Quintessentially English – Top 3 Must See Norfolk & Suffolk

Travel
In recent years I have found myself to be spending a lot of time in Norfolk and Suffolk. There is good reason for this. Its bloody gorgeous, thats why.

Considering I have lived in the neighbouring county of Cambridgeshire for a number of years, its only been in the last 3’ish years that I have actually ventured past the borders to these beautful counties. Not only are these counties home to some of the best (in my opinion) beer and cider, Norfolk and Suffolk boasts stunning scenary. The outdoorsy type will, without doubt, love this part of the country. Walking and cycling routes are plentiful and you cant go to this part of the country without visiting the Broads.

The best way to explore these counties is by car. Im sure there is public transport links but seriously, stick with the car. There are a number of spots that really are in the arse end of nowhere. You dont get anywhere quick in this part of the country so try and relax – during a recent trip I clocked up approx 80 miles with an average speed of 30mph! Seriously…

So, getting around by car (and Ill assume any form of motorised transport) can be slow, painful at times but ultimately worth it. If you are in the mood for seeing a part of the country that is so quintessentially english then I can think of no better place.

Some of my must see places in Norfolk and Suffolk are:

#1 – The Broads

We explored the broads by boat, starting our journey from Wroxham, a beautiful little town just 10 minutes north of Norwich. There are plenty of boat rental companies in the area offering a range of cruisers to suit your needs. We opted for a 4 berth, which was big enough for the two of us and our dog Strudel.

Cruising the broads is a thoroughly relaxing venture, but again, like the roads around here, you dont get anywhere quick. But thats the point. Drink it in because the small villages and towns that nestle on the banks are stunning. There also isnt a shortage of good pubs, serving good beer and food to keep you fuelled on your travels.

#2 – Well Next The Sea

Simply put, we love this place. We hire a mobile home/lodge on the Pinewoods park every year for the last few. The park, as you guessed, is situated right next door to the Pine Woods! It offers great walks along the beach and beyond. Our dog absolutely loves it.

The town itself is just lovely. A proper little seaside town with the usual type of shops offering all sorts of knick-knacks (or all sorts of crap – whichever way you look at it). As with any seaside town, it just wouldnt be the same without a good quality fish and chip shop and I’d struggle to find a better one than Frenchs.

Take a walk up through the town and you’ll hit a green where there a couple of pubs. They welcome dogs, serve a good pint and the food is great. But if you fancy a takeaway, then there is plenty of choice and they will deliver to the Pinewoods park too.

For a few cheap days away, with good walks, pubs and a decent escape from the “rat race”, then this place is a must. Its a great base in which to explore this part of Norfolk.

#3 – Southwold

I went to Southwold for the first time just a couple months back. Why the hell did I wait so long; love this place. Southwold really is a busy (yet not over the top), beautiful seaside town in Suffolk that offers families, couples and an army of friends to have some serious fun.

Southwold is home to Adnams; simply the best beer (and other alcohol treasures) that is likely to grace your lips. Yes, it really is that good! You will not be surprised to see a host of stores and pubs selling Adnams. You must, without doubt, pick up some of this fine ale. Not to mention, their spirits selection is gorgeous (I can highly recommend the Gin).

Aside from the lip-smacking alcoholic treats, Southwold is in a great location in which to explore Suffolk. Many beautiful towns nearby to offer an alternative experience to the seaside retreat.

 

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Measured by Food

Travel

How many times have you fell in love with a place because the food is just so damn good?

Chicken Feet

That place could on face value not be very special at all but the food just skyrocketed it up there with the best of them. Adversely, your destination could be a paradise, your dreams come true, only to be smashed by poor food experiences.

Pork Dripping

Here are some thoughts on destinations we have been to and whether they fell short or propelled them in to the must go destination. At this point it should be noted that I am no “foodie”. In fact I know bugger all when it comes to making such gastronomic delights. I just know what I like – good, honest cooking that tastes good!

Poland

Krakow to be precise. Besides being a beautiful city, there is a mass of dining destinations. Poland is great value, which makes everything better, right? Poland is renowned for its simple yet tasty feasts, almost always meat based. But, the city is full of restaurants offering an alternative, from Asian and Italian to Indian and Middle-Eastern. Throughout our stay, the food was exceptional and great value. Coupled with a thriving and visually stunning city, puts this place in our top ten European destinations.

