Posts from the “Travel Writing” Category

Venice, Walking Tour and Gondola Ride

Posted on February 1, 2012

Escape into the myriad of alleyways in San Marco, explore hidden Venice and glide effortlessly on a gondola down the Grand Canal. Learn the secrets of the construction of this jewel of the Adriatic and the race against time to preserve it and all its splendid magnificence. The Venice Walking Tour and Gondola Ride starts near St Mark’s Square and pauses in front of the Hotel Bauer, famous for the filming of Don’t Look Now starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. You follow a narrow alleyway, the crowds disappear and Venice’s famous opera house, La Fenice suddenly emerges. The birthplace of Verdi’s La Traviata, it was destroyed in an arson attack in 1996, but completely re-built using the exact original plans. Hence its name meaning The Phoenix. In the Campo…

Venice in a Day

Posted on January 31, 2012

If you’ve only got a day to see this jewel of the Adriatic, there are a few ground rules that you need to obey. Firstly, be selective in what you want to see. Don’t try to cover everything. Venice is such a treasure trove that it would be impossible to do it justice in just one day. Secondly, set off early and get to the principal sites before the huge crowds descend on them and make life unbearable. Thirdly, don’t try and walk everywhere. It will be exhausting, especially in August when the temperatures are at their highest. Invest in a day pass on the vaporetti (water buses) and use the traghetti (gondola ferries) whenever possible–they cost only 50 cents. Lastly, combine visits to key sites…

Amman-Jordan

Posted on January 31, 2012

I first visited Amman in the winter of 1980.  It was cold, wet and windy and the capital’s 500,000 inhabitants retreated behind the stark concrete walls of their houses and apartments that stretched over the hills surrounding the city. It was relatively small compared with bustling Cairo or Damascus and appeared to have little of their charm, intimate architecture or extensive historical heritage. There were just two international hotels, the Intercontinental and the Holiday Inn, and these were packed with consultants, businessmen and the occasional traveller. Returning there in 2010, I was shocked by the scale and density of the city with its population now standing at over 2.4 million – almost half that of Jordan.  High-rise tower blocks dominate the horizon, a testimony to Amman’s new status as…

The Baptism Site, Dead Sea, Mount Nebo and Madaba-Jordan

Posted on January 31, 2012

The first thing you notice when you drive down from Amman to the Dead Sea is that your ears suddenly pop. That’s hardly surprising when you consider that you are dropping from 780 metres to 423 metres (1118 feet) below sea level, the lowest point on the earth. The second is the sudden change in the landscape. Gone is the sprawling, heavily congested metropolis that Amman has become, home to some 2 million people.  In its place is a landscape of almost biblical proportions with brown, sun-baked hills sweeping down to the rich Jordan Valley below with the West Bank and Jericho shimmering in the distance. Lastly, is the sudden increase in temperature. 30 in Amman rapidly gives way to 45 in the space of little less than an hour. …

Petra, Jordan-One of the Seven Wonders of the World

Posted on January 31, 2012

I had organised everything to perfection. The Petra Palace booked on the Internet and only a stone’s throw away from the main site entrance; the JETT bus times confirmed with the pretty Jordanian girl at reception; and the taxi booked with plenty of time to spare to catch the 9am bus south. I had even driven past the JETT office in Abdali to make sure that I knew where it was. I had packed the night before and my bags were ready at the door. Nothing could go wrong.   The Adventure is in the Journey We duly arrived at the ticket office only to be told that the bus had left at 6:30am and that was the only bus of the day. It was always…

Aqaba, Jordan

Posted on January 31, 2012

Think Aqaba. Think Lawrence of Arabia and that wonderful scene in David Lean’s iconic film with Peter O’Toole, in full Arab regalia, astride his camel, shouting ‘tut, tut, tut’ as the Arab tribesmen gallop across the desert toward the unsuspecting Turks, holed up in their impregnable fortress, overlooking the Gulf of Aqaba. Or Omar Sharif, making his screen debut, emerging from the shimmering mirage and shooting Lawrence’s manservant dead for daring to take water from his tribe’s well. Shooting a man dead for simply filling his satchel with water would appear abhorrent to the average Westerner, regardless of the time setting. But venture out into the desert around Aqaba at the height of summer when temperatures exceed 122°F (50°C),  and you will understand that water is…

Venice Walking Tour with St. Mark’s Basilica

Posted on January 31, 2012

The Skip the Line: Venice Walking Tour with St Mark’s Basilica is a tour of amazing contrasts. The first part covers the most important attractions in Venice around the bustling Piazza San Marco. In the second, you negotiate the labyrinth of alleyways and bridges over the canals to quiet secluded places and beautiful squares (campos) free from crowds. The route ends at the famous Rialto Bridgenext to the Grand Canal. Starting outside the Doges’ Palace, the seat of the Republic’s power until 1797, the tour moves through the Piazzetta with its two soaring granite columns marking the gateway to the city, then stops in front of the Torre dell’Oriologio (the Clock Tower). Here you see the two famous Moor statues hammering the hours on the great bell in front of the towering…

The Islands of Venice

Posted on January 31, 2012

If you’re overwhelmed by the crowds and claustrophobia of Venice in August, escape to the three islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello in the Venice lagoon and experience each of the islands’ own unique charm. Murano is famous for its glassmaking, Burano for its lace and Torcello for its once glorious past and now its tranquillity. It is only a short hop on the Alilaguna riverboat to Murano, 1.5 kms north of Venice, but the journey there is both refreshing and exhilarating. Visit the famous glass factory of Fornace and watch centuries’ old skills transform molten glass into intricate pieces of art. Wander effortlessly along the harbour front or visit the Church of Santa Maria e San Donato, which is famous for its mosaics. Stroll past the glass…