Lying on the beach watching this wondering woman. I can’t help but be intrigued by the fact that she seems completely comfortable in her own skin. Lonely, but comfortable.
I guess all of us are wondering souls in search of our own adventure. An adventure out of our norm, where we challenge and push our own boundaries, in turn creating excitement and uncertainty for what’s to come.
My best experiences while traveling the world are those where I don’t plan, I swim out to sea not thinking about the consequences or the fear of being eaten alive by the unknown. Without fail these are the best moments of my life -memorable experiences come the moment u are not living with fear. Fear of getting hurt, fear of failing, fear of getting lost, fear of loving: FEAR. A demon that enters u, and robs you of all the simple and pleasurable things that life has to offer u.
Through these experiences, I have learned u only fear the unknown. If u have been lost before and found your way, I don’t fear being lost again. If you have fallen down and grazed your knee, u don’t fear grazing them again. At least I don’t.
But some people do, and those are the ones I find myself dating. Guys who have been battered and bruised and closed off from fear of further pain. I have always been a nurturer, and a caregiver, possibility because I can acknowledge a person deep seeded pain and potential for growth for I have seen both in me. Perhaps I get lost in fixing people as I have fixed myself, and tend to get stuck in the wrong relationships and in love with potential. Perhaps my purpose in these is to challenge mindsets, lead by example, and develop individual potential. Or perhaps they happen for me to acknowledge that through these experiences I lose sight of my own potential, my own standards, my own direction, and my wants for my future.
In the past, I settled; hoping that one day the person can reach their own potential as I see in them. Truth is it will never happen. It’s an individual journey, that only that person can ride if they are willing to. If they can swim out to sea and not fear the unknown. To find themselves in those moments of complete solitude.
For me; finding peace in this is a challenge, and accepting that someone else’s brokenness can result in your brokenness. After many failed relationships of not understanding this, this is what I had become – broken. Fear-driven- battered and bruised, closed off by the fear of future pain.
But like all great travelers it’s sort of lived and instead of staying in your pool, u swim out back into the ocean all alone and welcome all the new adventures.
Was the wondering woman wondering because she was alone, or was it her moment to reflect and redirect before taking her next leap?
Prior to the most exciting trip of my lifetime, the South African rand dropped drastically, and my life’s savings went from abundance to not much at all. Daunted by one of the world’s most expensive countries – I frantically searched the net for alternatives for all my travel arrangements. Luckily for me, a week prior I had not booked a thing, despite my month’s worth of planning that had gone into this trip. Tour Prices were hellishly expensive and on average R2500 – R5000 per day to get in a decent amount of activities. I did not have this kind of money on hand.
I gave up quickly looking for alternatives when the net (for the first) served me little purpose. Information for all these remote locations I planned to visit wasn’t readily available and bus routes to these locations were closed off during these extreme winter months. I realized at that moment how untouched this spectacular place was, and I felt both nervous and excited to explore it.
So, I decided to wing it and crossed the seas with this mindset – “If you don’t know where you going – any road will get you there”. 46 countries of Sola traveling down, this should be a piece of cake.
Hiking trails in Portugal, Switzerland, and Luxembourg
There’s nothing like getting out and getting some fresh air on a gorgeous hike. No matter if your idea of a hike is a leisurely stroll along the shores of a picturesque lake or climbing the highest mountain in Switzerland, we’ve got you covered. Below are some of our favorite hikes around three countries in Europe.
The region experiences rainfall for 130 days a year, attributed to its lush vegetation in all shades of green and rich flora and fauna. Similarly, water characterizes the region, so you can appreciate its many cascading waterfalls, rivers, small lakes, and natural swimming pools.
The landscapes are breathtaking, flaunting rolling hills, oak woodlands, and deep valleys. The wildlife epidemic in the region is Roebuck, the Park’s symbolic animal, the Iberian wolf, deer, golden eagles, bears, and otters. Wild horses can also be found roaming the region’s mountainscapes.
Hiking in this region is unique in that a few of the trails intercept with some of the country’s oldest villages built on deep granite blocks. Villages where the life of traditional Portuguese inhabitants has been frozen in time. Most of which, have preserved their ancient values and agricultural practices.