Thailand

From Bangkok to Khao Lak, Thai food is AMAZING. I love spicy food and this country hit every taste bud hard. Delicious. The fish, rice, noodles, meat, chicken, soups…everything that was put in front of me was devoured. As you probably guessed, I fell head over heals with this place! Emma is a fussy eater and before our arrival, she was nervous about her food options. This was quickly dispelled with sensory overload. Her worries and concerns, gone, replaced with a large helping of green curry! Thailand is up there with the best.

Indonesia

From Bali to Flores, this country is stunning. The people are among some of the friendliest we have ever come across. The food however, well, disappointed us generally. I dont know why but we had high hopes of Indonesian cuisine. The easiest way for me to describe what we had is; dull. Nothing really jumped out at you as being so mouth wateringly delicious that you had to have more. It was all very edible, dont get me wrong, its just not that exciting. Maybe your experiences was very different to ours?

Italy

We have both travelled to Italy many many times, visiting a number of cities and regions. The thing with Italy, especially in the tourist hot spots (e.g Rome), is that the food can be a little slapdash and unimaginative. I have eaten in many restaurants throughout Italy (in those tourist traps) and have, on many occasions, had better Italian food outside of Italy! I will hasten to add that I have also been to many restaurants off the tourist trail and had some of the best food ever. For me, Italy has been hit and miss. Pick your restaurant wisely.

Germany

Well, what can I say about Germany other than vegetarians need not apply! Joking, in recent years, especially in the larger cosmopolitan cities, there is bundles of choice. But, there is no escaping, Germany is a meat feast. I am a little biased as I have German family and spent my early life living in Germany, but, the food is seriously tasty. You just cannot beat a currywurst sausage! After something a little more adventurous then there is plenty of great restuarants serving up stunning feasts – and not always meat based!

Whats your thoughts? Has your views on a destination been swayed by your food experience….?

9 to 5 Travelling Enthusiast

Travel

In the UK, employees are typically given 5 weeks paid holiday per year. In the USA, I understand this to be less. In addition to this paid holiday time, we have 8 bank and public holidays in a year (in England and Wales). The challenge of a 9 to 5 travel enthusiast is how to use this precious time. 

Many if not all of the bank and public holidays fall in to kids school holidays. For a couple that dont have children, travelling, especially in UK and Europe, becomes very expensive. So needless to say, we tend to avoid this time. However, we have learned over the last few years that long haul destinations (excluding the likes of Florida etc where this becomes a mecca for long family holidays) are not typically affected by the price hikes enforced upon us by the travel industry – thats a whole other subject!

As with everything, its all about the balance between time and money. We have many destinations in our minds and we usually have one 2+ week holiday per year with several other mini-breaks either side. But every year, we battle with decisions on where to go and what to do.

We are not a couple that can lounge around a pool, sipping cocktails all day and stuffing our faces from the all you can eat buffet (although that does sound really good about now!). We like to be active, whether that is exploring a city by foot or cycling around Brittany. 

We always have several trips planned for the year ahead. Some will be overseas and some will be just down the road. But despite all these things, we are always looking for the next spot. Oh the despair, what to do, where to go…

It has been suggested why not give up the 9 to 5, why not pack up and go explore the world we are so desperate to see? Despite our love for travel, it isnt about giving up on the life we have chosen. We dont hate the 9 to 5, we enjoy the challenges in life this brings. Its about escaping the norm, overloading your senses with something so fresh, new, different, that the 9 to 5 life is a distant memory.

Sure, these breaks come to an end and we are back doing what we was doing just a couple weeks before. But we are now refreshed, got great memories and momentoes and a new chapter in our challenge to escape, even for just a moment, the hectic lives we lead. 

The 9 to 5 enables us to enjoy the supposed luxuries of a nice home and lifestyle but also enables us to see a world beyond the bubble we and our 9 to 5 compatriots can become slave to. The challenge is thus; live now. If you have a thirst for travel, do it. It is doesnt have to be expensive or time consuming. There are many great locations just a short drive or flight away. Thats what weekends are made for!

A Glamping Experience

Travel

To camp or glamp? If like us, we like the idea of camping much more than reality. Shared bathrooms, noisy, damp, cramped, and generally a pain in the backside carrying and storing all that camping stuff. I don’t know how you do it. Having to throw some clothes on, walk past your fellow campers, toilet paper in hand…! If you are an avid camper, kudos to you, but for us, we do like to walk two steps in our PJ’s and pop the kettle on.

