Lockdown Armchair Travel – Peru – Lima, Machu Picchu, Cusco, Puno – September 2011

Still stuck in our tier systems (and likely to be for some time) let’s have another lockdown armchair travel trip, and P is for a number of places, but first, Peru. We spent a week there in September 2011 at the start of our South American tour. So, what do you think of, when you think of Peru? Quite possibly this place:

Machu PicchuBut more of that shortly. Our week started off in the capital Lima, a thriving and attractive place, full of striking architecture.

Plaza MayorYou see that yellow and black combination all round the Plaza Mayor and the city centre. The ornate enclosed balconies can be breathtakingly beautiful.

BalconiesAnd the Plaza Mayor is definitely the centre of attention.

Plaza MayorBut there’s also a bustling market

Market

Cheese

OlivesIn the Miraflores district, you can meet dinosaurs at Kennedy Park

DinoWe also visited the charming Casa de Aliaga, the city’s oldest colonial mansion

Casa de AliagaWent here

Bar CordanoFor two of these

Pisco SourThe Pisco Sour. It tastes much nicer than it sounds. We kept out of the way of this lot:

PoliciaAnd also had a very enjoyable stroll around Miraflores, which is upmarket and delightful – and a great coastline. You don’t tend to think of the sea when it comes to Peru, but it’s not to be missed.

Miraflores coastFrom Lima we flew to Cuzco, and, in order to acclimatise to the altitude, immediately headed for the Sacred Valley, which is at a much lower level – then you slowly begin to climb during the next few days. The Sacred Valley is quite touristy, so you see plenty of these:

AlpacasAnd these

LlamaAnd these

SpinningThis gentleman shows us the traditional art of spinning. So much more refined when you do it without an exercise bike. In Pisac, we visited another market

Pisac marketBut the highlight of the Sacred Valley is Ollantaytambo, famous for its Inca ruins, as it was once the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti.

Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo

The next day we started to make our way towards Machu Picchu. To do this we took the train to Aguas Calientes.

Train to Aguas CalientesA picturesque journey – we reckoned these people were doing the Inca Trail.

Journey

Until it finally reaches Aguas Calientes.Resting place

And once you’re there, you can’t wait to get to Machu Picchu!

Machu Picchu

MP

We got up early the next morning to see dawn rise over the site

Dawn at Machu PicchuA misty experience!

A misty affairFrom there we walked up Waynu Picchu, which is the mountain opposite Machu Picchu, to get the great view. Wow, what an experience!

Machu Picchu from Waynu PicchuIt’s high. It’s tiring. But so worth it! And what comes up, must go down….

And it’s quite a challenge! Reaching Machu Picchu again gave us a chance for another walk around.

From there, it was back on the train and heading for Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire, and, despite our best efforts, the place where altitude sickness finally got us. Nevertheless we still enjoyed it.

Plaza de ArmasThe Plaza de Armas is the focus of the city centre, an expansive and beautiful town square.

Plaza de Armasand, surprise, surprise….

Plaza de Armas

The police get about on segways – makes it much easier for them!

Police

This is the beautiful Santo Domingo Convent

And a local school

The next day we took a tour to Pikillacta and Sacsayhuaman. At Pikillacta, you see an archaelogical site of the Wari people

PikillactaBut it was Sacsayhuaman that I was really interested to see.

SacsayhuamanThe construction is amazing, as there is no mortar between those stones

From the top you get a great view of Cusco

We also visited the amazing holy site of Qenko.

And I spent the next day in bed with Altitude Sickness! After Cusco, it was time to get on another train

The Andean Explorer, which would take us to the border city of Puno, travelling through beautiful but totally empty scenery.

Puno is a city with many thousands of students, and they were having an evening parade. We were warned not to go into Puno at night, because it wasn’t safe. But we couldn’t resist.

Felt perfectly safe to us! So I’ll leave you with a few typically Peruvian scenes and vibes.

Thanks for reading! Stay safe!

 

Lockdown Armchair Travel – Norway – North Cape, Honningsvag, Tromso and Bergen – June 2008

Time for another lockdown armchair travel post, and N is also for Norway, and an MSC cruise we did back in June 2008, up that country’s rugged coast to reach the North Cape on Midsummer Day, also taking in the towns of Trondheim (no photos, not sure why), Tromso and Bergen. So, what do you think of, when you think of Norway? Maybe this:

LappsLocal Lapps, or maybe this:

Midnight SunThe Midnight Sun. That’s certainly my strongest memory of Norway – we went for 96 hours without a hint of night-time. It plays havoc with your sleep patterns but you feel energised and excited by constantly being in the light. Bizarrely, perhaps, by contrast, Norwegian towns are mostly, erm… drab. Sorry if you’re Norwegian. That’s probably why I have no photos of Trondheim – maybe there was nothing much to photograph. Honningsvag is a little town a few miles from the North Cape. You wouldn’t expect it to be a hive of activity; and you’d be right.

