St. Thomas, Caribbean
2014 has been a banner year for me for sure; more diverse and unpredictable in terms of travel and sights seen than for many a long year past. From Caribbean beaches to Budapest cafe society, 2014 has not been short on adventure so far.
I kicked off at the end of January with a welcome return to the balmy waters of the Caribbean, on an eight night Carnival Breeze cruise out of Miami. After the long, leaden British winter, it was sheer poetry to feel cold beer in my hand, and warm sand between my toes at the same time. Gorgeous stuff.
The spring equinox marked a long overdue return to the Nile, after an absence of fourteen years. Drifting idly in the gilded wakes of Akhenaton and Cleopatra is still like being awake in a living, moving dream. And the monolithic remains of what was once the greatest civilisation in history, strung out along both banks of the surprisingly verdant river, stir the soul and the psyche on some unfathomable, yet undeniable level. if you are tired of Egypt, you may very well be tired of life itself.
Next came my first ever cruise along the mighty Rhine. Heading north from fabled, imperial Cologne, we spent a week sauntering around a string of Dutch and Belgian delights. I found myself overwhelmed by the taut, sturdy, majesty of beautiful Hoorn, and by the cake rich glut of expansive Gothic architecture in stately, patrician Antwerp.
But few things beat arriving in Arnhem, the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War, and walking over the famous, resurrected ‘Bridge too far’ that was the focus of the entire bloody fiasco. A hair raising, sobering moment that will stay with me as long as I live.
July gave me the opportunity to take a long anticipated, weekend swing out to lively, lavish Budapest; a beautiful, colossal statement of ancient imperial ambition that rolls out along both banks of the Danube like some amazing ceremonial carpet. It was a chance to catch up with old friends, and savour superb local food and wine in this genteel, Art Nouveau suffused city. In the long, light summer nights, it really was love at first sight. I cannot wait to return.
And then, north to Norway. And how! Take a real ocean liner- the legendary Marco Polo – now working as a sedate, Art Deco dream of a cruise ship, one where the numbers on board are measured in hundreds rather than thousands. Throw in the most amazing and versatile big band- all twenty of ’em- that I have ever heard in my life, and set a course for what is arguably the most stunning scenic smorgasbord on earth.
Bring on the fabled, pine draped fjords of old Norway one after another, like a conga line of classical actors playing out some ancient, incredible theatre. Garnish with amazing, long summer light and the occasional shower. Cue reindeer in the hills, and butterflies in the fauna. Snow on the mountain tops, and strawberry daiquiris in the hot tubs on board. An endless voyage into a land of trolls, witches and uneasy, half glimpsed ghosts. A true epic adventure.
And that’s where we are now. While there is much more to come- starting with Croatia next week- here’s hoping you enjoy this mix up of where I’ve been so far. The equivalent of an eighties mega mix, if you will.
Above all, enjoy the journey. Because if one thing remains true for me, it is this; it’s not so much always about where you go, as it is about how you get there. Bon voyage!
Magens Bay, St. Thomas
El Morro, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Winter? What winter?
Carnival Breeze at Grand Turk
Temple of Luxor, Egypt
The Nile is eternal
One of those amazing, ageless statues
Queen Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple
Temple of Philae, Aswan
Local transport, Antwerp, Belgium
Sunset over Hoorn hafen
‘A Bridge Too Far’, Arnhem
Sailing the springtime Rhine
Parliament building, Budapest
The Chain Bridge, Budapest
Cafe life, Budapest
The Fishermen’s Bastion, Budapest
Marco Polo, Eidfjord, Norway
Live like a local, Norway
Voringfoss waterfall, Norway
Good morning, Flam