We both love the outdoors, taking long walks with our boy (dog!), Strudel, and cycling with the obligatory pub lunch. Well, this year, 11th July to be precise, was our 1st wedding anniversary. We decided to spend it with Strudel and go glamping.

We needed something local(ish) as Strudel becomes a pain travelling in the car but more importantly needed somewhere where dogs are welcome. We stumbled across a perfect little place called West Stow Pods in Suffolk. They have a wonderful woodland with four well appointed mega pods. Yes, mega pods! These pods have a double bed, sofa bed (which converts in to a double bed also), bathroom come shower, running hot and cold water, kitchenette, dining table and TV. Oh the bliss. So long campers!!

Glamping

Glamping with the family

The area, coupled with the fantastic weather (yes, even in the UK it stops raining every now and then!), provided a perfect base in which to explore the local area and beyond. Walks were plentiful, with some good pubs to stop and grab a bite and drink and continue on our way. After a long day strolling through the forest, it was an absolute pleasure to be back at the pod. Within 5 minutes on our return, Strudel was snoozing and we was on our deck, with a glass of wine in absolute bliss.

Approximately 45 miles away is a beautiful seaside town called Southwold. Home to Adnams, producers of some absolutely fine ales and to my bemusement, some cracking looking spirits. The town is described as one that time forgot. Not surprising as 45 miles in this part of the world takes forever! (we drove by the way!!)

The town didn’t disappoint, it really is a beautiful place. A gorgeous highstreet with some fantastic looking boutique shops and of course a handful of pubs with Adnams ales flowing. Its safe to say that I had a couple…!

Southwold Beach

Strudel Southwold Beach

Strudel having fun in the sun on Southwold beach

Time was ticking and we had to make our way back ready for an evening feast, hopefully to be dished up with a pint of Suffolks finest.

So, did we enjoy our glamping experience? YES. Would we do it again? YES. Why? because of the following reasons:

  1. Comfort – much more pleasant sleeping on a mattress with a duvet
  2. Privacy – better soundproofing than a tent (you mucky lot, I know what you are thinking!) I mean its much more pleasant chatting in your pod knowing you can’t hear others and they can’t hear you
  3. Convenience – want a cup of tea? sure, pop the kettle on. Want to watch the morning news? sure, turn the TV on. Want to read at night? definitely, flick the light switch on
  4. Security – If you want to go anywhere, just lock the door. Would you seriously head off for a day (hours, whatever) and leave your tent unattended?

The whole packing up thing as well….seriously, we packed a few bags and within 10 mins the car was loaded and we was on our way. If we was camping, we would have been there ages, and be honest, how long does it take you to square everything away?

Glamping turned out to be a wonderful experience and wouldn’t hesitate but to encourage others to get out and try it. Strudel loved it!

Strudel Glamping

What went wrong in Iceland

Travel

A recount of our trip to Iceland in March 2013.

Emma and I decided Iceland would be our next weekend break. Its within a few hours flight from the UK and was a destination guaranteed to see the northern lights. In fact, we was told 2013 would be one of the better years for seeing this natural phenomenon.

Iceland isn’t a cheap weekend break (but where is these days!), its a place we was both looking forward to seeing something different. We booked this break through Iceland Air, which included a good quality hotel and more importantly secured our seats for our northern lights visual extravaganza.

We was staying in Iceland for 3 nights. The first night was essentially ours, where we would head in to Reykjavik centre for food and wine (my god! Alcohol was so expensive). The second night was our northern lights excursion and the third day was to be spent whale watching. There are so many other activities to do and we decided to fit them in and around these two main activities which had been pre-booked.

Day/Night One
Reykjavik is, simply, a cool place. Vibrant, energetic, artistic, adventurous, almost hippy-like (Scandinavian style!). We didn’t land until mid-afternoon so by the time we sorted ourselves out at the hotel, it was getting late so we headed straight in to town to check out the restaurants.

There definitely isn’t a shortage or places to eat but be warned they do get busy. If visiting for the first time, use your first day to look around and check out the restaurant menus. Its then worth trying to book a table otherwise you will run the risk of not being able to get a seat.