One such village that will dazzle you with its authenticity and beauty is Soajo. Here you can see an impressive group of twenty-four stone espigueiros (granaries) dotting its rugged landscapes. These date back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and were traditionally used to store maize and corn which is abundant in the region.
You can get an “Adventure Map” of the park at the Parque de Cerdeira campsite or at the tourist office Geres. Many of the trails are also listed on the Wikiloc app.
Many of these trails boast impressive sceneries, from Roman trails to multilayered waterfalls to Stonehenge-like formations. As a matter of fact, Lonely Planet devotes ten whole pages to this.
Here are a few of our favorites.
The Megalithic Tombs trail is a must! It starts at the village of Rodeiro a few kilometers from Castro Laboreiro and is approximately 15km long. These group of tombs were constructed 5000 years BC and are impressive. They are situated on a range of high rolling hills and some even boast cave paintings.
Geira Roman Road
Following the Geira Roman Road is a beautiful way to see the Peneda Geres National Park. This ancient road ran for 300km between the Roman cities of Braga in Portugal, and Astorga in Spain.
Most of the trail is marked by glass boards reflecting memorial sites every Roman mile and takes you through beautiful oak woods along the paving slabs left by the Romans. The signposted infrastructure only runs as far as the Spanish border so be careful not to get lost after this point.
If you would like to do only a section of the Geira Roman road, the circular hike – Pequena Rota 9 caters to this. You can access more information in English here.
The PR 14
The PR 14 route is a 13-kilometer circular route that starts and ends in Ermida. Highlights of this trail include one of Portugal’s most impressive waterfalls; the Cascata do Arado and the impressive Stone Age rock formations. You can also experience striking mountain views and natural pools along the way.
Portela do Homem
This trail is relatively difficult to walk as you will be crossing over boulders for the most part of the journey. It is impossible to get lost: the trail follows the river Homem and does not have any side trails.
Highlights of this hike are the ruins of the old abandoned mines of Carris and the lake of Carris.
Switzerland, as you can imagine, is a hiker’s paradise!
Granted, most of the hikes have some serious inclines that require more effort and physical fitness, but they are some of the most beautiful in the world.
What’s more, is that you are not spoilt for choice. There are tons of signposted trails to choose from spanning over 65 000km.
Here, we’ve brought together the best places for immediate-level hikes, most of which cover a wide range of themes; from picturesque lakes to the famed mountain peaks of Zermatt.
Iseltwald to Giessbach – Lakes and Waterfalls
This 9km odd hiking trail takes you from Iseltwald to Giessbach and is suitable for all skill levels. You will love this one, not only because it is considered Switzerland’s most beautiful riverside path, but also because it has no great differences in altitude, and follows a path along the shores of Lake Brienz.
You will pass by mighty rock formations and have splendid vantage points and shady forests before arriving at the impressive Giessbach waterfall.
Just like most trails in Switzerland, getting to the starting point requires a little bit of effort and a few means of transport. It is best to start at the Iseltwald ferry terminal where you will take a Ferry to Seeblick. From here you will walk for about 5,7km through Grillplatz, before arriving at Bootsanleger Giessbach where you will catch a funicular to the Grand Hotel.
Insiders Tip: Once you arrive at the waterfall, follow the signboards for route 9. This spectacular route passes behind the waterfall which you can’t afford to miss.
Alpbach MIB loop to Reichenbachfallbahn
The Aareschlucht Loop is a 10km trail and will take you through the Haslital Valley in the central Alps. The flat valley floor of the lower Haslital is separated from the upper valley by an impressive transverse rock formation that has been eroded away through the course of the millennia.
It is simply breathtaking and the size of the gorge will amaze you. It is 1400 meters long and up to 200 meters deep.
The paths, bridges, and tunnels in the gorge have made it accessible for over 100 years and can be effortlessly hiked on foot.
Zermatt – Mountain Peaks and Lakes
The resort town of Zermatt has been dubbed the ski capital of the world, but its hiking trails are something to be desired as well. It’s a world on its own, and a haven for mountain lovers. There are 400 km worth of trails that you can choose from that spans the 38 4000meter high mountain peaks.
