Travel PhotographyPlaces I've been, newest visits first. Click through the image to get to a slide show of images. Still a work in progress as some recent trips are still missing and old ones with various film cameras are yet to be scanned.
BhutanAnother National Geographic Expedition, this time to the Land of the Thunder Dragon - The Kingdom of Bhutan. Our small group joined a National Geographic photographer and we toured around western Bhutan, experiencing the mask dances at the Punakha Tshechu, as well as visiting a school in the beautiful Phobjika Valley.
MyanmarAnother National Geographic Expedition but unlike the others this was truly a photographic expedition. Although the ships were tagged as photographic expeditions they were nothing like this as this one was laser focused on photography, turning the itinerary on its head so that we could shoot in the best light (out before dawn, shooting around sunset and being inside during the day). It also meant that if we needed monks, fisherman, boats, etc., for the shoot then we had them. All in all an outstanding experience and one I want to repeat.
Melbourne, VictoriaAnother quick visit to Melbourne, this time in order to attend a Grand Designs Live talk by Kevin McCloud. Also took in Spectacle: The Music Video Exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and the Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion exhibition at the National Gallery Victoria. I was again disappointed by the way the NGV lit an exhibition. Having recently looked at some photos I took at the Louvre just emphasized that they seem to have no idea at the NGV.
Burj Khalifa, Dubai, United Arab EmiratesI missed the grand opening of Burj Khalifa by a week or so when I was last in Dubai and so I wanted to return and see what it was like from the observation deck. I managed to arrange it so that I got a day in Dubai on my return home from Europe so I booked a tour of Burj Khalifa. I also booked a night at a hotel on the lake as it provided 24 hour rooms which made it very convenient with my late night arrival and departure.
Chartres, FranceWhen I previously visited Chartres my Nikon D3 was a very unhappy camper and it was having a hard time focusing. Another visit to Paris, this time with the D3's replacement (a Nikon D3s), provided an opportunity to revisit Chartres Cathedral. As an added bonus some of the interior had been cleaned since I was last there. Hopefully they will get funding to finish the job and force me to visit yet again.
Bratislava, Slovenská republikaA short train journey south from Prague took me to Bratislava, the capital of the Slovak Republic. Bratislavia sits on the Danube and borders Austria and Hungary. First order of business was working out how to get a public transport ticket and the timetable to take me out to Devín Castle, the ruin of a 9th century castle. Bratislava seemed to be a much smaller city than Prague and had a lot less tourists wandering around.
La Alhambra, Granada, España (Spain)Rising above the modern lower town, the Alhambra and the Albaycín, situated on two adjacent hills, form the medieval part of Granada. To the east of the Alhambra fortress and residence are the magnificent gardens of the Generalife, the former rural residence of the emirs who ruled this part of Spain in the 13th and 14th centuries.
Oʻahu, Hawaii, United States of AmericaPossibly the final "Techs in Paradise" (TIP2013) meeting drew me back to Honolulu (I'd been to all the others so how could I miss it). Before the TIP2013 meeting Paul, Guy and I headed to the north shore of Oʻahu to escape Waikiki for a day and during the week I walked from Waikiki to Diamond Head and back.
Montevideo, UruguayOn New Year's Day I was due to have a tour but no one showed (it was later claimed that they did turn up but they couldn't find me). As a consequence I borrowed one of the hotel's bicycles and went out for a ride instead. I took my little Canon S100 with me and it froze up the first time I tried to use it, iPhone camera to the rescue.
Colonia del Sacramento, UruguayI took the fast ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and had a quick tour of the city before catching a coach to Montevideo.
Founded by the Portuguese in 1680, Colonia del Sacramento is located at the tip of a short peninsula with a strategic position on the north shore of the Río de la Plata, facing Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires, ArgentinaAnother place where I should have stayed longer as I didn't even really scratch the surface before taking the ferry to Uruguay. I did manage to ride the Subte Line A before they replaced the original wooden trains with new Chinese ones. Quite an easy city to walk around even without diving into the Subte. The Palermo district, where I stayed, was quite nice with some excellent restaurants.
