Tag Archives: sights

The 10 Places I loved visiting (and would love to go back to!)

Carrying on from Sunday’s blog post, here are ten places in the world that I truly loved visiting and, in a heartbeat, would run back to if money, time and common sense were chucked out of the window. I have only been to 35 countries but I have seen a fair few sights which really should be shared with the rest of you. So without a do, here are my top ten places that I have visited and would definitely visit again in a heartbeat:

10) Seychelles.

I know I have a bias towards the Seychelles as it is my mother’s country, but I have to be blunt. I really do love this country. I also love Sri Lanka, my father’s country, but due to its security situation, I really do not want to go back there for pleasure. You see, Seychelles attracts me, not just for family, but for the islands themselves. There are over 100 islands in the archipelago, and I have only seen four of them. And it is not just beaches. Great wildlife, a steamy hot and mountainous interior and wonderful old colonial architecture give the islands one hell of a lot of variety for such a small place. Plus, the culture, a polyglot of the islanders’ ancestery means that this is a fascinating place to see and meet people. Yes, the Seychelles are expensive, they are a pain to get to but it truly is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

(Last visited 2008)

9) San Francisco.

I love America, and I jump at the opportunity to travel there. The country is so vast, and is naturally blessed with some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. America’s cities are also some of the best that humanity has ever built. New York, Philadelphia and Boston are wonderful places that were launched on the backs of their old colonial past. But for me, San Francisco is the place to get to. A wonderful city in probably one of the most naturally beautiful places on Earth. And it is not too big or small, San Francisco is just that right size where you can explore and relax in equal amounts. A city steeped in history but also at the forefront of modern technology, this really is one of the happiest places on Earth.

(Last visited 1994)

8) Mexico.

All right, I know this is a big one, but Mexico is one hell of a country, and I have to return here one day. From the magnificent ruins of Chichen Itza, to the wonderful beauty is Chiapas and the frenetic capital of Mexico City itself – which I have to point out as one of the best cities I have ever visited!

I saw a hell of a lot of this country, but a visit back is a must for me. I loved my time here, and would happily go back and this time see the north of Mexico as well has head to the coasts for a bit of R&R.

(Last visited 2002)

7) Budapest.

One of three European cities on my list – and surprising, as I have only really begun to explore Europe in the past two years. But Budapest is truly beautiful. Split by the Danube you have the flat and fun Pest on one side of the river and the hilly, snooty but really beautiful Buda on the other bank. One thing, the Danube really shapes this city and its history. I am probably biased to this city, and I have a lot of fond memories of the place, which is also why I do want to hedd back here. But genuinely, memories are not the only thing. Budapest has tons of stuff to see, and has awoken from its communist stupor with vigour. Check it out when you have the chance, you will not regret it! I will certainly be heading back there.

(Last visited 2011)

6) Meghalaya.

The wettest place on Earth may seem like a strange place to recommend, but Meghalaya is truly a cultural gem of this world. Its unique hilltop location on a ridge overlooking the Gangetic plain both isolates and links it to the surrounding country in one fell swoop. Three unique cultures dot the state, and its pristine environment truly makes this one of India’s great surprises. I have never felt do relaxed and refreshed in my life as I have in Meghalaya. Whether it is the excess amounts of water, the wholesome food or the really cool locals, Meghalaya is a place I could visit time and time again.

(Last visited 2009)

5) Yunnan.

One of China’s true gems, Yunnan has it all. Great food, spectacular countryside and a culture that intertwines South East Asia, Mainland China and Tibet all rolled into one easily accessible destination – no small feat for a country as difficult as China. From the border with Burma to the fringes of the Tibetan Plateau there is something for everyone. Dotted with the famed backpacker hangouts of Dali and Lijiang, it is easy to be an independent traveler or to mosey in and relax with the crowd. It is definitely a part of China that I would not hesitate to visit again!

(Last visited 2001)

4) Krakow.

Wow, wow, and wow would be the best three adjectives to describe Krakow.

I know, it is surprising to include this city here, but really, my Poland bias aside, I really have to recommend Krakow and it is a city I would run back to in a heartbeat. To simply put it, there is A LOT to do in Krakow, and Poland’s piss-poor marketing skills means that it is a destination that flies far beneath the radar. Without the crowds you get in other European hotspots (unless it is a stag-do summer), you can feel a little like a pioneer coming here with all the ease of mainstream European travel. There is so much to recommend about Krakow, go on, treat yourself, and take some time out over here.

(Last visited 2011)

3) Xinjiang.

China’s biggest province is arguably it emptiest as well. Yes, there are a hell of a lot of tensions over here, with a separatist movement that is far more bloody than Tibet’s. And it is hard work to travel across here. But it is a culturally fascinating area. Plus it is a desert, now that counts as a huge amount of kudos for me. I have spent an inordinate amount of time here. It really was the first place that I experienced ‘independent’ travel, far cut-off from family, friends and anyone else, having to survive on my own with my interactions meaning the difference between food or nothing. I also crossed this vast area by foot (took me two months and lost a third of my body weight) which drove me slightly nutty.