The local tourism board has a few resources available that will allow you to customize your own hiking experience. Firstly, you mark out your starting point on the map, secondly, the point you would like to end. The route planner then automatically works out the route for you along the path network. What’s more is that they have an “On the way “ mobile app, that will help you with your navigation.
Here are a few hikes worth considering:
This 6,2km trail is a really special one for rejuvenating your mind and soul and will take you one hour and forty minutes to complete. You will love this for its forest filled with ancient Swiss stone pine trees, and sweeping landscape views that extend all the way to Matterhorn as well as many other views of 4,000-metre peaks.
The varied trail called the 5-Seenweg takes you to 5 mountain lakes whereby Matterhorn is perfectly reflected in three of them. The trail is 9,3km and should take you two and a half hours to complete. You will love this one because each of the covered lakes (Stellisee, Grindjisee, Grünsee, Moosjisee, and Leisee) are distinctly different in terms of shape, color, character, and size.
The Breithorn trail covers a distance of 5,4km and will take you, depending on your fitness level, three and a half hours to complete. Climbing any mountain is difficult, but the local tourism board refers to this one as one of the easiest climbing routes for a four-thousand-meter glacier mountain crest.
Despite it being “easier” they do still recommend that only experienced mountain hikers do it, along with a mountain guide.
Insiders Tip: Get your hands on the Peak Pass. This will give you unlimited travel on all of the mountain lifts that will take you to the highest points in the Alps up to 3,883m, as well as all the buses in Zermatt.
Information about the hiking area can be found here on the Zermatt Tourism website. For hours of operation and information about the mountain lifts, you can click here.
Luxembourg – Mullerthal Trail
If you love hiking through forests that have hidden gems like unique rock formations once buried under the sea, then hiking Luxembourg’s Mullerthal Region will be an unforgettable experience for you.
These lesser-known European long-distance range of hiking trails lie on the border of both Luxembourg and Germany.
Locals like to refer to this region as the “Little Switzerland” for its impressive canyon and gorges, primeval forests, bizarre rock formations, and picturesque streams.
At the beginning of 2014, the Mullerthal Trail received the label “Leading Quality Trails – Best of Europe” which has since captured the hearts of hiking enthusiasts.
There are three main trails spanning over 112km and are divided into three main routes. (Route 1, Route 2, Route 3). What’s nice about hiking here, is that you can pick up the trail just about anywhere in the region, and can walk smaller sections of it at any given time.
Route 1 & 2 shows the typical landscape of the area covering the spectacular rock formations (our favorites), as well as forests and pastures. Route 3 is all about romantic castles and many stream-filled valleys.
In addition, all three of these trails cover the cultural highlights of the region.
You can get your hands on the walking maps, available for purchase at the main tourist centers and at your accommodation.
Let’s explore a few of the highlights of the region.
Echternach – Berdorf
This E1 trail is dubbed as an expert hiker trail, however, our “not so fit” insiders hiked this effortlessly. The trail is 11,7km in length and will take you 4 hours to complete.
You will love this trail for its many hidden gems that are waiting for you to experience.
The Wolves Canyon called the “Gorge Du Loup” will definitely not disappoint you. It was formed by a split in a huge rock which you can walk through. Wolves were known once to be hiding beneath the rocks, giving way to their name.
The “Hohllay” and the amphitheater is something special too. From the Middle Ages until the 19th century, the millstones for the numerous mills in the region were cut from these impressive caves, leaving traces and bizarre patterns on the rocks.
Beaufort – B1
The Beaufort B1 10km trail starts at the idyllic Beaufort Castle and takes you through some romantic brooks and other rock formations. The views are spectacular.
The castle, now a ruin, is spectacular to see. Similarly, the Saueruecht Forest offers incredible viewpoints of the Sûre Valley.
Whilst, it is not a very grand waterfall, the scene is very picturesque and makes for a popular excursion. A lovely stone bridge crosses over the Black Ernz River and is surrounded by impressive rock formations.
Insider’s tip: When exploring the region, it is a good idea to base yourself in Echternach as Routes 1 & 2 pass through this town. What’s more, is that The Youth Hostel in the area has its own set of hiking trails you can follow that is well marked with signboards featuring its international logo.
Envious of all her Facebook posts of all the amazing places she had visited, I felt inspired to hop on a plane to explore these places with her.