Iguassu FallsThe Iguassu Falls (Portuguese: Cataratas do Iguaçu; Spanish: Cataratas del Iguazú; Guarani: Chororo Yguasu) are waterfalls of the Iguassu River on the border of Brazilian state Paraná and Argentine province Misiones. The falls are shared between two national parks with both parks listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. As the majority of the falls lie in Argentina the best panoramas are available from the Brazilian side.
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil (Brazil)I wished that I had left the cruise early as I really didn't have enough time in Rio. I stayed in Santa Teresa, which was somewhat bohemian, and it is on a hill and quite picturesque. The tram (bonde) is out of action due to a fatal crash in 2011 and so getting around meant either walking up and down the narrow streets or taking mini-buses (and taxis).
Cruising the eastern CaribbeanI discovered that some people had bailed from the cruise in USVI and flew home. If I had know that when I had booked I might have done the same thing and headed to Rio earlier but as it was I got a couple of days at sea instead. Fortunately a Brown Booby came along to entertain me, gliding along the side of the ship and occasionally diving into the sea to catch fish. It gave me plenty of panning practice but made me wish for a longer lens.
Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas, US Virgin IslandsI didn't have high expectations for my stop in the USVI given my experience with Waikiki and San Juan, Puerto Rico and it didn't disappoint on that front. It's amazing that the USA can turn out these plastic imitations of real places but it shouldn't be too surprising given the evidence of the World Showcase at Epcot.
The island of Saint MartinSaint Martin is an island of two halves, the Dutch half (Sint Maarten) and the French half (Saint-Martin). I organised to take an afternoon tour that included both sides of the island but while out on shore in the morning I got an offer from Jason and Mel to join them in a rental car. It was an offer too good to refuse and so we spent the morning in a small (evil) Jeep doing a circumnavigation of the island.
Flying over MontserratThe Soufrière Hills volcano is an active volcano on the island of Monserrat and when it erupted in 1995 it destroyed the town of Plymouth, which at the time was the capital of Monserrat. There is still an exclusion zone around the volcano and all of the population are confined to the northern end of the island.
St Kitts, Federation of Saint Christopher and NevisAnother UNESCO World Heritage site, Brimstone Hill Fortress, but before I got there there was a visit to Fairview Great House and the Wingfield Estate Yard. A quick walk around the capital, Basseterre, before it got too dark and I had to return to the ship.
Roseau, DominicaFirst tour of the trip was in Roseau when I took the Dominica Highlights tour. This set a standard that wasn't matched for the rest of the cruise as the guide was excellent and the sights beautiful (naturally including a UNESCO World Heritage site). In the afternoon I walked around the town of Roseau. Of the eastern Caribbean islands I visited this is one I would consider returning to for a longer visit.
Castries, Saint LuciaFirst stop on the cruise where I hadn't booked onto a planned tour and so I was left to wander around the capital of Castries. Discovered the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception which had a beautiful interior. The drizzle turned into rain and so I returned to the ship. That evening I was one of the few people who braved the outside bar area for a dinner.
Bridgetown was the starting point of a cruise through the eastern Caribbean to Florida. I flew in from Port of Spain and managed to check in early. This allowed me to get rid of my luggage, have a bite to eat and go for a short walk around Bridgetown before the ship was set to depart.
Port of Spain, Trinidad and TobagoThe National Geographic Expedition to Costa Rica and the Panama Canal didn't exactly mesh with the Silverseas cruise through the eastern Caribbean and so I had an opportunity to squeeze in another country. Looking at the flight options between Panama and Barbados it seemed that the reasonable choices were Port of Spain or Kingston, Jamaica. Even though I didn't quite know what to actually expect Port of Spain seemed like the better choice.
Transit of the Panama CanalA highlight of the National Geographic Expedition (NGE) of Costa Rica and the Panama Canal was the transit of the Panama Canal. Uniquely for NGE they split the transit in half and spend the night in Gatun Lake, which allows time for a visit to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on Barro Colorado Island.
Nuuk, Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland)Nuuk is the largest town, and capital, of Greenland and I didn't really know what to expect.
