San Francisco – Muir Woods

If you go down to the woods today, make sure it is Muir Woods National Monument, established in 1908, if you are San Francisco way!  The best way to access this amazing canyon, full of redwood trees, is by hiring a car – from downtown San Francisco, just follow the signs and go over the famous Golden Gate Bridge north [approximately 12 miles], then follow the signs to Muir Woods.  It is critical, though, that you pre-book parking space – it’s a very popular place for visitors and you will be sent to the ‘top of the road’, to access the appropriate website if you do not pre-book.  The top of the road is the nearest point currently for internet access.  We were lucky that we only had to wait 30 minutes to obtain a parking spot via the internet booking.

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Alternatively, you could book a tour via www.getyourguide.com,  [which I have used before for other tours worldwide], www.viator.com or just do an internet search.  The problem with these tours, though, is that you will not get as long to explore the woods, as compared to hiring a car.  I was very fortunate to be with a party who could hire a car, and we were able to spend as much time as we wanted exploring 3 nature hiking trails and admiring the magnificent scenery.  Sometimes, tour companies ask you to combine the Muir Woods trip with another sightseeing tour, so it does not leave much time to really explore the woods.  I would not say that the trails are particularly difficult, but those who do not have a ‘head for heights’, or need support in walking, might find it a bit more difficult.  There is a shuttle bus from Sausalito, but you would need to research that in advance.

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Muir Woods form part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and was established by William and Elizabeth Kent, Gifford Pinchot and the USA President of the day Theodore Roosevelt.  Thus, the woods were protected as a national monument.  Roosevelt was a huge supporter of the preservation of significant natural features of the country, and signed into law, The Antiquities Act of 1906.  A president with foresight, who designated 18 national monuments during office.  We won’t discuss Donald Trump here, thank-you!

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The redwood trees here can grow up to 300+ feet high and are the tallest trees on earth – their roots are very shallow though.  I first heard of the redwood trees, many years ago, made famous by the Woody Guthrie song ‘This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land’ …’from the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream Waters…’.  This is one of the USA’s most famous folk songs.  Woody Guthrie felt the land belonged to the people, not corporations, and allegedly wrote the song as anathema to ‘God Bless America’!   Guthrie’s song was originally called ‘God blessed America for me’.

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Many visitors to San Francisco, understandably, generally head straight for the cable car experience, the Crooked Street, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Cruise, if there is limited time for sightseeing.  However, if there is time, I would highly recommend a visit to Muir Woods, if only just to get a sense of what a small place we all occupy on this planet, and to appreciate the foresight of Roosevelt. 

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise [courtesy of ‘Teddy Bear’s Picnic’, and yes you can take a picnic).  There are rest-rooms, a cafeteria and a shop.  Happy hiking!

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© All Rights Reserved, Jacqueline La Cumber, 2018

 

 

 

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San Francisco – City Lights Bookstore

 

I have long been a fan of Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac;  in particular his imaginative, and interesting, traveller novels including ‘On the Road’, and ‘Lonesome Traveller – books that propelled me through some dark hours many years ago, inspiring my own travels.  It was, in part, because of his books that I was encouraged to take a Greyhound bus across America [with one of my cousins] – not quite ‘On the Road’, but as a close as a I could get at the time – travelling from San Francisco, via Los Angeles, Flagstaff, St. Louis and Washington D.C., to New York in 1977.  It was a magical time.

I was thrilled, therefore, to be back in San Francisco in August 2018 , where, with the luck of the help of friends, was able to visit the City Lights Bookstore – one of the most famous bookstores/publishers in the world [but probably not that well known outside of North America]. 