The Melissani Lake was one of those natural wonders that she raved about, and I can see why.
This lacustrine cave of unique beauty is surrounded by forests on the outside, and on the inside, you can find a hole in the top of the cave that when the sun shines through illuminates the crystal-clear turquoise waters of the lake. If you visit the cave at midday when it is sunny you will notice that the sun lights up the cave with blue light which is just fascinating to see.
The lake water is brackish, a mixture of seawater and sweet water. The cave is about 500m from the sea, and the water level is a meter higher than the sea level, and the brackish water rises from a 30m deep cave system on one side of the cave and flows silently to the other end of the cave, flowing through narrow crevices into the sea. The water is so clear that the boats you explore it on seem like they are floating in the air.
This picture doesn’t do it much justice. It’s one of those places that look better when you see it!
Join me on a tranquil retreat to South Africa’s very own Sacramento. A place of unspoiled settings, attractive seascapes, and diverse landscapes that leaves you feeling like you just came back from northern Ireland.
The circular trail starts at the bronze cannon at Schoenmakerskop, which points towards the Sacramento, a Portuguese galleon that was wrecked in 1647. It stretches as far as sandy bay, aptly named Cannon Bay where one can find the ruins of a mill, which used to crush seashells are located.
Last week I spent a few nights in God Window in Port Edward – a small town in the KZN province of South Africa that borders the Eastern Cape. This one should not be confused with the much-loved Gods Window lookout point in the Mpumalanga province.
Here the owner, Marcel Lottering has turned his once residential property into a nature retreat and provided the perfect getaway for the everyday individual that would like to leave all the stress of their busy city lifestyles behind.
The establishment has been around for the past 3 years, and Marcel has created four secluded accommodation types that will ensure a peaceful escape that is best offered by nature.
God’s Window is his primary abode, which will offer you a spectacular view of the Umtumvuna River, the Indian Ocean, and the bridge that connects the KZN province to the Eastern Cape Province. It can sleep 6 with its three bedrooms and two bathrooms. It is a self-catering unit, with a fully equipped kitchen.
The Gods Window flat is completely secluded and perfect for the couple. It has a deck that peers into the dense KZN jungle.
I stayed in the Cottage which is higher in the valley and shares an entrance to Marcel’s private property. It is also a self-catering unit, a bit on the rustic side with its antique-looking decor and furniture.
The view from its private balcony is spectacular, especially at sunrise when I snapped these pics.
The Forest tent is my favorite. If I had not been in town for a wedding and had to enter in the middle of the night, I would have given this first preference. The tent is rested on a deck between a really dense part of the Jungle and is the perfect place to rekindle your love. It even has a “love couch” in the front part of the deck.
Most of the accommodation types have a gas braai (barbecue for our American fans) on the premises and private outdoor braai facilities. The communal swimming pool will ensure that you are kept cool, during the humidity of the summer, and the fireplace will keep you warm in the winter.
Marcel is constantly doing improvements to the property. As we speak he is busy completing his Mediation Yoga studio set in the middle of a dense forest. It’s an amazing place to unwind in the depths of nature. The studio should be complete in a few months’ time, but in the meantime, he is offering some reiki and yoga classes. Weekend retreats are on the cards too. It also has a fully functional sauna which you can unwind in.
Here are a few images of the studio in the making. I can’t wait to visit it again once it is complete.
There is also an in-house gym for those looking to still stay in shape while on holiday.
If you would like to plan your retreat into nature get in touch with Marcel via email: email@example.com or telephonically: +27 78 976 2311. Accommodation prices range from R200 – R400 per person per night. (Rates are current at the time of publication)
Once booked, read my top 10 favorite things to do in the area to really enhance your experience on the South Coast. These include a visit to the Petrified Forest, the world’s smallest desert, mountain biking at Clear Water Trails, and much more.
All images on this site, are the property of Kzara Visual Concepts and have been taken by Chantelle Flores.
Crown the day of lovers by spending a night in Switzerland’s most romantic hotel – The Dolder Grand.
This luxurious hotel which resembles that of a fairytale castle has been inundated with awards. Conde Nast Traveler has awarded The Dolder Grand the 18th spot, out of 50 of the best hotels in the world. They have also received awards such as the Best City Hotel, 2nd place as the Best Hotel in Switzerland, and One of the 10 Best Hotels in all of Europe.