I had a brief tour of the town when I arrived and then I was on my own to explore. Nuuk is certainly significantly bigger than Ilulissat and the museum is well worth a visit.
Greenland Ice SheetKangerlussuaq doesn't have much to offer except the international airport (formally a US Air Force base built in World War 2) and easy access to the Ice Sheet. An afternoon trip in a four wheel drive bus takes you on a road, originally built for Volkswagen when they planned to have a proving ground on the ice sheet, to Isunngua and the Greenland Ice Sheet.
Ilulissat, Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland)Well Hello Greenland!
I seem to be attracted to UNESCO World Heritage sites and here I am at another one, Ilulissat Kangia (Isfjord/Icefjord). Photos hardly do justice to this beautiful place, even flying over it you still struggle to grasp the scope of it all. Walking along the trail by the fjord you just stare at these huge icebergs floating in a sea of ice.
As well as flying low over Isfjord and walking the trails I also took a cruise up to the glacier Eqi. Eqi is supposed to be a very active calving glacier but it was still difficult to catch it in the act, you hear the sound of cracking ice long before you can work out where it's coming from.
Grímsey, Ísland (Iceland)Poor flight connections between Oslo and Ilulissat gave me a couple of days in Reykjavik but as I'd already been there I decided to do what I missed out on doing last time and visit Grímsey and stand on the Arctic Circle. OK not so important now that I've been to 80N but still something fun to do. It also gave me another opportunity to photograph Puffins.
Svalbard - Land of the Ice BearI was privileged to be able to cruise around Svalbard on a Lindblad/National Geographic Expeditions cruise during July 2012. Svalbard is a high Arctic archipelago situated between Norway and the North Pole, and is a place of deep fjords, snow-capped mountains, massive sheets of ice, and magnificent polar bears.
Casco Viejo, Panama City, PanamaKnowing that a National Geographic Expedition that went through the Panama Canal would not spend any time in Panama City itself I decided that I would visit it on a separate trip (which turned out to be my first trip to Panama). After a bit of research I discovered that I could stay in Casco Viejo, the old city built after Henry Morgan sacked the original site. This seemed like a much better idea than staying in the modern glass and concrete city across the bay. It turned out that I pretty much spent all of my time in Casco Viejo. It was an interesting collection of beautifully restored buildings, buildings under restoration and "buildings" looking like they were about to fall down. It also contained the very interesting Museo del Canal Interoceánico de Panamá (Panama Canal Museum).
La Habana, Cuba
Get there before it's invaded by American tourists! La Habana Vieja is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and it needs a lot of restoration work but I hope they don't ruin it in the process. Everyone seems pretty laid back and aside from the few hawkers wanting money for photographs you can safely wander around Old Havana day or night, just be aware of the holes in the street. Similarly there seemed no problems heading into any of the back streets of the other neighbourhoods.
I decided to visit Mark Treacy in Grand Cayman on my way to Cuba. He suggested that I might like to spend some time on one of the Sister Islands and so I spent a couple of days on Cayman Brac. I took one of the hotel's cruiser bikes for a ride around most of the island. The gearing left something to be desired when attempting to climb up the brac and the brakes weren't impressive when descending from it either. One of the other guests had brought their road bike and that would have been fun (although dragging a road bike around the planet wouldn't have been fun).
Bicycle ride to Sluis, NetherlandsThe map indicated that the Netherlands wasn't far away and it seemed that it would be a nice ride to go out to the closest town and then return. There was a bike path along the canal and so I hired a bike for the day to do a bit of exploring on two wheels. Real brakes on this bike rather than the death trap from Utö.
Flanders Fields: Battlefields of the Western Front in WW1A visit to Brugge provided the opportunity to take a tour of the Western Front. A small group in a mini bus lead by a Belgian (who is married to an Australian). The tour included visits to Passchendale, Hill 60 preserved battlefield, Commonwealth cemeteries, bunkers and craters, restored trenches, the town of Ypres and the Menin Gate. Highly recommended, see Quasimodo Tours.
