Travel Review of 2018

Puerto Tazacorte on La Palma in the Canary Islands
Puerto Tazacorte

The year wasn’t without its complications and we had some disruption to travel plans, but managed to rescue the year pretty well in the circumstances. We suffered two bereavements during the year; in June Phil’s Dad died, then at the end of November, Michaela’s Nan passed away. Both of them had helped shape our love of travel: see Michaela’s story and Phil’s story.

Despite these sad losses causing one cancellation, and one delay, of holidays, it was still a pretty spectacular year, and one which has further fuelled our appetite for retiring, giving up the day job, loading the backpacks and going off to see the world. It’s going to happen, soon.

England wise, we had stays in Thame, Oxfordshire: a terrific little town with a great selection of pubs, but a weekend spoilt by the incessant rain; two walking weekends in Phil’s Derbyshire homeland; two weekends in Padstow, and visits to London and Birmingham. Padstow is a place very close to our heart, and one we are very familiar with.

March saw a terrific break in La Palma in the Canary Islands, in a terrific little place called Puerto Tazacorte. This was a backpacking trip, something we always love, nothing booked but the flights. Puglia was booked for June but was the trip which suffered cancellation, though we have now resurrected the plan for 2019.

Next up then was a fabulous trip to Asia, taking in Kuala Lumpur, Jungle trekking in Malaysia, the paradise island of Tioman, and the thrilling experience of seeing Singapore for the first time. All of it was brilliant, but Singapore in particular is unfinished business.

Our only foreign city break this year was Geneva, in November.

We finished the year in Mexico, partly in Oaxaca and partly in Puerto Escondido, both truly wonderful destinations in their own right, but with a foodie experience well worthy of the title of our blog! Mexico overlapped into 2019, so we’re up and running.

So what’s in store in 2019 now? Well, there’s a Budapest weekend; a 10-day trip to Jordan, and the resurrected Puglia trip already on the calendar, but there’ll be plenty more, plus, all things being equal, this might just be our last year at work before that travelling dream becomes reality.

Birmingham City Gas Street Basin barges and pubs

Birmingham City
Padstow Harbour Cornwall seagulls and fishing boats
Padstow Harbour
Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur
Tioman Island beach shack Malaysia South China Sea
Tioman Island
Oaxaca Mexico, churches & buildings
Oaxaca Mexico

Oaxaca city guide – Part 2

Oaxaca Mexico street

Please re-read our last post, the 2-minute guide to Oaxaca; we accidentally posted the unfinished version, it now reads as it was meant to! How much do you love unravelling the challenge of using public transport in an unfamiliar place!? It’s not only a stimulating part of settling in, but it’s also one of those things which brings you closer to the local culture. We had a good fix of it today – it’s on Day 21 of Mexico, which you’ll find in The Americas section.

How to get around in Puerto Escondido. Posted 22/12/18

Puerto Escondido is without doubt the easiest place on Earth to get a taxi. Taxis seem to number about a third of all cars here, there’s nearly as many taxis as there are people. Anywhere in or around town, and even on remote roads out of the centre, all you have to do is stand at the side of the road and look at the passing cars. The driver will notice you and pull over. Any destination within the confines of the town is 40 pesos per journey, and there’s about 25 pesos to the English pound. It’s easier and more stress free than taxis anywhere else on a Earth. This is just as well, because….

Sometimes taxis feel a bit of a cop out, you should be walking the streets to discover the city’s hidden gems, but, in Puerto Escondido, there are pitfalls to navigation by walking, thus:-

– Most town maps are stylised and only give a rough, and often inaccurate, detail of where to find something. These maps have somehow found their way on to “official” publications, and even on to the internet, and things like hotels, the church, restaurants, and even our apartment, are shown in a completely wrong location.

– Streets change name along their route.

– Although the town is largely built in square blocks, sometimes the name of a street will follow, say, a left turn, and the road ahead will bear a different name.

– Streets cross the main highway and retain their name, but the crossing is not always in a straight line, so the road straight ahead is the wrong one, the one bearing right is the same street.

– The locals have their own name for certain streets, and don’t call the street by its official name. For example, the central street, the adoquin, isn’t really called the adoquin, it’s the Avenida Perez Ganga, but if you ask for directions to Perez Ganga, you’ll be sent to the other half of that road, which is the “wrong” side of the highway, and potentially a hefty walk from the adoquin.

– It’s hot and it’s hilly!

So all in all, the taxis win hands down. Where else can you stand on a dark road and just wait, knowing that, probably, the next set of headlights will be a taxi, and the driver will be looking for you. And then charge you less than two quid. It’s so much easier.

Mexico – the journey so far 15/12

England’s winter is arriving. The drive to Heathrow is in temperatures ranging between 2 and 4 degrees, the freezing rain falls, snow is falling in the North. It’s cold, we’re in T shirts. Bag drop and security at Heathrow is slow and we’re glad we’re early; now as we sit here there are some flight delays through bad weather, including ours. Currently our flight is delayed by 40 minutes, not enough to make us panic just yet, but with a 3-flight voyage we don’t need complications. This first flight is only as far as Amsterdam, then it’s on to Mexico overnight, swapping this cold grey winter weather for warm Mexican sunshine. We’re ready. Our backpacks are ready. We’re on the starting blocks.

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