This 5-star city-based resort rests high above Zurich city on Adlisberg Hill. Making it a unique location for unwinding amidst privileged views of Zurich and the Alps. And depending on where you position yourself throughout the hotel, you can enjoy other views of the invigorating nature, such as panoramic views of Zurich Lake and even the forest.
The Dolder Hotel has been welcoming guests for over 100 years. It has enjoyed a long-standing history as being a meeting place for the royal and political. As well as film celebrities.
And just like them, you can expect to receive a world-class service filled with celebrity treatment.
This sought-out experience could quite possibly be attributed to the commitment and dedication of the Hotel’s 407+ staff members that come from 51 countries. This cultural infusion adds a unique personality and touch to the Hotel.
With this increased number of staff members, you can only begin to comprehend the size of this property. It is 40,000 square meters.
The Hotel was originally built in 1899 and has undergone extensive renovations to turn it into the haven it is today. Architecturally speaking, it retains its historic charm, yet boasts a magnitude of modernism. Even so, it has been awarded the Hotel Design Innovation of the Year, amongst many others.
On the premises, you can also expect to find a large pool that boats out-worldly panoramic views. As well as an incomparable spa, two award-winning restaurants as well as fitness facilities.
Worried about how you can fork the bill? The hotel is now accepting Bitcoin. It is one of the first hotels in Switzerland to have opened up this payment gateway.
Not only is the Dolder Hotel filled to capacity with an abundance of facilities, but it also boasts 173 rooms and suites.
These are broken down into 4 room styles, each offering a varying degree of luxury. You can expect to find Junior Suites, Single and Double rooms, Suites, and Residences.
With this kind of selection available, you are spoilt for choice.
Spoil yourself with plentiful space. The Junior Suites offer you a generous feeling of space alongside a choice of modern or classic ambiance. The bathroom is luxurious and comes with a whirlpool bath and an impressive view.
Single and double rooms
The single and the double rooms boast a dark oak parquet and offer a generous amount of space. They range from 25 to 46 square meters in size.
And depending on which one you opt for, the views from them are panoramic to the splendors of nature. Some enjoy views of Lake Zurich or the Alps. Whilst others take in the silence of the forest.
The suites are situated in the main building and offer a sense of classic, yet contemporary elegance.
There are four artistically inspired suites that you can choose from. Each offers you plenty of space. You can choose between classic to rock ‘n’ roll, sculptural elegance to cinecittà.
The Rock ‘n’ Roll one, for example, is inspired by the 60s and has been named after Club 100 in London. You can expect an unconventional interior in black and pink as well as retro-style furniture.
All suites even spoil you with an “on-call” butler service.
Now, this is something to write home about.
The residence suites are geared for long stays, offering you a home away from home kinda vibe. They allow you to live and work within this incredible wellness oasis and offer you an incredible degree of privacy to do so. Even so that they come with private entrances, as would your own very home.
The Terrazza Suite is 390 square meters and boasts 3 bedrooms, each with 1 king bed, and is spread over 2 floors. A glass elevator transports you between the floors. Each room comes with its own ensuite bathroom, each with a shower and a separate bathtub. The master bedroom comes with the addition of a whirlpool bath as well as a sauna. It even has a walk-in closet.
There is even a large dining and living room, an office as well as a separate kitchen. And if you feel like you are in more need of spoil, then make use of your very own butler. He will attend to all of your wishes and needs during your stay. Leaving you with more time for yourself. Which could quite possibly be made use of at the hotel’s Spa.
And if your budget allows, you can begin this residence experience well before you have left your actual residence. Arrange to be picked up from your home airport and flown here on the hotel’s own private jet. You can expect a personalized experience giving you more time to enjoy your journey in complete relaxation.
Restore your inner balance and mental well-being at the Dolder Grand Spa. Switzerland’s exclusive wellness facility. It is truly something special.
Not only has it been awarded the Best Spa in Switzerland title, but it has also received awards as being the Spa that flaunts the best Interior design. In addition, it is one of the biggest spa complexes in the country.