Iceland is famed for its menu of Puffin and Whale (amongst other oddities). If you want to try these then by all means. Look around first, as not every place serves these dishes. In fact, there is actually a high concentration of Icelandic people that disagree with the hunting of these animals. Anyway, choice is yours.

I won’t go in to too much detail, but our evening was lovely, great food, great wine, good restaurant (can’t remember the name of the place) and actually not so bad price.

We went back to the hotel for a nightcap and hit the sack ready for a day of exploring and deciding what to do.

Day/Night Two
As we sorted ourselves out for the day, we picked up some brochures and grabbed our phones and did a little research on fun things to do in Iceland. We had settled on exploring the inner City, get our bearings whilst there was light. Have some lunch then head back to the hotel, grab our swimming gear and head off to the blue lagoon for an afternoon of relaxation ahead of our evening pickup to chase the northern lights.

All was going well up to the point of trying to locate the bus station. The map pointed us up the road and was told we couldn’t miss it. Well, we did. Becoming frustrated and narky with one another, the heavens opened and absolutely p*ssed it down. There was only so long our water proofs held out. We turned around and went straight back to the hotel. Everything in my daypack was wet through. Everything from wallet, passport, camera…everything!

We grabbed a hot shower, got changed and sat in the hotel bar with a drink and had a little laugh about generally how inept and unlucky we are!

Time was fast approaching for our pickup and before we knew it, a reception staff member came over and advised us that the tour company have had to cancel the northern lights tour for the evening due to cloud cover. But (as if we should be highly thankful), they will try again the following evening.

Seeing as we paid upfront for this we thought we would scrap our plans for the last evening and try again.

Anyway, tomorrow is another day and whale watching here we come.

Day/Night Three
After several more drinks the previous night we woke with somewhat of heavy head. We sank a couple of cups of coffee, had some breakfast and grabbed our kit and made our way down to the docks to see some whales.

We kitted ourselves up and along with the many other eager visitors, went up on deck with our cameras ready to catch sight of these monsters of the sea.

Not Whale Watching

Not Whale Watching

P1000755

Three hours later, shivering, feeling a little queasy (Ill put it down to sea-sickness rather the previous nights alcohol!!), we had managed to see……NOTHING, nada, zilch!

P1000748

We really was getting the impression that Iceland was not meant for us.

We got back to dock, feeling a little dejected, hit the nearest bar for a beer! But, we still had the northern lights tour and fingers crossed tonight will be the night!

NOPE. Same thing as last time. Too cloudy. Oh, but they could fit us in the following evening. Unfortunately, this evening was our last so we’ll just have a refund and be on our “merry” way.

“Sorry Sir, there are no refunds!”

I won’t go in to what I then went on to say but in a nutshell, the fine print did state this. Crazy.

But hey, we did pick up a cheap bottle of vodka at the airport!!!

For the Love of…

Travel

It wasn’t all too long ago that Emma and I would browse the pages of the usual holiday booking sites, looking for our next summer break. The decision came down to price and guaranteed sun. Also having no children meant that we must avoid the kids summer holidays or watch the price of the holiday double and be the “weird ones” without kids.

These holidays usually took us to Turkey, Cyprus, Spain etc. The typical sun drenched spots that was within a few hours flight time (from UK) with unquestionable opportunity to get sun burn.

I don’t quite recall what the turning point was for us, but a few years back, as we was browsing the holiday web sites, we concluded that there was a lot of thought going in to what can only be described as the same holiday, year on year. The resort hotels are all basically the same, providing the same kind of service, nestled in to a beach, have a pool and one or two bars to grab your late morning beer! We both just wasn’t as excited about of our next holiday as we had been in previous years.

We decided we needed something more.

We headed to a travel specialist company that could help figure out, based on our very vague requirements, where we should holiday next. We decided it was to be the USA and with a lot of help we headed off on our mini-adventure to San Francisco, Las Vegas, Memphis and finishing in New York. Sure it cost us a lot more money than it would have done if we went back to Turkey but what a life changing experience.

It meant that as 9 to 5’ers we didn’t need to squeeze in a guaranteed suntan, we could actually get out and explore the world just that little bit more. We could experience something that many unfortunately never have the opportunity to do. Ultimately it meant doing something that had perspective for us, having no regrets and smiling, recounting the amazing journeys we have been on together.