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The Beat Generation [including Kerouac, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Burroughs] were all controversial in their own way, but these authors had a huge literary cultural influence over 1950s America and shores beyond.  Many years after reading the majority of Kerouac’s books, I found myself wandering around Tangier, Morocco, which was a major hub for the authors and poets to retreat from the Western World.  Tangier has ‘cleaned up’ big time as compared to the 1950s/1960s where ‘anything went’, and the local police turned a ‘blind eye’ so long as no-one got hurt.  If you are passing through Morocco, Tangier is a quiet, and tranquil, city to pass a few days, and soak up the atmosphere that was clearly so appealing.  More information on Morocco, including Tangier, can be found in another one of my travel blogs from 2016 [writing under the pen-name of Julie Rhodes]:  http://julietravelstheknownworld.blogspot.com/p/morocco.html

Ferlinghetti was one of the founders of City Lights, and it has a huge array of books on sale, over 3 floors.  Be prepared to be amazed and a little emotional if the Beat literature has a close proximity to your heart!  Although it has a huge selection of thoughtful, and insightful books, separate from the Beat literature. 

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Whoever knew that Patti Smith, of The Smiths [band] was a friend of Ginsberg, and it was through this store that I bought, and read, her magical new book ‘Devotion’, which is partly a travel tale. 

City Lights is located at 261 Columbus Avenue, in downtown San Francisco, and if you are a fan, the Beat Generation Museum is located just across the street.  At the time of writing it cost 8 US dollars to see the museum.  The bookstore is open from 10am until midnight.  Happy reading!

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© Jacqueline La Cumber, 2018, All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia

As mentioned in a previous blog [Eastern beaches – Bondi to Bronte], I lived in Australia in the 1980s.  Since I was working full-time, it was difficult to get ‘out and about’ the way I would have liked.  I was living in the Eastern Suburbs and never ventured across to North Sydney.  I did the traditional cruise on the harbour and viewed this famous bridge from the harbour and Circular Quay.  One can certainly understand why this bridge is affectionately called ‘The Coathanger’.  There are plenty of websites ‘out there’ that can give the facts, but this is my personal experience.

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So, I really enjoyed rediscovering Sydney on a recent trip in April 2018.  This included venturing over the harbour by train from the Eastern Suburbs to the north, using the North Shore train line.  Sydney has a very accessible train system with unique triple-decker trains.  There is a magnificent view of the harbour as the train goes over the bridge.

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Taking the train from Bondi Junction, to Milsons Point via Town Hall is very easy.  Milsons Point train station was built in Art Deco style.  The original station had to be moved from its proximity on the edge of the harbour in 1932 to its current location, via a temporary station in 1924, to make space for the bridge to be built. 

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The suburb of Milsons Point is one of the smallest Sydney suburbs, and was named after James Milson, an English ‘free settler’ [1783-1872] who leased the land in the early 1820s.  Two well-known buildings for locals are the Kirribilli Hotel [Art Deco style], and the Kirribilli Club.  The hotel is just across the way from the train station.  I was lucky enough to have lunch at the Club with some old friends, gaining an amazing view of the harbour, from the restaurant on the first floor.

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If you take a left out of Milsons Point train station once you come down the escalator from the platform, then take a right-hand turn outside the station, you can walk down to the harbour.  This provides very different views of the bridge, unlike the views from Circular Quay.  Just before you get down to the harbour, if you take a right-turn, you can gain an ‘up-front and personal’ alternate view, to the left.  These views make for fantastic photographs.  You can almost see all, or at least imagine, the 6,000,000 rivets that were used to fashion the bridge, which opened in 1932. 

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Some would say that bridge has a similar place in history to the Statue of Liberty, in New York, USA.  That is, once the emigrants saw the bridge, they knew they had ‘made it’.  All very emotional – happy hiking – as pedestrians can walk along it, and even climb it.   It is the largest steel arch bridge in the world but not the longest.  However, its place in history is sealed forever!