Its 4000 square meters, houses a swimming pool, a whirlpool terrace, a steam bath, a sanitarium, a mixed sauna area, a spa library, a spa shop as well as spa suites. It even has separate treatment, fitness, and meditation rooms.
And if that is not enough, you would also quite appreciate that there is a wide selection of spa treatments on offer that make use of exclusive, carefully selected products.
Facials, massages, and body rituals all await you. Leaving you with the rejuvenating feeling of being pampered. They even offer tailor-made well-being experiences that cater uniquely to your own personal needs.
Gastronomic and Culinary Experiences
Indulge in innovative gourmet dishes at the hotel’s in-house Saltz Restaurant. You are sure to have an incredible and mouth-watering culinary experience. On the stove is Heiko Nieder, a renowned chef who has received multiple awards including the “Rising Star of the Year” award given by Gault Millau.
More so, the restaurant has welcomed many other awards and ratings, including 19 Gault Millau points as well as 2 Michelin Stars.
There is no surprise as to why. Within this stylish atmosphere, you can enjoy a 10-course gourmet meal, that sees Nieder spoiling you with his latest creations. These defy classic tastes, offering a spectrum of flavors that knows no boundaries.
To wash it all down, you will quite appreciate the wide selection of fine wines and drinks that are on offer.
The hotel also organizes its own gourmet festival called the “Days of Culinary Masterpieces”. It sees world-renowned guest chefs from Switzerland as well as abroad, come together to celebrate the great art of gastronomic seduction.
A couple of months back, I was in Europe working on a few travel campaigns when I found myself back in England. I have to be honest and say that even after 8 trips there, England has not ranked high up on my favorite list of places to explore. I previously lived in the South West and London and did a fair bit of traveling when I was 19 & 20. On this trip, something different happened and I gained a newfound love for it after exploring the Kent countryside with England Experience Tours a subdivision of Highlander Experience Tours.
I was invited along on their Catherdrals, Cliffs, and Castles day tour. They focus on small groups with a maximum of 16 people. What’s special about this one is that it takes you on a journey throughout time, while you explore the countryside, dramatic coastal cliffs, and incredible English landscapes and take in a few historic buildings along the way.
A visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Canterbury
Our first stop was Canterbury – famed as the historic cathedral city of Britain, and also a UNESCO World Heritage site. I was most excited about this leg of the trip and had spent a few days there with my sister and friends the week before. I was instinctively drawn to its medieval Celtic heritage and needed to explore more of it.
The Monarch of the United Kingdom has granted Cantebury City status as a result of its diocesan cathedrals. The Canterbury Cathedral where St Augustine became the first Archbishop in 597AD and served as an apostle to the pagan kingdom of Kent. I fell in love with its breathtaking mixture of Romanesque and Gothic architecture.
The cathedral became a major focus of pilgrimage and draws more than 1 million visitors per year making it the most visited place in all of England. Services here are held 3 or more times per day depending on the session and the demand.
The city has first been recorded as the main settlement of the Celtic tribe of Cantiaci, and then later the Romans rebuilt the city in a grid pattern. Since then, many historical structures have filled the area including an eroded city wall formed by the Romans, the ruins of St Augustine Abbey, the Norman Castle, and the oldest extant school in the world.
The medieval streets are dotted with pretty black and white timber-framed 16 & 17th century Weaver houses. The most iconic of these buildings is the Old Weavers House along the River Stour which takes its name from the influx of Flemish and Hugenot weavers who settled in the area after fleeing from religious persecution during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Our tour guide was just incredible and he gave us such an informative free walking tour around this warm and mellow city. I learned from him that the first floor of this double-story house was built in the 16th Century and the second floor in the 17th Century. I can’t offhand remember the reasons why.
While most of the tour group explored the inside of the Cathedral, I opted for something a little bit different – The ruins of Augustine Abbey.
The ruins of St Augustine Abbey
I always have this tendency to search for the most eroded ruins in nearly every medieval place I visit. It’s now become such a big inspiration around my blog posts. Not only do I think they all look absolutely beautiful but also that they tell us a story about the heritage of mankind and share historical facts with us about the past.