Since our trip to the USA, we have been back several times and travelled to many other destinations around the world. Our stories have inspired friends to ditch the typical holiday package and challenge themselves during their limited time off work.

What has this all meant for us?

Well, it means we don’t have quite as much disposable income!! It means we get to experience many new things; cultures, cuisines, people, places every time we go away. It means we have something different to talk about with friends, it means we have life-experiences that challenge the norm, it means we do something we love with the ones we love – it helps if your partner has an interest in travel!

I suppose the point to this ramble is that if you have an interest in travel (or other things) try not let routine get in your way. Get out and challenge yourself and you will never have to tell the story of “I almost…..”.

Since our moment of life and travel contemplation, we have travelled to many countries and destinations. Some in our very own country and others many thousands of miles away. I can also say that since truly escaping the 9 to 5 (temporarily!) I have rekindled my love for photography, developed a keen interest in culture and history and spend more money on techie geeky stuff than I ever have! As Emma would say “2 out of 3 isn’t bad”.

As I say to my friends, its more interesting to listen when someone has something to say!

…..or maybe not if your are reading this blog!! 🙂

Whats next on the travel cards for us? We are glamping in July (our first wedding anniversary), coastal walks in September and looking to teach Emma (who has a terrible fear of the sea) to scuba dive!

Kick-Back to the Esquire

Tech

When travelling one of the things I love to do (even if its for just a moment or two) is sit on the balcony, stick some tunes on, have a beer and watch the world go by. There has always been one thing lacking in this ideology. Something decent to play my music!

Over the years I have generally bought some fairly cheap portable speakers and they haven’t lasted very long. Either by means of needing to change the batteries too often or the unit spends more time on charge than is capable of playing music. This time however I was adamant that I was to get something on our way to Indonesia and boy am I glad I did.

I picked up the Harman Kardon Esquire Mini. I had seen some reviews on this on my buildup to leaving for Indonesia and although the reviews were good, the price did initially put me off. Upon browsing the large electrical store (Dixons Travel I recall) in Heathrow T2 (since revamp, T2 is awesome (as terminals go!) btw!), I noticed the competition was either too bulky, didn’t look as good and just as expensive, if not more. Oh, and the store was running a promo so got £20 off the Esquire. Result!

Now, Im a sucker for sexy looking tech and I must always do my tech shopping on my own otherwise Emma makes me see sense! The Esquire Mini is no exception, this is one sleek looking bit of kit.

Esquire Mini

Harman Kardon Esquire Mini

The unit is about the size of an iPhone 6 (standard not the plus) but is a little thicker at about 20mm. Please don’t take my word for the dimensions, my statement is purely an observation. I have not measured it as can’t be bothered.

The Esquire Mini can pump out tunes by connecting a 3.5mm jack or by Bluetooth. The sound quality, in my view, is amazing. For something in such small form, I was amazed (and pleased as just shelled out my ‘hard’ earned cash). I am no audiophile, i just know what I like and damn this sounds good, and with 8 hrs battery life (reported not tested), this little beauty is destined to join me on many more travels.

Other than the fact you couldn’t get a battery charge indicator without pausing the music, the only thing that annoyed me is that Harman Kardon supply the speaker with a pointless leather wrist strap. In my view they would have been better supplying a pouch. Cloth, leather, don’t care, just something to protect it when out and about.

Other than this, the Esquire Mini, is great quality (build and form), great value and sound quality is brilliant. Couldn’t recommend this highly enough.

And…before I forget, the other cool thing is that if you are running out of juice on your phone, connect the charging cable to the USB port on the speaker and Bobs your Mother brother you have a portable charger too!

Birkenau Gates to Hell

Auschwitz & Birkenau

Travel

Auschwitz is a place that has long been on my list of places to visit. It was a place discussed during history lessons at school and a place that has long since fascinated me. Fascinated in the sense that I cannot comprehend what happened, why it happened.

I posted some pictures on our Twitter feed and it was a tweet back from the Auschwitz Museum that hit me. “created by people for other people which is an important warning”. I have gone through my life just thinking of these criminals as monsters, not human, just satans soldiers. But these really were people, people with their own families, yet people that inflicted such pain and suffering to so many people. That one statement just confuses me, confuses me in that if these were people, how can they commit such terror?

