The joy of city breaks

There’s something special about a quick city break, it’s a particular type of travel experience which brings its own style of satisfaction and stimulation, often enhanced by the very fact that you have limited time in which to cram the experiences. We are off to Geneva this weekend with the familiar format of a two-night, three-day stay, flying in early Saturday morning and back home Monday evening.

Precious few cities have failed to excite us, everywhere has something to offer, and for us there are definite highlights to aim for. Of course, you have to see each city’s major sights, but we try and throw in a few oddball ones too, if they’re there to be found; we will take in, perhaps, a bustling market, or a climb to a rooftop view; plus, always, try to seek out lively bars and restaurants where we can soak up the city culture. Familiarising ourselves with the transport systems is all part of it, as are seeking out neighbourhoods with a different feel, eating anything which is a local speciality, learning the city’s history. We love the feeling of strange surroundings becoming familiar in a short space of time: isn’t it funny how quickly that happens.

Switzerland will be our 30th country visited together; and for Phil, Geneva will be the 73rd great city of the World, and that doesn’t count any at home in the UK. All things being equal, we’ll be there in time for Saturday breakfast, and so the next adventure will begin.

Here’s some shots from some previous city breaks

St Petersburg, Russia
Riga, Latvia
Venice, Italy
Brussels, Belgium
Krakow, Poland

Kent coast 27/10/18

Less than a week after commenting on the warm October, autumn sweeps in with cold nights and a biting northerly wind blowing in off the sea. With guests for the weekend including our two young nieces aged 6 and 4, we take some bracing walks by the sea, along Herne Bay seafront and on to the pier, and then along the front around Minnis Bay, buffeted all day by the cold winds straight off the lively seas. The sea itself is much choppier than normal, crashing waves where the water normally does no more than lap gently on to the shore, and though it stays dry all day and there is some sun, the temperatures have dropped a long way from last weekend and the wind chill factor must be several degrees. We think the correct word is probably “bracing”.

It’s one of those days that blows the cobwebs away and makes you feel invigorated; it’s also one of those days which reminds you that our stretch of coastline faces due North.

Geneva time….nearly

It’s just over a week now until our next trip, a quick city break in Geneva, out on the Saturday morning and back Monday night, so we’re in the midst of planning this next adventure. Geneva is a city we’ve wanted to visit for a long time and we’re looking forward big time to exploring the lake shores, the old city, and all that Geneva has to offer. It’s a “hand luggage only” trip, travelling as light as possible, though with our wallets prepared for a battering as Geneva is listed as the fourth most expensive city in the world.

City breaks have an excitement all of their own; exploring the World’s great cities is one of life’s most stimulating experiences and we’re not sure we’ll ever tire of it. We certainly hope not, and Geneva promises to be a great one.

Kent countryside walk 21/10/18

Needing to keep ourselves in good shape for the planned trips, we opt today for a ramble in the lovely Kent countryside around the pretty little villages of Ringlestone and Harrietsham. Well that’s one reason, though the main one really is the continued terrific weather.

England’s autumn continues to hold back and the unseasonably warm weather goes on; today is wall to wall sunshine, gorgeous blue skies and temperatures at 20 degrees, all in late October. There is real warmth in the sun, the leaves are still predominantly green as autumn colours delay, the buzz of insects fills the air almost like a summer’s day. The corner of one field has stray rapeseed plants and cornflowers, both implausibly in full bloom as they enjoy what we presume is a second flowering season. The cornflowers are alive with bees, busy pollenating, all so unusual for the time of year.

The walk is therefore lovely, it’s dry underfoot and the clear day presents wonderful views across Kent’s rolling countryside. On a day as lovely as today we need to see the sea too, so we take a quick beer at The Ship on Herne Bay seafront before we return home. A great walk; a beer by the sea; home for a venison dinner. Our kind of day.

And there’s more…

So this autumn Sunday sees some more flights booked, some more adventures in the diary, excitement building as our travel dreams continue. The diary looks like this now…

November – a weekend in Geneva

December – 3 weeks in Mexico, including Christmas Day in Puerto Escondido and New Year’s Eve in Oaxaca city.

February – a weekend in Budapest

April – 10 days in Jordan

June – 10 days in Puglia, including the other worldly city of Matera.

Not quite living the dream yet, but we’re moving closer….

Climate change?

On a trip to a Kent vineyard last year, we learnt that one of the effects of global warming is that the warmer climate is creeping Northwards at a rate of several kilometres per year, one of the effects of which is that the South East of England now has precisely the climate of the Champagne region of the 1960s. No wonder English wines have a burgeoning reputation! Tenterden is the new Rheims; Chapel Down is the new Moët. This year’s wet spring and hot dry summer has reportedly yielded a grape harvest beyond the English growers’ dreams.

And after this oh so unusual long hot English summer, autumn is dragging its feet with its arrival and unseasonably warm weather continues. Last night, in mid October for goodness sake, we took an outside table at our favourite Turkish restaurant (A La Turka, Herne Bay), and sat in shirt sleeves on the seafront all evening. Unheard of, but we’ll take it.

What to bring home

We doubt anyone could fail to spot that our house is the home of people who love to travel, the clues are pretty obvious. It also means we are constantly surrounded by reminders of wonderful places, fabulous trips. The stuff we bring to our home kind of falls into the following categories:-

House things. Walls and shelves have plenty: a lizard from Lipari, ironwork from the Baltics; elephants from Sri Lanka; a blowpipe; Massai warriors; Moroccan lamps; Turkish light fittings; blankets, throws, tapestries on walls; Greek pottery; there’s quite a lot.

Charm bracelet. Michaela buys gold. Small charms, almost always the classic symbol of where we’ve been, to attach to the bracelet (there’s two now), creating a great set of travel mementos.

Christmas tree. Our tree is a bit offbeat, given that we seek out cheap and quirky equivalents of the gold charms. This may be a similar symbol, something relevant to the destination, a symbol of the country or city, small and lightweight enough to hang from the branches of our Christmas tree, which to a large degree now has precious little to do with Christmas.

Music. With Shazam’s help, we bring home music from locations; but this is music we don’t previously know, either traditional (India, North Africa), or something we heard in bars (Zanzibar, Paris). Doesn’t half enhance the playlists..

Food. Of course! Readers of the blog will know we love discovering and enjoying local cuisine wherever we go, the more esoteric the better. Write down the name, Google the recipe, re-create the dish at home. This is one of life’s true pleasures.

And one way or another, life, and our home, fills with memories and reminders of wonderful places and experiences.