This was the most important Monastery in medieval England. For almost 1000 years it was the center of learning and spirituality. It was originally established in an effort to bring Christianity to England but was reduced to ruins when King Henry VIII broke with Rome and declared himself head of the church of England. He brutally executed a mall number of abbots and monks who resisted the closure of their monasteries. Not all the parts of the monastery were destroyed. The remaining parts were renovated and turned into a Royal Palace with a walled courtyard and a private garden. A few years later under new ownership parts of these ruins became an Inn called the Old Palace, and the chamber over the great gate was turned into a cockfighting pit. In the 1840s the St Augustine missionary College was built here. This single site carries such in-depth history, and as a result, UNESCO declared this a World Heritage Site.
This is possibly the most photographed place in all of Canterbury and one of my favorite sites on this tour – Sir John Boys House. Often referred to as the Crooked House, King’s Gallery, or Old Kings Shop, this delightfully skewed 17th-century half-timbered building‘s most noticeable feature is the bright red skew front door. Alterations to an internal chimney caused the structure to slip sideways resulting in this immaculate art piece.
The next stop was the world-famous White Cliffs of Dover. These 110m high coastal cliffs mark the closest point to France from mainland Britain. I will never forget the amazement I felt when I first experienced them back in 2004. I was taking a ferry crossing from England to Paris when the sun illuminated the white chalk against the contrasting bright blue ocean. On a clear day, the cliffs are noticeable from the French coastline.
This time around I had an opportunity to walk a section of them. The cliffs stretch along the coastline for 13 km throughout the county of Kent – the home of the ancient and still important English port.
In geology terms, these cliffs have offered the most fascinating, accessible, and complete records of the story of the Chalk Formation. The cliffs are made from soft white chalk: a very finely-grained pure limestone that is 300 – 400m deep and made of calcium carbonate. These chalk layers have built up gradually over millions of years. Interestingly the shapes of the cliffs were formed from the skeletal remains of minute planktonic green algae combined with other creatures. Over millions of years, the once below seabed has become exposed and is now above sea level.
Each year the cliff face weathers about 1cm. There have been two instances where large pieces the size of a football pitch, fell into the Channel so it’s advisable that you stay clear from the cliff edge. Because you are so high above sea level it gets pretty windy up there, especially along the small paths on the cliff’s edge. There were moments when the wind came over and I got a little bit nervous. At one point the path was rather close to the edge and in most tourist spots there would be multiple danger signs.
The view from up here was absolutely stunning. Along the way, there are a few information boards highlighting the importance these cliffs had during World War 1 & World War 2 and including their use as a railway.
After taking a short walk around, I had a delicious lunch at the restaurant at the National Trust Centre and learned more about the geology of the cliffs at their information center.
This is a beautiful area to take in and you can quite easily hike to multiple towns along the coastline from this point, so if you are visiting you should try and set aside a full day.
We arrived at the ticket counter and paid our entrance fee of £24,90 per person. It is a bit on the steep side but take into consideration that this ticket allows you access for 12 months from the date of purchase. It also allows you to go just about everywhere on the property and you can quite easily spend an entire day here. You cannot gauge the size of the property on arrival, but I can tell you it is massive so be prepared for a lot of walking. There are 500 acres of parkland and a range of interesting gardens. The woodland garden is along the river bend and filled with vibrantly colored flowers. Many peacocks and black swans have made themselves a home here.
The Culpeper Garden has an informal layout with low box hedges and is very picturesque. There is also a really challenging but fun walk through a maze of 2400 English yew trees. Here you can find the Birds of prey center which offers a 30-minute demonstration on a wide variety of birds like hawks, vultures, falcons, and owls.
When you are walking through all these gorgeous gardens you almost forget that you are there to experience an 11th-century castle that has been standing for over 900 years. It’s a beautiful and contrasting site when you first experience it. If you have some time, consider taking a ride on an elegant wooden punt and experience the ancient arches and castle exterior from a. different perspective.
You can enter the castle by walking over a drawbridge that was used back in the day to protect from attacks. Walking inside the castle at a slow pace will immerse you in the Medieval and Tudor periods which are still evident in these rooms today. The helpful dialogues on boards in each room will give you ample information that will make you feel like you are living through these centuries. There are also plenty of artifacts that you can enjoy.