HonningsvagWe walked down that street, and the most extraordinary thing about it was that one house had one of those Football Souvenir Street Signs in its front window, bearing allegiance to Liverpool FC and Anfield.

HonningsvagThe area relies on two things: tourism and fishing. When you reach the North Cape, first impressions are a little disappointing.

WelcomeIt’s almost as though someone else had got there first. However, there are better monuments to be found:

North CapeNorth CapeBut it’s the views that you really come for.

On the way to the North Cape

SKies of blueTromso is the most northerly city, but we found it pretty dull, I’m afraid. It does have a rather striking cathedral though.

Arctic CathedralThe most attractive place we visited – by far – was Bergen.

BergenIt’s an expensive place, of course, so you buy very little in the way of presents! But the shopping is fun.

ShoppingAgain, it has a rather attractive cathedral

Bergen CathedralAnd is probably best known for this chap, Edvard Grieg. His house is out of town, and we didn’t manage to get there, but it’s always important to have a reason to go back.

GriegThe birds obviously don’t think much of his music! If you’ve seen The Song of Norway, you’ll recognise Freddy and his Fiddle, at it in the square…

Freddy and his FiddleOK, so it’s really Ole Bull, a big 19th century violin virtuoso and celebrity. Of course, Bergen is another city that relies heavily on the fish and tourist industries, and its harbourside position is very attractive.

Bergen seafrontAnd that’s very much what you remember when you leave

Bye BergenMaybe just one last sunset….

Sunset

Thanks for joining me in this little travel souvenir of Norway! Plenty of letters in the alphabet still to come!

Lockdown Armchair Travel – The Netherlands – Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Leiden, and The Hague

More lockdown armchair travel and today, N is for The Netherlands, and some memories of a few visits to that delightful little country over the years. So, what do you think of, when you think of The Netherlands? Probably here:

AmsterdamAmsterdam, Amsterdam, de stad waar alles kan. So sang Maggie MacNeil in the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest. But The Netherlands is more than just Amsterdam. Leiden, for example, is a beautiful city – home to (amongst other things) the Windmill Museum.

LeidenYou can see the workings of a windmill really close up – and it’s a fascinating experience.

Windmill workingsWhen we were in the Netherlands in 2009, we also visited Rotterdam, famous for its cube houses. They’re an extraordinary feat of architecture!

Cube Houses

We also visited The Hague, seat of government and a pretty grand place all round.

But with humour

Horses

and superheroes!

But most people just want to see Amsterdam, and it is a pretty special place. Lots of bikes…

Bikes

Churches

Cheese

Partygoers

Did I mention the bikes?

Possibly the best way to see Amsterdam is from the canals, and on our last morning we took a canal boat ride. The things you notice…

You expect Van der Valk to walk around any corner. I’ll leave you with a look at our canal boat

Some old Delft tiles

and a pleasant drink on a street corner.

I know there’s much more to Amsterdam and the Netherlands than I’ve been able to share with you today but hopefully this gave you a little insight into what some of it is like!

 

Lockdown Armchair Travel – Malta – August 2012

It’s been a while since I’ve done a lockdown armchair travel post – and, for most of us, we’re still not going anywhere exciting in a hurry. So M is for Malta, and a lovely sunny week in the summer of 2012 (plus a couple of old snaps from our stay in March 1993). We stayed in the resort that I think is probably the best place to be based in Malta –

St Julian's Bay

St Julian’s Bay. It’s chic, elegant, close to Valletta but also a good springboard to other parts of the island. And considerably more attractive than Bugibba, which is where we stayed in 1993. You can spend hours here just drinking in the scenery.

It’s also an easy walk to Sliema, with its beautiful views overlooking Valletta.

They love a good parade in Malta. When we were there in 1993 it was carnival time, and we watched the arrival of King Carnival (to a very repetitive but upbeat pre-recorded soundtrack).

King Carnival

Meanwhile, in 2012, we were in St Julian’s at the same time when an effigy of the saint is paraded around the town.

St Julian

To a live band accompaniment, of course.