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Eastern beaches – Bondi to Bronte coastal walk, Sydney, Australia

As an alternative to swim, surf and dive activities, take a one hour walk along Sydney’s urban eastern beaches from the world-famous Bondi Beach, to the lesser known [but equally fabulous] Bronte Beach via Tamarama.  I lived in Sydney, Australia, for over 2 years in the 1980s but never got around to taking this incredible walk.  I eventually did it in April 2018, when the weather can be cool early morning, and in the evening, but very hot during the day.  Best to be prepared, and wear sunscreen, take a hat and water [of course], but at each beach stop, there are public toilets, changing areas [if you want to brave the water] and places to eat and get a drink.

A suggested start to your walk, is to begin from North Bondi, along the beach, or the promenade, and take a slight detour to the Bondi Art Gallery. 

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Then follow the promenade to South Bondi, and up the steps past the Bondi Icebergs Club – so named for the brave swimmers who take to the water in the winter!  The club has an open-air pool, as do most of the beaches in Sydney.  Visit https://icebergs.com.au/members/ for more information on how visitors can access the club.

Some will remember Bondi Beach as the venue for the 2000 Olympics beach volleyball competition.  But, it is actually one of the most famous beaches in the world.  Some contend that the name Bondi originates from the Aboriginal word for ‘water breaking over the rocks’, and there is much evidence of this origin as you continue your walk.  However, not all historians agree with this.  Formal European settlement can be traced back to 1809.  It looked a ‘bit tired’ back in the 80s but has had several ‘revamps’, and it is currently looking quite splendid!

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As you continue your walk you will eventually come to Tamarama Beach.  When I visited there were only a few people braving the beach, so the sand was beautiful, and pristine.  It’s a very sheltered beach, because it is surrounded by high cliffs.  Apparently, Tama is popular with the ‘glamour’ folk although it was near deserted when I was there.  According to a Lonely Planet article, the ‘rips’ here are extremely dangerous but it is a patrolled beach.  The waves are so huge, therefore it’s definitely an attraction for surfers.

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Continue the coastal walk around Tamarama and pick up the trail to Bronte Beach.  A smaller beach, but very popular with families, with a number of cafes and restaurants in close proximity.  There is a bus service from Bronte back to Bondi, if you don’t feel like walking back.  The whole walk took only one hour, and is probably considered a ‘medium’ walk, as some parts are quite steep.  But don’t quote me on this as I am not an expert!  Happy walking……….and you can continue to Maroubra and Coogee if you wish!

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Grand Canyon, USA.

One of the most amazing experiences of my life was taking a helicopter tour across part of the Grand Canyon, USA.  There are many tours and companies to choose from, but myself and my buddies used a company called Sundance Helicopters – not the cheapest at USD500, but certainly it was worth every penny, in my estimation.  I was staying at the Luxor Hotel and Casino, in Las Vegas, and the price included a limo pick-up and drop-off.  Only the second time I had travelled in a limousine.

Bags are not allowed on the helicopter, but there are lockers at the helicopter centre, where you can store your baggage.  Be prepared to take ID with you, such as a passport, and also be prepared to be weighed at the counter [like a piece of baggage].  Of course, weight and balance, are important ingredients of a safe flight. 

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The flight took 45 minutes, and then we were ‘dropped down’ for 30 minutes to take photographs, and, have a champagne breakfast.  This included a bagel with cream cheese, fruit, a bottle of water, and of course champagne!  It then took another 45 minutes to fly back to base, via the Las Vegas strip.  The pilot was amazing and made sure we were all strapped into the helicopter safely, and provided both an in-person, and an automated commentary, on the experience.

There were 7 guests in the helicopter, and we took turns in sitting at the front – my party sat in the front with the pilot on the outbound journey, and then in the back for the return.  It was a very comfortable ride both out and back.

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An official photographer took a photograph of each party, before boarding the helicopter, but there is no ‘hard-sell’ to buy the photographs afterwards.