Paris, FranceBy the time I reached Paris my Nikon D3 was really playing up, exposures all over the place plus it didn't like focusing. Not all that helpful but that said I still used it on a walk though Paris. I tried to keep it away from the drizzle but still had a nice walk down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, around the Louvre and eventually across to Tour Montparnasse.
Saint Petersburg, Russian FederationI had been to Saint Petersburg in 1987, when the USSR still existed and the city was called Leningrad, and so I was looking forward to seeing how it might have changed. Also the first afternoon included a lecture by Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the USSR, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, at the State Academic Capella.
Tallinn, Eesti (Estonia)The weather continued to follow us so it was a rough crossing to Tallinn during the night and a cloudy day greeted us. Worse than that though was that when we reached the Song Festival grounds on the morning tour I discovered that the battery in my Nikon was dead. This meant that the morning would be spent lugging around all the Nikon gear but actually using the point and shoot Canon. At least I had a backup plan and the return to the ship for lunch would provide an opportunity to add some charge to the Nikon’s battery and go for a quick walk with it in the afternoon. At least that was the plan!
As they say “The best laid schemes of mice and men, Go often askew”. I managed to charge up the battery over lunch but shortly after returning to the centre of Tallinn the heavens opened and it just bucketed down. Rivers of water everywhere with water overflowing gutters. I didn’t think my camera got too wet but as I headed to the bus it called enough and refused to focus.
Mariehamn, ÅlandLeaving Stockholm behind we set off for Åland. Unfortunately the storm that had caused so much trouble for the people flying out of New York had now caught up with them. Looking out my cabin window it didn’t look promising and sure enough it was deemed too rough to visit the pilot station of Kobba Klintar via Zodiac.
I was hoping that the weather might clear up once we reached Mariehamn but no such luck. After watching some people venture out (and come back drenched) I decided that I needed to set foot on Åland and went out in search of some lunch. Not much to see on the walk into town but I found some post cards, a restaurant to eat lunch and scribble on the cards and importantly a post office to post them. My timing was less than perfect, as I didn’t return to the ship in time to tour the four masted “Pommern”.
Stockholm, Sverige (Sweden)More questions! This time did I want to stay on the ship as we entered Stockholm or did I want to take the Zodiac option? I decided on the former. I thought that it might be more interesting (and drier) sitting in the ship’s bridge watching the action as we negotiated the waterways into Stockholm harbour. The ship has an open bridge policy and so it’s possible to visit it while a pilot is on board and watch the captain in his “office”.
Visiting Stockholm naturally means a trip to the Vasa Museum. The Vasa is tough to photograph as it’s quite dark in the building and while the Vasa isn’t huge it is still tough to get far enough away from it to get interesting compositions.
Following the Vasa it was off to the City Hall to see where the Nobel Prize dinner is held and to visit the stunning Gyllene Salen (Golden Hall). I then skipped out of the tour to go for a walk around the harbour and had lunch on af Chapman, a sailing ship now used as a youth hostel.
Utö, Sverige (Sweden)Continuing towards Stockholm we made a stop on the island of Utö in the Stockholm archipelago. Utö is a summer holiday destination and while we’d arrived at the end of the season there were still bikes to ride! Questions, questions, questions… Did I want one with a front basket or not? Did I want gears or not? The gears sounded good (although they were hub gears and turned out to be largely useless) and I had no need of the basket as I had left the heavy, bulky Nikon on the ship. Anyway off I went to see what I could see, first stop was an old iron-ore mine (now filled with water) and then down a gravel road towards the 18th century windmill.
The ride was pleasant until a hill cut it short. Not that the hill itself was a problem but destroying the hub brake going down it was a problem, especially when the temporary repair failed and that broke the gears too. I was a bit concerned about making it back in time for the last Zodiac but when I caught up with one of the groups on a nature walk I knew I was safe. The rental place wasn’t at all concerned when I returned their broken bike, it was the end of the season and they have a hard life. I think that a mountain bike would have been more suitable on the gravel roads than the city bike but I got a ride in which made a change from all the city walks!