After an interesting day, we hurried our tired bodies back to the minivan. What did I love the most? That’s a hard one! Every place visited was incredibly different and offered rich insight into English culture. Be prepared for a really long but fun day with this crowd. They are incredibly laid back, fun, and informative and offer a unique perspective to their tours.
Out of this list – Which is your favorite? We would love to hear why!
I arrived in Reykjavik, Iceland after a 30-hour flight from South Africa. You could get here in a little under 16 hours on direct flights, however, I opted for the cheaper latter. Long waits at airports meant extra time to meet new people from all corners of the world.
I arrived early evening at The Capital Inn on a night’s board of R280 in a 10-bed dorm. I was welcomed by 2 Moroccan ex-pats (Taha & Walid), One guy from Switzerland (Steven), A South Korean (Kate), A Slovenian girl (Sanja), a British guy (Ben), One American (Gia) & one French girl (Martine). 90 % of solo like-minded travelers looking for their own adventures who were destined to meet. Life-long friendships were forged as meaningful stories and experiences began to be shared.
As the days went on, we encountered a few other people that added to our story. Evenings were spent in the Capital Crowd basement where we cooked our communal dinners and took pleasure in sharing and dancing to our favorite songs from our hometowns. We created unique memories whilst we joined in the celebration and taught each other how to sing Happy Birthday in our home tongues, amongst other rare words we learned from these favorite gypsies. This is rather fun to do, and a first-time experience for all of us. The Happy Birthday song is a universal language we all speak, yet sounds so unique and different amongst all these cultures. I would like to challenge you to try this on your next trip and send me a video recording of all the people you meet on your journey singing this in their home tongue. Let’s start our own cappella group of Happy Birthday Songs.
We formed a diverse team with a pool of travel expertise that collectively made our experiences. We were so tight that Taha created a private Facebook group – Capital Crowd 1012, to post our unique and crazy pictures from our trip. It’s private because it got pretty crazy most nights while everyone expressed his or her individuality.
Drinking in Iceland is a no-go, and can be rarely afforded. Import prices and taxes make it one of the most expensive countries in the world to have a drink in. To put it into perspective, a bottle of Amarula in South Africa would cost around R89 a bottle, and in Iceland over R1200. An R50 bottle of wine from Stellenbosch would cost an average of R400. A pint of beer would cost you anything from R98.00. And that is their local beers – Viking & Polar Beer.
I would highly recommend buying as many drinks as you are allowed at their airports duty-free prior to flying into the country.
Drinks aside, the people you will meet in Iceland, will keep you entertained for hours.
Most nights, as 11 pm approached we suited and geared up for our evenings ahead in Iceland’s extreme weather conditions to chase the northern lights. 9 of us filled our 2 rented cars and headed to mountainous locations out of sight of city lights. Usually, our journeys out of Reykjavik lasted 45 min to an hour but offered the best-untouched views of the northern lights. We stayed out till 4 in the morning most nights.
Steven and Gia were the best coordinators in establishing visibility of the Aurora Borealis and had a good understanding of the factors involved in viewing these like hPa numbers and cloud cover types; lower, middle & high clouds. I took one look at Vendur – Iceland’s preferred website for measuring activity and my lack of a geological understanding and degree thereof was to my disadvantage. My knowledge extended thus far “Does 4 mean we can see the lights?”.
Have a look at this in your effort to understand me on this:
By night 3, we all became pros & tour operators by acquiring Gia & Stevens’s understanding of the Auroras – To the point that I ran my own Northern Lights tours in Northern Norway – a country I was yet to visit. Only on arriving, did I realize I had learned so much from these two incredible jet setters.
Not something on your everyday bucket list – but a definite must-do for the brave. Soweto, South Africa
I was hosting a photographer friend over recently visiting from Spain. He has an adventure-seeking soul, so I wanted to give him a thrilling experience of what life in Johannesburg was really all about. What better way to show him what the traffic was like than by playing Dodge ‘em with Soweto taxis whilst on quad bikes?
Both nervous and excited, I had no idea what to expect.
On arrival, we were greeted by Naledi’s friendly staff and the community who assisted us with all safety checks before departing on our 6-hour journey that was about to turn into the most memorable experience we have had in South Africa.
We thought we would share this sort of experience with you. Pictures do after all communicate 1000 messages!