Some interesting facts – courtesy of: https://wheninyourstate.com/arizona/10-coolest-facts-grand-canyon/

As you descend into the Grand Canyon, your surroundings can change rapidly. There are around 70 mammal species, 47 reptile species, 250 species of birds, and over 1,750 plant species. Temperatures have been recorded from -10° to 110° Fahrenheit in various locations of the canyon. IMG_20180607_191028_594_resizedNow that’s variety!

The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and is intersected by the Colorado River, and its tributaries, attaining a depth of one mile high.  It has allegedly developed over 70 million years, and it is considered to be a holy site by the Pueblo Native Americans, apparently the first peoples to have settled here.  Although the canyon as we see it today probably dates back about 6 million years, when the dinosaurs were long gone.  It is actually located in the state of Arizona, and many consider the Grand Canyon to be one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.  It isn’t the largest, nor deepest, canyon in the world – that honour goes to The Yarlong Tsangpo Canyon in Tibet – perhaps that should be next on my bucket list!

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Happy canyoning………until next time!

© Jacqueline La Cumber, 2018, All Rights Reserved

 

MALTA – FASCINATING KEY POINTS

MALTA – FASCINATING KEY POINTS

One:  The first migrants to Malta were from Sicily, Italy.  The Maltese Archipelago lies 50 miles south of Sicily and 176 miles east of Tunisia, on the northern coast of Africa, in the Mediterranean ‘basin’.  According to the Bible, St Paul was shipwrecked on Malta in 60 AD but biblical scholars now debate this as being ‘fact’;  the area I stayed in during my visit was in St Paul’s Bay – a town called Mellieha, approximately 1 hour by bus to the capital Valletta on the largest island in the archipelago.

Its strategic position has meant a multitude of ‘conquerors’ over the years including the:

  • Phoenicians [600 years]
  • Cartheginians
  • Greeks
  • Romans [ 400 years]
  • Byzantines
  • Arabs [220 years]
  • Normans [400 years]
  • Sicilians
  • Spanish
  • Knights of the Order of St John [sold by Spain for 2 Maltese falcons!]
  • French
  • British [160 years]

Napoleon conquered Malta on his way to Egypt [like you do!] during the French Revolutionary years in 1798.  The St Elmo fort and war museum in Valletta provides an interesting, and comprehensive, overview of the history of Malta.  It is well worth a visit in my view, and at the time of writing the entry fee was 10 euros.  The museum also has a fantastic view of the Valletta harbour.

Because of its historical past, Malta has had a huge number of influences, notably with regard to architecture and language.  The language is the closest Europe probably ever came to Esperanza – a European language that was designed to become common amongst European countries, but never developed.  The language has a huge Arabic influence but also contains words from Italian, French and English.  Despite being a staunch Roman Catholic country, the word for God is Allah.  Maltese is mandatory, as part of the education system, however, university opportunities are limited, so many students attend university overseas, mainly in Britain.  Healthcare is similar to Britain, although many Maltese choose to pay 20 euros to have a doctor visit them privately.  This is considered to be a very affordable option for the population [unlike Britain].

In 1814, Malta became part of the ‘British Empire’ as part of the Treaty of Paris.  It became an important trade route for Britain because it was a staging post on the way to India.  During the First World War, it became known as the ‘Nurse of the Mediterranean’.  Soldiers were sent to Malta for rest and recuperation, but unfortunately some never made it out of Malta.

Malta became independent in 1964 and a republic in 1974.

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Two:  The Maltese Archipelago consists of 5 islands:  Malta [the largest], Gozo, Comino and two very small islands which are not inhabited.

The oldest freestanding monuments in the world can be located in Gozo – the Ggantija Temples.  These date back to 3,600 BC and are even older than the Egyptian pyramids.  The little museum that you can enter before seeing the temples is absolutely fascinating.  Unlike the hieroglyphics that can tell the story in words of the pyramids, there are only the artefacts, statues and carvings that can tell the story of Gozo in prehistoric times – there is no writing.  However, it is very clear from the artefacts the mode of dress and hair styles of prehistoric times, which were very sophisticated for its time.  It also became clear, from analysing teeth, the type of diet prehistoric peoples were able to access.  It is well worth a visit because it is so interesting and unique. The temples were named so because local people thought they were built by giants initially.  They couldn’t understand how an amazing megalithic structure could be built by ordinary mortals!