Xinjiang is definitely a place with strong emotional ties, but I can also safely say that this is a part of the world that has a hell of a lot to give to the outside visitor. And despite beinfg in China, it is ironically the easiest part of Central Asia to visit, and that is a spectacular region of the world to taste…

(Last visited 2003)

2) Berlin.

Surprised? Well, you really shouldn’t be. Berlin has it all. An all encompassing history, easily accessible tourist spots, all at a reasonable price. Whether you are looking for cool bars, great food or simple fun, Berlin has something for everyone. London and Paris may get all the glitz and glamour. Barcelona and Milan get all the cool kids. But Berlin itself is simply magnificent. There is far too much to see and do that can be simply described in a short paragraph. There is so much I have left to see. I will be back here, and probably sooner rather than later.

(Last visited 2012)

1) Assam.

There really is not an order to this list, and while Assam currently takes the number 1 spot, I would go back to any of these destinations if I had instant access to cash. But the reason I value Assam so highly is multiple. Firstly, it was my first destination in India, and so I will always have an emotional attachment here. Secondly, it is so big, and so the variety is there. Thirdly, it is undiscovered; despite its huge size and obvious attractions, foreign tourists are few and far between, partly as it is so cut off.

But Assam is truly a stellar destination. It is easy to get round, once you get there! It is also really friendly, with a shockingly competent Tourist Office that will go out of its way to give you information. With a wide variation in Geography from lowland plains to mountainous, I just did not have the time to see all there was. There is a magnificent history, one of Asia’s great civilisations nestled here in the fields. Lush forests and wildlife that will make your jaw drop (I saw my first Rhino here!)

I will go back to India again, and while there is so much of the country I have not seen, I will have to make a beeline for Assam.

(Last visited 2009)

So that is my top ten of places I have seen, and ideally, would love to go to again. Any comments, drop them in the box below. And have you been to any of these places? Agree with me and what would be your top ten?

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Porto’s Weird and Wonderful ‘Sights’

Little dinky houses overlooking the waterfront. How quaint. How pretty. How very Porto. Like everything else in this beautiful town, the quirky, the old and the new merge into one seamless blend of urban living. The tiles may be falling in on the collapsed roofs, but these houses are probably priceless for their owners.

Yes. The Cookie Monster. ‘Nuff said…

How many men have said this to how many women, and yet we still come back to them. We are crazy, or at least sex-crazed, deranged fools. Or lovesick. Well, whatever, you drive me up the wall!

And at least someone gets a great vantage point of the city, in this case, by the Cathedral which is right next to the Dom Luis Bridge.

I cannot recommend this city enough. I do not know why Portugal’s tourist board insists on advertising the Algarve, when Porto has to be one of Europe’s best kept secrets!

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Charlie (on holiday) in London (4): The West End

Does a holiday count if you decide to stay in the same city? To visit the sights and sounds that is normally mundane and routine? Well, we have a much quoted maxim, you never bother to see Madamme Tussaud’s unless a visitor is in town. Well, last month I decided to head out into the city, and explore it, just a little. So join me this week, as I take you on a mini-tour of some of London’s more fashionable (and quirky) sights.

If you want to pick out London’s great past time, then it is shopping. Yep, 100,000 years of existence on this planet has come to this. The pinnacle of humanity spends its time buying crap they do not really need, only to throw it in the nearest landfill when they are deluded by the next object of their desires. But, if you want to pick something up, then, well, London’s West End is the place to be.

Oh yes, this is Oxford Street. Normally filled with buses, taxis and shoppers, but occasionally they close it off so that the mighty pedestrian can rule the tarmac. It becomes a pickpocket’s paradise. This is London’s high street, but to be honest, you could exchange it with any other suburban town in the country. The chain stores here sell exactly the same junk in your own town, and even the large department stores do not really have much to offer…

But there are gems to be found in London’s West End, away from the hordes. Actually, I am lying, the hordes are everywhere! We do not have much in the way of assets or originality, but we do have a lot when it comes to finding the best deal. Hah, I laugh at our capitalistic mores…

Shopping is one aspect of the West End, but the area is also filled with bars, clubs, restaurants, theatres and cinemas. Probably nowhere else best illustrates the lure of the West End than Piccadilly Circus. No more than a glorified billboard, but it does look pretty in the night sky…

t is hard to draw a real border to this part of London. After all, there is no official boundary to the West End and it can go as far as Notting Hill, but for me, anything to the west of Park Lane is outside the core of London, and of course, the West End is north of the River. That leaves one large landmark smack bang in the middle of London’s West End – Buckingham Palace!

