Tag Archives: travel

Where to next?

My wife Emma is forever telling me I'm annoying! This, and trust me, is for many reasons. But, for all my faults, she sticks with me! But, the one thing that does annoy her is my constant wanting/need to book another trip, sometimes a year in advance and quite often before we have been on the numerous other trips we have booked.

Every year, and I've said this before, we tend to have a long(er) holiday, often long-haul and more than likely just cost us a pretty penny! So having just returned from a trip to Marrakech, I sat down and out of the blue just asked if we should go to Japan next year…or Canada…or Cambodia…or…

Emmas face firmly planted in to the palms of her hands!! “Can we get the next couple holidays out of the way first?!“, she said. I was quickly shot down when I suggested a long weekend to Jordan…or Israel…or…!!

Well, this is my problem. We have had a great time in Marrakech, and have South Africa tour in a few months, followed by couple trips to Italy (with one of them taking in the sites and sounds of the Monza Formula 1 Grand Prix!).

We both work very hard and don't get me wrong, it sounds as though we are minted. Trust me, we have our debts, our luxuries and usual day to day BS. We just like to put some cash away specifically for holidays. The problem is (my problem) is that I just want to do as much as possible in a very short space of time!

Quit your job I hear you shout….well, that's just not me or us. We both love our home comforts. It's just great to experience as many pleasures this world has to offer before it's too late.

Am I the only one like this?

Marrakech – what better way to see it than run around it!

We have just returned from Marrakech having spent 4 days and nights. We went to Marrakech with friends with the purpose of doing the Marrakech half-marathon – the annual event where circa 7000 people descend on this city with their trainers ready to hit the tarmac (and avoid pot-holes – which I quickly learnt to keep an eye out for!).

Marrakech is one of those places where I have always wanted to go to but will find excuses to not. Whether that is because there are other places I want to go to first, I don’t know, but it always seemed to slip out of my grasp. However, this year, we had paid and secured our position in the 27th annual Marrakech Marathon (half).

The marathon was held on Sunday 31st Jan, one day after our arrival. The anxious breakfast followed but the healthy walk to the start quickly widened our view to what we have signed up for! Nevertheless, it was something none of us had done before and one of those kinda goals in life. We wasn’t in it to break records but finish with a smile on our face. And finish we did (not sure about the smile!). No blistering times but at least the efforts put in over the winter seemed to pay off. Some aches and groans ensued but otherwise we was all good.

Our post race recovery included pizza and beer. Yes, even in a Muslim country you can find establishments that serve beer! It was whilst we was supping back our second beer (or it may have been our 4th or 5th!), we met a chap who had travelled out to Marrakech on his own for the sole purpose of competing in the Marathon.
Now this guy, as it turned out, was actually quite the “enthusiast”. He trained many days a week and can comfortably do a sub 3 hr marathon. Basically, in a completely different league to us! But, we had some interesting conversations.
We both didn’t “like” running, we did it to help battle the bulge! But the more you do it, the more it becomes second nature. I was learning this in my fledgling running years. What he said to me was that running helped him explore the world he has longed to see. He has competed in Siberian, holy (Jerusalem), North-American etc marathons. This rang true. Why else would I be here? I have wanted to visit but other places, other things, got in my way. Participating (competing sounds too competent for me!) in the Marrakech half-marathon has enabled us to see a part of the world we perhaps wouldn’t have done had we not donned those trainers.
So where to next…??

 

Marrakech Here We Come

So, not sure if I’ve mentioned but Emma and I are doing our first half-marathon this coming weekend (31st Jan ’16) in Marrakech…yay!!! YAY!!! – I almost sound excited!!

We are going with some friends of ours who last September asked if we would be interested in doing the half-marathon with them. Sure, I said, why not?? Sounds like a great idea. I have wanted to go to Marrakech for a long time. Well, after having knee surgery in 2014 (cartilage removed) and then compound-fracture of my big toe in summer 2015, I thought what better way to kick-start 2016 but to dust off my trainers, grease my aching joints and get my lazy backside up and out!!! [*cough* – I’m an idiot]

Emma had been running for quite a while but me on the other hand have done absolutely nothing since my knee op. Truth be told, quite glad about that too…So I have zero idea what made me think that a few months training, heading in to the crappiest part of the year for weather was a great idea. >> Fast Forward a few months…

With less than a week to go I can say that Emma and I are feeling confident but with a hint of nervousness, if that makes any sense!!? We have over the last few months got ourselves out running in the wind and rain, whether that be for a 5K, 10K or 15K. Sure, I could have done more (drank less, eaten less etc), but I’m comfortable. I’m not aiming to smash any records. In fact, our aim as a group is to stick together, run at the pace of the slowest and just finish it it one piece. [Anyone would think we was heading off to war..]

par1

 

On Saturday Morning we catch our flight to Marrakech. We have a day of getting our bearings (although I’ve heard that’s very difficult in the Medina?), then race day on the Sunday. We then have a few days of exploring before catching a return flight back to the UK.