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I took a day tour to Gozo which included the ferry ride, and a guided tour of the island.  This included the temples, Dwerja Bay and the capital of Victoria [previously known as Rabat].  If you climb up to the Citadel in Victoria, there is a magnificent view of the island, and on a clear day you can see Malta.  The ferry over to Gozo takes between 20 and 25 minutes, although the return journey only took 13 minutes, probably because of the strong winds.  I would highly recommend you find a seat as soon as entering the ferry because it is very busy.  There are not enough seats for all the passengers.  The ferry has toilets and a snack bar.  It is free to travel to Gozo but you must have a paid ticket for the return journey.  If you take a guided tour from Malta, then the trip includes the ferry ticket and a 3 course lunch with wine.  Our lunch stop was at Xlandi Bay – a very picturesque place.

Gozo is popular with the local people as a getaway for holidays and weekends.  It has a slow pace, is very green in comparison to Malta [which is mainly rock], and much ‘calmer’ and more peaceful than the main island.  The houses are very beautiful.  There is much competition between neighbours with regards to who has the most beautiful house!

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Three:  The Knights of the Order of St John.  This is a Roman Catholic religious order, and the oldest surviving order of chivalry.  It is possibly not that well known outside of Europe.  The Order can be traced back to the era of the Crusades and was primarily, in the twelfth century, an hospitally order that originated in Jerusalem to care for sick pilgrims.  It was founded by Italian merchants from Amalfi and progressed to acquiring wealth and lands.  In 1309, they ‘acquired’ Rhodes [now part of the Greek Islands] which they ruled as an independent sovereign state.  The Knights have a fascinating history, and there is too much information to repeat here.  However, from 1523 to 1530 the Knights were without a base, until they were granted the Maltese Archipelago by the then Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.  The Knights built the current capital of Malta, Valletta, and a hospital which attracted patients from inside and outside of Malta.  However, as already mentioned, the Knights’ reign came to an end once Napoleon conquered Malta.

I only spent a few hours in Valletta, due to time constraints, and I found it absolutely overwhelming – I didn’t know where to start my tour!  The attractions in Valletta are too numerous to mention here, and I hope this blog inspires you to visit and find out for yourself.  I certainly will be returning.  It’s such a beautiful city commanding an amazing view over Valletta Harbour.  The city was one of the first to use the ‘grid system’ for streets, and reminded me in that way of Washington DC [USA].  St John’s Co Cathedral is a ‘must see’:  ‘beneath each of the 400 or so marble slabs or sarcophagi, lies a man who lived a life of high adventure’. Valletta has been awarded the 2018 ‘European Capital of Culture’ which the townspeople are very excited about.  It was heavily bombed in World War 2, but ruins have been refurbished and re-invigorated.

The Maltese Cross is the symbol of the order.

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Four:  The Maltese Cross  – this is an 8 pointed cross, which is usually white on a red background.  The eight points of the cross symbolise:

  • to live in truth
  • to have faith
  • to repent one’s sins
  • to give proof of humility
  • to love justice
  • to be merciful
  • to be sincere and wholehearted
  • to endure persecution

The Maltese Cross has become confused in some parts of the world with The Florian Cross, which is similar, but fire departments, notably in New York, USA, have adopted a version of the cross as a symbol to represent honour and bravery.  The Knights were associated with the cross to symbolise their bravery in tackling ‘fire-bombs’ from the marauding Saracens  during the fight for the Holy Land.