Gallows Rudolph Hoss

The gallows where Rudolph Hoss, the camps first commandant, was hanged in 1947. The chimney of the crematoria and gas chambers in the background.

On our way to Auschwitz (which is about an hours drive from Krakow), our guide played a video. The video was original footage of the liberation accompanied by interviews with the Soviet cameraman who filmed it. This is the video that you can watch when first entering Auschwitz. The footage was just horrific. There was moments that I had to turn away and look out the window to gather my thoughts. It was the most difficult thing I have ever had to watch.

On arriving in Auschwitz the silence was awkward. I have never seen so many visitors in one place be so quiet. It was surreal, an awakening I suppose to what we was about to experience.

Auschwitz is a museum and to an extent somewhat sanitised but I understand why. You will wonder around from block to block seeing some truly disturbing things. The experience keeping you just at arms length but close enough for emotions to run high. It was a disturbing experience, one filled with dread and anticipation, disappointment and horror.

Victims

The faces of prisoners hung on the walls of all blocks. The haunting eyes staring right through you.

Barbed Perimeter

Barbed wire surrounding the facility. Its only job, to keep the prisoners in.

Halt

Warning signs line the electrified perimeter of Auschwitz, where prisoners would attempt to throw themselves against it to escape their misery.

After a couple of hours in Auschwitz we decided to move on to Birkenau. It is only a few minutes drive down the road. We parked up and you are confronted with the main gate to Birkenau. As we walked through, my pace slowed and eyes wide open as I witnessed and understood for the first time the sheer scale of this place.

Birkenau Gates to Hell

The main gate to Birkenau. Where trains would enter carrying thousands of prisoners. Often taken direct from the train carriage to the gas chambers.

Birkenau was enormous. 425 acres capable of holding approximately one hundred thousand people at any one time. Our guide explained that the Nazis had in fact plans to expand the facility to hold upwards of a quarter of a million people. These numbers are just too huge to comprehend.

Many of the buildings had been destroyed by the Nazis. They did this shortly before the liberation in an attempt to hide their crimes. Many of the buildings however have survived. As we walked around, I found it difficult to contemplate my surroundings. We walked in to some of the buildings where people were held. It was just disgusting. You imagine the hundreds of people bundled in to each building where there is one burner (but prisoners had to forage for their own fuel; twigs etc) that would barely heat its immediate surroundings. Imagine that in a wooden building, no insulation in the depths of winter…

Block

Inside one of the blocks where hundreds of people huddled for survival.

These stables were converted to house upwards of 400 people

These stables were converted to house upwards of 400 people.

Line after line with hundreds of people per building.

Line after line with hundreds of people per building.

At the far end of Birkenau is the memorial. An obvious Soviet creation back in the sixties. The most poignant part for me is the cobbles. Supposedly one cobble for each of the 1.5 million people who died here.

1967 Auschwitz Birkenau memorial. Surrounded by 1.5 million cobbles.

1967 Auschwitz Birkenau memorial. Surrounded by 1.5 million cobbles.

I could write pages and pages and share many more photos. For me, this is enough, but I’m happy to try and answers any questions you may have.

I encourage everyone to visit this place.

Egyptian Nights

Travel

Egypt is one of those places that is on the bucket list of nearly everyone I know. The first time I visited Egypt I was immediately drawn in by the friendly, cheerful people. Everyone always seemed to wearing a big toothy smile. But more importantly for me (at the time) was the scuba diving. The Red Sea is just phenomenal. The wrecks, the fish species, the coral, the crystal clear waters. Amazing. I spent most days on a boat, diving at least twice a day. I spent more time out on the water (or under it) than on dry land. One day however was my first time I ventured in to the local town.

Egyptian Coast

It was late afternoon so it was still sunny and bright but not that uncomfortable sticky heat as it was during the day. I hopped in to one of the cabs hanging outside the hotel. The car wasn’t in the best condition but they all seemed that way so it didn’t raise too many concerns.

The cab jumped and kicked like a bucking bronco as it headed on its way. The road leading away from the hotel was a dusty trail, no tarmac and nothing more than a sand dune and camel in sight. Quite pleasant really.