I will certainly be sure to post our thoughts and experiences when we return. In the meantime, if you have any recommendations and tips for our trip then please share.

Homeland

It was an unusual feeling but in November 2015 I seen my grandmother for the first time in approximately 10 years. There is no particular reason for not seeing her for so long. Life I suppose, in some unfortunate and selfish turn of events. I cant even use the fact she lives in Germany as an excuse – its only an hours flight away!

My wife and I took my mum too. She also hasnt seen her mum for 10 years. Truth be told, the last time we seen my grandmother was when she had settled in to a new care facility following a harsh stroke that forced her out of her home and in to long term care. Her husband, my grandfather, had died about a year before following many health deteriorating years. This was a direct result of the lifestyle he led Im sure. The disappointing part of all this was that my grandmother was just getting her life back after spending many years looking after her husband, that she too, unexpectedly, suffered the same fate as her husband. A major stroke closed the door on so many more able-bodied years and placed her in to a lifetime of care.

Over the first few years, we all kept in touch, but then somehow it all stopped without explanation. In this time, we understood my grandmother to not be in great shape. Whether this is just age related or consequence of her condition, who knows…

We had booked ourselves on to a early flight to Dusseldorf, a city we hadn’t visited before and a city I actually had no intentions of visiting. Not sure why, I suppose there are so many other places I would prefer to go to first. As it transpired, I was so glad we decided to spend our first night in Dusseldorf before driving to see my grandmother. The city really is the cosmopolitan stylish city I wasnt expecting. Lots of shops (too high end for me!), restaurants and bars, flash supercars around every corner. It really was quite the surprise.

The other added bonus was that it was the first weekend of the Christmas markets and no better place to buy a currywurst and a beer. That brought back some memories.

Well, the next day was all about my grandmother. We took off mid-morning and headed up the autobahn to a town I spent much of my childhood. As we got closer it was bringing back so many memories and I certainly arrived with a smile on my face.

Before we went to the care home, we went to my mums sisters (my aunt!) house. She lives close to the care home and was taking us there for our “introduction”.

When we arrived at the care home, I could see the face of my grandmother peering over a communal dining table. I could see she was looking at us quizzically and could understand why – 10 years is a long time.

As we approached, I called to my Oma (German for grandma), she looked up through her thick glasses with a wry smile opened her arms in readiness for a bug hug. A flood of memories and emotions washed over me, it was without doubt a homecoming.

Before we had arrived my aunt had told us of my grandmothers state of mind. In short, she is easily confused. She doesnt recall being told her youngest grandson (my baby brother) had died and after 10 mins of reuniting with her she didnt recognise me and only acknowledged her grandson Andrew as the person in the pictures hanging on her wall.

We left that day having seen the woman we loved very much. She was (is) the most amazing grandmother ever. But we left with a deep heart as we only seen glimpses of the woman we remember. She is someone her deserves better.

So whilst I/we achieved something, I left with disappointment and some guilt. I could have gone to see my grandmother sooner, I could have seen her when she was perhaps a little more “with it”. I could have perhaps seen more of the woman I grew up with, my Oma.

If there is something to be learnt it is this; dont put things on hold, thinking it will be ok until next week, next month, next year. Before you know it, you are 10 years down the line. Do it now, whatever it is. Tomorrow may never come.

 

 

Vegas Baby!

Vegas is, simply, an awesome place that every person must visit at least once.

For us, we went twice within 18 months because we loved it that much. With Christmas fast approaching (yes, I know, I said it….), its time to get your festive travels planned.

The last time we went was over New Years Eve 2013. We had no idea what to expect for this time of year, but it certainly didnt disappoint. Without rambling, I thought I’d show you what is was like down on the strip. Enjoy…

Measured by Food

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

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!