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Five:  The Hop-on, Hop-off bus.  There is so much to write about Malta, but the best way to see, and learn about, the country is to use the hop-on, hop-off bus.  There are two tours – the North Tour and the South Tour – which cost 20 euros each at the time of writing.  They each would take a full day if you get off at the various stops to tour around.  I took the South Tour [Red] because I had already seen most of the North Tour on a day trip [which included the ancient capital of Mdina].

The bus tours start in Sliema, but offer free transport from Cirkewwa, Mellieha, Xemxija & Golden Bay, Attard, Bugibba and St Julian’s Bay.  From Mellieha [with the largest sandy beach], at the time of writing there were two buses at 0850 and 0950.  It’s about one hour to Sliema where the tour starts ‘proper’.  It takes around 3 hours if you don’t get off the bus.  However, there are so many interesting places to visit that I recommend taking the early bus so you have a chance to explore some of the stops.  I got off at Valletta, for a short time and then again at the Blue Grotto.  Because it was winter, and the sea was quite rough, there were no boats going around the area of the Blue Grotto but it is definitely a place I would revisit.  If you are going off-season, there are several cute restaurants for lunch or a glass of wine to break the journey!

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Summary:  Malta is an amazing surprise in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, with incredible natural beauty.   It is full of ancient history, stunning architecture [with a huge baroque influence] and I am sure will be loved not only by sun-worshippers, but also travellers intent on learning about history and pre-history.  There is much to see, is so eclectic and tourism is supported by a well-connected bus service, which is inexpensive and easy to navigate.  From the Air Malta in-flight magazine:  ‘If you have a flair for the arts and appreciate a good show, then look no further than Malta for your 2018 go to destination’.  Happy holidays!

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BASEL, SWITZERLAND – 5 TOP TIPS

If you only have a few spare days to spend in Switzerland, basing yourself in Basel would be a very good option. I had previously visited the more popular cities of Zurich and Geneva before digital media became sophisticated and popular. So, in early 2017, I decided to base myself in Basel for a few days. This turned out to be a really good choice.

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1. There are several nice hotels around the town train station in Basel centre. In Europe, it is always useful to stay near central trains stations, because there is easy access to trains [of course!], restaurants, cafés and, if on a budget, fast-food chains. I stayed at the Gaia Hotel, which is a beautiful, art deco hotel, with clean rooms, fabulous breakfasts and friendly staff. You can buy a ticket for the tram, from Basel airport, into town, at the ticket machine outside of the airport arrivals hall. There are several language options so it shouldn’t be too difficult [although I had to ask a kindly stranger for help because I didn’t realise about the language options!].
2. If arriving in Basel by air, you have the unusual choice, after collecting your bags at the carousel, of taking a left turn into France, or a right turn into Switzerland! Obviously, if you are staying in Basel city centre, don’t take the exit for France!
3. Basel hotels offer a free mobility ticket for each day of your stay – this means you can take public transport around the town free of charge. You can use your hotel voucher/printed reservation for free tram travel from the airport into the city centre, as part of this scheme. But, always check with your hotel beforehand that this is still valid.
4. Basel old town is well-preserved, and pretty with really interesting architecture, dating back to the 15th century. However, don’t miss the opportunity to take a day trip on the train to Luzern [Lake Lucerne]. Tickets are easily purchased from the train station ticket machines, and it takes one hour each way. Luzern is beautiful and surrounded by mountains. The lake is just a minute’s walk from the central train station. A trip by boat around the lake takes about one hour, and there are several restaurants around the lake where you can have lunch. Alternatively, there are food outlets at the train station.
5. Another nice trip, that I did, was a half day tour to the historical Rotteln Castle in Germany. Yes, Basel sits close to both the French and German border, and Rotteln is just 15 minutes’ drive across the border. I booked the trip before departure from my home city through Viatur, which worked out really well because you are collected and dropped back at your city centre hotel [with a free bottle of water!]. Rotteln dates back to 751 A.D., and a walk around the castle can take about 45 minutes. It is quite a steep climb but there is a beer garden at the base of the castle, either for those who cannot make the climb to relax, or for lunch afterwards. The Viatur tour provided enough time for a good exploration of the castle, and for lunch afterwards.
The photos below are of Luzern, Rotteln Castel and Basel old town. Happy travels!