Live band

One of my favourite places in Malta is Mosta, with its incredible Dome Church.

It’s notable for having survived a bomb attack during the Second World War when a bomb fell through the hole at the top of the Dome – but didn’t explode.

Dome

That was a lucky break. (Or God was on their side, whichever you prefer).

Mosta Dome

From Mosta it’s easy to carry on to the beautiful and blustery old capital of Mdina.

Mdina

The wind really whistles around your wotsits when you’re perched up there, even in full summer.

Mdina Gate

Lion statues guard against you – or welcome you, depending on how you see yourself – as you wander round this quaint and very narrow old town.

Mdina

But the views are stunning.

View from Mdina

Of course you have to pay a visit to the modern capital, Valletta, with its steep streets.

Valletta

St John’s Co-Cathedral is a must-see.

Cathedral

The Hospital of St John perches near an attractive outcrop

The Hospital of St John

A harbour cruise is also worthwhile

Harbour cruise

This is a picture of the so-called Three Cities taken from a harbour cruise in 1993 – very moody

The Three Cities

I’d also recommend a trip to Gozo. Full of charming sights.

Gozo

Here’s stunning Ramla Bay

Ramla Bay

And lovely Xlendi

Xlendi

We did a boat trip to the Azure Window

Azure Window trip

It was a stunning sight

Azure Window

Sadly no longer there

A Window

The islands are also littered with ancient temples. Here you can see Altar Niches at the Ä gantija Temples

Altar Niches

Here’s an interesting thing: Maltese horse races are the “trot” variety!

Horse Racing

I could bore you with many more pictures, but that wouldn’t be fair. Here’s just a few quirky parting shots.

Mussels in SmellsMussels in Smells?

No construction worker would be seen dead without his parasol

No construction worker would be seen dead without his parasol

 So pleased to see Michael Gove has got a proper job

So pleased to see Michael Gove has got a proper job

Synchronised drinking

Synchronised drinking?

Who's captain of this ship?

Who’s captain of this ship?

I’ll leave you with an image of me nicking some chocolate almost thirty years ago.

Chocolover

Let’s hope we can go on holidays safely again soon!

Lockdown Armchair Travel – Latvia – A December Weekend in Riga, 2006

L is for Latvia and a weekend in Riga in December 2006 to celebrate Mrs Chrisparkle’s birthday. My overriding memory of Riga in December is that it was TOTALLY UTTERLY COMPLETELY FREEZING COLD – in fact, I’ve never felt that level of cold before or afterwards. Apart from that it was a fascinating mix of the Western and the Soviet, set in a beautiful old town that is small and delightfully compact, to walk around easily. I don’t have that many photos from that weekend but I hope this gives you a flavour of what it was like.

So what do you think of, when you think of Riga? I’ll always think of this….

Snow in RigaSnow everywhere! It’s a beautiful, stately city. Perhaps its most impressive sight is the House of the Blackheads, which isn’t anything to do with poor facial hygiene, but a 14th century guildhall for unmarried merchants, shipowners, and foreigners in Riga.

House of the BlackheadsMore modern buildings include the Freedom Monument, constructed to honour the soldiers who died in the Latvian War of Independence (1918-1920)

Freedom Monumentand the Rainis Monument, commemorating the Latvian poet – and yes he does look like Lenin,

RainisRiga has plenty of attractive bridges over the river Daugava

Bridge over riverPlus generous open spaces

Open spacelike this area beside the one of the many ornate churches. There are also stunning views from the top of St Peter’s Church

View of the cityIn many directions!

More viewsAs it was near Christmas, they had a lovely Christmas market too!

Thanks for joining me on this little travelogue. Stay safe!

Lockdown Armchair Travel – Laos – March 2013

Whilst we’re not all (currently) still in proper lockdown, travel is still a risky business, so let’s continue with L – which is for Laos, one of the three countries we visited in 2013 as part of our Indochina tour. A gentle, spiritual, welcoming country with some fascinating secrets.

So what do you think of, when you think of Laos? Do you actually think of anything?! Maybe this:

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Young novice monks, seen everywhere – but more of them later. We started our five days in Laos in the capital – Vientiane.

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Of all the world’s capitals, this must have the least traffic. The statue of Chao Anouvong, the King of Vientiane from 1805 – 1828, welcomes you from his plinth alongside the Mekong.

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This is where the President, Bounnhang Vorachith, lives. Laos is a one-party, Communist state, but you wouldn’t really know it from day-to-day life. Not as a tourist, at least.