Stora Karlsö, Sverige (Sweden)In the afternoon we headed to the small island of Stora Karlsö. After Yellowstone National Park it is the second oldest established protected nature area in the world. There were a number of organised walks but I went off on my own to the Lighthouse. Vinnie Butler invited us to a small cave so he could demonstrate his archaeologist skills and then I made the trek out to Rösju, a Bronze Age cairn sporting a weather beaten ash tree.
Visby, Sverige (Sweden)We left the south coast and headed back across the Baltic towards Sweden, with the first stop being the island of Gotland. We arrived at Visby, yet another UNESCO World Heritage site, early in the morning and, surprise, surprise, headed out for a city walk. This time it was with a group of photographers, led by Sisse, Cotton and Stewart. I stayed with them until we reached the Cathedral where I wandered off in search of a better shot of it and the city walls. The group would have visited the Fornsal Museum and its collection of Viking artefacts but I never caught up as I found the beautiful ruin of Saint Karin’s church.
Riga, Latvija (Latvia)Riga, what can I say? Surprise packet of the trip! Get there before it's flooded with tourists like Brugge and make sure you see the Dzintarinš children's
folk dance troupe while you are there.
The stop in Riga followed the now usual plan. We had a walking tour of the old town in the morning, which included the performance of the Dzintarinš children's folk dance troupe in a Guild Hall and a short walk around the Art Nouveau district. A more extensive tour of the Art Nouveau district was on offer for the afternoon but I decided to spend it just wandering around instead.
Klaipėda, Lietuva (Lithuania)The next day we were in Klaipėda, Lithuania. While most people went to visit an Amber museum I wasn't overly interested so I grabbed a map from reception and wandered around the old town of Klaipėda instead. It turned out that it was a market day with a number of the main streets turned into a market (in addition to what seemed like a regular fruit and vegetable market). The granite monument Arka ("Arch") is dedicated to the commemoration of the 85th anniversary of Tilžė Act and the 80th anniversary of the joining of Klaipėda Region with Lithuania. Previously Klaipėda, then called Memel, was part of Prussia. The smaller red granite column is the symbol of Lithuania Minor and its cultural background, whereas the larger grey column is the symbol of Lithuania Major. The upper part of the monument symbolises the Kaliningrad Region, which is now part of the Russian Federation. The quote on the monument, by Ieva Simonaitytė, translates to "We are one nation, one land, one Lithuania".
Gdańsk, Polska (Poland)In the morning we walked around the old town of Gdańsk, admiring the Hanseatic buildings, the medieval Gdańsk Crane and St Mary's church, which is the largest brick church in the world. In the afternoon I elected to join the photographic walk of the old town with Sisse Brimberg and while we covered a lot of the same ground as the earlier walking tour we were now spending time looking for interesting things to photograph, picking up tips from Sisse and I was forcing myself to take photos of people. When it came time to return to the ship we were given the option of returning via Zodiac through the historic shipyards. I think that most people elected to use the Zodiacs, and those that didn't were kicking themselves later. While clearly less busy than during their heyday there was still plenty of activity.
That evening we are treated to a talk from Lech Wałęsa. leader of Solidarity, President of Poland and Nobel Prize winner, back on the ship.
Bornholm, Danmark (Denmark)Next up was the island of Bornholm itself. First stop was Sankt Ols Church, one of Bornholm's four round churches. Built in granite in the 12th century, its stones are natural fieldstones. Like other round churches it has three storeys. The third storey shows traces of large openings and multiple arrow slits, suggesting that the church served as a stronghold in times of conflict. We then continued onto the fortress of Hammershus, the largest medieval fortification in Northern Europe and believed to have been built in the 13th century.
Ertholmene, Danmark (Denmark)Overnight we sailed back to the small Danish islands of Ertholmene. Christiansø and Frederiksø are about 16 km northeast of Bølshavn, Bornholm. Christiansø is dominated by the fortifications built by Christian V in 1684 with a circular stone fortification known as the Store Tårn (Big Tower) housing a lighthouse.
We arrived early in the morning and with the ship anchored off shore we transferred to the islands via Zodiac. The Zodiacs pulled up next to the dock on Frederiksø, the smaller of the two islands, and we commenced a short walk around the islands. Christiansø is conveniently connected to Frederiksø via a pedestrian bridge.
