Posts from the “Travel Writing” Category

Damascus

Posted on March 8, 2012

There are seven gates surrounding the Old City of Damascus and to pass through any of them is to enter a time warp, where you leave the present behind and step into a world of fantasy and make believe. Time has stood still in the oldest inhabited city in the world and all semblance of modernity has failed to penetrate its inner walls. Cars are almost non-existent and the sounds that you hear are of horse and donkey hooves and the myriad of footsteps in the narrow, cobbled alleyways. Go by night when darkness settles over the city and Damascenes flock to the sanctuary of this place in search of spiritual guidance, shopping or just the wonderful conviviality of its people. Step into the…

Sharm El Sheikh

Posted on March 8, 2012

The rain came down without any warning. But this was not just normal rain. It started with a few drops then the dark skies suddenly erupted and dumped their deluge on the hotel. One minute we were dining in the Arabic restaurant, the next, a large hole appeared in the ceiling and a torrent of water poured through. Our waiter, Mohammed, looked up, smiled and asked if we would like any drinks. Reassured by his presence we ordered beer and wine and tried to ignore the chaos around us. A waterfall appeared by the entrance and the restaurant started to flood. We raised our feet and carried on eating. Waiters donned makeshift macs made from blue plastic bags and attacked the water with brushes…

A Day in Verona

Posted on February 28, 2012

One hour West of Venice on the Eurostar train, lies the beautiful city of Verona, nestling on the banks of the River Adige and now given the prestige status of being a UNESCO World Heritage Center. A visit here is a chance to step back in time, to capture the grandeur and splendor of a city steeped in history, with its vast Roman amphitheater, L’Arena, its churches and the Duomo Cathedral and its famous castle, Castelvecchio seized by endless invaders before Verona became a key political and economic center following the unification of Italy. Verona will, however, always be remembered for its tragic love story, Romeo and Juliet, immortalised by William Shakespeare. Ancient Theatre The city itself is compact enough to see everything in a day on foot, and there is a Hop on…

A Day in Malaga

Posted on February 28, 2012

So there you are, lying by the pool, enjoying the Spanish sunshine and staring up at the crystal blue sky and the white fluffy clouds floating by, when you hear those dreaded words. “Dad, can we go to Aqualand tomorrow?” Your body starts to twitch involuntarily at the prospect of thousands of screaming, sunburnt kids hurtling down death defying water slides and encouraging you to join in. The lack of shade, the smell of hot dogs, overcooked onions and tortillas and queues for toilets shatter your peace and tranquillity and induce a state of semi-paralysis. You try to ignore it, but your wife joins in. “Go on, you know how much you’ll love it.” Well if you have no excuses, don’t despair. Here’s the…

Palmyra

Posted on February 8, 2012

“Not been to Palmyra?” said my friend with incredulity. “How long have you been coming to Syria?” I muttered something inaudible and left trying to hide my embarrassment. I had travelled all over this beautiful country but had never visited its most important historical site. With an empty weekend approaching, I had no excuse this time. Two days later, we leave the swarming suburbs of Damascus behind us and veer eastwards towards the Syrian Desert, a vast expanse of uninhabitable land. A road sign indicates Palmyra, Deir ez Zhor and Iraq and the landscape suddenly changes to scrubland and high plateaux. A vast limestone steppe stretches to the horizon. The road is remarkably quiet with only a few, heavily laden trucks heading for the…

Bulgarian Etiquette

Posted on February 5, 2012

There are some basic essentials you need to learn before going to Bulgaria. Nodding means no and shaking ones head means yes. This can be an endless source of embarrassment as I discovered to my chagrin when emerging from the swimming pool shower at the Sofia Princess, clad only in a miniscule towel. A large, buxom lady in a white coat accosted me and insisted that I have a massage. In my panic, I kept shaking my head, which encouraged her to try and drag me into her cubicle. There followed a tug of war with the towel in my endeavour to preserve my vanity and I was only rescued when a small, elderly Japanese gentleman replied to her advances by bowing and nodding…

The London Dungeon

Posted on February 1, 2012

If you want to walk in the footsteps of Jack the Ripper, London’s most notorious serial killer, sit in Sweeny Todd’s infamous barber’s chair or face the hangman’s drop at Newgate Prison, then the London Dungeon is the place for you. Not for the squeamish or for those of a nervous disposition, you will travel back in time to a London teetering on the edge of collapse from disease, pestilence and man-made disasters. Watch as the Great Fire of London destroys the whole city in 1666 and the Black Death sweeps through the streets killing young and old alike. See the torturers at Newgate Prison demonstrate their skills in exacting confessions with an array of terrifying instruments, or watch the surgeons practicise their anatomical arts on corpses stolen from…

Hampton Court Palace

Posted on February 1, 2012

Only thirty miles up the River Thames from the Tower of London and 35 minutes by train from Waterloo station stands one of Britain’s most magnificent palaces, Hampton Court Palace. Built by Cardinal Wolsey in 1520, and seized by Henry VIII after his failure to broker his marriage to Anne Boleyn, it stands as a monument to his reign, his consolidation of power and most notoriously to his six wives: two of whom were executed, Anne Boleyn and her cousin Catherine Howard; two divorced, Katherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves; one who died in childbirth, Jane Seymour; and one who surprisingly survived, Katheryn Parr. Wander through the old Tudor Palace, visit the Great Hall, the Great Watching Chamber, the Chapel Royal and the largest surviving Renaissance kitchen in…

Amman and Jerash-Jordan

Posted on February 1, 2012

The Private Half Day Jerash and Amman City Sightseeing Tour provides a dramatic insight into the extraordinary growth of two cities. Amman, the capital of Jordan, formerly known as Philadelphia, exploding from a small, sleepy town into a modern metropolis with 2.4 million people, almost half of the Kingdom’s population; and Jerash, a city of 30,000 at its zenith and one of the most important centres in the former Roman Empire. The tour begins at the blue and white King Abdullah Mosque near the centre of the city and moves on to the up-market district of Abdoun, home to the rich and famous in their beautifully ornate, multi-million dollar houses. You then descend into the downtown area with its bustling shops and street markets before winding your way up to the Citadel,…

Verona-Sightseeing by Bus

Posted on February 1, 2012

If you want to view the sights in this beautiful Italian city, then there’s no better way than to board the Verona Hop on-Hop off bus and relax in the comfort of the open top deck. Listen to the multi-lingual commentary, enjoy the stunning scenery and jump on and off at an array of stops of historical interest and with breathtaking views. The ticket is valid for 24 hours and you can follow Line A and Line B around this wonderful city famed for its opera house (L’Arena) held in the Roman amphitheatre, the birthplace of gnocci, and, of course, Romeo and Juliet. Both Lines start from the Piazza Bra next to the Arena and in front of the Pallazo Barbieri. Line A follows the route south by…