© Jacqueline La Cumber, 2017, All Rights Reserved

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Tobago – the friendly island

Tobago is an island which is part of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, in the Caribbean. Smaller, than Trinidad, it comprises 300 square kilometres. I had the good fortune to visit Tobago in May 2017. It is truly a beautiful island, made up of sandy beaches and an ancient rain forest – the Tobago Forest Reserve, [protected apparently since 1776]. Tobago is sited on hilly and volcanic land, with many waterfalls and beautiful sunsets. Most importantly, though, it is the friendliest country I have ever visited. Everyone one meets, at the hotels, or in the streets wandering around, has a smile and a ‘hello’ or ‘hi’.
The temperature ranges during the year between 22 and 31 degrees celcius, although when I visited there were a few days of unseasonal rain and wind. However, it lies outside of the ‘hurricane belt’, and just experiences heavy rainfall during the rainy season. Although in 1963, it did experience Hurricane Flora which did a lot of damage to crops, and Hurricane Ivan hit the island in 2004.

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I flew on British Airways from London to Tobago via Antigua, another Caribbean island, which I have visited twice, so didn’t stop in Antigua this time.

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Christopher Columbus, according to Wikipedia, first sighted Tobago in 1498. The Dutch, English, Swedish, French and Spanish all fought over the original attempts to colonise Tobago. I spoke to one couple who went diving, exploring a ship-wreck, but I don’t know if this was from the attempts to colonise the country. It would be interesting to find out. Between 1672 and 1674, Tobago came under temporary British rule, and in 1814, it again came under British control. In 1889, it became a ‘ward’ of Trinidad.
At the time of writing, visas are not required for residents of the U.S.A, EU or Commonwealth countries. The official language is English and driving is on the left hand side of the road. The 1959 Disney movie ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ was filmed on Tobago, because it was thought at the time, that Tobago was the inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s book ‘Robinson Crusoe’.

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I stayed at the Tropikist Hotel, which is located at Crown Point, in the south-west of the island. There are several hotels in this area, which are just a 10 – 15 minute walk to ANR Robinson International Airport. It is close to Scarborough, which is the oldest town in Tobago. From the Tropikist Hotel, it is a 15 minute walk into town, where there are banks and access to ATM machines if you need local money, which is the TTD [Trinidad & Tobago Dollar].

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I had the good fortune to link up with a friend of a friend, who took me around most of the island, south-west to north-east. This took around 6 hours. Of course, one can take an organised tour, but it is so much better if you hire a car and a driver, who really knows the island and can take you on a personal tour. The tour took in various forts, or garrisons, which are beautifully maintained, and provide a peaceful and scenic rest-stop. I visited Fort Milford, just steps away from the hotel, Fort James, Fort Bennett and Fort George. The tour took us through Scarborough, to Buccoo, Plymouth, Castara Bay, Englishman’s Bay, Parlatuvier Bay, ‘in-country’ to the rain forest to Roxborough, and back to Store Bay, where we started out.

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There are many activities to take part in, all which can be booked via your hotel:
• Rain Forest Tours
• Waterfall Tour
• Bucco Reef Nylon Pool Glass Bottom Boat Trip
• Fishing Trips
• Coastal Tours
• Little Tobago Tours
• Island Tours

A word of warning, though, they are very expensive – at the time of writing, the Island Tour through one operator was USD90. A one-day trip to Trinidad cost USD400. However, this could be a trip of a lifetime for some people, so save up and explore the delights that Tobago has to offer without worrying about cost! Hope to see you there one day! Tell them Jacquie sent you!

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