Posts from the “Travel Writing” Category

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Posted on October 12, 2016

    I was in high spirits when I signed up for the bicycle tour but regretted it immediately. Only 9 kms she said, a nice lunch and a boat ride back. Sure that you don’t want the full, all day trip of 20 kms in the mountains. Much better for man like you. I knew that it was double the price and the temperature was due to climb to over 40 on the next day. I shook my head politely. A quadruple bypass, a new titanium hip and endless other scars were testament to man who should be starting to take it easy in life. Not cycling in the midday sun in Vietnam.   I woke early, did my stretches and squats and…

Dorsoduro, Venice

Posted on August 24, 2013

In the high season, Venice’s population doubles and the log jam on the main thoroughfares becomes almost unbearable, as thousands of tourists clog the alleyways between the Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco. A short walk over the Ponte dell’Accademia crossing the Grand Canal, however, provides an escape route into one of the most enduring and increasingly fashionable districts of La Serenissima, Dorsoduro. Somewhat euphemistically translated as ‘high ridge’, it juts out from San Polo and lies to the South of San Marco with its tip almost opposite the Doge’s Palace. It also embraces two islands across the canal to the south, Giudecca and the less fashionable, Sacca Fisola. Ambiance What I adore about this district is its bohemian atmosphere, its relative tranquillity and its mix of students…

Mallorca, Spain

Posted on August 24, 2013

  I had only visited MAJ-ORCA once before in 1988 in the company of our five teenage children, foolishly believing that we would have a quiet family holiday by the sea. Was I mad? The holiday turned into a nightmare with the flight overbooked and packed to the gunnels and the resort resembling Stalag 7 with the family scattered around clay huts that would not have been out of place in rural Africa. The sound of karaoke every night, evening meals of fish and chips, chicken and chips and the occasional spag boll did little to endear me to the island and I swore I would never return again. In search of rest and recovery after an operation had gone seriously wrong, I was…

Island of Giudecca, Venice, Italy

Posted on August 24, 2013

If you’re a backpacker and want to savour some of the most iconic views in Venice, then there’s no better place to stay then the Ostello Venezia on the Island of Giudecca, For the price of a small meal at the nearby luxury hotels you get the same magnificent views over the canal to the Doges’ Palace, the Campanile towering over St. Mark’s Square and the cathedral of La Salute guarding the entrance to the Grand Canal. If, however, you are feeling very flush and really want to have a momentary bit of self-indulgence, then you can sample the world famous Hotel Caprice with its Olympic-sized swimming pool and hobnob with De Niro, Angelina Jolie et al during the annualVenice Film Festival, held in the nearby…

A Night at the Opera, Verona

Posted on June 21, 2012

Verona is famous for its music and especially its opera, which takes place in the former Roman amphitheater, L’Arena, next to the Piazza Bra in the center of this beautiful city. A venue more renowned for gladiatorial combat and games (ludi), it has been transformed into one of the wonders of the world, with over 50 performances every season running from June to September. The 2012 season includes Don Giovanni, Aida, Carmen, Romeo and Juliette, Turandot and Tosca.  Here are some tips that will help you in preparation for the performance you might attend. Arriving to the opera performance The sheer vastness of the setting in the huge circular amphitheater packed with 14,000 spectators, all sitting in the open air, creates the most mesmeric of atmospheres. It’s…

Olympic Park, London

Posted on June 20, 2012

In the summer of 2012, London will be awash with visitors from all over the world as the capital hosts the XXX Olympic Games from July 27th to August 12th and the Paralympics from August 29th to September 9th. While events will be scattered over venues throughout the southeast of England, the centrepiece of the Games will be the Olympic Park situated in Stratford in East London some six miles from the city centre. Nine of the key sporting venues will be located here including the Olympic Stadium (opening/closing ceremony and athletics), the Aquatics Centre (diving and swimming), the Velodrome (cycling), the BMX Track, the Water Polo Arena, the Basketball Arena, the Riverbank Arena (hockey), Eton Manor (wheelchair tennis) and the Copper Box (handball, goalball and modern pentathlon). It will…

Marbella and Puerto Banus

Posted on March 18, 2012

  Mention Marbella to anyone and they immediately think of money, the rich and the famous. This is the Costa del Sol’s quintessential Monte Carlo, a place to hang out with the glitterati and to be seen by the paparazzi hunting their little bit of sleaze. Stroll along the Passeo Maritimo from the Parque de la Constitucion near the main tourist office and gaze on the multi-million dollar apartment blocs dominating the skyline. Watch the rich walking their poodles and shih tzus or relaxing in the up-market health cafes near the Puerto Deportivo Marbella. Alternatively, if you have a sudden urge to recapture your youth and have scant regard for that sudden hole in your bank balance, you could indulge in one of the many clinics overlooking…

Tower of London and River Sightseeing Tour

Posted on March 11, 2012

Step aboard the spacious River Liner outside the Houses of Parliament (Westminster Pier) and sit back as the sights and splendour of London unfold round every bend of your journey on the Tower of London and Thames River Sightseeing Cruise. Weave your way past the London Eye turning slowly and majestically, the Royal Festival Hall, the Tate Modern and the Globehome to England’s most famous bard, William ShakespeareWatch as the waterfront fills with monuments to London’s historical past: the Savoy Hotel, Cleopatra’s Needle, the Oxo Building and Billingsgate Market with St.Paul’s Cathedral dominating the skyline. Glide past HMS Belfast before disembarking in front ofTower Bridge, the most iconic of London’s landmarks.

