitely be possible to stay for longer – there is so much to see, and with Osaka being so close, you could even make day trips there to sample its food and vibrant street life.

Kyoto photobook
Photographs from the beautiful city of Kyoto.
Available for purchase.