Lübeck, Deutschland (Germany)In Aug/Sep 2011 I took my first cruise with Lindblad/National Geographic Expeditions across the Baltic. Our first port of call was the Hanseatic city of Lübeck in Germany. The ship docked near the Burgtor and we boarded canal boats for a cruise through the waterways surrounding the medieval town. This was followed by a walking tour. After the tour I elected to stay in town rather than return to the ship for lunch but that turned out to be the signal for the heavens to open and so the hunt for a restaurant to hide in was on!
Hong Kong, ChinaAnother visit to Hong Kong, this time for the joint Apricot and APAN meeting. Arrived early to talk about AusNOG at one of the many side meetings and that allowed additional camera walkabout time with Matthew Moyle-Croft. One of the social events took us to a suite at the race track.
Colombo, Sri LankaI fled Las Vegas to attend the SANOG meeting in Colombo. The sign on my window was somewhat off putting, as was being hassled when I tried to go for short walks between sessions but getting gastro on the day I had off (and was planning on visiting LEARN in Kandy) really put a damper on my visit to Sri Lanka.
Las Vegas, Nevada, United States of AmericaI haven't been all that interested in going to Vegas but Juniper had a Global Sales Conference there. There weren't many opportunities to escape outside but one night Mark Williams, Todd Lowe and I made a run for it with our cameras and walked down the strip.
Amman, JordanMy trip to Jordan began and ended in the capital, Amman. When I arrived I went out for a short walk around the hotel area in a bid to bet Mr Jetlag. For some reason I seem to have an affinity with city with hills as Amman is another one. I tried to avoid being "dragged" down a hill as that would mean needing to walk back up it. I had an interesting episode while trying to take a picture of a Mosque behind the Grand Hyatt. I had security chasing after me! It would appear that a suicide bomber had detonated a bomb there in 2005 and so they were ultra cautious when it came to people photographing the building. That explained the metal detectors at my hotel.
Qala’at ar-Rabad, JordanHaving visited the Crusader castle at Kerak I was keen to also visit an Ayyubid castle that was built to protect against the Crusaders. This wasn't on the original itinerary but my driver contacted his office and we were off to visit Qala’at ar-Rabad (Ajloun Castle). It turned out to be a fairly miserable morning but that just added to the atmosphere and acted as a reminder of what the soldiers would have had to put up with as they guarded against a Crusader attack.
Bethany Beyond the Jordan, JordanI rejoined my driver and we headed to the Dead Sea resorts. I was hoping this meant we travelled along the edge of the Dead Sea but no we went back up the Desert Highway nearly to Amman instead. The reason, security checkpoints, one of which we passed through in order to enter the Dead Sea resort area. The next day I was off to visit Bethany Beyond the Jordan.
Wadi Mujib, JordanI wasn't expecting to find the Grand Canyon in Jordan but as we travelled from Madaba to Kerak we came upon Wadi Mujib. I would have loved to have spent more time in the reserve but after some time at the lookout we were off again driving across Al Mujib dam and then up the other side. Fortunately there was time for a coffee stop at the roadside camp on the other side. More great Jordanian hospitality!
Mount Nebo & Madaba, JordanFirst stop after leaving Amman behind was Mount Nebo. The mosaics were out in a tent as the structure protecting the church was under renovation! A nice but hazy view across to Israel. After leaving Mount Nebo it was onto Madaba to see the Madaba Mosaic Map, which is an index map of the region, dating from the 6th century, preserved in the floor of the Greek Orthodox Basilica of Saint George.
Temple of Heaven: an Imperial Sacrificial Altar in BeijingAnother UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to their web site:
The Temple of Heaven, founded in the first half of the 15th century, is a dignified complex of fine cult buildings set in gardens and surrounded by historic pine woods. In its overall layout and that of its individual buildings, it symbolizes the relationship between earth and heaven – the human world and God's world – which stands at the heart of Chinese cosmogony, and also the special role played by the emperors within that relationship.