We then hit the main highway in to town. What seemed to be a three lane highway (at best), seemingly and suddenly became a banger racing track. Five/six cars abreast jostling for position at speed. It was the most chaotic ballet of cars you could imagine. Horns honking in harmony, the odd gesture from the driver and I’m sure an Egyptian swear word or two. From start to finish I think I blinked once, didn’t move an inch and drew a single breath. It was an experience for sure.

Leaving the cab, placing my feet on firm ground and taking a wide eyed big deep breath I headed deeper in to the local town for some tea and haggling.

The sun had long since disappeared and after several hours of tasting the local delicacies it was time to head back. It wasn’t something I was overly looking forward to. I hopped in to a cab and showed the driver the hotels card. He nodded in acknowledgement and away we went. He pressed firmly on the accelerator and his beaten up car belted down the road. It wasn’t until we moved further away from the lights of the town I realised the driver didn’t have the headlights on. I thought that he maybe just forgot, we’ve all done that I thought. We continued at pace, street lights becoming fewer and fewer. The headlights still not on.  It wasn’t until I suddenly seen other cars heading our way that I realised they also didn’t have their lights on.

I took that long, slow deep breath accompanied by that sort of slow blink in acknowledgment that I should call my family and tell them I love them. I’m staring at the driver, clinching to anything in the car that isn’t rattling, glancing at the speedo realising that isn’t working either. I’m not religious but in that moment, I looked up and uttered the words, “please, God…”. I don’t think I’ve ever come closer to shitting myself.

We arrived back at the hotel and the driver turned and gave me a huge smile. All I could do was turn around and say “thank you” followed by a tip!!!

Needless to say, that Egyptian night is something I do not ever want to repeat but I have been back many more times, white-knuckled it through traffic and even used taxis after dark. See you again soon, Egypt.

External Battery Charger

Tech

Im sure you have seen plenty of reviews on external battery chargers, how they are essential to ones travels etc…. yep, YAWN! There are so many out there and are now so cheap that they are kinda disposable. Ok, ok, overdoing it somewhat! A good external battery charger is not so cheap and to some extent you get what you pay for. For most persons like me, I will use it once in a while to top up my iPad on a long haul flight, or keep my iPhone charged during those heavy photo snapping sessions. I have owned several external battery chargers and would love to say how they have got me out of sticky situations, survived a drop from the Empire State and is the must have item in my travel kit list. Nope. For me, they are just handy to have, not essential. However…

Having a good external battery charger is worth it. They come in different shapes and sizes so knowing what you want out of it is key. For me, my requirements was that it must be durable (Im a clumsy git), have two ports, be able to get a couple full charges out of it and not be too expensive.

I settled on the Zendure A3. Its durable, looks pretty cool and I got it at a great price from Amazon.

Zendure A3 Zendure A3

Ive used this several times and it does exactly what it should. What makes this different from others? Well, its shiny…

The Zendure A series is a great product, it is durable (survived a number of my clumsy moments) and its not a bad price. Would I chose this over my Mophie? Yes, because the Mophie is a battery wrapped in a pretty bow. One scratch and it just doesn’t look cool anymore. The Zendure is designed to be beaten up, scuffed, dented. Its ruggedness exudes a willingness to travel in hardship [although Im not…but its not about me!].

If you are in the market for an external battery to accompany you on your travels then I highly recommend the Zendure A-Series.

Im writing about a bloody battery….!!

Reflections

Travel

Its always interesting (to me anyway!) to have something visual to represent your (in this case) travels. Below is a map of countries I have visited these last few years. Looking through my Tripit log I can see in excess of 100 seperate trips and 50+ different cities. If only I captured something on these trips…some I can hardly remember!

Andrew’s Travel Map

Andrew has been to: Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Cuba, Cyprus, Germany, Egypt, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Guernsey, Greece, Indonesia, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Morocco, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Thailand, Turkey, United States, Vatican.
Get your own travel map from Matador Network.

Moving forward and now travelling for OUR own enjoyment, we are looking for something tangible, something we can enjoy sharing with guests. I have been looking for a World Map Pinboard. Something like this from notonthehighstreet.com. We are yet to find something that we would be happy hanging on a wall in our home. Any suggestions welcome.

The reason I set this site up was to capture our travels and have something to look back on. For our own enjoyment and benefit above anything else. But despite me being a tech geek, I do like to have something physical to look at, to touch, to interact with. May be Im not such a geek after all? [as I say aloud, the wife looks up and laughs. Bless, she says!]