Step into the Tower of London, home to the Crown Jewels and savour its dark and mysterious past. Wander through the Bloody Tower where the two young Princes disappeared in 1483, reportedly murdered by their uncle, Richard III; the torture chambers where Guy Fawkes, architect of the Gunpowder Plot, and his co-conspirators were subjected to the infamous rack.  Join the Yeoman Warders (Beefeaters) and follow the trail past the Traitors Gate through the White Tower to the execution bloc where poor Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey lost their heads. Visit the armoury, the menagerie and the jewel house and discover the history of one of the bastions of Britain where William the Conqueror, Richard the Lionheart, Henry III and Edward Ist reigned supreme.

If you’re lucky you might see the famous black ravens or perhaps the ghost of the headless Anne Boleyn or one of the other guests who were sent to the tower.

© Graham Walker 2012

Originally published on viator.com

Small Group Walking Tour of London

Posted on March 11, 2012

Our group on the Small-Group Evening Walking Tour of London with Fish and Chips Dinner was small and intimate–six in total including our guide, Matt, who seemed to be a repository of every known fact about the history of London. Armed with his iPad, brimming with images and photographs, we set off on a journey of discovery about London’s heartland, its dark and sinister past, and its resurgence as a world financial powerhouse.

Starting at the Tower of London, illuminated by floodlights and packed with skaters on the ice rink in a former moat, the atmosphere was somewhat surreal, bordering on magical. Scratch behind the surface, however, and you were suddenly reminded of its grisly past: of beheadings, torture, imprisonment, murder and the Traitors Gate.

Following the Thames Path

We moved along the Thames Path with wonderful views of Tower BridgeHMS Belfast and the magnificent new Shard Building soaring high into the night sky, soon to be the tallest building in Europe. Ahead stood London Bridge, which was the replacement for the one sold to an American millionaire for $2.4 million and now straddles Lake Havasu City in Arizona. We were reminded that this was the spot where traitor’s heads were stuck on spikes, a stark deterrent to any potential transgressor.

Cutting right over the bridge we paused at Southwark Cathedral with its beautiful stained glass windows before descending into Borough Road Market, passing the Golden Hind, the replica of Sir Francis Drake’s galley. From there we moved on past the notorious Clink Prison before turning back to the river for one of the most beautiful views imaginable. St. Paul’s Cathedral on the right, standing majestically on Ludgate Hill; the Globe Theatre on the left, the birthplace of many of Shakespeare’s plays; and ahead the Millennium Bridge, Norman Foster’s creation, and the Tate Modern.

Seeing London lit up at night

We moved on to Blackfriars Bridge and descended down a winding staircase to a shingle beach with the waters lapping gently nearby. Huge chains and sunken staves were a reminder of the medieval harbours that dominated this part of London.  We returned to the Thames Path, moved through the crowds outside the National Theatre before passing the London Eye brightly lit in blue and turning gently in the evening air. Across the river stood Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, iconic symbols of Britain’s imperial past.

The evening ended on a high in one of the best fish and chip restaurants in London tucked behind the Old Vic Theatre near Waterloo Station. Cod, chips, mushy peas, pickles, onions, tea, bread and butter.  What more could a man (or woman) ask for?

© Graham Walker 2012

Originally published by Viator.com

East London Walking Tour with Indian Meal

Posted on March 11, 2012

Take the guided walk through the heartland of the City of London on the East London Small-Group Walking Tour with Indian Lunch and savour the splendour of the monuments to Britain’s imperial past.  Wander through cobbled streets and alleyways and be transported back in time from Saxon and Roman London to the present where towering skyscrapers stand as symbols to London’s financial strength. Finish in Brick Lane, home to the Bengali community and sample some of their world famous dishes.

Starting on Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, this walk begins on the steps ofSt.Paul’sthe magnificent cathedral designed by Sir Christopher Wren, built in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London in 1666 and now the focal point of the anti-capitalism protests. You continue on to the Guildhall, the headquarters of the City of London Corporation; the Mansion House, home to the Lord Mayor; the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England before stopping at the Monument, built to commemorate the Great Fire, which started accidentally in Pudding Lane in the street nearby.

Move on past the London Stone, through Leadenhall Market, the original site of the Roman City of Londonium, before its ruthless sacking by Queen Boadicea in AD 60, then move into the heart of London’s financial centre. Walk in the shadows of the Lloyds Bank building, designed by Richard Rogers, and the Swiss Re building nicknamed the Gherkin, site of the famous Baltic Exchange before its destruction by the IRA in 1992.

Relax a while in the comparative solitude of the gardens of St. Dunstan’s in the East, bombed out in the Blitz, before moving northwards through Petticoat Lane towards Spitalfields Market and Whitechapel, the killing ground of Jack the Ripper. Pass the Ten Bells pub where his victims all drank before their terrible murders before moving down the Georgian Streets to Brick Lane and its vibrant Bengali Community, now referred to as Banglatown. Sample samosas and sweets in the array of local shops before finishing the walk with a meal in one of the best curry houses in the area. A journey of stark contrasts but one to remember.

© Graham Walker 2012

Originally published by Viator