St John's, Newfoundland & Labrador, CanadaMy taxi driver suggested that I should walk up to Cabot Tower so that's what I did immediately after checking in at the very nice Ryan Mansion. Marconi had used a location near the tower to receive the first trans Atlantic wireless message from Poldhu in Cornwall.
Prior to heading to the airport I went out to Cape Spear, the easternmost point in North America. While I was there a whale decided to put on a show.
Prince Edward Island, CanadaAfter crossing the Confederation Bridge we headed to Charlottetown, PEI. We mostly stayed at the eastern end of the island (away from the Anne of Green Gables locations). We found a winery and a distillery (where I purchased some local moonshine) and the remains of PEI's railway.
Hajar Mountains, OmanI decided that hanging out in Muscat, Oman, could be a relaxing way to spend the Christmas/New Year period. The patio of the Executive club at the Hyatt turned out to be a very relaxing place to chill but on one of the days I decided to take a day tour in a 4WD with a driver out into the Hajar Mountains. If I had realised how beautiful it was I would have done it sooner in the trip and then tried to get to a number of places in the mountains.
Burj al Arab, Dubai, United Arab EmiratesOn my way to Oman I created a stopover in the UAE. When flying business class with Etihad they will drive you to any location in the UAE so I saw this as an opportunity to stay at the Burj al Arab! Of course if I was staying there I had to hire a helicopter and do a heli tour of Dubai starting (and finishing) from the helipad. This made my butler happy, even though he wasn't joining me, as it provide him with his first opportunity to visit the helipad (via the "secret" lift). Is the Burj worth the seven stars it claims? It's certainly a step above any five star hotel I've stayed in over the years, the staff are very well trained, you'd find it hard to complain about the facility itself, and I'd go back if someone else was paying!
Changdeokgung, Seoul, KoreaA weekend in Seoul allowed time to visit another World Heritage Site, Changdeokgung Palace. No English language tour available when I arrived but I could join a Japanese tour! A somewhat interesting exercise given I don't understand Japanese but at least they led me around the sights, until I grew tired of their slow pace.
Mauna Kea, HawaiʻiIn 2008 I made my third visit to Mauna Kea. We were concerned when the road to the summit was closed in the morning but it turned out to be a fine day on the summit. We had tours of Gemini North and Keck, both excellent. The school kids in the limited visitor area of Keck were surprised when we arrived and were ushered though the foyer and into the facility.
Dublin, Éire (Ireland)I hadn't previously been to Ireland, and I have no idea why, but that was fixed recently. I based myself in Dublin and as usual I just wandered around. Lots of interesting architecture, especially down the back streets. The conversion of the Storehouse at Guinness was brilliantly done, pity I ran low on battery power in the Canon otherwise I would have taken more shots.
Charlestown Navy YardBoston seemed to be out of hotel rooms for the night so that forced a stay at the Constitution Inn near the Charlestown Naval Yards. Paul and I went out of a walk late in the evening where we found a poorly lit Korean War Memorial and other mysterious structures. A walk the next morning provided some explanation.
I was crazy enough to want to attend both NANOG, in Toronto, and Joint Techs, in Minneapolis, during the northern winter of 2007. There was a week's gap between the two but I wasn't crazy enough to want to stay "enjoying" winter in North America so I fled to the warmth of the Bahamas. I stayed at the Hilton in Nassau and just wandered around, watched the cruise ship tourists rush around, and enjoyed the warmth. I wasn't tempted to go across to the casinos on Paradise Island.
Hiroshima, JapanI took a day drip to Hiroshima from Osaka via Shinkansen. It was a beautiful day in Osaka so I was hoping for the same in Hiroshima. No such lucky. As I arrived in Hiroshima it was drizzling with rain and as I hadn't brought an umbrella with me I bought one at a kiosk at the railway station. Suitably equipped I was ready for a walk to the castle and then onto the Peace Park.
Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim, Deutschland
Glen and I had some time to kill before our flight so we took a train out to Sinsheim to visit the Auto & Technik Museum. It is one of the new homes for the remaining Concordes (plus a rare TU-144 "Concordski"), although it was very sad to see it bolted to the roof of the museum, and equipped with bird spikes, rather than waiting at an airport for its next flight.