Before I take my leave of the West End, there is one last place I want to point out. Covent Garden Market, a fascinating place. Was once one of London’s largest wholesale fruiterers, before being shunted over the river to Vauxhall. Its layout is one of the few places in London that has been designed like a European piazza. It is a beautiful part of London, and it houses the fascinating London Transport Museum, amongst other shopping emporiums. The buskers are still there, doing their thing, but it still remains one of London’s most relaxing (if now expansive) quarters. A place t do a little bit of people watching, to sip a cup of tea, or (of course) a place to come shopping…

The West End of London is really easy to reach, and is surprisingly compact. It is far easier (and often quicker) to walk through rather than wait for transport. Still, if your feet are a little tired, then bus routes 9/N9, 14, 139, 159 and 390 give the most scenic bus rides through the West End as well as pretty much connecting to everything else. Tube stations are everywhere, but really, it is a lot easier to walk through this part of London!

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Charlie (on holiday) in London (3): The Big Three

Does a holiday count if you decide to stay in the same city? To visit the sights and sounds that is normally mundane and routine? Well, we have a much quoted maxim, you never bother to see Madamme Tussaud’s unless a visitor is in town. Well, last month I decided to head out into the city, and explore it, just a little. So join me this week, as I take you on a mini-tour of some of London’s more fashionable (and quirky) sights.

How very true that above statement is. And there are a lot of sights in London that I barely visit or pass through without giving them a second thought. Despite living in this city, I very rarely take the chance to enjoy my own home town. And why not. So let me head to the big three of London. If there are thee landmarks to chose in the Capital, that are recognised worldwide, what will they be? Show any child or adult around the world these three buildings, and they will instantly associate the image with London itself. They are of course Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge.

These landmarks are not noted for their size, or even history, all three buildings being relatively new compared to the fabric of the city. However, they are all beautiful, and each structure has an architectural merit to them (as well as a great quirk) that makes the skyline of Central London what it is. And yes, I did (re)visit these three landmarks recently on my mini-break in London.

I have covered Tower Bridge in my epic quest across the Thames, so there is no need to head back and regurgitate what has already been written. Suffice to say, Tower Bridge is one damn pretty crossing, and if you really want to enjoy this bridge on a walk along the South Bank of the Thames, then start at Waterloo and head east. Therefore, you do not have to walk away from it when going to the tube station.

Tower Bridge is one of the world’s most iconic bridges, but it is insane to think that inside of it is a proper museum, telling the history of the bridge, alongside the period when the bridge was built. Although I was i inside that museum over a decade ago, it still remains in my mind one of the best (Paying) museums in London. Worth a visit, but you do need a full day for this exhibit. This may not be the world’s largest bridge, but do not be fooled by the size. The fascination of Tower Bridge is there to behold, both inside and out!

Hah, Parliament, and the Clock Tower. I can be pedantic and state that Big Ben refers to the bell inside the Parliament’s Clock Tower, but that would take the fun away, and so here it is, in all its glory, Big Ben! It is kitsch, it stands above the most vile building in the city (we hate our politicians), but you know what, I love the old clock, and the fact that you can hear it above all the traffic down below is astounding. Do realise that Parliament Square is still a very busy road junction! Time your trip well, and your ears as well as your eyes can feat to the delight of the world’s most famous clock.

Possibly one of the world’s most iconic churches, St Paul’s Cathedral. Located in the heart of the City of London, it was rebuilt after the Great Fire of London in a stunning style that mirrored London’s emergence from the squalor of the Medieval age. It is such an important piece of architectural heritage, that sight lines from throughout the city are preserved for Londoners in the suburbs to enjoy the dome that rises 365 feet above ground (more on that tomorrow). It is brightly lit up at night, and is a handy marker in that is located on a slight rise up from the old course of the Fleet. Really, I could spend rolls of this blog just writing about St Paul’s, but suffice to say that it is a pretty stunning piece of construction work. Whenever you pass it, you cannot help craning your neck to think…wow

So there you have it, three of London’s most iconic sights, visited and ticked off on what is (to be honest) a pretty impressive list. The nights draw in closer, and so that means only one thing can lift the city’s spirits – shopping! Of course, all of that will be revealed tomorrow…

Getting there and away:

Tower Bridge can be reached by Tower Hill/Gateway stations on the District/Circle and Docklands Light Railway.

St Paul’s is round the corner from St Paul’s station (Central Line) or Mansion House (Circle/District).

For Big Ben, head to Westminster station (Jubilee, Circle and District lines).

There are numerous bus routes throughout the city to all of these three places. However, if you want to take a scenic journey to these landmarks, then routes 11/N11 links Big Ben with St Paul’s while routes 15/N15 links St Paul’s with Tower Bridge.

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